"Here's the story
Of two lovely ladies ..."
Doesn't take long before ABC Family's The Fosters dispels one of its two moms' worries that if they keep adding kids to their already crowded household, "It's going to be like The Brady Bunch around here." Well, maybe if Carol had married Alice and Alice was an African-American private-school vice principal and Carol was a cop and the kids were a blended multi-racial rainbow of diversity. Earnest but rarely saccharine, this promising new family drama (Monday, 9/8c) — to be paired in future weeks with the channel's best series, Switched at Birth — establishes its edgier tone by introducing its main character, the abused but prideful Callie (Maia Mitchell), as she gets roughed up on her way out of juvy and into the welcoming custody of Lena (Sherri Saum), who hasn't yet told her partner-the-cop Stef (Teri Polo) about the new addition.
"Honey, we can't save them all," Stef gently pouts, though you know she doesn't mean it. But Callie's not such an easy sell. Among her first words upon getting the gist of her new guardians: "So you're dykes?" "They prefer the term 'people,'" helpfully chirps one of the adopted Latino twins who share the house with Stef's biological son, a sensitive piano prodigy who before the first episode is over has risked a scholarship to help his new "sister" deal with some unfinished family business of her own. The Fosters, which lists Jennifer Lopez among its executive producers, has its heart in the right place, and despite some contrivances that remind you that the genre hasn't really progressed that far beyond the wholesome Brady archetype, there's something refreshing about its unforced approach to redefining what a family looks like. (As The Fosters joins the ABC Family lineup, the channel closes out the five-season run of The Secret Life of the American Teenager at 8/7c with a high-school graduation episode that begs the question: Who's minding the nursery?)
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CHEATERS: At least The Fosters has the feel of something new. ABC's glossy retread of British guilty pleasure Mistresses is a case of something borrowed that makes me blue. If the original BBC series (comprising 16 episodes over three seasons from 2008-2010) was like catnip to junk-food connoisseurs, this miscast, calcified misfire (10:01/9:01c) is more like the stuff you find in the litter box.
Alyssa Milano is the headliner among this quartet of gal pals, as a fast-track lawyer whose marriage to a hunky Aussie chef is stalling thanks to fertility issues. Her discomfort is disconcerting during a scene in which she flashes her foxy panties to an incorrigibly flirtatious co-worker (Grey's Anatomy's all-purpose stud Jason George). But that's nothing compared to the stricken look of mortification on the face of Lost veteran Yunjin Kim as she mopes through a subplot as a shrink (the character was originally a doctor) consumed with guilt over her affair with a dying patient whose grieving family continues to seek her counsel. The most egregious case of something being lost in translation involves the character of widowed mom April (gorgeous Rochelle Aytes, doing her best), a serene beauty who runs a fancy boutique — a reversal of the original Trudi character, who was charmingly flustered and refreshingly deglamorized as she stumbled into a baking business while carrying on with an affable single dad. While the purpose of all of this is to urge you to skip this version and try to get your hands on the saucy British original, it's only fair to report that one of the four — Jes Macallan as Milano's unrepentantly slutty sis, a real-estate broker having it off with her boss — captures the Mistresses spirit of naughty fun (never without consequences).
If this is all new to you, as it may well be given the somewhat limited reach of BBC America (which aired the original series), you might still get caught up in the unapologetically sudsy twists, which appear to follow the broad outlines of the BBC series. But as many of these ladies will learn along the way, you can do better.
FANTASY FEAST: With cheeky call-outs to An American Werewolf in London, Hitchcock's The Birds, Call of the Wild (naturally) and the ever-popular Heart of Darkness, MTV's surprisingly engaging monster mash Teen Wolf returns for a third "supersized" season (10/9c), kicking off the first half of a 24-episode run. The threat this year comes from a new rival pack of "Alpha" werewolves invading Beacon Hills (including a freaky pair of twins played by Lynette's bratty sons from Desperate Housewives), who threaten the authority of Derek and complicate Scott's desire to make things right with Allison.
Over on Syfy, Jaime Murray is keeping plenty busy. She's a cast regular on the new Defiance (9/8c) as the scheming Stahma Tarr, who this week makes an unexpected alliance while seeking refuge from a storm (how timely). And she returns to Warehouse 13 (10/9c) as the infamous H.G. Wells, reuniting with the agents on their latest artifact hunt.
The body count is expected to climb on the season finale of NBC's Revolution (10:01/9:01c), which moves to Wednesdays next fall — setting up a sophomore-year survival task that could make the climactic confrontation between the Monroe troops and the rebels (now aligned with the Tower "others") look like child's play. One of the biggest problems of the first season was the decided lack of menace in the performance of miscast David Lyons as psycho President Monroe, who more often looked like he was on the verge of a weepy tantrum. The much more intriguing adversary was always Giancarlo Esposito's never-to-be-trusted turncoat Neville. If we're lucky, this episode could change the balance of power. But will it be enough to bring us back?
THE MONDAY GUIDE: Sundance Channel's acclaimed docu-series Push Girls (10/9c), about four women whose free spirits can't be contained in their wheelchairs, returns for a second season of romance and independence. ... The murder of a celebrity spokesmodel rips the label off the seedy world of liquor promotion on A&E's The Glades (9/8c), while its companion piece Longmire (10/9c), off to a very strong start in its second season, finds its Western heroes crossing county lines to investigate the abusive past of a victim found in a compost heap. ... From the true-crime files: Investigation Discovery profiles "Most Wanted" Irish Mafia boss James "Whitey" Bulger, about to stand federal trial, in Whitey Bulger: The Making of a Monster (10/9c).
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