So many new shows have started airing in the past few weeks that covering them all individually is a fool’s game. Instead, Wires & Lights is going to give you a succinct summary of what’s most worth watching, when you can legally see it (if at all), and what might just need some time to get going. Let’s start with your best option, shall we?

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

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Before watching the season’s best new sitcom, I had no firm opinion on Andy Samberg, the star of this dysfunctional cop comedy. His teenage boy mania always seemed hit and miss, particularly in the form of his SNL-born rap group, The Lonely Island. But in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Samberg has writers behind him who know how to best utilise his timing and charm. Centring on the 99th precinct of the New York Police Department, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a police sitcom in the tradition of Barney Miller but gussied up for the 21st century.

Hailing from creators Dan Goor and Mike Schur, best known for Parks and Recreation and the latter also for The Office, the show is the rare one which has arrived fully formed, its ensemble gelling almost immediately with a few potential break-outs rearing their heads early. The other big highlight is the use of Andre Braugher as the 99’s new commanding officer, his graveyard deadpan proving putting a new twist on the often onerous straight man role. On that note, Braugher’s character is revealed in the pilot to be a gay man whose career had long been held back due his openness about his sexuality. It’s a wonderfully forward move, which immediately gives his staid persona an added layer.

With a ensemble boasting terrific racial and gender diversity — including Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, and Stephanie Beatriz — Brooklyn Nine-Nine manages to feel simultaneously comfortable, funny, and exciting. The writers take obvious glee in playing within this world, and much of that shines through on the mania of Gina Linetti, a civilian administrator played by the wonderful Chelsea Peretti. Her mangled, full-bodied line readings make for many of the show’s biggest laughs, and help make the series’ acceptance of the mundane aspects of police work all that more enjoyable. While there are still some characters to be better fleshed out, the show’s world is already expanding and it should only get better from here.

The series does not yet have an Australian air date or seemingly a network. Don’t be surprised if it gets the 30 Rock treatment from Seven, i.e airing at 11.30pm on Monday nights for no good reason.

Super Fun Night

Liza Lapira, Rebel Wilson, and Lauren Ash in Super Fun Night.

I like Rebel Wilson. For some reason she seems to be way more divisive than she has any real right to be. Ever since it was announced she was to create and star in a sitcom, people have been rushing to scream from the rooftops that they don’t find her funny. Her breakout turn in Bridesmaids followed by her near-star turn in Pitch Perfect (with a bunch of poor projects in between) have led her back to TV, albeit in another country. Mercifully, Super Fun Night bears zero resembles to The Wedge.

Centred on Kimmie Boubier (Wilson), Helen-Alice (Liza Lapira), and Marika (Lauren Ash) as three awkward but loveable losers, the series follows their quest to have a titularly super and fun evening every Friday. At the same time, Kimmie — a lawyer — just got a promotion at her firm, and is battling Kendall Quinn (fellow Australian Kate Jenkinson) for the affections of boss’ son Richard Royce (Kevin Bishop). It’s all fairly standard sitcom stuff, but the focus on three semi-to-professional women who aren’t model-beautiful is somewhat refreshing for network television.

Without having seen the much-maligned, Wilson-penned pilot, the series presents itself as a mildly amusing, enjoyable way to spend half an hour. Wilson’s voice shines through in her body-conscious performance; the character owns her weight but refuses to apologise for it because she simply shouldn’t have to. Not much else here is particularly ground-breaking but it also wouldn’t be shocking to see the show become great. However, it would be even less surprising if it remained simply a mild diversion. And yes, it is baffling that Wilson herself insisted on doing an American accent.

Super Fun Night airs Tuesday nights on Nine. The first episode played on the 15th, so not too much to catch up on.

Trophy Wife

The cast of Trophy Wife.

Another in the American Broadcasting Corporation’s growing rank of poorly-named quality sitcoms, Trophy Wife is a more genuinely modern take on the modern family than its so-named network-mate. Starring Malin Akerman as Kate, the third wife of Pete Harrison (Bradley Whitford), the series finds her at the centre of an already established family network. The superlative Marcia Gay Harden plays Diane, a quietly terrifying surgeon whose perfectionism has passed on to her daughter more than her son, and Michaela Watkins is Jackie, Pete’s second ex-wife, a charmingly dazed hippy type with an adopted Asian son, Bert. Oh, there’s also Kate’s best friend Meg (the always welcome Natalie Morales), who is like a deliciously bitter short black compared to the relative sweetness around her.

Initially more enjoyable than funny, the series has steadily come into its own as the dynamics between the characters has become more fleshed out. Based on co-creator Sarah Haskins’ own experiences, its enjoyable to see a family sitcom where the concept of family has proved stronger than labels; while no longer married, there’s an affection between Pete and Diane, as well as Pete and Jackie, which is different to that between he and Kate but still valid. There’s no animosity, just a family unit transcending the need for the nuclear family.

Thus why the title is a problem for it; while Akerman is phenomenally beautiful, like some kind of Scandinavian queen, her down-to-earth physicality and simultaneous desire to be a good step-mother while remaining fun make for a nice anchor in an increasingly cohesive series. It hasn’t rated terribly well, unfortunately, and may not last the season (it would have slotted perfectly behind Modern Family but hey, what do I know) but it’s worth letting it take you along on its ride, no matter how short. No apparent plans for it to air in Australia as of yet, so the rest is up to you.


Allison Janney and Anna Faris in Mom.

Anna Faris and Allison Janney are two incredibly funny and talented women. So it was more than a little concerning to see them sign on to a Chuck Lorre sitcom for CBS. From the same mind that brought you The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men: the hilarious story of a terrible mother Bonnie (Janney) who didn’t provide for her daughter Christy (Faris) whose substance abuse and subsequent teenage pregnancy have her working as a waitress to get by while sleeping with her boss; and now her own daughter is pregnant too [cue heavy studio audience laughter]!

It’s actually rather nice to see Lorre make a show that isn’t a heinous sausage fest, something which Big Bang has only remedied in recent seasons. Two and a Half Men is a legitimate stain on the tablecloth of television history (a stain for which Jon Cryer somehow won an Emmy) and was misogynistic with Charlie Sheen as its star as much as it still is now that Ashton Kutcher has shouldered the Sisyphean burden that it is. So a female-oriented, more introspective show would be welcome if it cared more about being that show and not just a fairly lacklustre sitcom.

It’s not the worst-written show in the world, but it relies too heavily on the audience laughter with flat jokes and hackneyed set-ups. Thankfully, the chemistry between the two leads is good enough for it to scrape by, and there’s one or two good laughs an episode. When it settles down and becomes more personal and less hammy — such as in Christy’s Alcoholics Anonymous meetings — it becomes good until the next shrug-worthy joke comes along. Which sadly is never too far away.

So far it looks like Nine plans to premiere the show in 2014, by which time it may very well be cancelled. So at least we have some spurious marketing claims (“The newest comedy hit straight from the US!”, probably) to look forward to.

(Still to come: 1980s-set The Goldbergs, ’90s throwback Sean Saves the World, The Michael J. Fox Show, Reign, The Crazy Ones, Hostages, and The Millers.)

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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