The summer of unending TV series premieres — aka the new normal — continued with Friday's return of former AMC drama The Killing, back for its final six episodes, available only via Netflix streaming.
When season three of The Killing ended on AMC, Detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) had murdered her boss/former lover Lt. James Skinner once she discovered he was the Pied Piper serial killer responsible for killing multiple teenagers.
Season four picks up with Linden showering the bloody evidence off herself, mopping up the crime scene and plotting a cover-up with partner Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman).
Linden also maintains her title as TV's Most Morose Cop to the point that she almost gives away the cover-up to a colleague who notes, "What's wrong with Linden? She smiled at me!"
While this surely feels like a chickens-coming-home-to-roost season — Linden has become the kind of lawless monster she pursues — there's one more case to work before the somber homicide detective gets caught.
A wealthy family turns up dead in their shoreline mansion with only one son, Kyle Stansbury (Tyler Ross), surviving. Did he murder his parents and siblings? Or is Col. Margaret Rayne (Joan Allen), the chilly headmaster at Kyle's all-boys military academy, somehow involved?
Fans of this hit-or-miss crime serial — and of Linden and Holder, in particular — might want to stream these final episodes just to see what kind of miserable state the show leaves poor Linden in, but The Killing long ago ceased to be required viewing for cultural currency. (That ship sailed after the non-ending that failed to wrap up the first season.)
AMC's under-the-radar Western Hell on Wheels (9 p.m. today) steams in for its fourth season this weekend. Set in 1868, the new season finds Thomas Durant (Colm Meaney) broke, Elam Ferguson (Common) presumed dead, and Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) trapped in a fort with his pregnant wife (Mackenzie Porter) and the Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl).
Early next week Kelsey Grammer makes his TV return with FX's Partners (9 and 9:30 p.m. Monday), another comedy that follows the 10/90 business model: Producers make 10 episodes, and if they reach a certain ratings threshold, then FX automatically orders another 90 episodes.
As with past series that follow this business plan, Charlie Sheen's Anger Management and George Lopez's Saint George, the prospect of 100 half-hours of Partners is pretty unwelcome, although it's slightly less painful a notion than dozens of episodes of those previous 10/90 shows.
(And let's briefly consider the fate of past sitcoms titled Partners: There was the 1995-96 Partners on Fox, which deserved a second season, and the 2012-13 CBS Partners, which stole much of the premise from the Fox show and was quickly canceled, which is what it deserved.)
This latest Partners on FX stars Grammer as high-end lawyer Allen Braddock, who gets fired by his father from the family law firm for reasons unrevealed and winds up in business with ethically upstanding attorney Marcus Jackson (Martin Lawrence), who operates a Chicago storefront law practice.
Partners is your basic odd couple comedy with Grammer attacking his part with his trademark zeal and Lawrence wandering through the motions in somnambulant fashion. It's a stark energy contrast but a secondary problem for Partners, which mostly stumbles on predictable plotting that flows from pedestrian writing.
The pilot is all about the pair meeting and viewers getting to know the characters. Even though he's without a moral compass, Grammer's Allen Braddock is the more likable of the pair. ("I'm well versed in legal ethics. How do you think I've avoided them for so long?") Mr. Lawrence's Marcus Jackson comes off like a doormat who's unwilling to fight for himself in a divorce case that hits close to home.
Partners does benefit from the work of its supporting players, including TV veteran Telma Hopkins (Family Matters) as Marcus' mom and newcomer Rory O'Malley as Marcus' paralegal. But without good writing, even winning performances can't help Partners feel like it would be a better fit among the '90s throwback sitcoms that pass for original programming on TV Land.