Winter TV Roundup: Week Nine


Winter is full of new TV options. Some are solid gold ("Empire") others are lemons ("Galavant"), either way, they exist. In these weekly posts I review new shows of the winter and grade the first two episodes. Don't see a new show from this winter? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Repeat After Me, Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC (Premiered February 17)
About: "Fresh Off The Boat" is arguably the biggest hit ABC has had this winter. It seems odd that it's paired with "Repeat After Me," a hidden camera show moderated by Wendi McLendon-Covey. But maybe it's not after how badly much of ABC's new fall offerings cratered. It's not that "Repeat After Me" is a bad show -- in fact it's perfectly fine. It's just that it doesn't seem that creative or original. Still, it's likely cheap to produce, rolls out some stars, and is mildly amusing. The show is fine, and that's about all there is to say. If you enjoy hidden camera shows, than this will be a weekly treat.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Thursday Nights:
The Odd Couple, Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS (Premiered February 19)
About: This is a re-make of the classic property, this time with Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon in the lead roles. The set up is stale, the characters are cliches, and the laughs are all on a track. What else is there to say? Airing after "The Big Bang Theory," "The Odd Couple" draws decent ratings, has a talented cast, and will likely be renewed. But it's not a good or clever show. Some CBS comedies have carved out niches, and some, like "Mom," have broken from the formula in interesting ways. None of that is the case with "The Odd Couple." The first two episodes have been flat, largely uninteresting, and almost entirely devoid of laughs. I'd call it a disappointment, but the trailers and descriptions of the show pretty much gave this away.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: D

Sunday Nights:
Secrets and Lies, Sundays at 9 p.m. on ABC (Premiered March 1)
About: "Secrets & Lies" is the latest drama to air on Sunday nights on ABC. It continues a string of shows centered on a singular murder mystery. Much like "Gracepoint," which bombed in the fall for FOX, this show is adapted from a series in another country. This time it follows the blueprint of "Secrets & Lies" in Australia. Ryan Phillippe and Juliette Lewis headline the show, which aired its first two episodes on Sunday night. It's billed as a 10-episode event series, so it remains to be seen if it will draw enough eyeballs to get a second season. It started limply in the ratings, but from a quality standpoint I actually kind of enjoyed the two hours. Phillippe is a good actor, and he was an interesting focal character in the first two hours, which featured plenty of revelations and set up the promise of more revelations to come. Lewis was a little one-note as the brilliant but singularly focused detective, but that, too, might change a bit over time. I didn't love the first two episodes, but I was intrigued. The show was put together well, has a decent cast, and has set up a somewhat compelling mystery. Whether that's enough for it to thrive on a crowded Sunday night schedule remains to be seen.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B

Last Man On Earth, Sundays at 9:30 p.m. on FOX (Premiered March 1)
About: This might be the most high concept comedy in years. Will Forte stars as the last man alive on earth. Sunday's premier saw the show burn off its first two episodes. The bulk of the first episode was about Forte's Phil adjusting to a life of isolation in Tuscon. It played out largely how you'd expect and there were some funny moments. Just when that solitary aspect is wearing a bit thin, Phil meets the last woman on earth, Carol (Kristen Schaal). Much of the second episode centered on their interactions, and their differences. You have to wonder what will happen in subsequent episodes, and if more survivors will show up in Tuscon. That, really, is the only way I see this show working long-term. This is one of those high concept shows that could work as a stand alone movie, but seems rough when you think about episodic television. Even the pilot didn't have solely Phil for its whole run time, wisely realizing that after 20 minutes there wasn't a lot for him to do. I thought both the first two episodes were uneven. Forte is talented -- as are producer directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller -- but the show felt a little thin. It was a ratings hit for FOX, who needs some more good news, but I wonder how many will come back for more.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Battle Creek, Sundays at 10 p.m. on CBS (Premiered March 1)
About: This show comes from Vince Gilligan ("Breaking Bad") and David Shore ("House"). It's about cops trying to do good work in the small town of Battle Creek Michigan, despite a lack of resources, and the FBI Agent assigned to their town that shows up with plenty of resources offering to help. The central conflict is between veteran detective Russ Agnew (Dean Winters) and polished FBI Agent Milton Chamberlain (Josh Duhamel). They have opposing styles, but the actors play well off each other. The pilot episode was a mix of drama and comedy that established good rapport among the characters. But it didn't draw much of an audience, and it's in a timeslot that suggests there's not a lot of faith in the show. That being said, I enjoyed the pilot. I liked the performances, especially from Winters. I thought the show had potential to be a little something different, especially from CBS, which relies heavily on procedural formulas for its dramas.
Pilot Grade: B

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