Fall TV Roundup, Week 1

The fall TV season has begun. In these weekly posts I take a look at the pilot and second episode of the new scripted series this fall.

Tuesday Nights:
Atlanta, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX (Premiered September 6)
About: This is the latest comedy from FX, and like so many of their comedies it defies traditional thinking. It comes from writer/producer/star Donald Glover ("Community") and is a long gestating project set in his home town of Atlanta. He plays a nearly broke young man who sees a chance at his big break managing his cousin after his rap demo hits it big. The first two episodes aired in a block on Tuesday night. This is a series that's been hailed as original and fantastic by critics. And there were plenty of things to like here. Some of the comedy works well. I liked the second episode better than the first, and found myself chuckling a few times. I like the cast and the potential here. But at the same time, it's an acquired taste. It's not my kind of genre or storytelling. I could see the show doing well but it's not the kind of thing I'm going to watch each week.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: B-

Wednesday Nights:
Queen Sugar, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on OWN (Premiered September 6)
About: OWN has gotten into original scripted series of late, and "Queen Sugar" feels like the kind of powerhouse family drama that could help the network get some traction. It comes from producer Ava DuVernay ("Selma) and it's based on the novel  by Natalie Baszile. The series follows a trio of siblings in the South brought together by family tragedy. The first two episodes aired on consecutive nights last week and will regularly continue on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. There is a lot to like here in terms of the moody production and some of the performances. And there's plenty of story to sink into as well. But, much like "Atlanta," this is an acquired taste aimed at a certain kind of audience. I appreciated the narrative and the work in "Queen Sugar" but it isn't my kind of show. It lacks some of the over-the-top elements of "Empire," but it's a step above "Greenleaf," OWN's other family drama that debuted during the summer. For those that like the soapy family drama genre, this will be worth checking out.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+

Thursday Nights:
Better Things, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on FX (Premiered September 8)
About: This is the other new comedy on FX, and it also marches a bit to the beat of its own drum. It stars Pamela Adlon as a working mother of three daugthers, chronicling her day-to-day family life and struggles. I was excited about this show prior to its premier. I loved the trailer and commercials for it. Watching the pilot episode wasn't as satisfying. The trailer is great, the show is just OK, maybe a mild disappointment. I like Adlon, and I think there's potential here. But the pilot didn't quite work. for me. I'm be curious to see where the show goes from here.
Pilot Grade: C

Sunday Nights:
Son of Zorn, Sundays at 8:30 p.m. on FOX (Premiered September 11)
About: "Son of Zorn" is a hybrid animated/live action series debuting in the FOX Sunday night block. It got the post-NFL push on Sunday, will be off a week, then will come back for good on September 25. The show centers on an animated hero, Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudekis), who decides to try and settle into the real world in order to be close to his ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) and his 17-year-old son (Johnny Pemberton). I thought the pilot was mildly amusing at times, but mostly a chore to watch. I don't see how this works as a weekly series.
Pilot Grade: C-

Streaming Series:
One Mississippi, Now Streaming on Amazon Prime (Premiered September 9)
About: "One Mississippi" stars comedian Tig Notero in a series loosely based on her life. When it debuted during pilot season last year, I didn't care for it. This is the kind of show where sometimes the right time and mood can change your perception. I re-watched the pilot and got into the humor and pacing a lot more. The series was co-created by Diablo Cody, who worked on the pilot episode. I found Notero compelling in the lead role, and I liked the deadpan style of humor. Again, this is a comedy that's not for everyone. But I found myself drawn in and by the end of the second episode I decided to just keep going. The first season is six episodes, so it's a short commitment. I finished the first season and, while there were episodes I didn't care for, I found this to be an interesting and often compelling series. It's certainly worth checking out, which is something I wouldn't have said a year ago after coming into the pilot cold.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B


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