Sunday, September 19, 2021

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On The Tube

Catching your death of cold


TVGuillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”) co-wrote and directed the first episode of “The Strain,” a stylish thriller about a virus with vampiric origins (Sunday, 9 p.m., FX). Dr. Ephraim Goodweather (Corey Stoll), head of a Centers for Disease Control unit in New York City, is called in to investigate the mysterious deaths of 200 airline passengers. We know something he doesn’t: a monster did it, popping out of the cargo hold in the suspenseful opening scene. We meet the spooky characters who do this monster’s bidding, along with an elderly pawnbroker (David Bradley) who fought him during World War II and is prepared to fight him again.

 Until “The Strain,” I thought that was a lost art on cable TV.

“Welcome to Sweden”

Thursday, 8 p.m. (NBC)

In this fish-out-of-water sitcom, sad-sack accountant Bruce (Greg Poehler) follows beautiful Swedish girlfriend Emma (Josephine Bornebusch) back to her homeland. The problem is, there’s nothing very funny about it. Poehler’s script struggles to make comedy out of saunas and Scandinavian drinking traditions. He doesn’t hold the screen as a comedian, and the fact that he brings in funnier sister Amy as a special guest only highlights the fact that he needs help. Furthermore, you’ll find that squinting to read expository dialogue in subtitles does not put you in a mood to laugh.

Prep Iowa


Monday, 8:30 p.m. (CW)

In this new sitcom, a jerky, horny, dopey bartender named Harry (Adam Korson) meets two of the kids he fathered as a sperm donor. “Seed” tries to pull off the most hackneyed story arc imaginable — humanizing Harry after he gets to know the kids — and fails. Harry remains loathsome even when the producers think he’s being charming. He hits on anything that moves, compares his newly discovered daughter to a stripper, and insults his newly discovered son’s lesbian moms. Plus, he talks with his mouth full.

“So many people hate you,” a barmaid tells Harry after he’s ticked off yet another character. “What’s one more?”

Make that two more, including me.

“Married at First Sight”

Tuesday, 8 p.m. (FYI)

This reality series announces “a radical new social experiment”: allowing a panel of experts to arrange marriages based on scientific methods. Six singles will put their faith in empirical techniques and go through with marrying a complete stranger.

The series is more dependent on traditional matchmaking methods than it lets on. A sociologist is dispatched to the singles’ apartments to get to know their strengths and weaknesses for the purpose of pairing them up.

Sorry, “Married at First Sight,” but that’s not science. It’s art.


Wednesday, 8 p.m. (CBS)

Steven Spielberg executive produces this science fiction series, which is so ably written, directed and acted that it hooks you with a relatively understated approach. An astronaut named Molly (Halle Berry) returns from 13 months alone in space, inexplicably pregnant. Molly is married with a son, but she’s haunted by visions of her former lover, a fellow astronaut who died years ago. Meanwhile, she has reason to mistrust the space bureaucracy, which may not have her (or humanity’s) best interests at heart. CV        

Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. He graduated from Grinnell College and went on to become an award-winning journalist, but he’s been a committed couch potato long before he figured out a way to get paid for watching TV. See more of his work at

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