A few words about the 2016-17 TV season

"American Housewife" (ABC) makes us laugh.  It's "sitcom-my" in that it feels assembled and engineered to crank out punchlines whether the situations all feel completely plausible or not.  But when it's done this well - anchored by a manic, sideways-glancing performance by Katy Mixon - it works.

"The Big Bang Theory" (CBS) offers a textbook example of "habit-viewing" - we watch it because we've always watched it.  The completist in us needs to see it through to the end.  It's mostly enjoyable, often amusing, but rarely hilarious.  [We can say the same thing about ABC's "Modern Family" - a show that does still sometimes hit a home run, but mostly at this point coasts on past success.]

"Black-ish" (ABC) may seem at first like a 21st-century spin on "The Cosby Show."  Upper-class African-American parents try to raise their oddball kids.  But this is a show with satirical bite, an affection for the surreal, and big ambition for social change. Sharp and smart.

"Blindspot" (NBC) remains completely wack in its second season, packed full of twists and double-agents and ridiculous plot leaps and a computer tech who can literally do anything with a keyboard and a mouse and those dumb tattoos.  It's implausible in so many ways.  But we keep watching it.  [For the record, the two-twists-per-episode screeching melodrama of "Empire" (Fox) and "How to Get Away with Murder" (ABC) are equally insane but we gave up on those shows after the first season.  It was just too much.]

"Code Black" (NBC) offers a spiritual reboot of "ER."  That either excites you or it doesn't.  We didn't realize how much we missed that "ER" mix of strange medical jargon, workplace politics, guest stars looking for Emmys, and shocking medical tragedy packed as densely as possible into 50 minutes.  Plus, Luis Guzman as a worldly nurse.

"Designated Survivor" (ABC) provides a fictional president that some Americans may be desperately craving: humble, measured, thoughtful President Kirkman (Keifer Sutherland) isn't the type to blast people on Twitter at 3:00am.  The show is very well made and very compelling... but thanks to the efforts of a tireless FBI agent, who's all alone (of course) figuring out who blew up the Capitol, the audience is way way ahead of poor Kirkman and his staff.  This is creating some serious narrative frustration.  This is a show that needs to get things out in the open and kick it up a notch.

"The Good Place" (NBC) may not be the funniest show on the air, but it is without question the most creative and inventive show one the air, taking place as it does in heaven and involving a clerical error that sends there an undeserving person.  Genius all the way around.

"Superstore" (NBC) is quickly evolving into a worthy blue-collar retail companion to NBC's brilliant "The Office."  Quirky characters, workplace setting, snappy dialogue, plus those curious little B-roll vignettes.  It's fantastic.

"Survivor" (CBS) continues to deliver the goods, exploring fascinating social dynamics - you're voting people out who will ultimately decide if you deserve the prize - amid ever-changing gameplay and strategy.  The season that just wrapped was particularly strong.  Yeah, we can't believe it either.

"This Is Us" (NBC) delivers manipulative, contrived schmaltz about the everyday dramas of an extended family.  But it benefits greatly from a clever, time-shifting premise and a surprisingly strong cast.  We hate ourselves for liking it as much as we do. 

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