CVIndependent

Thu11142019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Bill Frost

The Great Indoors (Thursday, Oct. 27, CBS), series debut: Well, this is uncomfortably familiar: Outdoor-adventure magazine editor Jack (Joel McHale) returns from—what else?—an adventure, only to find that the print arm of his company has been put out of its dwindling misery, and he’s now in charge of cranking out “web content” with the “digital daycare division.” Everybody knows that print is dead (pause for audible sigh from this tabloid’s publisher … and … moving on). The Great Indoors is just an excuse for hack gen-x sitcom writers to lazily mock millennials, and a waste of McHale as a snarky shadow of his former Community self. Besides, we gen-xers need to just lay off millennials and concentrate on making fun the real enemy: baby boomers.

Pure Genius (Thursday, Oct. 27, CBS), series debut: A tech billionaire (Augustus Prew) enlists a maverick doctor (Dermot Mulroney—not Dylan McDermott) for his cutting-edge Silicon Valley hospital to treat “incurable” patients for free—yes, it’s another medical drama, but with a Feel the Bern! twist. But as with Code Black and pretty much every other drama on its schedule, there’s no potentially “new” idea that CBS can’t turn into a snooze that’s demo-targeted at baby boomers. (Not a theme this week, just the truth, man.) Creator/writer/producer Jason Katims injects moments of his missed Parenthood heart and humor into this tech-healthcare wet dream, but can’t quite overpower Pure Genius’ preachiness and self-importance (not to mention Mulroney actually uttering the phrase “gadgets and gizmos”).

Tracey Ullman’s Show (Friday, Oct. 28, HBO), series debut: British comic actress Tracey Ullman headlined the then-brand-new Fox network’s second series in 1987 after Married … With Children, and birthed The Simpsons (not literally—short features from The Tracey Ullman Show were eventually spun off into the animated series). More than 30 years and dozens of TV projects later (including the should-been-bigger 2008-10 Showtime series Tracey Ullman’s State of the Union, the piss-take ’Merica could really use right now), Ullman is still as unstoppable of a comedic force as ever. Tracey Ullman’s Show is a BBC series that’s being rebroadcast by HBO, featuring a somewhat more serialized storyline than her previous strictly sketch shows, and a Euro-famous Angela Merkel impersonation that may be lost on Yanks.

The Fall (Saturday, Oct. 29, Netflix), season premiere: U.K. crime drama The Fall has smoldered, twisted and teased for two brief seasons, with Det. Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) tracking down serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) in Belfast, Ireland. Though Spector was—spoiler!—gunned down upon capture at the end of last season, it’s a no-brainer that the literal lady-killer (women looove him; Dornan’s carving out quite the career as Mr. Deadly Dreamboat) is back for Season 3, with a possible exoneration looming as The Fall heads to the courtroom. Tense-sexy (tensexy?) parries between cop and killer are standard psychological-thriller fare, but Anderson and Dornan sell Allan Cubitt’s tight, if occasionally slow, scripting brilliantly. In typical Brit fashion, The Fall’s six-episode third season may well be its last—you know what to do.

Stan Against Evil (Monday, Oct. 31, IFC), series debut: Comparisons to Starz’s bloody-fantastic Ash vs. Evil Dead (currently slaying in Season 2) are inevitable, but Stan Against Evil is a different middle-aged-dude-battling-hell animal. First of all, it’s less gory, because 1. IFC is basic-ish cable, and 2. Ash vs. Evil Dead has severely depleted the nation’s fake blood supplies. Also, Stan (John C. McGinley) is far less gonzo than Ash; he’s just the retired sheriff of a small New England town (which happens to be built on the site of a 17th century witch burning, of course) reluctantly dragged back into action to help fight a demon uprising alongside his replacement (Janet Varney). McGinley’s over-it delivery is deadpan perfect, putting Stan Against Evil more in-line with Shaun of the Dead than Evil Dead. Happy Halloween! Regular timeslot: Wednesdays, beginning Nov. 2.

Black Mirror (Friday, Oct. 21, Netflix), season premiere: Charlie Brooker’s near-futuristic Black Mirror anthology series has been creeping out both technophobes and technophiles since 2011, kicking off with an episode wherein the prime minister of Britain was forced to have sex with a pig on live TV. (That seems quaint given our own Election 2016 cycle, doesn’t it?) The series’ third season is only slightly less pessimistic about today’s/tomorrow’s oversharing online society; one out of the six episodes actually highlights some positive, non-horrific application of smartphone tech, so that’s … something. Among the doomed digerati of Season 3 are Bryce Dallas Howard, James Norton, Mackenzie Davis, Eve Alice, Wyatt Russell and Hannah John-Kamen, starring in a swath of stories that subtly filter film genres through a “Social Media Can and Will Kill You” narrative. At least there are no pigs this time around.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Saturday, Oct. 22, BBC America), series debut: Even if you’ve read the Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) novels upon which Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is based, it’s difficult to explain just what in the hell’s going on here; “sheer madness with a chewy mystery in the middle” seems too simple, but it’s a start. American Ultra/Chronicle writer Max Landis brings the tale of kinda-detective Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett, Penny Dreadful) and his certainly-not-Watson partner Todd (Elijah Wood, Wilfred) to crackling, chaotic life—so much so that it seems the action might spin right off the screen at any moment. Unlike Black Mirror, Dirk Gently celebrates the connectedness of all people and things (hence, “holistic detective”), even when there’s danger afoot (hence, a “holistic assassin”).

Dream Corp, LLC (Sunday, Oct 23, Adult Swim), series debut: Premiering after the Season 3 (!) return of the hilariously bizarre Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell (it’s Office Space in hell, and the boss is Satan—yes, we’ve all been there), Adult Swim’s new Dream Corp, LLC could the network’s most blatant “Let’s not pretend we’re not all watching this high at 3 a.m.” pitch yet. A wild-haired Jon Gries (Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite!) stars as Dr. Roberts, head of the titular psychotherapeutic lab where he and his equally sketchy team analyze the traumatic dreams of patients. That’s essentially the plot; the rest of Dream Corp, LLC is brain-twisting, hallucinogenic visual F/X rendered in rotoscope (animation over live-action film). It all makes about as much sense as USA’s dream-centric drama Falling Water, but gets it done in less than 15 minutes.

Man With a Plan (Monday, Oct. 24, CBS), series debut: Matt LeBlanc joins fellow Friend Matthew Perry in CBS Sitcom Hell, and while nothing could be as mind-numbingly awful as Perry’s The Odd Couple or Kevin James’ Kevin Can Wait (yes, 2 Broke Girls is now the Eyeball net’s smartest Monday comedy—this is where we are now, ’Merica), Man With a Plan is definitely a contender in the race to the bottom. In this laugh-tracked throwaway, LeBlanc plays a blue-collar dad who agrees to stay home with his children while his wife (Liza Snyder, replacing the wisely fled Jenna Fischer) returns to work. Guess what? The kids are a nightmare! Dad’s in over his head! Mom says, “Told ya so!” There’s not a joke here that can’t be seen coming from 85 miles away! Look up LeBlanc’s meta-funny Showtime series Episodes instead; it’s best to remember him that way.

Rectify (Wednesday, Oct. 26, Sundance), season premiere: The first three seasons of Rectify are currently available on Netflix; before this fourth and final run ends, I’d recommend starting there … patiently. Rectify follows the existential struggle of Daniel Holden (Aden Young), a man released after serving 19 years in prison for rape and murder. New DNA evidence got him out of the joint, though it’s still not clear whether he committed the crime or not—and it may never be revealed by the end, according to creator/producer Ray McKinnon. The residents of his small Georgia hometown have divergent, occasionally violent opinions; the same goes within his own family (including his stalwart-defender sister, fantastically played by Abigail Spencer, Rectify’s true heartbreaking center). Warning: Rectify moves ssslllooowwwly, and Daniel’s guilt or innocence isn’t the point of the story. Enjoy!

Falling Water (Thursday, Oct. 13, USA), series debut: In the time of Too Many Shows, it’s almost suicidal to drop a new series that won’t get to the damned point by the middle of the first episode; USA needs to hook ’em fast, because viewers have a dozen other choices tonight (except for Notorious, which still sucks). Falling Water follows three seemingly unrelated people (Lizzie Brochere, David Ajala and Will Yun Lee) who come to realize that they’re all dreaming parts of the same dream, and said dream relates to “the fate of the world.” How? That’s annoyingly unclear, but the three are definitely dreaming—so much so that it’s impossible to tell what’s “real,” but at least the imagery is gorgeous. (If you have access to 4K HD and “herbal” medication, you’ll probably enjoy this more than most.) Falling Water has nine more episodes to establish a plot; otherwise, there likely won’t be more to come.

Goliath (Friday, Oct. 14, Amazon Prime), series debut: Yes, I’ve been complaining about the glut of new legal dramas this season … However! The potential of the combo of David E. Kelley (finally venturing into the streaming realm) and Billy Bob Thornton (sorely missed from episodic TV since Fargo Season 1) is too rich to ignore. As beaten-down Los Angeles lawyer William McBride, Thornton more than delivers, and Goliath, set against the classic-noir backdrop of seedy Los Angeles, is a stick-it-to-The-Man legal saga that echoes Better Call Saul and the late, great Terriers. McBride, on the edge of abandoning the legal system in favor of just drinking himself to death, is hell-bent on one last takedown—his former partner (William Hurt), a power-tripping shark using his corporate influence to cover up a murder and who-knows-what else. It’s a familiar trope, but Thornton and Kelley play it so well that it’s easy to forgive them for not using Goliath’s killer supporting cast (including Maria Bello, Molly Parker and Olivia Thirlby) to fuller effect.

Haters Back Off (Friday, Oct. 14, Netflix), series debut: Depending upon your tolerance level for YouTube star Miranda Sings (Colleen Ballinger), Netflix’s Haters Back Off is either a brilliant, inevitable expansion of her digital reach, or an inexplicably annoying excuse for comedy (i.e. you’re old—go watch Longmire again). Ballinger’s Miranda character is a satire of self-absorbed, tone-deaf YouTube “singers” desperate for fame, so creating a backstory around her (which includes The Office’s Angela Kinsey as her mother, and Eastbound and Down’s Steve Little as her far-too-supportive uncle) could bring the whole meta roof crashing down. Then again, there’s some undeniably funny writing here (“Are you an alto or a soprano?” “I’m American!”), and Ballinger dominates any size of screen she’s on, so it’s probably best not to overthink Haters Back Off. Besides, no Millennials are reading this, anyway … right?

Eyewitness (Sunday, Oct. 16, USA), series debut: Since there are, as previously stated, Too Many Shows, do you really need a crime thriller about a pair of teenage boys trying to hide their taboo relationship and stay one step ahead of a murderer whom they witnessed in the act at a remote cabin? If Eyewitness were even half as intense as the Norwegian series upon which it’s based, I’d be inclined to say, “Kanskje.” But, as with umbrellas and black metal, some things are just done better in Norway.

Chance (Wednesday, Oct. 19, Hulu), series debut: Hugh Laurie is back on TV (well, Hulu) as a doctor—but Dr. House, he ain’t. In Chance, he’s Dr. Eldon Chance, a forensic neuropsychiatrist whose treatment of a patient with possible multiple personalities (Gretchen Mol) becomes a bit too intimate for the liking of her abusive police-detective husband (Paul Adelstein). It sounds like the setup for a throwaway Lifetime movie, but Chance is a layered psychological thriller more in line with British imports like The Fall and Marcella, with even-seedier stories happening outside the margins and a surprisingly terrifying performance from ex-My Name Is Earl goofball Ethan Suplee. It may (or may not) be wise to also mention that Chance comes from novelist/screenwriter Kem Nunn, the man who created HBO’s most divisive drama ever, John From Cincinnati … but there it is.

Divorce (Sunday, Oct. 9, HBO), series debut: Hopeless romantic Carrie Bradshaw is dead; meet Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker), a far-less-perky shadow of her former Sex and the City self. HBO’s new dark comedy Divorce delivers exactly what the title implies: 10 episodes of Frances and husband Robert (Thomas Haden Church) doing their damnedest to separate, or reconcile, or just figure out why and how they should do either. Like another of creator Sharon Horgan’s series, cult British import Catastrophe, it’s as messy as it is funny, and Parker and Church are fantastically nimble at darting between emotional states and situations. Unlike similarly black-to-absurd-and-back comedy You’re the Worst, however, Divorce doesn’t always work when the focus is off the central pair: Molly Shannon and Tracy Letts don’t add much as Frances and Robert’s married friends. (Hell, Church’s mustache is a more fully developed character than either of them.) Still, Divorce is unique, and potentially addictive—and as weirdly compatible with Westworld as anyone could imagine.

Supergirl (Monday, Oct. 10, The CW), season premiere: Moving to a smaller network and filming cheaper in Vancouver means we’ll see a lot less of Calista Flockhart’s charmingly abrasive media boss Cat Grant in the second season of CBS outcast Supergirl, but so what? They’ve got a Superman! Clark Kent (Tyler Hoechlin) finally pays a visit to National City cousin Kara/Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) in the season opener, and fortunately, his Superman isn’t the broody bummer of the Zack Snyder movies; he’s more like Kara in terms of sunny temperament, if not faux eyewear. Really, other than moving the governmental DEO from its cave headquarters to a more Canadian above-ground space (no, not a hockey arena—enough with the stereotypes, eh?) and less Cat (and the CatCo offices), this is still the same Supergirl. Bring on the crossovers!

American Housewife (Tuesday, Oct. 11, ABC), series debut: Enough with just defaulting to “American ______” every time a network is stuck for a title (though Kiefer Sutherland’s clunkily-named Designated Survivor probably would have worked better as American Political Hack Who Didn’t Get Blow’d Up). American Housewife was originally called The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport, but … yeah. Anyway: Katy Mixon (Mike and Molly, Eastbound and Down) stars as an average wife and mom dealing with the upper-crusters of Connecticut suburbia—which means American Housewife is yet another sunny-snarky ABC family sitcom with a killer cast (which also includes Diedrich Bader and Ali Wong), but there is little else to distinguish it from the pack. Except for maybe the burning question, “So who’s the first fattest housewife in Westport?”

Frequency (Wednesdays, The CW), new series: This is a remake of the 2000 movie, this time with a female cop (Peyton List) connecting with her dead-cop dad in the past through a ham radio. (Thanks for not updating it to a haunted Snapchat app, CW.) As with NBC’s new Timeless—and, the most cautionary continuum-chaos tale of them all, Hot Tub Time Machine—screwing with the past can create serious consequences in the present, but the daughter can’t stop herself from saving her father from an undercover sting operation gone bad back in 1996—hence, drama. Frequency seemingly has plenty of material to work with within its police procedural + overarching conspiracy framework. (iZombie has pulled it off well for a couple of seasons now.) But there are no superheroes here, so …

Criminal Minds (Wednesdays, CBS), new season: Thomas Gibson was booted from Criminal Minds, a series he’s starred in since 2005, over the summer, reportedly for being a dick—something I’d not previously considered a fire-able offense in the creative field. This news has me very concerned. Tonight’s episode is the first filmed without his FBI team leader “Hotch,” but since CM has one of the best ensemble casts on TV, surviving more player departures and arrivals than Lynyrd Skynyrd and Donald Trump’s campaign combined, they’ll be fine. Plus, Gibson’s 86ing (as well as the cancellation of Fox’s Grandfathered) has cleared the way for the full-time return of fan-favorite Prentiss (Paget Brewster) to the Behavior Analysis Unit, so all is right in the world. Except for those missing and likely now-dismembered women the BAU is tracking, of course.

Marvel’s Luke Cage (Friday, Sept. 30, Netflix), series debut: No, I don’t know what the Netflix/Marvel release schedule is anymore, either, but here are Luke Cage; Iron Fist, The Punisher, more Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and the long-teased Defenders will show up eventually. Luke “Power Man” Cage (Mike Colter) is now a few months removed from the events of Jessica Jones, relocated to Harlem and trying to lead as normal of a life as a mega-strong, bullet-proof, street-level superhero can. He’s soon drawn into a soul-of-the-neighborhood battle with a charismatic gangster (Mahershala Ali, House of Cards), which only sounds like Daredevil’s debut season. Luke Cage was Marvel’s first-ever black headliner in the ’70s; appropriately, this series is the most ’70s, the most New York, and the most straight-up black entry into the modern Marvel cinematic universe yet. It’s also a worthy follow-up to Daredevil and Jessica Jones—you’re three-for-three, Netflix. Now don’t ruin Iron Fist, or whatever’s next.

Westworld (Sunday, Oct. 2, HBO), series debut: HBO is spending a hell of a lot of money on what the network hopes—really, really hopes—is its next Game of Thrones, while anyone who actually remembers the original 1973 sci-fi cheeseball Westworld (and the lame 1976 sequel Futureworld, and the lamer 1980 TV series Beyond Westworld) is thinking “Uh, why?” This new Westworld is smarter, sleeker and more terrifying than its origin flick, setting up a near-future resort wherein tourists pay $40,000 a day to play frontier cowboy, knocking back whiskey at the saloon and riding horses on the range, as well as shooting up cyber-townsfolk in gunfights and generally abusing them for kicks. (In case you needed a reminder, humans are just the worst.) As Jurassic Park, Ex-Machina and countless robot-uprising tales have taught us, this won’t end well. Westworld is also as thoughtful as it is frightful, portraying the welling “humanity” and consciousness within the synth-slaves even better than AMC’s Humans did last year. Once you get past the pilot episode (which is somewhat long and slow; patience), you may not care about dragons anymore.

Conviction (Monday, Oct. 3, ABC), series debut: Glam lawyer and ex-first daughter Hayes Morrison (Hayley Atwell, Marvel’s Agent Carter), to avoid jail time for a cocaine bust, casually takes a job turning over possible wrongful-conviction cases for the less-glam … because that’s totally how the legal system works. Will sparks fly with her sexy new boss (Eddie Cahill), her former courtroom nemesis? Will Hayes begin to—gasp!—care about people other than herself? Will Atwell ever master an American accent? Shaky dialect aside, Atwell offers a strong presence, and she is surrounded by solid players (including The Walking Dead’s Emily Kinney and The Following’s Shawn Ashmore), but Conviction is just another pretty legal drama that’s waaay beneath Peggy Carter.

Timeless (Monday, Oct. 3, NBC), series debut: A scientist (Malcolm Barrett), a soldier (Matt Lanter) and a history professor (Abigail Spencer) chase a time-terrorist (Goran Visnjic) through the ages to stop him from altering the past and destroying present-day America. (As for the rest of the world, who cares?) Timeless is really just a dumb-fun Syfy-style action-adventure series trying to pass itself off as a gravitas-laden drama delivering Important Historical Lessons (this country used to be even more racist, sexist, etc.); it works as long as you don’t take it too seriously. No, the big event of the pilot episode isn’t a Led Zeppelin album-cover shoot—it’s the crash of the Hindenburg! See? You’re learning already.

No Tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 4, The CW), series debut: Uptight Evie (Tori Anderson) falls for a free spirit, Xavier (Joshua Sasse), who believes the world is ending in eight months. Is he as crazy as he is dreamy? Does it really matter if Xavier can help Evie get her YOLO on through his … “apocolyst” … of stuff he wants to do before his maybe-imagined asteroid wipes out the planet? Sasse and Anderson are charming enough, and it’s nice to see that The CW hasn’t totally forgotten about the portion of its audience who don’t care about DC superheroes, but No Tomorrow doesn’t seem built for the long haul. If a final episode wherein the asteroid does destroy the earth has already been written, however, I’m absolutely on board. (Did I mention that humans are just the worst?)

Notorious (Thursday, Sept. 22, ABC), series debut: A really, really, really ridiculously good-looking lawyer (Daniel Sunjata) and really, really, really ridiculously good-looking news producer (Piper Perabo) delve into “the unique, sexy and dangerous interplay of criminal law and the media” in a beyond-stoopid mash-up of The Newsroom and Law and Order with a vanilla title. (Considering its other useless new legal drama, Conviction, it’s like ABC isn’t even trying.) Notorious is based on a real-life behind-the-scenes media/law relationship that existed on ye olde Larry King Live, upping the “Who Gives a Shit?” quotient by 10. Don’t worry; Scandal will be back before anyone notices.

Pitch (Thursday, Sept. 22, Fox), series debut: Female pitcher Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) is called up to play Major League Baseball for the San Diego Padres because shut up you sexist troll; it could totally happen, and why do you hate stories about strong women making their way in a man’s world? Pure intentions and Bunbury’s impressive performance aside, Pitch isn’t the statement-making pinnacle of the fall season that Fox wants it to be, and definitely not the 10-season journey that co-creator Dan Fogelman envisions: It’s an overanxious, overacted mess that will probably annoy feminists and baseball fans alike—common ground for disparate camps! Mission accomplished?

MacGyver (Friday, Sept. 23, CBS), series debut: Despite a few done-to-death spy-ops clichés (bickering about old missions gone wrong, hiring quirky-hot criminal hackers, playing dress-up at the gala, etc.), the CBS reboot of 1985-1992 series MacGyver delivers a surprisingly fast and fun pilot episode—one down, 12 to go. It’s also inconsequential covert fluff that makes 2010’s MacGruber takeoff look like The Bourne Identity, but, c’mon, it’s Friday night. Lucas Till may look too young to be this accomplished at, well, MacGyvering, but he’s charming as hell, and co-star George Eads provides unexpected comic relief after all those years of CSI grimacing. Speaking of CSI: Is it necessary to apply slick graphics and labels to every object MacGyver 2.0 manipulates? We can recognize a paper clip without a freeze frame.

The Exorcist (Friday, Sept. 23, Fox), series debut: Remember A&E’s quickly failed Damien series? Neither does Fox. The Exorcist, of course, is based on the iconic 1973 horror film that managed to wrap up a hellacious case of demonic possession in about two hours; Fox has 13 hours to fill. When young, skeptical Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) and haggard, consumed Father Keane (Ben Daniels) convene/collide in Chicago to investigate an evil household presence (keep your mother-in-law jokes to yourself), the result is spooky, atmospheric and … not much else. The result is kind of a letdown, considering that this is THE EXORCIST and all. Cue up Cinemax’s satanically superior Outcast instead.

Van Helsing (Friday, Sept. 23, Syfy), series debut: You may have caught the first episode of Van Helsing when Syfy snuck in a surprise preview of the new action-drama after Sharknado 4 in July—or not, because, Sharknado. This vampire hunter is a woman (Vanessa Van Helsing, played by Kelly Overton), but that’s not the only twist: Vamps in this universe age; they can be turned back to human by being bitten by Helsing (!); and VH’s showrunner is divisive film director Neil LaBute. It all works; Van Helsing is Syfy’s best-yet entry in its comeback line of sci-fi dramas led by ass-kicking females, improving on recent winners like Wynonna Earp, Killjoys, Dark Matter and The Magicians. Now let’s take a moment to forget that Hugh Jackman movie …

Channel Zero, Aftermath (Tuesday, Sept. 27, Syfy), series debut: If the current season of American Horror Story isn’t creepy enough for you, here’s Channel Zero, a new anthology series based on tales of creepypasta (Internet urban legends); first up is “Candle Cove,” wherein a man digs up increasingly disturbing memories of a kiddie TV show from his childhood. How bad could it be? How about a flesh-eating skeleton puppet and a child made entirely of teeth? Channel Zero’s implied terror and imagery is more effective than its dramatic execution, and the same goes for its Tuesday-night companion, Aftermath, which is yet another supernatural-apocalypse series—but this time, it’s about family! Mom is Anne Heche, so just bring on The End already.

High Maintenance (Friday, Sept. 16, HBO), series debut: Unapologetically bipolar comedies (half-hours that lean a bit too heavy to be “dramedies”) are apparently the thing this season, and along with Donald Glover’s Atlanta, High Maintenance essentially defines them. The former Web series—created, written and directed by wife-and-husband team Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, about New York City weed dealer The Guy (played by Sinclair)—looks like just another stoner-com from the outside, but it’s deeper than that. The Guy, who’s the only constant of the series, is the thread between a roster of clients who are both comically bizarre (like the deceptively dim bros we meet first) and tragically human (seemingly stereotypical gay-guy/straight-girl BFFs Max and Lainey, the meat of the pilot episode’s story). The pair’s bitchy repartee soon takes a dark turn into co-dependency hell that’s as bitter as it is funny; maybe it’s time to re-evaluate the veiled pathos of Will and Grace. High Maintenance is too layered to watch, well, high; hold off for 30 minutes, perhaps.

The Good Place (Monday, Sept. 19, NBC), series debut: Now-dead Eleanor (Kristen Bell) tries to be a better-ish person with the help of an “afterlife mentor” (Ted Danson). NBC has been promoting the … hell? … out of The Good Place, and Bell and Danson are an unbeatable comic combo, but this might be too wonderfully weird for network TV. Watch hard; watch fast.

Kevin Can Wait (Monday, Sept. 19, CBS), series debut: Former awful sitcom star Kevin James returns from awful movies with an awful new family sitcom—it’ll probably run for 10 seasons on CBS. In Kevin Can Wait … gawd, even the title sucks … James plays a recently retired beat cop who finds that life at home with the family is exactly like a sitcom from the ’80s. Again, 10 seasons.

This Is Us (Tuesday, Sept. 20, NBC), series debut: The closest thing to a straight-up family drama on broadcast anymore has been CBS’ Life in Pieces—and that’s a half-hour comedy. This Is Us is a gorgeously written, filmed and acted capital-letters Family Drama with a mildly quirky plot hook; it’s a smart and grown-up alternative to everything else on Tuesdays. Thanks for trying, NBC.

Bull (Tuesday, Sept. 20, CBS), series debut: Michael Weatherly jumped off the NCIS money train for this? Bull, based on “Dr.” Phil’s early days as a trial consultant, is the latest case of When Legal Dramas Happen to Good Actors (an epidemic this season), as the likable Weatherly is wasted in a rote procedural amongst pretty, interchangeable lawyer-models. And, no mustache?

Lethal Weapon (Wednesday, Sept. 21, Fox), series debut: Riggs (Clayne Crawford, Rectify) and Murtaugh (Damon Wayans Sr.) are back! Uh, why? To paraphrase Murtaugh, Crawford is too good for this shit, and it would have been great to see him in something original, something better, just something … else. Imagine if TV turned Speed into a series—that would be more sustainable.

Designated Survivor (Wednesday, Sept. 21, ABC), series debut: When you ask, “What could be worse than choosing between Clinton and Trump?” you get Designated Survivor: After a deadly attack on Washington D.C., a low-level cabinet member (Kiefer Sutherland) becomes the president of the United States. DS has action and drama to burn, but why didn’t Jack Bauer save the real president? Hey, wait a minute …

Quarry (Friday, Sept. 9, Cinemax), series debut: If Quarry were premiering on HBO instead of lesser-subscribed-to cousin Cinemax, it would be hyped like the second coming of True Detective (Season 1, of course). The 1972-set crime-noir series is based on the novels of Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition) and directed by Greg Yaitanes (the late, great Banshee), so Quarry’s pedigree is already as hard-boiled as they come, and the pilot episode delivers even harder—but it’s a slow burn, so patience. U.S. Marine Mac (Logan Marshall-Green) returns home to Memphis after enduring a harrowing—and well-publicized stateside—tour in Vietnam, only to encounter anti-war hippie-hate and bleak job prospects; even his devoted girlfriend, Joni (Jodi Balfour), is wary of him. When approached by a man calling himself The Broker (Peter Mullan), a mysterious crime boss looking to hire a killer with Mac’s marksman skills, Mac initially turns down the offer, but is inevitably sucked in—because, crime-noir. Quarry (named both for Mac and The Broker’s rocky meeting place and the hunter/game definition) is grittily crafted down to the most-minute details, and then spun with jarring twists, all anchored by Marshall-Green’s intense, mercurial performance. Here’s the second season of True Detective you really wanted.

Son of Zorn (Sunday, Sept. 11, Fox), series debut: Fox has moved up the debut of combo animation/live-action comedy Son of Zorn a couple of weeks to be unleashed after an NFL doubleheader—because if there’s anything the ever-intellectual football audience loves, it’s hyper-weird meta-sitcoms. Son of Zorn, from writer-directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord (The Lego Movie, though I prefer “the creators of MTV’s unheralded classic Clone High”), is about cartoon warrior Zorn (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) leaving the ’toon nation of Zephyria and returning to flesh-and-blood Orange County to reconnect with his ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) and son (Johnny Pemberton). He’s Sterling Archer in He-Man’s body, and SoZ doesn’t bother to look for much comedy beyond that, because how could mashing-up two Fox mainstays—ridiculous cartoons and quirky suburban families—possibly fail? Barring Bob’s Burgers-level development from lame pilot to much-improved series, Son of Zorn isn’t long for this world … or Zephyria.

Masters of Sex (Sunday, Sept. 11, Showtime), season premiere: Bill Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) finally cross over into the ’70s—burn those bras, and break out the polyester (but not too close to each other; flammability was a major concern back in ancient ’Merica). The sexual revolution that Masters and Johnson inadvertently sparked in the ’60s is also in full swing—insert all puns here—but Bill’s in no position to enjoy it, as he’s battling in court to keep his controversial practice while battling other demons in AA. He’s also still estranged from professional partner/obsession Virginia, who ran off with Dan (Josh Charles) at the end of last season. The former Mrs. Masters, Libby (Caitlin FitzGerald), is D-U-N with Bill and exploring her new world of options like a champ. (Thanks for that sexual revolution, M&J.) Season 4 of Masters of Sex also steers a bit lighter than the tearjerkers of the past few years—obviously, the hair and clothes alone are comedy gold.

Legends of Chamberlain Heights (Wednesday, Sept. 14, Comedy Central), series debut: The only funny aspect of Comedy Central’s new animated series Legends of Chamberlain Heights is the name of the school where it’s set: Michael Clarke Duncan High. That’s it.

American Horror Story (Wednesday, Sept. 14. FX), season premiere: As of this writing, there’s been no “official” announcement from FX regarding the theme for Season 6 of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story anthology series—just a handful of promos that were meant to be misleading. Where to go after Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show and Hotel? My personal pick would be American Horror Story: Comcast Service Center. Review-dumpster website Rotten Tomatoes recently listed the upcoming season as American Horror Story: The Mist, but that was once a Stephen King novel and movie, and Spike already has a related television series in development. Themes hinted in the promos include aliens, cults, the Antichrist, radiation fallout or even a return to Hollywood (à la Season 1, Murder House), but why not make a play to get Connie Britton back with American Horror Story: Nashville?

Narcos (Friday, Sept. 2, Netflix), season premiere: When last we left the semi-biographical Narcos, Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) had just escaped the Greybar Hotel, with errybody on both sides of the law out to take him down. Given, you know, history, the promo tagline of “Who killed Pablo Escobar?” is somewhat moot (hint—it wasn’t old age), but Narcos is even more terrifyingly tense in Season 2. (After seeing this, it’s even harder to believe that those Entourage twinks actually “made” an Escobar film once upon a time.) It’s also a bit more personal, with Moura revealing the man behind the monster on occasion—since we’re staring down the barrel of Escobar’s ultimate demise this season, it’s a nice, empathetic touch that sets Narcos apart from certain Drug Guy Downfall movies that don’t live up to their posters. (Yes, I’m talking about Scarface—admit it, it sucks.) It’s Labor Day Weekend; you know what to do.

Mary + Jane; Loosely Exactly Nicole (Monday, Sept. 5, MTV) series debuts: On the mellower end of the drug spectrum, here’s MTV’s Mary + Jane, a marijuana-delivery comedy arriving a week ahead of HBO’s similarly-themed High Maintenance. Scout Durwood and Jessica Rothe star as Jordan and Paige (not Mary and Jane—psych!), Los Angeles pals who start a medical-weed concierge service and are, natch, thrust into Whacky Misadventures. M+J sometimes comes across like Broad City recast with Instagram models, but Durwood and Rothe bring the funny when the material clicks. MTV’s other comedy premiere tonight, Loosely Exactly Nicole, likewise, is more hit than miss, and a waaay better showcase for comic Nicole Byer than Fox’s virtually unwatched trainwreck Party Over Here. (Don’t recall it? Lucky you.)

StartUp (Tuesday, Sept. 6, Crackle), series debut: The new drama from Sony streamer Crackle (it’s that orange app you never use on your various viewing devices), StartUp, is Crackle’s most ambitious grab for original-content cred yet: A Miami criminal splits town, leaving a pile of dirty money with his financier son, Nick (Adam Brody), unbeknownst to the FBI agent (Martin Freeman) on dad’s trail. Instead of turning the loot over, Nick hides it by investing it all into a digital currency startup, GenCoin; cat-and-mouse crime intrigue, Haitian mob ties and furious keyboard clacking ensue. Maybe it should have been a two-hour movie instead of a 10-episode series, but StartUp is just flashy enough draw some critical attention to Crackle, aka Jerry Seinfeld’s Rich Dudes in Pricey Cars channel.

Atlanta (Tuesday, Sept. 6, FX), series debut: Finally, a project that will allow me to forgive Donald Glover for abandoning Community for half-assed hip-hop (not a Childish Gambino fan, sorrynotsorry). Like Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, Glover’s Atlanta isn’t what anyone expected, but something more than a comedy (though there are hilarious moments) or a drama (ditto, heavy moments); those vague, dreamy FX promos were perfect, because whatever this is couldn’t possibly be summed up in a 30-second spot. The bones of the story are that Earn (Glover), his rapper cousin Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) and Alfred’s bud Darius (LaKeith Lee Stanfield, the sure-to-be-breakout star of the series) are struggling to move up from abject poverty to slightly less-abject poverty, and the events … just happen. Atlanta unfolds like an indie flick in no hurry to get any Big Moments, which might make it an even harder sell on mainstream cable than Baskets was—but hey, that got a second season, so anything could happen.

From Dusk Till Dawn (Tuesday, Sept. 6, El Rey), season premiere: In other obscure channel news, ever heard of the El Rey Network? Had no idea there was TV series based on a classic Mexi-vampire flick? (Facepalm.) Anyway: From Dusk Till Dawn was Robert Rodriguez’s first original series to debut on El Rey (also his network) in 2014, a blown-out, 10-episode expansion of his 1997 movie, with new Gecko Brothers (D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz), a new-and-somehow-even-hotter Santánico (Eiza Gonzalez), a new scary-ass adversary (Wilmer Valderrama—yes, really), and a new ending that set up further seasons (like Rodriguez was going to cancel his own show). Where FDTD has gone from there is, well, loco; since this column’s increasingly apparent mission is to constantly promote Netflix, go there and catch on Seasons 1 and 2.

The Strain (Sunday, Aug. 28, FX), season premiere: The most disconcerting part of the Season 3 opener of The Strain, FX’s scariest series (sorry, American Horror Story)? Setrakian (David Bradley) reminding us that it’s only been 23—23!—days since the Euro-vampires landed in New York City. Dr. Eph (Corey Stoll) is boozing through the pain of his girlfriend’s death and his son’s kidnapping by his now-vamp wife, and his bio-weapon is losing its lethality against “the munchers”—all of this stress could explain why his hair won’t grow back. The locals believe they’re still “New York Strong,” but even the military, which has essentially given up on saving the city, is outmatched. (It does make for some great Call of Duty: Vamp Town action sequences, though.) New Yorkers are on their own to fight The Strain … but what’s a little vampire takeover after beating back a Sharknado?

2016 MTV Video Music Awards (Sunday, Aug. 28, MTV), special: In a twist this year for the MTV Video Music Awards, the Best “Rock” Video nominees—All Time Low, Coldplay (!), Fall Out Boy ft. Demi Lovato (!!), Panic! At the Disco and Twenty One Pilots—are nearly out-rocked by the Best Electronic Video Nominees—and I can’t even tell you who they are, because they all look and sound identical! Is there really a difference between Calvin Harris, Mike Posner and The Chainsmokers besides hoodie textures? And why is there a Best Collaboration Video category when practically every video in every category has a “Ft.” guest? (I’m guessing “Ft.” means “Featuring,” though it could just as well stand for “Filler twits.”) And why is elderly lady Britney Spears performing? And where’s my channel-clicker? I’ve gotta watch five hours of MTV Classic now.

You’re the Worst (Wednesday, Aug. 31, FXX), season premiere: TV’s funniest comedy took a decidedly unfunny turn last season to deal with the clinical depression of Gretchen (Aya Cash), and still managed to wring some laughs out of a downer detour. In Season 3, You’re the Worst gets back on track with not only Gretchen and Jimmy (Chris Geere) in a relationship (and hating it, and loving it, and being confounded by it), but also a pairing of Edgar (Desmin Borges) and Dorothy (Collette Wolfe) and, to a weirder extent, Lindsay (Kether Donohue) and Paul (Allan McLeod). History dictates, however, that at least one, if not all, of these couplings will devolve into a hot mess—and it’s going to be glorious (and, thanks to creator Stephen Falk’s masterful writing, painfully real). Seasons 1 and 2 of The Only Anti-Rom-Com That Matters are on Hulu; get on it now.

Marcella (Streaming, Netflix), new series: Yeah, it debuted back in July—don’t make me play the There’s Too Many Shows card! Marcella, a British series that’s made its way stateside via Netflix, comes from producer/writer/director Hans Rosenfeldt (FX’s late, great The Bridge), with Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies; the late, not-great American Odyssey) in the title role as a troubled London detective back on the case of a suddenly active-again serial killer. If the setup sounds a bit “been-there,” consider some of Marcella’s troubles: Her husband (Nicholas Pinnock) has just left her for a younger woman at his legal firm; said woman is among the killer’s latest victims; Marcella suffers from rage blackouts after which she occasionally awakens covered in blood. Is she a murderer? Or, at the very least, sane-ish? The answers don’t necessarily come, but Friel is fantastic, and Marcella is cooler than any new cop show arriving this fall on ’Merican TV.

Aquarius (Saturdays, NBC), the final episodes: This is how it ends, not with a bang but a Saturday-night burn-off. After being bumped from the NBC schedule for more than a month due to political conventions, the Summer Olympics and Season 2 ratings that have sunk lower than a 4 a.m. infomercial for a Charles Manson box set (“Charlie Don’t Surf: The Complete Manson Masterworks! Order now!”), Aquarius is (un)officially over. The final six episodes of David Duchovny’s historical-ish ’60s cop romp will be blown out two-a-night for the next three Saturdays, and thanks to the show’s delusional five-season plan, there’s likely no wrap-up here, and we’ll never find out if the LAPD ever caught Manson, damn it …