True Detective Season 2 (9 p.m.)
Stars: Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch
Premise: The second season of the critically acclaimed crime drama features an entirely new cast, setting and storyline. Farrell, McAdams and Kitsch play three cops from different departments thrown together to investigate an LA-area murder with ties to a crime boss played by Vaughn.
Buzz: Speculation about the second season has been intense since before the first season ended, with rumored casting including everyone from Brad Pitt to Elisabeth Moss. Disappointment seems inevitable.
First take: The first episode features the same oppressive humorlessness, pretentiously cryptic dialogue, annoying pseudo-mysticism and heavy-handed symbolism as the previous season, only with less persuasive acting. Series creator Nic Pizzolatto (who continues to write every episode) seems so impressed with how serious and meaningful the story is that he forgets to make it entertaining or interesting.
Ballers (10 p.m.)
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, John David Washington, Omar Miller, Donovan Carter, Rob Corddry
Premise: Just a few weeks after the Entourage movie comes this Entourage for athletes, starring Johnson as a retired NFL star in Miami who now works as a financial manager for other current and former pro football players.
Buzz: Johnson has become a big box-office draw, so his presence in a TV show is an attention-grabber. And HBO could use a new Entourage, which ran for eight seasons and spawned a movie.
First take: Ballers is less obnoxious than Entourage, although it features an equal amount of gratuitous female nudity. Johnson is charming as always, and he shows some surprising depth as a man desperately trying to keep up his flashy image. The show itself is more flash than depth, however, at least in its opening episode, which establishes the glamorous setting and the hedonistic characters.
The Brink (10:30 p.m.)
Stars: Jack Black, Tim Robbins, Pablo Schreiber, Aasif Mandvi
Premise: When an unstable leader stages a coup in Pakistan and gains control of nuclear weapons, politicians, diplomats and military personnel must work to avert a global war. Naturally, it’s a comedy.
Buzz: First announced nearly two years ago, The Brink has taken a long time to reach TV screens, and with such a high-profile cast, it’s had surprisingly little buzz, positive or negative.
First take: It’s going to be hard to top Veep for profane political satire on HBO, and The Brink doesn’t necessarily try, going for a tone that’s darker and less joke-heavy (even the typically manic Black keeps things subdued). But the mix of lowbrow humor (there are multiple jokes in the premiere about Robbins’ character’s bad breath) and high-stakes drama is mostly a misfire, and the broad satire never really hits its targets.