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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
HEAVENLY (BUSTED CW PILOT)
(written by Richard Hatem; directed by Mimi Leder; TRT: 45:20)
The network's description: No official description was released.
What did they leave out? See above.
The plot in a nutshell: "I was an Angel of the Crossroads, an Angel of the Crisis Moment," a disheveled man (Ben Aldridge) explains to Owen (Ryan Eggold), an understandably skeptical pastor. "When someone's fate hung in the balance between life and death, I could tip the scales and save them. I've been saving people for centuries but I've never been one of you." You see, all of the above changed when he came to the aid of a woman (Lauren Cohan) who stirred feelings inside him unlike anyone he had met before. And so, looking to explore said emotions, he asked God to let him become fully human with the caveat that he still have the ability to save people (by laying his hands on those near death).
Fast forward to waking up naked and the unfamiliar feeling of being hungry, our hero quickly learns - despite his bargain with God - his heavenly abilities no longer exist. Disheartened, he turns to his quest to find the aforementioned woman: revealed to be Lily DeMarco, a lawyer for a pro bono legal clinic in San Francisco. He's however mistaken by her co-worker Spense (Elizabeth Ho) for someone else: a much-needed paralegal, whom - thanks to some quick thinking (i.e. looking at random items in her office) - he calls Dashiell Coffee. And with that, Dashiell is improbably tasked with helping Lily on her latest case: Jared (Jeff Ward), a bright college kid who accidentally killed his best friend. The deceased's family is pushing for jail time while Jared himself wonders if he deserves just that.
And sure enough, after talking with Dashiell - who urges him to follow his heart - Jared decides he won't fight the proposed sentence. This of course angers Lily, who blames Dashiell for torpedoing her case. Meanwhile, Owen is surprised to learn that Dashiell's mystery girl is in fact Lily - whom he himself once had a fling with. Ultimately, Lily and Owen realize that there's more to Dashiell than meets the eye while he himself comes to understand that while his powers are gone, his ability to help people is still very much within his grasp.
What works: The show valiantly tries to worm its way into your heart with an onslaught of syrupy needle drops - everything from Matthew Perryman Jones's "Save You" to Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition" - but one can't help but...
What doesn't: ...walk away underwhelmed and disappointed. Between its hodgepodge of obvious angel-in-love tropes and its surprisingly weak procedural aspects, "Heavenly" for lack of a better term never quite gets off the ground. Aldridge's Dashiell flips between being a goofy, love-struck puppy to a confident, otherworldly crusader with each passing scene while Cohan's Lily is saddled with either being angry with or intrigued by him. And while there are elements that ring true - Dashiell affirms the power of prayer to an elderly woman in a wonderfully matter-of-fact way - most of it feels ill-defined and unfocused while Aldridge's and Cohan's chemistry never seems to click.
Not helping matters it that the mechanizations of the "case" have little to do with the investigating powers of Dashiell or Lily: literally all that happens is Dashiell says a few platitudes and the larger truth magically emerges. And while that's kind of the point - all of the events of the pilot are the result of Dashiell having faith in the signs God has given him - it doesn't make it particularly engaging. Throw in the painfully obvious touchstones of the genre - from Dashiell's obliviousness to social mores ("I have to go urinate through my penis," he proclaims to Lily after too much to drink at happy hour) to the expected closing shot to Dashiell holding his arms open with the camera swirling around him - and the inherent awkwardness of a love triangle between Dashiell, Lily and pastor Owen, and "Heavenly" never solidifies itself beyond its parachuted in revelations and unearned motivations.
The bottom line: Insert your favorite unflattering "heaven"-related pun here.