Mostly, this week's television column is going to be devoted to telling you why you should be checking out Alphas tonight, and the Monday nights following. This Syfy show about people with mutant powers really hit its stride at the end of season one, and has continued to be super-watchable in season two thus far. So we're turning on our "mutant mind control" voices and telling you to check out Alphas.
We've also go tour usual roundup of the most notable TV shows of the week — especially Roger Corman's Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader!
So we were pretty jazzed about Alphas after the show's strong first season finale, and then word came down that showrunner Ira Steven Behr (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) was gone. His replacement: Bruce Miller, who came over from being a showrunner on the final season of Eureka. To be honest, I thought the shakeup heralded a change in creative direction — possibly away from some of the edgier storytelling the show seemed to be slowly working up to in its first season.
So it's nice to be able to report that the first four episodes of season two have been pretty darn good — and quite dark. Without getting too spoilery, the fate that befalls Gary, the autistic superkid and the show's best character, in the season opener, is genuinely horrible, and the show has done a good job of dealing with the ramifications of it for his character. Meanwhile, last week's episode in which a team-member goes off the rails could have been just another "power corrupts" homily, but instead it featured some genuinely messed-up flashbacks in which something pretty gruesome happens. (At left: a clip from tonight's episode.)
(In case you've missed Alphas altogether, here's a one-sentence description: There are mutants with superpowers, akin to the X-Men, and some of them work for the government, while others are quasi-terrorists who are mutant separatists or mutant supremacists.)
It helps that the season opener was written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, also a former DS9 producer and former Andromeda showrunner. "Wake Up Call" is one of those great season openers that gives the show a new mission statement, re-establishes all the characters in their new status quo after a long time gap, and shows exactly why the sometimes morally slippery leader, Dr. Rosen, is the only one who can work with these people.
And the show has been giving David Strathairn some pretty great material thus far this season, holding Lee Rosen accountable for all his moral lapses and the ways he tries to manipulate people, allegedly for their own good. Strathairn is great at being the guy caught in an impossible situation and trying to make the best of it — and in particular, the show doesn't let him off the hook for his selfishness in blowing the whistle on the existence of mutant "alphas" on live television, in the previous season finale. (At left: Another sneak peek from tonight's outing.)
Meanwhile, season two is definitely feeling a bit more like a soap opera than the already soapy season one. The super-sensitive Rachel has a brand new love interest, who seems nice enough. And meanwhile, the love triangle between sharpshooter Hicks and two of the show's main women has been occupying a lot of screen time — with pretty much everybody discussing just whom Hicks is sleeping with, and how everyone feels about it. The good news is, at least thus far the soap-opera elements feel like legitimate character development, and not a misguided attempt to turn the show in more of a Vampire Diaries-y direction. (I love TVD, sure, but I always feel as though The CW should stick to making CW shows, and Syfy should stick to making Syfy shows.)
But the clincher is that, thus far, the show's mythos is continuing to develop in some interesting directions — the threat of the mutant terrorists is continuing to get developed in some interesting ways. The season opener established a new trajectory for this storyline, in which the threat seems to have become considerably stronger, and we've discovered that the terrorists' leader has an unexpected connection to our heroes. All in all, Alphas has come back a lot stronger than we'd feared — and we're looking forward to seeing where it goes next.
Alphas airs tonight in a new timeslot — 8 PM on Syfy. With that out of the way, here are the rest of this week's television offerings.
Adventure Time (7:30 PM, Cartoon Network):
OMG, it's a Princess Bubblegum/Lady Rainicorn episode. This is the Adventure Time we've been waiting for!
"Lady & Peebles" – Princess Bubblegum and Lady Rainicorn go on a quest to find Finn and Jake who're missing after fighting the Ice King.
This is followed by your usual batch of Regular Show, Annoying Orange and Mad.
Warehouse 13 (9 PM, Syfy):
And here's the other Syfy show tonight. In which Artie continues to freak out about his most dangerous items going walkabout. And meanwhile, there's a hockey player who has a miraculous — too miraculous — ability to recuperate from any injury. Check out a clip at left, in which — hallelujuah! — Mrs. Frederic is back and giving Claudia some lessons.
Grimm (10 PM, NBC):
When will this show be giving us our proper dose of Pilates Wolf action? Probably not tonight, since this is part two of the season opener:
TWO GRIMMS ARE BETTER THAN ONE AS NICK JOINS FORCES WITH HIS MOTHER TO TAKE DOWN HIS GREATEST THREAT YET - JAMES FRAIN, JESSICA TUCK, MIKE DOPUD AND MARY ELIZABETH MASTRANTONIO GUEST-STAR - As Nick (David Giuntoli) and his mother (guest star Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) continue to battle the Mauvais Dentes (guest star Mike Dopud), Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell) and Rosalee (Bree Turner) fight against the clock to save Juliette (Bitsie Tulloch). More details are revealed about the source of Juliette's illness, resulting in an epic showdown. Back at the precinct, Hank (Russell Hornsby) senses that something is amiss when Nick lands in hot water with the FBI. Meanwhile, Captain Renard (Sasha Roiz) continues to reveal himself as he deals with his estranged brother (guest star James Frain).
Level Up (8 PM, Cartoon Network):
The team goes ghost hunting. Just as a TV news crew is doing a story on Lyle, a ghost leak starts haunting the school. Cue the inevitable Ghostbusters riffs.
Mysteries of the Museum: Out of this World (9 PM, Travel):
A special one-hour Mysteries, dealing with some other-worldly museum items, including "the world's first and furriest astronauts; a pair of human heads; aphotograph depicting the ghostly image of a former president." Everybody loves furry astronauts, especially when they're presumably taxidermied.
Also on TV tonight: At 7 PM, Cartoon Network has a new Amazing World of Gumball, and then at 7:30 there's a new Total Drama.
Futurama (10 PM, Comedy Central):
In "Viva Mars Vegas," the Planet Express crew has to steal back some stolen cargo from the Robot Mafia. And Zoidberg gets to be a big player and hang out in a hot tub!
Also on TV tonight: Cartoon Network has a new Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu at 8 PM.
Misfits (10 PM, LOGO):
It's the first season finale, because the Brits believe in short seasons. Here's what happens:
Our Misfits notice that there's something strange going on in the town – local teenagers have stopped getting drunk, taking drugs or having sex. And it looks like it's all got something to do with a mysterious straight-laced organisation called ‘Virtue'. As more of the group suddenly switch from rough around the edges to plain old straight edge the diminishing group investigates and discover that the ‘Virtue' movement may not be quite as pure as they make out. Suddenly it's left to Nathan to save the day... despite the fact that he's the only one without a super-power.
Also on TV tonight: There's a brand new Saving Hope on NBC at 9 PM. And then there's a brand new Wilfred on FX at 10 PM.
Phineas & Ferb (9 PM, Disney)
The second part of an epic two-parter, resolving the cliffhanger from a month ago in "Where's Perry? Part 2":
Agent P's fate is finally revealed in the action-packed finale of the two-part television special that left Phineas, Ferb and the gang hanging — literally off an unchartered gorge and Candace frantic over a phone call with Jeremy that left their relationship status in limbo. Now, with Agent P nowhere in sight, Dr. Doofenshmirtz and Major Monogram square off against evil Carl who controls a set of Flynn-Fletcher robots to take over the OWCA, in one of the biggest battles yet.
Gravity Falls (9:30 PM, Disney)
And meanwhile, Disney's other weird science fiction cartoon is gently spoofing Audrey Niffenegger, with "The Time Traveler's Pig":
When Dipper wishes he could go back in time and undo a mistake he made, he discovers there is a time machine that can help him do just that. Meanwhile, it's love at first sight for Mabel when she wins a pet pig at the fair.
Also on TV tonight: A new My Babysitter's a Vampire on Disney at 7:30 PM, and a new (to Americans) episode of Lost Girl on Syfy at 10 PM.
Haunted High (9 PM, Syfy):
Yup, another Syfy original movie — but wait! This one stars Charisma Carpenter (Angel) and Danny Trejo (Everything Awesome). This TV movie "follows a group of teens trapped in their high school by the vengeful ghost of a former principal. Only the grandson of the dead principal holds the key to ending the killing spree terrorizing the school." And yes, that doesn't appear to be Charisma Carpenter and Danny Trejo — Syfy hasn't released any promotional videos or images for this movie.
The Destinations of Doctor Who (9 PM, BBC America):
I'm not sure how this documentary is going to cover all the places the show has gone in just one hour. Should be interesting.
Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader (10 PM, Epix):
Syfy is probably going to lose the battle of the original TV movies this Saturday — because Roger Corman, the man who gave Syfy Sharktopus, has gone over to the competition for this one.
Roger Corman's first ever 3D film Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader follows a college coed who uses an experimental drug to transform herself into a popular beauty - but at a huge price. Produced by Corman along with his producing partner/wife Julie Corman, the movie stars Jena Sims (The Vampire Diaries), Sean Young (Blade Runner), Treat Williams (Hair, Prince of the City, Everwood), Ryan Merriman (Pretty Little Liars), A.J. Lamas (Leave it to Lamas), Mary Woronov (Eating Raoul), Ted Raimi (Spider-Man), with cameo appearances by Corman himself and director John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Animal House, The Blues Brothers). Acclaimed visual effects artist Kevin O'Neill (Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula, Blade and Piranha 3D) directs.
We shared with you a ton of clips from this movie yesterday. But you can watch one of them above.