We’ve reached the last stretch of Summer. The films start to get a little less delightful and the stream of new shows begins to wane as we prepare to turn the corner toward Fall, and a new flood of content. But there’s still a few new options to consider, so let this weekly post be your guide as I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted content this Summer. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.
Fantasy Island, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered August 10)
About: Immediately coming off the Olympics, FOX launched its summer series, a re-boot of the classic Fantasy Island. The original series, airing from 1978 to 1984, starred Ricardo Montalbán as Mr. Roarke, the enigmatic overseer of a mysterious island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, where people from all walks of life could come and live out their fantasies for a price. In 2020, we got a horror movie version of the concept that was one of the few movies to get a wide release before the pandemic. And now, we get a revival that plays out as something of a successor, aiming to follow the tone and idea of the original. Here, Roselyn Sanchez plays Elena Roarke, a relative of the original star, who runs the island and tries to fulfill a similar mission. The pilot focuses on two stories, one a woman (Bellamy Young) who has an insatiable appetite that she’s been repressing for years, and the other a cancer-stricken woman made young (Kiara Barnes), who ends up finding the place she’s meant to be. It all has a nice look but feels incredibly dry. Fans of the original may appreciate the nostalgia of it all, but I wasn’t taken with the idea or story in the pilot. It’s hard to see this being more than a passing week filler in the Dog Days of summer, but we’ll see what happens in episode two.
Pilot Grade: C-
Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Dallas Cowboys (Premiered August 10)
About: Hard Knocks airs annually for five weeks in the summer run up to the NFL Season, but it’s an anthology series covering a different team each year. So, as an anthology, it makes the list. This year, we get an up close look at the 2021 Dallas Cowboys. The series always lives and dies by the personalities and stories on the team. This one began with an interview with Dak Prescott, talking about his struggles in 2020 personally and the injury that ended his season on the field. The pilot spent plenty of time with Dak and Ezekiel Elliott, the team’s lead running back. We got some good Jerry Jones moments and a trip to the Hall of Fame game. It was pretty fun, and I’m hoping for a solid season.
Pilot Grade: B-
What If…?, Streaming Wednesdays on Disney+ (Premiered August 11)
About: This new Marvel series is an animated adventure that spins-off from some classic Marvel tales. It makes a small change and wonders how that would alter the stories of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We get the entire thing as seen through the eyes of The Watcher (Jeffrey Wright). The first episode centers on Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), who is forced into the chamber after Steve Rodgers is injured and becomes the world’s first Super Soldier. Much of the first episode followed her adventures, and the plot of the first Captain America film, with her ending in roughly the same spot. Future episodes will tackle different alternate world adventures. I thought the idea worked and the animation was solid. The first episode was good, but a little dry, especially compared to the other Marvel original series we’ve gotten so far this year. But I’m curious to see where it goes next.
Pilot Grade: C+
Heels, Sundays at 10 p.m. on Starz (Premiered August 15)
About: The latest drama on Starz is set in the world of wrestling, specifically a small group working in Georgia. It’s a family-run business handed down from father to two brothers. The oldest brother, Jack (Stephen Amell), runs the business and makes the creative decisions. He’s also the Heel, or villain, of the troupe. His younger brother, Ace (Alexander Ludwig), is the star of the show and fan favorite. They are carving out a living, when a former wrestler and star, Wild Bill (Chris Bauer), arrives in town looking to poach Ace for a bigger show. That leaves Jack contemplating a lot, including how to end their big match. That’s the set up for the pilot, which moves at a decent pace, introducing the characters and world. Alison Luff does a nice job as Jack’s wife, while Mary McCormack has some nice moments as Jack’s assistant. The rest of the supporting cast seemed solid and will likely be fleshed out more as the series moves forward. The first season is eight episodes, and the pilot ends with a story flourish that had me intrigued to see where it all goes from here. I loved Amell in Arrow, and I’m excited to see how this new series develops. I enjoyed the pilot and think there’s some good potential here.
Pilot Grade: B-
Brand New Cherry Flavor, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered August 13)
About: Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion, who led the series Channel Zero, bring this novel from Todd Grimson to life. It takes the action back to the 1990s where a young filmmaker, Lisa (Rosa Salazar), is trying to get her film made. She connects with a producer (Eric Lange) who at first seems support, then turns out to be something of a creep. In turn, Lisa turns to a mysterious woman (Catherine Keener), who promises to help her get revenge, for a price. Said price includes occasionally coughing up kittens… yes, you read that right. I thought the pilot episode was interesting but turned into a bit of a cliché by the end. The second episode was strange and at that point I decided to hop off the bus. The episodes are all between 45 minutes and an hour, and the season runs eight episodes. All are now available to stream on Netflix. The performances are decent but I couldn’t get into the story.
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.