Winter TV Roundup, Week 10

It’s March, so we’re all longing for warmer temperatures and pleasant, sunny evenings. It happened here in Colorado last week, but winter returned Sunday. Meaning I’ll have plenty of time staying warm by the glow of the TV set. I wager I’m not alone. But which of the new shows is worth your time? Let this weekly post 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.

Thursdays:
The Dropout, Thursdays on Hulu (Premiered March 3)
About:
By now, most people are familiar with Elizabeth Holmes. There have been myriad shows, mostly unscripted, devoted to telling her story and uncovering her fraud. Now, we get a scripted take on it. It won’t be the last, but this limited series sees Amanda Seyfried in the lead role and explores her story, from building the company, to faking results and her ultimate fall from grace. Seyfried is a good actress, but the first two episodes (three total were released Thursday) felt a little stiff. The series is planned for eight episodes, with subsequent episodes dropping weekly. The story has captured people’s attention, but it might be verging on over saturation. This series is decently made but it is missing some of the hook of other limited biopic series on Hulu.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C

Our Flag Means Death, Streaming Thursdays on HBO Max (Premiered March 3)
About
: This comedy comes from creator David Jenkins, who wrote all 10 episodes, and producer Taika Waititi, who directed a few, which is probably part of the appeal. It’s centered on a rag-tag group of pirates and presents a gentle comedic take over a half-hour episode. The first three of these episodes, led by Rhys Darby as the ill-equipped pirate captain, debuted Thursday, with additional episodes dropping weekly. I was hoping for an interesting and engaging but this was just OK. The style of the comedy and the story didn’t really land for me. If you appreciate the style, it will likely work better for you. But this didn’t feel like compelling week-to-week viewing.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Law & Order, Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered February 24)
About
: The original is back, with a re-boot that is also serving as the 21st season. It features some of those who were there when it rolled off the first time (Anthony Anderson and Sam Waterston) with some new faces (Jeffrey Donovan and Hugh Dancy). It also follows the same formula, grabbing stories ripped right from the headlines. The premier tackled a version of the Bill Cosby story. The second episode tackled a story that was unmistakably Elizabeth Holmes. The series is a bit of nostalgia, following the same tried and true formula it used for its first 20 seasons. By current standards, it feels a little stiff and a little dated. The nostalgia factor likely drew people to the first episode, but there isn’t enough of a hook to keep people, aside from those fans who are happy to see it back for another season.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C

Sundays:
Winning Time, Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO (Premiered March 6)
About
: The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most storied franchises in history. The new series chronicles the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s. This series, produced and directed by Adam McKay, focuses on the early stages of the dynasty formed by Dr. Jerry Buss (John C Reilly), picking up as he’s buying the team in 1979 and wooing top overall pick Ervin Magic Johnson (Quincy Isaiah). I also quite enjoyed Jason Clarke as a feisty Jerry West in the pilot. The style here won’t be fore everyone, as it includes a lot of breaking the fourth wall. Still, I liked the way it looked like old-time footage, Reilly was a kick in the premier and I’m interested in the story. I’m curious to see where this one goes as it feels like a little something different for HBO.
Pilot Grade: C+

Super Pumped, Sundays at 10 p.m. on Showtime (Premiered February 27)
About:
This new anthology series comes from the team behind Billions and focuses on a new true life business story each season. This first season is about The Battle for Uber, focusing on CEO Travis Kalanick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The second episode was more about building an empire, setting up the potential clash with Bill Gurley (Kyle Chandler) that will likely come to a head in the series. Gordon-Levitt is a talented performer who is sinking into the role. The style here feels much like Billions, presenting big business as a dude-bro sort of club. This one even includes a lavish party that leads to millions of dollars in hush money, fines and damages. Still, it’s interesting to see how these companies are born and this one presents an interesting journey that makes for a great companion piece to the latest season of Billions on Showtime’s Sunday night lineup.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: C+

Shining Vale, Sundays at 10 p.m. on Starz (Premiered March 6)
About
: The latest from Starz, which debuted behind the sixth season of Outlander, is a horror/comedy about a haunted house. It comes from creator Sharon Horgan and Jeff Astrof, and stars Courtney Cox and Greg Kinnear, among others. It focuses on a couple who are dealing with marital strife as the result of an affair that move to an old house in a small Connecticut town. As they’re both working through their issues, Pat (Cox) is struggling to finish her long overdue novel. She’s also suffering from depression and seeing ghosts, which makes her wonder if she’s possessed. This series features half hour episodes, with the first two episodes dropping on Sunday. Cox and Kinnear make for solid leads but this series isn’t as funny or scary as it is trying to be, which makes the episodes a little flat. I’m not sure it stands out in the crowd of current series.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Streaming Series:
Guardians of Justice, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered March 2)
About
: This limited series, created by Adi Shankar, is a wild new superhero type series. It’s a limited series, running seven episodes of varying lengths, which is an original concept with new heroes that feels like a bit of an homage Watchmen, among others. It’s a bit darker in tone, and a chaotic blend of live action and animation, with episodes varying in length. The first two episodes were a lot, and not much of it compelling. It’s weird and difficult to follow, at least that was my impression through the first two episodes. It was a big swing but a big miss for Netflix.
Pilot Grade: D
Second Episode: D

Joe vs. Carole, Now Streaming on Peacock (Premiered March 3)
About
: Just as the world descended into a pandemic, The Tiger King was there to provide a national fascination. It’s been two years since it debuted, and we’ve even gotten a second season. The story is well-worn ground by now, but Peacock is jumping into the fray with a scripted series, featuring Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin and John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic. I was excited to see this come, figuring on some good comedy. While the pilot has its moments, this is a more by-the-numbers take than expected. In addition, the surprise of the narrative and it-factor of this story has worn thin over the past two years. Interestingly, it seems as if the series is trying to build Carole into a hero, seemingly the opposite of the docuseries. So, what we’re left with is a show that seems promising on paper and is mostly flat in practice. It’s OK, not great. And, just like the second season of the docu-series, I felt no need to keep going after my initial sample.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C-

The Tourist, Now Streaming on HBO Max (Premiered March 4)
About
: This limited series finds Jamie Dornan as a man who wakes up in the Australian Outback with no memory of who he is or how he got there. Dornan is a talented actor who seems to work well in this series. The first two episodes moved at a decent pace, with the building mystery. I liked the setting and I am enjoying Danielle Macdonald and Shalom Brune-Franklin in supporting roles. The series pilot was a great introduction and the slow unfurling of the mystery works well in the first two episodes of this six-episode limited series. All episodes are available to stream and this feels like a solid addition for HBO Max.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: C+

The Boys Presents: Diabolical, Now Streaming on Amazon Prime (Premiered March 4)
About
: The Boys is one of the most popular for Amazon Prime, so it makes sense to start seeing spin-offs. This is an animated series, each episode running about 15 minutes. The episodes are all shorts set within the fictional world of The Boys, focusing on different characters. Each comes from a different writer—including folks like Awkwafina and Andy Samberg in addition to Garth Ennis, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Each features a different style of animation as well, making it a unique addition to the adult animated landscape. I’m not a regular view of The Boys, so this didn’t hold a lot of sway. I appreciated the self-contained stories and unique styles of the first two episodes, and with only eight episodes at 15 minutes, it’s a crisp two-hour binge for those who are interested. It’s a unique take offering something different for Amazon Prime.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+

Pieces of Her, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered March 4)
About:
A woman and her adult daughter are having lunch when violence breaks out. Instinctively, Laura (Toni Collette) springs to action, protecting her daughter and taking out the assailant in the process. Her daughter, a 9-1-1 dispatcher Andy (Bella Heathcote), can just look on. In the aftermath, it’s clear there is more going on here, putting both mother and daughter in further danger. This new drama, a limited series running eight episodes, is based on the novel from Karen Slaughter, developed as a series by Charlotte Stoudt. I like Collette, who has done a nice job building her character. The first two episodes are about building the world and tension but provide few answers. The limited series is eight episodes, each about an hour, all available to stream now on Netflix. I like the concept here, but the first two episodes didn’t pull me into the narrative as much as they should. There’s potential here, but also potential for it to fizzle.
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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