State of Affairs
Monday, Nov. 17 (NBC)
Series Debut: Katherine Heigl was great in Grey's Anatomy, and then Knocked Up—let's pretend she joined the Peace Corps in 2007 and is just now returning to acting, OK? In State of Affairs, she plays a CIA analyst/adviser with a special relationship with the president (Alfre Woodard): She was engaged to POTUS' son before he was killed in a terrorist attack (as depicted in the pilot's intense, straight-outta-Zero Dark Thirty cold opening). Now, she drowns her pain in booze and random hookups by night and helps set foreign policy by day. Of course, as we've seen with Madam Secretary's middling ratings, this couldn't be just a straight-up political drama, so there's some Blacklist-y conspiratorial intrigue about the fiance not being what he seemed (or seems—yeah, it's like that). As long as Heigl isn't called upon to "banter" with her co-workers, as she is in a particularly awkward first-episode scene (set to Skynyrd, no less), State of Affairs could stick.
The Hollywood Film Awards
Friday, Nov. 14 (CBS)
Special: Is this really necessary? Another excuse to hand out trophies to celebrities for doing their damned jobs, after harassing them about "who they're wearing" on the obligatory red carpet? Apparently, the imaginatively titled Hollywood Film Awards was launched in 1997 by a marketing "genius" who's so good that it took him 17 years to get it televised ... on a Friday night. Now, I'm not against recognizing quality work in movies—although I do oppose it for music, because none is being produced in the mainstream anymore—but after the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Independent Spirit Awards and, hell, the AVN Awards, there's no need for another dress-up dog & pony show. And 22 Jump Street is just gonna get snubbed anyway.
Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B
Saturday, Nov. 15 (Lifetime)
Movie: While you'd be right to be suspicious of anything co-produced by Wendy Williams, at least biopic (or telefilm, depending which TV-fabricated word you prefer) Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B has some solid biographical roots in bestseller More Than a Woman, by ex-Time music editor Christopher John Farley. Meaning, The Princess of R&B has more in common with VH1's fun and lively CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story than recent Lifetime hackjobs like The Brittany Murphy Story, Anna Nicole, Prosecuting Casey Anthony and, probably by next weekend, The Life & Death of Brittany Maynard. "Street but sweet" Aaliyah was only 22 when she was killed in a plane crash in 2001, but she racked up a staggering number of hits that still hold up today—most of which star Alexandra Shipp delivers here with eerie accuracy and verve. Remember "hits" and platinum records? Those were the days ...
Wednesday, Nov. 19 (A&E)
Series Debut: Do we have the space for me to go off on another rant about A&E's creative shortsightedness and their gawdawful, over-scripted redneck-reality shows? Or at least how Country Buck$ is just a shameless, beardless clone of Duck Dynasty? No? OK, here's this: #SaveLongmire.
Wednesdays (El Rey)
New Series: TNA Impact attempted to do it, but eventually just became a pale imitation of the WWE enemy itself—thankfully, Lucha Underground has arrived to show 'Merica what a bloated corporate bore gringo pro-wrestling has devolved into. Part backstage infotainment, part telenovela and all high-flying ring action, Lucha Underground feels and looks (it's filmed, not videotaped) like no other 'rassling show north of the border; the emphasis is squarely on the sport, and male and female wrestlers often face off as equals. They're coming for your jobs, American beefcake.