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9/30/2015

“Benders”TrueTV Benders
Thursday, Oct. 1 (IFC)
Series Debut: Denis Leary has produced shows 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. But, “Benders” is the best new hockey-themed comedy of this season, so it has that going for it.

“Dr. Ken”
Friday, Oct. 2 (ABC)
Series Debut: In the 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. Calling time of death at …

“Casual”
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.

“American 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, 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) 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. 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). CV

Bill Frost writes about television for Salt Lake City Weekly, talks about it on the TV Tan Podcast (Tuesdays on iTunes and Stitcher), and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.

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