DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (Thursday, Jan. 21, The CW), series debut: The Atom, Captain Cold, Heat Wave and other superheroes previously seen on Arrow and The Flash team up in this sorta spin-off, along with The Heroine Formerly Known as Black Canary, White Canary, and “time-traveling rogue” Rip Hunter (because what other career path are you gonna take with a name like that?). Sounds promising, and The CW has been hyping Legends of Tomorrow as a soufflé of Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Who. Too bad it arrived undercooked. Unseen supervillains include The Exposition Avenger (the setup-to-action ratio is tediously uneven) and Dr. ScreenTime (errybody’s fighting for their shot), who foil the two-part pilot from ever fully rising. But the potential for another entertaining DC/CW series is there, and the droll cartoon-villain delivery of Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) is alone worth tuning in for, as is White Canary (Caity Lotz) and her sassy ass-kickery. Remember, it’s Legends of Tomorrow, not Today.
Baskets (Thursday, Jan. 21, FX), series debut: “We can’t all be florists or dishwashers. Some of us have to be artists.” So says Chip Baskets (Zach Galifianakis), whose definition of “artist” includes being a clown—in his case, the rodeo variety, since he’s flunked out of a prestigious French clown academy (or, as they say, “cloon”) and has been forced to return to uncultured ’Merica. Baskets is a co-creation of Galifianakis, Louis C.K. and writer/director Jonathan Krisel (Portlandia, Man Seeking Woman), so weirdness is a given; you’ve seen the FX promos with Galifianakis in full Entitled Loon mode, as well as the phrase “prestigious French clown academy” above. But even for the network that unleashed Wilfred and Louie upon the world, Baskets is bizarre—like, done-on-a-dare, sub-Adult-Swim bizarre. (Chip’s mom is Louie Anderson in drag, for just one example.) It’s also a bleak commentary on artistic failure and Western decline, which kind of deflates the “comedy” promised in those promos. Proceed with caution and the chemical mood-elevators of your choice.
Beowulf (Saturday, Jan. 23, Esquire), series debut: A record 409 scripted dramas and comedies were available on broadcast, cable and streaming services in 2015; that number could very well be surpassed this year. I’ve said it before: There are too many shows! Within that TV glut, Game of Thrones, Vikings, The Last Kingdom, Outlander and even Galavant already exist—do we really need another swords ’n’ sex epic clogging the drain with its shaggy hair and sweaty chainmail? From Esquire, no less? “Based on the complex protagonist of a classic poem, Beowulf takes place in a mythological place, The Shieldlands, and challenges the notions of good and evil, heroes and villains, and the rule of law against one’s moral code” … gggguuuuhhhh. Methinks a preemptive, Bastard Executioner-style abortion is in order here.
The X-Files (Sunday, Jan. 24, Fox), return: Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) return, lured back into the conspiracy game by kinda-journalist Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale, playing a wired hybrid of so-crazy-they-must-be-right doom-slingers Glenn Beck and Infowars’ Alex Jones) to investigate a new governmental alien cover-up (as well as more “realistic” threats like NSA spying, domestic prison camps and the “Freebird” of tinfoil-hat conspiracies, chemtrails), and generally be adorable together. Great news, but the biggest mystery here is: Why the hell is The X-Files’ comeback premiere airing at an undetermined time after something called “The NFC Championship”? What’s the guv’ment trying to hide?!
Lucifer (Monday. Jan. 25, Fox), series debut: The Devil (Tom Ellis) retires as “Lucifer Morningstar” and opens a Los Angeles nightclub, which of course leads to him working with the Los Angeles Police Department to help solve homicides. Skeptical? Lucifer is based on a Vertigo comic book (as were the dearly departed Constantine, the currently dead-alive iZombie and the upcoming Preacher), and involves writers and directors from Californication, Sleepy Hollow and Underworld. It’ll also receive plenty of free publicity from the Parents Television Council and other moral-watchdog groups outraged over a fictional character based on a fictional character. They may be justified: Ellis’ Lucifer is charming, funny and intermittently compassionate—not to mention supernaturally persuasive over everyone but, mysteriously, his cop “partner” (Lauren German as Det. Chloe Dancer—Wiki the band Mother Love Bone, kids). At the risk of casting pull-quote bait, Lucifer is just damned fun. (Have at it, Fox.)