Dull 'Alphas' fails to deliver

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From "Misfits of Science" to "Heroes" and especially "The X-Men," there have long been stories about outsiders with uncanny abilities. Syfy's "Alphas" is just the latest, as it not-so-boldly goes where many series have gone before.

Beginning with a 90-minute premiere episode Monday night at 10, "Alphas" introduces a group of individuals with unique abilities that make them different and make their lives, inevitably, more difficult.

David Strathairn, a reliable actor who's one of the more likable aspects of "Alphas," stars as neurologist Lee Rosen, essentially the Professor X leader of the group. So far, Dr. Rosen doesn't have any powers, but he's the one who best understands the Alphas and acts as a liaison between them and a government contact.

The premiere introduces the assorted Alphas, who possess superhuman physical and mental abilities, including former Army sniper Cameron Hicks (Warren Christie, "October Road"), who has great aim; former FBI agent Bill Harken (Malik Yoba, "New York Undercover"), who sports super strength; Rachel Pirzad (Azita Ghanizada, "General Hospital: Night Shift"), who displays her heightened senses; autistic Gary Bell (Ryan Cartwright, "Bones"), who can see electromagnetic frequencies; and beautiful loner Nina Theroux (Laura Mennell, "Sanctuary"), who can influence others' thoughts using that old Jedi mind trick ("these are not the droids you're looking for").

Monday's premiere sets up the notion that there are bad Alphas out there gunning for the good Alphas who work for the government, but there's also a suggestion that our heroes are "on the wrong side of this," setting up what's sure to be a significant story arc for the series.

The problem with the show is that it's pretty dull, particularly if you've ever watched any of the similar shows that preceded "Alphas." None of the characters feel new, nor do the situations. Mr. Strathairn is a welcome guide through this familiar terrain, but even his presence can't make "Alphas" an A-level series. It's really more of a C.

'Curb' appeal

HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" returns Sunday at 10 p.m. for a new 10-episode season, and star/executive producer Larry David is keeping the season premiere under wraps. Titled "The Divorce," Mr. David did not allow HBO to send out copies of the episode to critics for review. HBO describes the episode this way: "Larry learns his lawyer isn't kosher and rescinds a cookie order from the Girl Scout daughter of a beleaguered sports owner."

The network did send out the third episode of the season, "Palestinian Chicken," airing July 24. In that half-hour, Larry is dubbed a "social assassin" by best friend Jeff (Jeff Garlin) after he causes trouble at a dinner party. But the episode's funniest plot involves a Palestinian chicken restaurant. Larry likes the chicken -- and a woman he meets there -- even though he's appalled by the political implications.

"You're always attracted to someone who doesn't want you, right?" Larry says. "Well, here you have somebody who not only doesn't want you, doesn't even acknowledge your right to exist, wants your destruction. That's a turn-on."

'infoMania' canceled

The underdog Current TV series "infoMania," which I have at various times championed and criticized, has been canceled. Host Brett Erlich announced the show's demise on last week's episode, a rarity in television, where canceled shows usually just disappear.

"Don't worry about us," he said. "The good people at Current TV are going to send us to a farm where we'll spend the rest of our days playing with horses, goats and Snowball, the hamster you had when you were in fifth grade. Frankly, I can hardly wait."

The "infoMania" series finale will air next Friday.

Channel surfing

Starz has canceled its creatively disappointing original series "Camelot" after one season. ... James Spader will join the cast of NBC's "The Office" this fall, reprising his May season finale role as Robert California, who gets hired to manage the Scranton branch but within days becomes CEO of Sabre, the parent company of Dunder Mifflin. ... ABC will license departing soaps "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" to a company that intends to continue making episodes of the daytime dramas for delivery to viewers online. ... CBS decided not to renew the "Hallmark Hall of Fame" movies earlier this year, but Variety reports the films will shift to ABC (still airing a few times each year on Sunday nights) with a second airing on Hallmark Channel a week after their ABC debut. ... A&E has renewed "Breakout Kings" for a second season. ... TVLine.com reports "Glee" has dumped Chord "Trouty Mouth" Overstreet, who played Sam, as a series regular. ... Comedy Central will roast Charlie Sheen, and to add insult to injury the roast will air Sept. 19, the same night a new season of "Two and a Half Men" begins airing with Sheen replacement Ashton Kutcher as the star. ... The third season of "Law & Order: UK," which will have a few cast changes just like the original U.S. version did from time to time, debuts at 9 p.m. Aug. 17. ... Season two of the U.S. edition of "Top Gear" will premiere at 10 p.m. July 24 on History; a new season of the original, British "Top Gear" debuts at 9 p.m. Aug. 22 on BBC America. ... Steel Town Paranormal of Freeport and Butler will compete in Travel Channel's "Paranormal Challenge" (9 tonight) at Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio. ... TNT has ordered a second, 10-episode season of alien invasion drama "Falling Skies" to air next summer.

Portions of this column first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv.

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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