Friday, Sept. 12 (Syfy)
Series Debut: The Only TV Column That Matters™ had high hopes for Z Nation, Syfy's would-be answer to The Walking Dead—not officially, but at this point in the game, any new zombie-based series will automatically be labeled as such. Too bad it's a terribly written, cheaply shot (seriously, it looks like it was filmed on an iPhone—a 4, at best) and spottily cast (don't get attached to lone A-lister Harold Perrineau, just sayin') crapshoot with only a handful of "Damn!" moments worth a look (two words: zombie baby). Three years after a zombie apocalypse has ravaged the country, a ragtag band of survivors (led by Tom Everett Scott) have to get an ex-military test patient from New York to California for the possible formulation of an anti-Z vaccine. Meanwhile, for no apparent reason, a left-behind soldier (DJ Qualls) performs a stilted Pump Up the Volume/Good Morning Vietnam radio-voiceover shtick from a remote Arctic communications base, because ...? The kills are passable, but The Walking Dead has made it impossible to just skate by on gore anymore—where did all that money you didn't spend on Sharknado 2 go, Syfy?
Fridays & Tuesdays (Fox)
New Series: It's a reality show with no prize, a "social experiment" ... ugh ... wherein a disparate group of people are dropped in the middle of nowhere for a year(!) and forced to create their own society and infrastructure. This "daring" "new" reality-show concept (swiped from a Dutch series, of course) at least sounds like a departure from the norm, but Utopia is really just another exploitative freak showcase, like Big Brother without a hot tub, or Survivor with no potential survivors. But at least Fox isn't overdoing it: The Dutch version of Utopia airs five nights a week; we're only subjected to two.
New Girl, The Mindy Project
Tuesday, Sept. 16 (Fox)
Season Premieres: Unfortunately, one of those nights is Tuesday, so Utopia will be providing a weak (going by the show's ratings thus far) lead-in for New Girl this season, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been relocated to Sundays with cartoons and the comedic black hole that is the new Mulaney. Zooey Deschanel and the gang will absorb the hit, but The Mindy Project can't afford to lose any more viewers—especially not with the potentially show-killing Season 3 storyline of coupling Mindy (Mindy Kaling) with Danny (Chris Messina). Better idea: Send Mindy to Utopia; they'll need an OB/GYN eventually.
Red Band Society
Wednesday, Sept. 17 (Fox)
Series Debut: A dramedy with the snarky teen attitude ofGleeand none of the musical numbers, Red Band Society (a title that beat outSadder Children's HospitalandKancer Kidz!) is the only real chance Fox is taking this season besides Gotham. Like earlyGlee, the young cancer-ward residents are all fresh-faced newbies spouting rapid-fire pop-cultural zingers, leavened with gallows humor and grounded by older actors of note (Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable as hospital staff). And the show's narrator is a child in a coma, so "deal with it" (even Coma Kid has 'tude). Hopefully, RBS can avoid the Glee death spiral (yes, I'm aware of the phrasing).
The Mysteries of Laura
Wednesday, Sept. 17 (NBC)
Series Debut: There are two shows here: One's a cop show where a surprisingly effective Debra Messing plays a wisecracking, been-there-done-that NYPD detective who wouldn't be out of place on Brooklyn Nine-Nine or evenLaw & Order: Special Victims Unit, the other is where she's a harried single-ish mom to awful, awful twins. Call me when they dump the brats.