Winter TV Roundup, Week 4

In these weekly posts I look at the new shows this winter, reviewing the pilot and second episode of each new offering. If you don't see a new show listed below, check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
The Nightly Show, Monday to Thursday at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central (Premiered January 19)
About: This is the latest show to land behind "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, and host Larry Wilmore is the latest "Daily Show" correspondent to move on to his own show. The show still tackles news and culture with a humorous slant, but it takes a different format and has a slightly different focus. The first week's episodes were very focused on African American people, issues, and perspectives. The round table discussion adds an interesting element, too. Monday's episode tackled the hot topic of the movie "American Sniper," which has been a big topic of conversation and a political hot button. I like Wilmore's style of commentary and his laid back demeanor. I also like the idea of the panel discussion. Some have been better than others depending on who's in the panel, the topic, etc., which is to be expected. Some of the comedy bits with contributors have also been rough, but it often takes a while to settle into a groove and work out the kinks. Overall, I like what Wilmore is doing and I think it is enough different from "The Daily Show" format to be a good companion piece.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+

Thursday Nights:
Backstrom, Thursdays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered January 22)
About: This is the latest release from FOX, a procedural based on a Swedish show from creator Hart Hanson, the man responsible for "Bones." Set in Oregon, the show follows the eccentric and sourpuss Lt. Backstrom (Rainn Wilson) and his quirky group of detectives and fellow cops. The tagline for the show is "Brilliant Detective; Total Dick," which about sums up the approach to this show. Wilson played a rough character on "The Office," but there he was a supporting player that fit into the ensemble. Here, he's the lead dog. In the pilot alone he his curt to everyone, expresses a lot of racist, sexist, and inappropriate sentiments, and spends his time letting his health go to pot. This is supposed to make him edgy and endearing. It didn't totally work for me, nor did the plot of the pilot. The case was a little too bland, leaving way too much time to focus on the characters. It was a rough fall for FOX, and so far the winter has been better. "Empire," which premiered a few weeks back, had an uneven pilot that I thought got much better in the second and third episodes. "Backstrom" could do the same as the characters settle into roles, some of the eccentricities get dialed back, and hopefully the cases get a little more interesting. One of the things that Hanson did well with "Bones" was get the audience invested in the characters more than the procedural elements, that's what's helped it move into its 10th season on the air. Hopefully that will be the case with "Backstrom," too. There are some talented actors, and there's potential. I just wasn't sold on the pilot presentation.
Pilot Grade: C

Friday Nights:
Worlds Funniest Fails, Fridays at 8 p.m. on FOX (Premiered January 16)
About: This is the latest FOX reality series, a sort of take off on "America's Funniest Home Videos." Hosted by Terry Crews, this show features a series of different fail videos in six categories. Crews and a panel of comedians pick the top video in each category, and at the end they choose the best from among the winners. A lot of the videos are amusing, as are the commentary from the comedians in playing the videos back. It's not deep or complicated, but it's a little light-hearted entertainment. The format has been good, and Crews makes for a good host. This show works for what it is.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-

12 Monkeys, Fridays at 10 p.m. on SyFy (Premiered January 16)
About: This is the latest original series from SyFy, a time travel mystery based on the popular film of the same name. Cole (Aaron Stanford) comes from 2043, where a virus has ravaged earth, killing seven billion people. He travels back in time, hoping to stop the virus' release. There he's helped by Dr. Railly (Amanda Schull). The first couple episodes were mainly about establishing the characters, the complexity of the mission, and the world. There are elements of the show that I thought worked, and the performances aren't bad, but it's not overly compelling. What made "12 Monkeys" really work as a film was the contained story and the strange style elements and performance. It's possible as a long-form series it just won't be that interesting. The pilot and second episode were OK, but that's it. Fans of the original film might be curious to stick with the show, but for casual viewers I don't think this will provide a big enough hook.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Sunday Nights:
Grantchester, Sundays at 10 p.m. on PBS (Premiered January 18)
About: This is the latest British crime drama to premier on PBS Sunday Night Mysteries. It's about a minister in a small British village just after World War II who helps solve crimes. The pilot episode felt a bit dry in terms of the case and the introduction of the world, but Sunday's second episode was a bit more intriguing. The show has a good cast, and found a good balance of building its characters and world while offering an interesting mystery to solve. For fans of the PBS mysteries, or British dramas of this sort, "Grantchester" proves to be an interesting offering.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C+


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