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The Duplass Brothers have created some intriguing, if not always watchable, shows for HBO (Togetherness and Animals, only one of which is still a thing), and Room 104 (series debut Friday, July 28, HBO) could be their best yet. A time-spanning anthology series, Room 104 follows various occupants of a single motel room; the premiere episode, about a baby sitter and a strange boy, is a mini horror film, while the others range from mysterious (a maid looking for clues) to visceral (a pair of female MMA fighters sparring) to sexy (a pizza-delivery guy invited into a twisted threesome) to awkward (two Mormon missionaries questioning their faith, among other things). Verdict: Watchable!

It’s finally here! Rick and Morty (Season 3 resumes Sunday, July 30, Adult Swim) dropped the first episode of its third season on April Fool’s Day (how delightfully schwifty) and then made us wait three more months, because creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland can’t get it together. Then again, there was a lot to process from that episode: Earth had been taken over by alien tourists, and Jerry and Beth finally split, not to mention Rick became addicted to McDonald’s Szechuan sauce and straight-up threatened poor Morty. As for the rest of the R&M season, Harmon says Earth life will both return to (relative) normal and feature a Mad Max tribute episode. Don’t ever change, you crazy bastards.

CBS News is so committed to serious journalism that they’re dedicating four whole weeks in the dead of summer to it. CBSN: On Assignment (series debut Monday, July 31, CBS) is noble in theory—a primetime hour featuring multiple news reports from younger correspondents (i.e., not the usual 60 Minutes coots in suits) on topics from inner-city gun violence to outside terrorism threats, but then what? Back to Kevin Can Wait and Superior Donuts reruns, that’s what, and neither advances the intelligence or awareness of the country. If any broadcast network can afford to sacrifice an hour a week—every week—to the primetime gods, it’s the bajillion-dollar property known as CBS.

While star and all-around garbage person Abby Lee Miller is currently serving time in prison for bankruptcy fraud, Dance Moms (Season 7 resumes Tuesday, Aug. 1, Lifetime) continues—the judicial system as failed us. On July 25, Lifetime aired the sympathy-baiting Dance Moms: Abby Tells All, a manipulative hour that I really hope they saw at the Victorville Federal Correctional Institution after Miller arrived. Oh, and what gutless design committee came up with the new Lifetime logo? A sans-serif font inside an opaque circle? Just like every other damned network on TV?! Anyway: In the resumption of Season 7 of Dance Moms … just more of the same shit, and hopefully the last anyone will see of Miller.

Despite what rock nerds may subconsciously fool themselves into believing, the Baroness von Sketch Show (series debut Wednesday, Aug. 2, IFC) is not a moonlighting comedy series from acclaimed prog-metal band Baroness—but wouldn’t it be great if it was? Four burly, humorless metalheads awkwardly performing wacky comedy bits between brutal musical interludes? I’d watch the hell out of that. Baroness von Sketch Show, in reality, is a Canadian comedy series produced, written, directed by and starring women, because anything goes up there in the Great White North, what with their pale beer, free health care and good-lookin,’ non-idiot president. Funny show, but not very metal.

Jessica Biel’s best previous TV work was not on 7th Heaven, but as herself on BoJack Horseman—and, as far as films go, she never topped Blade: Trinity. The Sinner (series debut Wednesday, Aug. 2, USA) is a compelling showcase for Biel’s dark side; she plays a dull suburban wife and mom who suddenly snaps during a day at the beach and stabs a stranger to death … but was he really a stranger? Enter the real star of Sinner, Bill Pullman, as a detective working backward to uncover a killer’s motives that are unknown to even her. In tone and length (only eight episodes), Sinner is veddy British, akin to Broadchurch and The Fall—which probably won’t work on USA, but will eventually blow up on Netflix. It’s science.

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Wayward Pines (Thursday, July 23, Fox), series finale: For a second, there were rumors that Fox might Under the Dome us and crank out a second season of Wayward Pines, even though it was originally billed as a “10-episode limited series.” But! Tonight is indeed the end of the story of a bizarre little Idaho town (yes, redundant) wherein a Secret Service agent (Matt Dillon) learns the truth about why he, nor any other townies, can never leave. It’s one hell of a twist; if you’ve yet to visit Wayward Pines, either due to the previously mentioned Dome factor or the presence of producer/director M. Night Shyamalan, you should; I’m not going to spoil it here. Hulu it; on-demand it; think of it as a 10-hour movie—just do it.

Sex With Brody (Fridays, E!), new series: What’s worse than a radio show repurposed as a TV show? Nothing. At least The Glenn Beck Program on The Blaze, with its white microphones and illusion of floating in “Heaven,” attempts to add a visual element—Beck may be a frothing lunatic, but he does understand showmanship (as most prophets of doom do). The rest of these shows, from tabloid talkers, sports yakkers, etc., are just cameras pointed at mannequins in headphones. Sex With Brody goes the extra mile into hell by giving Brody Jenner—one of the myriad talentless dependents of The Artist Formerly Known as Bruce—a forum to give advice as a “sexual connoisseur,” propped up by a “comedian” sidekick so bland I’ve already forgotten his name twice. Which brings us to …

I Am Cait (Sunday, July 26, E!), series debut: Believe it or not, I have no problem with Caitlyn Jenner’s transition from Bruce being used as a marketing ploy for an E! reality show about, of course, Caitlyn Jenner’s transition from Bruce. In fact, I’m all for it, because I Am Cait could very well be the series that wipes all other Kardashian/Jenner-related programs off of television. Who’s going to care about those famous-for-nothing idiot sisters and their tedious shows about … what, exactly? … when this drops? If Caitlyn can rid us of Kim, Khloe, Keebler, Khrunky and the rest of the Kardashians klogging up kable, she truly is an American hero. Cue “The Star-Spangled Banner,” flags, balloons, etc.

Rick and Morty (Sunday, July 26, Adult Swim), season premiere: When it premiered in 2013, Rick and Morty seemed almost too smart for its own good: Boozehound sociopath scientist Rick (voiced by Justin Roiland) drags his slow-witted nephew Morty (also Roiland) along on increasingly dangerous inter-dimensional trips to alternate universes, all of which end up with Morty nearly being maimed or molested, and Rick lamenting the utter stupidity of humankind—kind of a twisted sci-fi cartoon take on the Doc/Marty dynamic of Back to the Future (or as close as you can get without receiving a cease-and-desist from Robert Zemeckis). But now that Roiland and co-creator Dan Harmon are (cult) heroes of the animation world, Season 2 looks to be even more unhinged, profane and frighteningly scientifically plausible than ever. You don’t need another season of Cosmos—you just need Rick and Morty.

The Bachelorette (Monday, July 27, ABC), season finale: Since Kaitlyn (popular name, huh?) Bristowe is pretty much the best Bachelorette ever, here’s hoping she chooses none of these clowns.

Last Comic Standing (Wednesday, July 29, NBC), new season: The checkered history of Last Comic Standing is loaded with “losers” who went on to fame (Amy Schumer, Gabriel Iglesias), “winners” who’ve had to claw their way back (Iliza Shlesinger, Josh Blue) and head-scratching footnotes (Ant? God’s Pottery?). Season 9 of LCS is about as necessary as 3-8 (read: not at all), but new additions Norm Macdonald (as a judge alongside returnees Roseanne Barr and Keenen Ivory Wayans) and Anthony Jeselnik (as the host) rate a look: Both comedians have been banished from NBC late-night (Macdonald was fired from Saturday Night Live; Jeselnik quit as a writer for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon) for being too “edgy,” and now they’re back in primetime? Is no one running NBC anymore? Is it just like the night shift at an Arby’s over there?

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True Detective (HBO): Creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto probably screwed himself by launching this mesmerizing crime anthology with stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson at the top of their respective games. Good luck following up these eight near-perfect episodes.

Banshee (Cinemax): This left-field, visceral mashup of Justified, Twin Peaks and Fight Club went pulp-gonzo harder in Season 2, expanding the world of Banshee, Penn., just enough to introduce even more Amish mobster/Ukrainian thug mayhem. It’s that weird, and that cool.

Shameless (Showtime): Things somehow got worse as they got better for the Gallagher clan in Season 4, with William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum delivering alternately heartbreaking and hilarious performances. This is America’s family.

Justified (FX): Star Timothy Olyphant put his boot down and rescued Justified from becoming entirely the show of Boyd (Walton Goggins) in its fifth and penultimate season, and brought some new colorful characters along for the ride.

Broad City (Comedy Central): Few comedies arrive as fully-realized as Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Broad City (though it did have a head-start as a Web series); their broke Brooklynites are the female flipside of Workaholics, only smarter, funnier and occasionally grosser.

Helix (Syfy): This Arctic Andromeda Strain/Walking Dead hybrid from Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) crept up with no big splash, but it did earn a second season for 2015—catch up on Netflix now.

The Americans (FX): Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys continued to out-spy Homeland while still stuck in Cold War 1981, facing down more danger (and wigs) than Carrie and Brody could ever imagine.

Archer (FX): Meanwhile, Archer (code-named Archer Vice) blew up its spy premise and dove face-first into cocaine and country music. Literally.

House of Cards (Netflix): Vice president Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) delivered a shocking twist in the first episode of Season 2, and the train didn’t stop a-rollin’ from there. As with actual D.C. politics, it’s best not to think too hard about the machinations en route to the presidency

Fargo (FX): Lorne (Billy Bob Thornton), Lester (Martin Freeman) and Deputy Molly (Allison Tolman) shut down the “You can’t touch that movie” doubters from frame one with this dark, funny adaptation that faltered fewer times than True Detective. Oh, you bet’cha.

From Dusk Till Dawn (El Rey): Another film-to-TV transition that defied the haters, From Dusk Till Dawn expanded the 1996 cult classic into an even crazier, racier 10-episode ride where the definition of “the good guys” is subjective.

Game of Thrones (HBO): Like anyone’s going to make a list without Game of Thrones. Get real.

Silicon Valley (HBO): Mike Judge finally, if not intentionally, created the sequel to Office Space with Silicon Valley, a hysterically profane (and tech-jargoned, at least at first) saga about programmers in waaay over their heads. If only Halt and Catch Fire had been half this much fun.

Veep (HBO): Speaking of profane: VP Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her team continued to fail upward in Season 3, from WTF? to the brink of POTUS. Pray for your country.

Bates Motel (A&E): Murder, drugs, love triangles, commercial zoning disputes—Bates Motel has it all! Norman (Freddie Highmore) became as intriguing as mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in Season 2, no small feat, as did some of the supporting players. Why wait for Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival? It’s already here.

Mad Men (AMC): Splitting the final season in half was a lousy idea (the Mad Men buzz is pretty much nil at this point), but those first seven episodes provided a course-correcting jolt that should make for a hell of a 2015 finale, whenever that happens (hopefully, not in the ’70s).

Orphan Black (BBC America): See Game of Thrones.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO): Sure, it’s a Daily Show knock-off with F-bombs—but those rants! Corporations, media, condiments—suck it! Everything the overblown Newsroom attempted over three seasons, Oliver nailed in 30 minutes.

Legit (FXX): Poor Jim Jefferies. His Louie-like Legit finally got good by the end of its first season, then FX exiled it to the untested FXX for Season 2: no promotion, no viewers, just yelling into a vast, empty room. See what you missed on Netflix (along with Jeffries’ stand-up specials).

Playing House (USA): Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham as almost-uncomfortably close BFFs failed on network TV, but found a niche on cable with Playing House, which could be the first series ever to make pregnancy play funny and inclusive.

Parks and Recreation (NBC): While as excellent as ever, Season 6 probably should have been the last (maybe even halfway through), but at least we’ll get a proper sendoff for NBC’s last great Must-See comedy in 2015.

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim): Few “get” Community, but Dan Harmon’s other TV project, the animated, and simultaneously brainy and crude Rick and Morty—imagine Back to the Future with more universes, booze and malicious aliens—clicked immediately on Adult Swim.

Louie (FX): Louis C.K. made us wait two years for a new season, then delivered 14 arty-if-not-always-funny installments of Louie, which were rightfully hailed as “brave,” “experimental” and “mostly free of black T-shirts.”

Maron (IFC): Marc Maron didn’t stray too far from the formula of his debut season in his second go-round—regarding how difficult it is to be Marc Maron, specifically, and a middle-aged white dude with a podcast in general. Still brilliant.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix): Season 2 leaned more dramatic than comedic, and pulled killer performances from everyone in (and out) of Litchfield Penitentiary. Creator Jenji Kohan is well on her way to achieving the heretofore-thought impossible: Topping her previous series, Weeds.

The Leftovers (HBO): Life sucks when you’re not Raptured, and The Leftovers was the ultimate summer-bummer wallow, not to mention the vehicle that finally made Justin Theroux matter.

Rectify (Sundance): And while we’re on the topic of dramas filmed in Depress-o-Vision … damn.

Longmire (A&E): In its third season, Longmire fully broke away from its Justified Out West trappings and became a gripping, dusty crime drama in its own right. A&E rewarded this creative triumph—and high ratings—with a cancellation notice in order to make way for more Duck Dynasty. Fortunately, Netflix came to the rescue, and Season 4 will be streaming by late 2015. I’m beginning to understand you cable-cutters …

Coming next week: Part 2—even more shows!

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Bad Judge, A to Z (Thursday, Oct. 2, NBC), series debuts: On second viewing, The Only TV Column That Matters™ has revised its assessment of Bad Judge: Kate Walsh is still great as a party-animal judge, but this sitcom is an underdeveloped mess, even compared to NBC’s own Mysteries of Laura, the fall TV season’s designated Underdeveloped Mess. With better writers and a home on cable (Walsh’s smart, wicked comic streak would kill on FX or Showtime), Bad Judge could have been a contender. (Scroll down to see the trailer.) Rom-com A to Z, on the other hand, is more focused and on-point with the network’s recent Less Weird/More Sweet comedy mandate. Plus, Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother’s mother) and Ben Feldman (Mad Men’s Ginsberg) have an easy, if somewhat vanilla, chemistry. Only one of these shows is likely to make it out of October alive—guess which?

Gracepoint (Thursday, Oct. 2, Fox), series debut: Do you like the British crime series Broadchurch, but wish it were more ’Merican and dull? Here’s Gracepoint, with Broadchurch star David Tennant reprising his detective role with questionable haircut 2.0 and a faint air of, “Haven’t I already done this?” Joining him is Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn, and the pair will work a single murder case for 10 episodes—like The Killing, but with a (promised) conclusion. Tennant and Gunn work the dialogue and trench coats effectively, but there’s about as much reason for Gracepoint to exist as any subsequent season of, well, The Killing.

Mulaney (Sunday, Oct. 5, Fox), series debut: It’s already out there that Mulaney is the worst new sitcom of the season, but the question was posed to my TV Tan podcast (available on iTunes and Stitcher, kids) recently: Is it worth hate-watching, or at least a drinking game? My theory is that quality hate-watching requires at least one redeeming element in a show, something not-eye-gougingly-heinous on which to focus. In Mulaney’s case, that would be ex-Saturday Night Live player Nasim Pedrad, who must have paid someone off to the get the only funny lines in the pilot (though the cranked-to-11 laugh track begs you to believe that it’s all funny). As for a drinking game, just take a shot every time star John Mulaney, who possesses all of the acting skill of a young Seinfeld, recites a cue card like it’s a Chinese takeout menu; tomorrow morning, you won’t remember this ever happened.

Homeland (Sunday, Oct. 5, Showtime), two-hour season premiere: It’s now The Carrie Mathison Show (iffy idea, Showtime), as our precarious heroine is deployed to the Middle East. The first hour of Homeland’s Season 4 premiere doesn’t offer much hope for a post-Brody future; it’s a deadly dull slog of exposition and bad jazz livened up only by the sight of guest star Corey Stoll free of his hilarious wig from The Strain. The second hour makes a better case for Claire Danes carrying the series—if you make it that far.

The Flash (Tuesday, Oct. 7, The CW), series debut: Fox’s Gotham has all the marketing muscle, but this high-gloss Arrow spin-off is the season’s most comic-booky series of the DC Comics wave. The Flash, about Central City CSI investigator-turned-Fastest Man Alive Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), is closer to the early years of Smallville than the dark and growly Arrow; even though there’s some darkness in his past, nerdy Barry is having more fun here than broody Oliver Queen is back in Starling City. At the very least, it’s better than CBS’ 1990 attempt at a Flash TV series, back when televisions were square, and the best Marvel Comics movie was Howard the Duck (!).


DVD ROUNDUP FOR OCT. 7!

Bates Motel: Season 2

As Norman (Freddie Highmore) becomes weirder and more blackout-y, Norma (Vera Farmiga) makes new allies to save the motel, and Dylan (Max Thieriot) gets deeper into the local drug trade. White Pine Bay really does have it all. (Universal)

Edge of Tomorrow

Actually re-titled Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, not that anyone should need to be tricked into watching this movie about alien-fighter Tom Cruise being killed over and over again. Good sci-fi action flick, dumb name. (Warner Bros.)

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Seth MacFarlane directs, co-writes and plays Albert, a farmer who falls for a woman (Charlize Theron) who teaches him how to be a gunslinger, thus pissing off her outlaw husband (Liam Neeson). More plot than a Family Guy episode. (Universal)

Obvious Child

When struggling Brooklyn comedian Donna (Jenny Slate) finds herself jobless, dumped and pregnant, she decides to get an abortion on Valentine’s Day—now that’s comedy! More bodily function jokes than a Family Guy episode. (Lionsgate)

Rick and Morty: Season 1

Boozehound scientist Rick (the voice of Justin Roiland) takes his nephew Morty (also Roiland) on adventures into other dimensions, few of which end well—hence, the best new Adult Swim cartoon in years, courtesy of Community creator Dan Harmon. (Warner Bros.)

More New DVD Releases (Oct. 7)

American Horror Story: Season 3, The Following: Season 2, Hemlock Grove: Season 1, Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Million Dollar Arm, Psych: The Complete Series, Sharknado 2: The Second One, Vikings: Season 2.

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Lady Gaga and the Muppets’ Holiday Spectacular (Thursday, Nov. 28, ABC), special: So this is happening: a 90-minute “avant-garde twist on the classic holiday variety show” featuring the Muppets and Lady Gaga that’s not at all a pre-Christmas infomercial for her (relative) flop of a new album, Artpop. Sure, Gaga’s recent hosting gig on Saturday Night Live proved she can handle comedy, but can middle ‘Merica handle a primetime Thanksgiving dose of hot girl-on-puppet action? Good luck explaining to the kiddies who guest stars Elton John and RuPaul are. The Only TV Column That Matters™ will leave the turkey-dress jokes to lesser TV critics.

The Walking Dead (Sunday, Dec. 1, AMC), midseason finale: The bleak—even for a zombie apocalypse—first half of Season 4 concludes with, but is not limited to, The Governor, a tank and a body count. Will the Walking Dead gang finally be forced to leave the prison? Who’s going to be left of said gang? Will the next encampment be somewhere a little more fun, like an abandoned Dave and Buster’s? So many questions, so long to wait. (The Walking Dead returns in February 2014.)

Rick and Morty (Monday, Dec. 2, Adult Swim), series debut: Drunk-but-brilliant-but-somewhat-insane scientist Rick (voiced by show co-creator Justin Roiland) and his grandson, Morty (also Roiland), travel the universe and run afoul of alien races on nightly adventures—which, naturally, has a negative affect on Morty’s schoolwork and general well-being. Despite the crazy worlds encountered, Rick and Morty has a more coherent comedy vision than the majority of Adult Swim offerings, thanks to co-creator Dan Harmon (Community) and a longer running time (30 minutes instead of the usual 10 to 15 minutes), but relax: It’s still as sick, twisted and wrong as anything on AS. Hell, they even sent me a flask in the promotional pack.

Kirstie (Wednesday, Dec. 4, TV Land), series debut: Post-Cheers, Kirstie Alley has made some terrible (Veronica’s Closet), funny (Fat Actress) and just plain sad (Kirstie Alley’s Big Life) television choices, but it was inevitable that she’d end up on TV Land, where careers go to eat dinner at 5:30. In Kirstie, she plays Madison Banks … she’s not even named Kirstie? Whatever … she’s a manic, hard-partying Broadway star who’s suddenly confronted with the son she gave up for adoption 26 years ago (Eric Petersen). With the help of her assistant (Cheers co-star Rhea Perlman) and chauffer (Seinfeld’s Michael Richards), she and the kid are gonna make sense of this nutty Manhattan life! Too bad TV Land mandates the canned laugh track of “classic” (read: tired) sitcom tradition; this probably could have been good. Well, tolerable. At least it’s better than Sean Saves the World, OK?

Mob City (Wednesday, Dec. 4, TNT), miniseries debut: Frank Darabont isn’t just The Guy AMC Fired From The Walking Dead; long before he was dumped by the Asshole Money Channel, he directed films great (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) and not-so-great (The Majestic). His new Mob City, adapted from the nonfiction book L.A. Noir, is essentially a six-hour movie spanning three weeks—a ’40s gangster period piece with an expansive, impressive cast: Ed Burns, Neal McDonough, Jeremy Luke, Robert Knepper, Simon Pegg and even The Walking Dead’s very-dead Shane, Jon Bernthal. Mob City is faster-paced and snappier than Boardwalk Empire, far less stoopid than Gangster Squad and, at the very least, more recent than obvious comparison flick L.A. Confidential. It’s also story-rich enough become a full-fledged series—provided Darabont and TNT continue to play nice.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR DEC. 3!

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

When teen-girl Mandy (Amber Heard) heads out on a weekend booze ’n’ drugs getaway with a bunch of horny boys, things go bad, and bros get dead. Made in 2006, long before Heard’s thespian tour-de-force Drive Angry. (Anchor Bay)

Demon

An FBI agent with an impressive collection of tight white shirts (Jasmine Waltz) goes to Florida to solve several bloody murders, possibly perpetrated by a government-created (?) Chupacabra. How the hell did Syfy miss this? (Maxim Media)

Drinking Buddies

Funny people Olivia Wilde, Ron Livingston, Anna Kendrick and Jake Johnson star in the inexplicably, painfully unfunny love-quadrangle story of pals who work at a craft brewery. Punchline: There isn’t enough beer to make this tolerable. (Magnolia)

Duck Dynasty: Seasons 1-3

Sure, after you’ve seen one episode, you’ve seen ’em all—but now you can own all 41 episodes of the first three seasons! And the set even comes with a Duck Dynasty bandana! You know someone who’s getting this for Christmas, don’t you? (A&E)

The Wolverine

In the not-sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Logan (Hugh Jackman) travels to Japan to take on the Yakuza and the Silver Samurai—but he’s no longer immortal! That’s as dumb of a mistake as not titling this Wolverine: Tokyo Drift. (20th Century Fox)

More New DVD Releases (Dec. 3)

Doug Stanhope: Beer Hall Putsch, Hot In Cleveland: Season 4, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman: The Complete Series, Night of the Naked Dead, Rise of the Fellowship, Running Wild, The Simpsons: Season 16, The Smurfs 2, Step Dogs, Stevie Nicks: In Your Dreams.

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