Winter TV Roundup, Week 4

The winter is setting in, and the shows keep flowing. January was a busy month and February might offer even more options. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted fare this winter. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Taboo, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX (Premiered January 10)
About: This latest series from FX is set in 1814 in England. It was created by Tom Hardy and his father, Chips, and Hardy stars in the lead role as a man who lost his father but now inherits a key piece of land in the Americas. With America and the United Kingdom locked in a war, both sides want access to the land. The ones that want it the most are the East India Trading Company, which will stop at nothing to pry it from Hardy's hero character. Hardy's character has some dark secrets. He was away in Africa for years, has a son that he takes care of financially by never sees, and has some sort of dark past with his half-sister (Oona Chaplain). They haven't said outright, but my thought is they were lovers, the kid is theirs and that's why he went to Africa. But that's just an educated guess. I liked the moody and uneven pilot and was curious to see where this series goes. It's completely unconventional, but it has a certain appeal. The second episode was slow, and even stranger, and I had less of a feel for where it's all going. There's some potential here, and Hardy is a gifted actor, but there's also the potential this goes full on off the rails going forward. I'm sort of excited by either prospect.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: C

Wednesday Nights:
Six, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on the History Channel (Premiered January 18)
About: This scripted series about Seal Team Six was originally slated for the fall, but pushed until the winter. It stars Walton Goggins (a change from the original) as a former Seal Team Six member who is working as a private contractor in Africa when he's nabbed by terrorists. Now his former comrades, all of whom have two-dimensional characters with cliched sets of problems, have to come to his rescue. History Channel has dipped its toe in the scripted waters before, sometimes with strong results as in "Hatfields & McCoys" and sometimes not. This is in the sometimes not category. The pilot was uneven, overly patriotic, and scant on character development. I love Goggins as a performer, but his stuck with a listless character and story. This had potential, but it didn't come together in the pilot presentation.
Pilot Grade: D+

Jeff and Some Aliens, Wednesdays at 10:30 p.m. on Comedy Central (Premiered January 11)
About: This is a new animated series on Comedy Central. It's about an extremely average guy who becomes the host to a trio of aliens exploring Earth. Hilarity ensues... except it doesn't. I loathed the pilot, which was one of the worst half hours I've seen in some time. If possible, the second episode was worse. This might appeal to a juvenile humor set, but otherwise this is a total waste. Avoid it.
Pilot Grade: D-
Second Episode: F

Streaming Series:
Frontier, Now Streaming on Netflix (Debuted January 20)
About: Have you ever wanted a scripted drama about the battle to control the fur trade in Canada in the 1700s? Well, this one is for you. Its first season, a total of six episodes, was created and aired in Canada, and has come exclusively to Netflix in the United States. All six dropped Friday. The series stars Jason Momoa as a Native American trader who's trying to battle the nefarious Hudson Bay Company for control of the fur trade. The first two episodes had moments of intrigue and moments of violence. There's a lot of characters, and it can be a little hard keeping them and their motivations straight. I thought it was OK, but not overly compelling. If you like Momoa, or that era in history, it could be for you. Each episode is a crisp 44-48 minutes, so it's not a big time commitment. It has already been renewed for a second season abroad.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C


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