So when Pilot Month was announced the only series I had heard of was Achievement Haunter. Everything else was brand new. I think the advertising for Pilot Month itself was well handled. Before seeing any of the shows, I was most excited for Achievement Haunter and Murder Room. But the promotion definitely got me hyped for all without giving too much away. As a fan, I think all 5 series could be given more time to develop a voice and audience. I don't think there are any stinkers out there. But I'd still like to give a critical review/thoughts on each series.
<<Spoilers for all shows from here on down.>>
Branded. Pilot: 4/5 stars; Potential: 4/5 stars.
I went from not knowing what this was to being pleasantly surprised. The Joel Heyman thumbnail was a decent misdirection, but after enjoying the pilot as much as I did, I'm sad he was basically a cameo. I think this is one of RT's best acted shows ever. Casting the show mostly from outside the company really shines a light on how much professional actors can bring a project. I don't mean this as an insult to RT employees, but there are very few professional actors in house and most of their content is personality or improv driven. Aside from the cameos and the obvious influence on the premise of the show, this series is something I could see being aired on a major network. The writing is solid, the characters are well thought out and developed on camera, and the humor has a broad appeal. I honestly think this might the most fully realized series out of the 5 pilots shown.
However, I don't know if RT First is the best platform this type of show. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I think this show is too broad to drive a consistent audience on such a niche platform. The closest comparison I can think of to Branded is CrunchTime. Granted CrunchTime had a much more unique premise, but the bones of the shows are very similar. Comedy show staffed by non-RT regulars with a premise that skewed toward demographics that the RT community has in high numbers. I loved CrunchTime and was disappointed when it didn't come back for another season. Sadly, I think Branded will suffer a similar fate, despite it's obvious quality.
Prediction: Picked up for 1 season, or potentially shopped to another distribution platform.
GORQ's Quest. Pilot: 2.5/5 stars; Potential: 3.5/5 stars
I love Todd Womack as GORQ and Chad James as host. I think they deserve to be more central RT personalities. But overall, I didn't really feel strongly about this show. The sassy robot is fun. The game show aspect seems unnecessary and scattershot. The questions/topics were hit or miss.
I think this show wants to be a live in person version of the Jackbox games. Which is a solid premise. I think the show might be improved by moving a little quicker between segments and loosen up on the gameshowy aspects. Like move to a more Whose Line Is It Anyway format. But that might overlap too much with On the Spot. I don't really know if this shows has a quick fix. I think it's going to be loved by some, hated by others, and most will be indifferent.
Prediction: Might get an extended pilot run, but not picked up long term.
Achievement Haunter. Pilot: 3.5/5 stars Potential: 4/5 stars
I was very excited about this after hearing about it. And while the pilot was entertaining, I don't think it quite lived up to the hype. I loved seeing AH personalities outside of games, but I think my biggest issue was the balance between pre-scripted bits and live interaction was off. I loved the little snipets in the intro. My biggest issue, I think, was with the pacing or the editing. The live stuff seemed to jump between serious/scary and funny/prank-y too quickly or too much. It felt inconsistent and never let me get comfortable with the show. I wanted to like this more and I think it has potential, but something was just off.
Prediction: Picked up for more episodes, but probably doesn't have more than a season or two long run. Great merch opportunities though.
Million Dollars, But Animated. Pilot: 3/5 stars Potential: 3/5 stars
I don't have a lot to say about this show. I simply think this should just be part of the regular MDB series. Maybe confine it to having episodes where all the scenarios are animated versus jumping back and forth between live action and animation within an episode. Animation opens up a bunch of scenarios that just can't be filmed live. So that's fun. But honestly, I think the viability of this show lies in its costs. Is animating a given scenario cheaper in dollar cost than live action? Is it more cost effective in terms of time, given that RT has a huge animation department? Does RT Animation have idle work hours outside of all their other projects? If those metrics are favorable, than yeah, make some more. If not, revert to live action.
Prediction: Not picked up as a standalone series, future MDB episodes may include animated segments.
The Murder Room. Pilot: 4.5/5 stars Potential: 5/5 stars
The promotion got me hyped. I wanted this. I was ready. I love escape rooms, whodunnits, puzzle games. I was so ready to go all in on this show. And for the most part I was right. But like grains of sand in shellfish or an itch you just can't reach, there were a couple of things that keep this from a perfect rating. So I'm going to list some nitpicks, but overall this show is great and I love it.
Nitpick #1 - I love Blaine, but I think he was definitely trying too hard to forcibly insert comedy. The premise and fanfare that was built around the show lends the show to be serious. And, while humor shouldn't be outlawed, the #jokes stuck out like a sore thumb and took away from the overall experience.
Nitpick #2 - This comes directly from my experience as a DM for tabletop RPGs, but it felt like the cast didn't know the rules of the game well enough. I understand you might not know what you should do in a situation, but you should know what you are able to do. As a DM, I hate putting hours of work into a session only to have a player sit down and ask me how do I attack, or not know what the character they built is capable of doing.
Nitpick #3 - I like not having RT "personalities" as the callers, but I think tapping some people with more improv experience would be beneficial. The callers, I believe, were all from the broadcast department and spoke as if reading lines to deliver facts versus how an actual individual on trial for their life would sound. I'm not sure the fanfare of the trial is strictly necessary but if you keep that, then having the suspects nonchalantly answer questions is a big disconnect.
Again, these are minor things that I think can, and will, be cleaned up if the show is given more time. Overall, I think it's awesome.
Prediction: Picked up, runs on a non-regular schedule a la Immersion or RT Life.
Overall, I think Pilot Month was a success. I don't think RT produced the next Red vs. Blue or RWBY, but all the shows were solid and I wouldn't be surprised if any of them got picked up for an extended run. Kudos to everyone who worked on these shows and the rest of RT for the promotion and distribution awesomeness!