Owner’s Manual (Thursday, Aug. 15, AMC), series debut: This week’s “That’s a Show?” award goes to Owner’s Manual, wherein two dudes attempt dangerous challenges like flying stunt planes, driving trains and brewing beer (?)—but here’s the twist you already saw coming: One follows the instruction manual, while the other follows “his gut.” The network that brought you Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead (and Hell on Wheels—really, it’s still a thing) sorta stepped up its lagging reality-TV game with this because, let’s face it: There was no stepping down from Small Town Security. Me, I’m holding out for the “Diffuse a Bomb” episode.
Polyamory: Married and Dating (Thursday, Aug. 15, Showtime), season premiere: Try to follow this: San Diego married couple Michael and Kamala are in a four-way relationship with married couple Tahl and Jen; Tahl and Jen are both bisexual; Michael and Kamala are both dating people outside of the foursome; likewise, Jen is dating a man on the outside; Tahl, new to bisexuality even with a name like Tahl, is seeking out a boyfriend. Joining the reality-doc series in Season 2 (yes, 2) are Los Angeles married couple Chris (an MMA fighter/trainer) and Leigh Ann (a pole-dancing instructor), who are in a “triad” relationship with 24-year-old Megan. Even with blatantly (but still oddly watchable) scripted situations and staged scenes, Polyamory: Married and Dating is a convincing argument against polyamory, marriage and dating … or for it, if you’re stuck with those boring ol’ Sister Wives—right, Kody Brown?
Being Human (Saturday, Aug. 17, BBC America), series finale: When the beloved first Being Human vampire-werewolf-ghost trio of Mitchell, George and Annie left the show rather awkwardly, and Syfy’s Americanized version of the show turned out to be surprisingly not-sucky, the original British series was left for—sorry, gotta do it—dead by many fans. Too bad, because the new supernatural threesome proved to be every bit as charming, sympathetic and funny as their predecessors, even if there were few storylines left to play out. Still, the final episode of Being Human, coincidentally titled “The Last Broadcast,” is one of the best-written and most-powerful of the entire series, a twisty and frequently dark hour that finds Hal, Tom and Alex in a world-in-the-balance showdown with the devil himself. As good as the American Being Human is, it’ll probably never dare go where the Brits went with this one.
Heroes of Cosplay (Tuesdays, Syfy), new series: It’s short for “costume play,” non-geeks—I know, I was hoping for an underground subculture based around Cosby Show fan fiction, too. Heroes of Cosplay spotlights sci-fi/anime/video-game fans who’ve somehow found even more hours in the day to waste, constructing elaborate costumes based on their favorite imaginary characters in order to best one another at convention contests and “make a name for themselves in the competitive world of cosplay.” Now, before you dehydrate yourself weeping for our country, it should be noted that the craftsmanship and passion displayed on Heroes of Cosplay is impressive and infectious. Meanwhile, the rest of you might be swayed by six simple words: Hot nerd girls in skimpy costumes.
Modern Dads (Wednesday, Aug. 21, A&E), series debut: The Only TV Column That Matters™ may have been too quick to hand out the “That’s a Show?” award. Reality series Modern Dads follows four suburban Austin, Texas, stay-at-home fathers whose sad-ass group is “like a fraternity,” says network PR, “but this time around, all-nighters, babes in your bed, empty bottles and projectile vomit carry a whole new meaning.” With ya on the last one, A&E.
Boardwalk Empire: Season 3
At the start of 1923, Atlantic City kingpin Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is already making new enemies—including a nutjob gangster (Bobby Cannavale)—and collecting new showgirl mistresses. In all, it’s not bad to be Nucky. (HBO)
Hunted: Season 1
Melissa George stars as Sam Hunter, a left-for-dead spy out for revenge against her double-crossing agency—between brooding interludes, lush European scenery shots and the occasional Cinemax-obligatory sex scene, that is. (HBO)
When everyone else is raptured to heaven, Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) and her boyfriend (John Francis Daley) are left behind in Seattle—then Satan (Craig Robinson) moves into the ’hood and romances her. Plausible, sure, but … Seattle? (Lionsgate)
A girls’ camping weekend takes a terrifying turn because, oh, they’re in a place called Skull Forest, not Pleasant Pines or No Beheaded Models Park. Filmed in an actual forest over a weekend for $200, apparently. (MVD)
Welcome to the Machine
Kim Wilde, Fatboy Slim, Cypress Hill, Bloodhound Gang and others explain the 12 Commandments of the Music Business, including the ugly truth about success, recording contracts, music awards and what the hell ever became of Kim Wilde. (MVD)
More New DVD Releases (Aug. 20)
Being Human (U.K.): Season 5, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, The Dragon Pearl, Epic, The Good Wife: Season 4, Mike & Molly: Season 3, Nightmares Come at Night, Parenthood: Season 4, Revenge: Season 2, Saturday Morning Mystery, Scary Movie 5, Shadow Dancer, Stag.