Pacific Heat (Friday, Dec. 2, Netflix), series debut: Much has already been written about how animated Australian import Pacific Heat looks a hell of a lot like long-running American series Archer—and now here’s one more, damn it. First of all, the animation isn’t as slick as Archer’s; Pacific Heat more resembles a haphazard Microsoft Paint attempt at a tribute than a calculated rip-off. Second, the real stoopid-genius of Archer lies in its writing and voice talents, which are among the best on TV, cartoon or otherwise. The Gold Coast law-enforcement agents of Pacific Heat aren’t particularly clever or distinct, and every joke can be seen coming from a kilometer away. You could blame an Aussie/American disconnect, but remember Danger 5? That was some Down Under funny—time to bring it back, Netflix!
Mr. Neighbor’s House (Friday, Dec. 2, Adult Swim), special: You probably know actor Brian Huskey as “that guy” from People of Earth, Veep, Another Period, Childrens Hospital and 100 other bizarro-comedy series and movies. Mr. Neighbor’s House could be the first time Huskey has played a lead role, and he’s disturbingly perfect as a slowly-coming-unglued children’s show host who internally seethes like Patrick Bateman stuck with Mr. Rogers’ shitty sweater—and shittier puppets. Unfortunately, Mr. Neighbor’s House (which was created by Huskey and fellow alt-comedy vet Jason Mantzoukas) has been sitting in Adult Swim purgatory for more than a year, and only one episode of what could have been a hilarious series was produced. So, enjoy Mr. Neighbor’s “31st Annual 5th Birthday Party” and wonder what’s going on at Adult Swim programming these days.
The Royals (Sunday, Dec. 4, E!), season premiere: Sexy glam-trash soap opera The Royals is the only non-reality show on E!, as well as the network’s lone offering that isn’t an insult to anyone with an IQ higher than 50. (Has The Soup really been gone a year? Sigh …) Queen Helena (Elizabeth Hurley), Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) and the rest of the fictional British royal family have been locked in a tawdry, shifting power struggle over the throne for two seasons now, and the unexpected return of presumed-dead Prince Robert (Max Brown, replete with fake castaway beard) at the outset of Season 3 further complicates an already sticky wicket. (Hey, I tried.) Catch up on The Royals over the holidays on Amazon Prime; the accents will fool your family into thinking you’re watching some proper PBS fare.
Shut Eye (Wednesday, Dec. 7, Hulu), series debut: A dark dramedy about a Los Angeles crime syndicate of gypsy psychics? Well-played, Hulu. Charlie (Jeffrey Donovan, Burn Notice) is a cynical fortune-teller conman desperate to get out of the gypsies’ racket and start his own racket with his wife (KaDee Strickland, Secrets and Lies), ripping suckers off as an independent businessman, because ’Merica. The idea of a grifter couple trying to get out from under the thumb of a ruthless psychic mafia is intriguing enough, but Shut Eye throws in another twist: When Charlie sustains a beat-down head injury that enables him to experience (seemingly, at least) real clairvoyant visions, the career fraud suddenly has a new outlook on life—not that gypsy mob bosses Fonzo (Angus Sampson) and Rita (Isabella Rossellini) care; their only interest is in retaining their star crystal-baller and his cash flow. Another left-field winner from Hulu.
Hairspray Live! (Wednesday, Dec. 7, NBC), special: John Waters got it right in 1988 with the original Hairspray movie—how many unnecessary and increasingly watered-down stage and film versions need to be made? Apparently one more, because current broadcast network TV is more about nostalgia and cheap stunts than original concepts and risk-taking. (Didya hear that Hulu has a series about a psychic crime syndicate, NBC?) Ariana Grande, Kristin Chenoweth, Andrea Martin, Martin Short, Derek Hough, Harvey Fierstein, Jennifer Hudson, Dove Cameron, Garrett Clayton, Maddie Baillio, Ephraim Sykes, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Billy Eichner, Sean Hayes and Rosie O’Donnell make up the Who’s Who of Who Cares? cast, and every remaining trace of Waters’ subversive undertones will surely have been scrubbed out by airtime. At least he’ll get a check.