We’re rapidly racing our way through December. In fact, there is only two more weeks of the Fall Roundup left before we turn the page to the Winter Roundup in January. Though the calendar is rapidly closing in on the end of 2021, the plethora of viewing channels continues to churn out original programming. Between holiday parties and shopping, that can leave you with little time to catch new options. So, which are worth your time? Let this weekly column be your guide as I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted, and occasional unscripted, options. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.
Landscapers, Mondays at 9 p.m. on HBO (Premiered December 6)
About: This docudrama, based on the true story of a British couple who covered up a crime for 15 years before getting caught, debuted last week. It features four episodes in total, each running about an hour. Olivia Coleman and David Thewlis star as the couple in question. The first episode is a slow burn about where they are and the crime being uncovered, ending just as they return to England to face authorities. The second episode dove more into how the couple met and telling their stories of what happened. I found the second episode a bit more compelling as we get into the meat of the case and also the conflicting information surrounding their story and the police investigation, offering a window into why they are in prison still. It’s engaging and well crafted, enough so that I’m curious to see where it ends up.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: B-
Abbot Elementary, Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC (Premiered December 7)
About: This new sitcom really takes root on ABC on Tuesday nights in January, with it assuming a regular spot-on Tuesday, January 4. However, ABC offered a preview this week, airing the pilot on Tuesday night. The series follows a group of elementary school teachers in Philadelphia. They teach at Abbott Elementary School and it’s not the greatest school. The principal (Janelle James) is a bit clueless, and while these teachers are trying to change lives they’re being followed and interviewed by a camera crew. Think The Office, but with teachers. The core teachers are played by Quinta Brunson, Tyler James Williams, Lisa Ann Walters, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Chris Perfetti, and all of them did a nice job creating characters and building the world in the pilot. Sometimes a great pilot doesn’t develop into a great series, sometimes a weak pilot develops into a classic series and sometimes you get both. Time will tell for Abbott Elementary, but I loved the pilot. I thought it was a great blend of humor and heart with some indelible characters. The sitcom is becoming an endangered species on network television, but this one gave me a little hope.
Pilot Grade: B
And Just Like That…, Thursdays on HBO Max (Premiered December 9)
About: We’ve seen several shows this year and in recent years trying to capture that Sex and the City vibe for a new generation and era. Well, now we have Sex and the City back telling its own new stories for a new era. And Just Like That… is the new spin-off that finds Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristen Davis) are living their lives, now as 50-something women that are still close friends living in Manhattan. It’s notable that original series star Kim Cattrall is not a part of this new edition. The pilot does make mention of her character, Samantha, where she is and why she’s not a part of the ladies’ lives anymore. It will be up to long-time fans to decide how they feel about that creatively. The new series comes from Michael Patrick King, the original series creator, and features largely the same characters with a few new additions. Now Carrie is a podcaster instead of a writer, with each episode ending with the phrase that serves as the show’s title. I wasn’t a huge fan of the original series but did watch occasionally and have seen the feature films that followed. I was curious to see what this new series would deliver and found myself both more engaged and more moved by the two episodes made available as the series premiered. Much has been made about the creative decision in the pilot, but I thought it played powerfully, and was moved by the second episode as well. Parker is great in this role and her character has been given plenty to consider in these episodes. This feels like a decent revival with new stories to tell for a new era in the world—and in the lives of these characters.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: C+
Welcome to Earth, Now Streaming on Disney+ (Premiered December 8)
About: This new documentary series from National Geographic centers on actor Will Smith exploring the far reaches of the Earth. The first episode found him at the crater of an active volcano, while episode two took him deep below the surface of the ocean. The series comes from Smith and director Darren Aronofsky, who helmed an episode as well. It’s a six-episode season, with each exploring a different topic, in part and adventure with Smith but also highlighting additional efforts that correspond to the larger theme from around the world. The episodes are beautifully shot and Smith is an affable host. I found the first two episodes to be interesting and engaging explorations.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-
Bloods, Now Streaming on Hulu (Premiered December 8)
About: This comedy series comes from the U.K. and focuses on a group of ambulance workers. It’s got a six-episode first season, with each episode running about a half an hour. The whole first season is now available on Hulu. It thought the humor was a little over-the-top and I wasn’t taken with either episode. I did enjoy Lucy Punch as the captain but not enough to keep me coming back for more, especially with so many other, better options.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C-
Creamerie, Now Streaming on Hulu (Premiered December 8)
About: Another new sitcom from overseas, this one coming from New Zealand. It features a unique premise—set eight years after a viral plague wiped out all the men. Women are all that’s left, and they’re re-building society. A trio of dairy farmers (Ally Xue, J.J. Fong, and Perlina Lau) are carving out a life when they come across something unexpected—a living man (Jay Ryan). It naturally leads to questions about what the government might be hiding. Earlier this year Hulu released the original series Y: The Last Man, based on the popular graphic novel that covered a similar premise. It was interesting to see a comedy tackling this idea, jumping way ahead in the timeline. The premise is interesting, though the first two episodes, each about 24 minutes, are mostly still focused on the set up and premise, building the mystery that will unfold later. The first season is six episodes, so it’s a low-barrier commitment. The cast was decent and the premise feels like something a bit different. It wasn’t incredible but it piqued my interest.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C
Saturday Morning All Star Hits, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered December 10)
About: This new comedy is a send up of Saturday morning children’s programming, albeit seemingly aimed more squarely at adults. It comes from producer Lorne Michaels and creators Kyle Mooney, Ben Jones and Dave McCary. Each episode is a mash up of live action advertisements and cartoon programs, hosted by a pair of twins played by Mooney. The voice and acting cast include people like Paul Rudd, Emma Stone, Pamela Adlon and Geraldine Viswanathan, with each of the season’s eight episodes running about a half an hour. It’s meant to be a nostalgic blast for those who spent their childhoods watching similar programming blocks in the 1980s and 1990s. I get the idea and the retro appeal, but there wasn’t enough in the programming here to entertain or hook me. In fact, I found the first two episodes a bit stiff and oddly constructed outside of a couple small fake ads that made me chuckle. For those looking for a dose of nostalgia, this will hit the spot. Otherwise, it feels like more of a miss.
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.