Hit or Sh** Roundup: Winter 2016

roundup winter

Howdy, pardners! The latter half of 2016’s pilot season saw the premiere of the contentious A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, British awards magnet THE CROWN, and THE MICK—produced by someone who thought a character from ALWAYS SUNNY would perform well on cable. Most of the premieres received Crossfader’s typical swift (and often cruel) judgement, but there were a few we couldn’t quite decide on. Here’s our roundup of those that needed further deliberation, along with our final verdicts.

roundup beyond

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BEYOND (Freeform)

I have thought about it long, and I have thought about it hard, and the only thing I really have against BEYOND is its association with the critically reviled Freeform. It doesn’t always look amazing, and some of the dialogue gets a little iffy when we’re exposed to teens drinking and letting loose, but the show continues to tell an effectively archetypal tale of a kid who just wants to be normal, despite all of the evidence that he’s anything but. However, what keeps things chugging along are the surprisingly potent glimpses into Holden’s relationship with his family members, with the time spent in his coma a hovering specter that continues to throw wrenches in the gears of his attempts at daily life. In addition, the show has hit upon an antagonist that’s more empathetic than many of a similar ilk with the Man in the Yellow Jacket. But most surprising are the bizarrely upsetting flashes of horror, as Holden struggles with nightmarish visions of the organization that may be behind his newfound powers. Is BEYOND essential viewing? No, but after each episode ends I’m interested enough to put on the next, and that’s about all we can really ask for from TV. [Thomas Seraydarian]

Final Verdict: Hit

roundup channel

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CHANNEL ZERO (Syfy)

CHANNEL ZERO: CANDLE COVE has its problems, but on first glance, it seems poised to make a compelling statement with its weird mix of murder, children’s television programming, and nostalgia. Unfortunately, the series indulges in a kind of misery and disdain for characters that distracts from what is often a story told through compelling, emotionally-charged imagery. The mystery of who created Candle Cove and why it causes children to kill is splashy, if simple, but it could be far more entertaining without the oppressive sense that everyone is suffering horribly. And that’s the line CHANNEL ZERO struggles to cross: first-tier presentation with a second-tier handling of tone. The show gets caught up in sadness, misery in violence that goes beyond the requirements of the story and portrays some kind of self-imposed quota.The dream-like reality the show creates so well early on is something it never manages to escape, never quite crystallizing into something that speaks its mind with certainty or any kind of grace. For now CHANNEL ZERO is an interesting visual exercise rather than a must-watch adaptation. Perhaps the next creepypasta property will fair better. [Ian Campbell]

Final Verdict: Sh**

roundup divorce

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DIVORCE (HBO)

Watching DIVORCE and bearing witness to Frances and Robert’s deteriorating relationship attempts to instill a strange voyeuristic spell on its audience. It almost feels like the equivalent of your friend sitting you down in a desolate coffee shop for 10 hours and divulging everything about their appalling relationship. You aren’t necessarily having much fun, but you can’t turn a completely blind eye to it either. Frances and Robert never become likeable, and sympathy always switches between them. The show never manages to fully engage you, but it does demonstrate how love, marriage, and divorce can never be smooth or perfect. DIVORCE is a great attempt at portraying the nuance of falling out of love, but it’s still a hard watch with nothing to really latch onto in terms of the main characters. After all, it’d become tough to sit through a depressing story from your friend in that coffee shop if you don’t even care enough about them in the first place. [Michelle Vera]

Final Verdict: Sh**

roundup emerald

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EMERALD CITY (NBC)

Despite veering slightly from the batshit insanity of its two-episode premiere, EMERALD CITY continues to amaze over the course of its surely-doomed first season. Not “amazing” in a sense that it’s groundbreaking television…but it’s amazing that one of the key locations is a recognizable landmark in Barcelona. It’s amazing that—despite its wackiness—it manages to pull off a degree of poignant commentary on gender. Most amazing of all are the moments when it does surprise you with a twist. It strikes the perfect balance of being bad enough to yell at, but with enough redeeming moments of quality to suck you in for several hours. There’s no way in Hell this thing is getting a second season, but I’d be a liar if I said I could look away from this plane crash of a creative endeavor. It’s wacky, it’s fun, it’s maybe even kind of good. Enjoy EMERALD CITY while it lasts, because it won’t last long. [Kate Brogden]

Final Verdict: Hit

roundup good

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GOOD BEHAVIOR (TNT)

GOOD BEHAVIOR has found its footing. Subsequent episodes streamlined themselves as the plot began to play to its strengths and toss the trippy, artsy drug scenes to the wayside. It’s not the kind of show that can be gritty with a capital G, swerve into an action thriller, and take a quick detour for a round of really hot sex. No, it’s a character study, and a good one at that. Letty is an addict and a mess of everything, but she possesses an unrelenting drive to better herself. She may make the wrong decisions, but she’s raw, vulnerable, and does not quit. The chemistry with her hitman counterpart, Javier, is also excellent. While the male anti-hero is worn territory, Javier doesn’t seem to quite fit the mold, despite his profession. He’s not particularly brave; in fact, on more than one occasion, it’s Letty who is bailing him out, making the audience wonder how he survived without her this long. Yet we also see why Letty, who is grasping to reclaim her identity, would be drawn to him, with his confidence and his strong sense of self (or so she perceives, in any case). These characters are complicated and compelling, and the story has just enough of the right elements to make you care and keep you on your toes. Unlike Letty, GOOD BEHAVIOR is officially off probation. [April French]

Final Verdict: Hit

roundup shooter

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SHOOTER (USA)

While much more competent than 24: LEGACY, SHOOTER runs into the same problem of being tone deaf in an era of outrage culture. The overarching conspiracy between the CIA and Russia (specifically mentioning Vladimir Putin) to assassinate the Ukrainian president and pin it on an ex-marine is tasteless for many reasons, but the most egregious offense is that, unlike 24, SHOOTER has no clearly defined politics. Sensationalist without a stance, SHOOTER doesn’t quite feel like propaganda, or perhaps more accurately, it feels like it could be used by anyone as propaganda, which makes it somehow feel more shameless than even HILLARY’S AMERICA. That being said, SHOOTER is a remarkably engrossing take on the 2007 film. The competing investigations by Bob Lee Swagger and the FBI into the covert plot feel much more suited to a longform series than a single movie, and the production never overextends its reach past what is feasible for TV, which is an apt take considering that the original Marky Mark SHOOTER could have easily been a small screen venture itself. If you’re able to look past the played-for-shocks premise, SHOOTER hits far more than it misses. [Ed Dutcher]

Verdict: Hit

roundup taboo

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TABOO (FX)

Despite a rather bland beginning, TABOO quickly asserts itself as a tale of treachery as twisted as the protagonist himself. Tom Hardy is in prime demented form, eliciting memories of BRONSON and Bane with a mix of menacing physicality, dry wit, and a rare brand of antisocial crudity. Yet most captivating of all is the script, and despite the exposition dump that was the pilot, the rest of TABOO has proven to be quite the ride.The cat-and-mouse dynamic between Hardy and the three rival powers seeking control of his family’s land has more backstabbing in six episodes than in six seasons of GAME OF THRONES. TABOO is certainly edgy, often to the point of tastelessness, but that wild vulgarity is exactly what sets this show apart from even the grittiest period dramas to grease the small screen. [Ed Dutcher]

Verdict: Hit

Crossfader Staff

The good people of Crossfader Magazine.

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