Tuned In: 'Killing' stumbles through life on Netflix

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The summer of unending TV series premieres — aka the new normal — continues this weekend with today’s return of former AMC drama “The Killing,” back for its final six episodes, available only via Netflix streaming.

When season three of “The Killing” ended on AMC, Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) had murdered her boss/former lover Lt. James Skinner once she discovered he was the Pied Piper serial killer responsible for killing multiple teenagers.

Season four picks up with Linden showering the bloody evidence off herself, mopping up the crime scene and plotting a cover-up with partner Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman).

Linden also maintains her title as TV’s Most Morose Cop to the point that she almost gives away the cover-up to a colleague who notes, “What’s wrong with Linden? She smiled at me!”

While this surely feels like a chickens-coming-home-to-roost season — Linden has become the kind of lawless monster she pursues — there’s one more case to work before the somber homicide detective gets caught.

A wealthy family turns up dead in their shoreline mansion with only one son, Kyle Stansbury (Tyler Ross), surviving. Did he murder his parents and siblings? Or is Col. Margaret Rayne (Joan Allen), the chilly headmaster at Kyle’s all-boys military academy, somehow involved?

Fans of this hit-or-miss crime serial — and of Linden and Holder, in particular — may want to stream these final episodes just to see what kind of miserable state the show leaves poor Linden in, but “The Killing” long ago ceased to be required viewing for cultural currency. (That ship sailed after the non-ending that failed to wrap up the first season.)

AMC’s under-the-radar Western “Hell on Wheels” (9 p.m. Saturday) steams in for its fourth season this weekend. Set in 1868, the new season finds Thomas Durant (Colm Meaney) broke, Elam Ferguson (Common) presumed dead and Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) trapped in a fort with his pregnant wife (Mackenzie Porter) and the Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl).

Early next week Kelsey Grammer (“Frasier,” “Boss”) makes his TV return with FX’s “Partners” (9 and 9:30 p.m. Monday), another comedy that follows the 10/90 business model: Producers make 10 episodes, and if they reach a certain ratings threshold, then FX automatically orders another 90 episodes.

As with past series that follow this business plan, Charlie Sheen’s “Anger Management” and George Lopez’s “Saint George,” the prospect of 100 half-hours of “Partners” is pretty unwelcome, although it’s slightly less painful a notion than dozens of episodes of those previous 10/90 shows.

(And let’s briefly consider the fate of past sitcoms titled “Partners”: There was the 1995-96 “Partners” on Fox, which deserved a second season, and the 2012-13 CBS “Partners,” which stole much of the premise from the Fox show and was quickly canceled, which is what it deserved.)

This latest “Partners” on FX stars Mr. Grammer as high-end lawyer Allen Braddock, who gets fired by his father from the family law firm for reasons unrevealed and winds up in business with ethically upstanding attorney Marcus Jackson (Martin Lawrence), who operates a Chicago storefront law practice.

“Partners” is your basic odd couple comedy with Mr. Grammer attacking his part with his trademark zeal and Mr. Lawrence wandering through the motions in somnambulant fashion. It’s a stark energy contrast but a secondary problem for “Partners,” which mostly stumbles on predictable plotting that flows from pedestrian writing.

The pilot is all about the pair meeting and viewers getting to know the characters. Even though he’s without a moral compass, Mr. Grammer’s Allen Braddock is the more likable of the pair. (“I’m well versed in legal ethics. How do you think I’ve avoided them for so long?”) Mr. Lawrence’s Marcus Jackson comes off like a doormat who’s unwilling to fight for himself in a divorce case that hits close to home.

“Partners” does benefit from the work of its supporting players, including TV veteran Telma Hopkins (“Family Matters”) as Marcus’ mom and newcomer Rory O’Malley, a 2003 grad of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama, as Marcus’ paralegal. But without good writing, even winning performances can’t help “Partners” feel like it would be a better fit among the ’90s throwback sitcoms that pass for original programming on TV Land.


Comedy Central renewed “Drunk History” and “Nathan for You” for their third seasons.

MTV renewed “Teen Wolf” for a 20-episode fifth season.

VH1 renewed “Hit the Floor” for a third season to air in May 2015.

Disney XD ordered second seasons of animated series “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” and “Marvel’s Hulk and Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” for fall.

Cartoon Network re-upped “Adventure Time,” “Regular Show,” “Uncle Grandpa,” “Steven Universe” and “Clarence” for an additional season each.

TNT ordered a 10-episode third season of reality crime drama “Cold Justice” to air in early 2015.

‘Steve Harvey’ upgraded

WTAE announced Thursday that “Steve Harvey” will escape overnights to air weekdays at 3 p.m. beginning Sept. 8 in place of the canceled “Katie Couric.”

Newcomer “The Meredith Vieira Show” will air at 10 a.m. weekdays on Channel 4, displacing “The Rachael Ray Show,” which moves to WPXI at 11 a.m. starting Sept. 15.

I’ll have details on all that’s new in syndicated programming closer to the start of the new TV season.

Channel surfing

Syfy's "Sharknado 2: The Second One" drew 3.9 million viewers Wednesday night to become the network's most-watched original movie ever. ....“Girls” star Allison Williams will play the title role in NBC’s Dec. 4 production of “Peter Pan Live!” … CBS castoff pilot “The Gaffigan Show,” starring comedian Jim Gaffigan, landed a 10-episode order for 2015 from TV Land (episodes will later play on Comedy Central). … Another awards show goes to the dogs: The CW will air the inaugural broadcast of “The World Dog Awards” in January. … This week CBS moved the Halle Berry summer drama “Extant” from 9 to 10 p.m. Wednesday. … The sixth season of FX’s “The League” debuts at 10 p.m. Sept. 3. … Season five of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” debuts at 9 p.m. Oct. 12 followed by “Talking Dead” (10 p.m.) and “Comic Book Men” (midnight). … “The Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik will host TV Land’s reboot of “Candid Camera” (8 p.m. Aug. 11). … A new season of Investigation Discovery’s “Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda,” starring the Western Pennsylvania native, begins at 10 p.m. Aug. 19. … Hit Western miniseries “Lonesome Dove” celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and is now available for free online streaming at Hulu.com along with sequels “Return to Lonesome Dove,” “Larry McMurtry’s Streets of Laredo” and “Larry McMurtry’s Dead Man’s Walk.” … Western Pennsylvania native “Wild” Bill Wichrowski of Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” (season finale Tuesday with a “Behind the Lens” special at 9 p.m. Aug. 8) returns home to be deputy marshal for the Irwin 150th Parade at 2 p.m. Aug. 9.

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about “Legend of Korra,” “Forensic Files” and Jodine Costanzo. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on “Urban Jungle,” “The Honorable Woman,” “The Quest” and “Sharknado 2.” Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

Tuned In podcast is on summer vacation but will return next week.

TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.

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