With Dancing With the Stars down to one night a week and Private Practice canceled, ABC was faced with constructing an all-new Tuesday night this season.
The result is a drastically mixed bag.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (8 p.m.) leads off the lineup in spirited fashion. (That, by the way, is the last time I will use the full title. I discovered long ago with M*A*S*H that shows with excessive punctuation are a pain to type. So say hello to ABC's MAoS.)
Don't get hung up on what the stupid acronym stands for anyway: It's changed several times since this espionage concept was introduced in Marvel comic books in the '60s.
The show takes place in the post-Battle of New York world depicted in last year's big-budget film The Avengers. Just don't expect to see Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk here. Superheroes are too expensive for TV.
Marvel's agents are just ordinary folks doing incredible things with the help of next-generation gadgetry and firepower. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), who died in the film, has returned to lead them.
The squad is made up of Chloe Bennet, Brett Dalton, Ming-Na Wen, Elizabeth Henstridge, and Iain De Caestecker.
Their mission: to save the world while quipping glibly. As Bennet's computer whiz Skye notes, "With great power comes a ton of weird crap." The show's greater challenge: survive in a time slot opposite NCIS. (Look, Ma, no punctuation marks.)
Beyond the breezy dialogue, MAoS is terrific-looking and has action scenes that are above par for primetime. Not enough to wow you, but a fun date.
The good times end immediately with The Goldbergs (9 p.m.), a sitcom set in a tacky version of the '80s. The set-up: An 11-year-old compulsively videotapes his fractious family. Hey, it was bad enough to live through this. Now we have to watch someone else's home movies of suburban hell?
There's Dad (Jeff Garlin of Curb Your Enthusiasm), a slob with doughnut jelly on his wife beater who can't stop insulting his kids. There's Mom (Wendi McLendon-Covey of Reno 911!), a guilt-dispensing, boundary-oblivious shrew. And Grandpa (George Segal) who thinks taking an adolescent to Hooters is a learning experience.
You want to root for a show that has its characters draped in Flyers jerseys (the autobiographical comedy comes from Jenkintown native Adam F. Goldberg). But the kid in the lead (Sean Giambrone) lacks charm.
There are some sharp jokes here, but they get lost in the bile. The Goldbergs is like The Wonder Years infected by Married . . . With Children. It's a half hour of annoying people yelling at one another.
It's followed by Trophy Wife (9:30 p.m.), another show you want to embrace but end up backing away from warily.
Pete (Bradley Whitford) and Kate (Malin Akerman) meet cute. She's a flirty young party girl who stumbles drunkenly off a karaoke stage, breaking the nose of Pete, a twice-her-age lawyer.
Whaddya know? The doctor who attends him in the ER (Marcia Gay Harden) turns out to be his ex. Another ex (Michaela Watkins) shows up for the examination as well, along with three of Pete's kids.
It's love at first fracture. Or as Kate says in a voiceover when a bloodied and bowed Pete asks her out, "A lot of girls would have said no . . . but I jumped right in."
Before you can say 'plausible,' she's Bride No. 3 and low wife on the totem pole. The swinging single finds herself trying to act all domestic and responsible. It might help, Kate, if you replaced the revealing wardrobe, especially at parent-teacher conferences.
Pete is a real '50s TV dad. He's a busy, successful lawyer who works out of his study at home and somehow has more time on his hands than a clockmaker.
Even if you swallow all of Trophy Wife's absurd contrivances, you won't be laughing very much.
The cornice of ABC's new night is Lucky 7 (10 p.m.), a melodrama about seven co-workers (four of them women) at a gas station in a tough section of New York who chip in for a ticket that wins the lottery.
I won't bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that I predict Lucky 7 will be the season's first cancellation.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Tuesday 8 p.m. on 6ABC
Tuesday 9 p.m. on 6ABC
Tuesday 9:30 p.m. on 6ABC