Fall TV Roundup, Week 1

We’re past Labor Day, the NFL Season is under way and that can only mean one thing—the Fall TV Season is here. With the flood of content coming your way, it can be hard to know what’s worth your time. Let this weekly post be your guide as I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this Fall!

Tuesdays:
Monarch, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered September 11)
About
: The first salvo of the new Fall season on Network came Sunday night as Monarch debuted following the first Sunday slate of football. It’s a big Prime Time soap set in the world of country music, following the first family of country music. The Roman family are stars, well at least Matriarch Dottie (Susan Sarandon) and her husband Albie (Trace Adkins) are royalty. They’re getting a lifetime achievement award and, with Dottie sick and terminal, she’s looking to hand off to the next generation—including her three children (Anna Friel, Joshua Sasse and Beth Ditto). But scandal and in-fighting lurk around every corner. This is a high-profile addition to the FOX lineup. It wants to be a country version of Empire. The pilot wasn’t that good and I’d wager if you’re not a fan of country music, you’ll like it even less. It felt too melodramatic with not enough pay off. Perhaps it steps up, but the pilot made it clear to me why FOX has had it sitting on a shelf for a year.
Pilot Grade: C

Wednesdays:
Tell Me Lies, Streaming Wednesdays on Hulu (Premiered September 7)
About:
Grace Van Patten is Lucy, a woman whose tumultuous relationship with Stephen (Jackson White) is at the heart of this racy new drama. The series is adapted by Meaghan Oppenheimer from the novel by Carol Lovering. It begins in 2015 with Lucy attending her friend’s engagement party. She’s leery of seeing Stephen but charged by it at the same time. We quickly flash back eight years to how the two met and began a steamy affair while Lucy attended college, diving into how she met her friends and the major events that have shaped their journey. And there’s plenty of pretty young people having sex… a lot of sex. In fact, it seems often like the series is most interested in loosely using the plot to set up these sequences, many of which feature Van Patten and/or White. They are fine, but the chemistry isn’t as strong as the story would like you to believe. In fact, the whole thing feels fairly pedestrian. The first three episodes are available to stream, all between 45-55 minutes. I watched the first two and didn’t feel much, if any, connection to the characters. It’s meant to be a steamy hook for viewers, but its storytelling is too flaccid to make that work.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Sundays:
American Gigolo, Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime (Premiered September 11)
About
: This one is a sequel series, which jumps 15 years into the future to see what happened to Julian Kaye. In the original film, Richard Gere played the titular role in a Paul Schrader film. This Showtime series was developed by David Hollander and stars Jon Bernthal in the role. We pick up 15 years later as Kaye is in prison for a crime he can’t remember. Early on, the detective (Rosie O’Donnell) who put him in there comes to let him know he was wrongly convicted. Now a free man, Kaye is stuck trying to find a way forward, reconciling with his painful past and trying to figure out who framed him for murder and took away 15 years of his life. He’s also trying to connect with the one woman (Gretchen Mol) that he ever truly loved. This is an interesting concept and a grittier series than some might expect with the title. In that sense, Bernthal feels like the perfect choice as the lead. He’s a tortured soul trying to make his way in a world he no longer recognizes. The pilot was moody and had some engaging moments. The ongoing mystery is a solid hook here as well. It wasn’t incredible but it was enough to make me curious to see where this is headed, if only to appreciate the solid lead work from Bernthal.
Pilot Grade: C+

The Serpent Queen, Sundays at 8 p.m. on Starz (Premiered September 11)
About
: This new series for Starz finds Samantha Morton as Catherine de Medici, who married into the French Court and ruled for 30 years. It’s based on the novel from Leonie Freida and was adapted by Justin Haythe into an eight-episode mini-series. We pick up with an older Catherine who has a reputation and scares most people. A young servant, Rahima (Sennia Nanua) is sent with food and quickly intrigues the queen, who begins to tell her own tale of how she got to this point. And a story is born. Morton is a compelling actress, but it’s harder when she’s relegated to the role of narrator. Perhaps that will be less true moving forward, but that remains to be seen. Otherwise, this feels like a somewhat stock telling of a story from medieval Europe. The pilot was OK, but not enough to help it stand out in a crowded entertainment landscape.
Pilot Grade: C

Streaming Series:
Cars on the Road, Now Streaming on Disney+ (Premiered September 8)
About
: The latest from Disney+ is a new streaming series set in the world of Cars. It finds friends Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and the two truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) hitting the road for a series of new adventures. The shorts are 10-12 minutes, so bite-sized chunks. The second even featured an homage to The Shining, which was unexpected and intriguing. It was nice to have all the original theatrical voices back and this seems like a bit of harmless fun for those who were fans of the film. It’s also a quick binge.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+

Wedding Season, Now Streaming on Hulu (Premiered September 8)
About:
It’s the classic story of boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy tries to break up girl’s wedding and is rebuffed, then boy finds himself as a suspect in the murder spree that followed at girl’s wedding. You know, standard stuff. That wild set up is how we’re introduced to Stefan (Gavin Drea) and Katie (Rosa Salazar). What follows is something of a wild adventure. The series runs eight episodes for the season, with all episodes available to stream. The episodes are around a half an hour, spending time in the present and Katie and Stefan find themselves running from the law and trying to find out what happened and flashbacks that show how they met and formed a connection. It works because of the chemistry between Drea and Salazar and the great performance from Salazar. It’s weird, wacky and oddly compelling. I enjoyed the first two episodes, which were a breezy watch. This seems like the kind of bingeable series that could be a nice way to kick off the Fall season.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-

Last Light, Now Streaming on Peacock (Premiered September 9)
About
: I know, by law, I have to watch series that star TV’s Matthew Fox. It’s the least I can do, really. Sometimes those shows are good. Last Light isn’t. It’s a five-episode limited series from the U.K. that finds Fox as a scientist working for a large oil company. He’s based in England, where he lives with his wife (Joanne Froggatt) and his kids. As his wife heads to France with his son for a surgery, Andy (Fox) is called to the Middle East on assignment. When a fuel issue causes a worldwide panic, Andy has to find answers and get to his family, who are just trying to survive. This thriller spans five episodes, each about 45 minutes. It’s an engaging set up but the first couple episodes were dry. This has been the trend with series Peacock has brought in from overseas and it holds true here. I wanted to like it, but alas poor Matthew, I didn’t.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

The Imperfects, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered September 9)
About
: This series is going somewhat under-the-radar with an unceremonious launch this Friday. All 10 episodes are available to stream, each about 45 minutes. It focuses on a trio of young adults, the musician Tilda (Morgan Taylor Campbell), the scientist Abbi (Rhianna Jagpal) and the artist Juan (Inaki Godoy), who are all struggling. They have a genetic disorder and rely on their medicine to stay normal. When the supply runs out, each begins to experience a side effect. When the doctor treating them (Rhys Nicholson) disappears, they turn to his former partner (Italia Ricci) to find him and find a cure. It’s an interesting set up and there is some humor and originality in the premise. The first two episodes moved at a good pace and there’s some promise here. For those that like something a little different, this might hit the sweet spot. It wasn’t high profile but it was entertaining.
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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