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Fictional “historical” characters are celebrated over several U.S. holidays—Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Presidents Day, etc. Meanwhile, the very real creators of life, moms, receive only one annual nod: Mother’s Day, this year taking place on Sunday, May 12.

Fortunately, there’s television, the great equalizer. TV is where moms get their proper due, much more so than in movies. (The best-ever film about “motherhood” is 1983’s Mr. Mom—let that patriarchal shit sink in.)

Here are seven streaming TV series that showcase wildly different mothers at their best, worst and straight-up weirdest. And no, forwarding this article to your mom’s Hotmail doesn’t count as a Mother’s Day gift.

Better Things (Seasons 1-2 on Hulu): Is Pamela Adlon’s Better Things a comedy or a drama? Yes. Adlon herself simply says it’s an “incredible feelings show,” which fits like a fresh pair of Spanx. It’s also about motherhood; Better Things will make you laugh, cry and scream along with single mom Sam (Adlon) and her three daughters, the most complex kids on TV. Above all, Better Things is capital-A Art.

Workin’ Moms (Season 1 on Netflix): Like Schitt’s Creek and Letterkenny, dark-com Workin’ Moms is covertly Canadian. The struggles of these Toronto mothers (including It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Catherine Reitman, Workin’ Moms’ creator), unfortunately, are universal: post-partum depression, workplace sexism, inconvenient lactation and everything else men deny. Too real, but still funny.

Jane the Virgin (Seasons 1-4 on Netflix): In this gringo-ized 2014-2019 CW telenovela, engaged 23-year-old virgin Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is inadvertently inseminated with a sperm sample meant for another patient—and even worse, the sample is from her handsome boss crush! Jane the Virgin is ridiculous, fizzy fun that detours into The Feels seamlessly. Best of all, Christian groups lost their shit over Jane before it even aired.

Odd Mom Out (Seasons 1-3 on Vudu): Momzillas author Jill Kargman stars as a manically exaggerated version of herself in this 2015-2017 comedy about uber-rich Manhattan mothers—the smartest series Bravo ever produced. Naturally, Odd Mom Out was canceled to make room for more Real Housewives dreck, but at least Kargman and scene-stealing Abby Elliott cranked out 30 near-perfect episodes.

I’m Sorry (Season 1 on Netflix): Andrea Savage’s all-about-me comedy doesn’t care to differentiate itself from other Comics Play Themselves half-hours—it’s all about the jokes. I’m Sorry, referring to mom/comedy writer “Andrea’s” tendency to say the most hilariously wrong things, is a white-wine spritzer of a sitcom: not too heavy, not too sweet, nice buzz. MVP: Bemused “husband” Tom Everett Scott.

Good Girls (Season 1 on Hulu and Netflix): Three straight-arrow suburban moms (Christina Hendricks, Retta and Mae Whitman) turn to robbery to pay the bills—and, more importantly, score some thrills. Soon, they’re in too deep (in every sense) with a local money launderer, and the crimes and bodies start piling up. Good Girls plays like Breaking Bad meets, well, Workin’ Moms, but the dead-solid cast sells it perfectly.

SMILF (Season 1 on Vudu): The “S” in SMILF stands for “Single”; you probably know the rest. Twentysomething mom Bridgette (Frankie Shaw) juggles parenting, an acting career and relationships in Los Angeles. Alongside the mom stuff, SMILF indulges in all kinds of raw sex and drugs (it’s a Showtime series, after all), but “Bridge” remains a fiercely devoted parent who’ll gladly discuss her vagina.

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You’re the Worst (FX): Like the equally surprising Broad City, You’re the Worst shattered preconceptions of the “edgy” cable comedy with smarts, heart, bracing moments of relationship realism (and outright debauchery), and a fearless cast led by relative unknowns Chris Geere and Aya Cash. No worries that the Toxic Twosome and gang are moving to FXX this year … right?

The Bridge (FX): Apparently, FX can only sustain so many quality dramas: The Bridge was canceled after a low Season 2 turnout, and those who did show up were treated to a Tex-Mex stew that was a little overcooked—yet it was still better than most crime dramas.

The Strain (FX): Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampires-bent-on-world-domination tale transitioned from novel to TV series with only a few bumps and a whole lotta scares (not counting Corey Stoll’s hairpiece), and reclaimed bloodsuckers from the glam universes of Twilight and True Blood.

Ray Donovan (Showtime): His sketchy character’s name is the title, and star Liev Schreiber did his damndest to take the show back from father figure Jon Voight in Season 2, mostly succeeding while taking on a twisted new FBI antagonist (Hank Azaria, killing it).

Masters of Sex (Showtime): There’s no power couple on television as compelling and confounding as Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), and they’re barely “together,” in any sense. Was anything easy in the ’50s? Besides Virginia? (Rim shot.)

Welcome to Sweden (NBC): This Swedish import turned up on NBC’s summer schedule seemingly by accident, a subdued and charmingly awkward comedy that should have no place on an American network—and yet it worked fantastically. Watch for Welcome to Sweden when it “accidentally” comes around again.

Garfunkel and Oates (IFC): Musical-comedy duo Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci are no Flight of the Conchords—they’re better, at least when it comes to song quantity and lack of indecipherable New Zealand accents. For Garfunkel and Oates, TMI means both Too Much Information and Touching Musical Interludes.

Outlander (Starz): Starz finally acknowledged that women watch TV—and then told them they’d have to wait six months for the second half of their new favorite Scottish bodice-ripper. Spartacus never would have stood for this.

The Knick (Cinemax): In yet another instance of indie-film directors realizing that television is where it’s at, Steven Soderbergh directed this 10-part oddity about a doped-up doc (Clive Owen) at the precipice of modern medicine—he’s House 1900, with a premium-cable license to shock.

Doctor Who (BBC America): Peter Capaldi. That is all.

Bojack Horseman (Netflix): A former sitcom star man-horse (voiced by Will Arnett) and his slacker roommate/squatter (Aaron Paul) get turnt up and knocked down in Hollywood. It’s Californication: The Cartoon.

Sons of Anarchy (FX): The seventh and final season of Hamlet on Harleys was overwrought, overindulgent and over-the-top—and you expected, what? For all his faults, showrunner Kurt Sutter is still a passionate storyteller, and the finale of Sons of Anarchy was a fittingly chaotic closer that tied up (almost) all of the loose ends. Time to retire the patch and the musical montage.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox): It’s not the Andy Samberg Show; it’s one of the best ensemble comedies on TV, something Fox is nailing better than anyone these days. Witness …

New Girl (Fox): By no logic should New Girl be this good in Season 4, but Zooey Deschanel and crew have become a fuzzy juggernaut of funny that still manages to surprise every week, putting one-note sitcoms like The Bang Theory and, well, every other half-hour on CBS to shame.

Gotham (Fox): Batman without Batman? Yeah, it’s working.

The Blacklist (NBC): James Spader’s “Red” Reddington is one of the best villain-heroes (villo?) ever, and Season 2 of The Blacklist has found his FBI foil Lizzy (Megan Boone, finally free of the wig) stepping up her game, if not her crazy. And kudos for selling Pee-Wee Herman (!) as an underworld “fixer.”

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC): Season 2 has introduced real danger and consequences for the agents, as well as Marvel-flick-worthy action and effects. Stop asking, “When’s Iron Man gonna show up?” and just get onboard, already.

Black-ish (ABC): Anthony Anderson’s TV resume (Law and Order, Treme, The Shield) didn’t indicate that he could head up a family comedy, but new sitcom Black-ish—I know, dumb title—is more consistently funny than Modern Family is now, thanks to strong assists from Tracee Ellis Ross and, yes, Laurence Fishburne.

The Flash (The CW): The sunny answer to Arrow (seriously—is it never daytime over there?) is the most comic-booky of all DC Comics adaptations, and the most fun.

Jane the Virgin (The CW): Usually, “Golden Globe-nominated” means nothing—but Jane the Virgin is the first CW show to ever score a nom! That’s also the first time I’ve ever used the term “nom.” Firsts all around, here.

The Walking Dead (AMC): Team Rick is on the road, finding new places to explore and more people (zombie or not) to kill—less talk and more rock makes for a more entertaining apocalypse; hopefully, they won’t slow down when Season 5 resumes in February 2015.

Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (HBO): Idiotic Foo-hater rhetoric notwithstanding, Dave Grohl’s Great American Music Roadtrip uncovered gems even the most hardcore music geek wouldn’t be aware of. Real people playing real instruments writing real songs—embrace it while you still can.

American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX): The best elements of three previous seasons came together on No. 4, Freak Show, along with more gorgeous cinematography, more sympathetic characters and more Jessica Lange than expected. The early loss of Twisty the Clown seemed like a misstep, but the rest of this season has been perfect.

Benched (USA): With no hype besides airing after the craptastic Chrisley Knows Best, new comedy Benched, about a former corporate attorney (Happy Endings’ Eliza Coupe) slumming it in the public defender’s office, managed to crank out 12 hilarious episodes this winter—and no one even noticed.

The Birthday Boys (IFC): The sketch-comedy troupe relied more on themselves than producer Bob Odenkirk (who was presumably busy making Better Call Saul) in Season 2; the result was a hysterical collection of bits with callbacks and intertwining gags galore. (Fast-food spoof “How Do You Freshy?” is an instant classic.) It ain’t Mr. Show, but it’s as close as anyone’s come in years.

The Comeback (HBO): The first season nine years ago was merely uncomfortable; The Comeback’s out-of-the-blue comeback was borderline torturous—in the funniest possible way. Lisa Kudrow’s depiction of fame-junkie desperation is so masterful, you have to wonder why anybody’s even paying attention to Jennifer Aniston.

Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (Bravo): Bravo’s first foray into (overtly) scripted programming is not only not terrible; it’s actually pretty great. How the hell did this happen?

Mike Tyson Mysteries (Adult Swim): Whatever drugs were responsible for the creation of this … thank you.

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Cristela (Friday, Oct. 10, ABC), series debut: Says here that Cristela Alonzo is a “breakout star.” If that means she’s breaking out of the TV screen, grabbing you by the neck and screeching, “Laugh at my plight of being a modern Latina dealing with racism, sexism and following Tim Allen on a Friday night!!!” then, yeah. That’s the entire show. The laugh track isn’t the worst part of Cristela (it’s a close second); the by-the-numbers, My Wacky Mexi-Family one-liners weren’t fresh when George Lopez did ’em in this same network timeslot a decade ago. ABC should cancel this floater ASAP so Alonzo can go “break out” on something worth her and our time.

The Walking Dead (Sunday, Oct. 12, AMC), season premiere: Walking Dead fanatic: “Why do we have to wait so long between seasons? Whhhyyy?!” Me: “By splitting the seasons in half every year, AMC is actually minimizing the wait time—you only had to wait six months for Season 5, as opposed to 12.” WDF: “But the first half will be over in November, and then we’ll have to wait all the way until February for the second! Whhhyyy?!” Me: “December is a dead zone for TV, and January isn’t much better. If The Walking Dead ran all 16 episodes of Season 5 through the holidays, the live-viewing ratings would drop off; the season would be over in January; and, due to production schedules, you’d have to wait until 2016 for Season 6. It takes time to make a quality series—this isn’t some Z Nation bullshit.” WDF: “But …” Me: (Slap).

The Affair (Sunday, Oct. 12, Showtime), series debut: At first, The Affair looks like a throwback to Showtime’s pre-Weeds/Dexter-success era, a time when the network produced many sexy-if-forgettable “adult” dramas just because they could get away with nudity. But The Affair has a narrative hook (and, yes, nudity) that hints at a more complicated story than just infidelity involving happily married Noah (Dominic West—The Wire’s McNulty) and not-so-happily married Alison (Ruth Wilson), and the affect it has on their relationships with their unknowing spouses (Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson): It’s told from both Noah and Alison’s perspectives, and they rarely match up. It’s the least sensational drama from Showtime in years, but it’s no less—Critic Terminology Alert—intriguing.

Jane the Virgin (Monday, Oct. 13, The CW), series debut: Accidental artificial insemination? Let’s say it’s a thing. During a routine checkup, engaged 23-year-old virgin Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is inadvertently inseminated with a sample meant for another patient. Making matters even worse, the sample is from her handsome, crush-worthy boss at the hotel where she works! How will she explain this to her family? Her fiancé? The idiotic Christian groups who think Jane the Virgin is a show about abortion? If you loved Ugly Betty, but thought it never went telenovela hard enough, Jane is for you. Spoiler: No abortion.

Marry Me (Tuesday, Oct. 14, NBC), series debut: Fans of Happy Endings, Burning Love, Wet Hot American Summer, Childrens Hospital and all the other comedies Casey Wilson and Ken Marino have starred in are really, really, really going to want to like Marry Me. Unfortunately, the collective manic energy of Wilson and Marino initially overpowers what’s supposed to be a sweet li’l rom-com about a couple seemingly doomed to never propose at the right time. Then again, Happy Endings (which was helmed by the same guy behind Marry Me) didn’t click right away, so this could still work out … if it weren’t up against the killing-it-in-Season-4 New Girl on Fox, that is.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR OCT. 14!

2 Broke Girls: Season 3

Max (Kat Dennings) and Caroline (Beth Behrs) open their cupcake shop in the back of the diner and go to baking school while still waitressing, and yet somehow find the time to drop 6.5 vagina jokes per minute. God bless ’Merica. (Warner Bros.)

Locked In

After the daughter of a couple (Ben Barnes, Sarah Roemer) winds up in a coma, things get worse when the wife finds out the husband has been sleeping with a co-worker (Eliza Dushku), and the kid begins talking to him telepathically. But locked in what? (Lionsgate)

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Renowned scientist/dog Mr. Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) and his boy sidekick Sherman (Max Charles) travel through time via the WABAC machine to fix the history they inadvertently screwed up by traveling through time. Wha? (20th Century Fox)

Penny Dreadful: Season 1

Eva Green, Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Billie Piper lead this Victorian London horror series that strings together classic literary monster tales into a slick, steampunk (and, as per premium cable, adult) X-Files. Creepy/sexy as hell. (Paramount)

X-Men: Days of Future Past

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman … still) time-travels to 1973 to stop the creation of the mutant-hunting Sentinels, and maybe teach the younger X-Men a thing or two about kicking ass, proper sideburns and Broadway musicals. (Fox)

More New DVD Releases (Oct. 14)

Dracula: Season 1, The Honorable Woman, Knight Rusty, The Last Supper, Nothing Bad Can Happen, Persecuted, Robot Chicken DC Comics Special 2: Villains in Paradise, Throwdown, Venus in Fur, Violette, Werewolf Rising, Witching and Bitching.

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COMIC BOOK AND FANTASY ACTION

Gotham (Fox, premieres Monday, Sept. 22)

The “Garfield Minus Garfield” jokes regarding Gotham’s “Batman Minus Batman” origin story are valid, as is the observation that it’s just a highly-stylized cop show with the occasional glimpse of a future villain. (“Hey, look, the Penguin! And there’s Poison Ivy!”) However, a highly stylized cop show is better than a no-style cop show—as you’ll see soon—and Gotham, centered around detectives James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), sports this season’s priciest-looking pilot: The police station looks like the ’40s; the cars look like the ’70s; and you never see a cell phone or computer, but there are satellite dishes on the rooftops. Gotham occupies no time period, you see, and of all the excellent performances (McKenzie is as stoic and solid as Logue is manic and morally fluid), the most surprising of all is Jada Pinkett Smith’s as Gotham crime boss Fish Mooney—any show that can make her likable (as a villain with a ridiculous name, no less) is onto something.

The Flash (The CW, premieres Tuesday, Oct. 7)

In other DC Comics news, The Flash is poised to become this year’s Insta-Hit, a spin-off of Arrow that retains all of that series’ superhero soapiness and turns up the brightness several notches. The Flash, about Central City CSI investigator-turned-Fastest Man Alive Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), has more in common with the early years of Smallville than the dark ’n’ growly Arrow; even though there’s some darkness in his past, nerdy Barry is having far more fun here than broody stud-boy Oliver Queen is back in Starling City. The special effects are on the right side of budget camp, and the show’s comic-book-true vision is immediately clear. Unlike, say …

Constantine (NBC, premieres Friday, Oct. 24)

In other-other DC Comics news, turns out most of the advance complaining about Hellblazer adaptation Constantine was spot-on: This show probably can’t be done on network TV—but what NBC has come up with isn’t a total loss. First of all, Matt Ryan is markedly better than Keanu Reeves was in the 2005 Constantine movie, injecting the right amount of seething swagger into the titular demon hunter—he’s Gordon Ramsay, literally in hell’s kitchen. And … that’s about it. The occasionally impressive effects don’t mask the fact that potentially excellent support players like Lucy Griffiths (who’s outta here after the first episode, anyway—smart move) and Harold Perrineau have nothing to do, and there’s So. Much. Exposition. that NBC could saved everyone a headache by just mass-mailing Hellblazer comics to fans of Grimm, Constantine’s lead-in and target audience. First cancellation of the season—I’m calling it right here.

Forever (ABC, premieres Monday, Sept. 22)

Ioan Gruffud (Fantastic Four) plays a New York City medical examiner who knows everything—literally, because he’s been alive for 200 years. When he teams up with plucky, equally pretty NYPD detective Jo Martinez (Alana de la Garza), there’s no crime they can’t solve … if Castle or Elementary haven’t already closed it. Gruffud and de la Garza make a passable, vanilla-latte version of Castle/Beckett and Holmes/Watson, but it won’t matter: Forever is a far-too-optimistic title for an ABC series airing normally on Tuesdays.

Jane the Virgin (The CW, premieres, Monday, Oct. 13)

Accidental artificial insemination? Let’s say it’s a thing. During a routine checkup, engaged 23-year-old virgin Jane (Gina Rodriguez), is inadvertently inseminated with a sample meant for another patient—making matters even worse, the sample is from her handsome boss at the hotel where she works! How will she explain this to her family? Her fiancé? The idiotic Christian groups who think Jane the Virgin is a show about abortion? Of course she’s going to keep the baby—this is The CW, not Cinemax. If you loved Ugly Betty back in the day, but thought it never went telenovela hard enough, Jane is for you, and Rodriguez will be America’s new mid-level TV sweetheart. Oh, and congratulations on all of the free advance publicity from the aforementioned idiotic Christian groups, CW.


COMEDY ONSLAUGHT

Red Band Society (Fox, premieres Wednesday, Sept. 17)

A dramedy with all of the snarky teen attitude of Glee and none of the musical numbers, Red Band Society (a title that beat out Sadder Childrens Hospital and Kancer Kidz!) is the only real chance Fox is taking this season besides Gotham—the exec who greenlighted Sleepy Hollow, Almost Human and anything else remotely weird last year is waaay fired. Like the kids on early Glee, the young cancer-ward residents are all fresh-faced newbies spouting rapid-fire pop-cultural zingers, leavened with gallows humor and grounded by older actors of note (Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable as hospital staff) who only come out of the background as needed. And the show’s narrator is a child in a coma, so “deal with it” (even Coma Kid has ’tude). So, are we supposed to get attached? Ask Walter White—we had him around for five seasons.

Black-ish (ABC, premieres Wednesday, Sept. 24)

For a new series airing after the whitest show on television, Modern Family, Black-ish sure does bring up some Bernie Mac Show memories—how did this happen? And how does it lead into Nashville? Anthony Anderson stars as a family man with a corporate PR job and a sweet suburban spread, but he’s becoming more and more aware (via narration, this season’s hot trend, along with the Chubby Bearded Bud) of his clan’s disassociation with black culture; the casual disapproval of his live-in dad Pops (Laurence Fishburne) only exacerbates his anxiety. For a seemingly one-note premise, Black-ish delivers as many laughs in its debut episode as its more-established sitcom neighbors—this is either what The Boondocks railed against, or really wanted, all along.

Selfie (ABC, premieres Tuesday, Sept. 30)

Ex-Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan is a little too good as a social-media-obsessed airhead who suddenly realizes that her thousands of “friends” aren’t real friends—viewers will probably be tuning out after five minutes of her overly-affected hashtag-speak. Too bad, because this roundabout My Fair Lady/Pygmalion riff turns sweet, funny and—uh oh—educational once co-star John Cho begins schooling her Eliza Dooley (yes, really) on how to interact with Real People in Real Life. In turn, she teaches his Henry Higenbottam (the hits keep coming) how to lighten up and have a little fun. Selfie may be a more obvious movie than a series, but Gillan and Cho have the chemistry to build it into something longer-lasting. With a different name—seriously, Selfie #sucks.

Manhattan Love Story (ABC, premieres Tuesday, Sept. 30)

On the name front, Manhattan Love Story could be the worst title of the year—and this is a season that includes Selfie, Black-ish and Jane the Virgin. All you need to know about MLS: Analeigh Tipton is A—Dor—A—Ble; the she-thought/he-thought dating conceit works to far better comedic effect than you’d think; did I mention that Analeigh Tipton is adorable? Give this one a chance, and not to plan your Tuesdays, romantics, but Selfie and Manhattan Love Story into Fox’s New Girl and The Mindy Project (or, less likely, NBC’s Marry Me and About a Boy) would make for a solid evening.

Mulaney (Fox, premieres Sunday, Oct. 5)

Daaammmnnn. Maybe it’s all the “new Seinfeld” comparisons being thrown around, presumably by someone paid by Fox to do so, but Mulaney is an even bigger disappointment than present-day rich-asshole Jerry Seinfeld showing up at your kid’s birthday party for a standup set. (“Nice Hot Wheels—check out my Porsche, ya little shit.”) Comic/writer John Mulaney plays an unnervingly stiff version of himself, a struggling New York comic working for a comedy-legend-turned-game-show-host (Martin Short) and living with a couple of wacky roommates (Totally Biased’s Seaton Smith and Saturday Night Live’s Nasim Pedrad). They then throw in a random gay-geezer neighbor (Elliot Gould), because why not? That’s a whole lotta talent working overtime to produce no laughs whatsoever—except from the … ugh … laugh track. Besides Fox, who’ve already ordered damned near a full season of this trainwreck (Dads 2.0!), everyone involved seems to be thinking “Is this going on TV? For real?” Unfortunately, yes.

A to Z (NBC, premieres Thursday, Oct. 2)

Remember the Mother from How I Met Your Mother? Who was pursued for years as The Girl, only to be killed off in favor of The Other Girl in the end? Jennifer Love Hewitt action figure Cristin Milioti is back in A to Z, starring opposite Ben Feldman (Mad Men—Ginsberg!) in a romantic comedy that should be insufferable, but actually works in spite of itself. Andrew’s a romantic; Zelda’s a pragmatist; and when they meet due to an Internet-dating website glitch (a site which Andrew works for, in the office building adjacent to Zelda’s—see how this is going already?), undeniable sparks fly. A to Z is unapologetically fluffy, but it’s probably due for a longer life on NBC than …

Bad Judge (NBC, premieres Thursday, Oct. 2)

You’re thinking “Bad Teacher as a judge,” and you’re mostly right—except that Rebecca Wright (Kate Walsh) is a smart, respected criminal court judge by day who just happens to party like 10 animals and play drums in a rock band with her BFF (Arden Myrin) by night. Walsh has always had a wicked comic streak, and Bad Judge would have finally been a killer vehicle for it—on FX or Showtime. On NBC, it’s just a bed-headed, half-dressed lead-in for the sweeter A to Z and Parenthood. I know I’m in, but I’ll be one of the few who watches until it’s canceled by the end of October.

Marry Me (NBC, premieres Tuesday, Oct. 14)

If you’re a fan of Happy Endings, Burning Love, Wet Hot American Summer, Childrens Hospital and all the other comedies in which Casey Wilson and/or Ken Marino have starred, you’re really, really, really going to want to like Marry Me. Unfortunately, their collective manic energy initially overpowers what’s supposed to be a sweet li’l rom-com about a couple seemingly doomed to never propose at the right time. Then again, Happy Endings (which was helmed by the same guy behind Marry Me) didn’t click right away, so this could still work out over the long haul—good thing Marry Me isn’t airing against New Girl. Oh, it is? Never mind.

Cristela (ABC, premieres Friday, Oct. 10)

Says here Cristela Alonzo is a “breakout star.” If that means she’s breaking out of the TV screen, grabbing you by the neck and screeching, “Laugh at my plight of being a modern Latina dealing with racism, sexism and following Tim Allen on a Friday night!!!”, then, yeah, because that’s pretty much the entire show.

The McCarthys (CBS, premieres Thursday, Oct. 30)

A fat, loudmouthed, sports-obsessed Bah-ston family has a gay son—and, it’s a go for borderline homophobic comedy! Or borderline comedy, period. Even sadder then the continued use of the laugh track (yes, there’s only one—the shows share it) in 2014 is the abject laziness in the writing, staging and execution of The McCarthys: It’s like a CBS programmer found a cheap ’80s pilot in the closet, dusted it off, and said, “Here, just jam this into Thursday night so we can hit happy hour and blow some of that Big Bang money!”


CRIME, COPS AND FEDS

The Mysteries of Laura (NBC, premieres Wednesday, Sept. 17)

There are actually two shows here: One in which a surprisingly-effective Debra Messing plays a wisecracking, been-there-done-that NYPD detective who wouldn’t be out of place on Brooklyn Nine-Nine or even Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (you do need a new Munch, SVU—just sayin’), and another in which she’s a harried single-ish mom to awful, awful twins. Call me when they dump the brats.

Scorpion (CBS, premieres Monday, Sept. 22)

Seems like we’re a year or two overdue for a Nerds Assist the Feds procedural, but here’s Scorpion, wherein three good-looking “outcasts” and one token fat guy in glasses clack keyboards, drop sci-fi references and run wires to fight The Terrorists. Working for squinty fed Robert Patrick, the Scorpion—or, as it will never, ever be used, </scorpion> … yep—team are “brilliant misfits who comprise the last line of defense against complex, high-tech threats of the modern age.” But wait, it gets stoopider: The team insists on adding their favorite local waitress (Katharine McPhee, whose acting has somehow gotten worse since Smash) to the payroll because, as the single mother of a budding genius, they can “translate” him for her, and she can “translate” the non-nerd world for them. </blech>

NCIS: New Orleans (CBS, premieres Tuesday, Sept. 23)

Any need to spell this one out? Scott Bakula is the Aw-Shucks Silver-Maned Leader; Lucas Black is the Leather-Jacketed Wild Card; Zoe McLellan is the Sensible Female Presence, and CCH Pounder is the Quirky Science Lady; they investigate military crimes in New Orleans. Don’t worry; your town will eventually get its own franchise … were we talking about NCIS or Popeye’s?

How to Get Away With Murder (ABC, premieres Thursday, Sept. 25)

The Shonda Rhimes takeover of Thursday nights is complete, leaving How to Get Away With Murder star Viola Davis (playing a morally ambiguous, far-too-well-dressed college professor who becomes embroiled in a murder mystery with her law students) to chew scenery with impunity. Also, there’s a character named Bonnie Winterbottom. No more witnesses!

Stalker (CBS, premieres Wednesday, Oct. 1)

It’s difficult to say who’s working harder on Stalker: Dylan McDermott, acting his ass off to prove that he’s a brilliant detective with every right to be the cocky prick with perfect stubble he is, or the special-effects crew toiling to give co-star Maggie Q cleavage. Both fall … flat. As the title suggests, this series is about a threat-assessment unit of the LAPD that works stalker cases, but it’s just another under-lit clone from the CBS Cop Show Replicator 3000®. Maggie should be free from those torture devices in 13 episodes, if that.

Gracepoint (Fox, premieres Thursday, Oct. 2)

It’s like no one’s even trying with the show titles this season—Gracepoint? Could be a condo development, a Toyota hybrid, a Cialis product, who knows? In this case, it’s an American remake of the British crime-mystery series Broadchurch, with the rare convenience of having both the original star (David Tennant—you know, one of those Doctor Whos) and show creator/producer onboard. But it’s still just a cop procedural, and not even Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) as Tennant’s partner can distract from the fact that Gracepoint is a dour trudge that’s as dull as its name. And Dour Trudge was my favorite Downton Abbey character, too.


POLITICAL UNREST

Madam Secretary (CBS, premieres Sunday, Sept. 21)

When the secretary of state is killed in a plane crash, Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni), who quit the CIA years ago over “ethical issues,” is suddenly yanked out of her college-professor gig to replace him … because that happens. Once past the shaky setup, however, Madam Secretary kicks into full-tilt West Wing mode of establishing Government as We Wish It Were Run with McCord’s zero-tolerance policy for bureaucratic bullshit and useless protocol (though it is funny to see her balk at having an appointed stylist, as she looks like she has one of her own on retainer). Madam Secretary is as solid a political drama as network TV has seen in years, and handled right, could be Leoni’s The Good Wife moment—don’t blow it, CBS.

State of Affairs (NBC, premieres Monday, Nov. 17)

Katherine Heigl was great in Grey’s Anatomy, and then Knocked Up—so let’s pretend she joined the Peace Corps in 2007 and is just now returning to acting, OK? In State of Affairs, she plays a CIA analyst/adviser with a special relationship with the president (Alfre Woodard)—no, not like that: She was engaged to POTUS’ son before he was killed in a terrorist attack (as depicted in the pilot’s intense, straight-outta-Zero Dark Thirty cold opening). Now, she drowns her pain in booze and random hookups by night, and helps set foreign policy by day. Of course, this couldn’t be just a straight-up political drama (right, Tea?), so there’s some Blacklist-y conspiratorial intrigue about the fiancé not being what he seemed/seems. Upside: Heigl has better hair than Lizzy from The Blacklist, and a less-scary cryface than Carrie from Homeland.


MIDSEASON SERIES

You may see some of these in 2015—if not sooner. Or never.

American Crime (ABC, drama): Sure to still be timely in 2015, American Crime follows the toll taken on those affected by a racially motivated crime and trial. If TV audiences are clamoring for anything, it’s to be lectured on race and class politics every week.

The Astronaut Wives Club (ABC, drama): From the book of the same name, the true-ish story of the ’60s women behind the men who went into space, back when ’Merica did that. The series was supposed to debut in July, but was pushed to 2015. Not a good sign.

Fresh Off the Boat (ABC, comedy): A ’90s coming-of-age tale about a young Asian-American boy and his family moving from Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown to Orlando, Fla.—a trip that requires no boat, but whatever.

Galavant (ABC, comedy): A “musical fairytale comedy” (!) about a knight’s quest to rescue his true love from the clutches of an evil king. Think Men in Tights meets Game of Thrones meets ABC hopes everyone will have forgotten about The Quest by 2015.

Marvel’s Agent Carter (ABC, drama): In this 1946-set spin-off of Captain America, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) takes on spy missions for Stark Industries, because she’s a skilled, capable woman (yay), and she needs a distraction from pining over Cap (boo). Unlike S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter only has eight episodes to get it right.

Members Only (ABC, drama): Get ready to fall in indifference with the Holbrooke family, a wealthy clan of beautiful people whose lives aren’t as perfect as they seem—being rich and living at the country club is hard, you guys.

Secrets and Lies (ABC, drama): A cat-and-mouse mystery thriller pitting a possibly innocent family man (Ryan Phillippe) against a determined homicide detective (Julliette Lewis) in what sounds like a direct-to-VHS (look it up) potboiler from the ’90s.

The Whispers (ABC, drama): A sci-fi epic (starring American Horror Story’s Lily Rabe) about an alien invasion targeting Earth’s children, because executive producer Steven Spielberg apparently forgot that he’s already done that with Falling Skies.

Battle Creek (CBS, drama): Breaking Bad’s Vince Gilligan created Battle Creek more than a decade ago, and it’s finally being produced for a network—too bad it should be on cable. Dean Winters (Law and Order: SVU, Rescue Me) and Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas) star as mismatched cop partners in a bankrupt Michigan city, and it’s way too dark-humored and subversive for CBS. If it ever makes the schedule, watch it hard.

CSI: Cyber (CBS, drama):This is more like it for CBS: an IT version of CSI, starring network vets Patricia Arquette and Peter MacNicol. Tell your parents about it the next time you have to reset their wireless router again.

The Odd Couple (CBS, comedy): Oscar (Matthew Perry) is a slob; Felix (Thomas Lennon) is a neat freak. See, kids, in the ’70s, this is all the plot you needed to pitch a sitcom.

Zoo (CBS, drama): Remember that reality show When Animals Attack? Now it’s a sci-fi drama, based on the James Patterson novel about the world’s animal life finally turning on mankind. Pick a stance on this one, PETA.

Backstrom (Fox, comedy): A self-destructive-but-brilliant Portland, Ore., detective (Rainn Wilson, The Office) is given one last chance to get his shit together by leading a special crimes unit. At least it’s not called Special Crimes Unit.

Bordertown (Fox, comedy): Seth MacFarlane and some Family Guy/American Dad/Futurama alum team with Mark Hentemann, Independent contributor Gustavo Arellano (Ask a Mexican) and Lalo Alcaraz (La Cucaracha) for an animated Tex-Mex comedy. They’re gonna hate it over at Fox News.

Empire (Fox, drama): Terrence Howard stars as an ex-street-thug-turned-hip-hop-mogul who has to groom one of his three sons to take over the business before a debilitating disease incapacitates him, and his insane ex-wife takes it all. Oh, and his character’s name is Luscious Lyon. Still in?

The Last Man on Earth (Fox, comedy): Saturday Night Live’s Will Forte is, literally, the last man on Earth. No one will ever see this.

Wayward Pines (Fox, drama): Trapped in Idaho! might have been a better title, but this M. Night Shyamalan production—don’t run away yet—about a pleasant small town from which no one can escape already has enough weirdness going for it. Matt Dillon and Carla Gugino bring the star power, as do the TV-overextended Juliette Lewis and Terrence Howard.

Weird Loners (Fox, comedy): Underutilized comic actors Becki Newton (Ugly Betty) and Zachary Knighton (Happy Endings) should probably be able to perk up the tired sitcom format of Chronically Single New York Pals … or at least upstage Undateable.

Allegiance (NBC, drama): Decades ago, KGB agent Katya (Hope Davis) was given the mission to recruit an American businessman (Scott Cohen). Instead, she fell in love with him, and the Kremlin just said, “Go ahead and move to the U.S.; we’ll be in touch.” Guess who now wants a favor from the couple and their newbie CIA analyst son? Ripped from today’s headlines about The Americans.

Aquarius (NBC, drama): A 1967 Los Angeles detective (David Duchovny) deals with hippies, cultural upheaval and a certain amateur cult leader named Charles Manson—it’s Hannibal meets Mad Men. Another obvious Shoulda Been on Cable candidate, though Aquarius might contain too much actual history for the History Channel.

Mission Control (NBC, comedy): Will Ferrell and Adam McKay produce a David Hornsby (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) comedy about a female 1960s astronaut (Krysten Ritter) trying to break into the NASA boys club. Even in space, you can already hear this being canceled.

Mr. Robinson (NBC, comedy): The Office’s Craig Robinson stars in the Bad Teacher/School of Rock mashup that was originally produced by the Office team, who have all since quit. But hey, it’ll be fine …

Odyssey (NBC, drama): A soldier (Anna Friel) uncovers a corporate/military conspiracy after being left for dead behind enemy lines in the Homeland-meets-Traffic-meets-Strike Back drama that’s as confusing and ugly as the hyphens suggest.

One Big Happy (NBC, comedy): Lesbian Lizzy (Elisha Cuthbert) and straight-dude Luke (Nick Zano) are BFFs trying to have a baby (just go with it), which is cool until Luke meets a ridiculously-hot Brit girl (ridiculously-hot Kelly Brook) and impetuously marries her. It’s more acceptable than The New Normal, because there’s only one gay character.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (NBC, comedy): Ellie Kemper (The Office) stars as a woman starting her life over after escaping a doomsday cult. No one will ever see this, either.

iZombie (The CW, comedy): When medical resident Liv (Rose McIver) is attacked by, and then turned into, a zombie, she takes a job at the coroner’s office to feed her hunger for brains, and passes herself off as goth. Sounds insane, but if anyone can make it work, it’s creator/writer/director Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Party Down).

The Messengers (The CW, drama): A group of strangers are brought together by a mysterious object that’s fallen from the sky, and then charged with stopping (or is it starting?) The Rapture. OK, iZombie—or for that matter, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—doesn’t sound so eff’dup now.


NETWORK SERIES RETURN DATES

Hell’s Kitchen (Fox; Wednesday, Sept. 10)

The Biggest Loser (NBC; Thursday, Sept. 11)

Kitchen Nightmares (Fox; Friday, Sept. 12)

American Dad (Fox; Sunday, Sept. 14)

Dancing With the Stars (ABC; Monday, Sept. 15)

New Girl (Fox; Tuesday, Sept. 16)

The Mindy Project (Fox; Tuesday, Sept. 16)

The Good Wife (CBS; Sunday, Sept. 21)

The Big Bang Theory (CBS; Monday, Sept. 22)

Sleepy Hollow (Fox; Monday, Sept. 22)

The Voice (NBC; Monday, Sept. 22)

The Blacklist (NBC; Monday, Sept. 22)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC; Tuesday, Sept. 23)

NCIS (CBS; Tuesday, Sept. 23)

Person of Interest (CBS; Tuesday, Sept. 23)

Chicago Fire (NBC; Tuesday, Sept. 23)

The Goldbergs (ABC; Wednesday, Sept. 24)

The Middle (ABC; Wednesday, Sept. 24)

Modern Family (ABC; Wednesday, Sept. 24)

Nashville (ABC; Wednesday, Sept. 24)

Survivor (CBS; Wednesday, Sept. 24)

Law and Order: SVU (NBC; Wednesday, Sept. 24)

Chicago P.D. (NBC; Wednesday, Sept. 24)

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC; Thursday, Sept. 25)

Scandal (ABC; Thursday, Sept. 25)

Bones (Fox; Thursday, Sept. 25)

Parenthood (NBC; Thursday, Sept. 25)

Shark Tank (ABC; Friday, Sept. 26)

The Amazing Race (CBS; Friday, Sept. 26)

Hawaii Five-0 (CBS; Friday, Sept. 26)

Blue Bloods (CBS; Friday, Sept. 26)

Saturday Night Live (NBC; Saturday, Sept. 27)

Once Upon a Time (ABC; Sunday, Sept. 28)

Resurrection (ABC; Sunday, Sept. 28)

Revenge (ABC; Sunday, Sept. 28)

CSI (CBS; Sunday, Sept. 28)

The Simpsons (Fox; Sunday, Sept. 28)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox; Sunday, Sept. 28)

Family Guy (Fox; Sunday, Sept. 28)

Castle (ABC; Monday, Sept. 29)

Mom (CBS; Monday, Sept. 29)

NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS; Monday, Sept. 29)

Criminal Minds (CBS; Wednesday, Oct. 1)

The Vampire Diaries (The CW; Thursday, Oct. 2)

Reign (The CW; Thursday, Oct. 2)

Last Man Standing (ABC; Friday, Oct. 3)

Bob’s Burgers (Fox; Sunday, Oct. 5)

The Originals (The CW; Monday, Oct. 6)

Supernatural (The CW; Tuesday, Oct. 7)

Arrow (The CW; Wednesday, Oct. 8)

About a Boy (NBC; Tuesday, Oct. 14)

The 100 (The CW; Wednesday, Oct. 22)

Grimm (NBC; Friday, Oct. 24)

2 Broke Girls (CBS; Monday, Oct. 27)

The Millers (CBS; Thursday, Oct. 30)

Two and a Half Men (CBS; Thursday, Oct. 30)

Elementary (CBS; Thursday, Oct. 30)

For cable returning series and premieres, see this week’s True TV.

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