This week was accompanied by a heat wave here in Colorado, certainly making it feel like summer. On those hot afternoons and evenings, it can be tempting to curl up by some air conditioning and find a new show to dive into. But which new show 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 summer. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.
Irma Vep, Mondays at 9 p.m. on HBO (Premiered June 6)
About: This series is the long-form version of the 1996 film of the same name. Director Oliver Assayas delivered the original film and now this eight-episode re-make. There is even a joke embedded in the second episode about it being a film that runs long. This time Alicia Vikander takes the lead as a disillusioned American actress coming off a broken relationship who is tired of the Hollywood life and takes this smaller challenge remaking a classic French film. Much of the first two episodes followed Mira (Vikander) and the cast and crew of the production, particularly the director Rene (Vincent Macaigne). Vikander and Macaigne are solid in their roles and the series is well produced but it wasn’t that engaging from a story standpoint. It feels like the kind of series that best appeals to those looking for commentary on the filmmaking business and the life of fame. That’s fine but doesn’t have an incredibly broad appeal.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
Tom Swift, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on The CW (Premiered May 31)
About: This new series focuses on a brilliant heir to a tech fortune who is committed to finding out who tried to kill his father during the first manned mission to Saturn. The pilot was slick enough, setting up the mystery and introducing the characters. Tian Richards does a decent job in the lead role, too. The second episode continued the mystery aspect, which is arguably what works best. The soapy aspects of the series were less interesting to me. I am no longer the target demographic for The CW, so it makes sense the series doesn’t appeal as strongly. This is a decent summer watch for the target demographic but otherwise it’s just OK.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
Ms. Marvel, Wednesdays on Disney+ (Premiered June 8)
About: Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is a girl obsessed with heroes. She lives in Jersey City, New Jersey and records videos about Captain Marvel and the rest of the Avengers. She yearns to be seen in that way, but instead lives a quiet existence, respecting her parents and trying to survive school. That’s until one day she finds a bracelet—the perfect accessory for her Avengerscon costume—and once she puts in on, she finds powers. The pilot for this series, the latest from Marvel and one that’s building toward a new film with Captain Marvel herself, is all about getting to know Kamala. Vellani does a beautiful job in the role and makes this a fun journey. Once we come to the end of the pilot we get the launch into where we’re going, but for now it’s the journey that makes this one rewarding. I enjoyed the pilot and I’m excited to see where this one is going next.
Pilot Grade: B-
Becoming Elizabeth, Sundays at 9 p.m. on Starz (Premiered June 12)
About: The world will never tire of stories surrounding the monarchy. This one takes the action way back—to 1547—where King Henry VIII has just died. That leaves things in turmoil for his three children—Edward (Oliver Zetterstrom), Mary (Romola Garai) and Elizabeth (Alicia von Ritterberg)—as the country moves on. Edward, just 9, is crowned King. The rest of the nobles are scrambling and that makes Henry’s children nervous. We’ve seen countless stories about Queen Elizabeth I, one of the most famous and influential English monarchs. The beauty of this series is that it seeks to go back and explore a different time in Elizabeth’s life. We see her as a child, third in line to the throne, and growing as a woman and a leader. At least that’s the premise. von Ritterberg does a nice job in the lead role as the pilot set the stage and introduced all the players. For those that enjoy period pieces and explorations of history, this will be a good time.
Pilot Grade: C+
First Kill, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered June 10)
About: Stories about teen romance are tricky, as are stories about supernatural monsters. With First Kill, based on the short story from V.E. Schwab, this one is about two girls born into a family legacy. Juliette (Sarah Catherine Hook) was born a vampire, and as she’s nearly an adult her heritage is beginning to take control. Calliope (Imani Lewis) was born into a family of monster hunters. She’s been trained in the craft and is used to living a rootless existence—moving from place to place to keep the people safe. When the girls’ cross paths, their family legacy and their strong attraction draws them together and sets them at odds. Which will win out? That’s the point of the series, I guess. There are some Romeo and Juliet vibes here, as well as some tropes from both supernatural dramas and teen dramas. Hook and Lewis are solid in the lead roles, while the supporting cast that includes Elizabeth Mitchell, Aubin Wise and Gracie Dzienny does a nice job, too. I liked the way the first episode was structured and the way the first two episodes pull you into the narrative. Schwab helped adapt the series along with Stephanie McFarlane, Bryce Ahart and Italome Ohikhuare, and the first few episodes move at a good pace, building the story, the world and the characters. All eight episodes of the season are available to stream, each between 45-50 minutes. It’s an easy series to watch and one that takes some well-worn tropes and does something a little new and different.
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.