C: Late, bruised, and crawling toward the finishing line after a full week of previews, we reveal the ace up our sleeves, the man behind the curtain, the best wine saved for the drunkest wedding guests… I may be floundering for a metaphor here. The point is, we’re ending instead of starting with Sunday, and Sunday night TV is actually good.
E: Sunday night TV is sooo good; it’s definitely top shelf. This is the night that the heavens are bright with small screens and television stars. The night when every channel has its A game on. This is the most ridiculously overstuffed night of awesome TV we got.
C: Even I — yes, I! — will reveal that there’s a show on TV that I’m still watching from last year, and it’s on Sundays.
Note: New shows are in blue, asterisks (*) mean a Sibling will be watching.
America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC), October 11th
E: Otherwise known as YouTube for people with no internet connection.
M: Or the inspiration for what YouTube’s become, since it’s been around longer.
C: Yes, but now that it exists… I think E must be right, or I can’t see a reason for anyone to watch.
E: Maybe the point is having a curator? Funny pet videos and men getting hit in the nuts, only someone’s already put all the clips together for you.
C: I feel like that’s what Cute Overload is for, but maybe.
60 Minutes (CBS), September 27th
M: Like the news shows on Saturday, we don’t really need to preview this, just letting you know it’s still on. And still on for one hour.
The Great British Baking Show (PBS), September 6th*
C: I thought it was “The Great British Bake-Off”? Did I imagine that?
E: It’s called The Bake-Off in England. You must have been talking to Brits.
C: I do that from time to time.
E: My family discovered this British hit earlier in the year, when PBS rebroadcast the 2014 competition of home bakers from across England; now they’re airing the 2013 season. A pair of saucy comediennes host, and a pair of gimlet-eyed professional bakers judge, and the contestants are just ordinary people who are really, really good at baking.
M: Gimlet-eyed? I can’t even begin to comprehend what you’re going for there. A gimlet is a cocktail that looks nothing like something people’s eyes do. Are you trying to say the judges are drunk? Help me, and our readers, out here.
C: It’s an expression, M. It means having a piercing gaze. A gimlet is also a hand tool for drilling small holes. And something Mrs. Blewett looks like.
M: I’m willing to be that if you did one of those “man on the street” interview things literally anywhere in the US, the only place that more than five percent of the people had heard of that expression would be not only on a college campus, but specifically within the English department. But let’s not stir things up, and move on.
E: Let’s. The challenges? Fiendish.
M: As they should be on a competition show claiming “greatest” in its title.
E: Each hour long episode covers one weekend (since the contestants are working and living through all of this).
M: We should hope they’re living through it. If they’re not they need to change the name to The Hunger Games Baking Show…
E: Sigh. There are three challenges each episode, two of which the bakers get to plan and practice at home. Also, ugh, M. You know what I mean. They’re not sequestered for the duration like the contestants are on most reality shows.
C: That is noteworthy. Probably cuts down on the inter-group sniping, which is my least favorite aspect of those few reality contests I’ve seen.
E: The first day brings us the Signature Bake (e.g. make 24 perfectly consistent breadsticks of any flavor) and the Technical Challenge, where the contestants get a tricky recipe they’ve likely never seen before (often one created by one of the judges for something like English muffins or a Swedish prinsesstarta) with important details left out, like how long you have to cook something or let it rise, what temperature to cook it at or whether you’re whipping something into stiff or soft peaks, whether or not you need to grease the pan or dry the fruit or any number of other significant pieces of information.
M: Can you provide a few more examples? I’m not getting the picture.
C: Actually I kind of feel like this is a jerkish contest. I mean, people develop recipes through trial and error, not through magic extrasensory food precognition.
E: Ignoring you both. Finally, on the second day they do the Showstopper, in which they generally have to create some sort of decorated masterpiece like a wedding cake or a fancy braided bread. Anyway, you learn a lot about baking in general and British/American differences in particular, and it’s really fun. And the setting where they cook is stunning; gorgeous pastel cook stations in a lovely tent set in a pastoral meadow surrounded by twittering birds and horses and gamboling lambs. It’s ridiculously picturesque.
M: And unusually not kitchen-y sounding.
C: Yeah, a meadow? Why do they cook in a meadow? Do they leave it as nice as they found it? It sounds environmentally unfriendly.
E: It’s British! It’s pastoral! It’s pretty, damn you! Jeez.
Bob’s Burgers (FOX), September 27th
M: I know people who love this, I believe including MMGF. I have watched a few minutes of it here and there, which included a remote controlled flying device battle. Not much that I’ve seen has been funny, or made much sense. I think I’d probably get it more if I watched full episodes, though.
E: I don’t really get it either. I’m a bit picky about animation; if I don’t like the look of it, it’s really hard for me to get into the show. And I just don’t like the visual style here.
C: I have several friends who are huge fans. I asked one what our readers might want to know about the series and she said it’s “the best show” and she watches it “basically every second of [her] life.” Also, as a professor, she notes: “My students think I’m so cool when I show it to them.” So there you go, readers! Finally a way to endear yourself with the youth!
E: The big plotline for this season that the writers are sharing has Bob going mustache-bald. Oh no! Also of interest, the fabulous new guest stars, including Steve Buscemi, Henry Winkler and Paul Rudd (in a truly wonderful role I can’t bring myself to spoil) and fabulous returning ones like Aziz Ansari and Zack Galifianakis.
C: Also the show’s 100th episode, more appearances by Aunt Gayle (Megan Mullally), and the resolution of some suspense from last season’s finale.
Home Fires (PBS), October 4th*
C: As the title may hint, this drama takes place in England during World War II, or rather, during the lead-up to Britain’s involvement, in 1939. In the small village of Great Paxford, the female-led cast prepare for life with the men away at war. The tension of the show relies on the economic diversity of the characters, with protagonists Frances Barden (Samantha Bond) and Joyce Cameron (the majestic Francesca Annis) clashing over how the local Women’s Institute can or should serve the community and the war effort. Apparently based on a popular history book with the fabulous title Jambusters.
E: No way! Though I’ll admit Home Fires is a lot more indicative of a wartime drama, rather than a cooking show.
C: Since a friend and I recently watched Mrs. Miniver (1942) and The Miniver Story (1950), a classic tale of the English WWII home front and its sequel, I feel just in the mood for this. Excited to check it out!
M: Tension between the economic diversity of the characters? Sounds like every British period drama ever.
E: Which he says using his vast knowledge of the costumes dramas he watches.
Once Upon A Time (ABC), September 27th
C: Whoa, I totally forgot about this show. I guess I would have known if it was still on if it crossed my mind, but it never does.
E: I quite liked it for the first two seasons, but they lost me in the third. The show still has great numbers, though, and I have a lot of friends that watch. Are you guys still into it, M?
M: I was never. Mrs M and the older two kids used to watch, but they dropped it last year. The Flash and Scorpion won easily over this.
E: We really can’t even manage more than one show (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) with our older kids, so I can see why you need to stop at two.
E: At the end of the last season, Emma is sucked into an inky, viscous vortex of evil and becomes Black Swan when she takes over being the Dark One from Mr. Gold in order to save Regina from certain death. And perhaps predictably, this takes her into one of the fairy tale realms. She’s fighting the influence, but it twists her personality.
C: I don’t feel like anything you just said was predictable. Or comprehensible.
M: Yeah, funny, I didn’t think Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan was a Disney-princess movie.
E: Yes, it’s hilarious.
C: I can’t tell if that’s sarcasm. (We need the sarcmark!)
E: Definitely sarcasm. So, every season Disney introduces classic characters into the show; last year saw the Frozen characters arrive, but this season is old school with a medieval Camelot theme. We meet King Arthur (Liam Garrigan), his knights, and because you can’t have the show without new princesses, Merida (Amy Manson).
C: Oh yeah, because Elsa and Merida are so “classic.”
M: Totally. Now, I’m sure they’ll twist it to have Arthur be a bad guy.
E: Certainly a possibility. Gold reverts to his cowardly ways, and Emma’s parents Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) set off on a quest to find Merlin (Elliot Knight), hopeful to try and cure their baby girl. I would love to know if they’re going to go with a more literary Merlin, or with the strange and peculiar fellow from The Sword in the Stone. Given that Knight is young and handsome, probably the former, but the latter would have been a hoot.
M: Yeah, this show doesn’t like to do old and quirky, they like young and sexy.
C: Awww… but Merlin!
E: By the way? Emma’s son Henry looks so old. I guess this is what happens when you stop watching for two years, but man.
Madame Secretary (CBS)
M: This show really has a lot of work to do this year, if it’s going to accomplish it’s goal of getting Hillary elected president. And before you two jump down my throat, I heard all your arguments last year and none of them are convincing.
E: Seriously, you need to stop that. Have you even watched this show?
C: Don’t even bother, the answer is obviously no. He’s as unshakably certain about the creators’ agenda as only someone who hasn’t closely watched or read a text can be. (Believe me on that one, I’m in literary and culture studies!)
M: And you are equally as close-minded, just in denial of the obvious. As for the show itself, it started off to huge acclaim and good ratings last year, but both the buzz and ratings slowed as the year went on. Not to the point where it would be in trouble, and certainly not the kind of trouble the actual Madame Secretary is in, but it’s not where it was 9 to 12 months ago, that’s for sure.
E: Look, this show is really fun, and I personally thought it got better as the season went on. Digging in to the mystery of the conspiracy that took down Bess McCord’s predecessor, Vincent Marsh, was a good and worthy season long mystery handled well. No, it’s not quite West Wing/Good Wife level smarts, but it’s still moderately smart and pretty entertaining. And one thing it has that makes it unique; a portrait of a really terrific marriage and stable family life.
M: I’m sure you thought that West Wing was reasonable and centrist, too, right? Anyway, move on.
E: During this season, Tea Leoni’s Secretary will lock horns with a new national security adviser (Julian Acosta) and get to track down Air Force One. She’ll also get to meet Morgan Freemen and the first real life Madame Secretary, Madeline Albright, and any way you slice it, that’s just cool.
The Simpsons (FOX), September 27th
E: Season 27 of the long running cartoon starts up on the 27th — eeeexcellent.
M: The Simpsons have been on, either as part of The Tracey Ullman Show or on their own, since 1987. Somehow, it’s now four season behind Survivor. That’s a strange twist.
C: Whoa, how does that work?
E: Because Survivor has two seasons a year.
C: Geez. They need the same bulletin as SyFy about what the word “season” in a TV context means.
M: Actually, the way they use it is accurate. But anyway…
C: Yes, back to The Simpsons.
E: Right, because I actually agree with M for once. Let’s definitely not dwell on that. The new season starts off with some big changes; Marge and Homer try a legal separation. Say it ain’t so! While they’re apart, Homer develops feelings for a shady, fun-loving pharmacist voiced by Lena Dunham.
C: That’s a creepy age difference. He’s gotta be, what, 40 years older at this point? 😉
M: They’ve sort of separated before, usually to comic ends, but it’s not the Simpsons without Homer and Marge together ground things. I think they need to go all Castle and end this silly plot device quickly.
E: Agreed. For doing their part for gender segregation, Lisa gets a plot about helping the homeless, and Bart gets Sofia Vergara as his crush-worthy new teacher.
C: To be fair, that’s entirely consistent with these two characters as they’ve always been written.
E: Indeed. I know what true fans are most interested in (well, other than the divorce rumors): this year’s Treehouse of Terror, in which Sideshow Bob finally (gasp!) succeeds in offing Bart.
M: Seriously sounds like they’re planning for this to be the 27th and final season. If that’s the case you’d think FOX would be promoting it that way to try to milk every last viewer they can out of it.
E: Wait, why do you think that? I feel like there’s plenty of life left in this ageless family’s TV existence.
M: The major plotlines are splitting up Marge and Homer and offing Bart. That doesn’t sound like “let’s keep the show going” kind of stuff. I’m sure it’s not actually, but still.
E: Oh please. Nothing that happens in the Halloween episode actually counts.
Sunday Night Football (NBC)
M: Again, nothing to preview here, just scheduling info for y’all. Presumably starting in January NBC will have non-sports programming on Sundays. Maybe we’ll get another three hours of Dateline!
Indian Summers (PBS), September 27th*
E: Very interesting look at British colonial rule in India, set in the summer of 1932 as the world stumbles toward war and India toward independence. Some very important Brits summer in a Northern Indian town of Shimla, where they work and play. The show looks more than a bit like Downton Abbey in a tropical climate; there’s the upper crust and their excesses, and the locals with their more earnest political struggles. In other words, promising.
M: Or in other words, like every Brit period drama ever. Pretty sure that’s the second time I’ve said that in this preview.
C: Okay, hm. This is awkward in some ways. A lot of ways. Glamorizing the Raj? Even if you’re embedding a critique, you’re walking a seriously shaky tightrope there. If you want to know how angry people can get when you try to depict the pretty side of colonialism, try googling “Taylor Swift Africa.” Downton Abbey, despite its success, has been criticized for an extremely paternalistic worldview — “the landowning aristocracy have their faults, but by jove, what would England be without them?” — something that including servants and working-class perspectives can temper, but not wholly compensate for. How could this series not run into the same problems, if these “important Brits” are our protagonists?
M: Right, because they are rich and white we cannot tell their historically accurate story without that meaning we hate the poor and the non-white. That’s not bigoted or racist at all.
E: Enough! Stop deliberately missing her point, would you? Like everything that comes out of Britain these days, in stars several Harry Potter alum; Henry Lloyd-Hughes (who was Roger Davies in The Goblet of Fire) as one of the main English characters, and Julie Walters (Molly Weasley) as a boozy grand dame. We also get to meet newcomer Nikesh Patel. I find it a little weird that none of the materials I can find introduce us much better to the plot or the characters; the marketing pushes the vibe instead.
M: That’s because people like you will tune in for the vibe, then learn to like the characters, I would guess.
C: A vibe that, once again, derives from the wealth of those who benefit from racial violence and cultural oppression…
E: Fair enough to both points, but it’s the characters that will keep people watching, as we did with Downton Abbey (returning to Sundays in January) but not the reboot of Upstairs Downstairs.
C: Then we’ll have to hope that the characters who viewers invest in emotionally won’t be the Lady Mary types, but those who don’t represent paternalist (and in this case, Orientalist) ideologies.
M: Very tolerant of you, sis.
The Librarians (TNT), November 1st
C: Oh, I always meant to check this show out, and kept forgetting.
E: I watched a couple of episodes in the first season. I mean, I love archaeology. I loved Indiana Jones; the Librarian movies and now series aspire to be a low-rent Indiana Jones. The trouble is, it’s just too low-rent to sustain my interest long term. But someone must be interested, as they renewed this show about a treasure hunting (and protecting) team of mythical Librarians.
M: I’ve seen parts of the TNT movies, and they are entertaining for low-rent fare, and I know that’s enough for some people. Maybe if there was a high-rent series that was anything like this (think Indy or National Treasure, but on TV) these would suffer, but since there isn’t, they’ll have some audience.
E: The show’s perfectly fine — not well written, with bad effects and middling acting, but fun enough if you’re a Whovian trolling for something adventurous and not too mentally taxing to watch.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX), September 27th
C: And here it is! The one returning show on a major network that I actually plan to keep watching. I discovered this over Christmas last year and binge-caught-up on Hulu. I love it.
E: Andy Samberg. I don’t know. The dude can craft a funny song, but his monologue at the Emmys was pretty terrible.
M: To repeat my joke from earlier in the week… they still have the Emmy’s?
C: Andy Samberg never impressed me much on SNL or in his other comedy, except in rare moments. I thought he’d be a liability, but actually, he’s thoroughly charming on this. His character, Jake, is a stellar police detective who’s terrible at “adulting,” and while either feature would be annoying in isolation, they somehow balance each other. It helps a lot that Jake is just a nice, likable person — as are most of the other characters.
E: I checked out the pilot and found it moderately funny, but not funny enough to keep watching. But maybe that’s just me, because the show has a decent fan base beyond just you, C, and positive critical reception.
M: I’ve watched about five to ten episodes here and there, and it is funny. Not something I feel like I need to DVR, but something that’s entertaining if I happen to catch it.
C: It’s definitely your standard sitcom in many ways — the plots are mostly contained to single episodes, the characters each have a shtick that they tend to stick to, and the central will-they-won’t-they sometimes feels obligatory (though I love both characters). What’s really fun is the way the characters bounce off each other, and they try to keep changing it up by putting them in different combinations.
E: This season will bring us the fallout from Amy (Melissa Fumero) and Jake (Samberg) confessing interest and sharing a kiss in last season’s finale.
C: There’s also a major shake-up in the format of the show, which I must admit to being nervous about. Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) got an unwanted promotion and is leaving the Nine-Nine, taking his assistant Gina (Chelsea Peretti) with him. The show is apparently going to try the awkward later-seasons-of-Chuck method of flipping back and forth between the two settings, to keep featuring these characters. I don’t care what implausible plot devices it would require: I hope they reinstate Holt as Captain as soon as reasonably possible.
Blood & Oil (ABC), September 27th
C: Terrible title much?
M: Terrible looking, much? And contrary to that title, this looks more like soap. So soapy, that it fits perfectly on ABC.
E: Terrible sounding, too. Now, the soapiness does feel ABC, but the lack of diversity feels jarringly off-brand to me. Since the Dallas reboot went off the rails, somebody thought it was time for a new version of the old oil wars. starring Don Johnson and Chace Crawford as warring father and son, and Amber Valletta and Rebecca Rittenhouse as their ambitious blond trophy wives.
C: Also Delroy Lindo as the local sheriff.
E: Oh, that makes me feel marginally better, I guess. I try to cast a wide net and give lots of new shows a chance, but there’s nothing interesting to me going on here. And the groan-worthy quotes I just heard on the radio? (“You don’t become a billionaire without making a few enemies?”) UGH.
C: Yeah, this is yet another one of those shows where the angst of being (or becoming) a rich white man is put on a pedestal as the most interesting possible thing to tell a story about, and the period setting gives a great excuse to glory in outdated ideologies. I will be so happy if/when this trend dies away. And maybe a trend of compelling, high-quality stories about the non-privileged in history could miraculously arise in its place?
M: Hmm, how about Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Or Chicago Fire/PD/Med? Or NCIS: Everywhere? Or The Flash? Or Big Bang? Or Two Broke Girls? Or almost every other show on TV? You’re losing the forest for the trees, sis.
E: I’m not even sure what you mean by that (other than the heroes of those shows being white) but C’s point is that the glamorization of the rich and privileged is boring. And honestly, I’d say it feels dated to me — very 80s. Say what you will about them (and we surely have), most of ABC’s current soaps featuring well off people are about lawyers and doctors who work their butts off (even when assisted by privilege or overpaid).
The Walking Dead (AMC), October 11th
E: And here it is, the zombie apocalypse drama that’s most popular show on cable.
C: I have not seen it. Zombies = too scary for me. You get to cover this one, E.
E: Yeah, and it’s way too gory for me, so I don’t have too much either. In season five, the survivors live in the walled city of Alexandria, with zombies and an evil gang called The Wolves on the outside, and a rebellion within. Good times!
The Good Wife (CBS), October 4th*
M: As our regular readers know, this show it’s E’s passion. We’ll be kind, stop our usual snarking, and leave the preview to you, sis.
C: The floor is yours!
E: Aw! Thank you. First, I know I’ve complained often in these previews about shows going too dark. TGW actually gives me what I like; a real exploration of morality in action, of difficult real world choices with ethical complexity.
C: Always a good thing, though sometimes depressing…
E: Exactly. But. I haven’t made any secret of the fact that I hated the last season of my favorite show. I’m still pretty pissed off at the writers, really, for wasting so much of my time (and considering the depth of my recap, it actually is a ridiculous amount of time) having our lead character make choices that not only stepped far outside what I’ d have hoped for her, but also ones that didn’t feel true. Oh, it was still beautifully written and acted, but I spent the year screaming “don’t do that, that’s the worst decision ever!” at the television, which was really not fun. I’m hoping that the show can recover from Alicia’s ill-conceived political campaign.
M: As opposed to Castle, which **spoilers** wisely had Beckett reject the offer to run for State Senate in between last season’s finale and this one’s premiere.
E: Phew! The writers have said that they used Josh Charles’s departure at the end of season five to really shake up Alicia’s world, to force her to look at herself.
M: Wasn’t that the original premise of the show? Nevermind, sorry, I’ll stop interrupting.
E: Well, he didn’t die at the beginning of the show, M. Anyway. Shaking up her world seems like it ought to be a good thing. What made it so hard and unsatisfying to watch, however, was that in her desperation and depression, she threw herself into risky and increasingly terrible decisions (both personal and professional) that became excruciatingly painful to witness. While it’s impressive that the writers and the network let her look like a jerk for so long, it ceased to be entertaining. I mean, when the network puts up a poll and most viewers want her to lose the election? That can’t be good. Has she hit bottom, after being forced to resign the post she won after a cheating scandal? I hope so. I really hope so. I really hope the self-discovery starts here.
C: That stinks, E.
E: Hell yes it does. Since it’s start, I heard that the creators had a five-year plan for the show. I really, really wish they’d stuck to a five-year plan instead of hemorrhaging characters the way the show has in the last two years.
M: Huh, I thought that in the past when we discussed the episode title lengths, that they said their plan had been seven years all along. Interesting.
E: Oh, we’ve talked about your theory that this is the last season, which is a reasonable one. Maybe seven years is what they’re saying (or admitting to now), but I had heard five in multiple interviews earlier on. Anyway… There’s been no confirmation that this will be the last season of the show, so I guess we’ll see.
C: We’ve talked about this common TV problem so often, including on an earlier day of this preview. The immense pressure of keeping a lucrative thing going, versus the desire to make the right creative choice for the story… the first wins all too often.
E: As long as Alicia does not accept Louis Canning’s ridiculous offer to create a firm together, the new season has a shot of righting her ship. Of doing things her way — of actually figuring out what her way is. Perhaps because he’s only allowed to the hot second chance love interest for one icy lady at a time, Matthew Goode will be appearing this the final season of Downton Abbey instead of The Good Wife. And obviously, Archie Panjabi’s gone, Josh Charles is gone, and the rest of the legal team is sequestered over at Lockhart and Agos, or whatever they’re calling the firm these days. I keep hearing that Chris Noth (who relishes his independence and chance to do Broadway or whatever else strikes his fancy) is on the verge of jumping ship as well. For the love of God, take this show out while it’s on top!
M: Hopefully for you they pull off a great last season. And that if they do, CBS doesn’t decide to keep it going with new showrunners.
E: Oh, I don’t think that’s a factor here. Star Juliana Margulies is a producer, and I can’t imagine she’d go anywhere without the Kings. So let’s see what great writers can do with new talent and hopefully a better plot. Long known as the best place to guest star, we’ll meet new recurring characters (like Emmy winner Margo Martindale’s Democratic political consultant) and potential new series regulars, including Cush Jumbo (yes, that’s her actual name) as Alicia’s new friend and maybe colleague, Lucca Quinn, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as her new investigator Jason Crouse. Sigh. What the heck, Jess Weixler! Where did you go? If I can’t have Kalinda, I want Robyn back! I like Morgan a lot, but he hasn’t found a role that fits him well since Grey’s Anatomy‘s second season, and he’s popped up all over the place in the interim; TGW has brilliant casting, but they can occasionally make some pretty miserable mistakes (Monica Raymund, Scott Porter, Jason O’Mara).
Halloween Wars (Food Network), October 4th*
E: I love this show. I just flat out love it. It’s the most unadulterated joy of the fall TV season.
M: Um, okay then. I think it’s nice and all, but “the most unadulterated joy of the fall TV season?” I think you’re going a bit over the top, sis.
E: It’s just so much fun! It’s this brief little treat. Each of five teams boast a candy maker, a baker and pumpkin carver. No, none of the carvers will ever quite live up to genius Ray Villifane of the first season, but the whole enterprise is still pretty fantastic. They’re set challenges like creating a twisted fairytale, or a zombie prom, using the materials of their trades.
M: Um, how do you know none of them will live up to that guy you mentioned? Have you seen every other pumpkin carver in the world? I don’t think so.
E: Villifane is the Michelangelo of unconventional materials. Do a Google image search and tell me how anyone could do better than what you see there.
C: It’s impressive to be sure. Very impressive. But you’re probably overstating, even so.
E: Me? Never. One change that might excite you, M — your very most unfavorite host, Justin Willmin, has been replaced by Rossi Morreale. I have no idea who that is or if he’ll be a good host, but then I wasn’t bothered by Willmin like you’ve been. In fact, I think he was rather hilarious in this Drunk History-style engagement video.
M: Haha, that video actually endeared me to him a little bit, so he doesn’t bother me as much now. Plus, who knew he was a magician!
C: That video made me feel like they were trying a little too hard, but maybe that’s because I’m keyed up on wedding-related issues. I didn’t realize when I saw it that the guy was on TV.
E: He sure was, which is probably why they were able to make that high-quality video. So you’re saying you’ll be sorry to see him go, M? Shocking!
M: I wouldn’t go as far as “sorry.”
Family Guy (FOX), September 27th
E: It’s a long time since I’ve found this must watch TV.
M: Same here, a long time. Like, most of the time it’s been back from cancellation. It just hasn’t been as funny as it was before.
E: This season — the fourteenth — the family gets a visit from Peter’s professional wrestler sister, played by SNL‘s Kate McKinnon. That’s kind of awesome.
C: I don’t know who that is. But I am not sure I could name a single SNL cast member, so… this is a meaningless comment.
M: Really, all it points out is that when E listed the cast of SNL in the preview TWO DAYS AGO, that you weren’t paying attention.
E: One of my sibs tuning me out? Shocking. So shocking. More plot: Brian and Stewie experiment with prescription drugs and Chris with sexting (ew).
M: Can we please go back to Stewie trying to kill Lois while no one but Brian notices, and Peter being an clumsy but funny goof?
C: Damned if you change things up, damned if you don’t. The classic television writing dilemma.
Doll & Em (HBO), September 12th
E: This is a super quick little six-episode series of a wispy little sitcom about two real friends, Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells, who write, produce and star in this semi-autobiographical story of their friendship. Fabulous guest stars include Mikhail Barishnikov, Ewan McGregor, Mortimer’s The Newsroom costar Olivia Wilde, Evan Rachel Wood.
M: Wow, that’s quite the cast.
C: Okay, yeah, that sounds legitimately great. Not that I’ve heard of Wells. The second season — or “series” if you want to get British about it — has already aired in the UK so I assume that’s what’s premiering now. (The show’s director, by the way, has the astonishing name Azazel Jacobs.) The premise is that Dolly was Emily’s best friend and then Emily hired her as her personal assistant after getting (relatively) famous, which complicates their relationship. Both seem quite charming in this approximation of real life.
The Leftovers (HBO), October 4th
E: Mr E and I watched almost the entire first season of this Damon Lindelof show in a sort of sick fascination. It’s so well made, and so mysterious. In the end, though, the level of mystery became too frustrating. So earlier in the summer, given that there was no information online about whether a second season was ever going to happen, we deleted the final three episodes of the first season. And a couple weeks later, we started to see the commercials for season two.
M: Well, if you got three episodes within the end, and didn’t want to watch them, maybe you’re saving yourself the time by skipping season two.
C: Gotta agree that seems like the right call.
E: Oh, yeah, I’m not going back. To sum up: 2% of the world’s population simply disappeared, as if taken in the Rapture. No one has been able to come up with a clear pattern behind why some people were taken and others left behind. How do the leftovers learn to live with each other, with themselves and with the absence of their loved ones? Not well.
M: 2%? That’s awfully pessimistic! And if proportionate worldwide, that would mean only about 6 million people in the U.S. It’s a lot, but not that big a dent overall that it would mess up the entire populace, I don’t think.
C: Depends how it’s distributed. One in every extended family, every large workplace…
E: Yeah, I guess maybe you wouldn’t think so, but it totally messed with the heads of well, everyone. The new season starts with former sheriff Justin Theroux having moved whatever’s left of his clan (including I think love interest Carrie Coon and dad Scott Glenn) to Miracle, Texas, where no one disappeared. This is supposed to give the show a less bleak tone, but one still in keeping with the first season.
C: That’s good. It seems like a bit much to have that much angst in a show named after doggie bags.
Masterpiece Mystery (PBS), September 6th*
E: Right now, what’s been airing on Mystery has been an adaptation of Arthur and George, the story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle solving an actual mystery involving animal mutilation and the racially-charged prosecution of an innocent man.
C: Stars Martin Clunes of Doc Martin. I hear it’s an absolutely fantastic novel, by the way. Been meaning to read it for a few years now. As for later on in the year, PBS is keeping frustratingly mum — but you may luck out if you check the website of your local PBS affiliate channel.
E: Oh, I’ve read it, and it is. The episodes are sitting on my DVR waiting for me to have a little more free time.
Homeland (Showtime), October 4th
E: After a critically panned third season, Homeland came out guns blazing last year in a return to adulation and Emmy nominations, by taking the show to the Middle East. This was good for the show, but perhaps not for the people who Carrie and Saul were supposed to be protecting in Islamabad. Season Five sees Carrie working in Berlin in private security for liberal think tank the During Foundation. It’s a good job, and she has a stable, happy relationship both with daughter Frannie and with a German boyfriend (Alexander Fehling.)
M: Well, you know that won’t last.
E: Gee, M, what makes you say that? Why so pessimistic?
M: Gee, I wonder.
C: Come on, E, don’t dally with our readers’ patience.
E: In fact, it does not last. Saul (Mandy Patinkin) shows up to smooth over some spying tensions between the US and German governments with the help of German bureau chief Miranda Otto. Also appearing: Rupert Friend as mysterious operative Peter Quinn.
C: Former Mr. Wickham/Orlando Bloom-lookalike Rupert Friend? I’d been idly wondering where he’d gotten to.
E: All in all, the season purports to look at privacy laws, internal surveillance and the politics of spying on your allies. Your basic modern nightmare.
Flesh and Bone (Starz), November 8th
E: If I had Starz, I’d totally watch this tough and twisty ballerina story, starring actual ballerina Sarah Hay.
C: Flesh and Bone, Blood and Oil… the titles could use an injection of creativity, but the crossover would be fun to watch.
M: Yeah, they apparently got the person who wrote the titles for all of Steven Segal’s movies (Hard To Kill, Marked For Death, Out For Justice…).
E: Snort. I like it. Least anyone think this is a sweet and pretty tale, creator Moira Walley-Beckett wants us all to know that this is Breaking Bad: Ballerina. Take a quick stab at where she used to work?
C: Um, as a writer on Breaking Bad?
E: Ding Ding ding!
The Last Man on Earth (FOX), September 27th
E: I’m totally show overloaded in the 9pm hour, but I hear good things about this post-apocalyptic comedy. I really can’t believe something this original and goofy-looking is on FOX.
C: I guess what I feel about this show is that it is directly aimed at people like my friends, so it seems like a weird sign that I’ve never heard a peep about anyone watching it.
M: I know a few that do. Most think it’s mildly, quirkily amusing.
E: It really does look that way. Instead of bemoaning the virus that wiped out pretty nearly everyone else on earth, Will Forte’s uses the world and all that stuff that’s left over as his playground. Take a bath in a kiddie pool filled with margaritas. Hang priceless works of art on his walls. Why the heck not? Somebody should be looking at them, right?
M: Certainly a different end of the world scenario than the excellent book E and I both recently read, Station Eleven.
E: Apparently last season involved him meeting Kristen Schaal and marrying her under the impression that they were the last people on earth – and then divorcing when he realized there were a few other women out there. Now they’re back together, and living in the White House. As you would.
Quantico (ABC), September 27th*
E: Now this looks and feels like ABC to me — a very sudsy show about a very ambitious, diverse group of cadets at the famed and elite CIA training facility: one part boot camp and one part grad school, according to the commercials. I don’t know how the actual CIA would advertise the program.
C: Let’s say — definitely not that way.
M: Safe bet.
E: I love that ABC is putting a big push behind Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra, the cadet who’s the lead of the ensemble. Her fellow trainees — one of whom turns out to be a terrorist mole — include Unreal‘s Johanna Braddy, Tate Ellington, Brian J. Smith, Jake McLaughlin, Graham Rogers and Yasmine Al Massri, who’s one of the first female American Muslim characters I can think of who’s a series regular and not background in an episode set in the Middle East. So, interesting.
C: Oh good grief, the terrorist mole. I mean, yawn. Could they do nothing less tiresomely predictable? And is that even the tiniest bit believable?
E: Now, okay, it’s soapy and implausible, but I don’t necessarily mind that.
M: I, on the other hand, am not a fan.
E: And being CIA agents, one hopes that the characters are motivated by more than just ambition; they’re altruistic and patriotic, which makes them more interesting to me than people who only care about money. I’m not saying I’ll stick with it, but I’m going to definitely check it out.
C: You had me very interested until the terrorist mole, so let me know if the show transcends that and maybe I’ll tune in!
E: I will. The showrunners hope to get viewers really involved with the mystery, and will no doubt have all sorts of online tools to help us track dodgy behavior through the season. My money’s on it not being Al Massri.
Into the Badlands (AMC), November 15th*
E: It’s not remotely related in style, but AMC’s choosing to fill the Mad Men-sized hole with a very cinematic looking apocalyptic drama. Hey, it works for them with The Walking Dead! No zombies here, though; instead, you get a freaking awesome-looking samurai Western set in a feudal land of opium farming, slavery, warring barons with martial arts trained fighters know as “clippers.”
C: I don’t tend to like Westerns, but that does sound like an intriguing aesthetic fusion.
M: Unless there are powerful white men, then C will be offended.
E: Well, there are some. Or at least one. Our stalwart hero is Daniel Wu’s Sunny, an astonishing sword fighter caught up in a war between Marton Csokas’s Quinn and Emily Beecham’s ambitious upstart The Widow.
E: Sure, it looks a little more bloody than I prefer, but I’m going to check it out anyway. Interestingly, it’s written and produced by Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, the team responsible for Smallville, Spiderman 2 and the upcoming Shannara Chronicles. (Mr. E was super thrilled to hear about that last one).
C: I’m curious to hear about it too! Is Game of Thrones finally starting a trend of adapting perennially popular fantasy sagas?
CSI (CBS), September 27th
E: So this is kind of fun. After spawning a franchise, inspiring a generation of forensic pathologists, holding a hallowed place in the story of procedurals, and spending a decade and a half on the air, CSI comes to a close with a huge two hour finale.
C: That’s “kind of fun”? CSI ending?
E: No, the way they’re doing it.
M: I knew what she meant, and actually agree.
E: Wow. Thanks, M. I can’t remember a finale ever starting off a new season instead of ending an old one, but I think it’s pretty awesome that the CBS brass is paying this show its proper respect with a big send-off. Not every network is that cool (witness NBC’s summary execution of Law & Order) so they get big props from me.
C: Considering this has been a tentpole for them, I can’t imagine them doing anything less than having a big finale. I don’t know why having it in the fall makes it more respectful, exactly, but that’s interesting.
M: Mostly because it’s never been done.
CSI: Cyber (CBS)
E: Ted Danson makes the move over to Cyber now that CSI’s shutting down. This is just the first in a series of shakeups all hoping to goose this show into hit-territory. They’re also relying on lots of fun gadgets to spark our interest: blutooth basketballs, driverless cars, wi fi enabled dolls (creepy).
C: I guess it needs goosing, because I totally forgot this spin-off existed.
M: I didn’t forget, I just thought it got cancelled. Which is kind of the same thing.
E: Stars Patricia Arquette, Shad Moss (the artist formerly know as Lil Bow Wow), James Van Der Beek and Hayley Kiyoko return.
The Royals (E!), November 15th
E: Why am I listing a series from E!, you might ask? No, it’s not because I share a letter with them: it’s for the cast, headed by Elizabeth Hurley as dowager Queen Helena.
C: Whoa, wait, dowager queen of where? I assume we’re not talking about the mother of Constantine.
E: No, fictional royalty of England.
M: Dammit, another show about a powerful white man!
E: Har har. Also, I’m not sure why you’re calling Elizabeth Hurley a man. If you picture the British Royals as a group of hard partying, nasty hedonists, that’s about what you get here. Oh, and you also get one dead king (Simon) and one new one (his Machiavellian brother Cyrus, played by Jake Maskall). Then throw in Helena’s kids (Alexandra Park and, in a rather different turn, William Moseley — Peter Pevensie from the Narnia films), drama over the fact that they may or may not also be Simon’s, pomp, promiscuity and a Gossip Girl-style wardrobe, and you have soap to the Nth degree.
C: As opposed to the much better kind of wardrobe.
The Widower (PBS), October 4th*
E: This is actually a miniseries starring the fabulously named Reese Shearsmith, Kate Fleetwood, and John Hannah of The Mummy and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Super creepy story of a charming serial killer who, as the title suggests, murders his wives so subtly that no one notices until the bodies start to pile up.
M: Right, sign me up. (sarcmark)
E: The drama, which aired last year on Britain’s ITV, was based on the real life of Malcolm Webster. The look is very frumpy and very 80s.
C: Frumpy 80s look and bodies piling up. Are you trying to sell this? Because your tone suggests you are and your content suggests the opposite.
E: Hey, I saved the best bit for last! Guess who else is part of the cast? The former Good Wife star Archie Panjabi. Sob. I will be tuning in just to see her.
C: Wow, I guess you actually were.
M: Not sell it, per se, more trying to justify watching it.
The Affair (Showtime), October 4th
E: The acclaimed infidelity drama is yet another show that I would totally watch if I had the premium channel in question. Really, I could take a week’s worth of viewing from Sunday night.
C: This infidelity drama is an infidelity drama so I basically could not have less interest in watching it.
M: And I’m sure you can guess which sister I’m siding with.
E: Yeah, I know. The first season brought us the alternating view points of Ruth Wilson and Dominic West as they conducted an affair and, in an unspecified future, talked about it with detectives trying to solve a murder. This season, the show is adding the POVs of their betrayed spouses, Joshua Jackson and Maura Tierney. The Americans get their say! Cool.
M: Or, you know, not cool.
C: I mean, good grief, they’ve got to do something to keep the story going. It’s an affair. How is that even the premise of a series?
E: One neat feature of the show: the writers think of the story in terms of flashforwards (or future present) rather than flashbacks. Not that it matters, I guess, I just found that a curious distinction.
C: That worked sooooooooooo well in the later seasons of LOST! Oh wait. No, nope, it stunk.
E: The showrunners promise that this season we will find out what happened to Scott Lockhart, who murdered him and what will happen to them as a result.
M: And on that incredibly positive note, we wrap the regular schedule of Fall TV Previews! We’ll be back soon, however, with the Streaming Preview!