Bad Judge, A to Z (Thursday, Oct. 2, NBC), series debuts: On second viewing, The Only TV Column That Matters™ has revised its assessment of Bad Judge: Kate Walsh is still great as a party-animal judge, but this sitcom is an underdeveloped mess, even compared to NBC’s own Mysteries of Laura, the fall TV season’s designated Underdeveloped Mess. With better writers and a home on cable (Walsh’s smart, wicked comic streak would kill on FX or Showtime), Bad Judge could have been a contender. (Scroll down to see the trailer.) Rom-com A to Z, on the other hand, is more focused and on-point with the network’s recent Less Weird/More Sweet comedy mandate. Plus, Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother’s mother) and Ben Feldman (Mad Men’s Ginsberg) have an easy, if somewhat vanilla, chemistry. Only one of these shows is likely to make it out of October alive—guess which?
Gracepoint (Thursday, Oct. 2, Fox), series debut: Do you like the British crime series Broadchurch, but wish it were more ’Merican and dull? Here’s Gracepoint, with Broadchurch star David Tennant reprising his detective role with questionable haircut 2.0 and a faint air of, “Haven’t I already done this?” Joining him is Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn, and the pair will work a single murder case for 10 episodes—like The Killing, but with a (promised) conclusion. Tennant and Gunn work the dialogue and trench coats effectively, but there’s about as much reason for Gracepoint to exist as any subsequent season of, well, The Killing.
Mulaney (Sunday, Oct. 5, Fox), series debut: It’s already out there that Mulaney is the worst new sitcom of the season, but the question was posed to my TV Tan podcast (available on iTunes and Stitcher, kids) recently: Is it worth hate-watching, or at least a drinking game? My theory is that quality hate-watching requires at least one redeeming element in a show, something not-eye-gougingly-heinous on which to focus. In Mulaney’s case, that would be ex-Saturday Night Live player Nasim Pedrad, who must have paid someone off to the get the only funny lines in the pilot (though the cranked-to-11 laugh track begs you to believe that it’s all funny). As for a drinking game, just take a shot every time star John Mulaney, who possesses all of the acting skill of a young Seinfeld, recites a cue card like it’s a Chinese takeout menu; tomorrow morning, you won’t remember this ever happened.
Homeland (Sunday, Oct. 5, Showtime), two-hour season premiere: It’s now The Carrie Mathison Show (iffy idea, Showtime), as our precarious heroine is deployed to the Middle East. The first hour of Homeland’s Season 4 premiere doesn’t offer much hope for a post-Brody future; it’s a deadly dull slog of exposition and bad jazz livened up only by the sight of guest star Corey Stoll free of his hilarious wig from The Strain. The second hour makes a better case for Claire Danes carrying the series—if you make it that far.
The Flash (Tuesday, Oct. 7, The CW), series debut: Fox’s Gotham has all the marketing muscle, but this high-gloss Arrow spin-off is the season’s most comic-booky series of the DC Comics wave. The Flash, about Central City CSI investigator-turned-Fastest Man Alive Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), is closer to the early years of Smallville than the dark and growly Arrow; even though there’s some darkness in his past, nerdy Barry is having more fun here than broody Oliver Queen is back in Starling City. At the very least, it’s better than CBS’ 1990 attempt at a Flash TV series, back when televisions were square, and the best Marvel Comics movie was Howard the Duck (!).
DVD ROUNDUP FOR OCT. 7!
Bates Motel: Season 2
As Norman (Freddie Highmore) becomes weirder and more blackout-y, Norma (Vera Farmiga) makes new allies to save the motel, and Dylan (Max Thieriot) gets deeper into the local drug trade. White Pine Bay really does have it all. (Universal)
Edge of Tomorrow
Actually re-titled Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, not that anyone should need to be tricked into watching this movie about alien-fighter Tom Cruise being killed over and over again. Good sci-fi action flick, dumb name. (Warner Bros.)
A Million Ways to Die in the West
Seth MacFarlane directs, co-writes and plays Albert, a farmer who falls for a woman (Charlize Theron) who teaches him how to be a gunslinger, thus pissing off her outlaw husband (Liam Neeson). More plot than a Family Guy episode. (Universal)
When struggling Brooklyn comedian Donna (Jenny Slate) finds herself jobless, dumped and pregnant, she decides to get an abortion on Valentine’s Day—now that’s comedy! More bodily function jokes than a Family Guy episode. (Lionsgate)
Rick and Morty: Season 1
Boozehound scientist Rick (the voice of Justin Roiland) takes his nephew Morty (also Roiland) on adventures into other dimensions, few of which end well—hence, the best new Adult Swim cartoon in years, courtesy of Community creator Dan Harmon. (Warner Bros.)
More New DVD Releases (Oct. 7)
American Horror Story: Season 3, The Following: Season 2, Hemlock Grove: Season 1, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Million Dollar Arm, Psych: The Complete Series, Sharknado 2: The Second One, Vikings: Season 2.