We’re deep into April and Easter is nearly upon us. Much of the country is beginning its transition from snowy times to rain to, eventually, sun. There’s a whiff of summer in the air. And on the small screens, while the network season is careening toward a finish cable producers continue to put out new series. Last week was a shallow pool by recent standards but, as we approach the holiday weekend you might be looking for something to binge. 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. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.
Moon Knight, Streaming Wednesdays on Disney TV+ (Premiered March 30)
About: Oscar Isaac takes the lead here as Steven Grant, or rather Marc Spector, or maybe both. That was left unclear to a certain degree for those not familiar with the source material even after the pilot hour. While I found the pilot to be stylishly crafted, and enjoyed Isaac and Ethan Hawke in their roles, I still didn’t know what was going on. The second episode, by contrast, painted a more robust picture of the world, filling in the gaps about Steven, Marc and what they were facing. That was paired with some still strong performances and production values. Moon Knight still feels like a slow build but I enjoyed the second episode and I’m enjoying the ride. Marvel showed time and again in 2021 it knows what it’s doing in bringing these series to an episodic format, and it appears this one will be no different.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C+
Tokyo Vice, Streaming Thursdays on HBOMax (Premiered April 7)
About: The latest original series on HBOMax takes viewers to Tokyo, based on the book from Jake Adelstein, based on his experiences. It centers on an American who is working as a journalist in Tokyo, covering crime. The series also features a pilot directed by Michael Mann, who serves as an executive producer. The pilot in fact has a lot of style. Those who are fans of Mann’s work will recognize some of his hallmark traits. The story is a bit of a slow build. Ansel Elgort takes the lead as Jake. The story is set in the 1990s, and as the first foreigner working for the paper it chronicles his experience exploring the country, diving into the seedy under-world and coming under the wing of a veteran detective (Ken Watanabe) as he tries to bring the truth to light. The first episode was mostly setting the stage, while the second episode (of a total of eight in the first season) seeks to deepen the story and the world. Elgort is fine in the lead role, and we don’t get a lot of Watanabe at the outset. The show moves at a slow pace, but there’s plenty of material since Adelstein’s book covered a 12-year career. J.T. Rogers adapts the story and spends a fair amount of time building up the world in the first two episodes. A total of three were released Thursday, with more released weekly on HBOMax. I had some hopes this would be an engaging police drama. With the involvement of Mann and the word Vice in the title, I expected something a little more up tempo. This is fine but slow and dry so far. It’s a bit underwhelming in a saturated market.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
How We Roll, Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on CBS (Premiered March 31)
About: The latest sitcom from CBS follows the life of Tom Smallwood, who was laid off from a factory job and became a professional bowler. We haven’t gotten to the pro bowling success yet, instead we’re still in the set-up phase through two episodes, which is trying to establish the world and the comedy. Pete Holmes takes the lead and is affable as the leading man. The show has some chuckles but feels pretty stiff by modern standards. It feels like a throwback to a more classic era of studio sitcoms and that’s likely not going to be a huge appeal to modern audiences. This one is OK and has the cast that could help it grow into a decent, if uninspiring weekly watch.
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.