Spring TV Roundup, Week 2

We’re past Easter and mostly through with Spring Break, so Spring has officially Sprung. The days are getting longer, the temperatures are getting warmer and the content for TV watchers is piling up. Networks didn’t get a traditional Fall launch, but it appears they’re making the most of it this Spring. So, too, are the streaming services. But what’s worth your time to watch? Let these weekly posts be your guide as 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.

Made for Love review: Divorcing Mark Zuckerberg would really suck - Polygon

Made for Love, Thursdays on HBO Max (Premiered April 1)
 I’ve long thought Cristin Milioti deserved her own starring vehicle. She was the Mother in the final season of How I Met Your Mother, delivering the best single episode of that season. And she’s been a star in other projects, like the USS Callister episode of Black Mirror and last summer’s comedy hit Palm Springs. Now she gets a lead in her own show, the comedy Made for Love, which debuted on HBO Max on April 1. The first three episodes dropped April 1, with subsequent episodes dropping weekly on Thursdays. Milioti plays Hazel Green, the wife of tech mogul Byron Gobel (Billy Magnussen), who keeps her something of a prisoner in his technological marvel of a compound. She’s been in there 10 years, but when he wants to implant a chip in her brain, Hazel decides it’s time to escape. She finds her father (Ray Romano), who has his own issues, and tries to make a break, but things don’t go as planned. The series is a different kind of comedy, but has a fun premise and some fun performances. Each episode is about a half an hour, and Milioti shines in the role. I liked what we got in the first batch of episodes and I’m curious to see where it goes from here.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: B-

United States of Al, Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on CBS (Premiered April 1)
CBS debuted its latest sitcom, which focuses on a Afghan interpreter, Al (Adhir Kalyan), who gets his chance to come to the United States to live with the former Marine, Riley (Parker Young), who he served with overseas. Al is a ray of sunshine, and while Riley is happy to see him, he’s struggling to adjust to life back at home. Riley is living with his father (Dean Norris), in a makeshift garage apartment and his marriage is crumbling. Al tries to get him on the right path while adjusting to his own new beginning in the United States. Sitcoms on networks have been uneven at best in recent years, particularly on CBS. While some have stuck and offered a fun twist, others have arrived with a format and structure that feels DOA. United States of Al falls into the latter category. I was unimpressed by the performances and writing in the pilot. The idea was initially interesting, but the execution didn’t work. Comedies can take a few episodes to find themselves, and perhaps that will be the case here, but the pilot was a slog at best.
Pilot Grade: D

Is Law & Order: Organized Crime on Netflix?

Law & Order: Organized Crime, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered April 1)
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is one of the longest running series on television, having begun life in 1999. Christopher Meloni, who played Detective Elliot Stabler, was a big piece of that show before leaving in 2011. His character made a triumphant return after 10 years away on Thursday night, helping pave the way for a new Law & Order spin-off, returning Meloni to a character he hadn’t played in a decade. Stabler returned on SVU at 9 p.m. then took the lead in Organized Crime, the latest Law & Order franchise, at 10 p.m. Meloni is a good actor and makes for a compelling lead. This latest iteration of Law & Order feels different, focusing a good deal on Stabler and his personal life as well as the lives of the criminals he’s chasing (Dylan McDermott and Tamara Taylor). The pilot was OK, different from what I expected, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out over a full season, which in this case is set to be just six episodes. If the ratings and interest stays up, and Meloni is in, I could see this getting another season.
Pilot Grade: C

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, Fridays on Disney+ (Premiered March 26)
The new series for Mighty Ducks is off to a slow start. Many were excited to see Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) back out there, but through two episodes he’s only been a minor part of the plot. The second episode saw the new under dog team finally get some good equipment and hit the ice, which was a disaster. The episode was about 30 minutes, and didn’t build a ton on the story. This kind of under dog coming together and improving, and luring the burnt out old coach back to the team works well in a 90-100 minute film, but it’s feeling a bit dry and drawn out in a 10-episode series. I was interested in the premise, but after two episodes I’m still waiting for the crux of the story to kick in. Doubtless fans of the original will be patient, but for a new generation of viewers this slow start might be enough to derail the re-boot.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Kyle MacLachlan Stars as Franklin Roosevelt in Atlantic Crossing

Sunday Nights:
Atlantic Crossing, Sundays at 8 p.m. on PBS (Premiered April 4)
This new PBS Masterpiece drama comes from across the pond and focuses on Norway’s Princess Martha (Sofia Helin) as she advocated for her family, and clashed with Franklin Roosevelt (Kyle MacLachlan) during World War II. The first episode, set predominately in Norway and subtitled, focused on the invasion that forced Martha and her children from their home. Soon they’re going to head to America as the rest of this eight-episode drama plays out. Masterpiece has a style all its own, and Atlantic Crossing fits well with that style. For those interested in the World War II time period, this tells an engaging story that fills in some of the historical puzzle. So far, I’m intrigued.
Pilot Grade: C+

Gangs of London, Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC (Premiered April 4)
Behind the finale of The Walking Dead, AMC launched its next Sunday night drama. Gangs of London was produced by the BBC and aired there and on AMC+ in 2020, now making its on-air debut in the United States. Its set in modern day and follows the major players in an under world family in London. The pilot was chaotic and violent at times, setting the stage for the conflicts and introducing the characters. It was OK, but didn’t live up to the hype it had since first being released about a year ago. AMC is looking for an on air hit that doesn’t involve zombies, but I’m not sure this is it. I didn’t take to the pilot, but perhaps the story will get more compelling in episode two.
Pilot Grade: C

The Serpent: What Happened to Ajay Chowdhury and Marie-Andrée Leclerc -  Variety

Streaming Series:
The Serpent, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered April 2)
 This is another BBC production, telling the true story of serial killer Charles Sobhraj (Tahar Rahim) who preyed on tourists along Asia’s hippie trail in the mid-1970s. The series features Jenna Coleman in a starring role as well, and runs eight episodes, each about an hour. It debuted in England in January and now is making its domestic debut on Netflix. This has a strong cast and decent period look, telling a story many may not be familiar with. The first two episodes I watched were a bit strange and dry, lacking the kind of character development needed to stick with a story that’s this dark and unsettling. For those interested in Sobhraj and his crimes, there are plenty of historical accounts to read. To make a series like this work, the characters have to pop off the screen, or the story needs a bit hook. This didn’t have that in its first two episodes, which were more than enough of a sample for me.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

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. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.

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