Summer TV Roundup, Week 4


We're in the heat of summer, and the new shows are starting to flow. In this weekly posts I look at the first and second episode of new scripted series this summer. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Guilt, Mondays at 9 p.m. on Freeform (Premiered June 13)
About: "Guilt" is the story of an American living abroad who becomes embroiled in a murder investigation after her roommate turns up dead. She's got a French boyfriend and a flimsy alibi. Sound familiar? This show will certainly elicit comparisons to the case of Amanda Knox, and it's hard to believe that's not intentional. At the same time, show runners insist this isn't the Amanda Knox case put to film by another name. So we'll see how that goes. The best thing going for the show is star Billy Zane, who serves as a smarmy defense attorney. The pilot wasn't that compelling, in large part because the plot was too soapy and the characters were too hammy. We'll see if it develops. Still, there are worse options during the dog days of summer.
Pilot Grade: C-

BrainDead, Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS (Premiered June 13)
About: This is the latest series from Robert and Michelle King, the show runners responsible for "The Good Wife." This is a stylized series, but it's not what you'd expect. It riffs on the current political climate — with news reports featuring Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton — but it's a farcical story that's detached from reality. That creates something interesting and possibly compelling about the series, at least it did in the pilot. The series boasts familiar stars in Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Danny Pino, Aaron Tveit, and Tony Shaloub. The pilot was interesting and set up the central mystery — which surrounds bugs that are taking over people's bodies and minds in Washington, D.C. It's part political show, part sci-fi experience. It's got a fun tone, good performances, and it's the perfect kind of engaging series for summer.
Pilot Grade: B-

Tuesday Nights:
Feed The Beast, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on AMC (Premiered June 5)
About: "Feed The Beast" is AMC's latest shot in the dark, this one about a pair of down-on-their-luck guys trying to start a restaurant in the Bronx. I like the cast — which includes Jim Sturgess, John Doman, and David Schwimmer — and I like the idea, but I didn't like the execution. The first two episodes were slow, full of cliches, and not strong enough to build up the characters and the world. This feels like a good concept that never came to fruition. Some may enjoy it enough to stick with it during the thin time of summer, but otherwise this feels like a missed opportunity.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C-

Wednesday Nights:
Cleverman, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Sundance (Premiered June 1)
About: This is the latest series from Australia imported to American audiences via Sundance. It's part political commentary and part cultural story. None of it works great. It treads on some of the same ground as "District 9," except in a less compelling way. Then there's a part of it that has to do with magic and legends that didn't work for me at all. I'm sure there is an audience for this, but I'm not sure who it would be. This series feels like a confusing mess.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: D

Saturday Nights:
The American West, Saturdays at 10 p.m. on AMC (Debuted June 11)
About: This latest series for AMC is a hybrid live-action re-creation and documentary about the American west. It picks up in a time after the Civil War and seeks to chronicle some of the legends that built the west. The first hour of this eight-part mini series focused on the origins for Jesse James, Crazy Horse, and General George Armstrong Custer. The dramatic re-creations are intercut with interviews from historians and famous actors. The pilot was engaging and helps separate some of the fact from fiction in these famous stories. For fans of the period or the genre, this is a nice treat.
Pilot Grade: C

Sunday Nights:
Still the King, Sundays at 9 p.m. on CMT (Premiered June 12)
About: CMT is diving head long into scripted series. It launched the new comedy, "Still the King," on Sunday nights, and recently saved "Nashville" from cancellation. It remains to be seen what "Nashville" does for the network previously best known for playing Country Music Videos, but "Still the King" isn't likely to set the world on fire. It stars Billy Ray Cyrus as a one-hit wonder who's struggling to get by 20 years after that hit. While that might sound familiar, this doesn't appear to be exactly like Billy Ray's actual life. At least I don't think so. It's also not funny or interesting. That's the real problem. The first two episodes aired on Sunday night, and they were an awful chore to watch. I'm not sure who the target audience for this would be because it's so poorly executed. This is just an epic fail.
Pilot Grade: F
Second Episode: F

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