Quarry (Friday, Sept. 9, Cinemax), series debut: If Quarry were premiering on HBO instead of lesser-subscribed-to cousin Cinemax, it would be hyped like the second coming of True Detective (Season 1, of course). The 1972-set crime-noir series is based on the novels of Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition) and directed by Greg Yaitanes (the late, great Banshee), so Quarry’s pedigree is already as hard-boiled as they come, and the pilot episode delivers even harder—but it’s a slow burn, so patience. U.S. Marine Mac (Logan Marshall-Green) returns home to Memphis after enduring a harrowing—and well-publicized stateside—tour in Vietnam, only to encounter anti-war hippie-hate and bleak job prospects; even his devoted girlfriend, Joni (Jodi Balfour), is wary of him. When approached by a man calling himself The Broker (Peter Mullan), a mysterious crime boss looking to hire a killer with Mac’s marksman skills, Mac initially turns down the offer, but is inevitably sucked in—because, crime-noir. Quarry (named both for Mac and The Broker’s rocky meeting place and the hunter/game definition) is grittily crafted down to the most-minute details, and then spun with jarring twists, all anchored by Marshall-Green’s intense, mercurial performance. Here’s the second season of True Detective you really wanted.
Son of Zorn (Sunday, Sept. 11, Fox), series debut: Fox has moved up the debut of combo animation/live-action comedy Son of Zorn a couple of weeks to be unleashed after an NFL doubleheader—because if there’s anything the ever-intellectual football audience loves, it’s hyper-weird meta-sitcoms. Son of Zorn, from writer-directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (The Lego Movie, though I prefer “the creators of MTV’s unheralded classic Clone High”), is about cartoon warrior Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) leaving the ’toon nation of Zephyria and returning to flesh-and-blood Orange County to reconnect with his ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) and son (Johnny Pemberton). He’s Sterling Archer in He-Man’s body, and SoZ doesn’t bother to look for much comedy beyond that, because how could mashing-up two Fox mainstays—ridiculous cartoons and quirky suburban families—possibly fail? Barring Bob’s Burgers-level development from lame pilot to much-improved series, Son of Zorn isn’t long for this world … or Zephyria.
Masters of Sex (Sunday, Sept. 11, Showtime), season premiere: Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) finally cross over into the ’70s—burn those bras, and break out the polyester (but not too close to each other; flammability was a major concern back in ancient ’Merica). The sexual revolution that Masters and Johnson inadvertently sparked in the ’60s is also in full swing—insert all puns here—but Bill’s in no position to enjoy it, as he’s battling in court to keep his controversial practice while battling other demons in AA. He’s also still estranged from professional partner/obsession Virginia, who ran off with Dan (Josh Charles) at the end of last season. The former Mrs. Masters, Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald), is D-U-N with Bill and exploring her new world of options like a champ. (Thanks for that sexual revolution, M&J.) Season 4 of Masters of Sex also steers a bit lighter than the tearjerkers of the past few years—obviously, the hair and clothes alone are comedy gold.
Legends of Chamberlain Heights (Wednesday, Sept. 14, Comedy Central), series debut: The only funny aspect of Comedy Central’s new animated series Legends of Chamberlain Heights is the name of the school where it’s set: Michael Clarke Duncan High. That’s it.
American Horror Story (Wednesday, Sept. 14. FX), season premiere: As of this writing, there’s been no “official” announcement from FX regarding the theme for Season 6 of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story anthology series—just a handful of promos that were meant to be misleading. Where to go after Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show and Hotel? My personal pick would be American Horror Story: Comcast Service Center. Review-dumpster website Rotten Tomatoes recently listed the upcoming season as American Horror Story: The Mist, but that was once a Stephen King novel and movie, and Spike already has a related television series in development. Themes hinted in the promos include aliens, cults, the Antichrist, radiation fallout or even a return to Hollywood (à la Season 1, Murder House), but why not make a play to get Connie Britton back with American Horror Story: Nashville?