Seemingly inspired by "Hot in Cleveland," this season's new sitcoms can't get enough retro casting. "The Goldbergs" may try to evoke the 1980s, but so far this is a season whose sitcoms feature stars better known for their work in the 1970s.
Peter Riegert ("Animal House") and Martin Mull ("Fernwood 2Night") are stranded on the mean-spirited "Dads." George Segal ("Fun With Dick and Jane") plays a character on "The Gold bergs" who doesn't have a whole lot of range. And on Thursday, viewers will see how Robin Williams ("Mork and Mindy") works out on "The Crazy Ones."
Few actors were as hot in the 1970s as James Caan, who appeared in the TV movie "Brian's Song," as well as "The Godfather," "Roller- ball" and "Funny Lady" to name a few. OK, we'd still love him had he quit the profession after playing only Sonny Corleone.
Caan returned to television in 2003 with "Las Vegas," and he's back again on "Back in the Game" (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
He's Terry "The Cannon" Gannon, a gruff but lovable, washed-up baseball player. He's the father of former softball star Terry Jr. (Maggie Lawson, "Psych"), a single mom who wants to keep her son, Danny (Griffin Gluck), away from the diamond and all of the heartache it represents.
If that sounds a tad contrived, it is. Almost everything about this comedy is forced, particularly the "love of the game" baseball shtick between father and daughter. The dialogue is fake from the get-go. "What are you doing here?" an earnest and gorgeous Terry Jr. asks herself as she palms a ball on the pitcher's mound. "You promised yourself you'd never let baseball into your life again."
Who talks like that? Even in interior monologue mode?
Caan's Cannon is reduced to a beer-swilling crank given to politically incorrect asides about contemporary life and modern families. Things aren't terribly enhanced by Danny's fellow Little Leaguers, a "Bad News Bears" bunch of kids who deliver way-too-cute lines with a scene-stealing desperation.
The presence of Caan and his contemporaries on current sitcoms only showcases the plight of older actors. Producers appear to want to collect them like trophies, but once they've got them, they don't know what to do with them. It takes time and subtlety to create a three-dimensional comedic role for an older father figure. Think Jay Pritchett (Ed O'Neill) on "Modern Family" or Martin Crane (John Mahoney) on "Frasier." Those exceptional roles remind us that shows that well-written, smart and generous only come around once or so in a generation.
---The impact of the power outage is felt on "Revolution" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
---The whole clan escorts Axl to college on "The Middle" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
---A fateful trip to Arizona on "Criminal Minds" (9 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Pablo Schreiber ("Orange Is the New Black") guest stars on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
---The gang makes special summer plans on "Modern Family" (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
---The team searches for Morgan and Ellie on "CSI" (10 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
---Deacon faces justice as Rayna's fate remains uncertain on "Nashville" (10 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
---Auditions continue on "The X Factor" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-14).
---Charlotte forms an unlikely
coalition on "The Bridge" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA).
---A killer emerges on the season finale of "Broadchurch" (10 p.m., BBC America, TV-14).
---"Nazi Hunters" (10 p.m.,
Military, TV-14) recalls the search for Martin Bormann.
---"South Park" (10 p.m., Comedy Central, TV-MA) begins its 17th season.
The 2008 documentary "Soul Power" (8 p.m., VH1 Classic) combines footage of the 1974 concert leading up to the "Rumble in the Jungle" bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Performers include James Brown, Celia Cruz and the Fania All-Stars, B.B. King, Miriam Makeba, the Spinners, Bill Withers and Manu Dibango.
---Sacrifices on "Arrow" (8 p.m., CW, r, TV-14)
---The end has come on
"Capture" (9 p.m., CW, TV-14).
---Atoms for Peace visit "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (11 p.m., Comedy Central).
---Charlie Day, Rob McElhenney, Glenn Howerton and Deer Tick appear on "Conan" (11 p.m., TBS).
---John Caparulo, Cameron Esposito and Dov Davidoff are booked on "Chelsea Lately" (11 p.m., E!, r).
---Van Jones appears on
"Totally Biased With W. Kamau Bell" (11 p.m., FXX).
---Joseph Gordon-Levitt sits down on "The Colbert Report" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central).
---Robin Williams, Renee Fleming and Icona Pop appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" (11:35 p.m., CBS).
---Jay Leno welcomes Dana Carvey, Cee-Lo Green and Goodie Mob on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., NBC).
---Jon Hamm and Dave Salmoni appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (11:35 p.m., ABC).
---Michael J. Fox, Blake Shelton and Kings of Leon visit "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (12:35 a.m., NBC).
---Craig Ferguson hosts Julia Stiles and Keke Palmer on "The Late Late Show" (12:35 a.m., CBS).
Kevin McDonough can be reached at email@example.com.