Utopia (Fox, 8 p.m.): Fox’s latest attempt at an American Idol successor is a lot like that humbled, Ryan Seacrest-hosted behemoth—in that the original American idols were pioneers attempting to forge an ideal society. We all know how that turned out, so here’s hoping the cast of Utopia fares better than those bozos. No phone, no lights, no motorcar, not a single luxury—and, reportedly, one contestant who’s not staying hydrated while he pushes toward the future of humanity. We’ve sent David Kallison to check in on the pioneers, and if he doesn’t wind up filing a review, it’ll mean he’s either moved to Utopia himself or been hospitalized for dehydration.
The ABC’s Of Schoolhouse Rock (ABC, 7 p.m.): Chandra Wilson counts down the top 5 Schoolhouse Rock songs of all time, because it’s the Sunday before the official start of the TV season and everyone is exhausted. The consensus pick for No. 1 is “Conjunction Junction,” but What’s On Tonight would like to put in a vote for the eerie Multiplication Rock cut “Little Twelve Toes.”
Boardwalk Empire (HBO, 9 p.m.): The final season opens in unfamiliar territory for Nucky Thompson and company: The 1930s, the feel-bad decade of the Great Depression. Genevieve Valentine looks on the bright side: At least the repeal of prohibition is on the horizon!
The Leftovers (HBO, 10 p.m.): Last week was Labor Day, but it’s Memorial Day in The Leftovers’ universe, which means the Guilty Remnant has something vaguely horrifying up its sleeve. Choosing to stay optimistic, Sonia Saraiya hopes the GR is just planning a big barbecue for everyone in Mapleton. (Actually “a big barbecue for everyone in Mapleton” sounds even more sinister than whatever was being plotted in the last episode…)
Clone High (3 p.m.): Introducing Clone High’s most intriguing new student: John D’arc. The guys want to be him, the girls want to be with him, Joan actually is him. Caroline Framke, meanwhile, wants to know why Scudworth couldn’t clone Joan in order to make John a permanent fixture of the Clone High ensemble.
The Specials (OWN, 2:30 p.m.): Four years in the lives of five British housemates with intellecutal disabilities, originally told in 10 minute online chunks but now expanded to half-hour installments (and a day-long marathon on OWN).
Angels Are Among Us (TLC, 10 p.m.): The network that brought you Long Island Medium proudly presents the Upstate New York Angel Whisperer. (You don’t want to know what the angels are saying about the Long Island Medium behind her back.)
Ghost Asylum (Destination America, 10 p.m.): You know, judging by the cable premieres tonight, it’s almost as if other networks knew The Leftovers was ending its first season tonight.
Pressure Cooker (FYI, 10 p.m.): A.V. Club favorite (and former dining and drinking correspondent for the late, great A.V. Club New York) Max Silvestri challenges three competing teams to cooking challenges in cities across the country. Yes, that sounds like a much better gig than hunting down the hot new entrees and cool trendy cocktails for the arts-and-entertainment print supplement of a satirical newspaper.
12 Years A Slave (HBO, 6:40 p.m.): Just in case your night of HBO wasn’t bleak enough, what with the Depression on Boardwalk and the general atmosphere of depression on The Leftovers, here’s an Oscar-winning reminder of how our American ancestors really screwed the pooch on the whole “don’t own people” thing.
Planet Of The Apes (TCM, 8 p.m.): A scene from Utopia, several hundered years in the future: “You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! And damn your insistence on not maintaining a proper level of hydration! Damn you all to a dehydrated hell!”
Sunday Night Football (NBC, 8:20 p.m.): Are you ready for some football (on the network that never used that song for primetime NFL)? The Colts and the Broncos are, as Peyton Manning prepares to face off against his old squad in this week one matchup.
The A.V. Club plays a little game of “If we ran the networks” in our two-part fall TV preview, letting you know all about the new shows coming your way in the next few months (then telling you how many episodes should make it to air—the answers may surprise you). Continuing in that spirit of faux- interactivity, we’ll also have an Inventory of TV-to-board game adaptations. Because nothing says “an evening of family fun” like the labyrinthine nightmare of the Divorce Court game we dug up.
The Chair (Saturday): Meet the new Project Greenlight, with one more filmmaker than the old Project Greenlight. Myles McNutt wasn’t a fan of The Chair’s competition elements, but even Myles can’t deny the allure of YouTube sensation Shane Dawson and his swoopy, swoopy bangs.