Ash vs. Evil Dead (Saturday, Oct. 31, Starz), series debut: Attention S-Mart shoppers: Ash (Bruce Campbell), and his Boomstick and chainsaw are back! The original Evil Dead trilogy may have wrapped up more than 20 years ago, but gore-splattering technology has never stopped evolving, so of course Ash vs. Evil Dead had to happen—whether Ash likes it or not. After decades of doing little besides lying low, growing a beer belly and pretending the dead never rose—even though re-killing said dead and saving the world is the only thing he’s ever been good at—Ash reluctantly springs (OK, creaks) back into action when the Deadites re-emerge. This time, he’s backed-up by adoring sidekick Pablo (Ray Santiago), indifferent runaway Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and a familiar face from the universe of producer/director Sam Raimi: Lucy Lawless. You could think of the 10 half-hour Ash vs. Evil Dead episodes as a couple of new back-to-back movies with advanced bloodbath techniques, or you could stop thinking altogether and just enjoy the thrill-ride. That’s what Ash would do (at least the “stop thinking” part).
The Returned (Saturday, Oct. 31, Sundance), season premiere: ’Merica tried like hell to replicate it (ABC’s Resurrection and A&E’s The Returned, now both canceled), but only France’s The Returned strikes the right balance of dread and pathos—and with subtitles, no less. The story of a small mountain community experiencing an influx of thought-to-be-dead former residents, who themselves don’t recall any passage of time or, you know, death, could have been treated as straight-up horror, but The Returned also embraces its sadness and personal drama, and wraps it all up in gorgeous cinematography with a chilling soundtrack (produced by Scottish band Mogwai). The uninitiated should begin with Season 1 (available on Netflix, iTunes and Google Play—just make sure it’s not the A&E version); the rest of you should note that this is the rare occasion when I recommend anything French besides fries, toast and Serge Gainsbourg.
The Librarians (Sunday, Nov. 1, TNT), season premiere: It should have been a home run, but the 2014 debut season of The Librarians turned out to be more of an air ball. (Am I doing these sports analogies right?) The creative team behind the original Indiana-Jones-with-a-supernatural-twist Librarian movies and the TNT series Leverage somehow fumbled (I know that one works) the series after a promising pilot that established a new magical-artifact-hunting team (Rebecca Romijn, Christian Kane, Lindy Booth and John Kim) with some veteran backup (O.G. Librarian Noah Wyle, to varying effectiveness). Season 2 looks to be more of the same action-adventure fluff with a distinct “family-friendly” vibe, which is probably what’s throwing me off. Gotta remember that not everything has to be American Horror Story-dark; working on it.
Mike Tyson Mysteries (Sunday, Nov. 1, Adult Swim), season premiere: Mike Tyson (voiced by Tyson at his most Tyson-y) solves mysteries with the help of his sidekicks Pigeon (Norm Macdonald), the Marquess of Queensbury’s ghost (Jim Rash) and adopted Korean daughter Yung Hee (Rachel Ramras). This ’70s-Saturday-morning-cartoon throwback looked like an insane, one-and-done joke when it first premiered a year ago, but Mike Tyson Mysteries proved to be an addictive series with smart writing and genuine character development—yes, even Macdonald’s alcoholic asshole of a talking bird. Not that it isn’t still insane and poorly animated …
Après Ski (Monday, Nov. 2, Bravo), series debut: Lest you think the Colorful Idiots With Posh Jobs reality-show well had run dry at Bravo, here’s Après Ski: “Canadian hospitality mogul Joey Gibbons has recruited a dream team of dynamic staff members to orchestrate unforgettable experiences—from backcountry heli-skiing and steamy hot springs spa treatments to fine dining in the gondola, no request is too outrageous,” says Bravo. “But when the chairlifts go up and the shotskis go down, the sexy staffers will bump heads and break hearts.” That’s right: more entitled pretty people alternately screaming at, and screwing, each other. This is why there will never be a behind-the-scenes reality series about TV critics—as the lone good-looking one, I can’t carry a show on my own.