The New Shows of January and February: Dramas

by Matthew Thompson

With a couple of months already over, I thought I’d take a look back at some of the new shows that have premiered in 2014 so far. Yesterday I talked about three new comedies, and today the focus shifts to a trio of new dramas.

True Detective (Premiered January 12th, Episodes watched so far: 7)

True Detective

The Premise: Two Louisiana homicide detectives (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) track a serial killer in a case spanning seventeen years.

My Take: Barring one minor gripe in the latest episode, I love everything about this show. The way it portrays multiple time periods to tell its tale. The cohesive feeling given by having one writer and one director handle the whole season. The superb visuals. The magnificent acting performances highlighted by McConaughey’s work as Rustin Cohle (which is reason enough to tune into this show). Even the intro sequence is fantastic. The show also avoids some of the pitfalls of recent shows which feature a central murder mystery by putting the focus on delving deep into the two leads and letting the murder case be a way to further unravel the layers of their personalities. An insane attention to detail looks to see the murder angle handled well too though.

Grade So Far: A: The highest of grades for the best show of the year so far. The slow pace might not be for everyone, but there is not a person I would not recommend True Detective to. It is must-watch television. There is one episode left, but I have confidence it will finish out strong.

Black Sails (Premiered January 25th, Episodes watched so far: 6)

Black Sails

The Premise: This new Starz drama is written as a prequel to the novel Treasure Island and follows Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and his band of pirates as they go after a big new prize while Eleanor Guthrie (Hannah New) deals with changes rocking New Providence Island and struggles to keep control of her business.

My Take: I went in knowing very little about this show. I did not know of its relation to Treasure Island (which I have not read) and came expecting lots of pirate battles out on the sea. It was here that Black Sails caught me off-guard, spending the first half of the season setting things up for Flint’s big voyage and dealing with more political machinations on the island of New Providence. The material here isn’t bad, but I think it took a little too long to really get out to the sea-faring adventures I was expecting. Things have really picked up in the last couple episodes though with a big pirate battle and some of the more intriguing layers to the political side of things being unearthed back on land.

My Grade: B: If you have the patience to make it through some of the early setup episodes, there is a fun new drama to add to your watchlist here. With two episodes to go in its brief eight ep first season, I am a little worried that the slow pace might mean not a lot will get done during its freshman run. But I am glad I gave this one a shot, as it has grown into something I’ve come to enjoy. I’m hoping it can finish this season out on a high note and continue to grow in its second season.

Mind Games (Premiered February 25th, Episodes watched so far: 1)

Mind Games

The Premise: The latest show from Kyle Killen (Lone Star, Awake) focuses on two brothers, an ex-Psychology teacher Clark (Steve Zahn) and con man Ross (Christian Slater), who start a new business that looks to solve problems for people through pyschological manipulation.

My Take: It’s hard to get over the fact that as a Killen show, Mind Games is just a disappointment. It’s so generic. It would be right at home in USA’s stable of procedurals. And that isn’t so bad in and of itself. But from Killen who had previously given us high-concept stuff like Lone Star and Awake, I can’t help but feel this just isn’t what I want from him. If I put that aside and judge it for itself, it just seems like a solid if forgettable procedural show. I liked Steve Zahn’s character, but didn’t care much for Slater’s role. And the twist of how he got his brother working with him just seems to be an annoying storyline waiting in the wings.

Grade So Far: C-: I had intended to watch two episodes before writing this, but due to some cable issues was not able to check out Episode 2. Having only watched the pilot, I won’t be too harsh on it since those aren’t always representative of the show as a whole. But the premise just seems very run of the mill and I don’t see this amounting to much. The way the ratings are going it doesn’t seem long for this world anyway.

That will do it for my look back at the new shows of 2014 so far. I am hoping to do this kind of feature from time to time depending on when I’ve seen enough new shows to make up another post, so hopefully I will be back with another one in the next couple months. Thanks for reading!

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