Battleground Afghanistan (National Geographic, Monday at 9:00pm)
As I know two young men who deployed to Afghanistan on the 4th of July of all dates, I was not looking forward to watching this show. A documentary/reality series, the cameras follow one platoon of Marines as they engage with the Taliban over a fifteen day mission. My problem with the show was that the narration was florid and meant to ramp up the tension of which there is, finally, very little. What the hour I watched showed me is how seriously outgunned the Taliban are. I respect what these young men are doing, but this show does not do it justice.
Gideon’s Army (HBO, Monday at 9:00pm)
Gideon v. Wainwright was the landmark Supreme Court decision that determined that everyone has the right to be assisted by counsel in a criminal case (“You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”). This documentary follows three people who work as public defenders. It is a tough job, one for which I have enormous respect. This film adequately conveyed the struggles these people endure, but it got bogged down in its own self-righteousness. The point was made early and then made again and again. Interesting at the start, I became bored about halfway through.
Below Deck (Bravo, Monday at 10:00pm)
A reality series about the crew on a charter yacht. Pretty people who are new are working with people for whom this is their profession to serve rich, entitled people. Exactly what you would expect.
Eyewitness War (National Geographic, Monday at 10:00pm)
Following on from Battleground Afghanistan above, this show also shows stories about the soldiers in Afghanistan. This one was much more realistic as the footage is shot by the soldiers themselves and I found myself much more invested in these guys than in the others. In the pilot, a small group found itself caught in an ambush. Watching them get themselves out of these horrible situation, in which more than one thought he was going to die, was tough to watch. Too tough for me to continue with this series.
Siberia (NBC, Monday at 10:00pm)
This should be a parody of a reality series rather than a “drama” masquerading as one. The premise is that sixteen contestants are thrown into the Siberian wilderness and forced to survive without help of any kind. All fine and good except that the pilot had so many absurdities, I stopped listing them. In the end, one of the “contestants” dies and the others have to decide whether or not to continue with the show. I will not be.
Being Mary Jane (BET, Tuesday at 10:30pm)
You’ve seen this many times. A highly successful woman, with a dysfunctional family she must support and a wide variety of friends, feels as though her life is incomplete because she is unmarried and childless. The feminist in me hates this plot and this film, a feature length pilot for a new series, did nothing to change my mind. I always want to break the fourth wall and smack these women.
BBQ Crawl (Travel Channel, Wednesday at 8:00pm)
A woman, whom we are told is the BBQ Diva, travels around the South tasting barbecue and competing. In the pilot, she is in Texas showing us the best barbecue the state has to offer and taking fourth in a contest. It is what it is. Not offensive, but hardly all that interesting.
Warlocks Rising (Discovery, Friday at 9:00pm)
The Warlocks are a motorcycle gang out of Florida and they are an odd group of guys. All of them look to be older than 50 and many of them struggle with being in the gang at all. Because this is a reality series, events that are outlandish occur; none of which is believable. I was interested in the struggle of family/biological vs. family/gang, but not enough to sit through another episode.
King (Reelz, Friday at 10:00pm)
King is Jessica King, a thrice-married, hard living woman who works for the Toronto PD. In the pilot, she has been relegated to the call center for some unspecified breach. When a young girl goes missing, King is promoted to the head of the Major Crimes Task Force, which is currently led by Spears, an equally hard living guy with whom King sparks instantly. A standard police procedural, with yet another will they/won’t they couple. Not bad, but there are enough of these types of shows currently cluttering up my DVR. I don’t need another.
Philly Throttle (Discovery, Friday at 10:00pm)
A bunch of guys from Philadelphia restore old motorcycles. Hard to get too invested in their money worries when they are being paid to be part of a reality series. If you are interested in old bikes, you may like this one. I did not.
Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (Disney XD, Sunday at 11:00am)
I don’t know enough about the Avengers’ story to comment on their character portrayals, but this was a fairly standard weekend morning cartoon story peopled by superheroes. It kept me entertained for the half hour, but certainly not enough to come back for more. I would be interested in hearing from someone who knows this world how you thought the portrayal was.
Bikinis and Boardwalks (Travel, Sunday at 7:00pm)
A travelogue that is really one long advertisement for the boardwalks being discussed. In the pilot, they were Coney Island, NY and Wildwood, NJ. Having spent way too much time and way too much money at both of these locations, this show failed to adequately describe the joy that comes from spending a day on the boardwalk. Instead, it focused on the rides available and the food for sale. A shame -- this one should have been more fun to watch.
Endeavour (PBS, Sunday at 9.00)
Morse was one of the, if not the, greatest detective ever portrayed on television. Brilliantly played by John Thaw for thirteen years, Morse was an eccentric, irascible man who somehow wormed his way into your heart. When he died in the final episode, I sobbed. His DS was Lewis, who has had his own brilliant series for a while now. This time around, we get Morse: The Early Years.
As soon as I saw the opening shot of Oxford and heard the music, I was hooked. Then, just to get us even more committed, the director opened the show with young Morse singing in the choir (the first episode of the original series opened the same way), reading, being late for a meeting and meeting Strange, the man who would later be his boss but is already his friend. I had a huge grin on my face; I felt as though I were seeing an old friend again.
As I’m sure you can tell from this gush, I am a huge Morse fan and so I fell in love with this show at first sight. Even if you are not a Morse fan or have never seen an episode of that show, if you like complex mysteries filled with great characters, give this show a chance.
Food Court Wars (Food Network, Sunday at 10:00)
A reality/competition in which two teams compete to open a restaurant in a mall food court. This show is actually a step above the norm as the teams are required to do more than just cook. They must also show that they have a solid business plan and can do some marketing. Not one that I will continue watching, but I certainly enjoyed the hour I saw.