First episode impressions: ‘The Outsider’ (TV review)

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he Outsider” (Sundays, HBO) is written, directed and paced with such slow-burn confidence that a viewer can almost fool themselves into thinking this isn’t just another Stephen King novel adaptation. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of King’s catalog; I count some of his books and their movie versions as masterpieces. But it’s hard to disguise the Kingian cliches on display in this adaptation of his 2018 novel.

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First episode impressions: ‘Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist’ (TV review)

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oey’s Extraordinary Playlist” (NBC) isn’t “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” … or “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” … or “Zoey 101.” Watching the pilot episode of the series (which will return Feb. 16, in its regular Sunday slot), I could never forget that it is trying to cash in on the current popularity of musicals and that it uses a title that evokes things people already like. That said, this series — whose producers include “Freaks and Geeks’ ” Paul Feig and “The Perfection’s” Richard Shepard (who directs the first episode) — is far from terrible.

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It’s the Sixties, man, as ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Season 3 discovers subtlety to go with bombast (TV review)

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eason 3 of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Amazon Prime) starts off in the too show-offy fashion that marks the worst excesses of writer-director Amy Sherman-Palladino. Comedian Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) opens for singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) at a tour-launching USO show, and there are colorful costumes, long panning shots, tons of extras, and big music numbers. But after episode one, something remarkable happens in the following seven: “Maisel” no longer feels the need to prove itself, and it even features moments of subtlety – yes, subtlety from Amy and Daniel Palladino (who each take four episodes this season).

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Hilarious Florida roast aside, ‘Big Mouth’ takes a step backward with hit-and-miss Season 3 (TV review)

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lthough “Big Mouth” Season 3 (October, Netflix) ultimately delivers enough good episodes that I give it a soft recommend, it is a clear step back from its first two seasons. In the worst episodes, the writers get so caught up in their timely messages about sexual identity, dress codes and objectification of women that they forget to make those episodes funny.

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‘Cobra Kai’ shows no mercy to the competition, stays badass in Season 2 (TV review)

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ith Season 2 (April), which recently wrapped its free-to-all run on YouTube Premium, “Cobra Kai” has secured its spot as the best continuation of a 1980s premise (a surprisingly robust genre lately). The safe, cheesy and sometimes flat-out bad (but yes, we loved it anyway) filmmaking of the “Karate Kid” trilogy has given way to a confident, funny, epic and ultimately heart-wrenching TV series.

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Eulogy for a trope: ‘Looking for Alaska’ turns its Manic Pixie Dream Girl into a full-fledged character (TV review)

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he eight-episode Hulu series “Looking for Alaska” shatters the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope while also being one of the best MPDG stories ever told. Walking a delicate tightrope from start to finish, showrunner Josh Schwartz (“The O.C.,” “Gossip Girl”) – who writes or co-writes five of the eight episodes – gives us the teen male perspective of Miles “Pudge” Halter (Charlie Plummer). Through his eyes, Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth) is beautiful, quirky and mysterious. Yet — without sacrificing those ethereal qualities that Pudge might be projecting onto his first love/lust — “Looking for Alaska” also makes Alaska into a fully realized person.

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First episode impressions: ‘Nancy Drew’ (TV review)

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imilar to what The CW did with “Riverdale” a few years ago, “Nancy Drew” (Wednesdays, CW) has been updated for modern times, and out of the gates, it’s refreshingly less silly than what “Riverdale” turned into. The mix isn’t precisely what I look for: It’s much more contemporary than it is a throwback, and it has a supernatural element that cuts into Nancy’s meat-and-potatoes clue gathering. But it’s not bad, and I can imagine enough people will like this version of Nancy that it could define the sleuth for this generation.

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First episode impressions: ‘Batwoman’ (TV review)

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atwoman” (Sundays, CW) is the 17th current show produced by Greg Berlanti – that’s not a joke for the sake of exaggeration, he really does produce 17 shows that are currently on the air – and it’s as straight down the middle as all the others. Bruce Wayne’s cousin, Kate Kane/Batwoman (Ruby Rose), arrives as a slickly packaged superhero, perfectly filling out her suit – tailored by Luke Fox (son of Lucius, I imagine) – and ready to kick butt alongside The CW’s other DC superheroes (This is series No. 6).

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First episode impressions: ‘Almost Family’ (TV review)

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 dramedy starring Brittany Snow and produced by Jason Katims should be at the top of my list of must-see fall shows, but the preview for “Almost Family” (Wednesdays, Fox) looked somewhere between weird and bad. The pilot episode of this series based on the Australian show “Sisters” (and probably with less input from Katims than his past shows, like “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood”) turns out to be surprisingly not terrible. But it lacks a great hook or winning formula, which explains why the makers of the trailer had a hard time cutting together something that’s easy to define.

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