Fall TV Roundup, Week Four

We're in the midst of the fall season, and the new shows are moving fast and furious. Here's a look at the new shows I've seen this fall season. I review the pilot and second episode of new shows this fall. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Conviction, Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC (Premiered October 3)
About: Hayley Attwell, late of "Agent Carter," takes the starring role as Hayes Morrison, former First Daughter, perennial screw up, and now the lawyer in charge of the Conviction Integrity Unit. The plot was about what you'd expect and the characters were... lacking in anything compelling. I like the idea of this show, but the pilot felt like it was trying a little too hard to be edgy. I like Attwell, but I'm not sure this is the greatest starring vehicle for her. It's hard to see this becoming a show I want to tune into week-after-week, and judging by the ratings I'm not alone in that feeling.
Pilot Grade: C

Timeless, Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered October 3)
About: This is one of the higher concept shows this fall. It's about a villain who uses a time machine to go back and alter the past, and the trio who are sent in a rival time machine to stop him. Among the group is a soldier, a scientist, and a history professor. The pilot episode introduced the characters and the world, and quickly sent events to the Hindenburg disaster. I thought the pilot moved at a good clip, had some good performances, and had an interesting story and point of view. I think there's some potential here to be a fascinating story going forward. I really liked the twist at the end of the pilot about the implications of a small ripple in time.
Pilot Grade: B

Tuesday Nights:
Bull, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on CBS (Premiered September 20)
About: This latest series is about jury consultant who helps his clients get off. It's based on the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw, who serves as a producer on the series. Michael Weatherly is in the starring role, and CBS has put a lot of advertising capital behind the series. But none of that can gloss over the mediocre dialogue and story. I found the first two episodes dry and difficult to watch. Weatherly is a decent actor, but his character here is too smarmy. While this might work for the CBS demographic, it didn't work at all for me. Arguably the second episode was worse than the pilot.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C-

This Is Us, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered September 20)
About: This is the latest series from NBC aimed at getting you to reunite with your Kleenex on a weekly basis. It follows the story of three siblings just after they turned 36. It also flashes back in time to show their childhood and their parents struggles. There is some potential here, and this is a series that's brought in a lot of viewers. I think there's some potential here, but at the same time I didn't love the pilot and I thought the second episode was just OK. I'm curious to see where it goes — and it was a hit with Lindsay so I'll be watching some more episodes — but I'm not sold. This is an acquired taste that will likely work best with a specific demographic, especially those who were big fans of "Parenthood."
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+

Aftermath, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on SyFy (Premiered September 27)
About: Sometimes you watch a pilot and you're just blown away. Other times you watch a pilot and your first question is what did I just watch. "Aftermath" falls into the latter category. It is a head-scratcher of a plot. There's some weird gender role action going on with the main characters — a married couple played by Anne Heche and James Tupper — and a whole lot of weird plot things going on. I'm not even sure where they're going with this. It's about a family who is trying to survive the end of the world. The show might be the end of your interest in watching TV...
Pilot Grade: D

Wednesday Nights:
Lethal Weapon, Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on FOX (Premiered September 21)
About: Based on the popular film series, this show is about a pair of mis-matched cops who can't seem to stop the bad guys without things getting extreme. I liked the pilot, and what was done with Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans, Sr., taking over these iconic roles. But the second episode showed why this concept works better as a movie for a couple hours than a weekly series. It was dry, too repetitive, and felt like somewhat of a step backward in terms of plot. There were a couple interesting moments, but overall this show feels stale. I had some hope after the pilot, but the second episode clearly spelled out where the series will be.
Pilot Episode: B-
Second Episode: C

Speechless, Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC (Premiered September 21)
About: This series is about a brash family just trying to make it through the week. This includes son JJ, who is in a wheel chair and breaking in a new aide to help him find his voice. Minnie Driver is in the starring role as the fierce and overly protective mother. I had high hopes for this series based on the fall preview, but it wasn't as strong as I'd hoped. The first episode had some funny moments, and so did the second, but overall the series feels a little, too uneven. There's potential here, but it needs to develop a bit more.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+

Designated Survivor, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC (Premiered September 21)
About: Imagine if the entire government disappeared in an instant? That's the premise of "Designated Survivor," the best new show of the fall so far. Kiefer Sutherland stars as a low-level cabinet member who's left behind during the State of the Union and suddenly finds himself elevated to the position of President of the United States of America. The pilot was a great, fast-moving hour that was very compelling. The second episode followed up with more of the same. This is a great show moving along at a good pace. I like the story and character development, and I think there's plenty of interesting places for this narrative to go.
Pilot Grade: A-
Second Episode: A-

Thursday Nights:
Notorious, Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC (Premiered September 22)
About: This is the latest addition to TGIT. It stars Daniel Sunjata and Piper Perabo as a top tier lawyer and news producer who form a partnership to benefit each other. I just wish it was more entertaining. This series is boring, and the characters are underdeveloped. The talented cast is capable of more, and deserve better.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C

Pitch, Thursdays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered September 22)
About: This series is about the first woman to break into the major leagues as a pitcher. I wasn't sold on the concept here, but this is a series that won me over. I thought the pilot was great, striking a perfect balance of emotion and heart. The second episode followed up on that, continuing to develop the characters and the story. I think there's plenty of places to go with this, and I am excited to see where this series goes.
Pilot Grade: B+
Second Episode: B

Friday Nights:
MacGyver, Fridays at 8 p.m. on CBS (Premiered September 23)
About: CBS re-booted this classic series and gave it a modern twist. MacGyver is part of a secret spy team that goes out on missions. The idea that he uses his ingenuity and brain to help accomplish his missions is still a big part of this series, but a lot of the rest of it has been changed to appeal to modern audiences. But it doesn't work. The characters and plot are boring, and this feels like a real reach. This is one of the most flaccid new shows of the season. Lucas Till tries hard in the lead role, but he lacks personality and appeal. It's hard to imagine this being a hit for CBS.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

The Exorcist, Fridays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered September 23)
About: FOX was trying hard to capture popular films and turn them into successful TV shows this fall. I actually liked the pilot for "The Exorcist," too. This was the series that had the biggest fall from episode-to-episode for me, as I thought the second episode was boring, all over the place, and lacking in charm and character depth. It's a shame, too, but I think the second episode is more telling for the long-term future of the series than the pilot. This is another story that probably works better as contained films than a long form series.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: C

Sunday Nights:
Westworld, Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO (Premiered October 2)
About: HBO's long gestating series has finally made it to the air. It comes from producer J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan ("Person of Interest") and is based on the film from the late Michael Crichton. So you know I was all in on the pilot. But the show was really well made, developed some interesting characters and perspective, and didn't shy away from asking big questions about life. This isn't a light or breezy series, but it might be one of the best this fall. There's a lot to digest in the pilot, but it's worth the time to check out.
Pilot Grade: A-

Streaming Series:
Easy, Now Streaming on Netflix (Debuted September 23)
About: This anthology comedy series is about love and relationships. It comes from writer/director Joe Swanberg, and it's meant to be an exploration of our lives, our loves, and the every day struggles of being parents, spouses, significant others, and unique individuals. The first two episodes were radically different. One was about a married couple trying to find that spark again. The second was about a new couple trying to find that right groove. I wouldn't say either was particularly funny, but probably had some true observations about the human condition. That being said, I didn't care for either episode, and I'd wager to say the series is not for me.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C


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