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Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Pacific Heat (Friday, Dec. 2, Netflix), series debut: Much has already been written about how animated Australian import Pacific Heat looks a hell of a lot like long-running American series Archer—and now here’s one more, damn it. First of all, the animation isn’t as slick as Archer’s; Pacific Heat more resembles a haphazard Microsoft Paint attempt at a tribute than a calculated rip-off. Second, the real stoopid-genius of Archer lies in its writing and voice talents, which are among the best on TV, cartoon or otherwise. The Gold Coast law-enforcement agents of Pacific Heat aren’t particularly clever or distinct, and every joke can be seen coming from a kilometer away. You could blame an Aussie/American disconnect, but remember Danger 5? That was some Down Under funny—time to bring it back, Netflix!

Mr. Neighbor’s House (Friday, Dec. 2, Adult Swim), special: You probably know actor Brian Huskey as “that guy” from People of Earth, Veep, Another Period, Childrens Hospital and 100 other bizarro-comedy series and movies. Mr. Neighbor’s House could be the first time Huskey has played a lead role, and he’s disturbingly perfect as a slowly-coming-unglued children’s show host who internally seethes like Patrick Bateman stuck with Mr. Rogers’ shitty sweater—and shittier puppets. Unfortunately, Mr. Neighbor’s House (which was created by Huskey and fellow alt-comedy vet Jason Mantzoukas) has been sitting in Adult Swim purgatory for more than a year, and only one episode of what could have been a hilarious series was produced. So, enjoy Mr. Neighbor’s “31st Annual 5th Birthday Party” and wonder what’s going on at Adult Swim programming these days.

The Royals (Sunday, Dec. 4, E!), season premiere: Sexy glam-trash soap opera The Royals is the only non-reality show on E!, as well as the network’s lone offering that isn’t an insult to anyone with an IQ higher than 50. (Has The Soup really been gone a year? Sigh …) Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley), Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) and the rest of the fictional British royal family have been locked in a tawdry, shifting power struggle over the throne for two seasons now, and the unexpected return of presumed-dead Prince Robert (Max Brown, replete with fake castaway beard) at the outset of Season 3 further complicates an already sticky wicket. (Hey, I tried.) Catch up on The Royals over the holidays on Amazon Prime; the accents will fool your family into thinking you’re watching some proper PBS fare.

Shut Eye (Wednesday, Dec. 7, Hulu), series debut: A dark dramedy about a Los Angeles crime syndicate of gypsy psychics? Well-played, Hulu. Charlie (Jeffrey Donovan, Burn Notice) is a cynical fortune-teller conman desperate to get out of the gypsies’ racket and start his own racket with his wife (KaDee Strickland, Secrets and Lies), ripping suckers off as an independent businessman, because ’Merica. The idea of a grifter couple trying to get out from under the thumb of a ruthless psychic mafia is intriguing enough, but Shut Eye throws in another twist: When Charlie sustains a beat-down head injury that enables him to experience (seemingly, at least) real clairvoyant visions, the career fraud suddenly has a new outlook on life—not that gypsy mob bosses Fonzo (Angus Sampson) and Rita (Isabella Rossellini) care; their only interest is in retaining their star crystal-baller and his cash flow. Another left-field winner from Hulu.

Hairspray Live! (Wednesday, Dec. 7, NBC), special: John Waters got it right in 1988 with the original Hairspray movie—how many unnecessary and increasingly watered-down stage and film versions need to be made? Apparently one more, because current broadcast network TV is more about nostalgia and cheap stunts than original concepts and risk-taking. (Didya hear that Hulu has a series about a psychic crime syndicate, NBC?) Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Andrea Martin, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, Maddie Baillio, Ephraim Sykes, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Billy Eichner, Sean Hayes and Rosie O’Donnell make up the Who’s Who of Who Cares? cast, and every remaining trace of Waters’ subversive undertones will surely have been scrubbed out by airtime. At least he’ll get a check.

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W/ Bob and David (Friday, Nov. 13, Netflix), series debut: I’m going to assume/hope my audience is too young to remember HBO’s Mr. Show With Bob and David—if not, then I’m talking to a bunch of geezers who won’t be around much longer to continue to support my lavish lifestyle. Anyway: Mr. Show was a ’90s sketch-comedy series starring Bob Odenkirk (now of Better Call Saul fame) and David Cross (Arrested Development and The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret infamy) that was nothing less than the American Monty Python: a fearless, biting comedy whirlwind that eviscerated pop culture and influenced every show after it. W/ Bob and David isn’t the groundbreaking vehicle that was, but Odenkirk and Cross (as well as several returning Mr. Show regulars and some new faces) still deliver the goods like it’s 1995. Where’s my flannel shirt and sixer of Zima?

Spotless (Saturday, Nov. 14, Esquire), series debut: A new original drama … from the Esquire Network … because maximum saturation in The Age of Too Much TV has not yet been achieved, apparently. Esquire’s original programming thus far has consisted of iffy reality shows (Knife Fight, White Collar Brawlers, Friday Night Tykes, etc.), but London-set Spotless has an intriguing premise: Professional crime-scene cleaner Jean (Marc-André Grondin) is dragged into the mob underworld by his criminal brother (Denis Ménochet) to scrub murder scenes before the law gets involved—or else, as per mob tradition, their blood and their family’s blood will be the next splattered. Spotless balances darkness, tension and humor as if it’s shooting for Breaking Bad with a Brit twist, and occasionally succeeds—if it were on a better-established network, it could maybe even last a couple of seasons.

Into the Badlands (Sunday, Nov. 15, AMC), series debut: While this is of the few new series not based on a comic book, martial-arts actioner Into the Badlands certainly looks like one: Bullet-biking warrior Sunny (Daniel Wu) kicks ass and sheds blood across a future, gun-free (!) America ruled by seven warlords, like Kung Fu (Wiki it) meets Mad Max with a Tarantino twist. (The producers of Django Unchained and Pulp Fiction are involved, after all.) This should click with The Walking Dead’s fans, but, of course, AMC had to shoot itself in the brain stem by sandwiching Into the Badlands between TWD and Talking Dead, a beyond-stupid move that will only piss off zombie connoisseurs: “I have to wait an hour to dissect this week’s episode with Chris Hardwick and three randos?!”

The Royals (Sunday, Nov. 15, E!), season premiere: The first season wasn’t perfect, but at least The Royals broke E! out of its Vacuous Morons With Too Much Money reality-show groove, with soapy modern drama and serious star power: Elizabeth Hurley was born to play the Queen of England, and newcomer Alexandra Park should be an It Actress by the time this series ends, if not sooner. Season 2 continues the Gossip Girl in Buckingham Palace ridiculousness, with Queen Helena (Hurley) plotting to wrest the throne from her conspirator Cyrus (Jake Maskall); party kids Princess Eleanor (Park) and Prince Liam (William Moseley) are still on the outs with the monarchy; and the Grand Duchess (Joan Collins—yes, Joan Collins) is still unnecessary with all of these other spinning plates in the air. As escapist trash goes, The Royals is as sophisticated as E! gets.

Chicago Med (Tuesday, Nov. 17, NBC), series debut: Ah, Dick Wolf. If anyone can resurrect the primetime medical drama (no, Grey’s Anatomy and The Night Shift don’t count, and CBS’ new Code Black is flat-lining), it’s probably him. Sure, The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden dropped out of this early on, as did the original showrunner, but so what? Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. are the highest-rated non-karaoke shows on NBC, so get ready for years of Med and, soon, Chicago Animal Control, Chicago Building Inspection, Chicago Credit Union, Chicago Uber, Chicago Pizza, Chicago Dog and Chicago Sunroof.

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The Royals (Sunday, March 15, E!), series debut: First came Bravo with Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce; now E! turns to scripted drama with The Royals? Has the “reality” finally all been filmed? Unlike GG2D, The Royals proudly dons the soap-opera tiara and takes it over the tawdry top, with fictional modern British Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley) attempting to reign (get it?) in her tabloid-fodder children. (“My daughter, behaving like a common whore—explain this, but make it original this time,” is just one Hurley’s many snidely perfect burns.) The Royals plays so big and brash that there’s really no need to add Joan Collins as the queen’s mum, but there she is. Glossy, sexy trash that entertains for an hour—E! could have done far worse.

iZombie (Tuesday, March 17, The CW), series debut: The last Vertigo/DC Comics TV adaptation (Hellblazer to NBC’s Constantine) didn’t work out, but The CW is an easier fit for comic-book lore these days—even for something as out-there as iZombie. Writer/producers Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero have de-weirded iZombie somewhat for TV, but still: Perky medical resident Liv (Rose McIver) gets infected and turns part-zombie, withdrawing from life and becoming a “goth” coroner to feed her brain-a-month diet that retains her human consciousness and keeps her from going “full Romero.” Since she also absorbs the memories of the murder victims whose grey matter she turns into brain lo mien, she finds new purpose by helping a homicide cop (Malcolm Goodwin) solve cases—did I mention that Thomas and Ruggiero created Veronica Mars back in the day? The disparate crime-procedural/horror-comedy/CW-snarkfest elements haven’t quite aligned yet, but iZombie has potential (and a shot at a longer shelf life than Constantine).

Community (Tuesday, March 17, Yahoo Screen), season premiere: Donald Glover is busy making horrendous hip-hop (Childish Gambino); Yvette Nicole Brown is busy making terrible television (The Odd Couple); Chevy Chase … R.I.P.? Anyway: Community still has core cast members Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi and Gillian Jacobs, as well as ancillary players Jim Rash (woo!) and Ken Jeong (meh), and creator/writer/producer Dan Harmon—and even some comedy-tested new additions (Paget Brewster and Keith David). So what if you have to watch it on Yahoo? A screen is a screen, old man! Season 6 promises more of the same ridiculousness that got Community canceled by NBC, though Yahoo will be rolling out episodes week by week instead of dropping all 13 at once, Netflix-style. Wonder if Bing would be interested in reviving Constantine

Undateable (Tuesday, March 17, NBC), season premiere: I’m nor sure what happened to comic Chris D’Elia between the cancellation of Whitney and the debut season of Undateable in 2014; either Whitney Cummings directed him to dial it down on her show, or the showrunners of Undateable are throwing him erroneous “Louder is better, brah!” advice. Whatever it is, he’s now a malfunctioning T-shirt gun of Not Funny, which doesn’t help this already sucktastic sitcom in the least—which, by the way, is NBC’s 2015 model for comedy: forced, laugh-tracked and dumbed-down to TBS rerun levels (so, the 1995 model). See also …

One Big Happy (Tuesday, March 17, NBC), series debut: A lesbian (Elisha Cuthbert) agrees to have a baby fathered by her perpetually single and straight best friend (Nick Zano)—but then he suddenly marries a British girl (Kelly Brook) on the second date, and “a different kind of family is born.” Yes, a family that believes yelling lines over canned laughter makes hackneyed sex jokes funnier (it doesn’t), and producer Ellen DeGeneres can do no wrong (she can, so hard). One Big Happy is like a Funny or Die parody of an awful sitcom … that goes on 20 minutes longer than it should.

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