Johnny Sequoyah, Delroy Lindo
It's hard not to want to believe in talents like Alfonso Cuaron (of the amazing Gravity) and J.J. Abrams (no TV explanation necessary). These two very busy visionaries lend their names, and Cuaron his directing chops (in the pilot episode, anyway), for NBC's otherwise painfully derivative Believe (Monday, 10/9c), which plays like one of those middling Stephen King melodramas about supernaturally gifted children on the run for their lives.
Cuaron elevates the stock clichés with visual motifs of a butterfly providing mystical guidance and a dizzying flock of pigeons (my idea of a living nightmare) subduing a Big Bad Female Assassin in a loft. It's a handsome looking pilot, even at its most predictably familiar. And as Bo, the spunky little girl whose psychic and paranormal gifts seem to have no end — or, maddeningly, definition — Johnny Sequoyah is agreeable company, never too cute even when the script calls for Bo to be cloyingly precious. Because believe it or not, Believe feels it necessary to squelch the chase-thriller elements with schmaltzy subplots reminiscent of Fox's short-lived Touch. Bo knows goodness, and in between close calls as she eludes her well-funded potential kidnappers, she somehow finds time to inspire a young doctor to get past his crisis of confidence.
Just try telling Carrie Watts that you can't go home again. This elderly Texan, determined to make her way back to a town that time and everyone but she has forgot, bristles with restless gumption, fueled by an indomitable spirit that erupts in hymns she can't stop humming — or singing, as in a memorable scene set in a deserted bus station after midnight.
On Broadway, where Cicely Tyson won a Tony Award last year for her luminous performance as Carrie in a revival of The Trip to Bountiful, audiences often joined in as she sang "Blessed Assurance" in the play's rapturous high point. And for a moment, in Lifetime's languid movie adaptation (Saturday, 8/7c), you might find your own living room transformed into a choir loft.
Michael Mosley, Kevin Bigley, Kevin Daniels
Sound the alarm. Someone has a bad case of FX envy — and it isn't pretty. The smarmy and sophomoric Sirens, about three obnoxious Chicago paramedics, is USA Network's awkward attempt to branch out into the bawdy world of dark adult comedy (Thursday, 10/9). Confusing tastelessness and cheap profanity with actual humor, this misfire from executive producer Denis Leary feels like a series of limp outtakes from the more daring Rescue Me.
Max Thieriot, Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore
A&E certainly has an eye for talent, with the brooding Chloë Sevigny joining the electrifying Vera Farmiga in back-to-back Monday psycho- (or Psycho) dramas. Unfortunately, the former Big Love scene-stealer is not nearly as well served by the unpleasant formula dreariness of Those Who Kill (10/9c), an adaptation of a Danish series that takes a by-the-numbers approach to some truly ghastly serial-killer action.
Question: When dealing with shows like House of Cards (in which an entire season is available at one time), what's your opinion on how spoilers should be discussed? Is every episode fair to be talked about as soon as the season comes out? Should no spoilers be talked about for, say, a week and then every episode is fair game? Or would you treat it more like a traditional series and discuss only one episode at a time? On the receiving end, do you just avoid all spoilers until you've finished watching the entire season? I'm mainly asking this because I'm only up to episode 6 of the new season of House of Cards and am avoiding any article with a spoiler alert, because I don't know just which episodes they may be spoiling. (Thankfully, so far the biggest spoiler I could have had ruined was a very shocking moment in the first episode. I don't gasp very often at a TV show, but I did then.) — Scott
Good to know I'm not the only one who needs pizza to make it through a long night at the Oscars.
With Ellen DeGeneres serving up laughs along with slices, disarming the starry crowd with stunts like a pizza delivery for the starving captive audience and a Superstar Selfie that temporarily broke Twitter (and during the taking of which Meryl Streep delightfully blurted, "I've never tweeted before!"), even the Oscars' inevitable dull patches felt less painful than usual.
Laurence Fishburne, Mads Mikkelsen
"I never feel guilty eating anything," purrs Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) as he serves up another portion of some erotically charged exotic delicacy. NBC's Hannibal (Friday, 10/9c), in its second season, is a feast of macabre freakishness, going beyond the realm of guilty pleasure in a sustained nightmare of horrific yet elegantly hypnotic design.
Julianne Nicholson and Martin Henderson
The road of great expectations invariably contains its share of potholes. So it is with SundanceTV's The Red Road (Thursday, 9/8c), a lugubrious six-episode drama that's as overwrought as it is underwhelming, representing a rare misfire for the channel that brought us such outstanding originals as Top of the Lake and Rectify last year.
Steve Zahn, Christian Slater, Jaime Ray Newman
Even in a season distinguished by insta-duds like Lucky 7 and Betrayal, ABC hits a new low with Mind Games (Tuesday, 10/9c), an inexplicably and ridiculously convoluted drama which achieves the rare trick of making Christian Slater look like a master of understated acting. He plays an ex-con who teams with his frenetic, bipolar brother (Steve Zahn in an eye-poppingly cartoonish performance), an expert in all human behaviors but his own, to start a firm that specializes in elaborate psychological manipulations to achieve their clients' aims.
James Spader, Megan Boone
After the Games, the deluge. Now that Sochi's Closing Ceremony is but a glittery, shimmering memory, time for TV to get back to normal — which means everything new is finally new again. And for NBC, it signifies another big week, as it tries to keep the momentum going, using a new season of The Voice (8/7c) and its irresistible Blind Auditions to fuel ratings on Mondays and Tuesdays, with a visceral assist from The Blacklist (10/9c). Red's latest target: a woman from his shadowy past played by Jennifer Ehle, who'll always be my favorite Elizabeth Bennet (from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice).