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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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Cougar Town

ABC, Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT |


Among the things on TV that I simply cannot buy: reality show contestants who not so subtly foreshadow their own eliminations, those Your Baby Can Read DVDs touted in late-night infomercials, and Courteney Cox Arquette as a saggy divorced mom who’s insecure about her fading beauty. The first few minutes of Cougar Town have the 45-year-old actress—who looks even more fit and lithe than she did a decade ago on Friends—dispiritedly surveying her wobbly bits in front of a mirror. Come now. The show works overtime to be sexy and funny, with Cox playing the role of high-strung real estate agent Jules as if Monica Geller had ended up stuck in the ‘burbs after divorcing Chandler. The setups run toward the cliché, but Cox hasn’t lost her touch as a comic actress. She just needs to quit pretending that she’s lost her looks.


Lifetime, Oct. 5, 7 p.m. ET/PT |


The View’s Sherri Shepherd plays Sherri Patterson, a suddenly single mom working to make it in showbiz and trying not to throttle her cheating ex-husband (Malcolm Jamal Warner, a.k.a. Theo Huxtable from The Cosby Show). Which means—as regular Viewers know—Sherri Shepherd basically plays herself. It’s a solid showcase for Shepherd’s Everywoman charm and sharp timing, even if the premiere’s best jokes, like “Screw me once, shame on you; screw a white girl, we’re done,” are all in the promos. The parallels to Shepherd’s real life are so close (both Sherris guest star on 30 Rock) that it makes for a somewhat disorienting alternate universe: I kept waiting for Barbara Walters to waltz in and tell Sherri to get back to work.


ABC, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET/PT |


Kelsey Grammer is like the Postmaster General of sitcoms: Come good writing (Frasier) or bad (Hank), he will deliver the joke. In yet another variation on his career-long role as Smug Articulate White Guy, he plays Hank Pryor, a CEO who loses it all in the recession and moves to Virginia with his family. There’s a wacky uncle, a moody teenager and a put-upon wife (Melinda McGraw). The whole thing feels like a piece of snail mail in a Twitter world.


NBC, Mondays, 9 p.m. ET/PT |


I prefer my dramas mythologized (come back soon, Lost!) and my trauma Mad Men-style subtle, and this new series is neither. It’s explosions and blood and the occasional severed finger. The trauma refers to both the work of a team of San Francisco paramedics and the emotional baggage they all carry one year after a devastating helicopter crash that opens the series. The action is big-screen-worthy—that crash and a subsequent highway pileup pack a visceral punch—but the characters are “complicated” in familiar ways: Family man Boone (Derek Luke) has a roving eye because he can’t bear to bring his work home; vulnerable Nancy (Anastasia Griffith) has daddy issues. As a flawed, cocky pilot, Cliff Curtis at least keeps you curious.


NBC, Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET |


For the first third of this new hospital-based series, I was only grudgingly interested in the messy life of Veronica (Taylor Schilling), a Jersey City nurse and Iraq War vet who pops Paxil and frets over her loser husband. Then somewhere in the middle of the hour, the supporting cast (Michelle Trachtenberg plays the newbie nurse and Jamie Lee Kirchner is the tough, funny one) began to gel, along with Schilling’s smart performance (think Meredith Grey with just a hint of House). By the time James Tupper turned up as a studly doc who had an affair with Veronica over in Iraq, the show officially had a pulse. I’m cautiously hooked.