THE RUNWAY – YOUR 2017 PILOT SURVIVAL GUIDE: CBS DRAMAS

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mission control

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Mission Control

Logline: The next generation of NASA astronauts and scientists juggle both their personal and professional lives during a critical mission with no margin for error.
Cast: David Giuntoli, Poppy Montgomery, Ricardo Chavira, Peyton List
Creators: Andy Weir (W / EP), Brian Buckner (EP / SR), Simon Kinberg (EP), Charles Eglee (EP / SR), Courtney Conte (EP), Quan Phung (EP), Aditya Sood (EP), Jeremy Podeswa (D)
Studios: CBS TV Studios

First, the good: I’m decidedly happy to see yet another pilot with multiple female leads, each of whom are fairly well-differentiated and noticeably flawed. Impetuous and sensitive, Deke earns maximum sympathy as she struggles to overcome the shame and derision caused by the nude photo leak. A sharp, tough boss who is laser-focused on work and accomplishment, Julie earns a fair bit of my envy. Finally, Rayna is active in her mission to protect NASA’s reputation.

Unfortunately, the pilot doesn’t quite figure out how to balance these storylines. There appears to be no thematic coherence between Julie’s A-story struggle to ensure the Russian astronauts dock safely, and Rayna and Deke’s struggle to deal with the nude photo leak. The latter storyline feels utterly dissonant throughout.

In addition, the constant shifting of perspectives makes it rather difficult to engage emotionally with any of these three women. In trying to do too much, Mission Control ultimately diffuses its efforts and accomplishes little in the way of dramatic impact. (It’s not lost on me that these issues are uncomfortably close similar ones in The Get, suggesting that one of the cogs in CBS’ development machinery isn’t working quite as well as it should.)

Another concern is the prioritization of scientific logic over interpersonal conflict and drama. Though the challenge Julie faces has high stakes — NASA astronauts welcoming Russian ones — her approach to dealing with the obstacle involves a fair bit of complicated science, rendered in static and expository conversations. My eyes glazed over more than once.

Finally, I’m not sure the pilot gives us enough reasons to return. There are a couple of interesting central relationships involving Julie and Deke, and Julie and Stevenson, an astronaut she clearly has feelings for. But other than the unresolved central mystery about who leaked Deke’s nude photos, Mission Control is strictly episodic. Do I want to watch episode after episode of Julie managing crises from her safe haven on Earth? I’m not so sure.

Andy Weir has an incredible amount of heat right now, with Fox having already picked up rights for his forthcoming sci-fi thriller Artemis. Looks like Simon Winberg and Aditya Sood have their claws in deep, and they aren’t letting go anytime soon. So in spite of its flaws, there’s much working in this pilot’s favor that has nothing to do with the quality of the pilot itself.

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