Winter TV Roundup, Week 5

We’re racing through January and turning the corner into February, and the torrent of new shows is picking up. This week included some anticipated new releases, but which are worth checking out? Let this weekly post be your guide as I review the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this Winter. Don’t see a new show below? Check previous weeks.

The Watchful Eye, Mondays at 9 p.m. on Freeform (Premiered January 30)
: The latest series from Freeform features a lot of things mashed into one package. You have a haunted building, a suspicious death or two, a treasure hunt, the idle lives of rich people and the idle lives of nannies, all crammed into one tight package. The question is: where is it all leading. After two episodes, I’m still not sure. I’m also not totally sure what the title is supposed to mean, though it could reference a lot of things. Is it about the building? Is it about the uber-controlling family? Is it about the woman masquerading as one thing to make a fortune? That’s part of the mystery, I guess. The problem here is it’s a lot of things with no one thing standing out as particularly compelling, even through two hours I can’t quite tell what we’re building towards and worse yet, I don’t much care. This is an ambitious swing but it doesn’t land as it should. It’s OK, and likely will have some appeal to the Freeform demographic, but it doesn’t stand out in a crowded television landscape.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Accused, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on FOX (Premiered January 22)
: This new series, adapted from a British series by Howard Gordon, follows a new case each week. The plot, characters and cast are different, giving this a different kind of vibe from your typical network series. In the second episode, which aired in its normal timeslot on Tuesdays following 9-1-1: Lone Star, the case focused on a deaf surrogate who tried to intervene when the child she carried seemed to be in danger of a bad decision from her parents. The case provides you a chance to see through the eyes of the accused, watching the story play and leaving you to make up your own mind when the verdict is read. Was justice served? This second episode, directed by Marlee Matlin, was incredibly emotionally engaging. Both episodes I’ve seen hook you with a compelling story that is anything but straightforward. The casting has been strong and the writing crisp. This has been a great addition to the network landscape.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: B

The 1619 Project, Streaming Thursdays on Hulu (Premiered January 26)
: What began as a series of essays in the New York Times turned into a movement, a book and now a mini-series on Hulu. The originator of the project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, takes the lead as the narrator and interviewer on this docuseries, which saw two episodes released Thursday and two more episodes released each of the next two weeks. For those not familiar with the project, this is a great entry point. Hannah-Jones takes a different chapter topic in each episode, exploring the material in the book and adding interviews that expound on the topic. I enjoyed the first two episodes the same way I’ve enjoyed going through the book. It’s an eye-opening look at America, history, culture and our identity. It’s something everyone should experience. This documentary is worth diving into each week.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: B

Wolf Pack, Streaming Thursdays on Paramount+ (Premiered January 26)
: The latest series from Paramount+ dropped on the same day as the Teen Wolf film, creating a wolf-centric day of programming. This was mildly better than the movie, but still didn’t flow at a good pace in pilot form. The episode spans nearly an hour and is meant to set up this cinematic world, based on the novel from Edo van Belkom. Despite the presence of Sarah Michelle Gellar, this is mostly supposed to be a teen drama about a group of classmates that become werewolves. That will likely have a specific audience, and I’m probably not the target demographic. The first episode felt slow and I wasn’t drawn into the characters or story. Perhaps that will change in episode two, as the last 10 minutes of the pilot was the most interesting for me. To this point, it feels like something of a miss.
Pilot Grade: C-

Poker Face, Streaming Thursdays on Peacock (Premiered January 26)
: Peacock’s new original series is something of a throwback, a Columbo style detective story from Rian Johnson, who created the series and directs several episodes, including the first two. It focuses on Charlie Cale (Natasha Lyonne), who is something of a gifted detective. She has a knack for reading people and putting clues together. In the past, she used that gift to help her win big at the table. That got her in hot water, and the pilot begins she’s working a menial job at a small casino. When a co-worker is killed, Charlie puts together the pieces. That rankles her employer, forcing her to go on the run. Subsequent episodes find Charlie plying her gift—and getting into more hot water—at different stops around the country. The series offers a cavalcade of special guest stars, with each episode mostly a self-contained mystery. Lyonne is great in the lead role and I love the style of the series. Peacock released four of a planned 10-episode season on Thursday, and I watched them all. The writing and direction are crisp, the performances are solid and the style is captivating and engaging. This is one of my favorite new shows of the year so far and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here. New episodes drop Thursdays on Peacock.
Pilot Grade: B+
Second Episode: B

Shrinking, Streaming Fridays on Apple TV+ (Premiered January 27)
: Apple TV’s latest is a half hour about a grieving therapist trying to do some good for his clients while putting his own life back together. It comes from Jason Segel, Bill Lawrence and Brett Goldstein, the latter two being a creative force behind Ted Lasso. Segel takes the lead as Jimmy, a therapist whose wife died a year earlier. He’s still in a funk as a father, as a man and as a therapist, but he’s starting to come out of it. He applies an unorthodox method with his clients that seems to get some results, but also lands him in some trouble with his boss and mentor, Paul (Harrison Ford). The first two episodes, released Friday, showcase Paul trying to right the ship and learn to be a friend, therapist and father again. The supporting cast includes Christa Miller and Jessica Williams, among others, and all do a nice job. I enjoyed Segel in the lead role, and particularly enjoyed Luke Tennie as his patient Sean. The first two episodes of a planned 10-episode season moved at a good pace and featured a nice blend of humor and pathos. Apple TV+ has had a great run the past few years with creative and engaging original programming and this feels like another win. New episodes release Fridays.
Pilot Grade: B
Second Episode: B

Streaming Series:
Extraordinary, Now Streaming on Hulu
Set in a world where most everyone develops a superpower on or after their 18th Birthday, Jen (Máiréad Tyers) has waited years with no answers. She lives with her friends Carrie (Sofia Oxenham) and Kash (Bilal Hasna) carving out an existence with a menial job and trying to navigate a world in which she’s an outsider. There’s a strong sense of humor here and some of the powers as portrayed are quite clever. I also enjoyed Tyers in the lead role, and the half-hour format moves at a good pace. The entire eight-episode season is available, making for a relatively quick binge. I liked pieces of the idea and execution but I wasn’t fully hooked by the world and I didn’t get a strong sense in the first two episodes of where this is going and why I should be hooked. It’s clever and quirky but it isn’t as compelling as I’d hope.
Pilot Grade:
Second Episode:

Lockwood & Co, Now Streaming on Netflix (Premiered January 27)
: The latest Netflix series is based on the Young Adult novel of the same name from Jonathan Stroud. It’s set in a world where ghosts are prevalent and hunters. One such hunter, Lucy (Ruby Stokes), is sent into the profession by her cold mother at a young age. After plying her skills and working hard, she’s set for bigger things when an accident takes out her team. Lucy becomes something of a pariah, but she’s taken on by young Anthony Lockwood (Cameron Chapman), who is forming his own agency. Together Lucy, Lockwood and his friend George (Ali Hadji-Heshmati) start solving their own cases, but not without a few hiccups along the way. This will come with a built-in audience owing to the novel, and the eight-episode season is bingeable. All episodes are available, each about 45 minutes and moving at a solid clip. I enjoyed the pilot and second episode and the set up to the world. Stokes and Chapman have good chemistry and this could make for an enjoyable series for the target audience. It wasn’t incredible, but it’s got some humor and decent action, making for a compelling enough original series.
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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