Just imagine he's holding a really thick TV Guide.
Just imagine he's holding a really thick TV Guide.
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

The New TV Season's Here! The New TV Season's Here!

It brings me no great pleasure to tell you the "new" 2015 TV season is well under way. Obviously, I'm referring to the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) here, because cable providers like AMC, HBO and Showtime and streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu have been releasing content all year, mercifully distracting us from baseball and reality star pregnancies.

And it's probably not a coincidence that just about every new show out there looks pretty bad. Where other providers are experimenting with sitcom formats (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), dramas (Bloodline, The Affair) or news programs (Last Week Tonight), the old guard largely continue to trot out the same mishmash of family comedies, police procedurals and medical dramas they've relied on since people knew what a "Leather Tuscadero" was.

What follows isn't a list of recommended shows debuting this fall — I doubt I could have come up with more than two or three that are even mildly encouraging — but a more or less representative sample of the kind of stuff you can expect if you don't get cable.

Grandfathered (FOX)
A confirmed bachelor discovers he's a dad — and a grandfather.

I assume the primary crisis in this show will just be Rob Lowe's John Stamos's character trying to come to grips with his age, because being a grandparent is the easiest shit in the world: Shower the kid with gifts and sugar, then dump his twitchy ass back on the parents when you're ready to watch Wheel of Fortune. Discovering you're a father *after* diapers, potty training, adolescence and college tuition have already been taken care of? Which infernal overlord do I call to make that happen?

The Muppets (ABC)
For the first time ever, a series will explore the Muppets’ personal lives and relationships, both at home and at work, as well as romances, breakups, achievements, disappointments, wants and desires.

Did you ever catch yourself wondering what would happen if Kermit and Miss Piggy underwent a messy break-up? Which online dating sites Fozzie Bear frequents (this actually happens)? Or what horrible trauma Lew Zealand suffered as a child that prompted him to hurl fish into the void (this may happen)? Well, now you can find out: The Muppets is The Office presented by the Jim Henson Company. It's the perfect program for the Post-Whimsy Age.

Quantico (ABC)
An FBI Recruit Will Be the Nation's Biggest Traitor in 6 Days

LeBron James was in the FBI?

Scream Queens (FOX)
Exactly two decades after Wallace University was rocked by a mysterious death, another murder takes place — and all hell breaks loose.

It's fall, and [Ryan] Murphy's gonna Murph. Given the creator's track record (Nip/Tuck, Glee, American Horror Story), you can probably count on this to be marginally interesting for a short time before it goes completely off the rails and he moves on to his next inexplicably greenlit project. World without end.

Blindspot (NBC)
Beautiful Jane Doe is found naked in Times Square, covered with fresh tattoos and with no idea who she is. So why is FBI Agent Kurt Weller's name on her back?

Maybe Kurt Weller is the Nation's Biggest Traitor? Unlikely, given that this and Quantico are on separate networks, but cross-pollination has happened before (Law & Order's Detective Munch appeared on The X-Files, for example), so don't be surprised if increasingly desperate networks resort to that kind of gimmickry in the near future.

The real question is: Would anyone notice a tattooed woman in the middle of Times Square with all the Desnudas around?

Code Black (CBS)
People come here for one reason only…to get one last miracle.

CBS is still the Old People Network (Curmudgeons Bitching Steadily?), and old people like to be distracted from their irritable bowels and "low T" by amusing themselves with others' suffering, so this will probably be a hit even though every commercial looks terrible.

Dr. Ken (ABC)
A brilliant physician with no bedside manner.

Fun fact: Ken Jeong is an actual physician who gave up his medical career to be a stand-up comedian and actor. I think Dr. Ken would have been better if he were actually practicing medicine in it and the show was nothing but 30 minutes of reaction shots of people horrified to realize the guy asking them to "turn your head and cough" was the same dude who said, "Suck on these little Chinese nuts" in The Hangover.

The Grinder (FOX)
Television lawyer Dean Sanderson moves back to his small hometown after a stint in Hollywood thinking his time on TV qualifies him to run his family's law firm.

I just realized when I got to this show that I mistakenly thought Rob Lowe was in Grandfathered and not this. I can officially no longer tell him and John Stamos apart, which will remain the case until their over-tanned skin is pulled so taut over their faces they look like the cover of the Necronomicon.

Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris (NBC)
A live one-hour show based on the British hit Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, Best Time Ever will feature stunts, skits, pranks, audience interaction, musical numbers, giveaways and more.

I get that the Big Four are doing everything in their power not to spend money on anything, but most people who remember the "Golden" Age of Prime Time Variety Shows should also probably remember it included such gems as Sha Na Na. There is nothing about this endeavor that doesn't reek of unbelievable desperation.

Life in Pieces (CBS)
The story of one big happy family and their sometimes awkward, often hilarious and ultimately beautiful milestone moments.

There are 11 people related to each other in this show, and CBS — again pandering to folks who recall with great fondness the homogeneous propaganda of the Eisenhower years — would have us believe they live in a state of mere "sometimes awkwardness." Here's one of the plotlines from the first episode:

In the hotel, Tim and Heather's daughter Samantha gets her first period and their younger daughter Sophia learns Santa is not real.

Get the first kid a Judy Blume book and the second one a box of Kleenex. Better yet, just cancel this now.

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