SUMMER TV: New Shows - Reviews

What to watch, what not to what? 

It is hard to tell with summer TV. Cable shows are usually awesome while broadcast shows are mostly burn offs the networks can’t wait to cancel. Once in a while they pick one or two shows and create a lot of buzz around them. Sometimes they turn out to be good, most of the times they are awful.

I already wrote about the Five New Summer Shows I was looking forward to, but I am sure some of them will turn out to be flops.

Here is what I think about the new shows after actually watching them. I’ll update this list with reviews of most new shows right after they premiere.

Orange is the New Black

Verdict: Very original

The latest Netflix original show and this time around it is a comedy. I thought this comedy was wildly refreshing. It tells the story of Piper Chapman, a pretty suburban blonde lady who had a rebellious face when she was in her 20s. During that time of her life she had a relationship with a Lesbian woman who also happened to run a drug ring. Piper did one dead drop for her lesbian lover before she ran away and became the “nice blonde lady she was supposed to be”. After more than a decade she got engaged to a nice man and lived a pretty uneventful life… until they found out about her criminal past and sent her to jail. Comedy ensues. This is not your typical mainstream comedy but I thought it was original and very funny. It’s a new concept, it is a little dark but it is not preposterous [as many other non-comedy comedies are]. Plus I think Laura Preppon is great! And I love having her back on the screen.

Should you watch it? Yes yes yes. The entire first season is on Netflix all over the world and the show has already been renewed for a second season. Definitely worth binging… or just regular streaming as I plan to do. 


Verdict: There are worse things on TV

I watched this the other day on Hulu and it is almost not worth reviewing, but I’ll do it anyway. Basically this show is about a recently divorced woman who runs a summer camp for families. It is not AS family oriented as you might think, since it focus on the relationships of the older 20 something camp counselors and the parents. It wasn’t a bad show, but not nearly as exciting as a summer show needs to be to become a hit. Best thing about it is Rachel Griffiths, but that’s pretty much it.

Should you watch it? No, I don’t think so. You are not missing out. 

The Bridge

Verdict: Interesting

The Bridge is a show about a series of crimes taking place on both sides of the US-Mexico border. As a result, an American by-the-book-detective is forced to team up with a Mexican cop. I thought the pilot was pretty solid. It was different enough to other cop shows to keep me interested and it actually has a serialized story-line, which I prefer. It is very dark, but subtle. The tone reminded me a lot of The Killing. I guess that makes sense, since The Killing is a re-make of a Danish show and The Bridge was adapted from a Danish/Swedish TV series. Besides the gritty understated tone, there were a couple other things I liked about this version. I appreciate the fact that they got a genuine Mexican actor (Demian Bichir) that speaks with a Mexican accent, instead of the usual American actor with Latino roots who sounds really funny when speaking Spanish. Ironically, Diane Kruger, who plays the American cop, is actually German. Anyway, I am hooked with the mystery, the actors were great in their respective roles, the characters were multilayered and intriguing and I loved how they played with the social disparities between the US and Mexico. There seems to be room for a lot of interesting stories. I am excited to keep watching. FX is really on a roll with their gritty dramas (Sons of Anarchy, Justified, The Americans).

Should you watch it? Absolutely, it is probably my favorite [and arguably the best] summer show so far. If you didn’t watch the premiere last Wednesday, you can catch the episode FREE on Hulu.

Ray Donovan

Verdict: It is not THAT bad, but it is not as good as it should be either

Ray Donovan is a show about a “fixer” for the rich and famous with a complicated relationship with his father. It has Live Schreiber, it has Jon Voight, it promises an antihero protagonist and it is on Showtime. It should be like Scandal but better and grittier, except it is not. I had high hopes for this show. Dexter is finishing its run after this season and I assumed Showtime was trying to fill the void with the next big hit. The story of a “fixer” isn’t the most original, since we’ve been watching that for the past two years on Scandal. I expected Ray Donovan to be edgier and more shocking than Scandal, but that’s really not the case. While Olivia Pope is concerned with National Security, Ray Donovan worries about TMZ. Also, after watching Scandal, which moves a million miles per hour, the pace of Ray Donovan just felt SO slow… But OK, this show is clearly not the cable version of Scandal so time to let go of that comparison. All the reviews I’ve read so far called the show “mediocre” and I understand why. It really isn’t all bad and it is a little unfair to write it off after only one episode. The cast was great and it had interesting stuff, but truthfully the pilot was boring at many points. Instead of being gritty and exhilarating, it was overly somber and a little depressing. Definitely not what I was hoping for.

Should you watch it? Yeah… until you get bored at least. It may get better and there are worse things on TV, but don’t expect it to become your new favorite show.

Under the dome

Verdict: Interesting enough, it could be good I guess…

Under the Dome is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name and it is about a small town suddenly enveloped by an invisible “dome” which completely isolates it from the rest of the world. I actually thought the pilot was interesting. Wasn’t the most impressive thing I’ve seen on TV, but they set up the plot and I am curious to see what happens next. You might say I liked it but… and this is a big but, I have not read the book. Whenever I see a movie or a TV show about a book I have previously read, I usually hate it (Game of Thrones being the exception). So I don’t know if the show is doing justice to the book, which I hear is great. There is a central mystery and several characters with different arcs. I am curious, but I am not completely hooked yet. It reminded me a LOT of Jericho, it is the story of a small town after a disaster their dwellers don’t fully understand. I was a Jericho fan, I was hooked by the premise and interested in the characters … however, I always felt there was something missing, something to move the plot along and make it more epic. I have a feeling that might be the case with Under the Dome, but it is too soon to tell. Either it will get more interesting as we become invested in the characters… or the plot will slow down and turn repetitive. For now, I am concluding it has the potential to be very interesting.

Should you watch it? Yes. If you are a fan of shows like The Event and/or Jericho is definitely worth sampling. 

Crossing Lines

Verdict: Interesting

I actually wrote a LONG REVIEW for Crossing lines which you can find HERE. But if you are in a hurry you can read the condensed version below:

Crossing Lines follows an international task force in charge of catching and prosecuting criminals that cross the borders of European countries. The members of the task force are an eclectic group of specialized cops from different countries: France, Italy, Germany, Ireland, England and the U.S. Standouts in the cast include: Donald Sutherland, William Fichtner (Prison Break) and Tom Wlaschiha. If that last name doesn’t ring a bell, you might remember the German actor as Jaqen H’aghar on Game of Thrones. I am not a huge fan of police procedurals but this one kept my interest throughout the 2 hour pilot, the characters were compelling, the European settings were beautiful and it had a couple of unexpected twists towards the end. In summary it was different, it was international and it had potential. It also did awful in the ratings! In the U.S. that is, because it premiered in Italy with great success.

Should you watch it? I think it is worthy, however after the terrible numbers of the NBC premiere it probably won’t last. Now, it had lots of success in Italy and it will probably be the same in France and Germany. Since it is a joint production, I assume the show could continue in Europe even if it is cancelled in the U.S. So, if you are in Europe or you don’t mind watching soon to be cancelled shows I would give it a try. 

Devious Maids

Verdict: It is SO ridiculous soapy!.. but also sort of fun…

I said I was looking forward to watching this show, but I just wanted to see how bad it could be. A small part of me hoped it could be the next Desperate Housewives, with hints of Ugly Betty, but I wasn't expecting that to happen. So did it? No… it’s definitely not the next Desperate Housewives, that show will probably never be replicated and if it was, what’s the point? It wouldn't be as original as it was at the time. Devious Maids, as the name indicates, is the story of five different Latin maids working for rich white people [and rich Latin people]. You have the single mom who was forced to leave her child behind, the flirty maid, the traditional maid, the wannabe singer maid and… finally the undercover maid! Yeah, you read that right… One of the women is actually posing as a maid so she can uncover the real killer of a murder her son was accused of. Now, that sounds like Desperate Housewives doesn't it? The show had some moments where it reminded me of the quirky sense of humor of DH. It also had a few instances where I thought they were going to take the Downton Abbey route and write a meaningful relationship between the maid and boss similar to what Anna and Mary Crawley have… but no, they definitely decided to go down the “telenovela” path. And this is exactly what Devious Maids is: A soap opera with ludicrous situations and over the top unrealistic characters.

Should you watch it? I personally want to, but I am not sure I can make a case for it. Everyone knows telenovelas are crap and yet once you start you can’t stop. This show wasn't as awful, and it had enough witty dialogue and quip remarks to say the writing wasn't terrible. But in the end, it is a soap opera, so if that is what you are looking for, watch it. I believe it has enough potential to become interesting. If handled properly it could end up being an enjoyable guilty pleasure. That is, if they don’t go completely crazy with the plot first.  

Twisted (ABC Family)

Verdict: Yet another teen soap

So… it was intriguing, but I can see it quickly going down the Pretty Little Liars road; with preposterous teen characters that get into a never ending cycle of ludicrous situations. The premise of the show is quite interesting, in a telenovela kind of way. Basically it is about a young kid who, for unknown reasons, murdered his aunt. Five years later he gets out of prison and returns to the same school in the same small town where he lived before and tries to reconnect with his two childhood friends. Twisted has all the usual elements of similar teen shows: over the top mean girls, forced dialogue, way-too-good-looking adult characters (Denisse Richards), etc. The dialogue was actually funny at some points including references to Silence of the Lambs and Hitchcock, which probably got lost among the teen audience. There was one bit of dialogue I absolutely LOVED. It occurred during a conversation between the mean girl Regina and the child murder Danny, and it went like this:
Regina: They let you watch Glee in prison?
Danny: Yes, it is part of our punishment
Other than that, I can’t think of anything particularly original or notable about this show. While The Fosters is more akin to Switched at Birth; Twisted is definitely targeting a similar audience than The Lying Game or Pretty Little Liars. I have watched more PLL episodes than I care to admit [and I hated myself for doing it] and I don’t want to get sucked into another one of these shows. But I have to admit, I am really curious of why Danny killed his aunt… damn.

Should you watch it?: Probably not, unless you are a huge Pretty Little Liars fan. I confess, I am so curious about the ‘murder’ I feel compelled to keep watching, but that’s just stupid because we probably will NEVER find out the answer to the big mystery. If I decide to keep watching I am almost certain I would end up regretting it…  

Graceland (USA)

Verdict: It could be enjoyable I guess

All USA shows have some things in common: A fun setting, a light-hearted tone and a couple of leading characters with an entertaining dynamic. Does Graceland have all of the above? I guess so. The show revolves around a group of undercover law-enforcement agents (DEA, FBI and customs) who live in a beach mansion (Graceland) in South California. There is the new guy and the experienced cop. The experience cop may or may have not lost it and the new guy is investigating him in secret. Sounds reasonably interesting right? However, I wasn’t blown away by the pilot. As a matter of fact it felt SO long! There were bits and pieces I found interesting, I liked the actors and the characters were OK. By the end of the episode it seemed like they were setting up a White Collar-type scenario: a partnership where trust will be an issue. I am not sure where they are going with it. Will Graceland follow the procedural structure of the other USA shows? And if so, how exactly is that going to work? Will they bust a new drug dealer each week and help an innocent bystander? How long can they keep that up? Lots of questions as you can see.

Should you watch it? Mmmm I am really not sure yet, I want to see at least one more episode.

Update 08/06/2013: I haven't got the chance to catch up with this show, but the talk on twitter points out to it getting better as the season progresses, so I plan to watch it online soon. 

The Goodwin Games (Fox)

Verdict: Really not as bad as you may think.

This new comedy actually has a fresh concept and a pretty great cast. The show is about a deceased father (Beau Bridges) who leaves a fortune behind but only one of his 3 children will inherit the money after they complete a series of challenges. The three children are played by Scott Foley (Felicity), Becki Newton (Ugly Betty) and T.J. Miller (I know I’ve seen him somewhere, just can’t remember where). I was expecting this to be another bad summer comedy, but I actually like it. I really like all the actors (Becki Newton is the most adorable mean girl on TV), jokes are funny and I have to say they approach the premise in a very creative way. Not the most groundbreaking comedy or anything, but better than most and I think it deserved better than to be dumped into a sure cancellation summer spot. It is averaging a 0.7 rating so chances of renewal are slim.

Should you watch it: Yeah, I would actually recommend it, especially if you are a Scott Foley/Becki Newton fan.

Update 06/24/2013: As far as I know there hasn't been an "official" cancellation announcement, but the show is as good as dead. Three out of the four leads have committed to other projects. The latest was Scott Foley announcing he will be a regular on Scandal next season, which is great! But I am sad that The Goodwin Games was pretty much DOA. In this instance I blame the network.  

Motive (ABC)

Verdict: Boring! So so Boring…

They tried to make Motive an ‘original’ crime drama where the audience finds at the very beginning of the episode who the killer and the victim are. All that is left for us is to discover the ‘motive’. The problem is that it is just like any other cop procedural… scratch that it is worse! The only reason people watch crime shows all the way through is to find who the KILLER is. You take that away and is just so boring! It was so hard to finish watching the pilot, I really didn’t care! On top of that, there is nothing special about the characters, dialogue or the investigation itself. No quirky detective, no snarky remarks and no amazing fight scenes or science facts. Plain boring, not even the ‘motive’ was interesting… and since when is “creeping” a thing?  I am surprised the ratings aren’t lower! This will probably get cancelled, I hope.

Should you watch it? Absolutely not. No motive to watch Motive.

Save Me (NBC)

Verdict: Yeah, I don’t think so.

NBC is obviously just trying to get rid of this show, so I am glad it is not good. Save Me is a show about a woman who has a near death experience and then becomes a prophet… yeah, she hears [thinks she hears] the voice of God. Bored yet? Despite her erratic personal life I actually like Anne Hetch as an actress so I was thinking she might be able to ‘save’ this (pun intended). But then I thought it was a doomed premise. There was no way I could ever like a show about someone who speaks with God… And then I remembered how much I used to love Eli Stone and I reasonably like Joan of Arcadia. So it is not about the premise, this show is simply bad and no-one can save it.

Should you watch it?: No, why bother?

Mistresses (ABC)

Verdict: Underwhelming

This is an adaptation of a British show with the same name. It revolves around four women with complicated relationships. One is having an affair with a married man, one discovers her death husband was having an affair, one fails to conceive a child and starts having an affair with a co-worker and one had an affair with a man who died. Mistresses was on my list of shows I was hoping to like… I didn’t. I didn’t hate it either, but I was very underwhelmed. They were trying very hard to be provocative and edgy and they were neither. The only story I was truly interested in was the one from YunJin Kim’s character and that is probably because she is the best actress of the bunch (and she is too good for this show). On top of that it wasn’t a sexy show; the only couple I felt had real chemistry was Alyssa Milano and Jason George. Dialogues weren’t natural and casting wasn’t the best but what annoyed me the most was the ‘dead husband/ghost caller’ plot-line. This is NOT Fringe people. And speaking of Fringe Anna Torv was in the UK version which I also watched… and I loved it! I can’t really tell why I liked the UK version so much better than the American since they are pretty close. I think it is the fact that the Brits weren’t pretending to be risqué, they simply made a good realistic drama without gimmicks. [I’ll go into greater detail about both versions in an upcoming post].

Should you watch it? I am interested enough to watch a couple more episodes before deciding, but I don’t feel like recommending this. If you liked the general idea of the show it is a MUCH better idea to watch the original British version currently on Netflix.

The Fosters

Verdict: It is OK, I guess

Confession: I have a soft spot for corny ABC Family shows. I have watched and liked Greek, Jane By Design, Make it or Break it, Switched at Birth and others… I will never start proclaiming they are must see TV, but I watch them… there I said it. The latest ABC Family show The Fosters is about a family of biological and foster kids who are raised by two moms. I was nowhere near as bored as I was with other new TV shows like Motive, Save Me or even Mistresses. You might even say I sort of liked it, but it is not the best show the network has to offer. It is an OK show with a premise that hasn’t been done a thousand times, but this is ABC Family, so it is not going to be edgy or groundbreaking. Would you be missing out if you don’t watch it? Not really.

Should you watch it?: Yeah… but only if you REALLY don’t have anything better to watch and/or are looking for something very wholesome to watch with the entire family. I still haven’t decided if I’ll watch it anymore… might watch 1 or 2 more eps, but I am suspecting that will be it. 
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The TV Empress is a Media Management graduate, screenwriter in the making (and financial engineer in the meantime). She has serious plans to take over global television. You can follow the TVEmpress on twitter @TVRepublik

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