Winter TV Roundup, Week 11

We’re cruising through March and still getting new offerings. While the peak of the Winter season has passed, we’ve still got plenty coming the next few weeks. But what shows should you put on your Spring Break bucket list? Let this weekly post be your guide as I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this Winter. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Rain Dogs, Mondays at 10 p.m. on HBO (Premiered March 6)
: The latest from HBO is a co-production with BBC, adding to their new Spring Monday nights. It’s a half hour and some of it might be perceived as humorous, but this is anything but a comedy. It centers on Costello (Daisy May Cooper), a single mother scraping by working odd jobs, including as a sex worker. Her friend, Selby (Jack Farthing), is released from prison and tries to get his life on track, which means caring for Costello and her daughter, keeping them from harm. It’s an unconventional sort of family and an unconventional sort of family story. The episodes have been a bit grim and uneven. It’s fair to say this isn’t my cup of tea. There is probably the kernel of a potentially moving story here, but the first two episodes focus more on over-the-top scenarios and sequences.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C-

True Lies, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on CBS (Premiered March 1)
The latest for CBS is another series based on existing IP. In this case, a film from the 1990s from director James Cameron. While the basic idea and names are the same here, this one also feels like other kind of spy/comedy series we’ve seen on network television, and that’s a good thing. Here, Harry (Steve Howey) is an incredible spy who is trying to balance that work life with his life as a husband and father. In the pilot, his wife Helen (Ginger Gonzaga), discovers his spy life and ends up becoming the newest recruit. So, now Helen is a bit of a fish-out-of-water, learning spy craft on the fly while hiding this new life from her friends and family. That creates a fun blend of action and comedy, which works well in this series. I liked the leads and the supporting cast, and the premise is fun. We’ve seen something like this before on network television and it works well here. This feels like a fun addition to the CBS lineup and the kind of setup that could work for multiple seasons.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: C+

School Spirits, Streaming Thursdays on Paramount+ (Premiered March 9)
: The latest from Parmount+ is a bit of a high concept series. Maddie (Peyton List) is your typical high school student trying to fit in. The thing is, she’s also dead and trapped at her high school, where she was presumably killed. Maddie doesn’t remember what happened and soon launches a search to discover who killed her, all while adjusting to life as a trapped spirit, including a support group with others who were killed at the school. Meanwhile she’s found a way to talk to her best friend, Simon (Kristian Flores), who is helping her look for clues, including investigating her boyfriend Xavier (Spencer Macpherson). This is an eight-episode series, each around 45 minutes. The first three were released Thursday with more episodes due out weekly. This kind of high concept always presents a challenge when you think about potentially trying to stretch out over multiple seasons. But in the immediate moment, it’s about the central mystery. That should be engaging but through two episodes it’s a little blah. It’s also hard to feel like much progress has been made. List is decent in the lead role and there’s some fun moments in the first couple episodes, but the characters and story didn’t really pop. That’s a bad beat in a day and age that features plenty of content options.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Streaming Series:
Unprisoned, Now Streaming on Hulu (Premiered March 10)
The latest from Hulu focuses on a woman, Paige (Kerry Washington), who is balancing life as a working mother and therapist. She’s also got a thriving online presence to share her wisdom. When her father, Edwin (Delroy Lindo), is released after a long stretch in prison, it makes for an awkward reunion and an even more awkward living situation. Paige isn’t convinced her father has changed, but he’s committed to living a different life that supports his daughter and grandson. Can they learn to co-exist? That’s the heart of this series, which claims at the outset to be based on a true story. This is one of those series that features episodes that clock in at around a half an hour, but it’s not a comedy. There are some amusing moments, but this mostly feels like a drama. The cast is solid, and the premise is somewhat interesting. All eight episodes of the first season are now available to stream. I like Washington and I was intrigued by the concept here, but I wasn’t sucked into the characters or the world. It’s fine but doesn’t feel overly compelling. As noted above, that makes it tough for new series like this to find a foothold in an incredibly crowded landscape for scripted 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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