Backstrom (Thursday, Jan. 22, Fox), series debut “I don’t see the worst in everyone. I see the everyone in everyone.” That’s just one of dozens of hack lines delivered half-heartedly by Rainn Wilson (The Office) in the premiere episode of Backstrom, this year’s Let’s Get This Over With midseason slot-filler from Fox. (At this time in 2014, it was Greg Kinnear’s Rake.) Wilson stars as Portland, Ore., detective Everett Backstrom, a disheveled, hard-living mess we’re supposed to believe is a “brilliant” crime-solver, even though he seemingly just stumbles into every clue between blowhard rants. (Imagine True Detective’s Rust Cohle, minus any ounce of charm or competence.) No one onscreen looks like they want to be here, least of all Wilson—and don’t be fooled by the quirky promos: Backstrom is an under-lit, unpleasant stab at cable “edge” that doesn’t work on any level. Stay tuned for Bones reruns.
Love, Lust or Run (Friday, Jan 23, TLC), series debut: Former What Not to Wear co-host Stacy London gives “make-unders” to women whose garish fashion senses fall somewhere between Kmart Drag Queen and Rodeo Clown From Mars. The show asks strangers on the street to rate the subjects’ before and after looks as “Love It,” “Lust After It” or “Run Away From It.” I’m only mentioning Love, Lust or Run because, 1. I have a weird thing for Stacy London (I know, right?), and 2. It’s a new TLC show that involves no gay Mormon husbands, polygamist clans, pre-diabetic hillbillies or cake bosses. You take the “Learning” wins where you can.
Black Sails (Saturday, Jan. 24, Starz), season premiere: Last year’s hit debut of Black Sails was no surprise, as it loaded with blood, boobs and Bay—producer Michael Bay, that is, whose touch gives the pirate drama an expensive, blockbuster look not usually associated with Starz originals. (Settle down, Outlander fans.) Instead of just delivering more of the same in Season 2, Black Sails will delve into characters’ pre-pirating back-stories this time around, flashing back to more-proper, crisper-uniformed times—but don’t worry: New and more-ruthless dirty bastards are introduced into the pirate pack as well. Black Sails may not be content to simply remain escapist blue-sea trash, but no series does escapist blue-sea trash better.
Sirens (Tuesday, Jan. 27, USA), season premiere: The bad news: USA just canceled promising comedy series Benched because, surprise, no one watched it in the dead of December. The good news: The network did pick up second seasons of other promising comedies Playing House and Sirens, granting me another chance to explain that, while Sirens is a stoopid name for a show, it’s still funny stuff. Even though it’s exec-produced by Denis Leary, Sirens (it’s about Chicago EMTs, who, of course, have sirens on their ambulances—still a lame title) plays more like a cousin to Brooklyn Nine-Nine than Leary’s black-humored Rescue Me, but suffers a bit from the same self-conscious restraint that runs through all USA originals: It’s almost there—go weirder or dirtier (or both) already, Sirens.
The Americans (Wednesday, Jan. 28, FX), season premiere; photo below: It’s 1982, and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev is dead—what are covert Russian spies Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) to do? Will they follow orders from the homeland to recruit unknowing-but-suspicious teen daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) into the KGB, or leave her in the dark as to who and what they really are? What’s going to happen to treasonous Russian double-agent Nina (Annet Mahendru)? Are the producers aware that The Police’s stalker-y “Every Breath You Take,” featured heavily in The Americans’ Season 3 promos, was actually released in 1983? So many questions (and wigs).