Summer TV Roundup, Week 12

We've reached August. We only have about six more weeks before the fall season begins, but new shows continue to flood our airwaves this summer. 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.

Monday Nights:
Midnight, Texas, Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered on July 24)
About: This series, based on the books from Charlaine Harris, is set in a small Texas town where the supernatural thrives. The pilot introduced a powerful medium, Manfred Bernardo (Fran├žois Arnaud), who comes to the town to escape some trouble elsewhere and ends up being drawn into a murder mystery. And something more nefarious seems to be coming, too. Those hoping this would be "True Blood" part two will be bummed. This series is a little more serious and a little less fun. I thought the pilot was kind of interesting, not great, but mildly compelling. The second episode felt a little less compelling. Since it's summer and people have a little more free time, some might be willing to give this series a longer leash. While I didn't dislike it (in fact, some of the look and performances are interesting), it wasn't compelling enough to hook me after two episodes, especially given the somewhat strange subject matter. That's probably the reason this show was saved for the dog days of summer, and was the subject of a somewhat odd marketing campaign. It feels oddly paired with "American Ninja Warrior" on Monday, nights, too. But for fans of Harris, this is probably a must watch. For the rest, this is just another summer option.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C-

Tuesday Nights:
Somewhere Between, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC (Premiered on July 24)
About: This latest summer series for ABC is a "limited" series starring Paula Patton as a reporter whose daughter is killed by a serial killer. But through some twist of fate, she is able to travel back in time a week (alongside a former cop (Devon Sawa) who had a similar experience) and has a chance to solve the mystery of who the killer is and save her daughter. The show premiered last Monday night before sliding into its regular Tuesday night time slot the next day. I thought the pilot was odd and a bit flat. In contrast to "Midnight, Texas," I was leaning against this series following its first episode. But it flipped the script a bit with episode two. While I'm not in love with the story, the second episode, where Patton and Sawa teamed up to solve the murder, felt more focused and more engrossing. It slipped more into a genre that interests me, and I thought the writing was a little tighter. This isn't a great series, and if it was in the midst of the busy broadcast season it wouldn't be enough to hook my interest. But as a limited summer series that offers the promise of resolution in 10 episodes, I'm intrigued enough to stick with it, for now.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: B-

Wednesday Nights:
Baroness Von Sketch Show, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. (Premiers August 2)
About: This sketch comedy show, fronted by an all female cast, premiers on IFC on Wednesday night. IFC has made the first episode available for free online early, so I gave it a whirl. Sketch comedy isn't my favorite format, but it can be a nice diversion at times. My biggest issue with this show (at least the episode I screened) is that the sketches were too short and vague at times. Sometimes the criticism has been leveled at "Saturday Night Live" that they let bits go a bit too long, sapping the humor. This show seemed to have the opposite problem. Some were so short that I was trying to figure out what was happening and it was over. That's not great. And nothing really made me laugh hard. I might not be the target audience here, but to me this was a show that was constructed in a way that made it hard for me to get into it.
Pilot Grade: C-

Friday Nights:
Room 104, Fridays at 11:30 p.m. on HBO (Premiered July 28)
About: The Duplass Brothers team again for a new anthology series for HBO. The premise is that each half-hour episode features a new cast, new characters, new story and even new genre. But they all take place in Room 104 of a seedy motel. That is a broad canvass to work with. But those that tuned in to the pilot might have expected something comedic. The pilot, which was a semi-horror thriller about a babysitting experience gone wrong, was decidedly not funny. It was somewhat interesting, but not what I expected. It was somewhat creepy, but it left a lot that defied explanation. That's both a limit of the format and the time-frame, at just 30 minutes (the first episode was just 24 minutes). If you loved that episode, that's no guarantee you'll like the series. If you hated it, again no guarantee the series isn't for you. That's the beauty of this type of single episode anthology series. Critics who've screened multiple episodes say the series is uneven, and I'd believe it. I'm curious to see how radically the series shifts in episode two.
Pilot Grade: C

Streaming Series:
The Last Tycoon, Now Streaming on Amazon Prime (Premiered July 28)
Last summer, Amazon offered "The Last Tycoon" as part of its pilot season. I actually enjoyed the pilot presentation quite a bit. The series features Matt Bomer, Lily Collins, Kelsey Grammer and Rosemarie DeWitt, and is based on the final unfinished novel from F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's focused on the heads of a movie studio that's struggling financially during the midst of the Great Depression. I like the era, the characters, the setting, and the look. Billy Ray, who adapted the source material for the series, has a feel for the world, and a lot of that came out in the pilot. By contrast, the second episode was less interesting to me as it sets about developing ongoing stories, etc. This almost feels like something that would have been better as a movie. That being said, I still liked the second episode and I'm reasonably curious to see where this goes in its first nine episodes.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: C+


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