Pity the midseason replacement. Traditionally regarded as the B team in the fall season rollout, these shows tend to have a tougher time finding a loyal audience because viewing patterns have already been established for the year.
People are reluctant to take on a new series amid a flurry of winter awards shows and the Super Bowl.
That’s no reason to watch “Outmatched” on Fox, however. The network could have been buried this stinker in the dog days of summer and no one would have been worse off. This nearly witless comedy, starring Jason Biggs of the “American Pie” franchise and Maggie Lawson of “Psych,” is about the perils of a working-class couple in Atlantic City with three gifted children. Why three? Already the premise doesn’t make much sense, except for Biggs’ character, handyman Mike, to lament a future of private school tuition and grant application fees. Sample jokes include “I would settle for a regular day where I don’t need Google translate to see if I’ve been insulted” and “It’s not even 8 a.m. and we’ve already lost our dining room to a science experiment.”
In case you are not laughing, Fox has provided a lame laugh track to persuade viewers that some people might find any of this amusing. The kids — played by Ashley Boettcher, Connor Kalopsis and Jack Stanton — are annoyingly competitive, arguing with their parents about which one of them has the higher IQ score. They lack any warmth or charm. These smart-asses don’t show their parents a modicum of respect; their parents, in turn, resort to lying to win their affection and attention. Chances are that “Outmatched” will be out of commission before the tulips bloom.
Fortunately, there are other shows debuting in the next few weeks that stand a better chance of going the distance. Edie Falco makes her network series debut in “Tommy,” in which the gritty “Sopranos” star plays Abigail (Tommy) Thomas, the LA chief of police. The reliably no-nonsense Falco takes on the old boys network of the police department while dealing with crimes such human trafficking and resolving Tommy’s estrangement from her adult daughter (Olivia Lucy Philip), whom she let live with her father in California when she was only 14. Thomas Sadoski (“Life in Pieces”) co-stars as the city’s mayor, Buddy Gray. The star’s plain-spoken compassion for crime victims goes a long way to humanizing the basic CBS procedural. “Tommy” debuts Feb. 6 at 10 p.m.
A better bet is ABC’s “For Life,” both a prison and a legal drama based on the real-life experience of Isaac Wright Jr. In 1991, Wright was wrongfully convicted as the kingpin behind one of the largest drug distribution networks in New Jersey and given a life sentence. He studied law in prison and worked as a proxy-lawyer, helping to overturn the convictions of fellow inmates and ultimately exonerating himself. In the series, Wright’s name has been changed to Aaron Wallace and he is played by British actor Nicholas Pinnock. Though some of the direction is overdone in the tradition of ABC’s “General Hospital,” Pinnock’s brooding intensity establishes him as a leading man to watch. “For Life” debuts Feb.11 at 10 p.m.
The returning favorite “Narcos: Mexico” will have new episodes on Netflix Feb. 13. The exciting premiere moves the action forward to 1985, when a powerful earthquake reduced large sections of Mexico City to rubble, with drug kingpin Felix Gallardo (Diego Luna) facing diminishing returns on his product. Meanwhile, renegade DEA agent Walt Breslin (Scoot McNairy, “Godless”) arrives in Mexico to bring down the Guadalajara cartel and avenge the gruesome death of agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena (Michael Pena).
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