Vice Principals (Sunday, July 17, HBO), series debut: While I still contend that Eastbound and Down was one of the greatest TV comedies ever, I’ll also admit that it was long out of material by its fourth and final season, and that Danny McBride probably shouldn’t carry a series on his own—and, most importantly, that water jetpacks are cool AF. HBO’s new Vice Principals, which re-teams McBride and writer/producer Jody Hill, solves one problem right away by giving McBride’s “new” character—basically Kenny Powers minus the mullet—a foil in Walton Goggins (Justified). The pair play high school vice principals vying to replace the retiring principal (Bill Murray!)—until the school district hires an outsider (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), prompting them to take a break from pissing on each other in staggeringly escalating volleys of vulgarity and instead team up to bring her down. Vice Principals is E&D 2.0; it’s as familiar as it is funny (Kenny Powers haters, however, should stay far away), with the added bonus of Goggins in full-on comedic weirdo mode. There are no water jetpacks, but it is still worth checking out.
Ballers (Sunday, July 17, HBO), season premiere: This is back, huh? HBO canceled the Tim Robbins/Jack Black political comedy The Brink, but kept Dwayne Johnson’s Ballers … what-ever. I get that people like the sportsball and all, but Johnson still isn’t completely convincing in an “underdog” role, here as a Miami pro-footballer-turned-sports-finance-manager leading the hard-knock life of making millions while baby-sitting millionaires surrounded by hot models and hotter cars. Fortunately, the comic broship between Johnson and Rob Corddry saves Ballers from slipping entirely into the Entourage douche-abyss, but I’m still waiting for a little more … something … to justify Season 2.
BrainDead (Mondays, CBS), new series: Apparently, tagging BrainDead as “from the creators of The Good Wife” and placing insanely appealing star Mary Elizabeth Winstead upfront hasn’t been enough to get CBS viewers to buy into a political sci-fi thriller/comedy about brain-munching space bugs. (I know, right?) Too bad, because what initially looked to be nothing more than summer filler designed to at least pull the same numbers as NCIS: Los Angeles reruns (it hasn’t—not even close) is a smart, funny and subtly scathing commentary on Beltway bullshit … oh, that’s why it’s not working on CBS. BrainDead would have been better off on CBS cable cousin Showtime, and we’d all be better off if it followed Ray Donovan on Sundays instead of Roadies, peppering in some Veep-level F-bombing and more-graphic gore (though the brain-splattery is pretty impressive for a network series). I would recommend just waiting to binge BrainDead when it eventually winds up on CBS’ pay-streamer All Access … but nobody’s going to buy into that, either.
2016 Republican National Convention (July 18-21, most channels), convention coverage: Spinal Tap, Drew Carey … Donald Trump. The Holy Trinity of Cleveland comedy is now complete, thanks to what’s sure to be the most hilarious political debacle since Hunter S. Thompson hit Washington D.C. in 1971. (Wiki it, kids.) The 2016 Republican National Convention, being covered live from Cleveland by most broadcast and cable outlets—curiously, not Cartoon Network—will likely be the zenith of Trump’s Idiocracy rise, the moment when true believers and detractors alike finally come to the stark realization, “This is really happening … Fuuu … .” Not that the Democratic National Convention later in the week is going to offer much more hope for the nation (In my defense, I’ve said “Hillary Clinton will never be president” many times, but those statements were made back in reality!), but this particular RNC is going to be special. Or apocalyptic. But definitely entertaining.
Shooter (Tuesday, July 19, USA), series debut: For every great call USA makes (Mr. Robot, Colony, Queen of the South), there are a couple of “WTF?!” moments (the recent renewal of Chrisley Knows Best; moving WWE Smackdown to Tuesdays; the continued existence of Suits). I’m not sure where Shooter, based on the 2007 Mark Wahlberg flick, falls: It looks like an intriguing drama (ex-Marine sniper comes out of retirement to stop a presidential assassination, only to be framed for said assassination), but with caveats (the aggressively-meh Ryan Phillippe stars as “Bob Lee Swagger”—lamest porn name ever). Also, how did the producers not use the only non-loathsome song Robin Thicke ever recorded, “Oh, Shooter,” as the series’ theme? Missed opportunities, people.