Following a summer of lowrated reality shows — many returning reality programs saw their ratings slide and several newcomers were dead on arrival — broadcast-network executives will cross their fingers and hope for a better reception for their new scripted series making debuts in the weeks ahead.
But wishful thinking may not draw viewers to a generally uninspired lineup of new shows. To be sure, there are a few series with the potential to be great, but many of the concepts are overly familiar and, by extension, tired before they even begin to air. Sitcoms make a comeback as the networks add more half-hour comedies to their schedules. Most are single-camera shows, not the kind of sitcom that’s filmed in front of a studio audience.
Serialized dramas also seem to be en vogue again, at least for the time being. Some of the new shows already have premiered; others debut during the coming weeks. Your guide to the broadcast networks’ prime-time fall schedules begins here:
666 Park Avenue (10 p.m., ABC): Sort of an evil Fantasy Island where Faustian contracts always come to a bad end, this supernatural drama is
set in a Manhattan apartment building owned by devilish Gavin (Terry O’Quinn, Lost) and his wife (Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty). They hire an
idealistic young couple from the Midwest (Rachael Taylor, Dave Annable) to manage the property, where bad things repeatedly happen and tenants who fail to live up to their contracts get sucked into the building’s walls. The pilot strikes an eerie, intriguing note, but also makes one wonder how the show’s stories won’t become repetitive. (Sept. 30)
Partners (8:30 p.m., CBS): Setting aside the degree to which this sitcom rips off a 1995-96 Fox sitcom (same title, premise, characters’ occupations), CBS’ new version about best friends who work as architects — one gay (Michael Urie, Ugly Betty), one straight (David Krumholtz, NUMB3RS) — has its moments. The pair share a saucy Latina secretary and each of them has a significant other. Jokes that hit are squeezed between gags that suggest writers David Kohan and Max Mutchnick (Will & Grace) were competing to see whether they could perpetuate more gay or more Latina stereotypes. Gay wins, which is to say, loses. (debuts Monday)
The Mob Doctor (9 p.m., Fox): With a title that’s too on-the-nose and a preposterous premise, this attempt to provide a new doctor drama for still-in-mourning House fans seems destined to fail. Dr. Grace Devlin (Jordana Spiro, My Boys) made a deal with the devil: The Chicago mob cleared her brother’s debts in exchange for her serving as their go-to doc. In the pilot, this involves removing a screwdriver from a flunkie’s head and being asked to murder a mobster-turned-FBI informant while he’s on the operating table. Grace even gets an opportunity to exit this loser deal at the pilot’s end if she’ll only leave Chicago — but she refuses. The Mob Doctor wants to be The Sopranos meets Grey’s Anatomy, which turns out to be as silly a mix as it sounds.
Revolution (10 p.m., NBC): There are multiple surprises in the Revolution premiere that mark it as one of the fall’s best new pilots. The show’s basic premise is this: One day electricity disappeared and mechanical devices stopped working. Jets fell from the sky; cars simply stopped on highways. The show depicts this day and then jumps forward 15 years to show what the world has become: cities are in ruins, survivors have adopted an agrarian way of life, using the shells of old cars (a Prius, of course) as planters. Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) stars as the leader of a militia who’s trying to track down members of the Matheson family on behalf of his military commander boss. This sets several Mathesons off on a quest to understand why the blackout happened.
Ben and Kate (8:30 p.m., Fox): Ben (Nat Faxon) is an irresponsible doofus who moves in with his sister, Kate (Dakota Johnson, The Social Network). Viewers are supposed to love Ben because he’s a dreamer, but the practical implication of Ben’s idiocy is that he wrecks Kate’s life on a routine basis. A Ben-type character might work in a movie, but it seems like he will get old fast on a weekly basis. (debuts Tuesday)
Emily Owens, M.D. (9 p.m., The CW): While the comparisons of first-year interns to high-school cliques is a bit tortured, star Mamie Gummer evinces a fantastic bedside manner. Gummer, who is Meryl Streep’s daughter (she had a recurring role on The Good Wife), radiates warmth and intelligence through insecurity and gaggingly lovesick voiceover narration (think: a more cloying Ally McBeal) that makes Meredith Grey seem like a mature, emotionally stable adult. Emily is in love with nerdy-cute co-worker Will (Justin Hartley, Smallville) and still feuds with high-school nemesis Cassandra (Aja Naomi King). Gummer deserves better material to work with, but medical-show fans bored with Grey’s Anatomy could do worse. (Oct. 16)
Go On (9 p.m., NBC): Matthew Perry plays a widower who joins a support group filled with oddball characters in this funny pilot that mixes humor and heart. One worry: the show seems to be setting up a rom-com relationship between Perry’s character and the group therapist (Laura Benanti, Playboy Club), a been-there, seen-that plot.
The Mindy Project (9:30 p.m., Fox): Mindy Kaling, who has played Kelly Kapoor on The Office, gets her own series about a selfish, drama-addicted thirtysomething doctor who wants to fall in love rom-com style. If you can get past how ridiculously her character behaves, the pilot has winning moments and shows future potential. (debuts Tuesday)
The New Normal (9:30 p.m., NBC): Bryan (Andrew Rannells, Book of Mormon) and David (Justin Bartha, The Hangover), a wealthy Beverly Hills, Calif., gay couple, decide to have a child using a surrogate (Georgia King), which also brings the surrogate’s outspoken Midwestern mother (Ellen Barkin) into their lives. The show plays all the aren’t-gays-shallow? and aren’t-old-people-bigots? stereotypes, but it’s also filled with biting humor thanks to a script by Ali Adler, who executive-produces with Ryan Murphy (Glee). But the show’s appeal seems too narrow for it to work on NBC, where executives have issued a mandate for their comedies to have broader appeal.
Vegas (10 p.m., CBS): Consider this CSI: The First Generation. Dennis Quaid stars as Ralph Lamb, a real-life former Las Vegas sheriff whose adventures inspired this TV series. In the premiere, rancher Lamb is persuaded by the Las Vegas mayor to investigate the murder of a worker at a casino owned by Vincent Savion (Michael Chiklis, The Shield), a gangster transplant from Chicago. Lamb is assisted by his responsible brother (Jason O’Mara, Terra Nova) and his wild son (Taylor Handley, The O.C.). Lamb gleefully and disturbingly violates a defense attorney’s civil rights and the show evinces the idea that bikers should not have the right to an attorney. Unconstitutional civil procedure aside, Quaid offers a flinty, likable turn in his first prime-time leading role. (premieres Tuesday)
Animal Practice (8 p.m., NBC): Justin Kirk (Weeds) stars as veterinarian George Coleman, who gets along great with animals — including his scene-stealing sidekick, Dr. Rizzo, a Capuchin monkey — but butts heads with his new boss, who is also his ex-girlfriend, Dorothy Crane (Joanna Garcia-Swisher). This sitcom benefits from the presence of a daffy nurse (Betsy Sodaro), but the will-they-or-won’t-they? set-up between George and Dorothy feels awfully stale. The best solution: Fewer humans, more monkeys. (Already previewed; time-slot premiere is Wednesday)
Arrow (8 p.m., The CW): Just as The Amazing Spider-Man got a reboot this summer, Green Arrow gets a similarly unnecessary TV relaunch just a year after the character left the small screen with the end of Smallville. Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen is more stubbly man-hero and less like Justin Hartley’s surfer-stud Oliver in Smallville. But otherwise, Arrow feels a lot like a latter-day Smallville, from a potential love triangle to secret identities to parents with questionable intentions. (Oct. 10)
Guys With Kids (8:30 p.m., NBC): The premise of this sitcom is a moldy oldie: Guys can’t capably raise children, and when they try, havoc reigns! Jimmy Fallon (Late Night) executive-produces this wan comedy about three friends — played by Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford, and Zach Cregger — who are also fathers. The guys complain about being tired, help each other through trying times, and promise to put their children before their own carnal desires: “Sons before buns.” (Already previewed; time-slot premiere is Wednesday)
The Neighbors (8:30 p.m., ABC): A broad, whimsical satire about humans living in a subdivision of aliens (from outer space), The Neighbors has a solid concept for a movie, but it’s hard to see how it will stand the test of time as a TV series. Some gags in the pilot — how the aliens do the dishes; the names of sports legends they choose to name themselves — are enjoyably amusing, but have a shelf life: they’ll only be funny the first time. (Preview episodes airs 9:30 p.m. Wednesday; moves to regular time slot Oct. 3)
Chicago Fire (10 p.m., NBC): It’s a show as generic as its title. An ensemble drama that’s closer in tone to ER than, say, Rescue Me — Chicago Fire lacks any discernible point of view — this one-hour police-rescue drama is fine but unremarkable. The show does benefit from a decent cast, including Eamonn Walker (Oz), David Eigenberg (Sex and the City), Jesse Spencer (House), and Taylor Kinney (The Vampire Diaries), but they star in the blandest show of the fall season. (Oct. 10)
Nashville (10 p.m., ABC): Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) headlines this intriguing soap as country singer Rayna Jaymes, whose career has hit a wall. She’s not selling records or concert tickets, prompting her record label to suggest she tour with auto-tuned newcomer Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panetierre, Heroes), whose music “sounds like feral cats to me,” Rayna says. At the same time, Rayna’s scheming father convinces her husband, Teddy (Eric Close, Without a Trace), to run for mayor of Nashville. Britton turns in the winning performance and the script, by Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise), is significantly better than many entries in the soap genre. (Oct. 10)
Last Resort (8 p.m., ABC): On paper, this drama from executive producer Shawn Ryan (The Shield) sounded like fall’s best bet. In execution, it’s both intriguing and flawed. Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age) stars as captain of a U.S. nuclear sub that receives a fire order through unusual channels; when he tries to confirm the order’s authenticity, his sub is fired upon. Shenanigans in Washington may play into what’s happening (a conspiracy theory? yet again?) and a military-contractor rep (Autumn Reeser) has a particularly painful-to-watch scene. But the relationship between Braugher’s captain and his XO (Scott Speedman, Felicity) is nicely drawn. (debuts Thursday)
Beauty and the Beast (9 p.m., The CW): A remake of the late-1980s CBS series of the same name, this new version stars Kristin Kreuk (Smallville) as homicide detective Catherine Chandler, who witnesses the murder of her mother and is saved by a creature who turns out to be war vet Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan, Terra Nova). This new show diverges from the old one in a significant way: Vincent is more hottie than beastly; he has a scar on his face, but not the face of a lion, and only looks a smidge beastly when he has an adrenaline rush. (Oct. 11)
Elementary (10 p.m., CBS): PBS already has a modern take on Sherlock Holmes in the Masterpiece Mystery! series Sherlock, so it’s a bit of a mystery why CBS would think the timing is right for its own version, especially because Elementary, while not bad, is pretty ordinary and pales beside the PBS version. Jonny Lee Miller stars as recovering addict Holmes and Lucy Liu follows him around as his “addict sitter,” Dr. Joan Watson. (debuts Thursday)
Made in Jersey (9 p.m., CBS): CBS builds a Northeast-set Friday lineup this fall as legal drama Made in Jersey joins New York-set Blue Bloods and CSI: NY. Martina (Janet Montgomery) leaves the Trenton district attorney’s office to become a junior associate at an upscale Manhattan corporate firm where everyone else looks at her like she’s an alien. A blond senior attorney is particularly scornful. “I saw you downstairs, but I didn’t want to interrupt The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” the blond says after seeing Martina with her sister. The family aspects of the show are reminiscent of the 2001-02 CBS Friday-night Jersey-based show That’s Life, but Made In Jersey comes in a CBS-patented procedural package with a tough Jersey working girl at its center. (debuts Friday)
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen is a staff writer for the Post-Gazette.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.