When does Summer really begin? Well, if you’re. in the entertainment realm, it’s the beginning of May, when the Network TV season ends, and the blockbusters begin at theaters. So, this week we begin our Summer TV Roundup. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of new shows to choose from, the only question is what can you fit into your schedule? Let this weekly post be your guide as I look at the pilot and second episode of new scripted series this summer.
White House Plumbers, Mondays at 9 p.m. on HBO (Premiered May 1)
About: It’s been 50 years but the break-in at the Watergate Hotel and its aftermath continue to fascinate audiences. We’ve seen it covered in movies and shows throughout history, as recently as last year. Still, we keep getting new explorations. That’s what we get in White House Plumbers, which picks up the narrative prior to the break-in and shows how E. Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and G. Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux) became a team and embarked on a mission that would change history. The pilot begins with a break-in attempt—one of four as it turns out—before spinning the action back a year. Harrelson and Theroux make for a fun comedic duo and the tone of the series works well. The pilot is crisp and sets the action in motion. Though we’ve seen these characters and this story before, the production here puts a slightly different spin on it. This feels like a quality addition to the HBO Monday night lineup.
Pilot Grade: B-
A Small Light, Mondays at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel (Premiered May 1)
About: At this point we’re all familiar with Anne Frank and her diary. It’s a story that continues to move readers and audiences decades after the fateful true events that led to the diary and, ultimately, claimed Anne’s life. This new series for National Geographic explores the saga of the Frank family, but puts the focus on Miep Gies (Bel Powley), who works for Otto Frank (Liev Schreiber) and puts herself at hazard to help hide the family during the height of World War II. It remains a stirring tale and this telling of it is powerful. Powley does a wonderful job in the lead role. The first two episodes aired Monday with the rest of the six-episode mini-series airing two episodes a week the next two Mondays. It’s worth checking out as it’s a story we should never forget.
Pilot Grade: B-
Second Episode: B-
Saint X, Streaming Wednesdays on Hulu (Premiered April 26)
About: This new series from Hulu is based on the book from Alexis Schaitkin. It’s a story set-in two-time periods, focused on a woman who is haunted by the death of her sister 20 years earlier. In the present, Emily (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is a video editor who is trying to lead a normal life despite the trauma of her past. When she comes across one of the men accused of killing her sister, now a driver in New York City, where Emily lives. The encounter shakes her and has her thinking about the past. In the past, we head to the Caribbean, where Emily’s sister, Alison (West Duchovny), is wild and free on vacation until she goes missing. We see how the trip played out, her disappearance and the events surrounding her death. The first two episodes split their time between the past and present, playing out both stories in pieces. We’re seeing it mostly through Emily’s eyes in both timelines and she reconciles her memories and the trauma that has shaped her present. The series is eight episodes, with the first three available now and new episodes dropping weekly. It’s an interesting story that plays out something like a true crime exploration. Debnam-Carey is strong in the lead role, but it wasn’t as engaging as some stories of this type have been. It’s an interesting idea but I wasn’t as taken with the story.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
Love & Death, Streaming Thursdays on HBO Max (Premiered April 27)
About: From creator David E. Kelley, this series takes the action back to the late 1970s to tell the story of Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen), and the affair she had with a friend’s husband (Jesse Plemmons) that led to her committing murder with an axe. If that story sounds familiar it’s because you’ve seen it told before. It’s a true story, and it’s been told before, recently. In fact, around this time last year the Hulu mini-series Candy, starring Jessica Biel, covered largely the same ground. So, this series enters the fray a bit late and feels a bit too familiar. This version does a nice job of spinning back to 1978, with the first two of seven episodes focusing on the people, the world and the affair at the center of the tale. Olsen and Plemmons are solid in the lead roles and the period production is strong. But the story feels overly familiar and a bit redundant given the recency of the last version of it. The first three episodes are available to stream now with subsequent episodes dropping each Thursday.
Pilot Episode: B-
Second Episode: C+
Citadel, Streaming Fridays on Prime Video (Premiered April 28)
About: Citadel is a big swing from Prime Video. It’s reportedly one of the most expensive shows ever, costing the streamer $300 million. It’s a high-stakes, big action drama from the Russo Brothers. The first two episodes dropped Friday, with subsequent episodes of the six-episode season dropping weekly. The episodes aren’t a long commitment, with the first two running barely 40 minutes. There’s plenty of action and strong cast that includes Stanley Tucci, Priyanka Chopra Jones, Richard Madden and Lesley Manville. It’s got all the ingredients for something special, being a spy drama that takes the action around the globe. But the finished product here is mostly just OK. Despite a big production and marketing campaign there’s little sizzle in the first two episodes. It’s a short commitment and likely plenty will want to see how it finishes but it feels like something of a high-profile miss for Prime Video.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C
Fatal Attraction, Streaming Sundays on Paramount+ (Premiered April 30
About: Another original series that’s based on previously done material, something of a theme here to kick-start the summer season. This series follows template offered by the 1987 film featuring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. This series moves the action to the present day, in part, while also taking place in 2008, where District Attorney Dan Gallagher (Joshua Jackson) is a successful lawyer, with designs on becoming a judge, who has just turned 40. He’s married and has a daughter. That doesn’t stop him from forming a connection with a co-worker, Alex Forrest (Lizzy Caplan), and starting an affair over a weekend when his family is away. In the present, Dan is being released from prison after 15 years, convicted of Alex’s murder. Now that he’s out, his wife (Amanda Peet) has moved on and his daughter (Alyssa Jirrels) is something of a stranger. He seeks to re-connect and prove once-and-for-all that he didn’t commit the crime that robbed him of 15 years of his life. It’s an interesting twist of the infamous story, and one that will help stretch it out to series length. The first three episodes of a planned eight-episode season dropped Sunday, with subsequent episodes dropping weekly. It’s an interesting approach but your interest in it will likely depend on how you feel about this story. It’s OK, and the mystery element has some appeal, but it’s still a difficult story to sink into.
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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