Every fall, I always make a valiant attempt to watch at least one episode of every new series. Even with DVR, I usually tap out before mid-October. While very few pilots piqued by interest this season, even a failed tradition is a tradition. And since I’m stubborn enough not to learn anything from the past, I’ve also decided to write as many reviews of those shows as possible.
There are far too many TV shows and so little time, so here are 6 reviews of new shows in 200 words or less...
The Rundown with Robin Thede, BET
What’s shadier than a solar eclipse, as ethereal as a black unicorn, and more woke than Oprah on chugging espressos? The Rundown with Robin Thede on BET. *bodyrolls*
BET’s forray into the late-night talk show game not only stars a black woman, but the fearless and fucking funny headwriter from The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. Her headlining show, which is part-sketch, part-pop culture and 100% blackity-black, is the colorful and provocative boost that late-night has needed since the trendy glitz has long since expired from Andy Cohen’s What What Happens Live (and most of the white guy hosts spend as much time kissing and petting the racists as they do criticizing them).
The RunDown With Robin Thede sadly only airs once a week, but that gives Thede time to film hilarious skits that imagine a world without micro-aggressions or staging pop-up concerts in local bodegas.
While celebrity guests could spice up the show and extend it to an hour-long format, Thede has enough presence, hilarity and petty black girl magic that you don't miss them at all. Blessed be the baby hair. Grade: A
Marvel's Inhumans, ABC
After dominating Thursdays with Shonda Rhimes’ lit #TGIT line-up, ABC was due some misfortune and man did they get a truckload. Inhumans, starring Serinda Swan, is one of the worst pilots I’ve ever suffered through, failing spectacularly on all fronts, including writing, acting and production.
A franchise involving aliens as exotic as Fox News anchors, a giant bulldog, a king who killed his parents and a queen with magical hair may not be the best choice for a TV adaptation, especially when the superhero craze is weakening faster than Superman exposed to kryptonite.
Watching the torturous two-hour premiere is as inhumane as the orange muppet on Swan’s head. At least that was put out of its misery before the second act. Grade: F-
The Brave, NBC
It’s ironic that in the reign of the Evil Pumpkin, who spent the better part of his campaign and presidency disrespecting gold star families and POWs, that military shows have become just as trendy as pointless re-boots. NBC’s The Brave is one of three shows on broadcast TV alone. Starring Anne Heche and Mike Vogel, it centers on a team of elite soldiers and their intense military missions.
The Brave wins all the medals in building nail-bating suspense with heightened stakes, and having a woman--Natacha Karam--included in the insane action.
However, there are moments when it feels like propaganda ripped from the headlines: the talk of Islamic terrorism decapitating a kidnapped American white woman is one massively unnecessary and predictable moment in the pilot. Though its missing the complexity one would hope in with situations like this, newer episodes provide enough plausible twists and avoid feeling overtly ignorant or too predictable.
Unfortunately, all of the action of military badassery leaves little room for characterization. All of the players are flat caricatures from ever military movie ever made. If The Brave continues its run as a stark procedural, it’ll be called The Boring faster than you can say "Hoo-ahh!" Grade: C+
If the ailing sitcom genre dies, the malignant 9JKL will be the final nail in its coffin. The pilot bizarrely zips over main character Josh's divorce and the cancellation of his show—a procedural called Blind Cop (that I’d gleefully watch over another episode of this flaming dumpster fire of a pilot) to plunk us in the middle of this ridiculous arrangement in which Josh lives in between his grown brother and his elderly parents in a NYC apartment building. It's also utterly depressing that Elliott Gould is still playing the putzy overbearing dad as he’s done since Friends nearly 20 years ago.
I’d rather watch a documentary about the color beige than anything starring Mark Feuerstein, who couldn’t produce chemistry with another actor if he were trapped in a lab with Walter White.
CBS specializes in the iceberg lettuce equivalent to TV programming, so I didn’t expect producers to realize that a show centered on the wisecracking bellman, played by Matt Murray, who has to deal with the WASPy shenanigans of the building’s posh residents would be infinitely more original, dynamic and watchable than 9JKL. Let’s see how long it takes for this crime against sitcoms to get evicted. Grade: F
The Gifted, Fox
SSG has a love-hate relationship with Fox’s “The Gifted”—another comic adaption that benefits from being X-Men adjacent. I absolutely adore the show’s fantastic creativity and seamless, cinematic special effects (Episode 2 is just sublime), Coby Bell, Jamie Chung and Emma Dumont are stand-outs among a great cast.
However, witnessing the “awokening” of a white family who has actively oppressed “mutants” for years and for profit is uncomfortable and infuriating for viewers lacking privilege. Steven Moyer’s (True Blood) passion-less performance as a former mutant-prosecutor makes me wish Bell’s talent was put to better use in the role of Reed Strucker. It's also groan-worthingly frustrating that nearly all of the lady mutants have their powers dampened somehow: Lorna/Polaris is imprisoned. Blink’s illness left hers severely weakened. And Lauren is sidelined by her age.
The Gifted has immense potential to be both thrilling and meaningful without being too preachy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to draw parallels to how “muties” are treated to nearly any other subset in America. So as much as I’m bothered by the entitlement and indifference of the Strucker family, I know they representative real people. Never forget thatThe Gifted's power truly lies in the special people fighting for their rights to exist. #Resist
The Mayor, ABC
If only art could imitate life. ABC's The Mayor is a moden feel-good comedy centering on Courtney Rose, an up-and-coming rapper who runs for mayor for the publicity and wins. Rose approaches his new job like a performer, using his charisma, intelligence and ingenuity to uplift his community, like a local Chance The Rapper.
The Mayor has the adventurous vibe of Parks and Recreation as viewers discover the gonzo customs and characters in a bizarre small town desperately in need of leadership. Brandon Michael Hall is electric as MC Mayor Rose, and I’m thrilled to see Yvette Nicole Brown to find a role worthy of her comedic chops.
I only want to recall this warm-fuzzy comedy when scene with Lea Michele's Val run too long. As Courtney’s type-A chief of staff, she hits the same irksome notes that she did in Glee. However, when Michele is stripped of her enormous vocal talent, it only highlights her limited acting abilities. For now, though, as the show hones its delightful comedy and rapid pace, The Mayor’s approval rating remains high. Grade: B+
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Small Screen Girl
I am an unabashed pop culture and TV-aholic with no plans to ever seek treatment. Explore this blog and see just how deep my obsession goes.