Winter TV Roundup, Week 7

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

Monday Nights:
Full Frontal, Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on TBS (Premiered February 8)
About: Samantha Bee, long-time correspondent for "The Daily Show," got her own comedy show on TBS. I thought the pilot started well last week. Late night needs more diverse voices, especially women. And Bee was always a fun contributor to "The Daily Show." So I was a little bummed with her second episode, which wasn't as funny and felt more like a train wreck. He closing piece was still amusing, but the first two acts of the show — dedicated to the recent Republican and Democratic debates — didn't work. And her following the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia didn't work well, either. Bee is a funny lady, but I'm not sure if this show is going to work long term. If you're only on once a week, you need to nail it. That hasn't happened for her through two episodes.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: C-

Tuesday Nights:
American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX (Premiered February 2)
About: This is the first iteration of the latest anthology show, this one focusing on "The People v. OJ Simpson." The pilot generated a lot of buzz, and it delivered. It was a compelling hour and one that framed these familiar people and this familiar story in a new way. The second episode, which followed the infamous Bronco chase, was equally as good. The performances here are great, too. David Schwimmer has been impressive as Robert Kardashian, as is John Travolta as Robert Shapiro and Cuba Gooding, Jr., as OJ Simpson. The episodes have filled in a lot of the gaps in the well known story and done a great job of creating tension and excitement in a story that everyone already knows — or think they know. This is the first great new show of 2016.
Pilot Grade: A-
Second Episode: A-

Thursday Nights:
Those Who Can't, Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. on TruTV (Premiered February 11)
About: This is the first scripted series for TruTV, and it offered a double dip on premier night on Thursday. It follows members of a Denver improve troupe who star as teachers at a high school that might lack the maturity of their students. This feels like it wants to be a male version of "Teachers," the new comedy on TV Land that follows a similar premise with a similar group of friends used to the demands of improve. The difference is I didn't care about the characters or story in this show. I didn't think either episode worked or was funny. Especially on an obscure network, there isn't enough of a hook here to make it work.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C-

Friday Nights:
Animals, Fridays at 11:30 p.m. on HBO (Premiered February 5)
About: This is the latest series from HBO, an animated comedy that appears late night on Fridays to show life from the perspective of animals. The first episode was about hard partying rats. The second was about pigeons, one of whom had serious gender identity issues. And the episodes were... awful. I hate this show. This is easily the worst new show of the season, and one of the worst I've seen. Not sure what they're going for here, but it doesn't work.
Pilot Grade: F
Second Episode: F

Sunday Nights:
Vinyl, Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO (Premiered February 14)
About: "Vinyl" is the latest drama series from HBO. It premiered Sunday night. It comes from the writers and producers behind "The Sopranos" and "Boardwalk Empire" as well as Mick Jagger, but it's set in the world of the 1970s music scene. Bobby Cannavale, long a supporting player in these kind of dramas. The pilot was written by Terrence Winter and directed by Martin Scorsese. It was a two-hour pilot debut and it was... completely underwhelming. I didn't care about the characters or the story, and I'm not sure where this is going. I expected something a little better from this show. So far, this feels like a miss for HBO, a network that needs more shows to keep people hooked.
Pilot Grade: C-

Streaming Series:
11/22/63, Now streaming on Hulu (Debuted February 15)
About: This new limited series is based on a novel from Stephen King and drops new episodes each Monday, beginning with the pilot that premiered yesterday. It stars James Franco as a teacher who goes back in time through a secret portal to try and prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It's an interesting premise, and the pilot did a nice job of establishing the world, the story, and the challenges. This is an eight-part limited series, so it doesn't require a big commitment, but it looks like a potentially good one. I can't wait to see how this series develops.
Pilot Grade: B


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