The Winter Olympics are in full swing, which means a lot of regular network programming is taking a break. But we’re still getting a full compliment of new shows on streaming and cable. But which are worth diving into? Let this weekly column be your guide as I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this Winter. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.
Pam and Tommy, Wednesdays on Hulu (Premiered February 2)
About: Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee are fairly recognizable figures in culture. This new docudrama dives into their whirlwind love affair and marriage, and the infamous sex tape that made the rounds. It focuses on Tommy (Sebastian Stan) and Pam’s (Lily James) relationship, and also Tommy’s treatment of a construction crew, particularly carpenter Rand (Seth Rogen) who ultimately decides to get revenge, finds the tape and releases it. This is a different and edgy kind of new series. The first three episodes of a planned eight-episode limited series dropped on Wednesday, and it doesn’t take long to get into the journey. The pilot focuses mostly on Rand and his treatment at the hands of Tommy, while the second episode dives into the meet cute and marriage of Tommy and Pam. The second episode in particular makes a bold narrative choice that will probably define how you feel about the storytelling here. I thought it was hilarious, and I can’t wait to see where the rest of this series goes. The performances are strong, as both Stan and James really sink into the roles. This is creative and engaging, one of the more interesting new series to launch so far this year.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: A-
Astrid and Lily Save the World, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on SyFy (Premiered January 26)
About: The latest from SyFy is clearly an attempt to catch the same kind of vibe that worked for series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This doesn’t match that. The pilot was dreadful and a slog, and the second episode was more of the same. The story and characters don’t pop and the attempts at humor don’t land. This is a flame out creatively and a show that can, and should, be safely skipped.
Pilot Grade: D
Second Episode: D-
Suspicion, Fridays on Apple TV+ (Premiered February 4)
About: The latest from Apple TV+ is a drama, co-produced in the UK, that begins with an abduction in New York City. Soon, an American Law Enforcement Officer (Noah Emmerich) makes his way to England, where three seemingly random strangers have all been arrested on suspicion of being part of the team that carried out the kidnapping. One is a security consultant (Kunal Nayyar), one is a divorced professor (Elizabeth Henstridge) and one is a bride on her wedding day (Georgina Campbell), while the one known criminal (Elyes Gabel) roams free. Can they get to the bottom and find the victim, the son of a media mogul (Uma Thurman), who is on the cusp of being named Ambassador to the U.K. The first episode is about introducing the characters and bringing them to custody. The second episode, the last of those released on Friday, goes through the story of each of the suspects and raises the question about whether any of them, or all of them, are involved. That’s where the mystery will progress as episodes are released weekly on Apple, with an eight-episode season in total. This one had a bit of a slow build in the pilot but I enjoyed the second episode and the way the mystery deepens to the point I am curious to see how this winds up. The cast is strong and the potential here is enough of a hook to keep my engaged, and likely will do the same for fans of the mystery genre.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: B-
Murderville, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered February 3)
About: Comedies about murder mysteries are very popular right now, and Murderville takes an interesting twist on the formula. It’s part scripted series and part reality comedy experiment. Will Arnett takes the lead as detective Terry Seattle. Each episode, six in total around a half an hour, is a different case. They are comedic in nature and take the viewer on a journey to figure out whodunnit. But the viewer isn’t the only one on that journey. Each episode features a different celebrity partnered with Seattle trying to figure out who did it and forced to make their reveal at the end. The pilot featured Conan O’Brien and the second featured Marshawn Lynch. Better still, the celebrity guests aren’t given access to the script, making it a fun improv experiment. It’s an interesting twist on the premise, and with only six half hours it’s a breezy watch. I enjoyed the idea and Arnett makes for the perfect lead, while the guests seem to play well off him and in the format, even if they didn’t all have success. This is a different kind of take on the genre, and one that will appeal to fans of mysteries that also enjoy comedy.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-
Reacher, Now Streaming on Amazon Prime (Premiered February 4)
About: The other big streaming release this week is Reacher, an original series based on the Lee Childs novels that served as the inspiration for a pair of films starring Tom Cruise. Much was made of the films as Cruise doesn’t fit the description of Childs’ hero, Jack Reacher. The series, which features Alan Ritchson in the lead role, probably fits the bill better. It centers on one of Childs’ books, setting the action in Margrave, Georgia, where Reacher is arrested on suspicion of murder. Soon, he teams with a local detective (Malcolm Goodwin) and deputy (Willa Fitzgerald) to help solve a string of murders. The first episode drops Reacher, and the audience, into the town and into the middle of the action. The second episode deepens the mystery. Each runs about an hour, with eight episodes total in the first season. Ritchson is great in the lead role, bringing a different intensity and physicality to the role. I liked Goodwin and Fitzgerald in supporting roles and I liked the way the mystery built. By the end of the second episode, I was hooked and wanted to see where the journey would go. This feels like a great addition to the Amazon lineup, and one that will appeal to book readers and non-readers alike.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: B+
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.