- The McCarthys (CBS)
Thursday, Oct. 30 (CBS)
Series Debut: A fat, loudmouthed, sports-obsessed Bah-ston family has a gay son—and, go for borderline homophobic comedy! Or borderline comedy, period. Even sadder than the continued use of The Laugh Track (yes, there's only one—all the shows share it) in 2014 is the abject laziness in the writing, staging and execution of The McCarthys: It's like a CBS programmer found a cheap '80s pilot in the closet, dusted it off and said "Here, just jam this into 8:30 so we can hit happy hour and blow some Big Bang money!" Unfortunately, it'll probably work (re: last season's The Millers).
Thursday, Oct. 30 (MTV)
Series Debut: Remember how proud MTV was of Buckwild, its southern-redneck answer to Jersey Shore—minus the intellectual discourse and hair products—and obligatory network Hicks R Durned Funny reality product? That is, until one of the stars turned up dead in a swamp at 21 last year and MTV "respectfully" canceled the show? The grieving period is over! Meet the Slednecks, a wacky group of half-naked/fully intoxicated Wasilla, Alaska, 20-somethings who like "polar bear plunges, airboating on ice, glacier parties, river wakeboarding, human catapulting" and, dare to dream, drunken brawls with Palins. Slednecks will likely be a hit—until one of the cast members meets with his/her "death by walrus misadventure" (it's a thing in Alaska, I hear).
One Starry Christmas
Saturday, Nov. 1 (Hallmark)
Movie: It's the first day of November, and here's a new Christmas original? Congratulations, Hallmark [slow clap]. Sarah Carter (you may know her from Falling Skies as Maggie, she of the impossibly-perfect post-apocalyptic blond hair) stars as an "aspiring astronomy professor and Christmas enthusiast"—wait, it gets better—who falls for a "charming cowboy" (Damon Runyan) who, coincidentally, also enjoys constellations, Christmas and wooing away the girlfriends of dumb ol' career men who insist on working over the holidays (Paul Popowich). Only 54 more days of this ...
Marvel: 75 Years, From Pulp to Pop
Tuesday, Nov. 4 (ABC)
Special: It would have made more sense to schedule this Marvel Comics retrospective before a new episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. instead of expecting struggling sitcom Selfie (which you should be watching harder) to deliver a lead-in audience, but who am I to question the marketing genius of Marvel? "Leaking" that Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer last week was ridiculously brilliant, after all. Anyway: 75 Years, From Pulp to Pop squeezes a surprising amount of Marvel history into an hour, documenting the good times, the bad times, and the current Galactic Entertainment Domination times, though the genius of Howard the Duck (the '70s comic book, not the '80s movie) will never receive enough recognition to satisfy The Only TV Column That Matters™.
American Horror Story: Freak Show
New Season: Before watching the first two episodes of Freak Show (which arrived in the mail the day before the season premiere—you're usually so timely, FX, what happened?), I didn't think American Horror Story would ever top Season 1. Season 2 (Asylum) was a mess, Season 3 (Coven) was a slight improvement, but the original remains damned near perfect. Aside from the terrifying Stabby (actual name: Twisty) the Clown, the 1950s carnival-set Freak Show has been short on big scares thus far, but the atmosphere is rich and the cinematography is more gorgeous than anything currently in TV or film. If you tuned out of AHS, now is the time to catch up. It's worth the Stabby the Clown nightmares.