Bad Judge, A to Z
Thursday, Oct. 2 (NBC)
Series Debuts: On second viewing, The Only TV Column That Matters™ has revised its assessment of Bad Judge: Kate Walsh is still great as a party-animal judge, but this sitcom is an underdeveloped mess, even compared to NBC's own Mysteries of Laura, the fall TV season's designated Underdeveloped Mess. Given better writers and a home on cable (Walsh's smart, wicked comic streak would kill on FX or Showtime), Bad Judge could have been a contender. Rom-com A to Z, on the other hand, is more focused and on-point with the network's recent Less Weird/More Sweet comedy mandate. Plus, Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother's mother) and Ben Feldman (Mad Men's Ginsberg) have an easy, if somewhat vanilla, chemistry. Only one of these shows is likely to make it out of October alive—guess which?
Thursday, Oct. 2 (Fox)
Series Debut: Like the British crime series Broadchurch, but wish it were more 'Merican and dull? Here's Gracepoint, with Broadchurch star David Tennant reprising his detective role with questionable haircut 2.0 and a faint air of "Haven't I already done this?" Joining him is Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn, and the pair will work a single murder case for 10 episodes—like The Killing, but with a (promised) conclusion. Tennant and Gunn work the dialogue and trenchcoats effectively, but there's about as much reason for Gracepoint to exist as any subsequent season of, well, The Killing.
Sunday, Oct. 5 (Fox)
Series Debut: It's already out there that Mulaney is the worst new sitcom of the season, but the question was posed to my TV Tan podcast (available on iTunes and Stitcher, kids) recently: Is it worth hate-watching, or at least a drinking game? My theory is that quality hate-watching requires at least one redeeming element in a show, something not-eye-gougingly heinous on which to focus—in Mulaney's case, that would be ex-Saturday Night Live player Nasim Pedrad, who must have paid someone off to get the only funny lines in the pilot (though the cranked-to-11 laugh track begs you to believe that it's all funny). As for a drinking game, just take a shot every time star John Mulaney, who possesses all of the acting skill of a young Seinfeld ... 8x10 ... recites a cue card like it's a Chinese takeout menu; tomorrow morning, you won't remember this ever happened.
Sunday, Oct. 5 (Showtime)
Two-Hour Season Premiere: It's nowThe Carrie Mathison Show (iffy idea, Showtime), as our precarious heroine is deployed to the Middle East (ditto, CIA). The first hour of Homeland's Season 4 premiere doesn't offer much hope for a post-Brody future; it's a deadly dull slog of exposition and bad jazz livened up only by the sight of guest star Corey Stoll free of his hilarious wig from The Strain. The second hour makes a better case for Claire Danes carrying the series—if you make it that far.
Tuesday, Oct. 7 (The CW)
Series Debut: Fox's Gotham has all the marketing muscle, but this high-gloss Arrow spin-off is the season's most comic-booky series of the DC Comics wave. The Flash, about Central City CSI investigator-turned-Fastest Man Alive Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), is closer to the early years of Smallville than the dark and growlyArrow; even though there's some darkness in his past, nerdy Barry's having more fun here than broody Oliver Queen is back in Starling City. At the very least, it's better than CBS' 1990 attempt at a Flash TV series, back when televisions were square and the best Marvel Comics movie was Howard the Duck(!).