TV reviews: ”Til Death,’ ‘Happy Hour,’ ‘Justice,’ ‘Vanished’

I like to give the new fall shows a spin to see if any of them are worth adding to my TiVo lineup. As I do, I’ll try to throw together brief reviews, perhaps aiding you in making your TV decisions, too.

“‘Til Death” (Thursdays, Fox): A fairly generic sitcom, complete with grating laugh track. Brad Garrett, the goliath mopey brother from “Everybody Loves Raymond,” plays a guy who’s been married forever. A newlywed couple moves in next door, and Garrett tries to share his marital wisdom with the kids. Hilarity ensues. The pilot had too many jokes about the next-door neighbors’ last name (Woodcock), and took it a step too far by suggesting the guy didn’t know his name might inspire titters at the high school he works at. (Hasn’t he had that name all his life? And its joke potential never occurred to him?) There were a couple of amusing insights about marriage wedged in there, but overall it’s just too formulaic and familiar to be of any appeal to me. TiVo verdict: Won’t bother.

“Happy Hour” (Thursdays, Fox): Another rather ordinary sitcom, with “ordinary” in this case referring to modern sitcoms, where the word “balls” can be used for comedic effect. (I’m not saying it’s not funny, just that you should know what you’re in for.) A young guy has moved to Chicago with his girlfriend only to be dumped by her two months later, so he moves in with a quirky stranger and starts hanging out with him and his platonic lady friend. I laughed a few times during the first episode, while also noting that every single female character was negative in some way: controlling, desperate, bitter and/or emasculating. Also, the quirky friend character — who listens to Dean Martin CDs and wants to bring back the old-fashioned 4:00 martini — is too one-dimensional to be the co-star. He needs to be the fourth or fifth lead, not the No. 2. TiVo verdict: No Season Pass yet, but I’ll watch the next episode to see where it goes.

“Justice” (Wednesdays, Fox): You know how you’re always sobbing about how there just aren’t enough TV shows about lawyers? Well, uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer has heard your plaintive wails and produced “Justice,” the first episode of which I found absolutely delightful. It focuses on a firm of high-powered defense attorneys (making it a nice contrast to all the “Law & Order” I watch) with Victor Garber (most recently Sydney’s dad on “Alias”) as the head shark. The lawyers are sharp and confident, a couple of them appear to have souls, and they use every tool in their arsenal to defend their clients. It’s fast-paced, clever, and devilishly interesting to law junkies like myself. The best part: Each episode ends with a flashback to what actually happened when the crime took place, letting us know whether the defendant was innocent or guilty. TiVo verdict: Season Pass.

“Vanished” (Mondays, Fox): This series is part of the new trend where the show’s premise sounds like it can only last for about one season. In this case, a senator’s wife has been kidnapped. I know, it sounds like one 2-hour movie at the most. But no! It is a series, an hour a week, running indefinitely. Anyway, each breathless episode furthers the investigation, with the senator, his teenage children, the FBI agents and the TV news reporters all having dark secrets and convoluted backstories just waiting to be brought into the mix. I am curious to see how it all fits together, to see how elaborate the whole kidnapping conspiracy is. But at the same time, after two episodes the characters aren’t particularly interesting nor am I all that anxious about the victim’s whereabouts. I wish I could fast-forward to the end. TiVo verdict: Season Pass, but grudgingly. I will gladly cancel it if the show doesn’t hold my interest.