Fall TV Roundup, Week 10

It's November, but the flood of new shows this fall has hardly slowed. In these weekly posts I take a look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this fall. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Monday Nights:
Mars, Mondays at 9 p.m. on National Geographic Channel (Premiered November 14)
About: This is the latest series on National Geographic Channel, and it comes from producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. It's an ambitious blend of scripted entertainment and documentary, and it just might be what we need to spark a national interest in space exploration again. And that's no small feat, to be sure. The series centers on a mission to Mars in the year 2033. That mission, portrayed by actors, is part of a fictional exploration of the topic that tries to be grounded in realistic scientific principals. The other half of the show is in 2016, where those on the cutting edge of science and technology are working to get us there right now. The first episode was fascinating, and I'm curious to see where this is going. This could be the most ambitious, and possibly important, new series this year.
Pilot Grade: B

Tuesday Nights:
Good Behavior, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on TNT (Premiers November 15)
About: This latest series for TNT officially premiers with back-to-back episodes tonight, but TNT aired the pilot as a special preview on Sunday night. And it was great. This is one of my favorite new show pilots this fall. It's based on the novel by Blake Crouch and was adapted for TV by Chad Hodge, who adapted another of Crouch's novels, "Wayward Pines," for FOX. It centers on Letty (Michelle Dockery), an ex-con and con artist who stumbles into a murder-for-hire plot and decides to intercede, changing the course of her life. I loved Dockery — famous for playing Lady Mary on "Downton Abbey" — in this radically different, and darker role. And I love the potential here. The pilot was dark, moody and unpredictable. I enjoyed the presentation, and I can't wait to see how they build upon this.
Pilot Grade: B+

Saturday Night:
MechX4, Saturdays at 8 p.m. on the Disney Channel (Premiered November 12)
About: This is the latest live-action series from Disney about a group of teens that discover a robot that they use to protect their town from magical monsters. One of the teens has powers of his own, which help him bond with the robot. And as a team, they fight the evil that threatens their home. This is a stock set up, and this show isn't really anything magically new. This will likely appeal to the Disney core audience, but if you're looking for a more accessible show for grown ups, this isn't it.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Streaming Series:
Roman Empire: Reign of Blood, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered November 11)
About: This is another series that's a combination of documentary and live action drama. This time, instead of looking to the future, this series looks to the past. It examines the Roman Empire during the formative time when Commodus took power and, eventually, fell in the Gladiatorial arena. This is some of the story captured in "Gladiator," but while that movie followed the fictional gladiator/general played by Russell Crowe, this is aimed at capturing the true historical account. It will likely be fascinating to those who are interested in history, particularly those that are interested in this story. But despite that, the re-enactments don't really work for me that well.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

The Crown, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered November 4)
About: This latest scripted series from Peter Morgan focuses on Queen Elizabeth II just before, during, and immediately after she became queen. It focuses on the historical period and figures, and shows her transition to becoming queen. She's a figure that's a fascination for Morgan — who captured another period of her life in the film "The Queen." This series, however, takes a look at how she became queen, and how she made the transition. It stars Claire Foy as Elizabeth and Matt Smith as her husband, Phillip. Both are great in this series, as is John Lithgow in the role of Winston Churchill. The first two episodes flow at a slow burn pace, but this is a fascinating character study set at an interesting point in American history. It's well worth checking out.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: B


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