Sullivan & Son
Thursday, July 19 (TBS)
Series Debut: Like FX’s Anger Management and TBS’ own Men at Work, Sullivan & Son is another neo-traditional, laugh-tracked sitcom—but at least it’s fresher than the former and funnier than the latter. Steve Sullivan (comic Steve Byrne) is a corporate Wall Street lawyer who drags his uptight girlfriend to his hometown of Pittsburgh to meet his family, who own and operate a neighborhood pub. No sooner than you can say Ed Walks Into Cheers, dad (Dan Lauria) announces he’s selling the joint to retire and, overcome with nostalgia and flat Bud draft, Steve announces he’s leaving the New York City lawyer life to buy and run the bar (like you do). For a cheap cable comedy, the cast and writing of Sullivan & Son are surprisingly sharp; it’s easily the best Irish-Korean-American pub comedy currently on Thursday nights.
Portlandia: The Brunch Special
Friday, July 20 (IFC)
Special: Remember the decidedly meh Season 2 finale of Portlandia that, instead of flogging several urban hipster clichés to varying degrees of hilarious death, stretched one joke (a way-too-popular brunch spot) over an entire episode? Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein—or, more likely, IFC—actually believed “Brunch Village” merited the full-on director’s-cut treatment, replete with extra footage, behind-the-scenes peeks and commentary (“See, in Portland, it’s really, really, really hard to get brunch. And Marion Berry pancakes sounds funny, so …”). Of all Season 2, which included solid hits like “One Moore Episode,” “Cat Nap” and “No Olympics,” why this episode? The Mayor should be very disappointed.
Oddities: San Francisco
Saturday, July 21 (Science)
Season Finale: Like every other penny-grabbing network on cable, the Science Channel wants a piece of that sweet reality-TV pie, whether it makes a lick of brand sense or not. Rednecks on A&E? Sharks on the History Channel? Music on MTV? They all fit as well as Oddities: San Francisco, which The Only TV Column That Matters™ accidentally ran across during one of Science’s damned-near-every-weekend Firefly marathons. Think a bizarro-goth twist on Pawn Stars: Audra Kunkle’s Loved to Death shop on Haight Street carries antique medical/biological items, Victorian jewelry, whatever “taxidermy dioramas” are and other creeptastic fare; tonight’s finale includes Kinkle tracking down “a reptilian oddity for an illusionist” and staffer Wednesday Mourning (yep) appraising a vintage electric chair. Science could be the new Sci-Fi (not Syfy) channel.
Sunday, July 22 (Adult Swim)
Season Premiere: Early Culyer of epic Southern saga Squidbillies has a message for “Publicists, PR folk and the rest of you New York liberal media blogophiles who don’t never write a damned thing about my badass TV program: My show is a well-thought-out drama spanning many generations!” You certainly can’t say that about Hart of Dixie—maybe Justified, which is kind of the live-action Squidbillies if you don’t think about it. Early concludes with, “America’s No. 1 … in this country. Write about that!” Powerful.
Warehouse 13, Alphas
Monday, July 23 (Syfy)
Season Premieres: Last season of Warehouse 13 ended with said warehouse of supernatural artifacts being blow’d up good by vengeful whackjob Walter Sykes (Anthony Michael Hall), also taking out several main characters. Show of hands: Who saw a time-travel reset coming? Still, the Season 4 opener of the usually lightweight Warehouse 13 hints at darker times ahead—as if being stationed in South Dakota weren’t dark enough. On the Season 2 premiere of Alphas … it’s still X-Men, but at least the super-powered band of misfits is clicking better now, and the plotting has evolved from stoopid to merely stupid. That’s something.