Fall TV Roundup, Week 3

We’re careening toward the end of September, and the network season is rolling out. So far, it’s been a slow roll. This week we only had a handful of new shows, and only a couple of those on networks. But don’t worry, things are about to get crazy as we roll into October. If you’re trying to figure out what to watch, let this weekly post be your guide as I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this Fall. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Quantum Leap, Mondays at 10 p.m. on NBC (Premiered September 19)
For reasons surpassing understanding, this show is back. Even the show itself can’t seem to determine why it is all happening again, making note in the pilot about how unsuccessfully things went for Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula), who never made it home. Maybe Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) will fair better. The pilot was a bit of a slog, likely due to the immense amount of exposition needed to set up not only the premise but its connection to the past. It was fair to wonder if things would improve in episode two. The second episode followed a more familiar formula. There’s still some ongoing narratives and plenty of exposition. The episode also took the action to space, which seemed different and also was a little less believable. It’s OK and the cast is fine but there’s not enough charm here, which was seemingly a hallmark of the original. NBC is trying to find a nostalgic blast from the past but this didn’t work for me.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Monarch, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered September 11)
: This new series, which waited more than a year to air, also had a long wait between episodes. The high-profile soap starring Susan Sarandon and set in the world of Country Music got a debut behind Week 1 of the NFL on September 11. Ten days later, the second episode bowed in the show’s regular slot on Tuesday nights. I noted that I wasn’t taken with the overly cliched plot we got in episode one. Even the “twist” at the end felt a little stale. Well, the series doubled down on that in episode two. It was even more ponderous and soapy without being more compelling. This is a high-profile swing, but so far it looks like a miss. You have to wonder if that’s part of the reason that it took so long to finally air. Either way, there’s nothing here to keep me continuing with the series.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C-

Reboot, Streaming Tuesdays on Hulu (Premiered September 20)
: The latest comedy from Hulu is a show within a show. It centers on a young producer (Rachel Bloom) who wants to reboot a classic sitcom with a different tone years later. The cast of the original show (Johnny Knoxville, Judy Greer and Keegan Michael Key) are all happy to return, but so is the original creator (Paul Reiser). The first three episodes dropped on Tuesday, with subsequent episodes dropping weekly. The show runs about a half an hour, with an eight-episode season planned. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this is a meta concept that works well. There’s a few twists that are fun but mostly it’s the cast that makes this work. I really enjoyed Key, Knoxville and Greer, in particular. They way their coming back together on a show that made their careers, bringing years of baggage, was a lot of fun. The first few episodes made me laugh and I’m excited to see how the rest of season one shakes out.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-

Andor, Streaming Wednesdays on Disney+ (Premiered September 21)
After a long delay, we finally got the latest original series set in the Star Wars universe Wednesday as Andor released. The series, a prequel to Rogue One, focuses on one of that film’s key characters, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). The series is penned by Tony Gilroy, who wrote the original film. It’s been said this series is meant to be more like a film rather than contained episodes and having screened the first two that holds true. Three in total were released Wednesday, with additional episodes dropping weekly. The other thing about the series that feels unique is the storytelling content and style. This doesn’t feel like Star Wars. It feels more like a drama that happens to be set in space. That’s largely intentional and likely will be appealing to some and a turn off to others. So far, my questions about the series have little to do with it not feeling enough like a typical Star Wars story and more about it being slow to develop. That may owe more to the idea it’s a 12-hour movie. We’ll see. Still, I like Luna in the role and I like the potential, which is enough to hang in there even if the first two episodes weren’t thrilling.
Pilot Grade: C+
Second Episode: C+

Streaming Series:
Dahmer-Monster: The Jeffery Dahmer Story, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered September 21)
Ian Brennan and Ryan Murphy have teamed for a new mini-series on Netflix. This one tells the story of infamous serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, portrayed by frequent Murphy collaborator Evan Peters. The mini-series, which runs 10 episodes, chronicles Dahmer’s life, crimes, arrest and trial. As you might expect, it’s grim. In some ways it makes sense that the creative team that’s responsible for American Horror Story might want to wade into this story. Peters is a decent actor and is sufficiently creepy here. But this is a grim and uncomfortable series. It tracks that Dahmer’s victims have complained that the series exploits their suffering further. That certainly feels like the case watching these episodes. Despite a good cast that includes Richard Jenkins, Molly Ringwald and Niecy Nash, among others, this just doesn’t feel like something that’s going to have mass appeal. I watched two of the 10 episodes and that felt like more than enough.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C-

Thai Cave Rescue, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered September 23)
: At this point the story of the soccer team trapped by monsoon rains in a cave in Thailand is well-trod ground. There was a fantastic documentary about the efforts and even a few fictional films, most recently a Ron Howard-directed project that debuted in August on Amazon. Now comes a limited series from Netflix. This six-episode series tries to differentiate itself, at least at the beginning, by focusing more on the Thai people. It works to some extent but we all know this story and there isn’t enough here to justify spending six more hours exploring this story to learn one or two new things about the kids. This is OK, but nothing special.
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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