Z Nation (Friday, Sept. 12, Syfy), series debut: The Only TV Column That Matters™ had high hopes for Z Nation, Syfy’s would-be answer to The Walking Dead—not officially, but at this point in the game, any new zombie-based series will automatically be labeled as such. Too bad it’s a terribly written, cheaply shot (seriously, it looks like it was filmed on an iPhone—an iPhone4, at best) and spottily cast (don’t get attached to lone A-lister Harold Perrineau, just sayin’) crapshoot with only a handful of “Damn!” moments worth a look. (Two words: zombie baby.) Three years after a zombie apocalypse has ravaged the country, a ragtag band of survivors (led by Tom Everett Scott) have to get an ex-military test patient from New York to California for the possible formulation of an anti-Z vaccine. Meanwhile, for no apparent reason, a left-behind soldier (DJ Qualls) performs a stilted Pump Up the Volume/Good Morning Vietnam radio-voiceover shtick from a remote Arctic communications base, because …? The kills are passable, but The Walking Dead has made it impossible to just skate by on gore anymore. Where did all that money you didn’t spend on Sharknado 2 go, Syfy?
Utopia (Fridays and Tuesdays, Fox), new series: It’s a reality show with no prize, a “social experiment” … ugh … wherein a disparate group of people are dropped in the middle of nowhere for a year (!) and forced to create their own society and infrastructure. This “daring” “new” reality-show concept (swiped from a Dutch series, of course) at least sounds like a departure from the norm, but Utopia is really just another exploitative freak showcase, like Big Brother without a hot tub, or Survivor with no potential survivors. But at least Fox isn’t overdoing it: The Dutch version of Utopia airs five nights a week; we’re only subjected to two.
New Girl, The Mindy Project (Tuesday, Sept. 16, Fox), season premieres: Unfortunately, one of those nights is Tuesday, so Utopia will be providing a weak (going by the show’s ratings thus far) lead-in for New Girl this season, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been relocated to Sundays with cartoons and the comedic black hole that is the new Mulaney. Zooey Deschanel and the gang will absorb the hit, but The Mindy Project can’t afford to lose any more viewers—especially not with the potentially show-killing Season 3 storyline of coupling Mindy (Mindy Kaling) with Danny (Chris Messina). Better idea: Send Mindy to Utopia; they’ll need an OB/GYN eventually.
Red Band Society (Wednesday, Sept. 17, Fox), series debut: A dramedy with 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 beyond Gotham. Like 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). Hopefully, RBS can avoid the Glee death spiral. (Yes, I’m aware of the phrasing.)
The Mysteries of Laura (Wednesday, Sept. 17, NBC), series debut: There are two shows here: One’s a cop show 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; in the other, she’s a harried single-ish mom to awful, awful twins. Call me when they dump the brats.
DVD ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 16!
Alpha House: Season 1
Four Republican senators (John Goodman, Clark Johnson, Matt Malloy and Mark Consuelos) share a rental house in Washington, D.C., and political wackiness ensues. Based on real-life events, if not actual Republican wackiness. (Anderson Amazon Direct)
Burning Love: Seasons 2 and 3
In Season 2, hot-mess Julie (June Diane Raphael) must choose between 12 dumb hunks (dunks?); in Season 3, previous contestants compete for cash instead of love. The only Bachelor/Bachelorette parody you’ll ever need. (Paramount)
The Fault in Our Stars
Two teens (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort … are these real names?) meet and fall in love in a cancer-support group in the tear-jerking film that sounds nothing at all like the new Fox TV series Red Band Society. Nope, not at all. (Fox)
From Dusk Till Dawn: Season 1
Robert Rodriguez’s 10-episode remake of his movie, starring D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz as the Gecko Bros, as well as Eiza Gonzalez as hot-as-hell Santanico and Wilmer Valderrama as evil-as-hell Carlos. It aired on El Rey, so you missed it. (EOne)
This is the re-re-re-reboot of Godzilla, in which the big (really big this time) lizard-thing and a pair of MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms, duh) are converging upon the Pacific Rim, er, San Francisco. (Warner Bros.)
More New DVD/VOD Releases (Sept. 16)
About a Boy: Season 1, Arrow: Season 2, Awkward: Season 3, The Big Bang Theory: Season 7, Bones: Season 9, Castle: Season 6, Grimm: Season 3, Hannibal: Season 2, Jesus People, Petals on the Wind, Sleepy Hollow: Season 1, South Park: Season 17, Spartacus: The Complete Series.