True TV: Ice Holes

By on September 30, 2015

‘Benders,’ ‘Dr. Ken’ and ‘Casual’ debut; ‘American Horror Story’ checks into ‘Hotel.’

TrueTVbuttonsPAUSEBenders
Thursday, Oct. 1 (IFC)

Denis Leary delves into stick and puck humor with his latest production playing on IFC, ‘Benders.’

Denis Leary delves into stick and puck humor with his latest production playing on IFC, ‘Benders.’

Series Debut: Denis Leary has produced shows about firefighters (“Rescue Me”), EMTs (“Sirens”) and music (“Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll”), so it was inevitable that he’d get around to another of his obsessions: hockey. “Benders’” beer-soaked concept of an amateur hockey league that spends more time bro-bonding and trash-talking off the ice than playing on it feels a bit off-brand for IFC, which has established itself with a more highbrow style of comedy (or whatever you’d call “Maron” and “Documentary Now!”). But, “Benders” is the best new hockey-themed comedy of this season, so it has that going for it.

TrueTVbuttonsSTOPDr. Ken
Friday, Oct. 2 (ABC)

Series Debut: In the fall battle for Worst New Comedy (not to mention First Cancellation), “Dr. Ken” may have the edge over “Grandfathered” and “Truth Be Told.” The latter two have stars that could, in theory, carry a well-executed comedy, whereas Ken Jeong (“The Hangover,” “Community”) is the definition of the A Little Goes a Long Way Side Player Who Should Never, Ever Be Expected to Carry a Show on His Own (see also: any former Seinfeld costar who’s not Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Jeong is Dr. Ken Park, a physician with a crazy work and family life, and … well, that’s all there is. And no, ABC, the fact that Jeong was actually a doctor before becoming an actor does not add to the comedy in the least.

TrueTVbuttonsPAUSEThe Leftovers
Sunday, Oct. 4 (HBO)

Season Premiere: Remember last year’s feel-bad hit of the summer, The Leftovers? The bleak tale of the aftermath of an unexplained kinda-Rapture that saw 2 percent of the world’s population literally disappear didn’t inspire Game of Thrones-level interest (maybe not even Hello Ladies-level), but it was still an intriguing depresso-wallow. In Season 2, New York cop Kevin Garvey (Justin Theroux) and family, and a whole lot of other travelers, are headed to Jarden, Texas (aka “The Jarden of Eden”), a “miracle” town from where no one was taken in the great Departure. It’s a chance for the spiritually-devastated Garveys to start over, and there’s no chance of loony cult activity in this community, right? Wrong. Break out the tissues; hide the pills and sharp objects.

TrueTVbuttonsPLAYCasual
Wednesday, Oct. 7 (Hulu)

Series Debut: Director Jason Reitman (“Up In the Air,” “Juno”) probably didn’t mean to remake Fox’s canceled 2012 sitcom “Ben & Kate,” but no one saw that, so who cares? Casual stars Michaela Watkins (scene-stealer of a hundred comedies, most recently “Trophy Wife” and Netflix’s “Wet Hot American Summer”) and Tommy Dewey (“The Mindy Project”) as a divorcee single mom and her bachelor brother as once-again roommates trying (and mostly awkwardly failing) to teach each other how to navigate the Tinder age. It’s sharp, funny and everything corporate cousin NBC’s “Comedy Division” (now located in an abandoned basement utility closet) has completely given up on.

TrueTVbuttonsPLAYAmerican Horror Story: Hotel
Wednesday, Oct. 7 (FX)

Season Premiere: Creator/producer Ryan Murphy has said that Season 5 of his anthology series “American Horror Story” will be “Much more horror-based … much more dark … a little bloodier and grislier.” Whoa. That may seem impossible after 2014’s colorfully bizarre “Freak Show” installment (you’re still missed, Stabby the Clown), but the present-day-set, Los Angeles-based “Hotel” is a return to AHS’ Season 1 roots, the fantastic but sometimes overlooked “Murder House” debut. That initial run leaned far more scary than funny, and “Hotel” doubles-down on both the darkness and star power. In addition to a slew of returning “American Horror Story” players (with the exception of Connie Britton yet again—damned Nashville), model/tabloid regular Naomi Campbell, New Girl’s Max Greenberg and little-known indie singer Lady Gaga will also be checking into the Hotel Cortez (and, presumably, never checking out). Although “Hotel” is connected to “Murder House,” and will feature characters from “Asylum,” “Coven” and “Freak Show,” AHS will somehow work around the absence of the series’ figurehead, Jessica Lange (Season 5 is the first without her). The stacked cast and elevated horror may be overcompensation … and The Only TV Column That Matters™ will gladly take it. PJH

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