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Picks and Pans Main: TV

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Community & The Office

NBC, Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET/PT | & 9 p.m. ET/PT |


Community has consistently been the best thing about NBC’s Thursday lineup this fall. Awesomely clever, it’s the Inception of sitcoms. In season 2 the show has preserved its core concept of friendships in a community-college study group while piling on daringly odd jokes. One subplot involving a pregnancy played out wordlessly in long-distance shots, like a silent-movie footnote. Then there was the episode that hinged on a kleptomaniacal monkey. And Dec. 9’s Christmas show is animated.

Which is an adjective that no longer applies to The Office. Now in season 7, the onetime groundbreaker has become merely sweet and amiable. It crumbles like a soft-baked cookie. Star Steve Carell is exiting in May, but with his blank-eyed smile, he already may be gone.

Detroit 1-8-7

ABC, Tuesdays, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Most cop dramas start out wearing the same basic uniform: squad cars, evasive witnesses, banter with an unfriendly edge. Over time the broken-in uniform takes on a more individual shape. So it is with the admirable new Detroit 1-8-7. Shot on location in one of the country’s most troubled areas, the series has developed its own original rhythm, each week breaking cases down into unexpectedly punchy vignettes. The cast is excellent. Michael Imperioli and James McDaniel (NYPD Blue) in particular have the right touch: grim routine with a humanizing hint of something off-balance.

Strange Days with Bob Saget

A&E, Nov. 30, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Strange idea. Bob Saget, whose relaxed, sometimes risque humor has the showbiz insularity of sitcoms and comedy clubs, ventures across the U.S. to sample odd cultural pockets. He rides (in the sidecar) with a Kentucky biker club; he traipses through the Washington forests with Big Foot stalkers. Some of it’s funny, but revelatory? Not too.

Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew

VH1, Dec. 1, 10 p.m. ET/PT |


Kicking off season 4, Dr. Drew Pinsky informs us that “the addicts are more resistant to treatment than ever before.” But with these notorious patients, including actors Eric Roberts and Jeremy London, it’s hard as ever to tell where emotional purging ends and over-the-top performance begins. The latest cast shares plenty of lively, awful moments. Jason Davis, the rude offspring of a rich Hollywood family, walks past model Janice Dickinson and mutters, “I smell facelifts.”