The new drama "This Is Us" (10 p.m., NBC, TV-14) reminded me of "Logan's Run," an old movie and TV series I had completely forgotten.
"Run" was set in a dystopian future where dwindling resources dictated that everybody faced liquidation upon turning 30. Folks had every right to feel wary.
We meet the characters on the ensemble dramedy "This Is Us" on their respective 36th birthdays. And each of them greets the day as if facing a firing squad. "This Is Us": We're deeply depressed characters on a pretentious TV show!
A brooding dad has a wife carrying triplets through a difficult pregnancy. But he manages to make it all about himself, because, hey, it's his birthday.
An attractive funny woman has eaten herself into morbid obesity. Her studly brother is a popular TV star who is miserable because he's only appreciated for his perfect body. Oh, the humanity!
A very wealthy man with a perfect family broods over the father who abandoned him as a child.
Nobody's having a happy birthday, and the moody montage music is here to rub it in!
All of the performances are credible and the pilot features a clever hook. But "Us" is so self-important and so self-consciously dreary that it's almost funny. Almost.
- A show named "Bull" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14) based partially on the life of Dr. Phil McGraw presents a pretty rich target. I'll try to contain myself.
Michael Weatherly ("NCIS") stars as Dr. Jason Bull, the head of a super-high-tech jury-consulting firm with a seemingly bottomless budget. He uses every gadget and breaks every law to psychologically profile jury members and create "mirror" juries that accurately predict verdicts.
The knower of every secret, Bull treats judges, lawyers and prosecutors as mere squashed insects on the windshield of his mind.
I've never seen a series pilot with less character development. Make that no character development. Bull presides godlike over the proceedings. He's handsome in a middle-aged, Clark Kent-meets-Jack Bauer by way of Kevin Bacon sort of way.
Absent any clues as to his personality, or presence of wife, kids, mom, dad or siblings, he comes off as a smug know-it-all.
There may be some mystery to his story that will slowly emerge. But I doubt viewers will stick around to find out.
- Just last week, the Turner Company announced its licensing of the entire "Star Wars" film collection. Tonight through Sunday, TNT turns over much of its schedule to the films, beginning with "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" (8 p.m.) from 1999.
Turner's licensing deal includes the latest film "The Force Awakens" as well as the forthcoming "Rogue One," but don't expect to see them on basic cable until 2018 and 2019, respectively.
TV-themed DVDs available today include the 18th season of "Midsomer Murders."
Tonight's season premieres
- Car explosions appear linked to Nick on "NCIS" (8 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
- Witness protection lands the gang in Florida on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
- House-hunting on "New Girl" (8:30 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
- Jerry O'Connell and Cecily Strong guest-star on "Scream Queens" (9 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
- A sniper targets tourists on "NCIS: New Orleans" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
- Out in the open on "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
Tonight's other highlights
- Blind auditions continue on "The Voice" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
- A television personality runs for president on themes of economic insecurity, white resentment, racism and authoritarianism in "The Contenders: 16 for 16" (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) profile of Pat Buchanan.
- An offer makes everybody nervous on "Halt and Catch Fire" (10 p.m., AMC, TV-14).
- Paper Boi faces criticism on "Atlanta" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).
- An eccentric (director Jacques Tati) chafes at creeping modernity in the 1958 French slapstick comedy "Mon Oncle" (8 p.m., TCM).
Results night on "Dancing With the Stars" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG) ... Rupture arrives on "The Flash" (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-PG) ... Alex Borstein and Will Sasso appear on "MADtv" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14).
Marshawn Lynch, Brian Posehn and Nick Cody appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS) ... First lady Michelle Obama and America Ferrera are booked on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" (11:35 p.m., CBS) ... Jimmy Fallon welcomes Mark Wahlberg, Sofia Vergara and Mo on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC) ... James Spader, Jordana Brewster, the Cadillac Three and Elaine Bradley visit "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC) ... Alan Cumming, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Nick Jonas appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS).