The periods are a giveaway. The more I watch ABC's lighter-than-helium super-spy romp Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which was just picked up to no one's surprise for a full season, the more I feel thrust back to a different time, a simpler and brighter time when organizations like U.N.C.L.E. (as in, The Man From ...) held sway on TV, fighting its evil counterpart T.H.R.U.S.H. — or given the hokey jokiness of S.H.I.E.L.D., maybe a better parallel is Get Smart and KAOS (which I'm not sure used periods, though maybe should have). I'm not what you'd call a comics maven, so I can't help it that I giggled every time the word "Gravitonium" was uttered in last week's episode. Things get a tad more serious this week (Tuesday, 8/7c) when the team comes across a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who's apparently gone rogue — but as the episode's title ("Eye Spy") suggests, you can't always believe your (or someone else's) eyes.
Mayim Bialik, Jim Parsons
Question: So now that we have quickly and predictably sorted out CBS's switch of We Are Men with Mike & Molly (and you called that one out a long time ago), can we now focus on further obvious moves for the Fox, NBC and ABC sitcom slates? I know Fox wants to be in the Seth MacFarlane business, but how soon can we banish the 1990s relic Dads and replace it with Raising Hope, which is just screaming to be back on Tuesdays? Can NBC just return low-rated but at least cult classic Community back to Thursdays where yes, it will do poorly but at least it has 80-plus episodes to its name and more value than these dire new cadets, so bye-bye Welcome to the Family, which was wrongly paired with Parks and Recreation to begin with. I can also live without Sean Hayes' and Michael J Fox's "supposed" comebacks, but one step at a time for poor NBC.
It's raining zombies, quite literally, by the end of the first hour of The Walking Dead's fourth harrowing season (Sunday, 9/8c, AMC). And when it rains, it pours blood. Just how fans like it.
But it's in the pauses between the gruesome action, those eerie and unsettling silences, when we're reminded there's no rest for the living in a treacherous world where swarming walkers are constantly pressing against the prison-shelter gates, insatiable and relentless. In these quieter moments, Dead reinforces its claim as TV's greatest horror drama by making us care so desperately about the characters' humanity.
Michael Sosha, Sophie Lowe
Is this Alice or Alias? Something to ponder while navigating the deluxe rabbit-hole theme-park ride of ABC's Once Upon a Time in Wonderland spinoff (Thursday, 8/7c), in which a feisty and literally kick-ass Alice (Sophie Lowe) battles her way out of insane-asylum confinement with Sydney Bristow-level brio. She even has a Will Tippen-like sidekick in the sheepishly raffish Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha of the British Being Human), who stands by as Alice goes all action heroine.
Luke Mitchell and Peyton List
The CW's beyond-generic The Tomorrow People feels like yesterday's news — and not just because it's adapted from a '70s British sci-fi series. Turns out this isn't as durable a property as Doctor Who, or maybe the reboot is just that bad. Cut from the same angsty pattern of so many CW supernatural shows, Tomorrow (Wednesday, 9/8c) offers up a duller than usual gaggle of pretty, overripe CW teens-in-their-20s with superpowers. The "Tomorrow People," we learn in an endless prattle of exposition, are a cluster of genetic mutations whose special gifts emerge upon adolescence. Forget pimples. This subculture specializes in the "three T's": teleportation, telepathy, telekinesis. They forgot "tired," "tepid" and "too too derivative," which much better describes the experience of meeting these lost kids.
Sarah Shahi, Paige Turco and Taraji P. Henson
Last Thursday, I was honored to moderate a panel at the "Made in NY" PaleyFest at New York's Paley Center, celebrating the third season of CBS's terrific cyber-thriller Person of Interest. Before the discussion with many of the show's cast and executive producer Jonathan Nolan, there was a screening of this week's episode (Tuesday, 10/9c) — the best of the season to date, and a fairly pivotal one — that is especially enjoyable in how it showcases the series' fabulous femmes fatales. With the target du jour a chameleon Casanova, the women must act as nightclub and social-media bait: an off-duty and glammed-up Carter (Taraji P. Henson), the ferociously trigger-happy Shaw (Sarah Shahi, hilariously playing against her natural beauty) and Reese's favorite fixer, the alluring Zoe Morgan (recurring co-star Paige Turco). A CBS contact refers to them as "Finch's Angels," and if they want to spin themselves off, that would be fine by me. A scene where the three ladies of the evening compare their weaponry is a riot. So's a later scene in which Shaw reflects on her disdain for relationships. (When I asked Shahi if Shaw has a soft side, she wasted no time in barking a "No.")
Until CBS stops going for Broke, it may be hard for Mom, one of the season's more promising and pungent new comedies, to get the break it, and the title character, deserves. What's happening to CBS on Monday with its once-dominant comedy lineup is a slow-fade version of the freefall NBC experienced with its Thursday lineup in the wake of Friends. Holding on to shows too long (How I Met Your Mother, which could have wrapped this whole thing way earlier), promoting shows too soon with too little to offer (the shrill and increasingly charmless 2 Broke Girls), making odd decisions like keeping the award-winning Mike & Molly on the shelf in favor of an insta-dud like the abysmal We Are Men, this is one of those rare nights when CBS's programming acumen has mostly crapped out. (Monday's loss is, of course, Thursday's gain, with former Monday anchors The Big Bang Theory and, to a lesser degree these days, the played-out Two and a Half Men helping get early sampling for newbies The Millers and The Crazy Ones.)
Nicole Beharie, Tom Mison
Question: So we had the first cancellation of the season with Lucky 7 after two showings. There are no tears from me as I never watched it. My question is: On what planet did anyone ever perceive this show's premise to be interesting or sustainable? Out of the hundreds of pilots, it is sometimes hard to believe someone at ABC thought this was one of the best. What do you think is next? — Rob
Matt Roush: Next for ABC, or next in the long annals of "what were they thinking" pilots? (That sound you hear is ABC kicking itself for not keeping Body of Proof around as a back-up, because for the time being, Scandal repeats will be airing in place of the unlucky 7.) To be fair, Lucky was based on a more successful British series, The Syndicate, but something clearly got lost in translation. (Same thing must have happened regarding ABC's equally mediocre Betrayal, based on a Dutch series and adapted by the same exec producer, who's batting 0 for 2 right now.) Your point about the sustainability of a pilot's premise is a good one, and comes up frequently when analyzing the failure of shows as disparate as last season's Last Resort and (though it may be premature) this season's Hostages — more on that one later. But from the moment many of us saw clips of Lucky 7 at last spring's upfront presentation, it felt like nothing we could imagine almost anyone would want to see. And we were right.
Next to Charlie Brown's Great Pumpkin, my favorite Halloween TV touchstone is The Simpsons' annual "Treehouse of Horror" special, with Mad Magazine-worthy parodies of things that go "D-oh!" in the night. It's airing unusually early this year in advance of post-season baseball pre-emptions, but what better way to get in the spirit — and as a bonus for the 24th edition (Sunday, 8/7c, Fox), horror maestro Guillermo Del Toro has designed an elaborate "couch gag" opening sequence that's a kaleidoscopic homage to...
After her breakthrough performances in Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect, no one would question why Rebel Wilson has become a sought-after star, or why ABC would want to build a show around her ample and fearlessly outrageous talents. But Super Fun Night hasn't been much of a joyride so far.
The original pilot, which has been replaced by another episode for its official premiere (9:31/8:31c), elicited this reaction from me in the Fall Preview issue: "The grotesque extremes to which Wilson stoops to get laughs in this frenetic vehicle have a whiff of desperation. It might also be more fun if she used her authentic Aussie accent." The objection stands about her Americanized speech (her choice), and while the new opener is a little less degrading — instead of exposing her body on a city street with flashing lights on her underwear, a new gag involves an office elevator door shredding her dress, revealing her Spanx at work — it's not much funnier.