Winter TV Roundup, Week 3
In these weekly posts I look at the new shows this winter, reviewing the first two episodes. Don't see a new show below? Check previous weeks.
Shadowhunters, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Freeform (Premiered January 12)
About: Freeform is the new name for the ABC Family channel. The name of the network has changed, but the focus on young adult programming hasn't. Such is the case with "Shadowhunters," an adaptation of a the YA novel series "The Mortal Instruments." If that sounds familiar, it's because they tried to turn it into a series of movies, starting with "City of Bones," which didn't find an audience. But margins are smaller for cable networks, so it might be a better fit here. The pilot introduced the characters and world, and set up the conflicts. It did a fine job, but I wasn't really compelled or interested in any of it. I'm not the target demographic here, but I thought the pilot was a bit flat and, at times, confusing. Maybe it's better if you've read the books, but it would be nice to see a series that could stand on its own.
Pilot Grade: C-
The Shanarra Chronicles, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on MTV (Premiered January 5)
About: This is another series that's an adaptation of a novel series done by a network known for targeting teens. But the "Shanarra Chronicles" is a different kind of fantasy series. It's a little more "Lord of the Rings" than "Twilight," and I think it has broader appeal. I liked the pilot and the way it established the world. The second episode felt a little slower and a little drier, but it was still good. I could see this developing into something different but worth watching for MTV, a network better known for its reality series than creative scripted fare. That might be changing!
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: B-
Second Chance, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered January 13)
About: This is a show that has taken a long time to make it to the air. It was supposed to be loosely based on the story of "Frankenstein," and has had four names. That's never a good sign. The story is about a morally compromised ex-sheriff who's resurrected as a 40 years younger self with special powers. The pilot was mildly interesting, but you can see where it's going to settle into a case-of-the-week format. I don't think the characters or performances are good enough for that. This could have been an interesting idea for a movie, but I'm not sure it works as a weekly series. And judging by the first week's ratings, I'm not alone.
American Crime, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC (Premiered January 6)
About: This anthology series takes a hard look at American culture, and how it plays into crime. I liked the first season, and felt like it spoke to something deeper in what was happening in our country. I could see in the second episode that this iteration is trying to do something similar. The thing is, I don't care as much about these characters or this story. That's the trouble with anthology series — you can love it one season and be out the next based on the story. That, sadly, might be the case with "American Crime" this time around.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
Teachers, Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on TV Land (Premiered January 13)
About: This is the latest sitcom for TV Land, and it follows a group of teachers slogging their way through the day. The pilot moved along well and was amusing. It also featured a guest starring turn from producer Alison Brie that worked well. This pilot was given a preview in the fall, and I liked it then. I'm curious to see how the show develops, but this could be another sitcom success for TV Land.
Pilot Grade: C+
Angel From Hell, Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBS (Premiered January 7)
About: This series was delayed from the fall so it could get promoted heavily in the New Year. The show needs it, because it's not funny or compelling enough to pull people in on its own. I thought the pilot was slow and somewhat dreadful. The second episode was a mild improvement, but I still couldn't get into the comedy of this series. In fact, it might be better without the angel (Jane Lynch), which is a bad sign since that's the hook to get people into the show.
Pilot Grade: D
Second Episode C-
Shades of Blue, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered January 7)
About: This is NBC's latest hopes at a Thursday night drama success. But there's a reason it lost half a ratings point for its second episode — it's simply not that good. In fact, I thought this show was practically unwatchable, unless you're looking for unintentional comedy. The performances are mediocre, the story is bland, and there are no likable characters. This show is a televised train wreck.
Pilot Grade: D
Second Episode: D
Colony, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on USA (Premiered January 14)
About: This is the latest series from Carlton Cuse ("LOST") and features Los Angeles under alien rule. But this isn't your typical sci-fi series. You don't exactly see the Aliens, just the wall they built to divide the world into districts. Instead, you get a government run by alien collaborators and the former FBI Agent (Josh Holloway) who is recruited to root out the human resistance. Of course, he doesn't realize his wife (Sarah Wayne Calles) is that resistance. This has the makings of a interesting premise and set up. But the pilot was a little slow and uneven for me. I think there's potential here, but I'd like to see more happen in the second episode.
Pilot Grade: C
Angie Tribeca, Sundays at 9 p.m. on TBS (Premiered January 17)
About: This is the latest original series from TBS had a unique launch. It premiered its entire first season on Sunday in a 25 hour bingeathon. I watched the first two episodes, and that was enough for me. The series has a talented cast — led by Rashida Jones — and comes from Steve Carell and his wife, Nancy. But those looking for more of a straight up sitcom will be disappointed. This is more like "The Naked Gun" as a half-hour weekly series. They do that kind of comedy well, but it's not for everyone. It wasn't for me. I wasn't drawn into the story or characters here. I thought the actors did well, but this is a very niche kind of comedy. If you loved "The Naked Gun," check out "Angie Tribeca."
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
Billions, Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime (Premiered January 17)
About: This is the latest drama on Showtime, starring Damien Lewis as a major Wall Street tycoon and Paul Giamatti as the Justice Department lawyer hoping to bring him down. This is the show that Showtime hopes will develop into a new prestige drama. It has a great cast and the pilot was solid. I thought the way it introduced the characters and the world worked well. I liked the plot well enough to have my interest piqued, too, which is a good thing. Lewis and Giamatti are great actors, so that should go a long way. One problem I had was I liked Lewis' character more, which I don't think is the way it's supposed to be. Also, the series began with a scene that, I think, was meant to make it edgy. It didn't totally work for me. Still, I think there's potential here for this to be something a cut above Showtime's current slate of series.
Pilot Grade: B-
Mercy Street, Sundays at 10 p.m. on PBS (Premiered January 17)
About: This is the latest series from PBS. And unlike most of the series on PBS, this is one that is produced by PBS and is an American story. It's set at a hospital in Virginia during the Civil War. The hospital is Union, but the town around them is decidedly not. And the wounded come pouring in from both sides. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Josh Radnor lead a talented ensemble cast. I liked the pilot for its story, period details, and the conflicts it is setting up. This is a different kind of drama, but it works. It's a nice addition to Sunday nights.
Pilot Grade: B-