Series Debut: Fox’s history with late-night comedy programming ranges from near-great (1995-2009’s “MadTV,” 2006-09’s “Talkshow With Spike Feresten”) to passable (the current “Animation Domination High-Def”) to WTMFF? (1993’s “The Chevy Chase Show,” one of the most famed flameouts in TV history). “Party Over Here” has near-great potential: It’s a sketch-comedy half-hour from The Lonely Island (Andy Samberg, Akiva Shaffer and Jorma Taccone) and Paul Scheer (“The League,” “NTSF:SD:SUV”), mixing live-in-front-of-a-studio-audience bits with filmed shorts while being fully aware of their elusive target audience: “In an age where most Millennials don’t even know what a TV is, we’re really excited to be getting into the TV business,” Scheer says in the Fox PR. At least “Party Over Here” won’t be going directly up against “Saturday Night Live” … right?
Tuesday, March 15 (NBC)
Series Debut: After tonight, NBC will sentence “Crowded” to die on Sundays with “The Carmichael Show” — when was the last time any network besides Fox sustained a half-hour comedy on Sundays? Who besides a TV critic would know such a stat? Anyway: “Crowded” is yet another “multi-generational family comedy,” and a lazily-written waste of the talents of Patrick Warburton (“Rules of Engagement,” every cartoon ever), Carrie Preston (“True Blood”), Miranda Cosgrove (“iCarly”), Mira Serafino (“Shameless”), Stacy Keach (everything) and Carlease Burke (“Ballers”), so it’s easy to see why NBC has zero faith. But, as he proved through, what was it? 58? seasons on “Rules of Engagement,” Warburton can bring the funny to even the bleakest, laugh-track-ridden sitcom hellscapes, and Preston ain’t bad, either. Just don’t get attached to “Crowded.”
“Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders”
Wednesday, March 16 (CBS)
Series Debut: No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Quit trying to make a “Criminal Minds” “franchise” happen, already! Five years ago, CBS launched, and crashed, the ill-advised “Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior,” and the memory of Forest Whitaker and Janeane Garofalo straining to tolerate the show and each other still burns. “Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders,” an international-FBI twist, at least has a better cast (including “CSI:NY”’s Gary Sinise, “Breaking Bad”’s Anna Gunn and “Forever”’s Alana de la Garza), but still little reason to exist because we already have a perfectly good “Criminal Minds.”
Wednesday, March 16 (FX)
Season Premiere: When last we left “The Americans,” Ronald Reagan was giving his infamous 1983 “Evil Empire” speech, and couple of actual Americans had been made aware of the true identities of “Americans” Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) as undercover Russians working for the KGB. The big question at the onset of Season 4 is who will meet their inevitable end first? Distraught daughter Paige’s (Holly Taylor) mutual-friend-of-Jesus, Pastor Tim (Kelly AuCoin), or Philip’s FBI informant, Martha (Alison Wright)? Let’s say Pastor Tim — dude’s creepy, even by early ’80s standards. CV
Bill Frost writes about television for Salt Lake City Weekly, talks about it on the TV Tan Podcast, and tweets about it at @Bill_Frost.