We’re halfway through May and coming close to the end of the network season. Yet, we’re still getting some interesting releases on cable and streaming. As you’re spending these longer Spring evenings relaxing around a fan, which of these series is worth checking out? Let this weekly post be your guide as I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this Spring. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.
Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Streaming Thursdays on Paramount+ (Premiered May 5)
About: The world of Star Trek on Paramount+ has expanded, this time back on the starship Enterprise. This one is a prequel to the original, focusing on the time when Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) was the captain of the Enterprise. Spock (Ethan Peck) is there, and we get the familiar Star Trek opening. This one follows an adventure-of-the-week format and is a heck of a lot of fun. If you’re a Star Trek fan, get giddy. If you’ve never followed the world, this is a great entry point as you can meet some famous folks from the Star Trek universe before the stories we’ve come to know and love. This is the best of the original series on Paramount+ so far.
Pilot Grade: B+
Second Episode: B+
The Essex Serpent, Fridays on Apple TV+ (Premiered May 13)
About: There are few people who play mental anguish better than Claire Danes. That being said, one day she’s going to get to play a happy character, and I hope I’m there to see it. It won’t be in her latest project, The Essex Serpent, a six-episode limited series for Apple TV+. In it, Danes plays a widow who moves from London to Essex to investigate the rumors of a mythical serpent. There she teams with a local minister (Tom Hiddleston) who shares her skepticism. The series is based on the novel from Sarah Perry. The first two episodes dropped Friday with subsequent episodes dropping weekly. The episodes are a bit of a downer, as is the story so far. Danes and Hiddleston lead a decent cast but I wasn’t taken with the story here. Given the crowded landscape, this might not resonate enough to hook a big audience.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
The Time Traveler’s Wife, Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO (Premiered May 15)
About: Based on the novel from Audrey Niffenegger, the latest drama from HBO has been adapted before. In 2009, it was a feature film starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. Now, we get the long form version, a six-episode first season which kicked off on Sunday. It’s about two people—Henry (Theo James) and Claire (Rose Leslie)—and their complex love story. Henry is a time traveler. He travels within his own lifetime, and that’s how he met Claire. Their story spans decades and a marriage, but it’s not without its foibles. The pilot introduces the characters and the concept. I remember watching the film and once the pilot launched, I remembered what bothered me about that story. There is a certain aspect of the plot that’s, well, creepy. That is part of the series too, only now we see it playing out in long form. James and Leslie are solid leads but the story is weird. It was one thing as a contained film, it’s another to see it play out over a longer span. I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.
Pilot Grade: C
Candy, Now Streaming on Hulu (Premiered May 9)
About: The mini-series is something of a forgotten art form. It used to be a big part of the television landscape but with the different content options, the way we consume entertainment is different. That’s what made Candy a fun throwback. Hulu rolled out the limited mini-series, consisting of five episodes, over the course of a week, one each day. The series focuses on Candy Montgomery (Jessica Biel), a Texas housewife in the 1980s who brutally murdered a friend and offered a startling defense for her actions. The series begins on the day of the murder, with episodes following going back to paint the picture of the lives of all involved. I liked the production here and the concept. It’s also a strong performance from Biel. We’ve seen a lot of true crime stories turned into scripted series, particularly this year. This isn’t incredible but the format and performances make it worth seeing.
Pilot Grade: B+
Second Episode: B
The Kids in the Hall, Now Streaming on Amazon Prime (Premiered May 13)
About: The Kids in the Hall are a Canadian sketch comedy troupe who had a series from 1988 to 1995. The five stars—Dave Foley, Mark McKinney, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald and Scott Thompson—played a variety of characters, creating a cult following that led to movies and specials in addition to the 102-episode run of the original series. Now, years later, the Kids in the Hall are back, as all five of the original members have reunited for a new series for Amazon Prime. The eight-episode season dropped Friday, each running about a half an hour. For fans of the group and the genre, this will be an exciting return. It’s full of new sketches and commentary on the world as it is now. The five clearly have great rapport and had a lot of fun making the series. It won’t appeal to everyone, but it’s an easy and light-hearted watch.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
The Lincoln Lawyer, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered May 13)
About: Michael Connelly’s novels come to life again, this time as a series. It was originally developed for a network but instead lands on Netflix, with all 10 episodes of the first season dropping Friday. The series focuses on Mickey Haller (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), a brilliant lawyer who prefers to keep his office in the back of a Lincoln to remain flexible and on the move. As we drop in, Haller has suffered an accident and spent nearly a year battling his personal demons. He’s quickly pulled back into the thick of the legal trade when a colleague is murdered and leaves Haller his practice. Bouncing between cases and ex-wives (Becki Newton and Neve Campbell), Haller works to ply his unique skills to defend those who’ve been falsely accused. The series was adapted by David E. Kelley, no stranger to a legal drama, and Ted Humphrey, who wrote most of the scripts. I enjoyed the pilot and the way it introduced the world, and the second episode continued that journey. The case is solid as is the storytelling. This is different than the feature film made with Matthew McConaughey but this feels like an enjoyable journey that could make for a nice addition to the Netflix library.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-
Conversations With Friends, Now Streaming on Hulu (Premiered May 15)
About: Sally Rooney is a talented author. In 2020, an adaptation of her novel Normal People was a hit for Hulu. It was a beautiful and compelling mini-series. Two years later, another of Rooney’s books—Conversations With Friends—is again a series on Hulu. This comes from the same production team and is hoping to strike gold, this time with a 12-episode season, each episode about a half an hour. The story focuses on friends and former lovers, Frances (Alison Oliver) and Bobbi (Sasha Lane), who become involved with a 30-something married couple (Jemima Kirke and Joe Alwyn). The first episode introduces the players and the world while the second episode sets the stage for the deepening of the complex relationships. This one moves at a slow burn pace and features a similar style, but these types of stories are about characters. I wasn’t taken with these four characters right away. Those who’ve read the book are likely to be drawn into the adaptation but there is potential for this one to keep growing.
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.