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‘Krapopolis’ and ‘The Irrational’ give fall TV some newness, but not much freshness

Review by Brian Lowry, CNN

(CNN) — The shortage of new scripted network series because of the writers strike makes “Krapopolis” and “The Irrational” stand out on the major networks, but only in terms of newness, not freshness. Indeed, a tired Fox animated sitcom and very familiar NBC crime procedural only provide a one-two reminder of what’s not worth missing.

Despite being produced by “Rick and Morty’s” Dan Harmon, “Krapopolis” mostly feels like a title in search of a series, built as it around a mythical Greek kingdom where men, gods and monsters all rub elbows, without conjuring many laughs.

King Tyrannus (voiced by Richard Ayoade) is actually a fairly benevolent monarch, serving as the mortal son of the goddess Deliria (“Ted Lasso’s” Hannah Waddingham) and the centaur-like Shlub (Matt Berry), with the latter cheerfully telling him, “Bad monsters kill people. Good monsters have sex with people.”

Mostly, “Krapopolis” seems to exist largely to throw out cheeky names (Stupendous, Hippocampus, Asskill) and even broader references to the present through this wildly exaggerated society, where squabbling kingdoms host games to foster harmony and people say things like “Zeus forbid.”

While the first two episodes (premiering after NFL football, before settling in next week between “The Simpsons” and “Bob’s Burgers”) prove almost relentlessly flat – and too often weird just for the sake of it – the third provides a small ray of hope for something a bit better, focusing on how these savage people domesticated wolves, in a not-so-subtle riff on how dogs became people’s best friend.

For the most part, though, that comes across as an outlier. And while it’s not advisable to judge a book by its cover, in this case, it’s pretty easy to peg a TV show that seems determined to live down to its title.

As for “The Irrational,” Jesse L. Martin joins a long line of brilliant civilians who lend their expertise to the police in solving crimes, which makes you wonder how the cops ever got anything done without them.

In this case, Martin’s Alec Mercer is a renowned professor of behavioral science, drafted to help on a particularly challenging, high-profile case. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has some experience with the police, having been involved in his own investigation that lingers into the series, vaguely, as an ongoing mystery, which contributed to his breakup with his ex-wife (Maahra Hill), who also happens to be a detective.

A veteran of “Law & Order” and more recently CW’s “The Flash,” Martin is good enough company to carry his part of the bargain, but only those really hungry for another variation on “The Mentalist” or “Castle,” “Psych” or “Numb3rs” – or maybe just something to watch after “The Voice” – will find much to latch onto here.

“I can find out what he’s hiding,” Alec assures the detectives in a later episode as they try to interrogate a witness, almost as if he’s performing a magic trick.

That he can. It’s only too bad “The Irrational” doesn’t have a bit more up its sleeve.

“Krapopolis” premieres September 24 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.

“The Irrational” premieres September 25 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

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