Spring TV Roundup, Week 2

We've entered the Spring TV season, and new shows keep on coming. In these weekly posts I look at the new scripted series of Spring. In these posts I review the pilot and second episode. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Damien, Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E (Premiered March 7)
About: A&E has found an original programming niche by taking off from classic horror/thriller films. "Bates Motel" is essentially a long form prequel to "Psycho." It follows a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his relationship with his mother (Vera Farmiga). And it's been a hit for the network. So it makes sense A&E would follow suit, which is what they did with "Damien." This new series, which debuted last night, is a direct sequel to the 1976 horror film "The Omen." In fact, it's so direct a sequel that it features photos and footage for the original film, which starred Gregory Peck as a politician whose son turns out to be the Anti Christ. Yes, you read that right. The pilot for the series picks up years later when a now-30-year-old Damien Thorn (Bradley James) is about to don his mantle, such as it is. At first Damien doesn't know who he's supposed to be, but something is awakened in him and crazy stuff starts to happen. People die and he slowly realizes he's about to embrace his destiny... which isn't good. So a logical question is how does this work as a series? Are we really sitting here rooting for the Anti Christ to usher in the end of the world? I guess the answer is somewhat to be determined, but it certainly seems to be heading in that direction. The pilot was uneven and a little boring. And, again, I'm not excited about where this is all headed. We'll see what happens in episode two, but painting Damien as an unwitting victim seems like an odd way to go.
Pilot Grade: C-

Tuesday Nights:
The Real O'Neals, Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC (Premiered March 2)
About: "The Real O'Neals" is the latest ABC sitcom. It will slide into the Tuesday night slot emptied by "The Muppets." It will now be the bridge from "Fresh Off The Boat" to "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But the show got a premier last Wednesday, offering a pair of original episodes sandwiched around "Modern Family." Clearly there is an extent to which "The Real O'Neals" is trying to pick up on some of that standard, wacky family comedy ground that has been a success for ABC. It's about a devote Irish-Catholic family that isn't as devote or as strong of Catholics as they appear. Hilarity ensues. Mom and dad are on the verge of divorce, the oldest son has an eating disorder, the daughter is a thief and the youngest son is secretly gay. See, just a normal, modern family. All the jokes were built on these issues, and the show seemed to make like of people who struggle with these issues and might need real help. I wasn't impressed with the comedy, and I was turned off by the story. To me, this was a middling failure.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C-

Wednesday Nights:
Hap and Leonard, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Sundance (Premiered March 2)
About: This is the latest original series from Sundance. It stars James Purfoy and Michael K. Williams as a pair of down-on-their-luck buddies in Texas in the 1980s. The show is based on the series of novels from  Joe R. Lansdale. The pilot finds the pair out of work, in need of money, and roped into some criminal shenanigans. It's a short six-episode first season, and the lead actors are strong. I wasn't in love with the pilot, and I'm not sure where it's going, but I'm mildly intrigued.
Pilot Grade: C

Thursday Nights:
Prey, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America (Premiered February 25)
About: This is the latest crime drama from BBC America, a six episode series that reminds me of "The Fugitive." Detective Marcus Farrow (John Simm) is accused of killing his wife and son. But he didn't do it. Once he escapes police custody, he sets out to uncover the real killer, tying it back to the last open case he caught before the murders. Through two episodes it's been an interesting exploration of this case and I'm curious to see how it all resolves. The acting is solid and this is the kind of story that is easy to get into and follow.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+

Sunday Nights:
The Family, Sundays at 9 p.m. on ABC (Premiered March 3)
This latest ABC drama takes place over two times, 10 years apart. The first is when a future politician (Joan Allen) has her young son go missing. The neighbor (Andrew McCarthy) was convicted of his murder, and the family tried to pick up the pieces. A decade later that son, Adam (Liam James), is found. His mother is the Mayor and now running for governor. The rest of the family is struggling and has fallen apart in the decade since. And after the wrongly convicted neighbor is released, even more tension rises. Then there's the question of whether it's really Adam or someone just pretending. There's a lot going on here, and there's some potential in the story. However, it feels like something that would be better served as a movie or mini-series than a weekly TV show. The first two episodes (it got a premier in the "Scandal" time slot Thursday before moving to Sunday) were uneven at best. It's a crowded TV market. To make it, you need to have a great hook and to really connect with audiences. This show didn't do that for me.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C-


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