“Kath & Kim” (Thursdays, NBC): I lasted seven minutes before declaring this adaptation of a popular Australian comedy a lost cause. Molly Shannon and Selma Blair play the dysfunctional but chummy mother and daughter of the title, a pair of vapid, celebrity-gossip-magazine-reading buffoons. Neither character is likable, believable, or — most important — funny. I’m not even sure anyone told Blair that it’s supposed to be a comedy, because her delivery on the punch lines has the same flat monotone as her delivery of the straight lines.
“Eleventh Hour” (Thursdays, CBS): From producer Jerry Bruckheimer comes this generic remake of a British series about a brilliant scientist (Rufus Sewell) who helps the FBI with cases that involve … science. It’s not clear what this means, exactly. I mean, don’t ALL crimes involve science somehow? The law of gravity, at the very least? I think they’re going for particularly unusual scientific applications, as in the first episode, which involves secret cloning. Still, “science” is a little too broad a category to write a show around, and this one is laughably bland. It’s just another show about a “quirky” lead detective and his unamused partner/babysitter. “In science, a negative result is as important as a positive result!” Dr. Science tells us, to remind us how important science is. Science!
“The Mentalist” (Tuesdays, CBS): This one, I like. Yep, it’s another show about a nutty guy solving crimes. But it’s all in the execution. This guy, Patrick Jane (Simon Baker), used to have a career as a psychic and showman (think John Edward). Now he helps the “California Bureau of Investigation” (which is totally not just the FBI with a different name) solve crimes by using the talents that made him a good fake mentalist: a knack for observation, reading people’s body language and other cues, and sleight-of-hand magic. The first episode’s mystery was very easy to solve, but Simon Baker is fun to watch. I can see this show being good comfort food: not great, but reasonably intelligent and enjoyable.
“Life on Mars” (Thursdays, ABC): Remade from a British series (yep, another one), this is a sharp, unusual cop drama about a New York detective named Sam Tyler (Jason O’Mara) who gets hit by a car and wakes up in 1973. He’s still a cop, and he’s still working in the same precinct, but it’s 35 years ago. He sometimes hears things that make him think he’s really in a coma in 2008 and dreaming all this … but “all this” sure feels realistic to him. He uses his 2008 know-how to help solve crimes, while adjusting to the rather lax attitudes of law enforcement in 1973 (beating up perps for no reason, blatant sexism, etc.). The concept is intriguing, and the 1973ishness is conveyed convincingly in the sets, costumes, and music. With Harvey Keitel and Michael Imperioli (from “The Sopranos”) as co-stars, it seems like a torrent of F-words is always on the verge of breaking out. Good thing the show doesn’t air live. Anyway, I’m hooked after the first episode and eager to see where they go with it.