Every now and then there's a night of TV so packed with premieres, you can't help but scratch your head and wonder whether networks keep track of what their rivals are doing. Why wouldn't they avoid going head-to-head? This is one of those nights.
ABC debuts the sitcom "How to Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)"; DirecTV's Audience Network unveils a new drama, "Rogue"; TV Land pairs five 20-somethings with five 70-somethings in a party house in reality show "Forever Young" (10 tonight); and BBC America ushers in a much-delayed miniseries, "Spies of Warsaw" (9 tonight), starring David Tennant ("Doctor Who") in a spy story set in Poland, Paris and London just prior to World War II. Even E! has a special episode of one of its regular series with "The Soup Awards" (10 tonight).
So why does this sort of TV pileup happen? Often networks are more interested in what works best on their schedule and they don't worry so much about the competition. That the bulk of March Madness basketball has passed probably also plays a part in networks rushing to get new programs on viewers' radar before the next distraction comes along.
Below are reviews of ABC's new sitcom and DirecTV's new drama. Spoiler alert: When it comes to these two shows, you're better off sticking with whatever you usually watch on Wednesday nights.
'How to Live With Your Parents'
As ABC burns off one of its best live-action comedies -- "Happy Endings," airing back-to-back episodes at 8 p.m. Friday -- it adds a new disappointment to its lineup.
"How to Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)" (9:30 tonight, WTAE) may be an overly long title, but it conjures a familiar scenario: Boomerang kids, those adult children who move back in with their parents. As single mom Polly (Sarah Chalke, "Scrubs") notes after she moves back home, "I'm not a failure, I'm trendy."
But the show's concept is where anything relatable begins and ends.
The premiere episode of this single-camera comedy starts with a flashback to Polly and her daughter, Natalie (Rachel Eggleston), showing up, unannounced, on the doorstep of Polly's mother, Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins, "Weeds"), and stepfather, Max (Brad Garrett, "Everybody Loves Raymond").
As written by series creator Claudia Lonow ("Accidentally on Purpose"), Elaine and Max are extreme characters, the kind of daffy free spirits who exist somewhere but probably not in the lives of the majority of viewers watching an ABC sitcom.
Actually, Max isn't that bad. He's got his eccentricities, but they're pretty acceptable. It's Elaine who seems unreal and potentially offensive to large swaths of the viewing public.
Her declarations are out there ("I'm very proud of my orgasms!"), and her lack of attachment to raising her daughter is odd (she doesn't remember if she bathed her daughter as a child). Elaine's self-absorption is no more amusing: "What are we going to talk about?" she asks when it's time to baby-sit her granddaughter. "Kids are boring. We're the fascinating ones."
And that's the biggest problem with this show: It's got a worthy premise that's larded up with unfunny, over-the-top characterizations.
Aside from some profanity, violence and nudity, story-wise DirecTV's latest Audience Network drama seems like something you'd find on a basic cable network a few years ago.
"Rogue" (9 tonight) is another dreary quest saga, this time about San Francisco Bay-area undercover cop Grace (Thandie Newton), who fears her work contributed to the drive-by shooting of her son. So, yes, there's a ton of angst and emoting and scenes of Grace fighting with her boss about returning to her undercover job after her son's death.
"I gave you a direct [bleep-damned] order and you ignored it, now stay the [expletive] out of Oakland!" the boss rails.
On the home front, Grace is in no better shape.
"It's not a job, it's an addiction," Grace's husband complains. And, yeah, he's kind of right. Like her predecessor obsessed cops, including Sarah Linden on "The Killing," Grace is single-minded in her obsession, returning to her undercover gig as a lackey to crime boss Jimmy Laszlo (Marton Csokas), who has her searching for a traitor in his organization.
This doesn't sit well with her teen daughter, who's turned to drugs, and the show pretty much blames the girl's bad behavior on Grace's absenteeism.
Created by Matthew Parkhill ("Primeval"), "Rogue" doesn't live up to its title in its first hour because the story does everything you'd expect. So it was probably smart for DirecTV to bundle the first two episodes because "Rogue" does take a bit of an unexpected turn at the start of its second hour, which also spends more time developing the characters of Jimmy's family, including a recently imprisoned son.
Then "Rogue" starts to become a little more intriguing, but the show only gets to that point after the cliched setup and almost two hours spent with a self-destructive lead character. For discerning viewers, it may be too little, too late.
Portions of this review first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.