So the first week of January was…eventful. It also featured plenty of new shows to consider as we start to ramp up our content. But how many of those new shows are worth your time? I’m here to help guide the journey as I review the pilot and second episode of new scripted (and select unscripted) content available this winter. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks. Without further ado, on to this week’s new offerings.
Mr. Mayor, Thursdays at 8 p.m. on NBC (Premiered January 7)
About: About this time last year, we were saying goodbye to The Good Place, the comedy on NBC that starred, among others, Ted Danson. But now Danson is back, anchoring a new comedy on NBC that will pair with Superstore going forward. This one comes from Robert Carlock and Tina Fey, the creative force behind beloved NBC classic 30 Rock. This time it centers on a wealthy and retired businessman (Danson), post pandemic, who decides to come out of retirement to run for Mayor of Los Angeles. In a surprise thanks to record-low voter turnout, he wins. But now can he govern? The supporting cast here includes Holly Hunter and Bobby Moynihan, among others. That gives it a pretty great pedigree, and there were certainly moments that made me smile and chuckle in the early going. The rapid fire culture and political jokes will feel familiar to fans of Fey and Carlock, who also gave the world The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. And both Danson and Hunter give a heck of a performance here, but the first two episodes felt a little too slapstick and a little too unfocused. Perhaps it needs time to settle into a rhythm, but the first two episodes, which aired in a block back-to-back on Thursday night, didn’t quite live up to my lofty hopes. NBC was once the go-to spot for comedy, but the network offerings have been hit-or-miss in recent years. Superstore is solid, but ending this year. Brooklyn Nine Nine is aging, too. NBC needs quality new hits, and this one has potential. But will the audience hang in there? I’m willing to give it a few more episodes to find out.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
Call Me Kat, Thursdays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered January 3)
About: After a preview debut on Sunday night, Call Me Kat settled into its regular timeslot as a lead in to Last Man Standing on Thursday nights. The series is based on the British comedy Miranda, and follows a similar format and style. Said style includes the lead, Mayim Bialik frequently breaking the fourth wall in character. The first episode was a little stiff and, at times, hard to watch. The second episode, but contrast, was much better. I am still not sure it works as a show, and you’re enjoyment of it will certainly hinge on your appreciation for its stylistic quirks, but I thought the second episode was an easier watch. Bialik is a charismatic lead, and sometimes these adaptations from overseas take a bit of time to find their unique voice. Famously The Office hit its stride in the second season when it moved away from so closely imitating its source material. The question is whether the bones are there to keep people invested in Call Me Kat. For me, they’re not, but fans of the genre might feel differently.
Pilot Grade: D
Second Episode: C
All Creatures Great and Small, Sundays at 9 p.m. on PBS (Premiered January 10)
About: This latest series landing on PBS is an import from England. It’s based on the famous books from James Herriot that chronicle his work as a country veterinarian in the 1930s and 1940s in England. The series aired across the pond this Fall but is now making its American debut, and is a re-make of a series made from the books that aired from 1978 to 1990. This one features Nicholas Ralph in the lead role as Herriot and the first season is seven episodes long. The series has already been picked up for a second season, so feel free to commit to the material without fear it will soon disappear. The pilot introduces Herriot and the world, and shows him slipping into this new role, making friends in the community and finding a place in an established practice. It’s fun at times and fairly tame, good family viewing that ends up about where you’d expect. This one isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. And if you’re looking to see these classic books come to life, this is a pretty decent vehicle for enjoying this slice of English country life.
Pilot Grade: B-
History of Swear Words, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered January 5)
About: This new Netflix documentary series is a comedy of sorts, but also fairly informative. It does, indeed, track the history and usage of swear words. The season is six episodes, each about 20 minutes, that features interviews with historians, linguists and comedians, all discussing the words and their use in culture throughout time. It’s all hosted by Nicholas Cage, who is an inspired choice to lead this journey. This one dropped five days into the new year, and it was a gift. I blasted through all six episodes in a sitting and enjoyed them all greatly. I hope this is a docu-series that makes a return at some point. But if you’re not put off by foul language, and you’re looking for a laugh, this one fits the bill.
Pilot Grade: A-
Second Episode: A-
Coyote, Now Streaming on CBS All Access (Premiered January 7)
About: Michael Chiklis takes the lead in this six-episode limited series on CBS All Access. All episodes dropped on Thursday, as this show centers on a Border Patrol Agent (Chiklis) who retires after 32 years of service. He heads down to Mexico to work on a property, and get it sold, to help the widow of his former partner. There he gets drawn into a domestic dispute between a young woman trying to save herself and unborn child and the cartel boss who wants to keep her in the fold. Soon, with his own family squarely in the cross hairs, Ben Clemens (Chiklis) finds himself pressed into service helping drug mules get across the border safely thanks to his knowledge and experience of the system. This one comes from David Graziano, a long-time writer and producer of TV series, and it moves at a fairly glacial pace. I watched the first two episodes, and by the end of the second you’re just about at the turn in the plot that is hinted at in the opening segment of the pilot. Chiklis is a quality lead, and he pours himself into the role, but this wasn’t as engrossing as it needs to be to keep you going. It’s an interesting subject with a decent cast, but it felt a little under-whelming. Given the plethora of viewing options available in the golden age of content, this one didn’t have enough of a hook to make me stick with it.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
Pretend It’s A City, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered January 8)
About: This limited series focuses on Fran Lebowitz, the noted humorist and writer, as she shares her takes on the world and, specifically her history with New York City, with filmmaker Martin Scorsese. Each episode is around a half an hour, and the series runs seven episodes in total. It’s mostly a vehicle for Lebowitz to share her takes and a bit of her history as a writer and New York resident. You’re interest in this series will probably boil down to your interest in all things New York and you’re feelings on Lebowitz takes. I’ve never lived in New York City, and while I get the appeal some of the history and discussion of places and cultural moors was lost on me. In addition, I wasn’t always fond of some of the takes and opinions Lebowitz had in the two episodes I sampled. That, of course, is a matter of personal preference. The idea here is sound, and Lebowitz is a colorful personality that will draw in fans. This is a light and easy watch, and feels like a solid addition to the Netflix library.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.