February is behind us and we can see Spring on the horizon. Behind it comes summer, longer days and time in the sun. But, until we can get there, we’ll continue to have times hiding inside under blankets, looking for a show to dive into. There’s plenty of new series debuting, but what’s worth your time? 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.
All-American: Homecoming, Mondays at 9 p.m. on The CW (Premiered February 21)
About: This spin-off from All-American follows Simone (Geffri Maya) as she moves on to college. The pilot was about moving her there and picking up the threads that were introduced in the back door pilot that was part of the last season of All-American. This has some similar elements to its parent show, built around a core of athletes. Maya does a decent job as the focal character but, overall, this feels a little bland. Fans of All-American will likely want to stick with it but as an original series it doesn’t feel like it has the kind of hook to give it staying power.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
The Endgame, Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered February 21)
About: The latest drama from NBC follows a notorious criminal, dubbed Snow White (Morena Baccarin), as she’s captured by the FBI. Or was it part of her plan all along. Soon an FBI Agent (Ryan Michelle Bathe), who is struggling with her own personal demons, is pulled into the middle of a series of bank robberies, orchestrated by Snow White while in custody. Figuring out how it’s happening, and how it connects to her own personal life is part of the journey. The pilot did a decent job of laying out the world and characters, establishing some of the stakes and creating an interesting journey. Whether this would be better served as a self-contained film is something we’ll discover as the series moves forward, but the pilot did a nice job of baiting the hook. The second episode felt a bit like treading water after the excitement of the pilot. As it settles into the weekly grind, answers and developments will come more slowly, but I still like the lead characters and the idea enough to stick it out for now.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+
Law & Order, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered February 24)
About: This is really the 21st season of the series, so says NBC. The thing is, Law & Order debuted in 1990 and ran for 20 seasons, signing off in May of 2010. Now, 12 years later, it’s back. Two of the stars during that final episode—Anthony Anderson and Sam Waterston—are back as well. This original series joins a lineup that includes two Law & Order spin-offs, creating a Thursday night Law & Order block for NBC. The season includes the iconic set up and theme song, along with a cast that now includes Jeffrey Donovan and Camryn Manheim on the Law side and Hugh Dancy on the Order side. The first episode follows a tradition as well, with a somewhat ripped from the headlines set up that smacks of the issues with Bill Cosby. While it felt familiar having the series back, the pilot felt a little stiff. When it debuted in 1990, Law & Order was somewhat ground-breaking. But over time, things have changed a bit. This feels like a throwback now. While many will be pleased to have the show back, it doesn’t feel like appointment viewing, especially since the episodes are nicely self-contained.
Pilot Grade: C
Super Pumped, Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime (Premiered February 27)
About: The latest from Showtime is a star-studded exploration of the ridesharing app, Uber. This is really meant to be an anthology series, with the first tackling the book from Mike Isaac titled The Battle for Uber. An already renewed second season will focus on Facebook. But for this round, the focus is on Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as he works to secure financing, including from Bill Gurley (Kyle Chandler), to help it take off. The series kicks off in 2011 and follows Kalanick’s rise, and eventual fall. The rest of the cast includes Elizabeth Shue, Kerry Bishe and Uma Thurman, among others. The series is adapted by David Koppelman and David Levien, the duo responsible for Billions. The series has strong Billions vibes, at least in the first episode. The idea that it’s an anthology gives it more appeal as you see some resolution through the course of the season. I loved Gordon-Levitt in the pilot and the overall flow. I’m excited to see where this all goes, especially given the deep and talented cast.
Pilot Grade: B-
Cat Burglar, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered February 22)
About: This new animated series is something a bit different. It’s a choose your own adventure of sorts, where the audience is asked questions at various points and the success of those answers will determine the fate of the titular Cat Burglar. The questions themselves are a bit humorous and unexpected. Of course, that’s about what you’d expect of an animated series that comes in part from Charlie Brooker, who created the series Black Mirror. I enjoyed the animation here and the fun of the concept, though I tired of it after about 25 minutes. Still, it’s a different and creative take that adds something unique to Netflix.
Pilot Grade: C+
Vikings: Valhalla, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered February 25)
About: The series Vikings, which debuted in 2013, was a big hit for the History Channel, running for several seasons. Now, Netflix has jumped into the game, with a spin-off, this one set 100 years later and focusing on Leif Ericksson (Sam Corlett). The first couple episodes are about setting the historical period and the characters. I thought the series had a solid look, as Netflix put some money behind it. That being said, the first two episodes felt a little dry. I wasn’t taken with the characters or the journey, and as someone who wasn’t a regular viewer of Vikings, the fact it’s a spin-off didn’t appeal to me as strongly. Others might feel different, and this certainly makes sense as a swing for Netflix, but it wasn’t a big draw for this viewer.
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.