TV Features

Hit or Sh** Roundup: Winter 2017

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This article previously appeared on Crossfader.

It’s that time once again to gather ’round the campfire and recap this past pilot season! As always we’ve had some incredible knockouts (BIG MOUTH, MINDHUNTER), pleasant surprises (THE ORVILLE, SMILF), and those special premieres that make us consider giving up on TV as a medium altogether (NEO YOKIO). But now isn’t the time for that—here are our final verdicts on the shows that left us scratching our heads this fall! 

Hit or Sh** Roundup Discovery

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (CBS)

After a bumpy start, STAR TREK: DISCOVERY pulled itself up by its magnetic bootstraps and gave us the most high-tech Star Trek series yet. With elaborate costumes, sets, and visual effects, STAR TREK: DISCOVERY serves up a visually delicious spectacle unmatched by anything else on television. Though the season premiere promised violence and war for the rest of the series, the episodes since the pilot have managed to pivot back to the true essence of the series, despite the threat of war. Relationships and questions of morality have always been the beating heart within the show’s canon, and DISCOVERY pulls these back to the forefront, as we’d hoped it would. Between the friendship of protagonist Burnham with her roommate Tilly, the budding romance of Burnham with torture survivor Tyler, and the absa-tively adorable relationship between engineer Stamets and his partner and ship’s doctor, Culber, DISCOVERY has more than a few cringe and aww moments that endear each and every one of the characters to the viewer. With the midseason finale, it’s official: despite predicting the twist at the end of the midseason finale with flawless accuracy, Star Trek fans are finally ready to accept DISCOVERY for itself, with many even arguing it is the best of all Treks. DISCOVERY is Star Trek updated for the new decade, sure, but with its essential functions intact, as Data would say. [Nicole Barraza Keim]

Final Verdict: Hit

Hit or Sh** Roundup The Brave

THE BRAVE (NBC)

Who knows why I was as forgiving of THE BRAVE’s pilot as I was upon my initial dive into NBC’s entry in the disturbingly high spat of military dramas that hit this fall season, but needless to say, it didn’t hold up in the following weeks. I guess I still don’t feel entirely comfortable proclaiming it without a rote sense of lowest-common-denominator excitement, but truly, there are innumerable other films, if not television shows, that offer more stylized and more tightly choreographed military action, often with an engaging moral or existential question to chew over to boot. But what ultimately holds it back is its admittedly novel take on this sort of storytelling; while the expected route would be to have the team stay in one place, especially considering the pilot takes place in war-torn Syria, THE BRAVE elects to move our core group of characters from one locale to another in a series of episodic missions. This makes it easier for NBC to avoid competing with prestige television shows, offering a safety cushion of a quickly-established villain and main conflict for each episode to fall back on instead of slow and subtle narrative development, but ensures a superficial and chintzy presentation on the same token. While the team’s interpersonal relationships occasionally manage to yield briefly intriguing emotional subplots, one guess as to whether any sort of subtlety is ever present. In addition, there’s still an unsavory taste of assuming anyone who’s not a Red-Blood-Pumpin’ American is up to no good. The vaguely propagandist air of warmongering that fall network television gave us as the cherry on top, THE BRAVE is one to skip. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Verdict: Sh**

Hit or Sh** Roundup Valley

TEN DAYS IN THE VALLEY (ABC)

There’s a reason TEN DAYS IN THE VALLEY got moved to Saturday nights after just four episodes premiered. The 10-episode miniseries started out with an intriguing premise (the daughter of a television producer is kidnapped), but there are too many problems with the execution of the show that, after just a couple episodes, couldn’t be ignored. As I mentioned in my previous review, executive producer Tassie Cameron created too many subplots that would work better in an HBO series rather than a 42-minute network show. Lead Kyra Sedgwick’s acting doesn’t improve, but that may be due to the poor writing and characterization of her role as Jane Sadler. With each episode, the story gets more cliched and boring—the show ultimately just relies on a quick cliffhanger at the end of the episode to keep viewers watching. Even though I still don’t know who kidnapped Jane’s daughter, the mystery of whether TEN DAYS IN THE VALLEY is or isn’t worth the watch has been solved. [Ethan Cartwright]

Final Verdict: Sh**

Hit or Sh** Roundup Dynasty

DYNASTY (The CW)

DYNASTY, rebooted from the popular 1980s soap opera of the same name, seemed to try to be two different things in its first episode. It was either just a typical, run-of-the-mill soap opera or a show that could only get more ridiculous—and thereby a lot more fun and compelling than most other network dramas. After watching the next couple episodes, I can happily say that DYNASTY chooses the latter. There are more laugh-out-loud moments in the next episodes than in the pilot, and several fun twists that help to keep viewers on their toes. The show will never be on par with more popular or critically acclaimed shows, but it is a guilty pleasure, one that you could choose to watch week by week in eager anticipation, or one you can binge in its entirety once the season gets released on DVD or Netflix. Regardless of how you watch it, shows like DYNASTY are proof that network dramas are still very much alive and can be just as terrific or compelling as shows from HBO or FX. Hopefully, other viewers will recognize that too and make sure DYNASTY is here to stay. [Ethan Cartwright]

Final Verdict: Hit

Hit or Sh** Roundup Young Sheldon

YOUNG SHELDON (CBS)

The YOUNG SHELDON pilot introduced us to a cast of capable actors and characters who were reasonably interesting, if not a little broad. However, subsequent episodes have failed to explore them with any degree of depth and much of the humor has fallen flat. Sheldon developing a fear of solid foods after a near-choking experience was about as unfunny as it sounds, and the degree to which the other members of his family remain hapless quickly loses its charm and plausibility. Moreover, Jim Parsons’s voice over feels clunky and forced, and worse, it gets in the way of Iain Armitage’s performance. It’s trying too hard to tie itself to its sequel, and the reasoning is not based in creativity. While there are moments of levity and sweetness (the children struggling with their fear after their father suffers from a heart attack is truly touching, and Sheldon’s grandmother, MeeMaw is a pure delight), it is not enough to  balance its numerous shortcomings. YOUNG SHELDON  is too bland and infrequently funny to justify going out of your way to tune in. It’s merely inoffensive and moderately pleasant if you happen to stumble across it. In other words—it’s perfectly hitting CBS’s mark. [April French]

Final Verdict: Sh**

Hit or Sh** Roundup Ghosted

GHOSTED (FOX)

The obvious comedic chemistry in GHOSTED between Adam Scott and Craig Robinson is not to be ignored, but it seems irresponsible to put the entire show’s success on the dynamic duo’s shoulders. The show gives its secondary cast little, if anything to do; characters like the smart-ass tech expert Annie (Amber Stevens West) and the hard-boiled Captain LaFrey (Ally Walker) are both woefully underutilized for no particular reason. It’s that haphazard mishandling of its resources that leaves GHOSTED feeling empty after eight episodes, but help might be on the way: recent news confirmed that current showrunner Kevin Etten has been removed in favor of THE OFFICE and THE NEWSROOM Executive Producer Paul Lieberstein, and GHOSTED has gotten a six-episode extension for its first season. Hopefully, this will help refocus the narrative beyond the current monster-of-the-week style, which has done very little to shed light on lingering plot points I’ve been asking since the pilot aired—like why Max’s wife has gone full sleeper agent or what, if anything, The Bureau Underground is really looking for. I’m hoping for GHOSTED to get the full PARKS AND RECREATION turnaround treatment, especially considering the show has surprisingly good ratings despite all its misgivings. I’ll stay hopeful, but I won’t believe it until I see it. Go watch THE ORVILLE instead. [Angelo Rivera]

Final Verdict: Sh**

Hit or Sh** Roundup The Mayor

THE MAYOR (ABC)

THE MAYOR’s pilot gave us a rushed glimpse into the what-if scenario posed by Kanye West, in which a rapper with no public office experience runs, and wins, an elected position. By the end of the pilot, it was uncertain as to whether or not Brandon Michael Hall, who plays the lead, Chance the Rapper-inspired rapper, could carry the show despite Lea Michele’s lackluster performance and poor pacing. But as the show continues into Courtney’s stint as mayor, the more we are treated to what the heart of the show really is. Courtney is a boy that—though naive and selfish he can often be—ultimately cares for the community he grew up in, and would not let his privileged counterparts in City Halll get in the way of what he believes is the best for his city. For the boy who grew up with next to nothing,and swears that music was the one thing that kept him out of trouble, he fights with the city council to permit giving the public elementary school a new music center. It is the warmth that Courtney exudes that lands better than Lea Michele’s one liners. In fact, there is plenty of room to argue that Courtney’s two best friends and mother deserve more screen time than the Broadway star does. Yet, she can easily be overlooked for the sake of THE MAYOR’s overall charm.  [Michelle Vera]

Verdict: Hit

Crossfader Staff
The good people of Crossfader Magazine.

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