E: Forget sitting down with your homework: Sunday’s the Must See TV night for this decade. Considering that NBC’s all football, and the CW doesn’t air new programming, there’s still an impressive amount of scripted television out there, especially when the premier cable channels jump in the fray.
C: So if you have homework, yet miraculously also make enough money to afford premier cable, you’re in the small group of people this might negatively effect.
E: Here’s a quick key to help you as you read:
- Titles in blue are new this season
- Each * means one Quibbling Sibling will be tuning in
- Click here for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday‘s schedules.
America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC, October 13th)
E: C, I think this show might be older than you.
C: I believe you.
M: Is Bob Saget back hosting yet? His gig narrating HIMYM is just about up, he should be looking for an easy paycheck soon. I think this needs to happen.
E: Wait, you mean he stopped? What’s he doing, other than telling dirty jokes in documentaries?
60 Minutes (CBS, September 29th)
M: Just letting you know it’s still here. Somehow.
The NFL on FOX (FOX, September 8th)
M: This is FOX’s post-game show, and really used more as a placeholder so that, unlike CBS, their actual shows don’t end up running until midnight when football goes long. And it goes long every week.
Football Night in America (NBC)
E: I’m sensing a theme.
M: To quote The Princess Bride… YOU’D LIKE TO THINK SO! However this is actually a PRE-game show, so there!
E: Oh, you showed me!
M: Yes, yes I did. Well, other than the prefix, yeah, it’s exactly the same as the FOX one. Showing highlights, talking football with former players and coaches, and token professional broadcasters to try to keep them moving correctly. I will say this. When I was a kid, these shows consisted of the host and one or two commentators. They have now ballooned to huge casts that often cannot fit on one set, where everyone’s fighting to get their screen time,. Kind of like CNN’s post-presidential debate coverage.
C: And just as gripping.
The OT (FOX)
E: Yep. Definitely a theme.
C: We promise, folks, if you scroll down far enough you will get to some actual scripted television shows.
M: Again, this is actually FOX being smart, as I mentioned above. I can’t tell you how frustrating it was last year to have my DVR set to record a half hour extra, and still miss the end of The Mentalist, to in turn find that CBS took forever to get episodes online, and even then they didn’t have an iPad app (I think they do now) so I had to sit at my computer to watch the 5 minutes at the end that got cut off. Or we’d just delete the episode. FOX Sunday shows? No worries about that.
E: Such a frustration, trying to get my DVR to properly record The Good Wife and The Mentalist. Huge ungainly pain. I wish CBS would smarten up.
M: All they’d need to do is give up the ghost on 60 Minutes.
C: Doesn’t it seem like this is a tech problem, actually? Like, if every show had a unique code and instead of recording from 9:00 to 9:59, the DVR simply recorded whenever that code was transmitting. I’m very, very far from an expert, but that seems like it should be possible to me.
Once Upon a Time (ABC, September 29th)*
E: Or as I like to call it, the show my DVR saved. The middle of last season sagged (at least for me) but Mr. E and I have been watching the second half of the season lately and feel like the show might have recovered at least some of its mojo.
M: Mrs M and my older two minions started watching this over the summer. Without me. They love it. If I ever get the chance to catch up, I do intend to.
C: Yeah, every time I go on the Netflix account M’s family & I share (uh oh, should I admit that publicly?) it seems like somebody’s just watched an episode. But not me. I had a conflicting commitment at the time it aired last year and, being the only QS without a DVR, missed the whole season. It hasn’t been tops on my list to catch up on, but if you watch and like it, M, let me know!
E: For season three, the cast is off to Neverland. Why not?
The Amazing Race (CBS, September 29th)
E: This is a cool show filled with interesting people, places and challenges, but when they started a recent season claiming to be in a neighboring town when they were actually in the one where the Quibbling Siblings grew up? Well, how can you trust a geography show that does that?
M: Wait, what?
E: Yep. They said they were in the town where Dad grew up but instead were at the place where I had my senior prom. Totally lost all credibility with me.
C: Well that’s just plain shoddy.
The Simpsons (FOX, September 29th)
E: Talk about a long running show! Season 25 opens with Homer refusing to eat pork or drink beer. Has he been replaced with a pod person?
M: Or did Bart go off to camp again, allowing Homer’s brain to regenerate?
E: Who knows? The annual Halloween “Treehouse of Horror” episode gets some love from Guillermo Del Toro. Sideshow Bob will make an appearance in a new job, and Comic Book Guy gets a girlfriend.
C: As often as we make “why is that still on” cracks about other shows — many of which have been around for “only” 8 or 9 years — The Simpsons‘ incredible longevity has never bothered me. I see about one episode every two years, but I have a lot of good will towards it.
E: It’s an amazing feat for sure: 25 years, and the quality doesn’t flag.
Sunday Night Football (NBC)
M: Honestly, this will take up most of my actual Sunday night viewing. Everything else will get recorded, and only occasionally watched on Sundays. When SNF was on ESPN (up until about 3 years ago) it was always one of the worst games of the week, as they used it as a way to throw a “you’re playing in prime time” bone to the lesser teams in the league. Now? Appointment viewing. Plus, later in the season NBC can pluck games from the rest of the weekly schedule and shift them to Sunday night, to get the best match ups. Good stuff.
Last Tango in Halifax (PBS, September 8th)
C: This show sounds really intriguing to me. Despite the confusing title, this is British and has nothing to do with Nova Scotia. (Okay, I’ll grant that the UK Halifax must be older, but it isn’t the capital of anything.)
E: We’re just biased in Canada’s favor by the Anne of Green Gables series.
C: True enough. The plot concerns an older man and woman, played by Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, who reunite via Facebook after having once been in love but spending their lives apart. The central plot seems to concern not their rekindling romance — that seems almost instantaneous — but its consequences for their adult children, who have very complicated romantic lives of their own.
E: I caught the first few minutes of this. It probably wasn’t enough to get a real idea of the show, but despite an appealing cast, nothing really struck me about this tale of late-middle-age romance. Derek Jacobi is a plus, however, and the show must have won this year’s BAFTA for best drama for a reason.
M: Well, Derek Jacobi is excellent. But Halifax is no Paris.
C: I don’t know, I’d give it more of a chance than a few minutes, if I were you. I’m hearing good things.
E: I can guess the source; our parents thought it was excellent.
M: Are you sure that’s in its favor?
C: Ouch! I’ll admit Dad has gotten rather small-c catholic in his tastes of late, but if the two of them both like something I still take that as a pretty good recommendation.
Bob’s Burgers (FOX, September 29th)
E: The Belchers – the aptly named restaurant running family in this dubious cartoon — go camping in the premiere episode, and because it’s just what you want in a food show, everyone gets the runs. In the woods. Oh, the joy of it!
C: M, things I’ve heard about this show suggest you might like it. But I haven’t seen it myself.
M: I have never seen one thing that made me want to watch it.
Revenge (ABC, September 29th)*
E: I don’t even recognize half the cast when I see commercials of this now.
C: I was just thinking that last night! A commercial came on with two different couples getting, er, ardent, and I didn’t recognize any of the people involved. This after watching the whole first season!
M: I stuck with this through a bumpy second season, and it did have its moments. Later in the season they started making their way back to the original formula of Fauxmanda getting revenge against one person in an episode and drawing a red “X” over a picture of them at the end of it. Rumor has it they are going more in this direction for the third season, and I think that’d be a good thing.
E: Yes, it really would. I’m kind of stunned you managed to stick around (perhaps because I think you mean main character Emily, not Fauxmanda); I loathed what I saw of last season. At any rate, ABC promises new twists and old formats for season 3; the now obligatory deadly flash-forward, less of uber-villainous collective the Initiative, more Jack, and a long lost son for Victoria.
M: Well, make that more on the reveal of the long lost son — his existence was a pretty major plot line last season.
E: I bow to your superior knowledge. (Relish the moment; it’s unlikely to happen again.)
M: I’m glad you finally came around to the truth.
The Walking Dead (AMC, October 13th)
E: The most popular show on cable starts up its new season in time for all the Halloween holiday hoopla, with more zombies than ever and a mystery new threat (because the survivors were having it too easy?).
M: Just in time? Halloween stuff has been in stores for two weeks.
C: Try a month.
E: So let’s say in time for people to enjoy thinking about Halloween rather than being annoyed to see the decorations out when its still summer. The show is followed, I kid you not, by “The Talking Dead” — where, presumably, the cast and crew discuss each episode after it airs.
M: Hahaha, that’s punny. And horrible. What do they think they are, Bravo? Is one of my least favorite people on the planet, Andy Cohen, hosting?
The Good Wife (CBS, September 29th)*
E: Not that this is going to come as a surprise to anyone, but I am so freaking excited for this season.
C: What? Do you watch this, E?
M: So excited that in your original draft you had so little control over yourself just typing that that you literally put four spaces after that sentence. And I stink at grammar so I’m going all F. Scott Fitzgerald and intentionally not use any commas.
E: Whatever, I’m more excited than ever, actually. Last season’s finale did one of the bravest, craziest things I’ve ever seen a television show do; it made a change that will totally revamp the upcoming season. As we said with Castle, it’s one of those things shows just don’t do because it will threaten their formula, their basic relationships.
M: So, like my often wished for and discussed killing off of Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager?
C: Or the kind of drastic plot redirect they did at least every eighteen months on Battlestar Galactica?
E: Yes, exactly. Let me sum up: four seasons ago, the show began with titular character Alicia Florrick heading back into the courtroom, unable to stay home with her kids after her politician husband was jailed for corruption. She was offered that lifesaving job by Will, a former law school classmate, friend and eventual lover. Now she’s reconciled with reformed husband Peter, the newly elected governor of Illinois, and she’s pilfering boss Will’s clients to start up her own firm (choosing, among other things, marriage over temptation). I don’t expect Will to be particularly happy about this turn of events. As if that weren’t enough, Peter’s putting Will’s partner Diane up for a judgeship. Except perhaps for investigator Kalinda, Will’s going to be entirely alone.
M: I’ll give you this, that’s pretty big.
E: It’s Game of Thrones-sized big, without the macabre deaths . Seriously, I can’t even express how excited I am to see where every bit of shrapnel lands. How will the show restructure itself to include our favorite characters after the split? I’m not just excited: I’m giddy!
C: Oh, I know what it’s like! When Chuck stopped working at the Buy More, but they kept showing scenes there in order to advertise Subway sandwiches. *ducks for cover*
M: However… Do you think they’ll kiss (not literally, though maybe) and make up at some point during the season? They threatened doing something very similar on Suits recently (Harvey orchestrating a coup to become managing partner behind Jessica’s back), and found a way to back out of it and go back to the status quo. That’s the way Hollywood tends to go, fake the big change, or make it for a while, but eventually it’s back to the same.
E: No, I really don’t. I mean, I think it’s quite possible that they’ll kiss, but I definitely think the defection will go ahead. A few seasons ago, Diane almost left; this time the rift seems to be for real. And it makes sense to me, in terms of the show and of the central love triangle. If Alicia’s going to be with Peter, she has to stop spending her days with Will; if she’s going to be with Will, they need to be on an equal footing.
M: You do realize that, in all likelihood, for every single season it’s on you’ll be able to say “if Alicia’s going to be with Peter/if she’s going to be with Will,” right?
E: Are you ready for me to blow your mind? I want the show to end this season, maybe next at the latest.
C: Wow! I mean, I know all the Sibs are in favor of planned endings for shows, but I would have thought you’d be hoping for a seven- or eight-season arc at least.
E: I know, I know. But I want them to have a plan for these relationships and where they’re going to go; in fact, I’ve heard that creators Robert and Michelle King had a five-year plan from the beginning. I know they have the whole cast for five years but perhaps not after, and I’d just rather they told a discrete story impeccably, with all the characters who should be there there, than try to drag it out forever.
Halloween Wars (Food Network, October 6th)
E: We look forward all year to this wonderful competition show. Take a pumpkin carver, a candy maker, and a baker, slap a silly Halloween-themed team name on them, and have them compete in a month’s worth of crazy awesome cake/showpiece challenges. My family loves these, and so do I. If you haven’t seen this show and are in any way a fan of cooking competitions or Halloween, do yourself a favor and check it out.
C: And by we, she means her family, because I’ve never even heard of it. But it sounds cute!
E: I do mean my husband and spawn, sorry. You should watch too, though. It’s pretty awesome.
Family Guy (FOX, September 29th)
M: I remember back when I loved this show. It seems so long ago. Oh wait, that’s because it was!
C: Fifteen years, pretty much.
E: Yeah, there’s little more painful than a once brilliant show that’s so long outlived its charms. Hint, hint.
Boardwalk Empire (HBO, September 8th)
E: There must be something to this show or it wouldn’t keep getting nominated for Emmys, right? Right? Despite like Kelly MacDonald and Steve Buscemi, nothing about this interests me.
M: But it’s a mob show, and entirely unlike teen love in Renaissance-era France, so it’s not aimed at you.
E: True enough.
C: Though a show about the mafia in the Renaissance… oh wait, they’ve done that too. Never mind.
M: Besides, Steve Buscemi should be enough.
C: Enough for what? You don’t watch it, M, as far as I know.
E: Yeah, I’m confused. Enough to watch it or to keep me away. Anyway, it seems that this season the show adds the excellent Jeffrey Wright and some racial tension as a Harlem gangster encroaching on Nucky’s turf, as well as J. Edgar Hoover and the G-men encircling them all.
Treme (HBO, December 1st)
E: HBO seasons are so short that they can have two shows premiere in this time slot before the end of the year. The critically acclaimed drama about post-Katrina New Orleans continues. They’re both too deliberately gritty to draw my viewership the way wonky think-fest The Newsroom and fantasy action epic Game of Thrones do.
C: Oh, because “deliberately gritty” doesn’t describe Game of Thrones at all. I’d personally be interested in watching something well done about the Katrina aftermath.
M: It’s too HBO to draw my cheapskate viewership.
C: Ah yes, but there’s that. See you on Netflix sometime, Treme!
Foyle’s War (PBS, September 15th)
C: This show ended back in 2008 with an incredibly perfect finale. Let us never speak of the imposter “revived series” again.
E: What you have to know about this is that C love love loves Foyle’s War during the actual WW2 years. The cold war reboot, not so much.
Homeland (Showtime, September 29th)
E: Here it is, the third season premiere of the drama that makes me wish I had Showtime.
M: I am, again, a cheapskate, but I have borrowed the first season Blu-rays, and am looking forward to burning through it.
E: How funny, I’ve done the same thing, but haven’t had time to get through it all yet either.
C: I watched the first three episodes with E and Mr. E, and while they were incredibly well acted, I found they lingered in my thoughts and not in a good way. More in a wow-I-wish-I’d-never-had-that-in-my-head way. So I gave the show up.
E: This season, Carrie and Saul disagree (shocking!) and Brody’s on the run as the prime suspect in last year’s season ending bombing. I understand season 3 is supposed to be about the toll working for the CIA takes on you, but isn’t every season? I’d go say far as to say that’s an underlying theme of ever spy show I’ve ever seen.
American Dad (FOX, September 29th)
M: I remember back when I loved this show. No, wait, that was Family Guy. I never liked American Dad very much. Or The Cleveland Show for that matter.
E: This show is awful. How is it still on the air? I’m astounded that it’s been clogging up Sunday nights for ten years. Apparently, one of the amazing plots this season involves a character named Snot trying to lose his v-card by cloning a girl to sleep with him. As that weren’t hilarious enough, the clone comes out as a baby. Pedophilia! Awesomesauce!
C: I’m still confused about why E called this the Must See night of television at the top of this post. It seems like it’s all football, mostly weak cartoons, and gritty shows you have to empty your wallet to see. Oh wait — that’s right — and The Good Wife.
E: Ding ding ding! (No, seriously, Homeland, Treme and Boardwalk Empire are among the most acclaimed shows on TV, as is Game of Thrones when it airs in the spring; The Walking Dead, Revenge and The Mentalist are among the most popular.)
Betrayal (ABC, September 29th)
E: Tired of being frozen out by her cold and ambitious lawyer husband, a photographer embarks on a torrid affair with a married man who — surprise! — turns out to be her husband’s opposing counsel in a murder trial. The adultery bait is played by almost-Aragorn, Stuart Townsend, and features the excellent James Cromwell slumming as a mucketty muck involved in the case.
M: Ahh, again back to my favorite plot! And is it me, or does this look like it’s basically Scandal, Part II?
C: It’s not just you.
E: Other than the similarity of the titles? The main character in Scandal actually has an important job which drives the plot; here its the men who do all the important work. This looks like a basic, serviceable airplane novel plot, done up with pretty actors and nice cityscapes behind. Anything novel would have to come in the writing or acting. The real question is, even if it’s fantastic (of which there’s no evidence) how do we have more than a season’s worth of plot?
C: Or more than a movie’s worth?
E: Is it unfair to expect to see that capacity in a new series? I’m sure this is why there are only thirteen episodes to the season. Assuming they even get that far…
M: It also seems like something that would survive better on HBO or Showtime, so they could show skin and get the voyeur audience. NEXT!
Ripper Street (BBCAmerica, December 1st)
E: The smart and bloody saga of Victorian London continues; the crimes are pretty vile, but the language is pure poetry, so whether you’d like it depends on your tolerance for both those factors. Starring Matthew MacFadyen (Mr. Darcy 2005) and Games of Thrones‘ Jerome Flynn.
C: This is Dracula all over again. Victorian London on the one hand, blood and gore everywhere on the other. Unless I hear very surprising things, I’ll be passing on this. But why, oh why, can’t someone make a smart, captivating, character-driven period series that isn’t just about teen sex or serial murder?
E: Other than PBS, you mean?
The Mentalist (CBS, September 29th)**
E: The good: we’ll find out the identity of serial killer mastermind Red John before 2013 is out. The bad: are they really going to turn Jane and Lisbon into a couple? Ugh. Must we? Just because they’re a man and a woman and work together closely. Bah.
C: Another reason to watch Elementary, folks. It’s the only series I think I’ve ever seen that’s (so far) totally avoided this cliche.
E: So far…
C: Well, they don’t even hint that way, which I love. But back to The Mentalist.
M: I still think they focus too much on Red John. Much like the other crime fighting comedic couple show, Castle, I prefer the funny, stand alone episodes.
E: Good lord, yes. I’m excited for them to be done with Red John for just that reason; get the mythology over with, please! It’s not as groan-inducing as Castle‘s, and I think of like that Jane has this sad clown air to him, but still, it’s not why I watch.
M: As for the potential coupling, with Castle the tension, and assumption of eventual relationship has been there since the beginning. With Jayne and Lisbon it has NEVER been there. Not at any time have I thought they would or should be a couple. Boo.
Eastbound & Down (HBO, September 29th)
E: The summary for this season seems to be that Danny McBride’s Kenny Powers has ditched his baseball career for family life in the suburbs. It’s all very normal, and he’s miserable. Alrighty then. You know, somehow none of that was what I thought this show was about. I thought he was already an ex-baseball player. I mean, Danny McBride doesn’t exactly look like a profession athlete…
C: Then again, a lot of baseball players don’t look like professional athletes.
M: Danny McBride resembles a sumo wrestler…
E: At any rate, all signs point to this being the final season of this critically liked but low profile show.
Masters of Sex (Showtime, September 29th)
E: For those bemoaning the paucity of graphic sex and nudity in Mad Men, Showtime thoughtfully presents Masters of Sex, which stars Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls, New Girl) as Willam Master and Virginia Johnson of the seminal Masters & Johnson sex study. It’s got style, some excellent actors (including Beau Bridges), and of course all sorts of folks getting it on. In the words of the producers, ”Every scene that deals with sex is dealing with a very complex set of relationships. It’s not that we have an excuse to show people having sex on our show.”
M: That sounds very … what’s the word I’m looking for? Subtle.
C: Oh yes. So subtle.
Hello Ladies (HBO, )
E: Entertainment Weekly says this series from The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant “puts a new face on self-deluded douchebaggery.” Well, awesome sauce. Sign me right up for that one. The funny thing is, EW wrote that as a compliment.
M: Is it a mocking face? Because that might be funny. Like Schmidt on New Girl.
E: Since he’s the most endearing self-deluded douchebag on television right now, probably. One good thing, anyway — one practitioner of said douchebaggery is Kevin Weisman from Alias and Chuck.
M: Yay, I love Marshall!
C: Aww, me too — yet I remain untempted.
M: Totally aside, am I the only one when seeing the title immediately thought (in best Andre The Giant voice) “And I thought, there are four of us, if we ever find the lady. Hello Lady!”
E: That is way better than the smarmy way I hear that phrase in my head. I’m going to have to think more like you, bro, at least in this instance.