There are a bunch of mystery-laden dramas premiering in the next few weeks, and rather than burden you with individual reviews of each one, I thought I’d rate them roundup-style. It’s warm out, you don’t have time for too much TV blathering, so here are brief thoughts on each drama, so you know which to check out and which to skip.
So, how do these summer series stack up on the Yep-or-Nope-o-Meter? Read on to find out!
- “Wayward Pines,” Fox, 9 p.m. ET, May 14: TV keeps churning out so many high-concept, conspiracy-theory mysteries that these shows have congealed into a not-very-impressive sub-genre. Take elements from "Lost," cues from "The X-Files," remove atmosphere and heft, add water and stir. On our most recent podcast, Ryan McGee and I called these shows the “Under the Surface of the Event Dome” programs, and James Poniewozik also invoked CBS’ “Under the Dome” in reference to this kind of ensemble, gimmick-driven show. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a gimmick! “Orphan Black” has a massive one, and the first season of that show was one of the most enjoyable TV runs in many a moon. But "Orphan Black" understood that none of its shenanigans, wild developments or manipulations would hold the slightest interest for viewers if the audience wasn’t even remotely invested in the characters. That’s where the highly derivative “Pines” falls apart: The characters are thinner than cardboard cutouts, and I could see every “twist” coming from a mile away. Cast members like Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Reed Diamond and Matt Dillon do their level best with the clunky material, but you have to wonder whether their primary thought process related to this show involved how many bills they could pay with their “Pines” paychecks. As for Terrence Howard and Melissa Leo, they have decided to appear in a different version of “Pines,” one in which scenery chewing and hamminess have ascended to the level of an Olympic sport. Seriously, Howard eating an ice-cream cone is the only even mildly diverting thing in this leaden show; I could only get through two episodes of it, and each one was a chore. If you’ve ever seen “Persons Unknown,” “Haven,” “Eureka,” “Twin Peaks,” or any of a dozen “Twilight Zone” episodes, you know the basics of how this “eerie small town hides big secrets” premise works. Despite, or maybe because of, M. Night’s Shyamalan’s name among the credits, “Wayward Pines” has done absolutely nothing interesting with the building blocks and the reasonably talented cast it has assembled. Yep or nope? Nopey McNoperson.
Yep or nope? Yep, I want to see more. A note on “Between’s” first season: Episodes will arrive weekly, not all at once.
Yep or nope? Nope, unless you’re a hardcore Duchovny-ite.
Ryan McGee and I discussed the shows listed above plus “Jane the Virgin’s” Season 1 finale in one of two recent Talking TV podcasts (the other one is about “Mad Men”). That podcast can be found here, on iTunes and below.