Fall TV Roundup, Week Five
Fall is here, and the wave of new shows is steady and strong. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this fall. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.
Conviction, Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC (Premiered October 3)
About: ABC had hoped this series would be a strong new addition to its lineup, replacing the steady veteran series "Castle" with this new legal show with Hayley Attwell. I like Attwell as Agent Carter, but I feel like her talent is wasted on this series. It is trying so hard to fit with the TGIT vibe for the network, but the writing and characters just aren't there. The show is fine, but fine isn't nearly good enough. The ratings week one weren't great, and I think this show is likely done after this first season — if it even makes it a whole season. Episode two was even more of a chore to get through, which doesn't bode well for the series going forward. This show is a miss to me.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
Timeless, Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered October 3)
About: This new NBC series is a time traveling adventure. A team of three — a soldier, a scientist, and a historian — must travel to a new time each week to prevent a madman from changing history. The pilot went to the Hindenburg, while episode two went to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The series is doing a nice job of recreating periods each week, which gives the narrative a fun challenge. So far the plot and the characters have been slow to be laid out. I didn't feel like we got as much progress in episode two as I would have liked, but this is still one of the better new series this fall. I like the cast and the conceit, and I like the fact they've slightly altered history in each of the first two episodes and the exploration of the ramifications of those changes on the current time line. There's plenty of interesting ground to cover here, and "Timeless" feels like a show that will be a fun exploration of those stories.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: B-
No Tomorrow, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW (Premiered October 4)
About: The CW is introducing a few new series this year, the first of which to air was "No Tomorrow." The show focuses on Evie (Tori Anderson), a straight-laced, buttoned down woman whose world is thrown into disarray after meeting Xavier (Joshua Sasse), a free spirit who believes the world is about to end. They have chemistry, but also a radically different view of the world. Can Evie teach Xavier about structure while he opens her up to the world? Can their romance flourish? Will the world really end? These are all the questions you're meant to ask after the pilot, and I guess I kind of did. But this series is pedestrian and dull. The pilot had little pop and felt like a Pauley Shore movie concept gone long. That's not a good thing. This is a big miss to me so far.
Pilot Grade: C
Aftermath, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on SyFy (Premiered September 27)
About: This new series from SyFy is about a family trying to survive the end of the world. There's natural disasters and super natural threats. There's a lot going on here, and it's meant to draw you in and ask questions. I did have a question — how did this get made? I'm not saying it's awful, I'm saying it's the worst new show of the fall, by far. It makes "Sharknado" look well conceived, and that's saying something. What drew Anne Heche and James Tupper to this series remains a mystery, and the most compelling thing about the show. This series is a train wreck.
Pilot Grade: D
Second Episode: D-
Frequency, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on the CW (Premiered October 5)
About: This new series is based on the movie starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviziel that debuted in 2000. It was about a firefighter who was connected to his son 20 years in the future via an old radio. It was a touching family story. Now, it's a CW show. The son has become a daughter, and the father is now an undercover cop who was originally killed and framed by his fellow cops. Peyton List takes the lead role as Raimey Sullivan, who's now a detective in 2016. She gets connected to her decades dead cop father, Frank Sullivan (Riley Smith), and works to change the past. There was plenty of emotional heft in the pilot, and the performances worked well. The pilot covered about the first half of the original film, and the second episode looks to cover the second half of the film. That makes it a little deceptive. I liked the pilot because I liked the original story, and they did a nice job replicating that with different characters and actors. But what happens when the original story runs out? That's the challenge for this kind of series, which makes me curious to see how it goes forward.
Pilot Grade: B-
Falling Water, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on USA (Premiered October 13)
About: USA gave a special premier of this new series following the "Mr. Robot" finale a couple weeks ago. It's a surreal show about several different people around the world that realize they are sharing dreams. I watched the pilot early, but only realized what the show was about by reading the plot synopsis later. The pilot was a hot mess, and not very compelling. Perhaps the series will get better, but I wasn't a fan of what I've seen so far.
Pilot Grade: C-
Westworld, Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO (Premiered October 2)
About: This is the best new show of the fall, easily. Jonathan Nolan and his wife, Lisa Joy, have latched on to the 1973 film written by Michael Crichton and created a show that's a blend of the ideology Crichton frequently explored and an ideology that if common in Nolan's films and shows. The cast is great, the show is expertly produced, and I thought the second episode was even more compelling than the pilot, which is a neat trick to pull off. The show isn't for everyone, because it requires a lot of careful study and thinking and because the content can be a bit rough. But I think this will ultimately be worth the journey.
Pilot Grade: A-
Second Episode: A-
Divorce, Sundays at 10 p.m. on HBO (Premiered October 9)
About: This is Sarah Jessica Parker's return to TV, and there was a lot of hope pinned to this series. But the pilot is... awful. It was a chore to watch, not funny, and not compelling. Worst of all, the POV character — Parker's Frances — is completely unlikeable. She's shrewish, a liar, and a cheat. When her husband (played by Thomas Haden Church) says he's the hero at the end of the pilot, he's correct. That's a bad sign. The narrative in the pilot was ugly, and I suspect things are only going to get more ugly as this goes along. This can't be the kind of dynamic half hour HBO was hoping for when Parker agreed to return to a TV series.
Pilot Grade: C-
Insecure, Sundays at 10:30 p.m. on HBO (Premiered October 9)
About: This is HBO's other new half hour, a comedy Issa Rae and Larry Wilmore, starring Rae and loosely based on her life and experiences as a young black woman. Right away I can sense I'm not the target demographic here. I thought the pilot had some funny moments, but felt a bit uneven. Part of that, I admit, might be because I'm not the target demographic. But Rae is a charming lead, and I think this is the kind of show made for a certain audience that will really work for them. It's different than most of what's on TV, and that's a plus. I didn't love the pilot, but I liked it.
Pilot Grade: B-
Crisis in Six Scenes, Now Streaming on Amazon Prime (Debuted September 30)
About: This is the latest Amazon series, from writer/director Woody Allen. If you've ever seen a Woody Allen film, then you pretty much know how this show is going to go. That being said, Allen does a nice job of crafting a somewhat interesting period story — New York in the 1960s — that has themes about government mistrust that resonate with today's politics. He's great at playing a version of himself in productions, and this series is no different. I thought the first two episodes were mildly amusing and laid out an interesting story. The series is only six episodes, and is a breezy streaming watch. If you're a fan of Allen's work, this is for you. I actually kind of like Miley Cyrus in a supporting role, too.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B
Luke Cage, Now Streaming on Netflix (Debuted September 30)
About: Netflix has had a good run in its partnership with Marvel. "Daredevil" has had two successful seasons, and last fall "Jessica Jones" was one of the best shows of 2015. Now comes "Luke Cage," the next rung in the Defenders series. It stars Mike Colter as the titular hero, who was introduced in the "Jessica Jones" series. It is also connected to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. I had high expectations and so far, I'm not that impressed. This, to me, is the weakest of the Marvel series on Netflix through two episodes. It's moving at a glacial pace. Though it has good performances, and there's potential here, it's rough to see how this stretches out over 11 more episodes. That's a challenge. The tone — doing something unique in a nod to blaxploitation films here — is also different. Some of it works, but some of it doesn't since the show is set in the present day. I like what they're trying to do here, and I thought episode two was better than the pilot, but I'm not sold on the show at this point.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: B-