Sirens (USA) Series Premiere 2014 Review “Pilot/A Bitch Named Karma”

Sirens (USA) Episode 1 & 2 Pilot/A Bitch Named Karma (2)

It is almost impossible to judge a series based on its pilot. Pilots are full of exposition, they have to introduce the characters quickly and efficiently while still throwing in just enough humor/intrigue/mystery to bring us back for more. As a pilot, Sirens is okay. It’s not terrible, nor is it great. What it does demonstrate is potential. There is a funny comedy in this series about EMTs with messy personal lives, it’s just not fully formed yet.

Let’s start with what works: Johnny (Michael Mosley) and Hank (Kevin Daniels) give Sirens a strong bedrock to rest on. The shorthand they used throughout, the constant ribbing and inside jokes all spoke to a solid friendship. Nothing about their friendship felt forced. Whether Johnny was teasing Hank about Jeff the Chef or Hank was laying out all of the reasons why Johnny would be a terrible in case of emergency contact (even though Johnny is his), they were funny, realistic and just a pleasure to watch.

I also enjoyed the dynamic between Theresa (Jessica McNamee) and Johnny. In a few broad strokes we were given everything we need to know about their relationship: Johnny is afraid of commitment, they both think alike, she is a great cop and Johnny watches too much Friends. The night’s second episode, “A Bitch Named Karma” worked best for me in large part because of Theresa and her uncanny ability to see through her on a break boyfriend. Watching her give away his coveted Bulls tickets at the end was the perfect, karmic cap on a funny episode.

The more scenes of Johnny and Hank completely losing control of a situation, the better I say. Sirens tries to cram as many jokes into each half hour as possible, but the quiet ones work the best. The field of mutilated CPR dummies, Brian (Kevin Bigley) smugly eating one of Cash’s (Bill Nunn) cold Twixs, completely unaware of what was awaiting him at the station– those were the moments where Sirens sang.

Where it faltered was in its broadness. Brian’s naivety is taken to an unbelievable extreme. He isn’t a character, he’s a cartoon. That kind of characterization can work, but not when everyone else around him, minus dumb cop Billy, is behaving in a realistic, albeit quippy manner. Nothing about Brian worked, not the gang getting him drunk at the bar, not his dopey face when Hank asked Brian if he realized Hank was gay, not even his plea for a nickname. At times, it felt like Brian had dropped in from another series altogether. The only joke involving him that made me giggle was his commit about the victim of a lightning strike’s shoes.

The other part of Sirens that could use some work is the tidiness of the episodes. Each episode has a theme and the writers act as if you will have to pry that theme away from them with a crowbar. The karma episode, funny as it was, came off as a stock sitcom plot. It’s a shame because Sirens possesses an edginess and frankness that most USA shows lack. This is a show that had a man shove a soda bottle up his butt in the first half hour, so I know it can go for a sharper brand of humor. Straddling the line between normal sitcom antics and the series’ ballsy, built-in bravado does Sirens no favors. Having seen next week’s episode, I can attest it will embrace its wicked sign soon. Which is good news for us. Sirens is a weird show, but weird is good, weird is unique, the best thing the comedy can do is to revel in what makes it special and ditch the parts that are holding it back.

Did you watch the premiere? Share your thoughts on what worked and what didn’t below.

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