CVIndependent

Thu10192017

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Bill Frost

Way back in April, I dismissed the debut of Great News (Thursdays, NBC) as an inferior Tina Fey production that lacked the snap of 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and I saw no point in the casting of Nicole Richie. But by the time the newsroom comedy wrapped its initial 10 episodes, Great News had found its goofy groove, and Richie proved herself to be an adept comic actress. (Let’s just pretend that VH1’s Candidly Nicole never happened.) Sure, Andrea Martin could dial it down a little—OK, a lot—but so what? Season 2 continues the subtle-but-sharp transformation into 30 Rock 2.0, meaning Great News is no longer the worst sitcom on NBC … here’s looking at you, Will and Grace.

Like Ghost Wars, Superstition (series debut Friday, Oct. 20, Syfy) is an effectively creepy Syfy show saddled with a lame title: C’mon, Ghost Wars sounds like a reality series about haunted storage units, and Superstition sucks hard enough for Freeform. The setup for Superstition, however, is solid: The Hastings family (patriarch-ed by series creator/producer Mario Van Peebles) runs the only funeral home in a small Georgia town, and they also specialize in “afterlife care” for souls who met mysterious deaths by demonic “Infernals” (there’s your title!), and generally kick supernatural ass. Bonus: Where the wildcard of Ghost Wars is singer Meat Loaf, Superstition has pro ’rassler Diamond Dallas Page. Spooky!

We’ll always have October, and we’ll always have The Walking Dead (Season 8 premiere Sunday, Oct. 22, AMC). Like the zombie apocalypse and Christianity, it’s never going away, but we must keep fighting to vanquish them anyway. Eight seasons is plenty, though I would argue that Showtime’s Shameless should run at least 20, because it is the greatest series on TV, and I’d win the argument, so shut up. As for TWD’s Season 8 premiere, it’s more of the same: blood, action, dripping flesh, more blood, flannel, homoerotic glances between Rick and Daryl, etc. Me, I’m curious to see if the righteous morons who were outraged at Season 7’s “family unfriendly” violence—in a cable show about zombies!—will be back.

Too much has been written about why Kevin Can Wait (Mondays, CBS) killed off a perfectly good wife character in order to reunite Kevin James with ex-King of Queens co-star Leah Remini in Season 2, and not nearly enough about why this piece of shit is still on. So … why is this piece of shit still on? It’s a forced, painfully unfunny sitcom that’s an insult to even the intelligence of CBS viewers who’ve allowed four seasons of Scorpion to just happen, and the addition of Remini makes little difference when the writing is nowhere near the caliber of King of Queens’ writing (which wasn’t gold, but at least it was, you know, comedy). Please join me again in 2026 when I rewrite this paragraph for KCW’s Season 10 premiere.

Like a bizarre collision of Martha Stewart Living and the comic actress’ cult favorite Strangers With Candy, At Home With Amy Sedaris (series debut Tuesday, Oct. 24, TruTV) is the how-to crafting, cooking and hospitality show of the end times—or, at least, the weirdest thing on TruTV. Modeled loosely on Sedaris’ books I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence and Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People, At Home combines utterly useless homemaking tips with sketch comedy and game guests (like Paul Giamatti, Jane Krakowski, Sasheer Zamata and the infamously humorless Michael Shannon). This takes the surreality of Martha and Snoop’s Potluck Dinner to a whole ’nother level.

Speaking of Snoop, what’s this all about? Snoop Dogg Presents The Joker’s Wild (series debut Tuesday, Oct. 24, TBS) is based on ’70s game show The Joker’s Wild, which involved a giant slot machine and trivia questions; in Snoop’s house, the slot machine remains, but the trivia has been replaced with “giant dice, playing cards, streetwise questions and problem-solving.” At least it’s kinda new, unlike Drop the Mic (series debut Tuesday, Oct. 24, TBS), which is just a celebrity rap battle rip-off of Nick Cannon’s Wild n’ Out given a cheese-glaze finish. Then again, Lip Sync Battle looked none too promising when it debuted, and that gave us … well, Chrissy Teigen’s boobs.

In her new weekly series I Love You, America (series debut Thursday, Oct. 12, Hulu), comedian Sarah Silverman is “looking to connect with people who may not agree with her personal opinions through honesty, humor, genuine interest in others, and not taking herself too seriously. … Silverman feels it’s crucial, now more than ever, to connect with un-like-minded people.” If you’re skeptical of Liberal Elite Hollywood’s motives for hanging out with Red State rednecks while promising to not to shit on them, join the club. But it’s a promising chat show/travelogue setup, and Silverman is more capable of pulling it off sincerely than, say, Chelsea Handler. She still does that thing on Netflix … doesn’t she?

With a cool title like Mindhunter (series debut Friday, Oct. 13, Netflix), you’d expect sci-fi series loaded with psychic warfare and exploding heads, or is that just me? Sadly, this Mindhunter is another cop show, starring Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallany as FBI agents who interview imprisoned serial killers to analyze their motives to help solve current cases … zzz. So far, so Criminal Minds, but Mindhunter—singular? There’s two of ’em!—is produced by David Fincher, who delivered at least a couple of good House of Cards seasons, and co-stars Aussie treasure Anna Torv, absent from ’Merican TV since the 2013 demise of Fringe, so there’s that. Maybe one exploding head, just for me?

I had no idea that today’s kiddies were clamoring for a reboot of ’70s Saturday-morning cheese lump Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (series re-debut Friday, Oct. 13, Amazon Prime), but here it is. The original S&SM was part of the Sid and Marty Kroftt acid-trip factory that included H.R. Pufnstuf and Lidsville, as well as the proto-superheroine Strong Female Characters of Electra Woman and Dyna Girl. This iteration seems more aimed at ironic-nostalgia-hungry Gen-Xers than children, but at least David Arquette found work (as Captain Barnabas, a local loon out to expose the Sea Monsters as “real”), and we get The Roots’ updated version of Sigmund’s theme song. So where’s the Lost Saucer remake?

Do we really need another cable dramedy about how tough it is to be a comedian? When it stars ex-Saturday Night Live-er Jay Pharoah and is helmed by Tim Kapinos (Lucifer, Californication) and Jamie Foxx (everything else), maybe. White Famous (series debut Sunday, Oct. 15, Showtime) is essentially Foxx’s story, centered on a black comic (Pharoah) on the rise who’s straddling the line between street cred and mainstream (read: white) appeal. While White Famous offers few insights into Foxx’s real career (even when he shows up as himself in the first episode), it does make it abundantly clear that SNL blew it with the talented Pharoah. As a “prestige” series, this is more Dice than Louie.

Speaking of wasting perfectly good comedic talent, have you seen 9JKL (new series, Mondays, CBS)? That filler half-hour between The Big Bang Theory and Kevin Can Wait? Oh yeah, no one watches “live” TV anymore—it’s all on-demand with your Hulus and your Rokus and your Flibberzoos. It’s safe to say no one is “demanding” 9JKL, not even to justify the $9.99 they blew on CBS All Access for Star Trek: Discovery. Mark Feuerstein, David Walton, Elliott Gould, Linda Lavin and Liza Lapira, funny people all, star in the most forgettable family sitcom since … well, damn, I’ve forgotten. Chances are, by the time this column finally reaches the Interwebs, 9JKL will be canceled. Never mind.

Much in the same way that White Famous seems like a stylistic throwback, Loudermilk (series debut Tuesday, Oct. 17, Audience/DirecTV) could be a lost early-2000s comedy from the trope dawn of AA (Asshole Antihero). While White Famous is a misuse of a young actor like Pharoah, it’s perfectly OK in the case of Loudermilk, because the titular Loudermilk is played by been-there comedy vet Ron Livingston (sorry, Ron—loved ya in Office Space). Loudermilk is a former alcoholic and, even worse, former rock critic, who hates pretty much everything and everyone. Sounds familiar, but as scripted by one Farrelly brother and a Colbert Report writer, and delivered by Livingston, Loudermilk really works.

Now that The Strain is over, TV only has one vampire apocalypse show, Van Helsing (Season 2 premiere Thursday, Oct. 5, Syfy), and it’s finally stepping up to the challenge. In Season 1, Vanessa Van Helsing (Kelly Overton) spent mucho time wandering underground and losing colleagues—saving Canadian dollars on locations and costars, apparently—in a slow buildup to the vamp beatdown. Series creator/writer Neil LaBute—yes, that Neil LaBute—took a glacial approach that was unusual for a Syfy hour, and Overton more than delivered on the human drama and (occasional) vampire-slayer action. Now, the bigger/bloodier battle to take back the world really begins; come back if you got bored and bailed.

No, it’s not a reality show about haunted storage units—Ghost Wars (series debut Thursday, Oct. 5, Syfy) is about malicious paranormal forces taking over a remote town in the remotest of states, Alaska. Anything set in The Last Frontier is automatically 10 times spookier, and Ghost Wars could be a potential challenger to Syfy’s creepiest anthology series, Channel Zero, at least in star power: Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil), Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy), Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica) and Meat Loaf (!) occupy various quadrants of science, religion, skepticism and psychic ability. It’s another impressive new Syfy entry—a couple of years ago, this would have been about haunted storage units.

What happens when the young daughter of Jane Sadler (Kyra Sedgwick), the producer/writer of a fact-based police drama, goes missing, and she has to deal with the real cops? D-R-A-M-A, that’s what! Ten Days in the Valley (new series, Sundays, ABC) isn’t much different from other crime procedurals—especially not ABC’s defunct Secrets and Lies—but it at least deserves points for letting Sedgwick be a shady, barely sympathetic character with a tenuous grasp on the truth and her own drug problem. Whether it holds up over 10 episodes (as 10 days, get it?) or not remains to be seen; right now, it’s mostly coming off as a network knockoff of HBO’s Big Little Lies, which was no great shakes itself. Yeah, I said it.

O.M. Gawd! Who could have predicted that Riverdale (Season 2 premiere Wednesday, Oct. 11, The CW) would blow up when it debuted back in January? I mean, besides me? (Look it up—I’m on the right side of history here.) The Archie Comics-via-camp-noir teen drama squeezed a whole lotta crazy into its initial 13 hours, culminating in a hysterical maple-syrup/drug-trafficking reveal and the possible murder of Archie’s dad, Fred (Luke Perry). What’s next for Archie (KJ Apa), Jughead (Cole Sprouse), Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica (Camila Mendes)? Between sexy times, the gang will be tracking a new town threat known as “Sugar Man,” True Detective-style. I’m just a wee bit too excited for this.

On the other hand, I have zero fucks to give about Dynasty (series debut Wednesday, Oct. 11, The CW), a needless reboot of the big-haired super-soap that ruled the ’80s. Why not revive a lesser-known show, like the amazing 1985 series Street Hawk, which was pretty much just Knight Rider on a motorcycle, or the 1987 cult crime classic Wiseguy, which presaged TV’s current incest-is-best craze by 30 years? Or, hell, Square Pegs? Anyway: Dynasty is still about clashing Atlanta families the Colbys and the Carringtons, both rich, both beautiful, both overflowing with White People Problems—come on, read the room/country, CW. If ever there were a time for petulant TV billionaires, this ain’t it.

Season 2 weeded out the casual observers quickly, but USA is sticking by its breakthrough “prestige series” Mr. Robot (Season 3 premiere Wednesday, Oct. 11, USA). With Elliot (Rami Malek) laid up after being gunned down, is Darlene (Carly Chaikin) about to feel the wrath of the Dark Army? Will Elliot’s other half, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater), deliver fsociety’s death blow to Evil Corp? What the hell does new-on-the-scene car salesman Irving (Bobby Cannavale) have to do with any of this? Remember that the heretofore most recent episode of Mr. Robot aired long before Nov. 8, 2016, and trust that the new season will deal with the election fallout differently, if not more subtly, than American Horror Story: Cult.

Not much was expected of Marvel’s Inhumans (series debut Friday, Sept. 29, ABC), and the two-hour pilot doesn’t … not? … deliver on that lowered bar. Like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with more ridiculous outfits, or dollar-store X-Men, Inhumans Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Medusa (Serinda Swan), Gorgon (Eme Ikwuakor), Triton (Mike Moh), Karnak (Ken Leung), Crystal (Isabelle Cornish), Maximus (Iwan Rheon) and supersized teleporting-dog Lockjaw are a royal family of don’t-call-them-mutants who flee the moon for Hawaii to establish a persecuted-superheroes-as-Dreamers narrative. An underwritten, obscure Marvel property dumped on Friday night doesn’t really need to perform, but it should do … something.

Craig Robinson and Adam Scott in a paranormal comedy? Sounds like Adult Swim material, but Ghosted (series debut Sunday, Oct. 1, Fox) fits nicely into the Sunday-night broadcast between The Simpsons and Family Guy, maybe even better than The Last Man on Earth (which also returns tonight, Tandy fans). Cop-turned-mall-security-guard Leroy (Robinson) and professor-turned-bookstore-clerk Max (Scott) are recruited into a secret government agency to find a missing agent and track alien/supernatural activity in Los Angeles, because, why not? Ghosted is ridiculous, and Robinson and Scott go all in (as does Ally Walker as their hard-ass boss). A rare bright spot in 2017’s fall TV.

Remember last season, when there were several new shows about philanthropic tech billionaires with troubled pasts buying and operating hospitals, police departments and Waffle Houses for the greater good? (I made one of those up; good luck guessing which one.) Wisdom of the Crowd (series debut Sunday, Oct. 1, CBS), starring Jeremy Piven as a Silicon Valley heavy rallying millions to use the info-sharing app he created to—wait for it—solve his daughter’s murder, is another CBS procedural with pretty techies, just with bonus constitutional and privacy concerns. Even with Piven in vintage Ari Gold/Entourage mode, Wisdom of the Crowd is innocuous enough to skate by on CBS for years.

When we last saw Larry (Larry David) six years ago, he’d split the country for France with Leon (J.B. Smoove) to avoid spending any time with sick children—totally understandable. Curb Your Enthusiasm (Season 9 premiere Sunday, Oct. 1, HBO) doesn’t need gimmicks like “character development” and “change,” only Larry! Larry! Larry! (Thanks, Leon.) In addition to Smoove, Curb regulars Jeff Garlin, Cheryl Hines and Richard Lewis are back, and the Season 9 guest list includes Carrie Brownstein, Elizabeth Banks, Bryan Cranston and Lauren Graham, among others. Awkward Larry moments to look forward to: “Larry offends Jeff’s barber” and “Larry bribes a funeral usher.” Curb always delivers good blurb.

Attention Marvel’s Inhumans: This is how you do a not-really-but-totally-X-Men series. Also, The Gifted (series debut Monday, Oct. 2, Fox) is nowhere near as bizarre as FX’s Legion, so relax. Suburban couple Reed (Steven Moyer) and Caitlin Strucker (Amy Acker) learn that their teen kids possess mutant abilities, go on the run from the mutie-hating government, and meet up with an underground mutant network; action and/or adventure ensue. In the hands of X-Men vet Bryan Singer and X-Men fan Matt Nix, The Gifted nails both splashy superheroics and emotional undertones (because, you know, teens), and is easily the best new show of the new fall season. Which is saying little, but watch anyway.

In sitcom The Mayor (series debut Tuesday, Oct. 3, ABC), a young rapper (Brandon Micheal Hall) runs for the mayoral office of his city as a publicity stunt to bolster his flailing career—and guess what happens? The title probably gave it away. Later, in one-hour dramedy Kevin (Probably) Saves the World (series debut Tuesday, Oct. 3, ABC), miserable Texan Kevin (Jason Ritter) is drafted into a mission to save humanity by a “guardian angel.” Neither of these series are cheesedick Throwback Tuesday gags from Fox circa 1987; they’re premiering right damn now on current-season ABC. And these aren’t even the lamest shows of the Worst Broadcast Fall Season in recent memory—2017, you may just kill me yet.

It’s finally here—and CBS won’t let TV critics see it in advance. Everything’s probably fine, just fine. Star Trek: Discovery (series debut Sunday, Sept. 24, CBS) has been a troubled production since it was announced two years ago; the least of its problems is that it’ll move to yet another paid streaming service (CBS All Access, whatever that is) after it debuts on CBS proper. The showrunner (Bryan Fuller, moving onto America Gods) dropped out; casting the lead took forever (finally going to The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green); the premiere date kept getting pushed back. Now, no reviews allowed? Maybe the debut will hook you into another subscription service. If not, there’s always The Orville.

Young Sheldon (series debut Monday, Sept. 25, CBS) … dear god, no. As if an origin story for the most annoying, played-out character on television weren’t enough, one-note Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons also narrates this coming-of-meh tale of 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage). Pluses: There’s no laugh track, and Li’l Shelly’s mom is played by the daughter (Zoe Perry) of his Big Bang Theory mother Laurie Metcalf, which is a cool twist. Beyond that, Young Sheldon is just an overly sentimental sitcom that’s short on actual laughs and long on relying on a child actor who, oddly, displays more range than Parsons ever has. With all six seasons of The Wonder Years on Netflix, there’s no need for this.

As irritating as Young Sheldon is, at least it has focus. Which is waaay more than you can say about Me, Myself and I (series debut Monday, Sept. 25, CBS), a time-spanning, three-generational sitcom that apparently wants to be a cross between a floor-demo single-camera comedy and, ugh, This Is Us. You have 1991 Alex (Jack Dylan Grazer), who’s dealing with high school shit; 2017 Alex (Bobby Moynihan), who’s dealing with professional/marital stress, as well as Urkel (Jaleel White); and 2042 Alex (John Larroquette), who’s dealing with being a rich, white old guy in President Ivanka Trump’s America (just kidding … or am I?). I’d say “first cancellation of the season,” but it’s a turrible year all around, so …

No entertainment rag has declared that “Autism is the new black!” just yet, but the season is young. As is The Good Doctor (series debut Monday, Sept. 25, ABC), who’s played by former “Norman” Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel). Like Netflix’s Atypical, it’s a series about a young man living with autism; unlike Atypical, The Good Doctor’s Shaun Murphy (Highmore) is a 20-something surgeon with the power of life and death in his hands, man! Don’t you understand the gravity?! It’s probably going to be that every week, even though the pilot episode sets up what could have been an unusual medical drama. However, networks don’t like “unusual,” so ABC will micromanage this into a case-of-the-week yawner.

Yes, Lifetime recently aired a Menendez Brothers movie (with Courtney Love as Momma Menendez!), but who cares? The first eight-episode installment of new anthology show Law and Order: True Crime (series debut Tuesday, Sept. 26, NBC) gives ’90s murder dreamboats Lyle and Erik Menendez more of an in-depth, American Crime Story-esque treatment with bigger names (well, Anthony Edwards and Heather Graham), but no convincing answer to the question, “Uh, why?” It’s fun watching familiar stars playing historical dress-up (though Lolita Davidovich’s Kitty is no match for Courtney Love), but episodes 237 and 238 of crime-comedy series The Last Podcast on the Left are more entertaining, and educational.

To appeal/pander to the red-state regressives who voted in the New Orange Order, CBS brings you SEAL Team (series debut Wednesday, Sept. 27, CBS), a military procedural that’s just a weak clone of History Channel’s Navy SEAL drama Six that swaps out the incomparable Walton Goggins for the inconsequential David Boreanaz, and adds more models in uniform. They’re pretty ’Merican heroes with ugly personal probs! Don’t we already have, like, eight NCISes? If I also don’t automatically thumbs-up similar new military dramas The Brave (NBC) and Valor (The CW … yes, The CW), am I just a Liberal Media weenie who doesn’t Support the Troops? Send those letters c/o this publication!

The first season of Better Things (Season 2 premiere Thursday, Sept. 14, FX) debuted quietly and closed to a deafening chorus of critical huzzahs, but no one had an answer for the question: “Is it a comedy, or is it a drama?” Creator/star Pamela Adlon has summed it up best as an “incredible feelings show,” so there. Better Things is a different animal than other Comics Kinda Play Themselves series; thanks to the influence of Adlon’s creative partner, Louis C.K., the closest comparison is Louie. Adlon’s a far better actor than C.K., and she can make you laugh, cry and scream along with single mom Sam and her three daughters—the most layered, interesting kids on TV, BTW—with uncanny ease. Catch up, noncritics.

Eastbound and Down Goes to School is back in session! Vice Principals (Season 2 premiere Sunday, Sept. 17, HBO), which reunites E&D creators Danny McBride and Jody Hill, is a study in hysterical vulgarity second only to Veep; the heated exchanges between McBride and brilliantly cast co-star Walton Goggins take it to whole ’nother level above Kenny Powers. Season 1 ended with frenemy vice principals Gamby (McBride) and Russell (Goggins) becoming “co-interim principals,” a dirty, dubious victory dampened by Gamby being gunned down in the high school’s parking lot. Nonspoiler: He’s alive, and things are going to get even weirder and darker in Vice Principals’ final (yes, final) nine episodes.

There are very few nominations to complain about in the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards (Sunday, Sept. 17, CBS); the quality is so high, I can let a few Stranger Things nods slide, if not the unbelievable snub of BoJack Horseman (seriously—WT fuck?). And I’ve already decided who’s going to win: Veep (Comedy Series), Better Call Saul (Drama Series), Shameless’ William H. Macy (Lead Actor, Comedy), Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Lead Actress, Comedy), Better Call Saul’s Bob Odenkirk (Lead Actor, Drama), The Handmaid’s Tale’s Elisabeth Moss (Lead Actress, Drama), Baskets’ Louie Anderson (Supporting Actor, Comedy), and Westworld’s Thandie Newton (Supporting Actress, Drama). Now you don’t have to watch the Emmys.

The first season of creepypasta (user-generated Internet stories and urban legends) weirdness turned out to be more hype than horror, but Channel Zero: No-End House (Season 2 premiere Wednesday, Sept. 20, Syfy) looks more like the one that will kick the anthology series into high gear. The setup for No-End House is familiar: A young woman (Amy Forsyth) and her friends trip through “a bizarre house of horrors consisting of a series of increasingly disturbing rooms,” but then throws in the twist that her perceived “reality” might be just another room. Like the current season of American Horror Story (how ’bout them clowns?), Channel Zero: No-End House is the stuff of mind-melting nightmares. Yay!

The funniest aspect of afterlife sitcom The Good Place (Season 2 premiere Wednesday, Sept. 20, NBC) could very well be Concerned Christians breathlessly exclaiming, “That’s not the real Heaven!” How could it be? What with the nonjudgmental fun and the presence of brown people? After the big reveals that closed Season 1 (spoilers: The Good Place is actually the Bad Place; Ted Danson’s Michael is a lying liarface; and Kristen Bell’s Eleanor is, well, still a terrible person), The Good Place is open to more possibilities now: Could Michael be pulling a double fake-out as a worthiness test? Is the Bad Place the better place? Is Eleanor actually in Twin Peaks?

CBS has defined Stoopid Summer TV for the last several years—not even counting Big Brother—with hilariously obtuse shows like Under the Dome, Extant, BrainDead and Zoo, but Salvation (Season 1 finale Wednesday, Sept. 20, CBS) is the best/worst yet. For 11 weeks now, an MIT student, a maverick tech billionaire and a woman who does … something? … at the Pentagon have been postulating, posing and occasionally even working to find a way to stop an asteroid from wiping out the planet. The title implies they’ll figure it out, but I’ve been rooting for the mass extinction event since the first episode wherein the phrase “gravity tractor” was uttered. Bring on oblivion! We’ve more than earned it.

No animated series, not even the vaunted Rick and Morty, makes you feel the feels like BoJack Horseman (Season 4 premiere Friday, Sept. 8, Netflix). Last season was especially dark, culminating with BoJack (the voice of Will Arnett) once again pulling defeat from minor comeback victory and attempting highway suicide (told ya—dark). Now, he’s gone missing, and Hollywoo—they still haven’t fixed the “D”—is without its third, or maybe fourth, favorite ’90s sitcom horse. Diane (Alison Brie) and Mr. Peanutbutter (Paul F. Tompkins) are dealing in their own ways (and not well), while Todd (Aaron Paul) has stumbled into a fashion-modeling gig with Sharc Jacobs. Oh, how I’ve missed the animal puns …

Rescued from the obscurity of Vimeo, Con Man (network debut Saturday, Sept. 9, Syfy) is going to be a pleasant surprise for casual nerds. While his former co-star (Nathan Fillion) of the 10-years-canceled space-adventure series Spectrum has gone on to become a big deal, Wray Nerely (Alan Tudyk) can only get work at sci-fi conventions, which are slowly (but hilariously) crushing his soul. If the Firefly/Serenity meta-signals have already eluded you, there’s no point in mentioning geektastic Con Man cameos like Gina Torres, Summer Glau and Jewel Staite, as well as Tricia Helfer, James Gunn, Felicia Day, Seth Green and even the now-controversial Joss Whedon himself.

Seth MacFarlane can do whatever the hell he wants at Fox these days—even cast himself as a live-action lead, which is always a dicey proposition. His hour-long sci-fi comedy The Orville (series debut Sunday, Sept. 10, Fox) looks like one of the more promising new shows of the fall 2017 season, which isn’t saying much. For one, it’s not a dirty, “dystopian” future in MacFarlane’s space, but more of a sleek, earnest Star Trek-via-Galaxy Quest vehicle. For two, his U.S.S. Orville shipmates (including Adrianne Palicki and Scott Grimes) make up for their captain’s not-quite-Shatner shortcomings. It’s not as wacky as the promos suggest, but The Orville could break out this season … or just as easily flame out.

After all the ordeals Claire and Jamie have endured thus far in Outlander (Season 3 premiere Sunday, Sept. 10, Starz), what’s the worst that could happen now? Being separated by two centuries and a continent, that’s what! As Jamie (Sam Heughan) faces the post-Battle of Culloden fallout back in 18th century Britain, Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is pregnant and stuck with Frank (Tobias Menzies) in 20th century Boston. As Celine Dion says, their hearts will go on, but just barely: Jamie is a ginger shell without his time-traveling love, and headstrong Claire is even worse off in mansplaining 1948. Outlander may not be Starz’s flagship series anymore (hello, American Gods), but it’s as tear-jerkingly compelling as ever.

The Wire and Treme ended years ago, but they’re still more revered than most current series—writer David Simon can do no wrong, not even when working with wildcard James Franco. In The Deuce (series debut Sunday, Sept. 10, HBO), co-producer Franco plays twin brothers Vincent and Frankie, 1971 Brooklyn knockabouts who get in too deep with the mob and, eventually, prostitution and porn. He’s effectively subdued in the roles, and by the time Maggie Gyllenhaal (playing a nicely nuanced hooker) shows up to remind everyone she can bring it when called upon, it’s clear that The Deuce is neither rosy glamorization nor cautionary tale—it’s just life on the street, and Simon writes the hell out of it.

The dual return of South Park (Season 21 premiere Wednesday, Sept. 13, Comedy Central) and Broad City (Season 4 premiere) was rescheduled from August for no real reason, but who cares? They’re back! South Park is wisely getting out of the Trump business after a hit-and-miss 2016 of trying to satirize our IRL Idiocracy—though “Member Berries” is a theme worth revisiting—but at least Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are treating the president’s name as an F-bomb (T-bomb?) in their first post-Obama season of Broad City. The women still have plenty to say through their Brooklyn-stoner misadventures, but can South Park rediscover its boys-will-be-awful-boys magic? Again, who cares? They’re back!

Too many people told me that I “just have to” watch Ozark (streaming, Netflix), another summer series that got by me because there are Too Many Shows. Ozark must be good, since Netflix has renewed it for a second season, right? I blame Netflix’s idiotic, downright Trumpian “Very Good/Very Bad” ratings system. The Jason Bateman crime drama (he also directed half of Ozark’s episodes) mostly lives up to its Southern-Fried Breaking Bad hype, leaning more heavily on action than creating any characters to give a shit about. This makes for a quick binge—smart, because the plot (a nonsensical money-laundering operation in a Missouri tourist trap) shouldn’t be overthought. “Very Meh.”

Meanwhile, The Guest Book (Thursdays, TBS) is halfway through its debut season, and you’ve probably never even heard of it. Creator/producer Greg Garcia (My Name Is Earl) has created a sorta-anthology comedy about a rental cabin in a small mountain town that features a rotating cast of out-there characters and a Coen Brothers-lite zeal for interconnected storylines. Each episode stands alone well enough, but The Guest Book will ultimately work best as a 10-part whole on whatever streaming service it eventually winds up on—at which time, I’ll be asked, “Have you seen this new show on Netflix? It’s sooo funny and weird! Love it!” Bonus: Indie-folk duo HoneyHoney closes each episode, Twin Peaks-style.

Speaking of Twin Peaks (two-hour season finale, Sunday, Sept. 3, Showtime) … yeah, so that happened. The Return, Showtime’s 18-episode series revival, has been more for fans of David Lynch in general than Twin Peaks-specific devotees—a careening WTF? ride with many fantastic performances (Naomi Watts! David Duchovny!), brain-imploding visuals (the atomic nightmare collage of Episode 8), and tear-jerking farewells (R.I.P. “Log Lady” Catherine Coulson). But what does it all mean? Maybe the finale will reveal all, or not. Best to just consider Twin Peaks a summer diversion that at least drew some eyeballs back to the original series, and set up a Wally Brando spinoff. (Let’s make this happen!)

You know who could really use Dr. Jacoby’s golden shit shovel? CBS. In a garbage fall 2017 network TV forecast, the Eye Network will be churning out the rankest trash of them all—which makes their CBS Fall Preview (Monday, Sept. 4, CBS) a gotta-watch trainwreck: “What could be a worse idea than Young Sheldon? Hold our beer! Besides that forgone conclusion, we have SEAL Team and S.W.A.T., which are the same show—and Red State ’Merica will looove ’em! Also, there’s Wisdom of the Crowd, yet another tech-billionaire-solves-crime procedural! And don’t forget new sitcoms Me, Myself and I and 9JKL—at least not before we cancel them and plug in Big Bang Theory reruns! Only … CBS!”

I’ll continue to argue that Season 1, Murder House, is still the best of the series, but American Horror Story: Cult (Season 7 premiere Tuesday, Sept. 5, FX) looks promising as hell. Cult begins on Election Night 2016, with Trumpy the Clown’s victory shattering leftie Ally (Sarah Paulson) and delighting loony Kai (Evan Peters)—but it’s not about politics. Showrunner Ryan Murphy says this season is about paranoia and “the euphoria and the fear” of the nation (which is current politics, but whatever). Several regular AHS players are returning for Cult, joined by newcomers like Billie Lourd, Alison Pill, Lena Dunham (!) and Billy Eichner (!!). This might finally be the one to top Murder House … thanks, Trump?

When we left You’re the Worst (Season 4 premiere Wednesday, Sept. 6, FXX), Jimmy (Chis Geere) had just proposed to Gretchen (Aya Cash) … and then abandoned her on a hilltop. Jimmy’s cold feet haven’t warmed up at the outset of Season 4; Gretchen’s bitterness hasn’t cooled off; and hangers-on Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Edgar (Desmin Borges) have no idea how to function in a post-GretchJim world. Don’t be sad: As funny as they were as self-absorbed/-destructive bang-buds reluctantly falling in love, Gretchen and Jimmy are even more darkly hilarious as toxic exes who’ll inevitably get back together—if Gretchen’s revenge schemes don’t kill him first. Hulu Seasons 1-3 now, if not sooner.

There may be a future version of this column that covers streaming content, and only streaming content, because that’s where we’re headed. (Some of you are already there; the Cord-Cutter Cabal constantly tells me, “But I don’t have regular TV anymore! What about meee?!”) There will be no networks, only on-demand platforms where everyone watches whatever at their own pace—it could be an HBO series from three years ago, or last week’s Bachelor in Paradise, or the latest TMZ report on Bachelor in Paradise STI stats; who knows? Anyway: Party Boat (movie premiere Thursday, Aug. 24, Crackle) is an ’80s-riffic movie about a party boat, on streamer Crackle. You’ll probably check it out in 2021.

A Netflix comedy starring Kathy Bates as a marijuana shop proprietor? How could this possibly suck? Easy: It’s created and produced by the king-daddy laugh-track-hack himself, Chuck Lorre. Disjointed (series debut Friday, Aug. 25, Netflix) stars Bates as a Los Angeles “weed legend” who opens her cannabis dispensary with her recently graduated son and sundry “budtenders”; lazy, outdated hippie yuks and mellow-harshing canned laughter ensue. Disjointed is no Weeds or High Maintenance—hell, it’s not even The Big Bang Theory, Lorre’s pinnacle achievement in co-opting a richly eccentric niche of society and dumbing it down for ’Merica. Bates bailed on American Horror Story for this?

This column reviewed the first live-action take on cartoon hero The Tick back in 2001, an initial Fox failure that’s now a beloved cult item for legions of fans (unlike this column, the continued existence of which is usually met with: “You still doing that?”). For The Tick (series debut Friday, Aug. 25, Amazon Prime), creator Ben Edlund is back onboard and determined to make it stick this time, delivering a darker and slightly more serious tone—more Christopher Nolan Batman, less Adam West Batman. The shift showed in the 2016 Amazon pilot, and carries through the new series; Peter Serafinowicz is no Patrick Warburton, but this isn’t the same Tick. We’ll get over the absence of Batmanuel.

Instead of my usual bitching about the Best “Rock” Video category (Coldplay and Fall Out Boy still in … I’m out), I’ll focus on the performers at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards (Sunday, Aug. 27, MTV). Host Katy Perry will obviously have to show up and lip sync, but will Miley Cyrus make it after bailing on the Teen Choice Awards? The closest thing to a rock band performing this year is 30 Seconds to Mars, which reminds me: Have you seen the 2012 documentary Artifact, about the band’s battle with the record company? It’s 10 percent valuable music-biz lesson, and 90 percent Jared Leto in ridiculous hats and scarves, which I believe to be a performance-art piece within the doc. Watch that instead.

Right about now is when the Thronies start losing their shit. Game of Thrones (Season 7 finale Sunday, Aug. 27, HBO) is closing its penultimate chapter, so cue the handwringing: “Why is this season only seven episodes long?!” Because that’s how many they made. “Why do we have to wait a whole year for the final season?!” Because that’s how long it’ll take to make it. “But why does Game of Thrones have to end?!” Because the show runners have to get to work on their brilliant, already-so-well-received idea for a series about a Confederate United States. “But what will I watch now?! There’s literally nothing else on!” If only there were a guide, perhaps in weekly written form, recommending good TV shows. If only.

In honor of the 100th episode of Suits (Wednesday, Aug. 30, USA), this column will attempt to answer the question, “So, what the hell is Suits?” The crux of the story is that a big-deal Manhattan lawyer (Gabriel Macht) hired a young law-school dropout (Patrick J. Adams) to work in his corporate law firm/apparent modeling agency … and 99 episodes later, here we are! A whole lotta posing, hair-tossing and exclamations of, “I’ll see you in court!” happened between then and now; fortunately, USA’s White Collar ceased to be a point of series confusion years ago. (White Collar was about beautiful FBI agents and a rogue outsider—totally different.) Happy 100th, Suits!

Be careful what you whine for: Marvel’s The Defenders (series debut Friday, Aug. 18, Netflix) is only eight episodes long, maybe partially in response to complaints that previous Marvel/Netflix series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist felt stretched thin at 13 episodes per season each. The story that finally brings them all together as the Defenders arguably could have been longer, but the no-filler/mostly killer approach works well here, leaning heavily on franchise favorite Jones (Krysten Ritter) while somewhat redeeming the maligned Iron Fist (Finn Jones) and introducing a subtle-but-menacing new villain (Sigourney Weaver). Marvel’s Defenders delivers on the built-up hype and promise, just at a brisker pace.

Everyone presumed it dead after Season 1, but Halt and Catch Fire (Season 4 premiere Saturday, Aug. 19, AMC) just kept coming back—but this time, it really is the end. The series that dramatized the rise of 1980s personal computing comes to a close in Season 4, now at the early ’90s dawn of the Internet. The core gang of entangled business/romantic partners (Lee Pace, Mackenzie Davis, Scoot McNairy and Kerry Bishé) is as driven, and damaged, as ever, just with different hair and a new mission: connecting regular folk to this new thing called the World Wide Web. (They’re creating America Online, essentially—Wiki it.) Halt and Catch Fire logs off as one of AMC’s best, and overlooked, dramas—Netflix it.

Also from the “Is That Still On?” file comes another round of The Last Ship (Season 4 premiere Sunday, Aug. 20, TNT), the greatest naval TV drama since … C.P.O. Sharkey? Since those NCIS clowns rarely even get near water, let’s go with that. The global pandemic that killed 80 percent of the world’s population may be over, but the crew of the U.S.S. Nathan James can’t rest yet, as the virus that affected humans is now in the planet’s crops and food supply! Can’t we just subsist on Brawndo and Extra Big-Ass Tacos? (Shout-out to Idiocracy … sigh.) Problem is, Capt. Chandler (Eric Dane) has gone AWOL, fight-clubbing his way through Greece and generally embracing gone-rogue clichés. Season 5 is already a go.

The stars of Friends have experienced varying success in their post-Central Perk careers, but only Lisa Kudrow (The Comeback, Web Therapy) and Matt LeBlanc have dared to get truly weird—and he didn’t even have to stretch. Episodes (Season 5 premiere Sunday, Aug. 20, Showtime), LeBlanc’s hilariously wrong series wherein he plays a version of Hollywood star “Matt LeBlanc,” is ending with Season 5 so he can concentrate on lesser television (CBS’ Man With a Plan, the kind of hacky shit Episodes would parody). Besides LeBlanc’s misadventures, Episodes also features the painful showbiz tribulations of writers Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Greig); the show should just continue with them.

Expectations were low for Dice (Season 2 premiere Sunday, Aug. 20, Showtime) last year … way, way low. The initial episodes made no case for Andrew “Dice” Clay deserving to join the Curb Your Enthusiasm/Louie club of semi-autobiographical comic-coms, but it did get better as it progressed—no thanks to the Diceman himself. Co-stars Natasha Leggero (as Dice’s unlikely girlfriend Carmen) and Kevin Corrigan (as his gloriously strange bud “Milkshake”) picked up the funny slack nicely, as did guest Adrien Brody in a hysterical turn playing “Adrien Brody,” shadowing Dice to play “Dice” for a character role. It’s not essential, but Dice is at least the second-best comedy on Showtime right now.

Have you watched President Cheeto’s Real News Facebook show and thought to yourself, “That was cool, but where can I go for even more Red State propaganda?! Why won’t the media libtards let the golden waves of conservatism wash over me like Russian hooker piss?!” You got it: The One America News Network has been lurking in the bottom rungs of your cable since 2013, reporting mostly straight news and featuring two opinion shows, The Daily Ledger With Graham Ledger and The Tipping Point With Liz Wheeler (weeknights, OANN), both dedicated to the Gospel of Trump. Ledger is just Bill O’Reilly minus the charm, and Wheeler is Megyn Kelly weaponized with acidic snark—MAGA!

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