Drive” (2007, Fox) feels like a “see what sticks” entry from Tim Minear, who co-creates the series with Ben Queen. It boasts good TV actors and movie character actors and one future superstar, and it has the high-concept premise of a secret multi-million-dollar illegal cross-country road race. That phrase could’ve been the centerpiece of a “Drive” drinking game, like “Dark Angel” had with “genetically engineered killing machine.”
There’s no new season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” this year, but “The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix) has us covered like a pawn wall protecting friendly pieces. The miniseries based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel takes us to the 1950s and 1960s in all their pastel and analog glory to tell a fictional story set against a real-world backdrop. Indeed, your only lament coming out of these seven episodes might be that there wasn’t a real Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) who took the chess world by storm.
With “The Haunting of Bly Manor” (Netflix) – his spiritual (pun intended) sequel to 2018’s “The Haunting of Hill House” — Mike Flanagan continues to solidify his status as a horror auteur tapped into the tragic beauty afforded by the genre. A damp, dark-haired, white-dressed, hidden-faced woman in a Flanagan work is more than a scary ghost: She symbolizes the bittersweet tragedy of a forgotten past. (SPOILERS FOLLOW.)
Not all October premieres have to be scary – although a lot of them are (see later in this post) – so let’s start off this look at first episodes of new streaming shows with “Emily in Paris” (Netflix). Well, I shouldn’t say it’s not at all scary. The story of Chicagoan Emily’s relocation to Paris for her job emphasizes her outsider status and loneliness even though she always puts on her delightfully Lily Collins face.
In the February 2000 “X-Files” episode “Sein Und Zeit,” a man questioned by Mulder and Scully narrows down the timeframe of a crime by the TV show he was watching: “I never heard of it before. It was good,” the man says. In an example of Chris Carter’s heavy-handed joke-making and cockiness, the show within the show is his own “Harsh Realm,” which had been canceled by Fox in Fall 1999 after three episodes. (The remaining six aired in 2000 on FX.)
Next” (Tuesdays, Fox) was originally scheduled for the 2019-20 midseason but was delayed till now because of the pandemic. That’s only a half-year delay, but it already seems so dated. For one thing, the notion of a dangerous artificial intelligence hasn’t been shocking in at least 50 years; even 30-some years ago, “Terminator’s” Skynet was a plot device. For another, a victim of the titular AI’s engineered car accident, a side character played by John Billingsley, uses a flip phone, making me wonder if “Next” wasn’t repurposed from the 2009-10 TV season.
For roughly the first half of the season, “Dark Angel” Season 2 (2001-02, Fox) is in a sophomore slump to match the inevitable ratings slump that goes with Fox’s Friday-night sci-fi dumping ground. Then it remarkably turns things around and closes even more strongly than in Season 1. Logan (Michael Weatherly) regains his Season 1 hairstyle and glasses, and newcomers Alec (Jensen Ackles) and Joshua (Kevin Durand) finally get episodes that make them fully realized members of the hero team.
Didn’t “Fargo” used to be kind of a comedy? I mean, I know it’s always had its dark and violent side, but damn. Season 4 (Sundays on FX), which premiered with two episodes totaling 2 hours and 40 minutes, is slow, grim and slathered in midcentury racism as it chronicles the budding war between the Italian and black crime syndicates in Kansas City. (Season 2 chronicled a modern version of the K.C. syndicate that emerges from the continual cycle of power grabs.)
With many shows releasing entire seasons at once nowadays, I haven’t had time to watch full seasons yet, but I have checked out some first episodes and wanted to weigh in on them. Even with the pandemic limiting the number of new fall shows, there are still more than any one TV geek can watch, so here are my first-episode impressions of four September launches:
If “The Third Day” (Mondays, HBO) was an open-ended series, I’d bow out after this first episode, cuz ain’t nobody got time fo’ a “Lost”-ian wait for answers. But since it’s a six-hour miniseries (rather than six seasons) there’s enough here to keep me coming back. The decidedly weird first hour is more good-weird than bad-weird. It’s not as creepy as I’d prefer, but it is mysterious, and an appealingly weathered, receding-hairlined Jude Law makes a fine lead as Sam.