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The Crazy Ones (Thursday, Sept. 26, CBS), series debut: In his … triumphant? … return to television, Robin Williams (over)plays advertising exec Simon Roberts, a whacked-out genius who’s as difficult to tolerate as he is, of course, brilliant. His daughter and partner, Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar), is his uptight polar opposite; forced dramedy ensues. Like another new—and funnier—CBS comedy, We Are Men (premiering Monday, Sept. 30), The Crazy Ones is a single-camera, no-laugh-track outing, which means it’s ultimately doomed: The Eyeball Network’s viewers need to be told where the punchlines are—and there ain’t none here.

Homeland, Masters of Sex (Sunday, Sept. 29, Showtime), season premiere, series debut: Alleged bomber Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) is laying low in the Season 3 premiere of Homelandpretty damned low. Meanwhile, things are going from bad to worse to supremely eff’dup for Carrie (Claire Danes) during the Senate investigations into the “Second 9/11” bombing that killed more than 200, and Saul (Mandy Patinkin) takes some seriously un-Saul-like actions to distance the CIA from the whole mess. The tense “Tin Man Down” goes a long way toward getting Homeland back on track after some sub-soap distractions last season—and the sure-to-be-huge ratings should deliver a lot of curious eyes to the fantastic new Masters of Sex, the dramatized story of 1950s sexuality-research pioneers Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) that’s more about human relationships and academia (and, yes, gorgeously-detailed Mad Men period style) than sex and nudity—but there’s plenty of that, too. Go, Showtime!

Eastbound and Down, Hello Ladies (Sunday, Sept. 29, HBO), series premiere, series debut: At the end of Eastbound and Down’s third and intended-to-be final season last year, baseball-legend-in-his-own-pants Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) quit the game and faked his own death to be with his true love, April (Katy Mixon). Season 4 (the real final chapter, if you trust HBO this time) opens with a sadly domesticated Kenny working in rental-car hell and denying his lust for the spotlight—until he’s tapped to guest on a popular sports-talk TV show by its host (Ken Marino); within two episodes, KFP is back in all of his obnoxious glory. New companion comedy Hello Ladies, starring and almost entirely carried by Stephen Merchant, is far more low-key and dry: Brit Stuart (Merchant) and a staggeringly awkward crew of fellow singles look for love in Hollywood, with staggeringly awkward results. It’s the anti-Entourage.

Breaking Bad (Sunday, Sept. 29, AMC), series finale: The final episode of Breaking Bad is titled “Felina.” It’s 75-minutes long; there’s still an hour of dead air called Low Winter Sun between it and Talking Bad; and … that’s all The Only TV Column That Matters™ knows. AMC isn’t sending out preview screeners to TV critics or real people—and why would they?

Super Fun Night (Wednesday, Oct. 2, ABC) series debut: Don’t dismiss a TV-subdued Rebel Wilson with an American accent: Super Fun Night works hilariously, largely due to Wilson’s (relative) underplaying as Kimmie, a junior attorney whose recent promotion is moving her up the social ladder. Will she abandon her equally geeky best friends (Liza Lapira and Lauren Ash) and their standing Friday shut-in “Super Fun Night”? It’s an odd pairing with Modern Family, but Super Fun Night shares the same underlying sweetness and bonding. It’s also saltier and edgier than the rest of ABC's Wednesday—and look where that got Happy Endings.


NEW-RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR OCT. 1!

Awkward: Seasons 1 and 2

Jenna (Ashley Rickards) narrates/blogs about the perils of being a teenager and dealing (awkwardly, duh) with cute boys, mean girls, dumb parents and wasting her child-bearing years on high school and learning—according to MTV, at least. (Paramount)

Beauty and the Beast: Season 1

A detective (Kristin Kreuk—yes, really) fights her attraction to a horribly disfigured monster (Jay Ryan—playing “horribly disfigured” with a wee scar on his face) as they solve her mother’s murder in an appropriately sexy manner. (Paramount)

Fright Night 2: New Blood

In the sequel to the 2011 remake, a professor (Jaime Murray) who also happens to be a vampire prepares to feed on American idiot high-schoolers in Romania. Can the vamp-hunting host of Fright Night (Sean Power) stop her? Should he? (Fox)

New Girl: Season 2

Jess (Zooey Deschanel) gets fired from her teaching job, then spends 25 episodes on temp gigs (model, shot girl, general quirkstress, etc.), wacky misadventures and falling for roommate Nick (Jake Johnson). In other words, Comedy Gold! (Fox)

This Is the End

Five Hollywood pals (Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson and James Franco) and one asshole (Danny McBride, of course) get high and wait out the Apocalypse. Will they burn in L.A. or be Raptured to Heaven? Yes. Comedy Gold! (Sony)

More New DVD Releases (Oct. 1)

Bob and the Monster, China Beach: Season 1, The Croods, Dead Before Dawn, Ferocious, The Frozen Ground, Glee: Season 4, Hallow’s Eve, How I Met Your Mother: Season 8, Morning, Treasure Guards

Dexter (Sunday, Sept. 22, Showtime), series finale: Since it has been going head-to-head with the fiery final episodes of Breaking Bad every Sunday, Dexter has become an unfortunate study in How Not to End a Series. Dexter (Michael C. Hall, obviously already checked out) could have split Miami long ago with Hannah (Yvonne Strahovski), but instead, he just had to stick around to take out the Brain Surgeon, his dullest serial-killer nemesis since, well, the last one. (Not to sound like a, blech, TV critic, but it’s been quite a vanilla streak since the Trinity Killer.) And sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) and her ridiculous season-long “journey” from lost lush to reinstated cop could have been its own telenovela, La Suerte Puta. Still, The Only TV Column That Matters™ is just as curious to see how the eighth and final season of Dexter concludes as you are. Will Dex finally be caught, executed or just sail away? Will Deb die, and Hannah live happily ever after with Dexter? Or vice-versa? Who’s li’l Harrison going to kill first? Let’s all find out together, remember the good times, and never speak of Seasons 5-8 again.

Mom, Hostages (Monday, Sept. 23. CBS), series debuts: Moneybags CBS can afford to throw crap at the wall and see what sticks, and they’re certainly taking advantage of it with Mom. A recovering-alcoholic comedy? How edgy—so what if Rude Awakening already did it 15 years ago? It’s not that Anna Faris and Allison Janney aren’t good; it’s that the Chuck Lorre sitcom hackery around them is so far from even “meh.” Same goes for Hostages, a political drama that should be at least tolerable due to the presence of Toni Collette and Dylan McDermott. Nope.

The Blacklist (Monday, Sept. 23, NBC), series debut: Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader), one of the FBI’s most wanted, suddenly turns himself in and makes an offer to help them catch even bigger fish, including a previously untouchable mega-terrorist. The one condition: For no (yet) given reason, he only deals with a specific new profiler fresh out of Quantico (Megan Boone). Like her character, newcomer Boone is mostly crowded off the screen by vet Spader’s Acting!, but The Blacklist is instantly slick and engrossing. She’ll likely get a full season to up her game, as the show’s only Monday competition is ABC’s Castle (now rolling its Jazzy into Season 6) and CBS’ Hostages (again, nope).

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesday, Sept. 24, ABC), series debut: Since the pilot was withheld by Marvel and ABC, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the only new fall TV show I haven’t seen—and it’s also the one I’m most looking forward to … so their ploy worked, damn it.

Trophy Wife (Tuesday, Sept. 24, ABC), series debut: A single party girl (Malin Akerman) falls in love with and marries an older man (Bradley Whitford), much to the dismay/disgust of her best friend (Natalie Morales) and his ex-wives (Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins). With the exception of the equally smart ’n’ sassy Super Fun Night (premiering Oct. 2), Trophy Wife has the best setup, cast and writing of any new ABC comedy. It also has the worst title and time slot (after ABC’s middling new The Goldbergs and against Fox’s The Mindy Project), so expect some Cougar Town-ish indifference from viewers.

Season Premieres This Week

Friday, Sept. 20: Last Man Standing, The Neighbors, Shark Tank (ABC)

Monday, Sept. 23: Castle (ABC); How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls (CBS); The Voice (NBC)

Tuesday, Sept. 24: NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Person of Interest (CBS); Chicago Fire (NBC)

Wednesday, Sept. 25: The Middle, Modern Family, Nashville (ABC); Criminal Minds, CSI (CBS); Revolution, Law and Order: SVU (NBC).


NEW-RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 24!

Apartment 1303

A creepy Detroit apartment is driving tenants to commit suicide—sure, it’s the apartment, not the living-in-Detroit part. Then Mischa Barton (remember her?) shows up to investigate the death of her sister and her own career. (Phase 4)

Hannibal: Season 1

An FBI agent (Hugh Dancy) teams up with a psychiatrist (Mads Mikkelsen) to catch serial killers—and since the profiler-shrink just happens to be Dr. Hannibal Lecter, things get bloody weird from there. How’d this get on network TV? (Lionsgate)

I Spit On Your Grave 2

In the sequel to the 2010 remake of the 1978 revenge classic (follow?), a brutalized New York model (Jenna Dallender) settles the score with her attackers in the most twisted and violent ways imaginable. Don’t forget to smize! (Starz/Anchor Bay)

Iron Man 3

In the sequel to the 2010 sequel to the 2008 superhero epic (follow?), a brutalized Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) settles the score with his attacker, with an assist from Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). Aw, cute. (Disney/Marvel)

Redemption

In yet more revenge news, a former Special Forces officer (Jason Statham) sets out to avenge the murder of his friend, but soon finds himself sucked even deeper into the London crime underworld. No, you haven’t seen this one before. (Lionsgate)

More New DVD Releases (Sept. 24)

2 Broke Girls: Season 2, American Dad: Vol. 8, Bloody Homecoming, Euro Trapped, Family Guy: Vol. 11, Fill the Void, Hawaii Five-0: Season 3, The Kings of Summer, Law & Order: SVU: Season 14, Modern Family: Season 4, The Neighbors: Season 1, South Park: Season 16, V/H/S/2.

THE HYPE

You’ve been hearing about them for months, and they haven’t even premiered.

Sleepy Hollow

Fox, premiering Monday, Sept. 16

Thanks to a spell cast during the Revolutionary War, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is transported 250 years to the present—but, surprise, so is the Headless Horseman! Turns out HH is but one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Crane must stop him. Mison is intense and broody, and Sleepy Hollow’s production is dazzlingly high-dollar and chilling, but the story (which involves a lot of exposition about American history and secret societies) might be too thinky for those expecting the escapism of Once Upon a Time or pretty much anything on The CW.

The Blacklist

NBC, premiering Monday, Sept. 23

Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader), one of the FBI’s most wanted, mysteriously turns himself in and makes an offer to help catch an even bigger fish, a previously untouchable mega-terrorist. The one condition: He only deals with a certain new profiler fresh out of Quantico (Megan Boone). How does he know her? What’s his endgame? How many more bad guys on his “blacklist” will he help capture if she agrees to work with him? Quit asking questions—it’s James Spader in super-creep mode. Revel in it.

Hostages

CBS, premiering Monday, Sept. 23

Toni Collette is a brilliant surgeon who’s about to operate on the president; Dylan McDermott is a rogue FBI agent who’s kidnapped her family and orders her to botch the operation and kill the commander in chief; Jerry Bruckheimer is running the show; no one at CBS had the nerve to ask, “How do you get 15 episodes out of this, Jerry?”

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

ABC, premiering Tuesday, Sept. 24

Those of us who work for a living and weren’t financed to vacation at San Diego Comic-Con or the Television Critics Association press tour this summer haven’t seen the full pilot episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Joss Whedon’s Avengers-adjacent spin-off series—and we won’t until you do. ABC and Marvel are keeping it under wraps, hoping to create an “appointment TV” event with no spoilers (and, possibly, no nitpicking that S.H.I.E.L.D. perhaps isn’t The Greatest Achievement in Broadcast History). Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. focuses on the good guys who fight evil without superpowers and costumes, with Clark Gregg’s thought-dead Agent Coulson back from the movie, joined by Ming-Na Wen and a cast of ridiculously good-looking specialists. Just go with the secrecy: Long before he became Mr. Box Office, Whedon proved he can create fantastic television with action, humor and emotion. Trust him on this.

The Crazy Ones

CBS, premiering Thursday, Sept. 26

There must be someone out there who didn’t grow tired of Robin Williams’ shtick years ago—besides Robin Williams, that is. In The Crazy Ones (oooh, foreshadowing!), he (over)plays advertising exec Simon Roberts, a whacked-out genius who is as difficult to tolerate as he is, of course, brilliant. His daughter and partner, Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar), is his uptight polar opposite—hence alleged comedy. Never thought I’d say this, but … where’s the laugh track, CBS?

Reign

The CW, premiering Thursday, Oct. 17

The story of Mary, Queen of Scots seems a little ambitious for The CW—but don’t worry: It’s still Tudors-lite sexy, kids. Once you get past the wavering accents and passing hints at the supernatural (a CW requirement?), it’s clear that Adelaide Kane is a star in the making (and at least she’s not being wasted on Teen Wolf anymore).

Dracula

NBC, premiering Friday, Oct. 25

Fortunately, this isn’t a modern-day telling with Dracula running a software company or something equally ridiculous. (You know an NBC exec probably suggested it, his head filled with visions of Microsoft Surface placements.) Jonathan Rhys Meyers is perfect as the 19th-century vampire bent on revenge against those who made him fang-y. Dracula could be the most expensive-looking new series NBC has ever dumped on Friday nights—so maybe you’ll see those tablets yet.

Almost Human

Fox, premiering Monday, Nov. 4

From J.J. Abrams (go ahead and squeal) comes the futuristic—2048, to be exact—tale of a police force that mandates every cop be partnered with a human-like cyborg. Naturally, veteran officer John Kennex (Star Trek’s Karl Urban) hates machines, but reluctantly comes to trust his new crime-fighting iPartner (Michael Ealy). Almost Human sounds suspiciously like a 1992 series called Mann and Machine, but so what? J.J. Abrams! Future robot cops!


THE FUNNY

The network comedy isn’t dead (yet).

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Fox, premiering Tuesday, Sept. 17

There hasn’t been a successful cop comedy since Barney Miller (Wiki it, kids); recent attempts like Denis Leary’s The Job and Fox’s own The Good Guys went either too dark or too weird to connect. (Let’s leave Reno 911! out of this.) Brooklyn Nine-Nine, from some of the minds behind Parks and Recreation, could be the one to break the cycle, thanks to stars Andy Samberg, Joe Lo Truglio and underestimated comic wildcard Terry Crews. Despite being about police work, the show captures the effortless, single-camera comedy of Tuesday-night compatriots New Girl and The Mindy Project, with more than a little Adult Swim edge. (Some of the premiere episode’s scenes wouldn’t feel out of place on NTSF:SD:SUV.)

Trophy Wife

ABC, premiering Tuesday, Sept. 24

A single party girl (Malin Akerman) falls in love with and marries an older man (Bradley Whitford), much to the dismay/disgust of her best friend (Natalie Morales) and his ex-wife (Marcia Gay Harden). The cast couldn’t be more comedically solid—Akerman in particular has proven herself for years on Childrens Hospital—and Trophy Wife’s writing is as sharp as ABC’s best, but not too out-there, comedies (more Suburgatory, less Happy Endings). Now it just needs to overcome the show title—right, Cougar Town?

The Michael J. Fox Show

NBC, premiering Thursday, Sept. 26

As skeptical as you should be about networks dragging out their old stars and trying to slap together new hits around them—remember the craptastic Paul Reiser Show?—your doubts are unfounded here: The Michael J. Fox Show not only works; it kills. He plays Mike Henry, a beloved New York City news anchor who quit years ago to deal with his Parkinson’s disease (write what ya know). Thing is, he’s tired of being homebound and anxious to return to work—almost as anxious as his wife (Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt) and kids are to get him the hell out of the house. The Michael J. Fox Show isn’t just hugs and fuzzies; there’s a subtle, media-biting edge on par with classic 30 Rock. And, yeah, there are hugs and fuzzies.

We Are Men

CBS, premiering Monday, Sept. 30

You’ve seen the previews; you’re asking “How the hell can anything with Jerry O’Connell and Tony Shalhoub be funny?” Believe it—and check it out quickly, because We Are Men’s days are numbered on CBS. O’Connell, Shalhoub, Kal Penn and Chris Smith star as guys at various stages of single-dom, living in a short-term apartment complex and (still) trying to figure out women. Even if it had a laugh track (which it doesn’t), in no way does We Are Men fit between How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls; a better, raunchier, less-instantly-cancelled version of this show runs on Showtime in an alternate universe.

Super Fun Night

ABC, premiering Wednesday, Oct. 2

A subdued Rebel Wilson? With an American accent? Before you start screaming “TV sellout!” (you wouldn’t do that … would you?), know that Super Fun Night really works, largely due to Wilson’s (relative) underplaying as Kimmie, a junior attorney whose recent promotion is also moving her up the social ladder. Will she leave her equally geeky best friends (Liza Lapira and Lauren Ash) behind and abandon their standing Friday shut-in “Super Fun Night”? It may seem like an odd pairing with Modern Family, but Super Fun Night shares the same underlying sweetness and bonding. It’s also funny as hell, something the Dunphys don’t always nail.


THE USUALS

Nothing “new” to see here.

The Goldbergs

ABC, premiering Tuesday, Sept. 24

This looks like a family sitcom frozen in time from the ’80s, because it’s set in the ’80s—see how ABC got around that? This postcard from the Reagan Era stars Jeff Garlin, Wendi McLendon-Covey, George Segal and other people who should know better. Patton Oswalt provides the Wonder Years–style narration, no less. Sure, Garlin fires off plenty of priceless one-liners (“I talked to the guy at Sam Goody; he said it was a hip track!”) and there’s no canned laughter, but The Goldbergs is deader than disco (then, not now).

Back in the Game

ABC, premiering Wednesday, Sept. 25

Maggie Lawson (Psych) and James Caan (father of that Hawaii Five-0 guy) star in Trouble With the Curve: The Sitcom meets The Bad News Bears: The Next Generation. Terry (Lawson) gave up a softball career to have a kid, disappointing father Terry Sr. (Caan), himself a failed pro baseball player. When she moves back home, and the local Little League team of misfits needs a coach, it’s a comedy home run! Sorry about that, as I am about this: Steee-rike.

Betrayal

ABC, premiering Sunday, Sept. 29

Do you like watching beautiful, rich folks cheat on each other and stab one another in the back? Stick with Revenge and Scandal; Betrayal plays like a Lifetime movie with no end in sight (except, fingers crossed, cancelation).

The Millers

CBS, premiering Thursday, Oct. 3

A middling sitcom that forcibly overpowers its lameness with the sheer comedic force of star power: Will Arnett (Arrested Development), Margo Martindale (Justified), J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Beau Bridges (brother of The Dude) work like hell to just barely pull The Millers out of the crapper. When news reporter Nathan (Arnett) gets a divorce, it inspires his father (Bridges) to leave his wife of 43 years (Martindale), leading to occasionally hilarious fallout. It could have been much worse (you’ll get to Fox’s Dads in a minute).

Welcome to the Family

NBC, premiering Thursday, Oct. 3; moving to Tuesdays on Oct. 8

Parents Dan (Mike O’Malley, Glee) and Karina (Mary McCormack, In Plain Sight) are finally sending their daughter off to college—until she gets pregnant by her Latino, East L.A. boyfriend. His whitey-averse parents (Desperate Housewives’ Ricardo Chavira and Six Feet Under’s Justina Machado) are none too happy about the situation, either. Can these two families cross their cultural barriers and get along, for the kids? More pressing: How did this not end up on ABC Family?

The Originals

The CW, premiering Thursday, Oct. 3

Remember the bit in This Is Spinal Tap, about the band being called The Originals, until they found out there was another band across town also called The Originals, so they changed their name to The New Originals? Anyway: I’d rather watch Spinal Tap again than a Vampire Diaries spin-off.

The Tomorrow People

The CW, premiering Wednesday, Oct. 9

Stephen (Robbie Amell, cousin of Arrow’s Stephen Amell—follow?) is a different kind of pretty teen—but he has no idea how different until he meets up with fellow pretty teens the Tomorrow People, a genetically advanced race with powers of telekinesis, teleportation, telepathy and maybe even sweet Telecaster licks. Sounds cool, until he learns that a shadowy military operation—there’s always a shadowy military operation!—is hunting down the Tomorrow People today, and tomorrow as well. As with most CW fare, TTP is more fun if you don’t think about it too hard.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

ABC, premiering Thursday, Oct. 10

In case you didn’t gather it from the title, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (no, it’s not too wordy at all) is an Alice in Wonderland-themed spin-off from ABC’s inexplicable hit Once Upon a Time. The only really interesting detail about OUATIW is that John Lithgow (!) replaced Pee-Wee Herman (!!) as the voice of the White Rabbit.

Enlisted

Fox, premiering Friday, Nov. 8

First, a cop comedy; now, a military comedy? Fox really is taking it back to the ’70s this season. Geoff Stults (of the late, somewhat lamented The Finder) is funny enough channeling Stripes’ Bill Murray, and Enlisted exhibits occasional flashes of that old Fox edge that the network was known for before it became Karaoke Central 10 years ago. But a Friday-night timeslot is still a death sentence—catch it while you can.


THE REST

How these got made, no one knows.

Dads

Fox, premiering Tuesday, Sept. 17

Seth MacFarlane’s live-action sitcom is already catching heat for a stereotypical depiction of an Asian woman in a schoolgirl outfit, but come on—there’s sooo much more here to hate. 1. The setup (cranky fathers move back in with their wisecracking 30-something sons) is straight out of TV Land. 2. So is the grating laugh track, which is completely at odds with not only the rest of Fox’s Tuesday night lineup, but the net’s entire lineup. 3. This is the type of desperate crap star Seth Green would (and probably will) mock mercilessly on his own Robot Chicken. 4. I have a suspicion that MacFarlane produced this on a dare.

Mom

CBS, premiering Monday, Sept. 23

Can Chuck Lorre just retire already? He’s made a quadzillion dollars off Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, both in perpetual reruns that prove hourly that the comedy doesn’t hold up, so let’s all take a break from each other, mm-kay? No, he had to crank out Mom, another disposable, canned-laughs yuck machine, starring Anna Faris as a recovering alcoholic mess of a single mom dealing with her kids, her wacky co-workers and her just-as-messy mom (Allison Janney), also a recovering alcoholic. It’s not that Faris and Janney aren’t good; it’s that the sitcom hackery around them is so far from even “meh.”

Lucky 7

ABC, premiering Tuesday, Sept. 24

Seven gas-station employees become overnight millionaires when their lottery pool finally hits the right numbers. Lucky 7 juggles the stories of each winner—and one loser who, like a chump, squirreled away his dollars instead of buying tickets. Unfortunately, none of the stories are even slightly engaging, and all the soft-rock montages and touchy-feely monologues in the world aren’t going to change that.

Ironside

NBC, premiering Wednesday, Oct. 2

So, there’s Blair Underwood as wheelchair-bound detective Robert T. Ironside, and … it’s another cop procedural, just with a recognizable brand name—to a certain generation, anyway. (See, kids, Ironside was a 1967-75 NBC cop show starring Perry Mason.) There’s no denying Underwood’s onscreen charisma, and his Ironside is far more of a badass than his predecessor, but I’d rather see a Columbo reboot starring Sam Rockwell, personally.

Sean Saves the World

NBC, premiering Thursday, Oct. 3

Will and Grace’s Sean Hayes plays a gay single dad; Reno 911’s Thomas Lennon plays his boss; Alice’s Linda Lavin plays Sean’s mother. So how did three such comic journeymen come to star in what looks like a parody of a sitcom? And a bad parody, at that—even the laugh track sounds noncommittal. Worst of all, NBC is using this as a lead-in to the astronomically superior Michael J. Fox Show. Sean ain’t saving shit.


RETURNING AND NEW CABLE SERIES

The “cool” TV shows that you’d actually admit to watching, but perhaps will be whining about missing, because you don’t have cable. It’s ironic, like rain on your wedding day.

Luther (BBC America; season 3 premiered Tuesday, Sept. 3); Idris Elba returns to being more badass than most ’Merican cops. Ironside, take note.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX; season 9 premiered Wednesday, Sept. 4): The Gang moves to a new network and night; find your channel at GetFXX.com.

The League (FXX; season 5 premiered Wednesday, Sept. 4): FX’s other gang also moves; the funniest sports show that’s not even about sports will be followed by a new (nightly!) season of Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell, FYI.

Boardwalk Empire (HBO; season 4 premiered Sunday, Sept. 8): Having beaten psycho rival Gyp Rosetti, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) gets back to Atlantic City business, while Al Capone (Stephen Graham) expands his in Chicago.

Sons of Anarchy (FX; season 6 premieres Tuesday, Sept 10): Both Clay (Ron Perlman) and Tara (Maggie Siff) are in prison, leaving Jax (Charlie Hunnam) to run SAMCRO alone, and polish his own white sneakers.

Derek (Netflix; series debuts Thursday, Sept. 12): Ricky Gervais’ new seven-episode show about a retirement-home worker is a departure from his other comedies in that it’s not even remotely funny.

Haven (Syfy; season 4 premieres Friday, Sept. 13): The latest run of the Stephen-King-short-based supernatural series kicks off on Friday the 13th—ooh, scary!

South Park (Comedy Central; season 17 premieres on Wednesday, Sept. 25): Have Trey Parker and Matt Stone run out of ideas after 16 years? Hell, I ran out of ideas after 16 blurbs (see above).

Eastbound and Down (HBO; season 4 premieres Sunday, Sept. 29): The real final season for Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) and the most underrated HBO comedy ever … sigh.

Hello Ladies (HBO; series debuts Sunday, Sept. 29): Gawky Ricky Gervais cohort Stephen Merchant attempts to hang with the beautiful people of Hollywood. Needless to say, it goes terribly/hilariously.

Homeland (Showtime; season 3 premieres Sunday, Sept. 29): Brody (Damian Lewis) is on the run; Carrie (Claire Danes) is shattered and cry-face-y; Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is, well, pretty much the same as ever.

Masters of Sex (Showtime; series debuts Sunday, Sept. 29): Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan star as famed sexuality researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson, so expect gratuitous nudity and sex—yay, premium cable!

American Horror Story: Coven (FX; season 3 premieres Wednesday, Oct. 9): This season is about modern-day (and 1830s) witches in New Orleans, with all of your favorite AHS repertory players (minus Connie Britton and Dylan McDermott) returning.

The Walking Dead (AMC; season 4 premieres Sunday, Oct. 13): Once again, the zombie soap’s 16-episode season will be split between eight episodes this year and eight next February. On the upside: More walker swarms than ever!

Doctor Who (BBC America; 50th anniversary special on Saturday, Nov. 23): This is such a big deal that it’s being broadcast simultaneously around the world to avoid Internet spoilers. Oh, you geeks are adorable.

Ripper Street (BBC America; season 2 premieres Sunday, Dec. 1): Since this period drama is back for a second season, it’s safe to say they haven’t yet caught Jack the Ripper. Don’t worry; no geek interest here.

Treme (HBO; season 4 premieres Sunday, Dec. 1): Only five more episodes, and Treme is gone forever. After that, you’ll have another show besides The Wire to yammer on about endlessly to strangers at parties.


MIDSEASON

The second-string replacement series that may show up in 2014—or sooner. Or, in some merciful cases, never.

The 100 (The CW) Drama: In the future, 100 pretty space kids are exiled to abandoned Earth to survive, maintain perfect hair and have pensive, dewy-eyed moments.

About a Boy (NBC) Comedy: Based on the 1998 novel/2002 movie, now starring David Walton (New Girl) as a single playboy who befriends an 11-year-old boy.

Bad Teacher (CBS) Comedy: Based, for some reason, on the 2011 movie, now starring Ari Graynor (For a Good Time, Call), who’s waaay funnier than Cameron Diaz.

Believe (NBC) Drama: A 10-year-old girl with telekinetic powers hits the road with an escaped—but innocent!—convict to help people and avoid The Man.

The Black Box (ABC) Drama: A world-famous neuroscientist (Kelly Reilly) treats patients and keeps secrets—like, of course, her own creeping mental illness.

Chicago PD (NBC) Drama: From Dick Wolf, the cop answer to Chicago Fire, which itself was the firefighter answer to Law and Order. In Chicago, if that wasn’t clear.

Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey (Fox) Docu-Series: Neil deGrasse Tyson follows up Carl Sagan’s 1980s science series on the home of educational programming … Fox?

Crisis (NBC) Drama: Dermot Mulroney stars in a hostage thriller about the children of Washington, D.C.’s elite and power-players. No relation to Dylan McDermott’s Hostages … this is so confusing.

Crossbones (NBC) Drama: A period leftover from the 2012 development season, starring John Malkovich as Blackbeard the Pirate and, still, absolutely no one else.

Friends With Better Lives (CBS) Comedy: James Van Der Beek (Don’t Trust the B), Kevin Connolly (Entourage) and Brooklyn Decker (uh …) in Rules of Engagement 2.0.

Gang Related (Fox) Drama: Yet another Los Angeles cop drama—but this one has the RZA, Terry O’Quinn from Lost and a guy from The Wire. Otherwise, L.A. cop drama.

Golan the Insatiable (Fox) Animated: A powerful warrior from an alternate universe ends up in suburban Earth and befriends a surly young girl in Invader Zim: The Sequel.

Growing Up Fisher (NBC) Comedy: Show-killers Jenna Elfman and J.K. Simmons in a Parenthood-ish family dramedy about a blind patriarch and his kooky blonde wife.

Intelligence (CBS) Drama: An intelligence operative (Lost’s Josh Holloway) has a microchip imbedded in his brain, making him a human Wi-Fi super-computer. Or Jake 3.0.

Killer Women (ABC) Drama: Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) is Walker, Texas Ranger … just like her old BSG costar Katee Sackhoff on Longmire.

Lucas Bros. Moving Co. (Fox) Comedy: Twin comedians Kenny and Keith Lucas star as incompetent movers. Remember Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez in Men at Work? Like that.

Mind Games (ABC) Drama: Speaking of brothers, Christian Slater and Steve Zahn star as siblings running a psychological profiling company. Never give up on TV, Christian.

Mixology (ABC) Comedy: Beautiful singles mingle in a high-end Manhattan bar, looking for love and decent tips. This has the potential to be the most insufferable series of 2014 … if it ever makes it to air.

Murder Police (Fox) Animated: From the company behind Bob’s Burgers and someone who worked on Family Guy, a cartoon cop satire that may or may not live up to Adult Swim’s Stroker and Hoop.

The Night Shift (NBC) Drama: Eoin Macken (Merlin), Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under) and Jill Flint (The Good Wife) are good-lookin’ overnight doctors.

Rake (Fox) Drama: Keegan Deane (Greg Kinnear) is a brilliant, charming asshole of a lawyer who gets things done and pisses people off. It’s House Goes to Court.

Reckless (CBS) Drama: Speaking of lawyers, Anna Wood and Cam Gigandet star as opposing Southern attorneys in lust—and at war! It’s The Good Wife Does Charleston.

Resurrection (ABC) Drama: When people start returning from the dead, unaged and perfectly healthy, who’s going to solve the mystery? Or cue up The 4400 on Netflix?

Short-Com Comedy Hour (Fox) Comedy: Says here, “A modern take on the comedy variety series,” so expect it to die and be buried sometime over the summer.

Star-Crossed (The CW) Drama: In E.T. meets Kyle XY meets Romeo and Juliet, a pretty Earth girl falls in forbidden love with a prettier alien boy; pretty drama ensues.

Surviving Jack (Fox) Comedy: A ’90s-set coming-of-age tale, starring Connor Buckley as Awkward Teen and Christopher Meloni (Law and Order: SVU) as No-Bullshit Dad.

Undateable (NBC) Comedy: Chris D’Elia (Whitney) teaches his romantically challenged roommate and his loser friends how to date women—hopefully, none are Whitney Cummings.

Us and Them (Fox) Comedy: A would-be couple (Parenthood’s Jason Ritter and Gilmore Girls’ Alexis Bledel) barely tolerate their sitcom-cliché friends and families.

Wayward Pines (Fox) Drama: Carla Gugino, Matt Dillon and Terrence Howard star in a mystery-thriller about a seemingly idyllic suburban community. Is all as it appears? Of course not! There are trees in the name!


RETURNING SERIES

The 2013-14 season premiere dates for your old network favorites. If it’s not listed here, it was probably canceled. Sorry; someone had to break it to you.

Wednesday, Sept. 11

The X Factor (Fox)

Monday, Sept. 16

Dancing With the Stars (ABC)

Bones (Fox)

Tuesday, Sept. 17

New Girl, The Mindy Project (Fox)

Wednesday, Sept. 18

Survivor (CBS)

Friday, Sept. 20

Last Man Standing, The Neighbors, Shark Tank (ABC)

Monday, Sept. 23

Castle (ABC)

How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls (CBS)

The Voice (NBC)

Tuesday, Sept. 24

NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Person of Interest (CBS)

Chicago Fire (NBC)

Wednesday, Sept. 25

The Middle, Modern Family, Nashville (ABC)

Criminal Minds, CSI (CBS)

Revolution, Law and Order: SVU (NBC)

Thursday, Sept. 26

The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Elementary (CBS)

Parks and Recreation, Parenthood (NBC)

Friday, Sept. 27

Undercover Boss, Hawaii Five-0, Blue Bloods (CBS)

Saturday, Sept. 28

Saturday Night Live (NBC)

Sunday, Sept. 29

Once Upon a Time, Revenge (ABC)

The Amazing Race, The Good Wife, The Mentalist (CBS)

The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, American Dad! (Fox)

Thursday, Oct. 3

Scandal (ABC)

The Vampire Diaries (The CW)

Monday, Oct. 7

Hart of Dixie, Beauty and the Beast (The CW)

Tuesday, Oct. 8

The Biggest Loser (NBC)

Supernatural (The CW)

Wednesday, Oct. 9

Arrow (The CW)

Friday, Oct. 25

Grimm (NBC)

The Carrie Diaries (The CW)

Friday, Nov. 8

Raising Hope (Fox)

2014?

Community (NBC)

Robocroc (Saturday, Sept. 14, Syfy), movie: It may be a summer leftover, but this cheese-saster flick has the best title after Sharknado. In Robocroc—see what I mean?—a minding-its-own-business crocodile accidentally becomes infected with military nanobots, transforming it into a “metal killing machine” (note to self: future band name) bent on chomping bikini babes at a nearby resort, because there are always bikini babes and a nearby resort. Robocroc is all the awful you’ve come to expect from Syfy, and now that every animal mash-up has been explored, it’s a perfect scene-setter for Sharkborg.

Under the Dome, Siberia (Monday, Sept. 16, CBS and NBC), season finales: One is a heavily-promoted Summer Event watched by millions every week; the other is overlooked Summer Filler forgotten by even its own network—the “huh?” look on your face suggests that you have no idea what Siberia even is. Under the Dome started off strong, but went sideways at the midpoint of what was supposed to be its only season: After promising one-and-done, CBS picked the series up for a second run next summer, presumably titled Still Under the Dome. Meanwhile, Siberia, a faux Survivor-type reality show loaded with wacko plot twists and a mounting body count, has at least remained consistent, if not great. And, since there’s zero chance of a second Siberia season, The Only TV Column That Matters™ is looking forward to even more dead contestants. (If only So You Think You Can Dance worked the same way.)

Sleepy Hollow (Monday, Sept. 16, Fox), series debut: Thanks to a spell cast during the Revolutionary War, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) is transported 250 years into the present—but, surprise, so is the Headless Horseman! Turns out HH is but one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Crane must stop him while adjusting to this crazy new world of laws, technology and SuperCuts. Mison is intense and broody, and Sleepy Hollow’s production is dazzlingly high-dollar and chilling. If the show doesn’t flinch and commits to going full-tilt bizarre, it might avoid becoming this year’s The Mob Doctor.

Dads, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Tuesday, Sept. 17, Fox), series debuts: Seth MacFarlane’s live-action sitcom is already catching heat for a stereotypical depiction of an Asian woman in a schoolgirl outfit, but come on—there’s sooo much more to hate about Dads. One: The setup (cranky fathers move back in with their wisecracking 30-something sons) is straight out of TV Land. Two: So is the grating laugh track, which is completely at odds with the rest of Fox’s comedy lineup. Three: It’s an unfairly terrible lead-in for the far-funnier Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Despite being about cops and starring Andy Samberg (if you’re an Andy-hater, prepare to be impressed—or at least not annoyed), the show captures the effortless, single-camera comedy of Tuesday-night compatriots New Girl and The Mindy Project, with more than a little Adult Swim edge. But really, it’s all about Terry Crews.

New Girl, The Mindy Project (Tuesday, Sept. 17, Fox), season premieres: Speaking of Jess and Mindy, Fox’s funniest non-animated ladies return for Seasons 3 and 2, respectively, on the same night. On New Girl, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson) are not only still a thing; they’re also taking a “romantic” trip to Mexico that will end just as you imagine. Later, Mindy (Mindy Kaling) and her … cute? … new haircut are already back from Haiti, just in time to meet the practice’s new oddly-named OB/GYN, Dr. Paul Leotard (guest star James Franco). Oh, James …


DVD ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 17!

Bates Motel: Season 1

Mom Norma (Vera Farmiga) and son Norman (Freddie Highmore) open the Bates Motel, and it’s soon apparent from where the kid will eventually get his Psycho motivation. (Spoiler: Mom is batshit loony.) One of the best series of 2013. (Universal)

The Bling Ring

The true-ish story of Hollywood teens (including one played by Taissa Farmiga—Vera’s little sis!) who robbed celebrities of more than $3 million and, even smarter, bragged about it and got caught. And now they’re famous. Hmmm. (LionsGate)

Nashville: Season 1

Drama! Sequins! Country music! Two outta three ain’t bad: A country queen (Connie Britton) faces a tiny, tiny upstart challenger for her crown (tiny, tiny Hayden Panettiere) and a whole lot more. They occasionally find time to sing. (ABC/Buena Vista)

Showgirls 2: Penny’s From Heaven

Las Vegas stripper Penny Slot (Rena Riffel) sets out to become a star dancer on a TV show in the Showgirls parody sequel no one asked for—yet it was funded on Kickstarter. Lessons: Fame costs, and no good can come of Kickstarter. (MVD)

World War Z

A good-lookin’ hippie (Brad Pitt) and his family escape a worldwide zombie outbreak and reluctantly team up with the military to find the source in order to create a vaccine—but is it too late for the planet? Vaccine Kickstarter! (Paramount)

More New DVD Releases (Sept. 17)

Arrow: Season 1, Ashamed, Bank Roll, Behind the Candelabra, CSI: Season 13, Cybornetics: Urban Cyborg, Death by VHS, Grimm: Season 2, The Haunting of Helena, Leverage: Season 5, Lionhead, Machete Language, The Mentalist: Season 5, Shanghai Calling, Simon Killer, Vegas: Season 1.

Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators (Thursday, Sept. 5, Syfy), movie: It’s the last Syfy B-flick of the summer—and this one doesn’t live up to the idiot-genius of Sharknado. As you’ve probably guessed, Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators is about killer swamp-chompers; what you can’t possibly surmise is how they got that way: “Contaminated moonshine dumped in a Louisiana swamp turns the bayou’s gators—and the people who eat them—into deadly mutants.” Yes, alligators are a delicacy in the South—do you think Syfy just makes this stuff up? The “Sy” stands for syience!

Boardwalk Empire (Sunday, Sept. 8, HBO), season premiere: Last year’s psycho villain Gyp Rosetti has been dispatched; one of this season’s potential antagonists is a far-more-subtle kind of weirdo: Agent Warren Knox (Brian Geraghty, The Hurt Locker) isn’t just the newbie fed he appears to be; that’s all I’m sayin.’ Meanwhile, Nucky (Steve Buscemi) cautiously gets back to Atlantic City business; Al Capone (Stephen Graham) expands his biz in Chicago; and Nucky’s now-ex Margaret (Kelly Macdonald) is nowhere to be seen in the season premiere—meaning there may not be a likable character left on Boardwalk Empire. It really is the new Sopranos.

The Million Second Quiz (Monday, Sept. 9, NBC), series debut: NBC has a handful of promising, could-be-hit dramas and comedies coming—so of course they’re kicking off their 2013-2014 season with a game show—a game show hosted by Ryan Seacrest, no less, because the space-time continuum will collapse upon itself if this gelled hobbit is off television for even a moment.

Sons of Anarchy (Tuesday, Sept. 10, FX), season premiere: Apparently, Tara (Maggie Siff) didn’t catch Orange Is the New Black before she was tossed in prison—the terrible haircut is optional. With his old lady in the joint, it’s up to Jax (Charlie Hunnam) to hold his motorcycle club together and take care of his two sons, with the latter mostly falling to the motley It Takes a Village crew of bikers and porn starlettes that makes up SAMCRO Daycare. Clay (Ron Perlman) is also behind bars, but probably not for long, as big bad Lee Toric (Donal Logue at his most menacing) is ready to strike any deal it takes to destroy Jax and the club for their inadvertent role in his sister’s murder. The 90-minute season opener, “Straw,” is so loaded with violence and cable-testing imagery—some inflicted on showrunner Kurt Sutter’s own recurring character, Otto—that it seems like Sutter and FX are practically telling moral watchdog groups to suck it. (The Only TV Column That Matters™ approves this message.)

The Heart, She Holler (Tuesday, Sept. 10, Adult Swim), season premiere: Between Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Gators and a second season of The Heart, She Holler, it’s an even worse week than usual for hillbillies on the TV lookie-box—or better, depending upon your social status. If only there were a mildly comedic way to tell if you might be a redneck. Anyway: When last we saw inbred man-child heir Hurlan (Patton Oswalt) and his jealous sisters two years ago, all was not well in the hick town; somehow, things have degenerated even further, as Heartshe has now become “the cosmic battleground of mankind’s final war between Pure Evil and Pure Awful!” TLC vs. MTV? I’ve waited so long for this … (single tear).


DVD RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 10!

Delete

When the Internet becomes self-aware and turns on mankind (just go with it), it’s up to a hacker-activist named Lucifer (Seth Green) to stop it. No, this isn’t a Robot Chicken sketch from 2007; it’s an actual miniseries that was on actual TV. (Sonar)

Homeland: Season 2

After not blowing up Washington, D.C., last season, semi-terrorist Brody (Damian Lewis) is now a U.S. congressman, and Carrie (Claire Danes) is out of the CIA—but will they be able to stay apart and out of danger? Oh, what do you think? (20th Century Fox)

Phil Spector

This shows the murder-trial life of music producer Phil Spector (played by Al Pacino and a dazzling array of wigs) and his defense attorney (Helen Mirren); based on true events but taken to ridiculous, fabricated extremes. Like Spector himself. (HBO)

Reality Terror Night

Five girls spend the night in a “haunted house” shooting a reality show, only to learn that the place really is haunted by a sadistic killer. So it’s like combining Big Brother with Ghost Hunters, then killing everybody? Sold! (Lightyear)

Star Trek Into Darkness

Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and the Enterprise crew are called back into action to battle a powerful wacko (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is totally not Khan. Nope, he’s not Khan. Don’t even think about him being Kahn. No Khans here. (Paramount)

More New DVD Releases (Sept. 10)

Army Wives: Season 7, The Big Bang Theory: Season 6, Castle: Season 5, Chicago Fire: Season 1, Clunkers, Luther: Season 3, Madonna: MDNA World Tour, Mary and Martha, Parade’s End, Peeples, Slip and Fall, Supernatural: Season 8, Wish You Were Here.

On Monday, Sept. 2, FX is launching spinoff network FXX. If that’s not confusing enough—most viewers aren’t going to notice that extra “X,” no matter how many promos are beaten over their heads—the new net is taking three of FX’s biggest players in the switch. (OK, it’s two big players and a late-night talk show seen by more critics than real people.)

It’s not all bad news: During the shuffle, the Fox Soccer channel will cease to exist, with most of that network’s white-knuckle coverage of leisurely jogs and 0-0 ties being parsed out to Fox Sports 1 (the former Speed channel) and Fox Sports 2 (ex-Fuel TV). The Fox News Channel will still retain the “News” in its title, as a Federal Communications Commission ruling on using the ironic quotes is currently in deadlock.

What does this all mean to you, Average Joe/Jane TV Viewer? If you want to see the season premieres of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The League and the new four-nights-a-week relaunch of Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell, you’re going to have to find FXX on your cable/satellite system; you TV-less kids with your fancy ’lectro devices will still be able to view ’em through the usual online outlets (legal and otherwise). The Only TV Column That Matters™ advises you to check out GetFXX.com for your system’s FXX channel.

Despite the hassle of looking up a new channel (first-world problems, people), FXX is kicking off in the smartest fashion possible: with a 34-hour Parks and Recreation marathon on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 2. Besides the syndicated premiere of Parks and Rec, FXX will also be carrying reruns of How I Met Your Mother, Rescue Me, Arrested Development and Freaks and Geeks. I’d be fine with an around-the-clock Parks and Recreation-only schedule, but that’s probably just me.

In the Season 9 (!) premiere of the criminally Emmy-less It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on Sept. 4, Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson), after years of merciless attacks on her self-esteem from the rest of the Gang, finally embraces her self-loathing—which, naturally, leads to overnight standup-comedy success. (Ask any comedian; this is the first, and really only, step.) Next week, Frank (Danny DeVito) makes a perfectly reasonable case for gun ownership—or at least as reasonable as that of your uncle who’s fortifying his bunker against Obama’s mind-control drones and swears by the Fox “News” Channel. (The FCC ruling just came down.)

When we last saw The League, female-repellent Andre (Paul Scheer) was engaged—to someone named Trixie (Glee’s Jayma Mays), no less. In the Season 5 premiere, the fantasy-football buds travel to Los Angeles for the couple’s “destination wedding” (aaand let the mocking commence). Just as It’s Always Sunny isn’t really about some idiots running a bar—but seriously, how is that dump Paddy’s still even in business?—The League is less about sports stats than it is about five dudes and one dude-like lady who will stop at nothing to bust each other’s balls/ovaries—and it’s never not funny (except when real-life athletes drop in and try to “act”).

It hasn’t been stated outright in any of the advance PR, but it’s obvious that FXX is a more comedic answer to FX; none of the FX dramas are changing channels, and the acquired TV series and movies lean funny—kind of like how TNT is more drama-driven than sister network TBS, or C-SPAN is an outright laugh-riot compared to C-SPAN 2.

Or how Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell looked like genius alongside the recently canceled Brand X With Russell Brand. Surprise: It’s still genius, and now he’ll be on Monday through Thursday.

It’s good to have at least one late-night talk show not hosted by a white guy in a suit, ’Merica.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR SEPT. 3!

Cockneys vs. Zombies

The undead are taking over East London, and it’s up to a family to save their grandfather, some bank-robbery hostages (whole ’nother story) and themselves in the zombie comedy that’s totally not like Shaun of the Dead. (Shout! Factory)

Empire State

When a luckless armored-truck employee (Liam Hemsworth) gets inadvertently caught up in a huge bank heist, he has to outwit an New York Police detective (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and local crime bosses. Or just go home. Seems easier. (Lionsgate)

Now You See Me

Four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco) pull off an elaborate series of robberies using illusions (“tricks” are what a whore does for money, Michael), confounding the FBI and moviegoers alike. (Summit)

Sharknado

Now you can own the biggest flying-shark-related Twitter event of the summer! A bar owner (Ian Ziering), his annoying ex-wife (Tara Reid) and assorted ringers fight to survive a tsunami of sharks dumped on a deserving Los Angeles. (The Asylum)

Slightly Single in L.A.

Dale Squires (Lacey Chabert) sleeps her way around shallow Los Angeles, eventually winding up in a love triangle with her best friend (Jenna Dewan) and an old flame (Kip Pardue). It’s nothing a well-timed Sharknado can’t solve. (Well Go USA)

More New DVD Releases (Sept. 3)

Bomb Girls: Season 1, Criminal Minds: Season 8, From Up on Poppy Hill, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 8, The League: Season 4, The Office: Season 9, Parks and Recreation: Season 5, Revolution: Season 1, Scandal: Season 2, Spartacus: Season 3, The Vampire Diaries: Season 4.

Ghost Shark (Thursday, Aug. 22, Syfy), movie: “Maybe all we gotta do is stay dry, and it’ll leave us alone,” says Victim No. 46 of Syfy’s Ghost Shark, injecting logic where it damned well doesn’t belong—but at least this is more plausible than Sharknado: “A great white shark is tortured and killed by a fisherman, then returns from the dead, exacting vengeance on all humans.” Well, all humans and Night Court’s Richard Moll, who plays a crazy lighthouse keeper (is there ever any other kind?) who teams up with some meddling kids (including 7th Heaven’s Mackenzie Rosman) to stop the spectral-chomping wrath. The only legitimately scary aspect of this flick is that I’m referencing Night Court and 7th Heaven in 2013.

America’s Next Top Model (Fridays, The CW), new season: Cycle 20 (!) started a few weeks ago, but somehow, The Only TV Column That Matters™ totally missed it—and there are guys competing this season! America’s Next Top Model needed something new to shake things up; introducing sausage into the fest is a waaay better idea than previous gimmicks, like using just short girls, or that one painfully dull season when all of the contestants were mentally and emotionally stable (zzz). True TV’s picks—plural, because it’s unlikely that smizeinator Tyra Banks will let just one gender take it—to win are Nina and Phil, who look more like contestants on Portlandia’s Next Top Model.

Escape From Polygamy (Saturday, Aug. 24, Lifetime), movie: A struggling single mom (Mary McCormack) and daughter (Haley Lu Richardson) move into a polygamist compound, because, hey, what ever goes wrong on a polygamist compound? Then the daughter falls in love with a son (Jack Falahee) of the compound’s resident prophet, “Ervil” (William Mapother), who decides to give his kid the “lost boys” treatment. (For those of you who aren’t Mormon-studies scholars, this means banishment, not vampires in mullets.) That way, he can add the teen girl to his own stable of wives and move the whole operation to Mexico, because, hey, what ever goes wrong in Mexico?

2013 MTV Video Music Awards (Sunday, Aug. 25, MTV), special: The nominees for “Best Rock Video” at the 30th annual MTV Video Music Awards? Fall Out Boy, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Vampire Weekend, Imagine Dragons and Mumford and Sons. Barring an aneurysm or stroke, a full version of Old Man Frost’s “None of This Shit Is Rock!” as an annotated rant should be available shortly.

Teen Mom 3 (Monday, Aug. 26, MTV), season premiere: Now this is what MTV does best: exploiting stupid, destitute, pregnant teens to feed the already-astronomical profits of a multinational media conglomerate. After all, exploiting stupid, destitute musicians to feed the already-astronomical profits of a multinational media conglomerate is so 2003. Now that the original Teen Moms have, thanks to MTV, moved onto better, richer lives in prison and porn, four new girls have been called up from the 16 and Pregnant farm league to continue the franchise. Dr. Drew, you’re on deck.

Joe Rogan Questions Everything (Wednesday, Aug. 28, Syfy), season finale: Joe Rogan has the smartest show on Syfy? Didn’t see that coming. In the initial episodes of Joe Rogan Questions Everything—an extension of his Experience podcast—Rogan explored the dangers of worldwide disease pandemics (could happen), chemtrails (conspiracy-nut crapola) and the melding of man and technology (on its way … or are we living in it now?); in the season finale, he takes on “Psychic Spies.” Maybe next season, he’ll get to Teen Moms and Ghost Sharks.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR AUG. 27!

Collision Course

An author (Tia Carrere!) and a flight attendant (David Chokachi!!) attempt to fly a commercial plane full of passengers after a solar flare kills the pilot and fries the electronics. Wouldn’t a movie about human-killing solar flares be better? (Marvista)

Elementary: Season 1

Modern-day Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) comes to New York City to stay sober, become even quirkier and solve crimes, with the help of sidekick Watson (Lucy Liu) and a dazzling plethora of thrift-store-chic ensembles. (Paramount)

The Great Gatsby

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan star in Baz Luhrmann’s splashy take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tale of decadence, excess and the evils of jazz in 1922 New York City. Or as close as you can get with a PG-13 rating. (Warner Bros.)

Pain and Gain

Three Miami personal trainers (Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Anthony Mackie) try to extort money from a suspected crime boss (Tony Shaloub), only to have the plan blow up as only Michael Bay can explode it. (Paramount)

Sons of Anarchy: Season 5

Jax takes control of SAMCRO; Clay schemes to regain power; Opie has a bad night in prison; Gemma gets a new pimp boyfriend; Nero’s out for blood; Tara furrows her Muppet eyebrows; a tranny hooker saves the day; shit, in general, goes down. (Fox)

More New DVD Releases (Aug. 27)

Among Friends, At Any Price, Evil Inside, Grey’s Anatomy: Season 9, Meddling Mom, NYC Underground, Online, Pawn Shop Chronicles, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, A Resurrection, Ritual, Seattle Superstorm, Stranded, Tied, The Walking Dead: Season 3.

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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