One new show this week rages at the machine, the other savages the period drama.
A robot in rage
Elliot (Rami Malek), the painfully shy, socially awkward tech-head at the center of USA Network's Mr. Robot is an angry young man.
A thought-provoking, exciting, in-your-face hacker drama, Mr. Robot premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
"Why am I angry?" he says incredulously to his therapist, Krista Gordon (ER's Gloria Reuben). "Maybe because we all thought of Steve Jobs as a great man even though he made billions off the back of children."
As he speaks, we are given shots of Asian children working on an assembly line. "All our heroes are counterfeit," Elliot says as we get shots of Lance Armstrong, Bill Cosby, and Tiger Woods.
Thing is, Elliot's lengthy diatribe, which has him take aim at virtually every aspect of modern Western society, is entirely internal. A fantasy harangue he never verbalizes. In the real world, Elliot says nothing.
Created by relative newcomer Sam Esmail (Comet), Mr. Robot is a cyber-thriller that delivers: Its heroes are thinkers and misfit rebels, not superheroes.
Portrayed with a compelling, muted intensity by Malek (The Pacific, Short Term 12), Elliot is a brilliant techie who rages at the complete control the rich seem to have on all aspects of life. Yet he works for a network security company that keeps hackers out of corporations, including the world's largest conglomerate, E Corp., whose activities Elliot labels as evil.
So it's no surprise that he is secretly delighted one night when a group of hackers break into E Corp.'s systems. He's stunned the next morning when their leader, known only as Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) invites him to join them, telling Elliot the team plans to bring about the largest instance of wealth distribution in history.
Soulful and intelligent, Mr. Robot isn't your run-of-the-mill thriller. Its villain isn't a straw man - an evil terrorist, deranged corporate CEO, or scheming politician. The evildoer here is us our money-obsessed society. Clever, unsentimental, and deeply angry, Mr. Robot is long overdue.
'Downton Abbey' on acid
The mind-blowing popularity of British costume dramas such as Downton Abbey was bound to inspire parody. We thank the stars that comics Natasha Leggero and Riki Lindhome got a chance to create it.
Another Period, the duo's half-hour sitcom, premieres at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday on Comedy Central.
Wild, crude, and silly, at turns inspired and plain stupid, Another Period stars Leggero and Lindhome as members of the filthy-rich and highly perverse Bellacourt family, who live along with their abused servants in a mansion in 1902 Rhode Island.
An Upstairs, Downstairs-ish faux soap, the sitcom features a splendid cast, including Michael Ian Black, Paget Brewster, Jason Ritter, and Brian Huskey, not to mention Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, who plays a maid known as Chair - she was renamed by the family who felt her real name, Celine, was too fancy for a servant. In the pilot, the family entertains a coked-up Helen Keller. Need we say more?
Premieres at 10 p.m. Wednesday on USA Network.
Premieres at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday on Comedy Central.