Winter TV Roundup, Week 4


In these weekly posts I take a look at the new shows of winter, reviewing the pilot and second episodes. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
The X-Files, Mondays at 8 p.m. on FOX (Premiered January 24)
About: "The X-Files" was a successful series on FOX that wrapped up after nine seasons in 2002. But now, 14 years later, it's back for a six-episode limited series. But believe me, if these six episodes go well, the series will be back in some fashion again. What helps is that the stars — Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny — are back. So, too, are many of the writers and producers. And the first two episodes — one aired after the NFC Title game on Sunday and the second in its regular time slot on Monday — were a breezy return to the world. Anderson and Duchovny are great in these roles, and even after more than a decade away they have no trouble sliding into the flow of this new series. The first episode on Sunday was a return to the alien mythology that's been so much a part of "The X-Files." And the second episode was one of the classic mysterious and strange crimes. I thought both were decent, but not great. Still, it's nice to have "The X-Files" back and I can't wait to see what happens over the next four episodes.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C+

Recovery Road, Mondays at 9 p.m. on Freeform (Premiered January 25)
About: This new series is about teens and young adults who are recovering from substance abuse issues. The central character is a high schooler who lost her father and now is coming to grips with a serious drinking and drug problem. This isn't the typical kind of story aimed at young adults, which is Freeform's (previously ABC Family Channel) core audience. But this pilot was unflinching in its depiction of these type of issues, which is a bit refreshing. However, the story, characters, and performances weren't that compelling. It was a bit of a dry hour to watch and not overly compelling. If it doesn't improve, it's hard to see this building a big audience.
Pilot Grade: C-

Lucifer, Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered January 25)
About: The other half of Monday nights on FOX is the premier of "Lucifer," a story about the devil taking a holiday in Los Angles. It's based on a DC Comics property and adapted for television from the creator of "Californication." That, of course, tells you all you need to know. Tom Ellis is fine in the lead role and oozes charm. But the story and the concept are a tough swallow. The first episode got a big audience bump from "The X-Files." But I want to see who comes back for week two. I thought the show had some amusing moments but, at other times, felt like a train wreck. Ugh.
Pilot Grade: D

The Magicians, Mondays at 10 p.m. on SyFy (Premiered January 25)
About: "The Magicians" got a preview for its pilot in December, but it returned with an official premier last night. That was followed by the second episode. I thought the pilot was confusing and boring. Based on the novel by Lev Grossman, some are probably going into this expecting it to be like "Harry Potter." It's about young magicians learning their craft at a school, yes, but it's not "Harry Potter." The characters in the show aren't that compelling, nor are the stories. The second episode was even harder to watch. This feels like a miss.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: D

Tuesday Nights:
Shadowhunters, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Freeform (Premiered January 12)
About: This series is based on the "Mortal Instruments" book series. It's another Young Adult Fiction adaptation that flamed out as a movie and now is trying to make it as a weekly series. I thought the pilot was confused and boring. If you read the books, it was probably easier to follow. But as a weekly TV series, it lacked bite and a hook. The second episode was even more unwatchable. It might work for the target Freeform audience, particularly those who've read the books, but I thought the show was a mini-train wreck.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: D

Wednesday Nights:
Second Chance, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered January 13)
About: This is the other new series of the winter for FOX, and it hasn't fared as well. In fact, ratings were so low for the first two airings it's been booted to Friday nights. That's like being pre-canceled. And the reason for that is that the series is a little too complex to follow and not that compelling. The pilot was mildly interesting and I thought the second episode was a little better. But this is settling into a pretty routine procedural formula, and I am not sure it has enough of a hook to keep viewers.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C

Teachers, Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on TV Land (Premiered January 13)
About: This isn't a deep or complicated show. It's about teachers trying to slog their way through the daily grind with students that drive them crazy and personal issues that serve as a giant distraction. I liked the flow of the second episode and I think this can turn into a nice comedy series for TV Land, which has found success with sitcoms like this in recent years. It works especially well if you are or have been a teacher.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+

Thursday Nights:
DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW (Premiered January 21)
About: This is the latest comic book series for The CW. "Arrow" and "Flash" have been big hits for the network, which is taking a stab at another spin-off, this one featuring a time traveling story and characters culled from the fringes of its other two superhero shows. That all sounds like a winning formula, but I wasn't wild about the pilot. I like "Flash" and "Arrow" quite a bit, but the tone and story in "Legends of Tomorrow" didn't quite work. I think there's a reason all these characters were supporting players on other shows. I was under whelmed by the pilot. Hopefully the show improves, but if not I could see this one failing to live up to the hype.
Pilot Grade: C-

Colony, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on USA (Premiered January 14)
About: This is a sci-fi series set in Los Angeles after aliens have invaded and broken the world up into smaller districts. Some humans improve their lot by collaborating. Others have gone under ground to form a resistance. The heart of this series centers on a former FBI Agent (Josh Holloway) who is recruited to collaborate and his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies) who is secretly in the resistance. The first two episodes have been a bit of a slow burn. I like the basic concept and the cast, but I'm waiting for the action to pick up a bit. I think there's potential here, but so far the stories have been a little dull.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Baskets, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on FX (Premiered January 21)
About: This is the latest original series from FX, a comedy starring Zach Galifinakis. The premise of the series is a man who flunks out of clown school in France takes a demeaning job as Baskets the Clown for a rodeo in America. And hilarity ensues. At least that's what you'd hope would happen. Reality is a crueler mistress. The show was far from fun or funny. It was, perhaps, the most disappointing new show I've seen this year.
Pilot Grade: F

London Spy, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America (Premiered January 21)
About: This is the latest drama from across the pond. It centers on a man (Ben Whishaw) who starts a relationship with a man he believes to be an investment banker. When his boyfriend turns up dead, he learns the truth that the dead man was living a double life. Drama ensues. Or I'm sure it will in the second episode. The first episode was beyond a slow burn of set up. And the story and characters didn't really interest me. I thought this was going to be a spy show, and maybe it will be at some point, but it certainly wasn't in the first episode.
Pilot Grade: C-

Idiotsitter, Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central (Premiered January 14)
About: This is the latest Comedy Central show about a privileged woman who lacks education, decorum, and is in trouble with the law. She's soon assigned a tutor to help her pass her GED and stay out of jail. It's a fish out of water story, a story of people from different worlds, and from what I can tell over two episodes, a complete waste of time. Both half hours were a chore to watch. This show is a complete miss.
Pilot Grade: F
Second Episode: F

Sunday Nights:
Billions, Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime (Premiered January 17)
About: Showtime needs some new blood to add to its list of dramas on Sunday nights. That's become premium space for pay-cable networks in recent years, and Showtime needs to make a new splash. It's hoping "Billions," led by Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, will be that splash. I liked the pilot, and the story it set up. So I was a little disappointed by the second episode. It was OK, and had some interesting moments, but it didn't really feel like the story progressed much. Having to fill 12 hours can sometimes be a challenge, but it will be interesting to see if "Billions" can approach something closer to the energy and interest the pilot generated.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: C

Streaming Series:
Mad Dogs, now streaming on Amazon Prime (Premiered January 22)
About: This latest series from Amazon is about four friends who travel to the islands for a fun weekend with another friend, but get drawn into something nefarious. I thought the pilot was mildly interesting when it debuted during pilot season in 2014. I was curious to see what would happen in the second episode. The answer is not much. This might be the kind of idea better suited to a contained movie rather than a series. I'm not sure I see how this story stretches out over 10 episodes, let alone multiple seasons. It worked as a limited series in the UK, though, so we'll see if audiences respond in the United States. For me, two episodes was more than enough.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C

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