Thursday, April 24 (CBS)
Series Debut: Do we really need a weekly sitcom take on Cameron Diaz’s Bad Teacher when the 2011 movie is still running on cable 24/7? If Diaz’s TV replacement is Ari Graynor (For a Good Time, Call), yes. The single-camera-no-laugh-track Bad Teacher comes off like a Fox comedy that wound up on CBS, and Graynor’s Meredith, a dumped trophy wife who fakes her way into teaching at an upscale elementary school to snag Rich Husband No. 2, is far more appealing than Diaz’s toxic film version. She and vet David Allen Grier, as Nixon Middle School’s principal, make Bad Teacher CBS’ funniest new comedy in years—which means it won’t last long; catch it while you can.
Black Box (ABC)
Thursday, April 24
Series Debut: In 2013, NBC premiered (and two weeks later canceled) Do No Harm, about a brilliant surgeon with a nocturnal second personality that was more fun—and, well, murderous—then the dull daytime doctor. Never a network to pass up an already proven bad idea, ABC now brings you Black Box, the story of a renowned neurologist (Kelly Reilly) whose under-wraps bipolar disorder gives her “insight into her patients” and full Acting! license to turn into a batshit-loony sex-bomb nightmare on a dime because Drama. She flushes her pills because she does her “best work” (i.e., manic scribbles on her arms during blackouts and hallucinations) off the meds, and lives with the consequences (the viewers’ consequences: all of her personalities are annoying). Like Do No Harm, Black Box makes for good trainwreck hate-watching—and, since ABC blindly ordered 13 episodes without a pilot(!), there’ll be plenty of it.
Last Week With John Oliver
Sunday, April 27 (HBO)
Series Debut: Former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver would have been The Guy to take over Stephen Colbert’s soon-to-be-vacated Colbert Report slot at Comedy Central, but HBO got him first. Not that he’ll be reporting the top news first because, as the title implies, “Whenever a story breaks … John Oliver will cover it the following Sunday.” Whatever Last Week With John Oliver lacks in immediacy and daily-ness, he’ll probably make up for with F-bombs (it’s HBO—they’re mandatory).
Friends With Better Lives
New Series: With an odd mix of genuinely funny actors who deserve better (James Van Der Beek, Zoe Lister-Jones) and the exact opposite (Kevin Connolly, Brooklyn Decker), Friends With Better Lives (and its obnoxiously enforced hashtag #FWBL) at least has the distinction of being even dirtier than lead-in 2 Broke Girls—if you can name another network sitcom with more blowjob jokes per minute, The Only TV Column That Matters™ will … congratulate you. Apart from the aforementioned Bad Teacher, the only comedy criteria CBS execs seem to care about anymore are “Will it fill a half-hour?” and “Is the laugh track loud enough to drown out the screaming conscience in my head?” Done and done!
Tuesday, April 29 (USA)
Series Debut: If you somehow recall Best Friends Forever, Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham’s 2012 NBC comedy about two almost-uncomfortably close girlfriends, know that Playing House is totally different. Then, St. Clair played a recent divorcee who moved in with her BFF (Parham) for support. This time, Parham plays a pregnant recent divorcee who moves in with her BFF (St. Clair) for support. Cut Parham and St. Clair some slack—no one saw the hilariously charming Best Friends Forever, and Playing House has the edge with better co-stars (like Keegan-Michael Key and Jane Kaczamerek) and the chance of living beyond six episodes. Say, maybe 10!