As summer TV slows down (and we mean really slows down) because of COVID-19 production shutdowns, there seemed to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Was it Quibi? Don’t make us laugh. Was it HBO Max? Well, not with those launch failures. Indeed, could Peacock rise like a phoenix from the ashes of TV doldrums, perhaps with some new, original series to lift us?
Yes maybe to the free tier and accessing Peacock’s vast library of content from NBCUniversal’s, but as for their originals and acquisitions (save one)? No exactly. Below, the Paste writers and editors have ranked a selection of the new streaming service’s launch titles (and it does not include the kids programming like Curious George or the docu-series In Deep with Ryan Lochte, though check back soon for updates). What is included, though, are five series (and one movie about a series) we can’t really give much of a recommendation to except for our Number 1 choice (which is genuinely great). In other words, stick to the free stuff for now.
A painfully unfunny addition to Peacock’s launch titles, Intelligence follows a small cyber crimes unit in the UK that gets a shake-up when a brash American agent (David Schwimmer) arrives as a liaison. Written by and starring Nick Mohammad as a low-level employee, the supposed comedy’s style is stale and outdated. With a tired setup that seems to want to be Ianucci-esque without the bite or smarts that makes those shows work, much of Intelligence’s “humor” revolves around worn-out stereotypes and mocking the defenseless. Further, female characters are of two types: sexy and unattainable or “ancient” and therefore sexless. The whole series is a gross miscalculation, particularly in how it wastes Schwimmer. Skip this. —Allison Keene
Nothing sets up a big flashy dystopian launch show from a new streaming service like a series of pandemic-era protests during the worst presidential administration of American history. But showrunner David Wiener (Homecoming) has the misfortunate to see his Aldous Huxley adaptation debut during a time when the very real and dangerous concerns of a global populace couldn’t be further from the tenets listed during the show’s opening moments: “No privacy. No family. No monogamy.” Orgies all the time, sci-fi healthcare, and guaranteed employment? Brave New World’s bad timing is the least of its flaws, as the AAA series from Peacock is a foolish, dull, and cowardly take on a literary classic.
A visually shallow show, full of flesh and fancy fashion (where costume designer Susie Coulthard at least goes the extra mile to put the “Peacock” in “peacocking”), Brave New World is a self-serious sci-fi world glamorized with Black Mirror silliness (directed in part by Black Mirror alum Owen Harris).
Despite a star-studded cast (including Alden Ehrenreich, Jessica Brown Findlay, Demi Moore, and Harry Lloyd), Brave New World has all the hallmarks of a sci-fi series moving beyond its original scope: clones, catastrophes, and answers to questions never asked. The show still shows flashes of creativity and purpose—like scenes where the click-clack of a PEZ-like soma dispenser punctuates emotionally stressful beats in a conversation or a digitally-enhanced game of racquetball that blasts us with a much-needed burst of movement and color—but it almost always feels like the show was pushed to focus on the least important but intensely marketable aesthetic aspects (naked dancing/sex and lots of it!) while half-assing the actual content. —Jacob Oller [Full Review ]
As a true-blue Psych-O, please believe that I say this with all the love in the world: There is little about Psych 2: Lassie Come Home that isn’t utterly baffling.
Originally slated to run on USA in December of last year, the long-awaited sequel to 2017’s genuinely delightful Psych: The Movie ended up being punted over to Peacock, the better to drum up enthusiasm for the streamer’s big summer launch. That move isn’t baffling. Similarly non-baffling: The fact that the writers put real care into working not just around but with the limitations imposed by the stroke that kept Timothy Omundson from participating in the first movie to find ways to meaningfully fit Carlton Lassiter into this one.
What is baffling, alas, is everything else. The central mystery is so convoluted, it took this reviewer two careful watch-throughs and multiple rewinds to make even shaky sense of its mechanics. What character growth we saw Shawn (James Roday), Gus (Dulé Hill), and even Henry (Corbin Bernsen) evince in Psych: The Movie, meanwhile, is rolled all the way back to Psych’s most man-childy mid-series years, a devolution which obviously shatters the hard-won, no-secrets partnership established between Juliet (Maggie Lawson) and Shawn in The Movie’s emotional final act, and which turns Shawn and Gus, as a duo, into the most exhausting version of themselves. Incredibly, even smaller details defy reason, like the fact that Shawn doesn’t use his “psychic” gifts until a third of the way through the movie (and only then in the privacy of the Psych office, for no one’s benefit but the audience’s), or that the cold open invokes the specter of Omundson’s infamously glorious beard, but then leaves Lassiter beardless the whole way through. In a word, baffling!
That said, it’s still Psych, which will never not be at least a little fun. And really, regardless of how this one turned out, given both the depth of Psych’s fandom and the love everyone involved with the series clearly still has for this world and these characters—to say nothing of NBC Universal’s vested interest in keeping the franchise profitable, especially when it has such potential to be a vertically integrated golden goose with Peacock—we’re almost certain to get more Psych movies at some point in the future. So, as Shawn and Gus say: Wait for iiiiiitttt— Alexis Gunderson
Hosted by Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Lost Speedways sends “ghost track enthusiasts” to patches of abandoned asphalt across America, largely in the South. It’s a personal interest of Earnhardt’s, but it’s hard to muster much interest in terms of television. Occasionally there’s an attempt to punch-up the material with mentions of horrific wrecks, graveyards that had to be moved to accommodate the speedway, or controversial moonshine operations, but they are in vain. Seeing elderly former racers and enthusiasts stand among ancient concrete stands and point at where people used to buy concessions is excellent pre-nap material, allusions to wrecks aside, and perhaps diehard NASCAR viewers or those interested in the history of racing will find something of value here. For casual viewers, though, the material is too thin to sustain half-hour episodes without it bordering on the comical. You’re better off listening to family members recount their own mild stories instead. —Allison Keene
This is all you need to know: It stars Mel Gierdroyc and Sue Perkins from The Great British Baking Show.
(Yes, the original hosts!)
That’s really it. They are hitmen, as the title suggests. There’s really not much more to it. The series isn’t great, but it’s just fine. It coasts entirely on the charm of these two, and whether or not you are watching specifically for them. There are many recognizable British TV actors who pop in here and there (including the creator and star of another mediocre UK comedy on Peacock, Intelligence), but if you’re curious about or interested in Hitmen, chances are you’re in it for Mel and Sue. And they very much do their thing. If you aren’t already fans of theirs, well … the budget is low, the script is questionable, and the comedy is very slight. Pop it on in the background, but then maybe head back over to Bake-Off. —Allison Keene
In The Capture, written and directed by Ben Chanan, Holliday Grainger’s DI Rachel Carey believes she has an open and shut case regarding an assault and kidnapping captured on CCTV. The perpetrator’s face—Lance Corporal Shaun Emery (Callum Turner)—is clearly shown and easily identified, leading to his quick apprehension. But was it him? It’s not just that he’s confused about this crime that he has supposedly committed that he has no memory of (and in fact, has a conflicting memory about), it’s that it also comes on the heels of an overturned conviction based on de-synced audio and video evidence, suggesting how easily manipulated that kind of evidence can be.
A smart and twisty thriller (imbued with a cozy autumnal London aesthetic), The Capture leads Rachel down a path to question everything she sees—including live events that may be manipulated. The how and the why drive this captivating 6-episode season (which the BBC has already renewed), introducing us, via Rachel, to the technique of “correction methods,” which sounds an awful lot like pre-crime from Minority Report.
While there is a certain sci-fi element to where the series ends up, it’s not out of the realm of possibility now or in the far future. Deep fake exists, as does facial recognition software and increasing camera surveillance everywhere. We carry a lot of it around with us in our pockets with our phones, but The Capture doesn’t get into the tech side so much as it wants to explore the moral quandary of exploiting its general potential. With doctored footage, redacted frames, the exploitation of blindspots and more, it feels like the stuff of conspiracy. But when a character describes their methods of doctoring footage as “correction is not fake evidence, it’s truth reenacted,” there is a chilling reality to it.
Peacock has placed The Capture on its short list of new launch titles, and it is by far the best of the bunch (even though it’s an international acquisition and not an original). This thoughtful but still thrilling series is a worthwhile watch that may leave you a little shaken—and wanting to make sure your computer cameras are covered … just in case. [Full Review] —Allison Keene
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