Welcome to November. This is a time when we start to shift full swing into the Holiday Season, meaning some huge releases on the big screen and some big events on the small screen. The wave of original horror series should be past us as we turn toward Christmas and the big tent poles that will end the year. That can leave you wondering what to watch, so 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 4400, Mondays at 9 p.m. on The CW (Premiered October 25)
About: This isn’t an original series, per se, but rather a re-boot of a series that ran for a few years on USA. This one tackles different characters and issues but the same format—4,400 people were plucked out of their place in history and suddenly, unexpectedly deposited in Detroit in 2021. Naturally, there are many questions. There is some intrigue here but it doesn’t feel fresh as it treads on the same basic territory as the previous series. I get that the CW is trying to find a new identity, and the network had some success with franchise re-boots of Walker and Kung Fu last year, but this doesn’t really move the needle.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
Queens, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC (Premiered October 19)
About: This series picks up with a rap quartet, the Nasty Girls, nearly 20 years after they broke up. Now there is renewed interest in their music, giving them, another shot at fame. The series’ pilot ended at a spot a bit in the future, indicating a level of success. The second episode picked up there, adding a mysterious twist while going back. It’s clear the season is going to be about the journey to that point and what the twist means. The question is whether you’ll be excited for the ride. I’ll admit I enjoyed the pilot much more than expected, including the musical performances. We got a comedy version of this concept in the Spring that didn’t quite work for me despite the talent involved. I like this better, but the second episode wasn’t quite as engaging as the pilot. That leaves me wondering how much I really want to invest in this journey. Other viewers may feel similar, but it’s nice that the series is paired with The Bachelor, as it feels like it would appeal to the same demographic.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: C
Love Life, Thursdays on HBO Max (Premiered October 28)
About: This anthology series from HBO Max follows one lead character in their search for love. The first season, which was the first big original series for HBO Max, centered on Anna Kendrick, who serves as a producer on the series. Her Darby ended up wading through the waters and finding love. I didn’t finish that season, but I gleaned the outcome as Season 2, focusing on a character played by William Jackson Harper, picks up at Darby’s wedding in 2016. There we meet Marcus (Harper), who is married, but not happily. By the time the second season premier is over, Marcus’ marriage has imploded and he is now looking for his true best match. The season runs 10 episodes, with new episodes being dropped in installments over three weeks. The first three debut Thursday, with more coming the next two Thursdays until the season is over. I like Harper, who was great as a co-lead in The Good Place. He’s strong here, at times, too. My issue with the first season was it felt like something of a confusing downer at times thanks to the journey Darby headed down. I had a similar feeling watching the first two episodes of the new round. I get the premise, but the journey doesn’t feel that compelling to me, despite the great casting choice.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C
Star Trek: Prodigy, Thursdays on Paramount+ (Premiered October 28)
About: This new animated series was created for Nickelodeon but made its way to Paramount+ for its run. It centers on a rag-tag crew of prisoners that stumble on a starship where a hologram of Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is there to guide them. The first episode was about introducing the group, focusing on Zero (Angus Imrie), who dreams of getting out. Like Star Wars, Star Trek is a long-running franchise that has had many feature films and many small-screen iterations. This felt different. Most of Star Trek is about organized and buttoned up more military-like takes on space. This focuses on a group of outcasts and rebels and, from that standpoint, went in an interesting direction. I’m curious to see what happens from here.
Pilot Grade: B-
Swagger, Fridays on Apple TV+ (Premiered October 29)
About: This new series for Apple focuses on a young basketball prodigy, Jace (Isaiah R. Hill), who is 14 and hopes to make it to the NBA. He’s left his previous team and needs a new place to thrive, and a coach to get him there. Enter Ike (O’Shea Jackson, Jr.), who was once was a rising prospect in his own right but now works a simple job, is married with a baby on the way and coaches young men, trying to help them achieve their dreams the right way. The series is inspired by the journey of Kevin Durant, and touches on a number of issues, including the danger for young black men in America. Jackson is solid in the lead role, and I thought Hill worked as Jace. The first two episodes were interesting and set the stage for the world. I’ve noted before that Apple makes up for its lack of back catalogue with quality productions. This feels like a solid and unique addition, one that I’m curious to see where it goes.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+
Colin in Black and White, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered October 29)
About: Colin Kaepernick has long been a lightening rod of controversy. That began even before it became a league-wide movement. While he hasn’t played a meaningful NFL snap since 2016, his name is mentioned several times ever NFL season. This new venture, a team up between Kaepernick and director Ava Duvernay, is a look at Kaepernick’s childhood and journey to the professional ranks. It is that, but the half hours are also more. They are a look at the systemic issues that led Kaepernick to raise his voice in the first place, and the issues that have never gone away. That will be a turn off for some, which is partially why Kaepernick remains polarizing. When it comes to showcasing his story, actor Jaden Michael plays a young Kaep, while Mary Louise Parker and Nick Offerman are his adoptive parents. The episodes begin with Kaepernick setting the stage, and often break through during the story for him to provide commentary on the events and the larger societal role. This series pulls no punches, with the pilot beginning by comparing the NFL Draft Combine to a slave auction. It’s powerful and interesting, like the player who inspired it, but it certainly is different. The season is six episodes, which each run about 30 minutes, and all are available to stream now. It’s an engaging production and one worth making time to consider.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: B
Fairfax, Now Streaming on Amazon Prime (Premiered October 29)
About: This new animated series centers on four middle school friends on their quest for fame on L.A.’s Fairfax Avenue. Like most animated series released of late, this one is aimed squarely at adults. The four central characters are voiced by Skyler Gisondo, Peter S. Kim, Kiersey Clemons, and Jaboukie Young-White. The quartet are obsessed with the latest trends and becoming influencers. It’s likely meant to be a send up of that culture and the social media that follows it but mostly it comes off as sad and strange. The supporting voice cast includes folks like John Leguizamo, J.B. Smoove, and Yvette Nicole Brown, providing some amusing moments. But, mostly, this feels like a weird miss that can easily be skipped.
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.