Fall TV Roundup, Week 3

We’ve arrived at the beginning of the onslaught. The traditional Network TV season began Monday and we’re going to get a flood of new content from here. So, what should you make a point to see? Let this weekly column 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.

The Big Leap | Premieres Monday, September 20 at 9/8c on FOX

Mondays:
The Big Leap, Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered September 20)
About
: This scripted series follows a group of people in Detroit looking for a second chance. They hope to find it by auditioning and being selected to be part of a reality show that culminates in a performance of Swan Lake. The series is based on an actual reality series from the U.K., but this one uses a cast of actors to tell the story. It is in a tough time slot, but FOX made the first two episodes available early on Hulu. I thought this looked like one of the most promising new series before it debuted and I loved the first two episodes. There’s a good blend of drama and humor, some of the dancing is eye-popping and the performances have been solid. This feels like something different in a good way and I hope it finds an audience despite a crowded time slot.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B

NCIS: Hawai’i, Mondays at 10 p.m. on CBS (Premiered September 20)
About:
The latest spin-off from the long-running CBS franchise gets the original as a lead in and focuses on a new group of investigators led by Vanessa Lachey. This one follows a familiar formula with Lachey as the only recognizable actor in the cast. The setting of Hawai’i is nice and keeps CBS in the island game. The pilot presented a case that felt by-the-numbers and this one will likely continue to appeal to those who are fans of the genre and the series. Otherwise, I didn’t see anything particularly compelling or special here.
Pilot Grade: C

Ultra City Smiths, Mondays at 11 p.m. on AMC (Premiered September 13)
About
: This one premiered with a two-episode block last week but I didn’t get time to see it and squeeze it in. This one is an animated series that’s something of a hard-boiled detective series. Following the disappearance of the town’s most famous and most wealthy resident, the investigation turns up a number of suspects as it turns out he had many, many offspring—The Smiths. This one has a voice cast that includes Kristen Bell, John C. Reilly, Dax Shepherd and Jimmi Simpson, among others. It had an interesting visual style and plenty of humor in the first two episodes, which ran as a block. It’s not it the best time zone and the mystery wasn’t incredible enough for me to feel hooked. It’s a clever idea but probably a show that needs a bit of a better roll out and promotion plan.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Tuesdays:
Impeachment: American Crime Story, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on F/X (Premiered September 7)
About:
This third season of American Crime Story focuses on the Monica Lewinsky scandal that rocked the Bill Clinton White House. Clinton (Clive Owen) was barely seen in the first episode, which focused heavily on disgruntled former White House assistant Linda Tripp (Sarah Paulson). This second episode focused more on Monica (Beanie Feldman) and her relationship with Clinton, and what she shared with Tripp when she thought they were friends working at the Pentagon. In the background is the Paula Jones (Annaleigh Ashford) lawsuit, as well. This one follows a similar pattern as the previous installments, exploring the case and the players. I like the casting and how it’s all coming together. This is a story that many of us are familiar with to some extent and I’m curious to see how it plays out. As always, your interest in this anthology series will rely heavily on your interest in the case. But if you want to learn more about this and see some solid 1990s outfits, this one is pretty solid.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: B-

What's New on Disney Plus in September 2021: 'Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.' &  'Star Wars: Visions' – The Streamable

Wednesdays:
Doogie Kamealoha M.D., Wednesdays on Disney+ (Premiered September 8)
About:
This one from Disney+ is a re-boot of Doogie Howser, M.D., which was a star-making turn for Neil Patrick Harris. This one is set in Hawai’i and features Peyton Elizabeth Lee as Doogie, a teen phenom who is a surgeon by day and trying to figure out life by night. The first episode felt like it hit some familiar beats and was cute in its own way. The second episode was a little dry. The problem here is nostalgia isn’t enough of a hook in 2021, and with so many options out there right now, this one doesn’t feel like it’s deep enough to connect and keep the audience engaged.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C

Thursdays:
The Lost Symbol, Thursdays on Peacock (Premiered September 16)
About
: Dan Brown’s novels centering on Robert Langdon have long been a hit with readers and spawned three theatrical films with Tom Hanks. Now, in an original series for Peacock, Ashley Zukerman takes the role of Langdon in another mystery that combines symbols, history and some high stakes. The pilot debuted on Thursday and new episodes will stream weekly. This one finds Langdon called to Washington to give a lecture, but in reality he’s being used to solve a mystery and save the life of his friend and mentor, Peter Solomon (Eddie Izzard). He has his one-time love interest, and Solomon’s daughter Katherine (Valorie Curry) helping and the CIA on the case as well. The first episode set the stage and built into the formula. Zukerman does well in the lead role and I like the rest of the cast. I enjoyed the Brown novels on the big screen and think this is the first real decent shot that Peacock has made in its efforts at developing a slate of original programming.
Pilot Grade: B-

The Harper House, Thursdays on Paramount+ (Premiered September 16)
About:
Another animated comedy for adults, this one is streaming exclusively on Paramount+. It centers on a family who, through a spate of bad luck, is forced to move into a run-down fixer-upper on the wrong side of town while they try to rebuild their lives and rebuild their fortunes. The voice cast here includes Rhea Seehorn, Jason Lee and Tatiana Maslany, with an animation style that feels similar to the FOX block led by The Simpsons. This one had some humorous moments but the characters and narrative didn’t really pop. Paramount+ is looking for original content to make more of a dent in the market, but this doesn’t feel compelling enough to lock in an audience.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

the premise | What's On Disney Plus

The Premise, Thursdays on Hulu (Premiered September 16)
About:
This comedy anthology series comes from B.J. Novak. Each episode features a different story and cast, tackling a political topic from a unique angle. The pilot featured a case of police brutality where the key piece of evidence was caught in the background of a homemade sex tape. The second focused on a father whose child was killed in an incident of gun violence going to work for the gun lobby. The pilot featured Ben Platt and Tracee Ellis Ross, among others, while the second episode featured Jon Bernthal in the lead. There are amusing moments, but this isn’t laugh-out-loud comedy. In fact, it would be more accurately labeled a satire than a comedy. The second episode, in particular, is quite emotionally stirring, especially at the semi-shocking conclusion. This if a five-episode anthology series in its first season, the first two of which dropped Thursday with subsequent episodes dropping weekly. It wasn’t what I expected but it was solid and engaging, making it well worth checking out.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B

Sundays:
Scenes From a Marriage, Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO (Premiered September 12)
About
: This mini-series is a re-make of the Ingmar Bergman mini-series from the 1970s, featuring Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac at the center of a story about a marriage crumbling. The first episode introduced the couple and an incident in their lives that clearly will serve as a catalyst. The second episode brought it home in a real way, with Mira (Chastain) returning home from a work trip to tell Jonathan (Isaac) she’s been having an affair, she’s leaving him, ending the marriage. It’s definitely not a surprise turn, but it is an emotional one. For more than an hour it’s primarily just Isaac and Chastain exploring the break in their relationship. It’s a difficult hour to sit through but it’s made more compelling by the beautiful and powerful performances. This is the second of five episodes and it will be interesting to see where this goes from here. This mini-series isn’t for the faint of heart but it’s a well-produced look at an imploding relationship.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-

Streaming Series:
Chicago Party Aunt, now streaming on Netflix (Premiered September 17)
About
: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, this is an adult animated comedy. Yes, this is suddenly one of the most popular genres. This one focuses on Diane (Lauren Ash) a middle-aged party girl living in the heart of Chicago. She cuts hair, rooms with her nephew and likes to have a good time. This one comes from Jon Barinholtz, Katie Rich and Chris Witaske, all of whom provide voices in this. Barinholtz worked with Ash on Superstore, and also recruited brother Ike to do a voice here. The voice cast also include RuPaul and Bob Odenkirk, among others. There is some fun in this, which released eight episodes Friday, each running about a half an hour. I like the voice cast and the idea is fine but, again, in a crowded landscape fine isn’t good enough to hook viewers.
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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