Need more proof that broadcast television is out of ideas? S.W.A.T. (series debut Thursday, Nov. 2, CBS) is a TV show based on a 2003 movie based on a 1975 TV show—neither of which fared particularly well. (There was no 2 S.W.A.T. 2 Spurious film sequel, and the series lasted just 37 episodes.) Still, CBS is banking on ex-Criminal Minds star Shemar Moore to carry this re-reboot, because he’s the only face anyone’s going to recognize. Here, he’s former Marine “Hondo” Harrelson, a streetwise Los Angelino charged with leading the local Special Weapons and Tactics unit (militarized police, because ’Merica). Everyone else on the show? Mix-and-match CBS cop-procedural pretty people. This will run for years.
By the time a series hits eight seasons, there ain’t much story left to tell—remember cautionary Showtime series Dexter and Weeds? At least Californication had the good sense to bail at seven. Shameless (Season 8 premiere Sunday, Nov. 5, Showtime), on the other hand, has the legs to go eight more, as there’s no more endlessly evolving and entertaining TV family than the Gallaghers. Who would have expected Fiona (Emmy Rossum) to become a businesswoman, or Lip (Jeremy Allen White) to get sober? Or perpetual deadbeat Frank (William H. Macy) to become an upstanding citizen? (Best wait to see how long that lasts.) I’ve been tellin’ ya since 2010: This is America’s Family. Get thee to Netflix.
The “S” in SMILF (series debut Sunday, Nov. 5, Showtime) stands for “Single”; you know the rest. Twenty-something Boston mom Bridgette (Frankie Shaw, who created, wrote and directed this series based on her same-name Sundance short film) juggles parenting, an acting career and relationships in Los Angeles—a reality-slapped twist on the usual autobiographical actor/comic project. Even after Better Things and Fleabag, a female lead in this raw—and funny, it should be noted—a series is still somehow surprising and novel, and SMILF upstages Showtime partner White Famous through sheer willingness to go there. (Jay Pharoah is great, but WF still feels timid.) Shaw is a star—watch her.
Last year’s debut season of The Girlfriend Experience (Season 2 premiere Sunday, Nov. 5, Starz) arrived with much hype thanks to the connections to Steven Soderbergh’s 2009 film and The King. (Season 1 star Riley Keough is Elvis Presley’s granddaughter.) Season 2 of Tales of High-End Prostitution introduces all-new characters and two storylines: one involving a Republican super-PAC director (Anna Friel) and an escort (Louisa Krause) entwined in a steamy blackmail scheme; the other is about an ex-prostitute (Carmen Ejogo) in the witness protection program who dangerously falls back into her old ways. The Girlfriend Experience maybe not be as ’70s kitschy as The Deuce, but it does have a grit all its own.
All that’s missing from the USA Network’s bid to become a serious prestige-cable network is a period drama … oh, here’s one now! “An epic saga about the secret history of the 1930s American heartland, Damnation (series debut Tuesday, Nov. 7, USA) centers on the mythic conflict and bloody struggle between big money and the downtrodden, God and greed, charlatans and prophets.” Whoa, hyperbole much? Damnation has plenty going for it, including writers and directors from Hell or High Water and Longmire, as well as co-star Logan Marshall-Green (late of Cinemax’s fantastic-but-canceled Quarry), but it mostly just adds up to dust and bluster. This proves once again that nothing good has ever come out of Iowa.
When it aired what I thought was its series finale back in March, I was sure I’d never see Teachers (Season 2 fall premiere Tuesday, Nov. 7, TV Land) again. Surprise! That was just the “spring finale” of the second season before an eight-month “hiatus” … what? Anyway: Female comedy troupe the Katydids (Caitlin Barlow, Katy Colloton, Cate Freedman, Kate Lambert, Katie O’Brien and Kathryn Renée Thomas, hence the name—get it?) are back for more episodes of hot-mess elementary-school hilarity, inexplicable Walking Dead-sized breaks aside. This pleasant, unexpected gift at least makes up for the disappointment that was IFC’s Baroness Von Sketch Show.