Winter TV Roundup, Week 11

We're speeding through March and Spring is on the way, but there's still a flood of new shows hitting the air. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted shows this winter. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Sunday Nights:
Making History, Sundays at 8:30 p.m. on FOX (Premiered March 5)
About: Awards season and football season are over, so most networks launched new Sunday nights the past few weeks. One of those was "Making History" on FOX, which is a sitcom involving time travel. That sounds great in theory, but the first two episodes were dumb and dull, a killer combination. In fact, the second episode seemed to be about making a political statement about Americans and guns. I'm sure it was meant to be funny, but it wasn't. The first couple episodes showed little interest in history as anything more than a quick joke. This show had its episode order cut before it aired, and now we know why. It's not worth your time.
Pilot Grade: D
Second Episode: D

The Arrangement, Sundays at 10 p.m. on E (Premiered March 5)
About: This latest scripted series from E focuses on an established star actor, Kyle West (Josh Henderson), who enters an unorthodox relationship with a young actress, Megan (Christine Evangelista). It's essentially a contract for marriage — one arranged by his spiritual guru (Michael Vartan). This is clearly loosely based on Scientology and the rumors about Tom Cruise and his relationships. How much is true is probably a matter of opinion. I kind of liked the pilot and the way it established the world. The second episode was a little slower but gives you an idea of the tension that will be in the series. How long will Megan ride this out? Can she help Kyle break free? Does Michael Vartan have a clause prohibiting him to smile in this series? I'm sure the questions will be answered, but Sunday has suddenly become a very crowded landscape. This series is OK, but falls short of being a must see.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Feud: Bette and Joan, Sundays at 10 p.m. on FX (Premiered March 5)
About: This is the latest anthology series from FX producer Ryan Murphy. The focus of this first round is the feud between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) that was fueled while filming "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane." I loved the pilot, which I thought had a beautiful style and pacing, in addition to great casting. The second episode was a bit slower, but still compelling. This series is a showcase for Sarandon and Lange, as well as the rest of the cast. It's a fun and fascinating look at history, and I could see this becoming one of the big series in the FX stable.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: B-

American Crime, Sundays at 10 p.m. on ABC (Premiered March 12)
About: Well cable networks aren't the only ones with anthology series. ABC has it's own in "American Crime," which was renewed for a third season despite middling ratings at best. This third season, which kicked off on Sunday, moves the action to North Carolina and shifts the focus to slave labor and sex trafficking. Light-hearted topics for discussion to be sure. Among the stable of returning players is Felicity Huffman, Regina King and Benito Martinez. The first episode set the stage and looked at a lot of different people caught up as victims in different ways. The show is expertly put together and written. It's an important series, tackling some difficult topics, and it has some great performances. But it is a lot to watch. It's been a grim and difficult watch, and might not be something people want to sink into at the end of a Sunday night. This third season opened with a busy pilot that had a lot of ground to cover, which also made it difficult to get attached to characters. There's potential here, and this is one of the more high brow concepts on network TV. But that doesn't mean it's fun to watch.
Pilot Grade: B-


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