A second sitcom, about an American's adventures running a call center in India, and another drama, soapy with an unusual format, also premiere Thursday.
Blue Bloods (CBS3, 10 p.m. Friday). We've seen big family dinners on TV before, but few match the tension and intimacy in the premiere of this cop show.
Erin the daughter, an assistant district attorney, says she's so angry at her oldest brother, Danny the detective, that she could strangle him.
"No strangling on Sunday. OK, Sunshine?" Selleck's Frank Reagan says calmly from the head of the table.
The reason for her discontent: Danny threatened to drown a suspect in a toilet, and that pretty much ruins any shot she has of even getting the case to trial.
"Dad stuck somebody's head in the toilet?" asks her awestruck nephew, drawing scowls from the grown-ups. Grandpa Henry, the former police commissioner, however, does take Danny's side.
"I say what I think," he chides his granddaughter.
"And look where it got you," she retorts, disrespectfully. While the audience imagines what she means, her father says nothing, but a glance can be worth a thousand words.
Selleck is taking a page from The Good Wife's Julianna Margulies, finding forcefulness in few words, letting face and body convey his feelings not only to the audience but also to a seemingly unending stream of human distractions, most notable a cynical media and an unsupportive mayor. Selleck alone makes Blue Bloods worth watching.
Then you have Donnie Wahlberg as the mercurial Danny, who is probably still suffering from the post-traumatic stress of his time in Iraq. His intensity burns through the screen.
Will Estes (older brother JJ on American Dreams) and Bridget Moynahan (Mrs. Big on Sex and the City) hold up their ends of the bargain, too.
Estes' Jamie Reagan, a Harvard Law grad who couldn't resist the police-beat call, finds that the mayhem of his workday doesn't fit smoothly into conversation with his yuppie friends.
And, after his sudden career change, his relationship with his girlfriend seems headed in the same direction as the one that sister Erin has with her ex-husband.
Onto all these personal and familial foibles, creators Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess, who were both executive producers on The Sopranos, attach not only a weekly criminal case but also an overarching police department mystery that promises to keep the audience guessing for weeks to come.
Blue Bloods may not wind up in TV history's Top 100, but it's the star of the mediocre 2010-11 vintage.
$#*! My Dad Says (CBS3, 8:30 p.m. Thursday). The Parents Television Council, shrill defenders of their idea of decency, is apoplectic over the title of this series, deriving from a popular Twitter feed.
There is no Critics Television Council (who has time to write all those fund-raising appeals?), but if there were, and if I were its president, it would also plead with advertisers to boycott this mess.
Not only does it seek to find humor in each and every naughty body part, male and female, it also makes fun of gays, Arabs, the developmentally disabled, and who knows what other groups.
Check that. There isn't a shred of fun in this tale of a curmudgeonly grandpa and his unappealing adult children. Its only redeeming quality could prove to be that it persuades clueless executives, desperate to "monetize" social-network technology, never to try to marry TV and Twitter again.
Outsourced (NBC10, 9:30 p.m. Thursday). Some people are angry, as well, about this sitcom's shoddy treatment of Indians. But careful viewing reveals that American customs bear the brunt of most of the gentle humor of this series that should fit seamlessly into NBC's goofballs-at-the-office (or in-the-classroom) Thursday-night sitcom block.
When American Novelties closes its call center in Kansas City, Todd Dempsy gets sent to India to manage the folks who will be taking orders for such must-have items as the fanny bank and the mistletoe belt. Cut-ups wear it in hopes of getting kissed, well, below.
"This is how you celebrate the birthday of the son of your God?" asks one of the Indian workers, all of whom, along with Dempsy, must learn to reconcile North American and South Asian ways.
The workers may be Indian, but they are the usual TV office types, which would make NBC an equal-opportunity offender, if it weren't doing a better job than anybody else of milking laughs from workplace situations.
My Generation (ABC, 8 p.m. Thursday). "People try to put us down just because we get around," The Who's Roger Daltrey sang in "My Generation."
People will try to put down the TV show with the same name because the characters lean toward caricatures, and their circumstances seem to get progressively more unreal.
To combat that, producers have adopted a documentary format, as an independent filmmaker catches up with nine high school grads 10 years on, and the show jumps between their carefree youth and the pressures of what passes for adulthood.
In high school, they were all types - the jock, the punk, the rich boy, the wallflower, etc. - but, wouldn't you know it, a decade has shuffled the cards, leaving the kids in situations and relationships that are supposed to be surprising, but aren't.
Give ABC credit for an interesting format and a drama that isn't about doctors, lawyers, or cops, but it's hard to imagine enough viewers going for this one that any of these folks will ever make it to 30.
Contact television critic Jonathan Storm at 215-854-5618 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Television
My Dad Says
8:30 p.m. Thursday on CBS3
8 p.m. Thursday on 6ABC
9:30 p.m. Thursday on NBC10
10 p.m. Friday