Fall TV Roundup, Week 16

Yellowstone '1883' Season 1 Episode 1 Recap: "1883"

It’s Christmas week, and you might find yourself looking for some distractions in the form of new shows to check out. But which are worth checking out? Let this weekly post be your guide as I review the pilot and second episode of new shows this Fall. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

American Auto, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC (Premiered December 13)
A lot was made of the fact NBC, former home of Must-See TV, launched a schedule this Fall with no sitcoms. NBC isn’t planning to do the same in the winter, and they got a jump start to close the year, offering two-episode previews of a pair of new sitcoms that will begin their normal runs in January. The first, American Auto, comes from Superstore creator Justin Spitzer and centers on a new CEO (Ana Gasteyer) at a car company. She doesn’t come from the world of cars but is trying to effect positive changes. I thought the first two episodes were funny and definitely filled the Superstore vibe. I’m not sure NBC has a great series to pair it with yet but it was nice to have some NBC-style workplace sitcoms back on the air. I’m excited to see this one in January.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-

Grand Crew, Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on NBC (Premiered December 13)
This is the other new series for NBC, centering on five friends living their lives. It brings a different vibe and perspective, with the whole series opening with an interesting narration meant to frame the journey. The cast is OK and I’m likely not the demographic, but this one didn’t resonate as strongly with me. I thought the episodes were just OK, with a few amusing moments but not enough consistent laughs. Tonally, I’m not sure how well it pairs with American Auto, but we’ll see if the block succeeds when it returns on January 4.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Station Eleven, Streaming on HBO Max (Premiered December 16)
: This new drama is based on the novel from Emily St. John Mandel. It’s set in the Midwest where a superflu strikes the world, causing a pandemic that wipes out much of the population. Twenty years later, Kirsten (Mackenzie Davis) is part of a traveling Shakespearean Troupe that provides entertainment for those who are left, rebuilding the world. The pilot takes place just as the epidemic is breaking out and Kirsten (Matilda Lawler) is a child star appearing in King Lear. A theatergoer, Jeevan (Himesh Patel), helps care for her and helps her survive the initial wave. The series moves back-and-forth on parallel timelines as Kirsten is hooked on a book, Station Eleven, that might hold the key to mysteries unfolding in her present. I liked the first two episodes (three were released Thursday) and look forward to seeing how this plays out. The 10-episode series will be dropped in installments. The cast is strong and the world-building was solid at the outset. Some may struggle with the subject matter, but it’s handled well considering the ongoing crisis. Davis is a great actor at the center of the future timeline and the first two episodes baited the hook nicely for the future.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: B

1883, Sundays on Paramount+ (Premiered December 19)
: This is the hotly anticipated prequel to Yellowstone. Creator Taylor Sheridan is back with a tale about how the original Dutton family, led by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, made it to and settled the Ranch in Montana. This one picks up with the family in Texas in 1883 joining a wagon train party headed for Oregon—the famed Oregon Trail. The cast also includes Sam Elliott who seems perfect in the role and the world. The first two episodes dropped Sunday with subsequent episodes dropping each week. I loved the tone and production of the first two episodes. There is already a built-in audience for those who watch Yellowstone, but this one had content that was strong enough to work on its own, as it did for my wife. Those who enjoy westerns will appreciate the world and all that’s gone into building this story. This feels like a strong hit that isn’t Star Trek for the streaming site.
Pilot Grade: A-
Second Episode: B+

Streaming Series:
MacGruber, Now Streaming on Peacock (Premiered December 16)
: The latest series for Peacock is MacGruber, which is a follow up on the SNL sketch turned feature film in 2010. The pilot picks up with a recap of that film and jumps to the present, where MacGruber (Will Forte) is in jail as a result of murdering his nemesis. But when the world needs help, they offer him a deal. The series, which is eight episodes, each about a half an hour, features the same kind of action and content as the film. It’s for mature audiences, but returns Forte, Kristen Wiig and Ryan Phillippe from the film, with Laurence Fishburne, Sam Elliott and Billy Zane in a supporting role. The first two episodes were OK but felt like the story was stretched. For me, the concept worked OK in a 90-minute movie, seeing a story play out over four hours feels a little long. Still, this is one of the better offerings from the Peacock streaming service, which probably isn’t saying much.
Pilot: C
Second Episode: C

With Love, Now Streaming on Amazon Prime (Premiered December 17)
: This series for Amazon is a relationship drama. It fuses some comedy and drama, focusing on a group of characters from diverse background seeking love. I enjoyed Emeraude Toubia and Mark Indelicato in the lead role as the Diaz siblings, but I wasn’t always taken with the stories presented. The season runs five episodes, each around 45 minutes. There is some potential here but I wasn’t drawn into the first two episodes. I like that this explores different stories and characters. I could see it appealing to fans of the romance dramedy genre but it didn’t work for me enough to stick with it, though it’s an easy binge length.
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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