Survivor: Toncantins Thursday, Feb. 12 (CBS)
Season Premiere: Where the hell are the Toncantins? In the Brazilian Highlands, says here. CBS also claims the latest round of Survivor contestants (sorry, I’m not referring to them as “castaways”) will “battle scorching temperatures, torrential downpours and dangerous wildlife.” Naturally, all The Only TV Column That Matters™ can giddily imagine is Jeff Probst burning, drowning and then being crushed by an anaconda, but there’s slightly more to Survivor: Toncantins than that: Two chumps will be voted off in the very first episode, and one of them could be Utah’s own Tyson Apostol! But, tweaks aside, it’s just the same ol’ Survivor, Jeff Probst still breathing and all.
Millionaire Matchmaker Thursday, Feb. 12 (Bravo)
Season Premiere: Season 2?! Wha?! Bravo has a decent track record with reality shows wherein talented people actually produce useful things: Project Runway (designers making clothes), Top Chef (culinary artists making dishes), Tabitha’s Salon Takeover (prickly Brit making bad hairstylists cry), etc. The Real Housewives series don’t count, because they involve neither reality nor people. But this raging douche receptacle who calls herself “the Millionaire Matchmaker”? Worst. Person. On. Earth. Patti Stanger, please crawl into a flaming dumpster and die. Thank you.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Friday, Feb. 13 (Fox)
Return: After getting its shiny metal ass kicked on Mondays last year, Fox has moved Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles to the dreaded Friday Night Death Slot for 2009—which should come as no surprise, since that’s where all Fox sci-fi shows end up … ah, M.A.N.T.I.S. On the upside, Fox has at least produced some killer Grindhouse-inspired promos for the Friday-night Terminator/Dollhouse block that make the robot Apocalypse and recreational brain-wiping look like sexy-sleazy fun. Maybe it’ll bring some new eyes to one of the best action series—sci-fi or otherwise—on TV. (Important viewing advice: Forget! The! Movies!) Can’t hurt that it’s now paired with …
Dollhouse Friday, Feb. 13 (Fox)
Series Debut: Never before has there been so much buzz around an as-yet-unseen series that no one quite comprehends—is it about spies? A futuristic bed-and-breakfast? Android hookers? The nut of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse is this: A secret organization rents out people (“Actives,” or “Dolls”) who’ve been imprinted with select personalities, skills and memories to fulfill missions or fantasies for high-paying clients; once the gig is over, the Active’s imprint is erased and they revert to blank, child-like state and bunk in what looks like an experimental Ikea showroom—kind of like The Real World, but with real jobs. When the Dollhouse’s best Active, Echo (Eliza Dushku), suddenly begins “remembering” and “feeling,” and the FBI starts sniffing out the group (what, this isn’t legal?), drama and weighty ethical issues ensue.
Unfortunately, at least in the first few episodes, there’s not much of the humor you’d expect from Buffy/Angel/Firefly maestro Whedon, and Dushku comes off a little too nice and passive for those of us (ahem) who still obsess over her previous incarnation, psycho badass Faith the Vampire Slayer. Minor kinks: If Dollhouse can manage to survive where no Fox series has since The X-Files (!), it could simultaneously develop into Whedon’s most complex series yet and save Friday nights. But hey, no pressure.