Private Lives of Nashville Wives (Monday, Feb. 24, TNT), series debut: We’re going to need a ruling on the definition of “Private,” here—does it mean, “Followed around by a camera crew capturing every calculated second of our scripted ‘lives’”? Don’t expect an answer from TNT anytime soon, because they’re floating in an alternate timeline when this catty Housewives crap is still viable, and not realizing that just injecting “Nashville” collagen doesn’t instantly make them Bravo circa 2008. Of all the cable nets chasing a quick buck with reality-TV filler, none get it more consistently wrong than TNT. Can’t they just be happy with Rizzoli and Isles?
Game of Arms (Tuesday, Feb. 25, AMC), series debut: AMC hasn’t had much luck with reality outreach, either—but at least their offerings have been original and interesting. (C’mon, who wasn’t simultaneously intrigued and horrified by Small Town Security?) Game of Arms, about the sleeveless lives and sweaty struggles of competitive arm-wrestlers, strikes a winning balance of colorful characters and semi-genuine drama that at least feels worth rooting for, in the same weird fashion you may have cheered on IFC’s Whisker War-riors, or Olympic curlers. Problem is, AMC should have slotted GoA on Sundays after The Walking Dead/Talking Dead block, instead of attempting to launch a whole new night with it on Tuesdays. Kevin Smith must have some serious extortion goods to keep Comic Book Men alive.
About a Boy, Growing Up Fisher (Tuesday, Feb. 25, NBC), series debuts: Just as in the 1988 novel and the 2002 movie of the same name, an uptight Brit (Minnie Driver) and her oddball son (Benjamin Stockham) move next door to a free-spirited playa (David Walton); laughs and Valuable Life Lessons ensue. NBC’s About a Boy is no letdown from either of its previous iterations, but, even with a post-Olympics preview and a Voice lead-in, Tuesday is tough for comedy (unless you’re Zooey Deschanel or Andy Samberg). And don’t even bother to learn the names on Growing Up Fisher; just move along …
Mind Games (Tuesday, Feb. 25, ABC), series debut: Speaking of heartwarming, how about a Christian Slater/Steve Zahn dramedy about a human-behavior expert (Zahn) and his ex-con brother (Slater) who form a team that uses trickery and “Jedi mind tricks” to bend the will of Big Bads (like, say, insurance-company heads) to the benefit of their downtrodden, salt-of-the-earth clients? Sure, Leverage did it with more style and less warm-fuzzies for years, but that’s canceled—so this is where we are now. Slater and Zahn make an effortless, charming duo (and the rest of the cast mostly keeps up), but Mind Games is either going to have to go edgier or sweeter to stick. ABC already has a show called The Middle.
The Americans (Wednesday, Feb. 26, FX), season premiere: The cultural touchstone in 2013’s debut episode of The Americans was Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk”; in the Season 2 opener, it’s the Meryl Streep tear-jerker The French Lieutenant’s Woman—we get it: It’s still 1981. With Elizabeth (Keri Russell), her gunshot wound and her marriage on the mend, it’s time for her and Philip (Matthew Rhys) to return to the field and the business of bringing down America for Mother Russia—but is she off her game? A terribly-botched first mission back says da. Meanwhile, Stan (Noah Emmerich) continues to be played by now-double-agent Nina (Annet Mahendru), who doesn’t appreciate the sentiment of The French Lieutenant’s Woman at all. By the end of Season 1, The Americans proved it was more than a retro Homeland, and Season 2 looks to go even deeper—Brody who?
DVD ROUNDUP FOR FEB. 25!
A doctor (Sandra Bullock) and an astronaut (George Clooney) are set adrift in space when their shuttle is destroyed; now it’s a race against time before the oxygen runs out and/or someone asks, “Why’s it called Gravity when there is none?” (Warner Bros.)
Hollywood and Wine
An nobody actress (Nicky Whelan) impersonates a famous movie star to help her boyfriend (Chris Kattan) get out of debt from a mobster (Chazz Palminteri). Also starring Pamela Anderson and other movie-star impersonators. (Green Apple)
L.A. Law: Season 1
The 1986 debut season, finally on ’Merican DVD! The groundbreaking drama about Los Angeles attorneys with great suits inspired a generation to pursue legal careers, which in turn brought about the demise of the country. So, yay? (Shout! Factory)
Legit: Season 1
The first season of Australian comic Jim Jefferies’ Legit starts off shaky, but gets better over the course of 13 episodes—hell, even DJ Qualls in a wheelchair couldn’t ruin it. Season 2 starts Feb. 26 on FXX; start looking for that channel now. (20th Century Fox)
Thor: The Dark World
The Marvel sequel that made more than $200 million—almost enough to cover the cost of maintaining Natalie Portman’s hair, which looks spectacular. Chris Hemsworth’s locks, however, suffered due to the budget drain. Still, decent flick. (Marvel/Disney)
More New DVD Releases (Feb. 25)
Amber Alert, Blue Is the Warmest Color, Curse of the Dragon, The Guide, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo: Season 1, Holla II, Ice Soldiers, Mr. Nobody, Muscle Shoals, Nebraska, Pulling Strings, Scarecrow, Surviving Evil, Twice Born, The Wait.