Summer TV Roundup, Week 6


We're in the midst of summer and the new shows are flowing. In these weekly posts I take a look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this summer. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Greenleaf, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on OWN (Premiered June 21)
About: This is the latest new scripted series for Oprah's OWN Network, and it features her in a supporting role. It's about a big church in Tennessee run by a family of ministers, led by Keith David. When his favorite daughter, Grace (Merle Dandridge) comes home, it sets the story in motion. She was perhaps the best preacher in the family, but she left it all. Now she's back. That creates jealousy among the siblings, but little do they know she's there to investigate the family. The pilot and second episode — a total of three aired over two nights — had some interesting moments. I like the cast, and the church looks and plays like something from the real world that is taken from real life abuses of churches like this. There's potential in the story, too. But, ultimately, this didn't connect with me, personally. I think it could be fascinating for the right kind of viewer, and it was well made, but I gave up after two episodes.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Wednesday Nights:
American Gothic, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on CBS (Premiered June 22)
About: This latest drama from CBS seems like a straightforward story about an upper crust family. The parents are respected members of the community. The oldest daughter is running for mayor. The younger brother is a respected artist. The youngest daughter is married to a police detective. Then there's the older brother, who disappeared for a few years. When a construction accident uncovers new evidence, the police begin pursuing a serial killer called the Silver Bells killer. When the family patriarch collapses, the black sheep son returns and his siblings find evidence pointing to the idea the killer is, or was, part of their family. This opens a whole new set of possibilities. The pilot was about introducing the world and the players. I am a sucker for contained murder mystery stories, especially during the summer. I might be one of the only people to own the CBS limited series "Harper's Island" on DVD. I have high hopes for this, too, after a strong pilot.
Pilot Grade: B-

Thursday Nights:
Queen of the South, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on USA (Premiered June 23)
About: The latest drama from USA is about a Mexican woman (Alice Braga) who is drawn into the world of cartels by her boyfriend. When he is killed, she goes on the run and gets pulled in deeper to save her life. We know it ends up going well for her because we see her as successful and running the show in the future. This is her story. I kind of hate that conceit because it means that no matter what situation she is in, we know she'll make it. That waters down the story a bit. Second, I wasn't overly compelled by the pilot. It was violent, colorful, and, at times, distasteful. (There is a rape in the first episode..). And overall I didn't care a lot about these characters or the world. A drug trafficking show can work — see "Narcos" — but I didn't get a good feel from this pilot. For now, this seems like a noble failure for USA, which is seemingly more content starved these days.
Pilot Grade: C

Thirteen, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America (Premiered June 23)
About: This latest series imported from across the pond is about a woman who was kidnapped and manages to escape to freedom after 13 years. Think more "Silence of the Lambs" than "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" here. This isn't a light-hearted show. It's dark and, at times, tough to watch. The acting is strong, but the main character is awkward. That's to be expected given the circumstance, but is it a result of the trauma, or is she hiding something else? That's part of the mystery to uncover. And what about her family, which was torn apart by tragedy for 13 years and now forced to come back together? That's another piece of the complex layering here. The pilot was a little slower and duller than I'd like, but there's promise in the concept. Can it be developed? That's the question.
Pilot Grade: C+

Sunday Nights:
Roadies, Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime (Premiered June 26)
About: This is the latest from Cameron Crowe, writer/director of "Almost Famous," who returns to his musical roots in his first foray into TV. This series is about the crew behind the band, so to speak, as it focuses on those who help set the stage — literally — for bands on a nightly basis. Carla Gugino and Luke Wilson play the leads of the series, and the leads of this motley crew of roadies. Among the cast is Rafe Spall, Keisha Castle-Hughes and the charming Imogene Poots, who stole the show in the pilot. With Crowe, you either love his perspective or you don't. His style with "Roadies" is consistent with his movies. I have always had a soft spot for how he spins a narrative, and he feels right at home here in the music world again. Was the pilot flawed? Yes. Will it work as a show? I'm not sure. Will I be watching the second episode? Yes, I will — and not just for the sake of this weekly post. I was taken by certain aspects of the pilot, despite its flaws, and I could see diving into this series as the summer rages on. Time will tell.
Pilot Grade: C+

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