'Lucifer,' 8 p.m. Monday on Fox
Two and a half stars (out of four)
'The Magicians,' 8 and 9 p.m. Monday on Syfy
Two stars (out of four)
The devil joins the LAPD in "Lucifer," arriving Monday on Fox.
Also Monday, Syfy adapts the Lev Grossman novels about student "Magicians," with distinctly mixed results.
Of the two, "Lucifer" is the most accessible, mostly because it feels as if we've already seen it before. And we have, one way or another; "Lucifer" feels a bit as if Syfy's fallen-angel drama "Dominion" mated with ABC's "Castle." (I'd also compare "Lucifer" to Hugh Jackman's mercifully short-lived "Viva Laughlin," if I thought anyone remembered "Viva Laughlin.")
Here, Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar, who runs a nightclub in Los Angeles, drives fast cars and can look into anyone's eyes and get the person to spill dark secrets. That's because he's, you know, Lucifer, who has split from hell to lead a more fun live above.
Lucifer is in trouble with his heavenly father already, but before he's dragged back kicking and screaming, he tries some detective work. A young pop singer he helped with her career, with dire results, is murdered in front of him, and Lucifer sets out to learn why.
That teams him up with Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German), who is struggling to be a single mom to the cutest TV child in recent memory (Scarlett Estevez) while winning respect from fellow detectives including her ex (Kevin Alejandro). And blah blah.
Lucifer is immortal, meaning he can be shot repeatedly and survive, so the only jeopardy is from God, whose rep is Amenadial (D.B. Woodside), an angel set to drag him back.
("You are a mockery of everything divine," Amenadial tells Lucifer, who responds, "Thank you.")
"Lucifer" is full of such wink-wink word play as "so the devil made you do it?" Protests have been heard against turning Lucifer into a good guy, but in fact, he's mainly just a smug jerk with a creepy smile. And as his reluctant sidekick, German is as bland as her counterparts on a lot of better shows.
You probably won't go to hell if you watch "Lucifer," but there's no real reason to risk it.
"The Magicians," on the other hand, is too ambitious and complicated for its own good, or at least for the good of people who haven't read Grossman's books.
In the premiere, which got a preview in December and is repeated at 8 p.m. Monday followed by a second, new episode, Jason Ralph is Quentin Coldwater, a troubled young man who finds comfort only in a childhood series of fantasy books. Then one day he opens a door and finds himself in upstate New York, at Brakebills University, where he is tested to enroll as a student of magic.
The outline of "The Magicians" sounds a lot like "Harry Potter," but Brakebills is the anti-Hogwarts, attended by angsty, intimidating young adults who drink, curse (in more ways than one) and have enthusiastic supernatural sex.
Some of the special effects are magical; others are genuinely terrifying. But with so many characters, and such an abundance of twists and turns and truths and lies, keeping up is exhausting even in the first two hours. And none of the characters, especially the mopey Quentin, is engaging enough to make it worth the effort.