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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Bill Frost

Owner’s Manual (Thursday, Aug. 15, AMC), series debut: This week’s “That’s a Show?” award goes to Owner’s Manual, wherein two dudes attempt dangerous challenges like flying stunt planes, driving trains and brewing beer (?)—but here’s the twist you already saw coming: One follows the instruction manual, while the other follows “his gut.” The network that brought you Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead (and Hell on Wheels—really, it’s still a thing) sorta stepped up its lagging reality-TV game with this because, let’s face it: There was no stepping down from Small Town Security. Me, I’m holding out for the “Diffuse a Bomb” episode.

Polyamory: Married and Dating (Thursday, Aug. 15, Showtime), season premiere: Try to follow this: San Diego married couple Michael and Kamala are in a four-way relationship with married couple Tahl and Jen; Tahl and Jen are both bisexual; Michael and Kamala are both dating people outside of the foursome; likewise, Jen is dating a man on the outside; Tahl, new to bisexuality even with a name like Tahl, is seeking out a boyfriend. Joining the reality-doc series in Season 2 (yes, 2) are Los Angeles married couple Chris (an MMA fighter/trainer) and Leigh Ann (a pole-dancing instructor), who are in a “triad” relationship with 24-year-old Megan. Even with blatantly (but still oddly watchable) scripted situations and staged scenes, Polyamory: Married and Dating is a convincing argument against polyamory, marriage and dating … or for it, if you’re stuck with those boring ol’ Sister Wives—right, Kody Brown?

Being Human (Saturday, Aug. 17, BBC America), series finale: When the beloved first Being Human vampire-werewolf-ghost trio of Mitchell, George and Annie left the show rather awkwardly, and Syfy’s Americanized version of the show turned out to be surprisingly not-sucky, the original British series was left for—sorry, gotta do it—dead by many fans. Too bad, because the new supernatural threesome proved to be every bit as charming, sympathetic and funny as their predecessors, even if there were few storylines left to play out. Still, the final episode of Being Human, coincidentally titled “The Last Broadcast,” is one of the best-written and most-powerful of the entire series, a twisty and frequently dark hour that finds Hal, Tom and Alex in a world-in-the-balance showdown with the devil himself. As good as the American Being Human is, it’ll probably never dare go where the Brits went with this one.

Heroes of Cosplay (Tuesdays, Syfy), new series: It’s short for “costume play,” non-geeks—I know, I was hoping for an underground subculture based around Cosby Show fan fiction, too. Heroes of Cosplay spotlights sci-fi/anime/video-game fans who’ve somehow found even more hours in the day to waste, constructing elaborate costumes based on their favorite imaginary characters in order to best one another at convention contests and “make a name for themselves in the competitive world of cosplay.” Now, before you dehydrate yourself weeping for our country, it should be noted that the craftsmanship and passion displayed on Heroes of Cosplay is impressive and infectious. Meanwhile, the rest of you might be swayed by six simple words: Hot nerd girls in skimpy costumes.

Modern Dads (Wednesday, Aug. 21, A&E), series debut: The Only TV Column That Matters™ may have been too quick to hand out the “That’s a Show?” award. Reality series Modern Dads follows four suburban Austin, Texas, stay-at-home fathers whose sad-ass group is “like a fraternity,” says network PR, “but this time around, all-nighters, babes in your bed, empty bottles and projectile vomit carry a whole new meaning.” With ya on the last one, A&E.


DVD-RELEASE ROUNDUP!

Boardwalk Empire: Season 3

At the start of 1923, Atlantic City kingpin Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) is already making new enemies—including a nutjob gangster (Bobby Cannavale)—and collecting new showgirl mistresses. In all, it’s not bad to be Nucky. (HBO)

Hunted: Season 1

Melissa George stars as Sam Hunter, a left-for-dead spy out for revenge against her double-crossing agency—between brooding interludes, lush European scenery shots and the occasional Cinemax-obligatory sex scene, that is. (HBO)

Rapture-Palooza

When everyone else is raptured to heaven, Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) and her boyfriend (John Francis Daley) are left behind in Seattle—then Satan (Craig Robinson) moves into the ’hood and romances her. Plausible, sure, but … Seattle? (Lionsgate)

Skull Forest

A girls’ camping weekend takes a terrifying turn because, oh, they’re in a place called Skull Forest, not Pleasant Pines or No Beheaded Models Park. Filmed in an actual forest over a weekend for $200, apparently. (MVD)

Welcome to the Machine

Kim Wilde, Fatboy Slim, Cypress Hill, Bloodhound Gang and others explain the 12 Commandments of the Music Business, including the ugly truth about success, recording contracts, music awards and what the hell ever became of Kim Wilde. (MVD)

More New DVD Releases (Aug. 20)

Being Human (U.K.): Season 5, Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, The Dragon Pearl, Epic, The Good Wife: Season 4, Mike & Molly: Season 3, Nightmares Come at Night, Parenthood: Season 4, Revenge: Season 2, Saturday Morning Mystery, Scary Movie 5, Shadow Dancer, Stag.

Strike Back (Friday, Aug. 9, Cinemax), season premiere: This series is more macho than Jason Statham crashing a Hummer into an MMA octagon where Ron Swanson and Nickelback are fighting over a rib-eye, but the addition of Rhona Mitra to the cast of military-actioner Strike Back last season brought at least a little feminine balance—too bad it looks as though she’s going down hard in Season 3. When Maj. Dalton (Mitra) sees her terrorist-hunting mission in Beirut compromised, Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) and Stonebridge (Philip Winchester) are pulled off a completely-heterosexual joint vacation (?) to track said terrorist’s associates in Columbia; as usual, things go from bad to worse for Team America (actually, MI6). Strike Back may be predictable, but it’s predictable with such visceral style and grit, who cares? Kill ’em all!

The White Queen (Friday, Aug. 9, Starz), series debut: Starz execs: “We need our own Game of Thrones, only waaay cheaper, with watered-down sex and violence, and scripts that were previously rejected by The CW or Drunk History.” BBC One execs: “Have we got a show for you!”

Clear History (Saturday, Aug. 10, HBO), movie: If you’re expecting a huge thespian departure for Larry David, forget it: The Gandalf wig and beard early in the movie are as far removed from Curb Your Enthusiasm’s “Larry David” as he gets in this film; in the end Clear History is really just an extended episode of Curb. On the upside, it’s an extended episode of Curb! David stars as Nathan Flomm, a marketing exec at a startup electric-car company who, after getting into a stupid, Larry-like fight with his boss (Jon Hamm), quits and sells his shares. Five minutes later, the company breaks billions-big, Apple-style, and Nathan is a national joke. A haircut and 10 years on, Nathan is now Rolly, anonymously and happily living Larry-like in Martha’s Vineyard—until his old boss shows up and builds a mansion on the island. Clear History is funny and star-studded enough (watch for an uncredited Liev Schreiber), but Season 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm would have been pretty, pretty, pretty preferable.

Breaking Bad (Sunday, Aug. 11, AMC), mid-season premiere: The second half of the final Breaking Bad season (The Only TV Column That Matters™ is not going to miss explaining that) cuts right to the meat of The End of Heisenberg/Walter White (Bryan Cranston); returning episode “Blood Money” is a bracing, all-killer, no-filler episode that simultaneously spells out Walt’s post-meth-biz fate and somehow leaves it wide-open at the same time—quite a trick. It’s so jam-packed, nearly every plot point is a spoiler (real spoilers, not your Mad Men bullshit, Matthew Weiner), but it’s at least safe to mention that Jesse (Aaron Paul), Hank (Dean Norris), Saul (Bob Odenkirk), Skyler (Anna Gunn) and, my pick for lone survivor, Marie (Betsy Brandt) all get quality screen time—even Badger and Skinny Pete show up for some much-needed comic relief. You don’t need me to tell you to Be There.

Low Winter Sun (Sunday, Aug. 11, AMC), series debut: Speaking of Breaking Bad, Gale Boetticher is back! Not really, but the actor (David Costabile) who played him is, as a Detroit Police internal-affairs officer investigating a cop’s murder—at the hand of Low Winter Sun’s (anti-)hero, Det. Frank Agnew (Zero Dark Thirty’s Mark Strong). Fortunately for AMC, Low Winter Sun is more The Shield than The Killing, and less cop procedural than tension-escalating indie flick. Just in time, eh, Detroit?


DVD-RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR AUG. 13!

Bad Parents

A suburban mom (Janeane Garofalo!) is thrust into the high-stakes world of kiddie soccer, facing off against long sleeves, crazed parents and a driven coach (Christopher Titus!!) in the movie that slams the coffin lid on ’90s alt-comedy. (Gaiam)

A Band Called Death

The SXSW rock-doc is about early ’70s Detroit sibling trio Death, the punk band who predated punk, were initially rejected for being black kids playing “white boy music,” and then rediscovered decades later. Move over, Anvil. (Image)

The Mindy Project: Season One

Successful OB/GYN Mindy (Mindy Kaling) is a hot mess looking for love, but she usually just ends up in even more pathetic situations than that wacky New Girl. The DVDs do not come with subtitles for those who can’t hear her high-pitched voice. (Universal)

Rock Jocks

Misfit gamer-geeks (including Felicia Day) work for a secret government agency, piloting satellite drones to destroy asteroids before they reach Earth, but they mostly just fight bureaucratic meddling. Not based on a true story … or is it? (Cinedigm)

More New DVD Releases (Aug. 13)

The Big Wedding, Cat. 8, The Company You Keep, Compulsion, Dave Foley: Relatively Well, Deadly Swarm, Divination, Dog Pound, Dolls of Voodoo, Emperor, Enlightened: Season 2, Girls: Season 2, Hatchet III, The Hot Flashes, Olympus Has Fallen, Once Upon a Time: Season 2, Southland: Season 5

Editor’s note: This is the debut of a new column, Bill Frost’s “True TV,” aka The Only TV Column That Matters™. Most weeks, he’ll offer his opinions on what shows you should not miss during the upcoming week—and which shows you should skip in favor of a book. (However, this week, he’s doing a summer-roundup thing. Hey, it’s almost August. It’s slow.)

He’ll also offer a weekly roundup of newly released DVDs, to complement Bob Grimm’s regular DVD/home-video reviews. So … here we go. Enjoy!

The 10 summer shows you should be keeping/catching up on:

Under the Dome

Mondays (CBS): One of the best Stephen King adaptations to date—and they even worked in a reference to The Simpsons Movie. Under the Dome has shown a few signs of padding the story to fill 13 episodes (teen romance—phttt, who needs it?), but the tension ratchets up just enough every week to keep the hooks in. (Almost) all is forgiven, Rachelle Lefevre.

Orange Is the New Black

Streaming (Netflix): Like Netflix’s previous Big Event, Arrested Development, prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black gets better with each episode, rolling out surprising back-stories for the characters surrounding “yuppie white girl” inmate Piper (a fantastic Taylor Schilling). Anyone who thought showrunner Jenji Kohan was a one-trick Weeds pony can suck it. (For an opposing view, check out Bob Grimm's review of the show.)

Ray Donovan

Sundays (Showtime): In contrast to his hilarious, almost-unrecognizable cameo in Larry David’s upcoming HBO movie Clear History, Ray Donovan is Liev Schreiber’s defining Intense Mofo role. Hollywood “fixer” Ray has more issues than Variety, and his family (including an equally intense Jon Voight) is a nightmare—which, of course, makes for great TV.

Wilfred

Thursdays (FX): If you gave up on Wilfred during last year’s weird ’n’ dark Season 2, don’t bother coming back—it’s still weird ’n’ dark. Ryan (Elijah Wood) is more convinced than ever that he’s crazy, and it’s less clear than ever whether his talking-dog frenemy Wilfred (Jason Gann) is there to pull him back from, or push him over, the edge. Hence, funny!

The Bridge

Wednesdays (FX): After a rote pilot episode with a The Killing aftertaste, Tex-Mex-border crime drama The Bridge slipped into a groove and started earning its FX keep. Stars Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir bring new twists to their odd-couple cop dynamic every week, and Annabeth Gish’s side-plot is finally making tense sense. Always trust in FX.

The Newsroom

Sundays (HBO): It took a season and change, but The Only TV Column That Matters™ is now convinced that Olivia Munn is worthy of her news-geek-dream-girl role of financial reporter Sloan Sabbith. If only the rest of The Newsroom women owned it like she does. On all other fronts, Aaron Sorkin’s liberal-media porn dramedy is sharper than ever.

Magic City

Fridays (Starz): Yeah, I get it—you’re never going to subscribe to Starz, so quit going on about shows like Spartacus, Boss and Magic City, right? Whatever. Like the first two, Magic City isn’t quite on par with the HBO and Showtime series it aspires to be, but as a period (1950s Miami) potboiler, it’s as gorgeous and addictive as anything on cable.

Camp

Wednesdays (NBC): One of the few shows in NBC’s throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks Summer of Filler campaign that actually works, Camp is a funny and sweet diversion that not only makes Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under) likable; it also also pulls off a decent Glee/Parenthood tone-meld with only a few glitches. (Teen romance—phttt, who needs it?)

Siberia

Mondays (NBC): NBC could have done better—hell, the network could have done any—rollout work on keeping Siberia’s secret (it’s a fake reality-survival show … clarification: more fake than usual), but it’s still stoopid fun watching to see who’s going to die next. (Bear Grylls, take note.) The biggest mystery: What was Carolina (Joyce Giraud) thinking wearing six feet of hair into the wilderness?

Nikki and Sara Live

Tuesdays (MTV): Sometimes MTV gets it right: Not only did they give comics/podcasters Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer their own show last year; they also picked it up for a second season—now shut up about the music videos already. Nikki and Sara Live is essentially a junior Daily Show for those who don’t want to look at old, gray hosts. (Sorry, Jon Stewart—come back soon.)


DVD-RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR AUG. 6!

Amelia’s 25th

On her 25th birthday, Amelia (Electra Avellan) realizes that she’s now too old to become a famous actress: “In Hollywood, 25 is the new dead.” Also starring Danny Trejo, Jennifer Tilly, Margaret Cho and other spry youngsters. (Breaking Glass)

The Best of Fridays

The cult 1980-1982 late-night sketch series, finally on DVD! Well, some of it. It features players Michael Richards and Larry David (with hair!); performances by Devo, The Clash and Kiss; and a fight with Andy Kaufman. (Shout! Factory)

Community: The Complete Fourth Season

The season without showrunner Dan Harmon—hey, it’s not that bad. There’s the sci-fi convention thing, the Halloween thing, the Thanksgiving thing, the Christmas thing, the puppet thing, the graduation thing … OK, it was pretty bad. (Sony)

Oblivion

When a memory-wiped drone repairman (Tom Cruise) on Future Eff’dup Earth rescues a mysterious-but-familiar woman (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft … not much happens, but it looks really cool. That’s enough, right? (Universal)

Strike Back: Season 2

Cinemax’s live-action Team America returns for a second season with a new boss (Rhona Mitra), new bad guys (terrorists with nuclear triggers) and ridiculous new levels of violence, nudity, yelling and explosions. So, awesome TV. (HBO)

More New DVD Releases (Aug. 6)

The Borgias: The Third Season, Duck Dynasty: Season 3, Jim Norton: Please Be Offended, Magic Magic, Mud, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, On the Road, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Sapphires, Smash: Season 2, To the Wonder, West of Memphis, Zombie Massacre.

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