Thursday, July 30 (ABC)
Series Debut: The biggest fantasy of The Quest is that the producers think they've invented a whole new genre in combining reality TV and scripted storytelling—that's Every! Reality! Show! Ever! Made! Still, a Dungeons & Dragons/Big Brother mashup is a shift from the usual reality-TV tropes, and The Quest will have an instant, built-in audience of LARPers, fantasy nerds and others who actually use words like "trope." The setup: 12 contestants are named Paladins ("defenders of a noble cause") and dressed up like Lord of the Rings extras to "compete to save the besieged kingdom of Everealm" until Only One remains. The ridiculousness of bartenders and MMA fighters in Frodo gear is offset by the sheer scope and design of the production: The Quest looks as expensive as Peter Jackson's catering budget, another departure from cheap-o reality standards. In other words, it's the least-terrible idea ABC has had all summer.
Friday, Aug. 1 (Netflix)
Season Premiere: Apparently, The Killing can't be killed—sure, they say this is the absolute last season, but what else is new? The series' first two much-hailed-then-whined-about seasons on AMC chronicled a single murder case of a teen girl; Season 3, back from cancellation, found detectives Linden (Mireille Enos) and Holder (Joel Kinnaman) searching for another girl; this six-episode "final" season on Netflix follows a multiple-homicide case at an all-boys military academy—no girls allowed. The Killing has since been surpassed by True Detective and The Bridge in atmospherics and dark edge, but Enos' Linden is still one of the most unique characters on TV, or whatever we're calling Netflix now.
Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda
Saturday, Aug. 2 (Syfy)
Movie: As we all know by now, the Sharktopus is a hybrid of shark and octopus, as originated in director Roger Corman's 2010 Syfy film of the same name. In this long-long-long-overdue sequel, the Sharktopus meets its match in the Pteracuda, a half pterodactyl/half barracuda mis-created in a lab inconveniently located adjacent to a beach full of bikini babes and hard-body bros (and, in a brief, violent and Emmy-lock guest performance, cable TV's Conan O'Brien). Who will emerge victorious, besides lovers of exemplary cinema? The title of Corman's next sequel may contain the answer/spoiler: Sharktopus vs. Mermantula. You're on deck, Jimmy Fallon.
Bachelor in Paradise
Monday, Aug. 4 (ABC)
Series Debut: How is Bachelor in Paradise different from Bachelor Pad? On Bachelor Pad, pathetic, desperate excuses for human beings who were rejected by Bachelors and Bachelorettes in prior seasons were herded together to exchange STDs and further annoy America. Bachelor in Paradise is set in Mexico.
Monday, Aug. 2 (FX)
Series Debut: This could have been something great, an oddball pairing of once-mighty sitcom actors in a single-camera, no-laugh-track, zero-frills setting à la Louie or Maron, wherein they could show off their veteran comic chops in a whole new setting. But no—we get Partners, a lazy, canned-laughs throwback in the creaky vein of TV Land and FX's still-marching-toward-death Anger Management (Charlie Sheen's retirement package will now be airing after Partners, BTW). Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence play mismatched Chicago lawyers forced to team up because ... does it really matter? What in the name of Franklin & Bash was FX thinking? The Only TV Column That Matters™ has a theory that FX schedules a dog once in a while so other networks won't feel so overwhelmed and jealous of their otherwise perfect record of quality programming and critical acclaim. Or Grammer and Lawrence (and, previously, Sheen and George Lopez) possess some incriminating photos.