The new TV season: The best of shows, the worst of shows

There's both good news and bad for viewers with the advent of the fall television season.

The upside mainly concerns hourlong dramas: Some networks have bucked the occult-happy trend of recent years that seemed to fill the small screen with dark tales of demons and goblins. They've also gotten away from the tendency to glamorize a variety of baddies ranging from sexy vampires to conflicted antiheroes.

Thus, shows like ABC's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" present a stark, no-nonsense contrast between good and evil.

The outlook is woefully different where half-hour comedy programming is concerned. Supposedly humorous family dysfunction continues to reign, with clueless parents at the mercy of undisciplined kids. Sexual matters, bodily functions and gross-out material continue to be trolled for laughs.

Even TV veterans like Michael J. Fox and Robin Williams, who cut their teeth on clever, well-written and genuinely funny series, are showcased now in sitcoms that are at times offensive, even immoral. Accordingly, parents should approach the genre warily.

"Sleepy Hollow" (Mondays, Fox) crosses Washington Irving's short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle" with the Book of Revelation for a fantasy time-travel adventure. Revolutionary-War hero Ichabod Crane awakens in present-day Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., after a 250-year slumber. Following him there is the Headless Horseman — here re-imagined as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Crane teams with skeptical police Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), and together they battle the forces of darkness. With much demon-filled violence and a sorcery theme, this is not a program for kids. The villains are not celebrated, however, and the main characters show a laudable determination to fight for good and justice.

In "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (Tuesdays, ABC), the titular comic book conglomerate tackles the small screen in this ensemble drama about a secret elite organization — the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division — which investigates supernatural phenomena. Set in the aftermath of the alien invasion chronicled in the feature film "The Avengers," the show finds S.H.I.E.L.D. agents of all ages and backgrounds spanning the globe in search of superheroes and malefactors. Their leader provides wry commentary on all the technical mumbo jumbo. The action sequences are intense but cartoonish, muting the level of violence. A strong sense of camaraderie and the straightforward fight for justice make this a welcome addition to the lineup and enjoyable viewing for the entire family.

As for "Super Fun Night" (Wednesdays, ABC), heavyset Australian comic actress Rebel Wilson literally throws her weight around in this vulgar comedy about three misfit friends who decide to dedicate one evening a week — "Super Fun Night" — to having a really good time on the town. Kimmie Boubier (Wilson) is the consistent butt of the script's fat jokes, often losing her clothes by accident, thus exposing her bulging underwear. She pines for her co-worker Richard (Kevin Bishop), who is also the boss' son, but mainly looks for diversion with her two pals, nerdy Helen-Alice and Marika, who appears to have a crush on Kimmie. There's little to love in these obnoxious characters, and the loud, offensive humor should put this off limits, not only to kids, but to sensible viewers of all ages.

"The Millers" (Thursdays, CBS), is yet another dysfunctional "family" comedy makes its debut — this time with an emphasis on divorce and its aftermath. Television reporter Nathan Miller (Will Arnett) is happy and free after ending his marriage. When he tells his parents, Carol and Tom, Tom decides to follow suit and end his 43-year union. He moves in with his daughter Debbie and her family, while Carol makes her nest with Nathan in his bachelor pad. Mayhem ensues as both parents upend their new households. Regrettably, the humor is often unpleasant, and at times gross, with Carol in particular focusing on distasteful subjects.

In "The Crazy Ones" (Thursdays, CBS), Robin Williams returns to television as Simon Roberts, head of a Chicago advertising agency, where he works alongside his daughter Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar). In this comedic version of "Mad Men," Sydney fights for respect amid the all-male sales force. Williams brings his predictable manic personality to bear on his character, and much of the dialogue feels ad-libbed. But the humor dips frequently into crude and lewd subject matter.

"The Michael J. Fox Show" (Thursdays, NBC) features the popular actor, stricken with Parkinson's disease, who stars in a series that highlights the challenges of his illness. Fox plays Mike Henry, an NBC News anchor who left his job to focus on his health and family, including loving wife Annie (Betsy Brandt) and three children. Trouble is, Dad's driving everyone crazy at home, so the clan schemes to get him back to work. Mike and Annie are self-proclaimed "progressive parents," which means there is little supervision of the kids. Humor is predictably off-color, as when teenage daughter Eve, who takes an interest in nude photography, persuades Mom to shed her clothes for the camera.

CNS

Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



Voices

Seeking the face of God in the Scriptures

Archbishop José H. Gomez

Prayer is seeking the face of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls the story of how St. John Vianney once found a peasant praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The saint asked him what he was doing, and the man replied: “I look at him and he looks at me.”

Events

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February 13, 2016

  • Saturday, February 13

    World Day of the Sick Mass, Mass and Anointing of the Sick, 12:30 p.m., Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels,  555 W Temple St, Los Angeles. Archbishop Gomez presiding with other bishops and priests. Special section designated for those in wheelchairs with volunteers available to help. Limited parking available for $8. Carpooling is encouraged. For more info: Chuck Huebner at cjhuebner @gmail.com or Jim LoCoco at flavialococ0@msn.com.

     

     

    Bosco Tech’s Yurak Memorial Run & Kids’ Fun Run, Check in begins at 8 a.m., Memorial Run at 9 a.m., Fun Run at 10 a.m., Bosco Tech, 1151 San Gabriel Blvd., Rosemead. Race registration is $35 per person. For school groups of 10 or more, the cost is $30. To register online, go to www.boscotech.edu/events or www.yurak.eventbrite.com; same-day registration available at check-in table. Included: racing fees, finisher medal, goodie bag and BBQ lunch. Plaques will be awarded to the top five male and female runners and to the fastest runner under 18.All proceeds to benefit Bosco Tech’s Yurak Athletic Center (YAC). 

     

    Cabrini Literary Guild “Sweetheart Bingo” Meeting, Sat., Feb.13 at Oakmont Country Club, 3100 Country Club Drive, Glendale. Meeting starts at 11 a.m., lunch at 12 p.m. ($30/person), and bingo social at 1 p.m. Bingo cards are $5 each, or $20 for five cards. For reservations, call (818) 790-3485.

     

    Footprints: Making Tracks for Neighbors in Need, 8:30 - 11:30 a.m., Bishop Amat High School track, 14301 Fairgrove Ave., La Puente. Catholic Charities San Gabriel Region will present this annual walk/run fundraiser to increase awareness about poverty, hunger and homelessness in the San Gabriel Region. Proceeds benefit those lacking basic needs, such as food, clothing, transportation and shelter. This is a come anytime, leave anytime event, with the first lap around the track to be led by Bishop David O'Connell. For more information, visit lentenfootprints.yolasite.com or contact Mary Romero at (213) 251-3582 or mromero@ccharities.org.

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