As a kid, I enjoyed watching deadly-earnest superhero shows and then fighting criminals in a bath-towel cape. Back then, I would have loved The Cape (Sunday, 8 p.m., NBC), with its serious approach to masks and secret identities. To be honest, I love it now. It's nice to see a superhero production that isn't ultra-ironic or ultra-violent, but just a straightforward story of a square-jawed dude with an odd fashion sense saving his city from ugly French and British baddies.
The square-jawed dude is incorruptible cop Vince Faraday (David Lyons), who's framed to look like a supervillain and then killed by the real supervillain. But wait! He's not really dead, just hiding out among carnival folks who school him in the mystical uses of a cape. Vince reemerges as a masked avenger, with help from a blogger named Orwell (Summer Glau).
Department stores had better stock up on bath towels after The Cape premieres. I predict a run on them.
Sunday, 7:30 pm (Fox)
Fox struck gold with The Simpsons and has been trying to replicate it ever since. Bob's Burgers is the latest attempt at an animated dysfunctional-family gross-out comedy with a moron-slob father and smart-aleck kids. If The Simpsons makes it look easy, though, Bob's Burgers reminds us how many ways such a project can go wrong.
A crude drawing style renders the characters as chinless monstrosities who are hard to look at for a half-hour. The flavorless voice acting emphasizes whininess. And the script mistakes witless sick jokes for edginess.
Bob's Burgers is set at a cruddy hamburger joint run by hairy-armed loser Bob and his vile family. In a typical gag, the little girl explains to a customer that "the burger of the day is 'The Child Molester.' It comes with candy. Get it?"
To be honest, I don't get anything about Bob's Burgers.
Sunday, 8:30 pm (Showtime)
This new series brilliantly satirizes Hollywood by viewing it through the eyes of two British outsiders. Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly (Tamsin Grieg) are riding high as the producers of a hit TV comedy in England. A Hollywood mogul (John Pankow), professing love of their work, entices them to move to Los Angeles so they can ride even higher with an Americanized version.
Wryly mocking themselves in that sane British way, Sean and Beverly make the move to what seems like palm-tree paradise but is soon revealed as hell. The mogul has never actually seen their work, just intuited that it could be a money-making property to exploit. The sane Brits slowly go insane in the face of moronic production assistants and ill-considered changes to the show. They almost scream in horror when they hear the mogul's idea for the starring role: Matt LeBlanc, playing himself.
We Friends-loving viewers, on the other hand, scream in ecstasy.
Tuesday, 9 pm (FX)
Is FX capable of producing a bad series? Lights Out is yet another masterpiece, portraying a boxing champ who walked away after a controversial loss five years ago. Patrick "Lights" Leary (Holt McCallany) left the sport for the sake of his wife (Catherine McCormack), a medical professional who threatened to leave him if he took any more punishment in the ring. Problem is, he's been taking all sorts of punishment out of the ring in his retirement. His brother/business manager (Pablo Schreiber) has squandered all his money, partially on a gym to keep their trainer/father (Stacy Keach) busy.
Lights accepts menial jobs as well as criminal jobs to support his family. You can't hate him, even when he's beating somebody up, because you sense decency and dignity beneath all that indecent, undignified behavior. Credit goes to McCallany, who communicates brutality and tenderness with equal force.
By the end of the pilot, I was fervently praying for Lights to repair his relationship with his daughters, dig himself out of his financial hole and return to the ring to vindicate himself. Which is weird, since I just met the guy.
Off the Map
Wednesday, 9 pm (ABC)
With a million doctor shows on TV, ABC wanted to do something completely different. So it sets Off the Map in a tropical Third World country, where the doctors face such exotic problems as stingray bites.
Unfortunately, that's about it for the "completely different" part. The doctors are the usual beautiful young model types who flirt with each other while operating on burn victims. We get the roguish hunk with a big heart under that flippant exterior, the goofball with a tragedy in his past, etc. They give the standard advice to patients facing tough situations: "The last thing your husband would want right now is for you to give up!"
Oh, well. At least we get the stingray bites.