Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Justin Theroux, Carrie Coon (HBO)

Here’s what’s up in the world of TV for Sunday, October 4th. All times are Eastern.

Top pick

The Leftovers (HBO, 9 p.m.): One of the most arresting, disorienting, heartbreaking, and polarizing shows of last year returns for another year of rampant PTSD, white outfits and chain-smoking, dogs for whom feral doesn’t go far enough, and the increasing desperation of trying to live in a world that can remove two percent of its population at random and never explain why. Having used up all of Tom Perotta’s novel in season one, Damon Lindelof and his fellow writers are quite literally going off book as the Garvey/Durst/Jamison clan heads west in search of a town that was untouched by the Departure. It’s an ambitious move, and one that Erik Adams said in his pre-air review doesn’t damage what makes the show special at all:

Amid all the shakeups, The Leftovers’ standalone technique remains second to none. Practically reversing the way Lindelof and his Island cohorts prioritized the forest over the trees on Lost, The Leftovers staff digs at complex emotions with surgical precision and intimate storytelling. … Few prestige dramas would pause for detailed character sketches like these; only The Leftovers has the supernatural edge that grants tremendous significance to mundane vignettes of backyard pitching practice or trips to the drug store.


With last season’s weekly reviewer undergoing her own Departure—vanishing without a trace save a bizarre Hostages fan fiction—Joshua Alston is taking over coverage, loading up his car and following the characters to Jarden, Texas and the hope things will get better. Though we’re guessing they won’t.

(A serious aside: Some of you may remember we had to shut down the comments on these reviews last year. Please keep things civil and don’t force us to do so a second time. Don’t be a dick.)


Also noted (premiere edition)

The Good Wife (CBS, 9 p.m.): Everyone’s favorite legal drama returns after a rocky sixth season where that title was frequently jeopardized by, amongst other things: a tone-deaf approach to racial politics, aimless plotting and characters without objectives, and a legendarily awful final scene between Alicia and Kalinda that has set a new standard in how badly shows can fail when they try to pull the wool over the eyes of their audience. But despite all that dreck, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya believes it can rally back to its prior heights, and she’s got her best red wine and pantsuit combo ready for the occasion.


Homeland (Showtime, 9 p.m.): Speaking of a frustrating fall from high quality, the spy drama that’s as bipolar as its protagonist is back for its fifth season. This year the action moves to Berlin, as Carrie Mathison is being called out of a quiet life and back into action for the umpteenth time. Joshua Alston doesn’t understand why the CIA keeps relying on this loose cannon who produces questionable results, but as long as it leads to more exposure for Mandy Patinkin’s full luxurious beard, he’ll allow it.

The Affair (Showtime, 10 p.m.): Carrie Raisler had many highly complicated feelings about this show last year, leading to this summary of the season finale: “It’s a maddening, frustrating, soapy, compelling, occasionally hilarious, entertaining mess, and I somehow equally loved and hated it at the same time. Hey, at least it wasn’t boring.” Thankfully Gwen Ihnat’s pre-air review of season two is encouraging for the show’s return, as she claims the show is coming back with a deepened emotional grasp that allows it to “sail over that sophomore slump that has felled so many other Showtime dramas.” Plus Joshua Jackson and Maura Tierney now have their own perspective scenes, and everyone loves those two.


Also noted (finale edition)

Fear The Walking Dead (AMC, 8 p.m.): With the Cobalt protocol initiated, our band of survivors are caught between a stadium full of zombies and a military so overwhelmed they’d rather burn Los Angeles to the ground than try to save it. Josh Modell hopes not all of it burns down as he’s by and large enjoyed the first half-dozen episodes of this series and is optimistic for its full season next year. Though his fingers are crossed that at least one of Nick, Alicia, or Chris gets cut down in tonight’s crossfire. Ugh, they’re the worst.


The Strain (FX, 9 p.m.): We asked Kyle Fowle to sum up his feelings on this season in one word, and he was torn between “exhausting” and “labored.” Not a great way to feel about a series by any definition of either word, but we’re hoping for some entertaining action set pieces and/or glorious stupidity as Eph, Setrakian, Nora, Eichorst and the rest clash for the fate of New York City.

Rick And Morty (Adult Swim, 11:30 p.m.): “Morty, you gotta listen to me Morty! It’s the second season finale and we gotta pull out all the stops Morty! It’s just you and me Morty! This review’s gotta be something special! Otherwise we’re gonna have to blow it all up! Yes we’re coming back, but we don’t know when! The universe is meaningless, Morty! It’s a joyless cold place where love isn’t going to find you ever again! Where’s your corporate overlord security blanket now Morty?!” Zack Handlen is confused that we’re calling him Morty but is still ready to get schwifty for tonight’s finale, and wondering just how dark things can get in a season that’s been pushing that boundary every other week.


Regular coverage

Once Upon A Time (ABC, 8 p.m.): The season five premiere gave Gwen Ihnat a migraine with all its stupid twists and turns, though Emma’s transformation into the Black Swan was enough to drag it out of C+ territory. Unfortunately the show is probably too family-friendly to go a step further and transform Emma into Black Swan.


The Simpsons (Fox, 8 p.m): Well, it wasn’t a jug band, but the season premiere of The Simpsons still left a bad taste in Dennis Perkins’s mouth by blending Girls with Inception in a way that he didn’t find memorable, fun, or respectful. Hopefully this week, wherein Homer gets pulled into a BBQ smoke-off, will soothe his palate.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox, 8:30 p.m.): Last week saw Bill Hader leave almost immediately after he arrived, and the Nine-Nine is now the Vulture’s Nest with the arrival of Dean Winters. Longtime Dennis Duffy fan LaToya Ferguson is on board with this, and hopes that his first edict to the detectives is to trade in their cell phones for beepers.


The Last Man On Earth (Fox, 9:30 p.m.): “Phil looks for Carol after they’re separated without phones or walkie-talkies.” If only they’d asked Vikram Murthi, he could have shared the wonders of Morse code, smoke signals, and semaphore.

Project Greenlight (HBO, 10 p.m.): Matt Damon continues to make headlines by saying things he probably shouldn’t, but that’s not getting in the way of Scott Von Doviak’s appreciation of the inscrutable Effie Brown and Uncompromising Artist Jason Mann. Film! It’s all film! Everything must be film!


Quantico (ABC, 10 p.m.): The series premiere did fairly well for ABC, so it looks like Alex Parrish and her fellow FBI recruits will live to fight and/or secretly support terrorism for a while longer. And according to Joshua Alston there are now secret twins involved, which is all the motivation we need to tune in. It’s no Ringer, but honestly, what could be?

Classic coverage

The Simpsons (3 p.m.): For his review of “Das Bus,” Rowan Kaiser is going method and marooning himself on an island. He was hesitant at first, but then we pointed out that it’d be just like The Swiss Family Robinson, only with more cursing. Now he’s living like a damn hell ass king!


What else is on?

Madam Secretary (CBS, 8 p.m.): CBS’s other Sunday night drama about a powerful woman returns for season two, wherein Elizabeth Faulkner McCord takes the oath of office after the President’s plane vanishes over the Pacific Ocean. We’re guessing it’s a temporary thing given the show didn’t suddenly change its name to Madam President, but they could be pulling a Veep on us. Fingers crossed Tea Leoni gets a rant even close to what Julia Louis-Dreyfus had in the season four finale.


Blood And Oil (ABC, 9 p.m.): Unlike Quantico, this one didn’t open to solid numbers. In our opinion, ABC would have had much more ratings traction if the promotional materials emphasized that Don Johnson’s character is named Hap. Every show needs a character named Hap.

CSI: Cyber (CBS, 10 p.m.): CSI may have ended its epic run last week, but Cyber continues to be the screeching modem of television, now hooking Ted Danson into solving crimes caused by the Internet. Or something. Honestly we think this show is pretty terrible, but we support it because we believe in Danson and Patricia Arquette getting steady paychecks and because its grasp of technology and episode titles are a reliable source of comedy. Case in point: tonight’s second season premiere is called “Why-Fi.”


Doll & Em (HBO, 10:30 p.m.): “Em and Doll are both disappointed by Ewan McGregor under separate circumstances.” Possibly each one of them saw a different Star Wars prequel.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO, 11 p.m.): We haven’t been listing this one over that last few weeks, and we feel bad about that given how regularly brilliant Oliver’s take on the world is. So accept this listing as our apology.


The Great British Baking Show (PBS, 7 p.m.): We question the value of using biscuits to build towers given their poor structural integrity, but that’s what contestants are whipping up this week along with traybakes and tuiles.

Home Fires (PBS, 8 p.m.): Another new Masterpiece period drama, focused on a rural British town and the approach of World War II. In the premiere, Frances (Samantha Bond) tries to revive the Womens’ Institute with a jam-making project. If this turns out to be a alt-history fiction where Hitler is defeated by jam, it will officially be the best show of 2015.


Guy’s Grocery Games (Food Network, 8 p.m.): A Halloween-themed cooking competition! “The chefs rummage through some creepy clearance carts; and incorporate Guy’s red-light special into their best offal dishes.” We think there’s a typo there and “awful” is the right word they’re looking for.

The Princess Bride (BBC America, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.): There’s not a lot of films people are willing to watch and then immediately watch again, but it’s a safe bet this is one of them.


Orphan (Syfy, 8 p.m.): With the new season of Bates Motel still a few months away, scratch your “Vera Farmiga and a creepy child” itch with this film.

Jurassic Park (TBS, 8 p.m.): Be like Jake Johnson’s character in Jurassic World and give in to the glory of the original.


Bad Boys II (TNT, 8 p.m.): This movie is the epitome of brainless Michael Bay action movies. We have a soft spot for it though since it was always on HBO when we were younger, and we must have seen the third act at least 25 times.


WNBA Finals, Game 1 (ABC, 3 p.m.)

Sunday Night Football, Cowboys at Saints (NBC, 8:20 p.m.)

MLS Soccer, Colorado vs. Real Salt Lake (Fox Sports, 7 p.m.)

MLS Soccer, Seattle vs. Los Angeles (Fox Sports, 9:30 p.m.)

In case you missed it

The Unauthorized Beverly Hills, 90210 Story: Do you want to watch a movie that doesn’t care about quality or narrative flow even by Lifetime standards, a film that casts the voice of Homer Simpson as a prolific television producer and finds a way to incorporate a Sharknado joke, a film that elevates awful montage into an art form? You know you do, and after watching this Alex McCown knows you do too.


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