Spring TV Roundup, Week 5

It's nearly May, but both Networks and cable channels are rolling out new shows. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this Spring. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Tuesday Nights:
Famous in Love, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Freeform (Premiered April 18)
About: "Famous in Love" is the latest teen soap on Freeform, a 10-episode series about a young college student (Bella Thorne) who lands a role in a big franchise film and finds her life changed. The pilot was fine, and about typical. The world is full of over privledged young actors, most of whom are having affairs with each other. The manipulative adults featured are no better. Then there's the lead and her friends, outsiders to the world who are about to be corrupted. Freeform released all 10 episodes on Hulu after the premier, so fans can binge the whole series (and doubtless many have). It's unclear what that means for the future of the show, but from what I saw in the first two episodes, there's not a lot to get excited about here. It felt like a re-tread of common teen tropes without any compelling characters or performances.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C-

Wednesday Nights:
Hollywood Darlings, Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the POP Network (Premiered April 12)
About: This is part of a new hour of reality/comedy on POP centered on stars from the 1990s. This comedy features Jodie Sweetin, Christine Lakin and Beverly Mitchell, former teen stars, and real life friends playing versions of themselves dealing with fame and every day life. All three have a great chemistry and seem to be having fun with the premise. But the success of the show will likely have to do with how you feel about the format. This is like a faux reality show, which has appeal to some but will be tedious for others. I thought moments in each of the first two episodes were amusing, but the show as a whole wasn't spectacular.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Return of the Mac, Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. on POP Network (Premiered April 12)
About: This is the other half of the POP comedy hour featuring faux reality show formats and former teen stars. In this case it's former New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre. Both of the first two episodes have featured brief cameos from Donnie Wahlberg, his New Kids band mate, and Jenny McCarthy. And both have featured other celebrity cameos as well. In fact, the second episode surrounded a rival talk show from Joey Lawrence. But neither has been very funny or compelling. Again, following this show will depend some on the love for the format and the key star.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C-

Fargo, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on FX (Premiered April 19)
About: "Fargo" began its third season on Wednesday, so I know what you're thinking: how does it fit on this list? Well, being an anthology series, each season features a new story and cast, so in some ways it's like a new show. This season of "Fargo" jumps the action to Minnesota in 2010. It features Ewan McGreggor (playing a double role as brothers), Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Carrie Coon in lead roles. The premier laid out the characters and the world, and of course a few crimes that will drive the season. And based on the stellar 90-minute opener, this could be the best season yet. It's amazing how showrunner Noah Hawley, who wrote and directed the premier, manages to channel the Coen Brothers feel in this show. It feels like one of their incredible an quirky crime dramas stretched out over 10 hours. The premier was equal parts funny and surprising, powered by great performances and setting up a wild ride. This is peak TV not to be missed.
Pilot Grade: A

Saturday Nights:
Class, Saturdays at 10 p.m. on BBC America (Premiered April 15)
About: This latest drama from BBC America is a spin-off of "Dr. Who" set at Coal Hill Academy. It centers on a quartet of special students, and a special teacher, who deal with supernatural threats. The pilot introduced the world and featured a cameo from the latest incarnation of Dr. Who (Peter Capaldi), while the second episode let the characters stand on their own. I liked the second episode better. I thought the narrative and stand alone story was more compelling. But the way you feel drawn to this will likely have to do with how you feel about sci-fi and how much a fan you are of the world of "Dr. Who."
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Sunday Nights:
Guerrilla, Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime (Premiered April 16)
About: This latest Showtime series, or rather mini-series, from writer/director John Ridley ("12 Years A Slave") is about race relations and the rise of the Black Panther movement in England in the early 1970s. The pilot introduced the characters, and gave them a somewhat sympathetic backstory. The second episode was much more dry and seemed to undo some of the work of the pilot. This is probably an important and timely story, but the first two episodes were a chore to watch. Ridley writes heady and culturally relevant stuff, as he's done with "American Crime" on ABC, but sometimes it's too slow and too dry to engage with a mass audience. That's the case here.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C-

Mary Kills People, Sundays at 10 p.m. on Lifetime (Premiered April 23)
About: This latest series, a co-production with Canada where the first season already aired, is about a divorced single mother, Mary (Caroline Dhavernas), who moonlights as an Angel of Mercy with her friend, a former plastic surgeon. The series premiered in January north of the border, and the first season runs just six episodes. I enjoyed the pilot more than I thought, and I've been a big Dhavernas fan since her days on "Wonderfalls," so it's a joy to see her back on TV. There's some potential here for something interesting, as the pilot sets up a number of different ongoing stories. This is also a series that feels timely, as assisted suicide has become a big discussion point nationwide. In fact, my home state Colorado had a ballot measure on it last fall. Whether this series asks those deeper questions, though, remains to be seen. The opening sequence seemed to point in that direction, but then typical series plot set in. Still, I'm intrigued.
Pilot Grade: C+

Streaming Series:
Girlboss, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered April 21)
About: The latest Netflix series is set in San Francisco in 2006 (though some of the fashions could make you think 1970s) and is loosely based on the autobiography from Nasty Gal founder Sophie Amoruso. The series, from creator Kay Cannon ("30 Rock," "New Girl," "Pitch Perfect"), and has a wry comedic style. Britt Robertson takes the lead role, and the series focuses on her struggles as she finds her calling in fashion while trying to scrape together enough to survive. The first two episodes were breezy and raw, but I wasn't drawn to Robertson's character. I think she's a talented actress who is giving her all, and I like Cannon's ability to craft zingers, but I wasn't drawn to this story. It feels like a narrow miss to me, but it might appeal to others with a different comedic sensibility.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C


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