Televisualist: Fall Commenceth

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Televisualist: Fall Commenceth

Each week, Torontoist examines the upcoming TV listings and makes note of programs that are entertaining, informative, and of quality. Or, alternately, none of those. The result: Televisualist.

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All “fall TV season begins” images must, by law, contain either a cornucopia, a non-jack-o’-lanterned pumpkin, or brightly coloured leaves. Illustration by Brett Lamb/Torontoist.

Monday

Top Chef may be just finishing up its run in the United States, but thanks to Food Network Canada (official motto: “interwhat?”), you can relive all the drama of the seventh season literally months after it aired! And the seventh season has been atrocious, hasn’t it? Between the dueling egos of Kenny and Angelo (two of the least likable chefs to ever appear on the show ever), and the endless stream of politicians totally incapable of serving as decent guest judges, this probably qualifies as the single worst season of Top Chef since…well, since Hosea won the fifth season. (9 p.m.)

Tuesday

Outlaw is Jimmy Smits’ new series wherein he plays a womanizing, paryting Supreme Court justice who retires early so he can work to help out “the little guy” in a series of dramatic lawsuits and trials. If you can get past the truly ludicrous premise, the seven hundred holes in the pilot, and the sad fact that Jimmy Smits is finally starting to show his age, it’s a pretty entertaining piece of television. (Global, 10 p.m.)
Parenthood returns for its second season after a solid critical and popular performance as a summer replacement. Granted, the show does have an irritating fondness for sticking “happy family come together” moments in every show and combining them with adult-alternative radio songs like the show is a Time Life Sounds Of The Suckies CD box set, but it still has a thoroughly excellent cast and decent writing, and that’s not nothing. (City, 10 p.m.)
TLC debuts Sextuplets Take New York, apparently having decided that what America really needs is another reality television show about an unusually large family trying to make it through everyday life. Until the parental relationship self-destructs under the neverending scrutiny paid to celebrity, or in cases like these, “celebrity,” and then one of the parents dates someone skeevy and the other one goes on a celebrity-themed reality show. Meanwhile the kids, who did nothing wrong other than all get born together, are just biding their time until they get involved in an altercation with cops twenty years from now, after an abortive attempt to reinvent themselves as porn stars. Tick, tick, tick… (10 p.m.)
America’s Got Talent has its final live competition episode tonight. Who will win? The opera singer, the other opera singer, the singer who doesn’t sing opera, or the performance art troupe? Hint: it will be one of the people who sings, because America’s Got Talent is one of those shows where the viewership tends to believe that singers are more impressive than, say, a Frisbee-playing dog. Which is a shame, because we would totally go see that dog in Vegas rather than another subpar opera singer. (City, 9 p.m.)

Wednesday

Survivor returns for season twenty-one, this time in Nicaragua. Things we can expect this season: the curiosity factor of former Dallas Cowboys (and Super Bowl winning) coach Jimmy Johnson as a contestant, the interesting tricks the producers come up with to balance out their premade “young” and “old” tribes in athletic competitions, a lot of people pretending not to think that contestant NaOnka Mixon has a very odd name, and the usual arrival of self-made villains and champions, backstabbery, mental grit, and everything else that makes Survivor so damn entertaining. (Global, 8 p.m.)
The Ultimate Fighter begins its twelfth season, and this time around the focus is the lightweights. The coaches are Georges St-Pierre and Josh Koscheck, and Televisualist still has no idea what else to say about it. But you know it’s on, so we’ve done our jobs! (Spike, 10 p.m.)

Thursday

The Apprentice “returns to its roots” by not being a special celebrity season this time around. Instead, this season’s gimmick is that all of the contestants are people who have lost their jobs in the recession. Clearly, the producers must have considered this show and thought, “You know what this show lacks? Donald Trump acting like nobility, doling out gifts to dirty peasants.” (Global, 9 p.m.)
The Simpsons rerun of the week: “Grandpa Vs. Sexual Inadequacy,” wherein Grandpa’s health tonic becomes all the rage in Springfield and causes conspiracy theorizing among the kids. “Okay, here’s what we’ve got: the Rand Corporation, in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires, are forcing our parents to go to bed early in a fiendish plot to eliminate the meal of dinner.” (Fox, 11 p.m.)

Friday

Not sure how we missed this last week, but Showcase has gotten the airing rights to Sherlock, Stephen Moffat’s excellent re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes stories set in the present. (Complete with the wonderful fact that one hundred years later, John Watson is still a veteran of the war in Afghanistan.) Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are superb as Holmes and Watson, and the show’s format (essentially a series of two-hour movies) allows them to develop the mysteries at an unhurried pace. As a bonus, this show finally came up with the absolute best way to depict text messages on TV ever. Very highly recommended. (10 p.m.)

The Weekend

Boardwalk Empire is HBO’s new “prestige” project for the forseeable future based solely on its pedigree: premiere episode directed by Martin Scorcese! Starring Steve Buscemi in the lead role! But, on top of the obvious “this is important television” card, it’s also pretty damn good television as well, with the now-standard fascinating supporting cast and pitch-perfect details in the setting. Gorgeous and absorbing; say hello to your new water cooler show. (HBO Canada, 9 p.m. Sunday)
The Girl Next Door is one of those movies that nearly got lost in the shuffle of bad teen comedies but, somehow, did not. It’s reliably funny, never stupid, features some great actors (Emile Hirsch, Paul Dano, and Timothy Olyphant), and is just generally entertaining and involving throughout. Despite the fact that when you get down to it, this is a thinly veiled copy of Risky Business substituting porn stars for prostitutes. However, Emile Hirsch is probably not as crazy as Tom Cruise is. (Bravo, 10 p.m. Sunday)

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