Summer TV Roundup

Week 6

Summer officially begins today (the longest day of the year, also the hottest in Colorado). But summer on the small screen began long ago. Still, the new shows keep on coming. So here’s a look at the new scripted series that premiered this week. In these posts I review the pilot and second episode of these new scripted series of summer. Don’t see a new show listed below? Check previous weeks.

Wednesday Nights:
Blood Drive, Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on SyFy (Premiered June 14)
Grindhouse is a style of filmmaking popular in the 1970s that was brought back to relevance a few years ago thanks to Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Those are filmmakers that, whether you like their work or not, know how to put together a good story. SyFy seems to have forgotten that and latched on the idea of swearing, sex and pornographic levels of violence to make a new TV show. This show is aggressively bad in terms of plot, characters, and reasons to care about it, and just plain aggressive in terms of content standards. SyFy is a basic cable network. A 10 p.m. show for the Eastern Time Zone is often earlier for others (this show aired at 8 p.m. for me), yet the series proudly has sex and violence that would make HBO network censors blush, and dropped the F word like it was water. To say I was unprepared is putting it lightly. To say I was disgusted by the first hour is putting it kindly. Unless you’re scrapping the bottom of the barrel, this is a hard pass.
Pilot Grade: F

Sunday Nights:
My Mother and Other Strangers, Sundays at 8 p.m. on PBS (Premiered June 18)
This latest import from across the pond is a five-episode series set on a little island in Ireland in 1943. There’s plenty of World War II action and themes, and the story is basically being told from the point-of-view of a young boy remembering it all. The first episode was about his older sister’s ill-fated romance with an American pilot, and mostly about the exploits of his mother (Hattie Morahan). The first episode was fine, but a touch boring. WWII is well trod ground by this point for shows and movies. To stand out, you have to have a real compelling story to tell. This one doesn’t seem to.
Pilot Grade: C

Claws, Sundays at 10 p.m. on TNT (Premiered June 11)
TNT is stretching its original content brand. Between “Claws” and “Animal Kingdom,” which is in the midst of its second season, TNT has moved from the cop procedural to following the criminals and their empires. That’s to be lauded. But, as with “Animal Kingdom,” this just isn’t for me. “Claws” follows a group of ladies working at a nail salon in Florida and also moonlighting in a variety of criminal enterprises. The cast is solid, with Niecy Nash and Carrie Preston headlining the cast, and “Breaking Bad” alum Dean Norris in a primary villain role. At least I think that’s what he’s supposed to be. This show was called the new “Breaking Bad,” but the characters and story don’t feel at that level. This is a lot more camp, and not nearly as grounded in the universe it’s produced. This will probably appeal to some, but I thought the first two episodes were a little weak.
Pilot Grade: C-
Second Episode: C-

Streaming Series:
Cardinal, Now streaming on Hulu (Premiered June 16)
This crime drama starring Billy Campbell comes from Canada, where the full season has already aired. All six episodes of the series dropped on Friday and are available to American audiences now, too. The show follows a detective (Campbell) who nearly spiraled out on his career over a missing girl and the investigation into what happened. When her body turns up in the pilot, he’s re-assigned to the case which threatens to consume him again. Meanwhile, he’s been assigned a new partner who is also investigating him for misconduct on the sly. There’s a lot going on here, and much of it feels familiar and cliche. Campbell is a decent actor, but this series feels a little boring. After two episodes I wasn’t taken with the case or the stakes in the world. For those that like cold locations and crime dramas, this will have some appeal. But if you’re looking for something fresh or compelling, this misses the mark.
Pilot Grade: C
Second Episode: C

Matthew Fox is an avowed media junkie. Follow him on Twitter at Knighthawk7734. You can find more of his original content on the Fantasy Life Blog or on his Personal Blog.

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