We’re in the middle of September and careening toward the start of the new Fall TV Season on networks. But out ahead of the Big Four getting their new content to the world cable and streaming services are beginning the deluge. But with football games and a finite number of hours in the day, what’s worth your time? Let these weekly posts be your guide as I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this Fall. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.
Y the Last Man, Mondays on FX on Hulu (Premiered September 13)
About: This new series has been long anticipated, an FX original that is streaming exclusively on Hulu. The first four episodes dropped on Monday with future installments dropping on subsequent Mondays. It’s an interesting piece of IP, based on the comic book from Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra. In the story, all at the same time one morning every creature on the planet with a Y chromosome dies. This includes all animals, including human beings. The series drops in depicting the aftermath of this act and quickly spins in reverse to the day before. We meet a handful of characters living their lives. By the end of the pilot the moment strikes, and the world is left changed. As the second episode picks up, women are left to organize the chaos and pick up the pieces. That starts with Jennifer Brown (Diane Lane), a Senator who soon finds herself elevated to the role of President. Her children, meanwhile, were in New York. She’s desperate to find Hero (Olivia Thirlby), a paramedic who is battling her own demons stemming from an addition issue and an affair that ended badly just as the world collapsed. Also in New York is her son, Yorick (Ben Schnetzer), who suddenly finds himself the last man alive on Earth. Why is he still alive? What does it mean? These are issues yet to be explored, but by the end of the second episode a special agent, Agent 355 (Ashley Romans), has found Yorick and returned him to his mother. I thought the first two episodes were well done and built on a fascinating premise. The cast also includes Amber Tamblyn and Marin Ireland, all of whom do a nice job in their roles. I like the idea and I’m interested to see where this goes. This was a highly anticipated new Fall series that delivers and is worth checking out.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-
Impeachment: American Crime Story, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on F/X (Premiered September 7)
About: This third installment of the American Crime Story anthology series is the long gestating take on the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal. The pilot picks up in 1998 as Monica (Beanie Feldstein) is picked up by the FBI and delivered to Mike Emmick (Colin Hanks), the emissary of Kenneth Star. She’ll soon be forced to share the sordid details, but first she takes a shot at the woman that put her there, Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson). Quickly we wind our way back to 1993 where Tripp is an executive assistant in the White House Counsel’s Office. Conspiracies swirl and Tripp has made it clear she’s not a fan of the Clintons. She’s a hold over from previous administrations, and when her bosses at the counsel’s office are gone she’s suddenly “promoted” to the Pentagon. There, with a giant chip on her shoulder, she meets a young Monica who seems to be harboring a secret. This is the set up in the pilot, which runs nearly 90 minutes. The cast is solid with veteran actors like Margo Martindale, Elizabeth Reaser and Colbie Smulders in supporting roles. Annaleigh Ashford is also quite fun as Paula Jones. We don’t get to see much of Clive Owen as Bill Clinton in the premier, but I’m sure that’s all coming. We know a lot about the story, but the intrigue of these series is how they explore the details and bring the players to life in new ways. The pilot was solid and I think this series will be as well, even if it doesn’t reach the heights of the first installment about O.J. Simpson.
Pilot Grade: C+
Doogie Kamealoha, M.D., Wednesdays on Disney+ (Premiered September 8)
About: When I was a younger viewed I remember enjoying Doogie Howser, M.D., the show that featured a young Neil Patrick Harris and helped turn him into a star. In the world where everything old is new again it seems fitting that the concept has come back around. This time it’s set in Hawai’i and Doogie is a young woman. She’s still a genius, a practicing doctor at the age of 16, and trying to learn how to become an adult. This time Peyton Elizabeth Lee is in the lead role, the middle of three children and a doctor. She’s the daughter of a shaved ice salesman and surfer (Jason Scott Lee) and the head of surgery (Kathleen Rose Perkins), who is Doogie’s mom and home and boss at work, creating plenty of tension. The pilot lays out the characters and world, easing into the story and setting the template for a show that will likely appeal to younger viewers as the original did. This makes sense with the Disney+ brand, which has succeeded in adapting older titles for new audiences. Lee is decent in the lead role and it’s always fun to spend some time on the island, no matter the show. We’ll see how it develops in episode two.
Pilot Grade: C+
Scenes from a Marriage, Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO (Premiered September 12)
About: In 1973 Ingmar Bergman released the mini-series Scenes from a Marriage. Now, nearly 50 years later, HBO has revived the title and updated it. This time it stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain at the center of a story about a couple whose marriage is disintegrating. The pilot of this five-episode limited series aired Sunday and it packs quite a wallop. We get a sense of these two and their relationship, including how it started. But there are a few events that begin to show the cracks and how these two will eventually start to spin apart. In fact, the closing frame of the pilot episode is quite an emotional journey for both characters and the acting we get from Isaac and Chastain is great. This isn’t an easy watch but it will likely be a powerfully crafted narrative. The pilot certainly reflected that.
Pilot Grade: B-
American Rust, Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime (Premiered September 12)
About: This latest series, based on the novel from Philipp Meyer, focuses on a small town in Pennsylvania. The pilot was released early last week, and I reviewed it in last week’s installment. The pilot aired on Sunday night, but Showtime made the second episode available for preview online. The series features Jeff Daniels and Maura Tierney in lead roles. The pilot was about introducing the characters and establishing the world, leaving at the end with the murder that will be at the center of the narrative. The second episode did little to advance the story. This continues to be a slow burn about a poor slice of life and the people within. It lacks the kind of episodic revelations that typically help keep audiences hooked. The novel is well regarded and I like the cast and production values here but I’m on the fence about whether it feels like this will be a journey that pays off. Given all the options now and all the many, many options coming, this needs to pick up the pace or risk losing audience attention quickly.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C
On the Verge, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered September 7)
About: This latest comes from Julie Delpy, who created the series and stars. It’s centered on four women living lives in pre-pandemic Los Angeles that are relying on their friendship to help get them through various crises and the day-to-day grind of adult life. Delpy stars alongside Elizabeth Shue, Alexia Landeau and Sarah Jones. The episodes run about a half hour and are a blend of comedy and drama. The entire 12-episode season dropped on Tuesday. There is a target audience for the show, and I’m not it. That being said, I appreciated the craft and the effort that went into creating these characters. Delpy is at the center of it all and does a nice job. This feels like many other recent series that attempt to blend comedy and drama while focusing on life and relationships. I thought the first two episodes moved at a decent clip and were well produced. The target audience will likely enjoy this one but it didn’t full grab my attention.
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.