Summer TV Roundup, Week 4
We're past Memorial Day, which means we're into the throws of summer, and, sadly, summer TV. So far the new shows are still flowing, but the quality remains elusive. In these weekly posts I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this summer. Don't see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.
Still Star-Crossed, Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC (Premiered May 29)
About: This latest drama for ABC, a seven-episode series following "The Bachelorette" on Monday nights, comes from producer Shonda Rhimes and the mind of William Shakespeare. Wait, what? That's right, it's a series that follows what happens in fair Verona after the death of Romeo and Juliette. It comes from the novel of the same name by Melinda Taub, and was one of the more intriguing pick ups at the 2016 Upfront presentation from ABC. But both the episode order (seven is half the standard 13) and the timing of its release (squarely after the 2016-2017 season) suggest that the network soured on the show. And after seeing two meandering and hapless episodes, I can see why. The idea was fun for about 15 minutes of the pilot, then the rest of the hour was a slog. Episode two was arguably worse, and it felt like it made no forward progress. Yikes. This is a miss, and one that will likely make casual fans miss last summer's Monday series, "Mistresses."
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: D
Daytime Divas, Mondays at 10 p.m. on VH1 (Premiered June 5)
About: Based on the novel from Star Jones, this series is set behind the scenes of a daytime talk show that closely resembles "The View." That's likely intentional, as Jones was once a member of the panel on "The View." In the series, Vanessa Williams takes the star turn in the Barbara Walters roll, and the pilot lays out the characters, the world, and the potential drama. The plethora of scripted series available in this peak TV era is likely a large reason for a show like this making the air. It's not that it's bad, it's fine and some of the performances are decent, but it feels unnecessary. It's likely squarely aimed at those who enjoy daytime TV and reality series. This feels like a decent addition for VH1's scripted offerings, but it doesn't feel like a mass-appeal series. The pilot was OK, but there was a lot going on and none of it was really incredibly compelling.
Pilot Grade: C-
Date My Dad, Fridays at 9 p.m. on UP (Premiered June 2)
About: This is the latest scripted series from UP, centered on a former baseball star (Barry Watson) who is now a single dad to three girls. As he turns 40, three years removed from the death of his high school sweetheart and wife, his kids think it's time for dad to move on. And they're pretty aggressive in getting him back on the market. This one-hour dramedy offered the first two episodes last week, hoping to hook viewers. I've always enjoyed Watson ("Seventh Heaven," "What About Brian?") as an actor, and I think he'd be great in an ensemble TV series. This ensemble (which includes Raquel Welch as his mother-in-law) isn't great. The kids, who have to carry a lot of the narrative, are flat performers, which happens. And most of the cast has little chemistry together, which hurts. The plot is also really thin. The first two episodes were dry and difficult. This might work better, honestly, as a half-hour series. Either way, even in the dessert of summer, there are better options than this.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C-
I'm Dying Up Here, Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime (Premiered June 4)
About: You could argue that Showtime needs to find a network identity. Sure, they still have "Homeland" and "Shameless," shows that have done OK with critics and audiences, but aren't sexy. They made a splash by reviving "Twin Peaks," but the ratings haven't been that great. So they are looking for that next marquee hit to give them a network identity. In comes "I'm Dying Up Here," a show that goes back to the 1970s and looks at up-and-coming comics in Los Angeles. Based on the pilot, this isn't the bump they're looking for. The pilot was a bit of an uneven slog, despite the fact I liked many of the actors (including Melissa Leo, RJ Cyler and Ari Graynor) who were in it. I feel like this is a bit of a stale premise at this point since we've seen a lot of series about struggling or up-and-coming comics, and it didn't offer as much of a hook as something like "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," which is the new series picked up for Amazon. Plus, being paired with "Twin Peaks" on Sunday nights, airing opposite genuinely funny shows like "Silicon Valley" and "VEEP," isn't going to help. Critics have suggested subsequent episodes get a little better, so we'll see if episode two picks up. For now, this feels like a miss.
Pilot Grade: C-