From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series Review: Judging the Premiere in the Court of Television

By Ryan Sandoval

Mar 12, 2014

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series S01E01: "Pilot"

Since the scales of Lady Justice balanced their first load, our legal system has protected the innocent and punished the guilty with 100 percent accuracy. The wisdom of the courts is the one certain thing we puny humans can depend on in this uncertain, big blue marble called "Earth." Why not, then, apply the rules of law to televised entertainment? Why not look at the evidence—ALL the evidence—and decide where a new show stands in the annals of entertainment? Why not judge From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series in... 

Side note: TV journalists are not allowed inside the Court of Television, but we were able to obtain the following transcript through a private source:

Judge: Please be seated. We will now hear opening statements. Prosecution, please rise. 

Prosecutor: Thank you, Your Honor. From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is nothing more than a rehashing of a story we’ve all heard a thousand times before. Vampires attacking unsuspecting heroes? Sure, it was fun when TARANTINO came along for the ride. But this cast of characters was merely created by the Oscar-winning auteur, and it's being trotted out now to capitalize on a trend. This show is a copy, with no more definition than the vision of an old woman suffering from astigmatism, trying to see underwater without goggles. Ladies and gentlemen of the TV Jury, this show deserves the chair, and the prosecution will not rest until justice is done. Thank you. 

Judge: Strong words. Let’s hope you have the evidence to back it up. But all sides shall be heard in the Court of Television. Defendant, please rise.  

Defendant: Your Honor, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is a fresh new take on the beloved vampire genre. Its source material is a proven cult classic and this extended version will only allow viewers to spend more time in Robert Rodriguez’s sultry, terrifying, and fun world. From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is a necessary contribution to the television landscape and worth enjoying. As you’ll see, the following evidence CLEARLY proves that From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series is a cool piece of TV that successfully achieves what it aims to accomplish. 

Judge: Ooh, sounds like we got a juicy case on our hands. Prosecution now has the floor. 

Prosecutor: Seriously Your Honor, thanks. Just... thanks. I’m a woman of few words and I know the jury’s time is precious. So, I’ll make this quick—

[Clicks open a briefcase, produces an envelope marked "TV EVIDENCE."]

Prosecutor: The dialogue from the premiere was nothing special. Need we multiple metaphors for using the bathroom? Delivered by esteemed actor Don Johnson no less? And a character talking at length about Jolt Cola? Lines like "I’d rather change the channel than listen to your little soap opera" feel very stagey. Verbal cleverness gets used in excess here, and it shows—

Defendant: Objection, Your Honor! 

Judge: On what grounds, lawyer?

Defendant: The jury has no context. 

Judge: Good point actually. Sustained. Please, defendant, fill us in on the story. 

Defendant: Thank you, Your Honor. 

Defendant: The story of this first episode was commendable. On the side of the good guys, we have Sheriff Earl McGraw (Don Johnson) and Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia). They have a fun rapport. Freddie was trying to get Earl to baptize his new baby. Earl was reluctant. The two stopped at a convenience store so Earl could urinate, and wouldn’t you know it, there were some criminals also hiding out there. They go by the name of the Gecko brothers. First names Seth (D.J. Cotrona) and Richie (Zane Holtz). The latter had killed people during a bank robbery. Now before all this went down, there was a foreboding scene where an Aztec girl was tossed into a snake pit. And believe me, it was cool. Engaging. Overtones of something real scary coming. Part of that turned out to be Earl getting shot by Richie. Right through the heart. The rest of the episode was a standoff that led to the clerk (Lane Garrison) also being shot to death, some customers held hostage, and Earl dying on the store floor. Throughout the whole ordeal, Richie had some monster visions, and believe you me, they were frightening. 

Prosecutor: Your Honor, the defendant is overstepping her legal bounds.

Judge: I'll be the judge of that. Get it? Because I'm a—oh, never mind. Prosecution now has the floor. 

Prosecutor: Yes, everything described about the plot is true. But the following key elements have been omitted...

Proscecutor: The performances were totally uneven. Sometimes they were great, sure, but just as often, the line delivery among some of the actors could be quite stiff. Johnson’s lived-in Earl (who, might I add, had the best monologue of anyone and got killed off by the end of the hour) made Holtz's Richie and Cotrona's Seth feel meek, even though they were the ones doing the shooting. Even Garcia could stand to breathe a little more life into Gonzalez. But who knows, maybe this is the fault of an overly wordy, and ultimately confining script. Which brings me to my next point...

Prosecutor: Most of this first episode took place in a single, small location. While this made sense, story-wise, the effect of the adventure being restricted to an area of a few square meters (albeit except for flashbacks and a few cutaways) was one of frustration. As viewers, we wanted to get going on this journey, but couldn’t because of what was essentially a "bottle episode"—something that's hard to pull off even in an already familiar universe. The whole affair felt too small to get excited about. That is all, Your honor.

Judge: Defense, you may now offer a rebuttal.   

Defendant: Wow prosecution, tell us how you really feel.

[Light laughter in the courtroom.]

Defendant: Your Honor, ladies and gentlemen of the TV Jury, the setting here was so much larger than the purported "few square meters" alleged by the prosecutor...

Defendant: Everything was curated. The liquor store wasn’t just any liquor store—it looked like an Old West saloon. While it's true that the action in the first episode was confined to one location, the excursions to places like Earl’s wholesomely carpeted home, or the headquarters of Carlos (Wilmer Valderrama) all featured details that were clearly chosen with care. From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series exists in a whole universe that Rodriguez has put on display, large in its specificity. It has boundless potential. And, might I add, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. With that, I’ll make my final point...

Defendant: The melodrama of a dying mentor, the trope of criminals in suits with muscle cars, and the idea of centuries-old monsters committing telepathic harassment all seem a little over-the-top. But that’s what this show is. It is an action movie going overboard on purpose. It is something for the fans. It is a relishing in campiness. Which is not to say, "Hey, turn off your brain," but rather, "We’re going a little cartoonish for the sake of including cool stuff." In that, I think the TV Jury will agree that From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series has heartily succeeded. 

Judge: I just got word that another case needs this courtroom, so I’m going to skip over closing arguments and let the jury get to work.  

[The jury deliberates for over seven hours. Finally, its member emerge.]

TV Jury Member: We the TV Jury, find the premiere of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series highly enjoyable. We do not request that this show gets the chair. 

[Prosecution throws its hands up in exasperation; the defense's loved ones hug and touch foreheads.]

Judge: Order! Order! I am now ready to deliver my sentence. Old or new, the goal of any television show is to entertain. That entertainment can take many forms, it can be intellectual, it can be emotional, it can be romantic, it can be purely visceral. No one formula is correct or true. As such, From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series deserves its place in the growing prevalence of niche entertainment. It does what it needs to do, and plays by its own rules. While clunky at times, every program deserves a chance to find its way. I sentence From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series to viewership with the understanding it will make an attempt to get better as the series progresses. 

[Bangs the Official TV Gavel]

Judge: Case dismissed! 

Welp, justice has been served in the Court of Television. But what is YOUR ruling on From Dusk Till Dawn: The Seres' series premiere? Will you be back for Episode 2?

  • Comments (32)
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  • efonsecajr Apr 04, 2014

    This review. Right amount of campiness (format), darkness ("the chair") with sassy flair (judge/prosecution). Just like the tv show. I approve.

  • LOST-TWD-PP-GOT Mar 26, 2014

    "I know you ain't gonna make me can't to three. 'Cause i can't count that high." No s**t, forty percent of thirty million is twelve million, not thirteen- lol.

  • chrelle66 Mar 20, 2014

    It was kind of fun to see two young actors trying very hard to be Tarantino and Clooney. And Don Johnson did a pretty decent Michael Parks impression as Earl McGraw.

    But all in all I think I'll have to be pretty stoned for this to work.

    Is it known whether this is a short-run show or open ended?

    I deserves a few more episodes before passing final judgment.

  • No1Slayerette Mar 16, 2014

    Before I give my take, this 'Court of Television' piece was really unnecessary and difficult to read, stick to straight forward reviews! A series like this might benefit greatly from a photo recap by Price I think, but whatever this was, please don't do it again.

    Anyway, I watched the source material today in anticipation of watching the first episode of the series and I absolutely hated it. The first half of the film was fine, there was some good tension built leading up to the characters arrival at Titty Twister - but from then on it was horrible campiness galore. It's like Kurtzman and/ or Tarantino got bored midway through the film and decided to turn a nail-biting hostage thriller into a vampire comedy. The film just lost any sense of coherence and never regained it.

    So yeah, I was worried about what the series would be, but I'm glad I checked it out because one episode in and I love it! It's only delved into what happened in the first ten minutes of the film, but already the series' mythology and intention is far more realised than anything that was presented in the film. The acting at dialogue were far better than I imagined they would be (on par with that of Clooney and Tarantino's in the film, at least, which is saying something), The setting isn't anything new, but it seems like one of those series that could really benefit from relishing in it's surroundings by making it a character in itself (much like Breaking Bad). It was no where near as campy as the film (at least not yet) but I suppose it could benefit from not taking itself too seriously, although this doesn't bother me yet.

    As for the story, well, there's certainly an interesting one (or many) to be told here. As I mentioned, the film didn't deliver a compelling or logical narrative at all, so the series literally has limitless potential as to what it decides to do with the mythology of vampires, and the fact that there will likely be strong Aztec themes (in addition to possible strong Latin American influences) the series really does have the oppurtunity to do something new and be quite unique.

    As you can tell, I'm already hooked, here's hoping I'm not disappointed.

  • efonsecajr Apr 04, 2014

    Film was great in the 1990s. Still holds up.
    You know what ruined it? All the shiity melodramatic Vampire/Wolves tv shows of today. Pandering to teenagers with the attention span of a 5 year old.

    I was worried that the tv show wouldnt do the film justice. After having watched the Pilot, i thought it was just ok. Now having seen the latest eps, I can almost guarantee that the tv show will cause the film to be an afterthought. Which is what I think you are describing. I am glad you liked the Pilot!

    Important to remember that From Dusk film was more Rodriguez film than Tarantinos. With Rodriguez having only directed Desperado and some scenes in the very bloody Reservoir Dogs. Looks like he mashed both together and its what you get in From Dusk. Yes very campy/fun, I thought it was very straightforward.

    So are you still hooked? I am.

  • auraeulogia Mar 15, 2014

    First minutes and I was thinking Don jonhson looks like Dean in a Tarantino´s version of supernatural (season 24).
    Then : a creepy ,deluded,psycho brother, and charming ,hard -nosed brother followed by that
    70's dude,Vilmer Valderrama,( that's a no no ) that porttraits a drug mogul and Indiana Jones leftovers trader??
    Kitsch ,bizarre and grosse,but you can't help to think IT'S ROBERT RODRIGUEZ 'S WACKY FUN TIME!!

  • Vicky8675309 Mar 14, 2014

    I liked it~just the right amount of campiness, grittiness, and darkness. So far it seems darker (yet still with campiness) than Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries (aka the vampire love triangles). The psychotic brother was bat shit crazy and awesome. I'll keep watching. What's funny is I didn't care for the movie as much as others…but I really liked the tv show pilot

  • woz22 Mar 13, 2014

    I good pilot I can see that the series is following closely to the movie although I do miss george clooney Seth he a great with that part. I think it will have a problem now due to the fact as other people have mentioned the horror series genre is weighed down (true blood, supernatural, vampire dairies) I tune in for the next episode certainly better then the twilight shite!

  • Marburg66 Mar 13, 2014

  • terminaltrip421 Mar 13, 2014

    zero interest in reading the review. I thought it was fairly badass. don johnson had some lines that were a bit difficult to stomach at times but they were early on and the memory faded away. the cool-headed gecko brother was quite enjoyable. the story compelling enough. attractive women. top-notch action / direction. not disappointed after coming into it with decent sized hopes.

    now lets all judge ryan sandoval's avatar in the court of public opinion. I mean everything's just here to be criticized, right? the fact that this site has particularly crappy advertising practicies all so a bunch of slackers can review television shows for a living is the epitome of frustrating. no one idiot needs a voice louder than any other. how about the site return to just providing useful information and allow for discussions to be formed naturally within the community.

  • DaveLewis Mar 12, 2014

    "The Court of Television" would be an awesome show! Also, pretty sure the phrase
    "esteemed actor Don Johnson" has never been used before in the history of humankind.

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