When faced with a month where 46 new and returning shows are surfacing on television — yes, in June alone — you don't just need a TV review; you need a serious consumer strategy. ¶ So let's take a look at what's coming at you this week, using shows you may already know, to suss out shows you don't.
101 Ways to Leave a Game Show
Debuting at 9 p.m. Tuesday on WFTS-Ch. 28: Not sure how smart it is to build the most compelling part of a game show around what happens to the losers. But ABC has gathered the kind of deliriously enthusiastic knuckleheads who bounce off huge red balls in Wipeout, and instead asked them questions like "How much did William Shatner get when he sold his kidney stone for charity?" (Answer: too much). Losers get ejected by being dropped off a moving truck or strapped to a flying biplane. I only wish we could do that to whoever invented this show.
Premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday on WFTS: Survivor mastermind Mark Burnett has mixed The Amazing Race with an Indiana Jones adventure to produce a competition placing teams of game, inexperienced competitors in a race across Morocco. Watch sassy Latinas, determined gay men, irritated New York firemen and a team with a blind guy climb onto camels and race across desert sands following clues like a certain globe-hopping race series on rival CBS — minus the hotels, taxicabs and potable water.
Debuts at 10 p.m. Tuesday on WFTS: It may be a measure of how little we all want to acknowledge the wars America still wages, but it is odd to see a Canadian TV production come up with a drama about a military hospital in Afghanistan before any U.S. network. (At least ABC nicked the show for its summer lineup.) Unfortunately, the first episode plays like a humorless M*A*S*H, complete with a hard-charging female character — this time, a doctor — with relationship issues, an earnest, cynically idealistic leader and a supernaturally competent clerk. For those of you born after 1983, it's like Grey's Anatomy in a plywood tent with the Taliban and active IEDs.
New-school James Bond
Returns at 9 p.m. Thursday on USA: Over four seasons, Jeffrey Donovan's insanely resourceful spy Michael Westen has worked toward one goal: reversing his status as an unfairly discredited "burned" spy while helping those who need a little unorthodox, action-oriented justice in the Magic City. But as the fifth season opens, Westen is now working with the CIA to take down the guys who burned him in the first place. Grant Show joins in as the latest CIA suit forced to realize how cool Westen's improvised solutions are. Still, what happens to the ex-spies — especially girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) — who helped Westen when he was "burned"?
Debuts at 10 p.m. Thursday on USA: This may be a stretch, since this quirky series isn't exactly action packed. It is centered on an arrogant, corners-cutting Harvard-trained lawyer (Gabriel S. Macht, The Spirit) who brings a street smart protege with photographic memory into the tony law firm where he works, even though the kid doesn't actually have a law degree. But its subversive spirit and focus on sharp-suited, smart-talking guys with attitude shares a lot with Burn Notice and Bond. In real life, you'd think they were clueless jerks; on TV, you can't wait to see how they pull off their latest scam.
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Debuts at 10 p.m. Thursday on FX: In the same way the gleefully obnoxious It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia bitterly divides fans of comedy, Wilfred ups the argument to a new level. Elijah Wood is in lovable loser mode as Ryan, a suicidal lawyer overwhelmed by life until he meets Wilfred. To the world, Wilfred is a cute dog owned by Ryan's cutesy blond neighbor; to Ryan, Wilfred is an in-your-face Australian guy in a ratty dog suit. Who talks to him. As Wilfred pushes Ryan to smoke bong hits, steal another neighbor's homegrown weed and defecate inside the guy's shoes, viewers wonder when we'll see that Wilfred is Ryan's own runaway id. Quirkily implausible, Wilfred isn't really a metaphor for anything but a young guy losing it. Is that enough for a quality TV comedy to hang its hat on? Let the arguments begin.
Returns at 10:30 p.m. Thursday on FX: Centered on the absurdly real travails of divorced dad and ace standup comic Louis C.K., this comedy's second season kicks off with Louis giving his 5-year-old daughter the finger after she admits liking her mother better, because he's not a great cook. (Fortunately, the little girl had left the room.) Sprinkled in between Louis' side-splitting standup ("Nobody gets divorced right on time … you get divorced after being in a s--- marriage for years. But you're only aware of that for one"), the chunks of dramedy are offhandedly explicit and bizarrely touching, like an indie film directed by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. And Louis, who creates, writes, directs and edits every episode, has no filter between his twisted vision and any viewer brave enough to take it in.