Next week is the official start of the networks’ fall TV season. While some networks have gotten a jump start by premiering shows ahead of the official start week (with shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Sleepy Hollow premiering on FOX), there remain several shows that are still building buzz in anticipation of the premiere week. So what new shows are there to watch this season, exactly? Let’s take a look at some of the more interesting new programs that will premiere over the next two weeks, as September comes to a close…
[All shows are listed in the order of their premiere date, from earliest to latest]
Premiere Date: Monday, September 23, at 9:30 PM
Overview: This sitcom follows a single mother (Anna Faris), a recovering alcoholic who opts to restart her life in California’s Napa Valley.
Why You Should Watch: The series has Anna Faris and Allison Janney, so that immediately gives it some pedigree, in addition to being the latest series created by Big Bang Theory and Two And A Half Men creator Chuck Lorre (although some would hold that against the series, given that Lorre’s comedies tend to miss as often as they hit). The show also features the TV return of French Stewart, if that’s something that excites you. Really, it’s a pretty down-to-Earth show from a conceptual standpoint, outside of the concept of a recovering alcoholic moving to the wine capitol of the United States. But Lorre’s shows have always had the potential to offend as often as they possess the potential to entertain. If nothing else, the show will be divisive — far more so than most premiering shows, I’d argue, since comedy is subjective, after all.
Premiere Date: Monday, September 23, 10:00 PM
Overview: The Blacklist follows Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader), one of the most wanted fugitives on the planet, who surrenders at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., offering his knowledge to aid in capturing dangerous criminals and terrorists. Of course, Reddington has a catch: he will only speak to Elizabeth Keen, a rookie FBI profiler. “Red” is incredibly vague about his motives, but in the process of his cooperation with the FBI, he reveals the existence of a list of the world’s most dangerous criminals and terrorists the FBI doesn’t know about: “The Blacklist”.
Why You Should Watch: The Blacklist has potential largely due to the involvement of James Spader, one of the most talented working actors in the TV industry today. He has a way of elevating everything he’s in, to the point where even underwhelming material seems better by association. Granted, that’s a lot of pressure to put on one actor, but the series has other things going for it as well. The question of why Reddington is doing all this will likely drive the series, but there’s also an intriguing structure to the show, as each episode will feature a different high-risk target — a criminal that has somehow managed to be simultaneously volatile yet completely unknown to law enforcement. This could be one of the more compulsively watchable series of the season.
Premiere Date: Monday, September 23, 10:00 PM
Overview: A gifted surgeon Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) is tasked with operating on the President of the United States, the highest-profile patient of her medical career. But everything goes awry when Ellen and her family are taken hostage by forces led by Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott), a rogue FBI agent. She is ordered to botch the operation and assassinate the President in order to save her family.
Why You Should Watch: I’ll admit that when I first heard about this series, I wasn’t sure how they were going to sustain this premise for a full season, much less for subsequent seasons, should it prove to be a hit. But that’s sort of the TV landscape right now: come up with a high-concept, one season premise, and worry about the rest later. And this is one of the more immediately-compelling high-concept premises I’ve seen in recent seasons. It’s rare that a network drama establishes such huge stakes right out of the gate, yet Hostages has genuine dramatic tension simply from the question of what a person should value more: their family or their country? What are the lives of an American family when weighed against an American President? Sure, you can replace a President, but there’s a matter of principle at the heart of the story that makes it immediately engaging. Why is Carlisle doing this? Would the nation understand if Ellen goes through with it? It’s a good thing the show got Dylan McDermott and, especially, Toni Collette for these roles. Collette often finds more in her characters than what’s on the page, and I’ll be interested to see what she does with the role of a put-upon surgeon torn between family and country. Should be intense.
Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 24, at 8:00 PM
Overview: The series, a spin-off of 2012′s top-grossing blockbuster The Avengers, follows Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) assembles a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to handle complex, dangerous investigations involving newly emerging superhumans in the world.
Why You Should Watch: I can’t think of any one show in recent memory that has had this much buzz going in, except maybe Boardwalk Empire when that it first premiered. And it’s with good reason. The show is not only executive produced by Avengers director Joss Whedon, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. shares a similar sensibility with its on-screen counterpart. It’s not simply that the show is similarly action-oriented, but that it’s also got the same comedic touch. Trailers and pre-release materials indicate that the series has the same back-and-forth banter and general sense of fun that made The Avengers stand out among the crop of dark, serious superhero dramas. While the show doesn’t purport itself to be light, it’s definitely got a vibrancy and bombast that’s been missing on network TV for some time. And it’s also got a likable cast, with star Clark Gregg reprising his role as the lovable Agent Phil Coulson. The series has the cast, the pedigree and the network backing to be the monster hit of the fall. If there were ever such a thing as a sure-thing in television, this would be it. Although viewers still have to actually watch if it’s going to stick around. Here’s hoping it’s as good as it looks.
Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 24, at 9:00 PM
Overview: The show is part The Wonder Years, part The Middle. Set in the 1980s, the series follows the Goldberg family: mother Beverly (Bridesmaids‘ Wendi McLendon-Covey), her husband Murray (Jeff Garlin), and their three children, led by son Adam (Sean Giambrone), who documents the family’s lives with his video camera. The series is a semi-autobiographical look into the life of series creator, writer/producer Adam F. Goldberg, who actually video-taped events while growing up — events which will be re-enacted throughout the run of the series.
Why You Should Watch: From having watched the pilot on Hulu, this looks like a winner. While a lot of the jokes rely on the 1980s setting and the absurdity of some of the things that were popular then, the humor is razor sharp for a family series. If the show can keep up the pace, it could be one of the strongest comedies of the entire season.
Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 24, at 9:30 PM
Overview: This sitcom focuses on a reformed party girl-turned-trophy wife (Malin Akerman) who finds herself struggling to cope with her new husband’s two ex-wives and their children, in addition to dealing with the complicated lifestyle she’s married into.
Why You Should Watch: The central couple, portrayed by Malin Akerman and Bradley Whitford, are not only well-matched, but believable in their flaws. These are good people who’ve made mistakes along the way and are trying to find some semblance of normalcy in a life that won’t really allow for peace, given the presence of exes, kids, gossipy neighbors, and the like. It’s almost primordial in its straightforward sitcom structure: it’s a comedy that takes a magnifying glass to a believable, if not relatable, scenario and finds comedy in how its characters react to their circumstances. It certainly helps that the cast is talented.
Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 24, at 10:00 PM
Overview: This drama follows a group of seven employees at a gas station in Queens who play the lottery together every week and daydream about what they’d do with the winnings. However, when they actually hit the jackpot, the coworkers learn that money doesn’t solve old problems, so much as create new ones entirely.
Why You Should Watch: News reports in recent years have occasionally focused on coworkers who’ve played the lottery together and then faced problems of division once they hit the jackpot. Who gets what share? What should be done with the money? Can friendships withstand sudden wealth? These are all trenchant issues that are addressed in the series, and there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to exploring how money changes people. It should be interesting to see how the relationships between these seven people are irrevocably altered by their good fortune. Also, the cast has Matt Long! From Jack and Bobby! People remember Jack and Bobby, right? Anyone? (Loved that show)
The Crazy Ones
Premiere Date: Thursday, September 26, at 9:00 PM
Overview: This comedy, which features Robin Williams’ first regular series role since Mork & Mindy, centers on a father-daughter advertising team. The series co-stars Sarah Michelle Gellar, who’s giving this whole TV thing another shot after Ringer didn’t deliver like The CW hoped it would. CBS is banking on the inherent likability of its two leads to drive viewership for the series. If the writing is as funny as its stars are talented, they might actually have something here.
Why You Should Watch: For all intents and purposes, the pairing of Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar should be a homerun. Williams has a manic comedic sensibility that immediately adds energy to whatever comedy project he’s in. Gellar, meanwhile, is more than capable of keeping up, showing herself to be pretty adept at comedy in her own right (hell, she wouldn’t have been invited to host Saturday Night Live on three separate occasions if she didn’t have comedic chops). There’s no reason this show shouldn’t at least be amusing.
The Michael J. Fox Show
Premiere Date: Thursday, September 26, at 9:30 PM
Overview: The series is a semi-autobiographical take on Michael J. Fox’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Here, he plays TV newsman Mike Henry, who had to give up his career as a news anchor to focus on his family and his health after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Five years later, Mike decides to return to work, but faces challenges in balancing family, career and his own well-being.
Why You Should Watch: The show marks Michael J. Fox’s return to a regular series role following Spin City. Fox was one of the most talented comic actors of his generation, and it’s unlikely that twelve years away from the TV spotlight will have dulled his comic sensibilities. But he’s also lucky to be supported by a uniformly talented cast, including Breaking Bad‘s Betsy Brandt and Tony Award winner Katie Finneran. The semi-autobiographical take on the subject matter should make for a more direct emotional investment, as many viewers already have an inherent fondness and sympathy for Michael J. Fox. We can recognize, despite the fictional nature of the events, that this is in some ways representative of his experience in trying to work in the TV spotlight while facing a very visible illness. Perhaps more than any other new comedy this season, The Michael J. Fox Show has the potential to be equal parts touching and funny.
Premiere Date: Friday, September 27, at 8:00 PM
Overview: A kids’ version of the popular reality cooking competition. Kids between the ages of 8 and 13 who love to cook will compete for a multi-year deal with Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay will be joined on the judging panel by restaurateur and winemaker Joe Bastianich as well as acclaimed chef Graham Elliot. The judges will coach and mentor the 24 hopefuls, teaching them valuable tricks of the culinary trade as the kids face a series of unique challenges throughout the competition.
Why You Should Watch: We’ve gotten kid versions of The Voice, American Idol and even Survivor (if you count Kid Nation as a spiritual spin-off of that series). So why not a kids’ cooking show? It’ll be interesting to see how the kids react to the high-pressure situation, in addition to seeing if Gordon Ramsay softens his edges for the younger competitors. Viewers might not immediately think of a reality competition featuring kids as having an inherently greater amount of drama, but that could very well be the case before the season is through and the winner is crowned.
Masters of Sex
Premiere Date: Sunday, September 29, at 10:00 PM
Overview: The drama, based on Thomas Maier’s biography Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, tells the story of (who else?) Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson, pioneers in the scientific exploration of human sexuality.
Why You Should Watch: Aside from the provocative, tantalizing premise, the show boasts one of the best casts of any new show this season, with Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan being joined by Margo Martindale, Allison Janney, Beau Bridges, Caitlin Fitzgerald, Teddy Sears, Nicholas D’Agosto, Ann Dowd and Wendi McLendon-Covey. It’s a massive ensemble that will likely be put to damn good use. The pilot, already available online, is pretty terrific, and the aesthetic suggests Mad Men by way of sex instead of advertising. It’s one of the most intriguing new series of the fall season.
Premiere Date: Sunday, September 29, at 10:00 PM
Overview: Hello Ladies is Swingers with a dash of Girls…except it mostly just follows one guy — an Englishman looking for love in modern Los Angeles despite a painful lack of self-awareness. Series co-creator Stephen Merchant plays the lead.
Why You Should Watch: HBO has a knack for comedy, particularly in recent years with shows like Girls, Veep and Enlightened. This is mostly because the looser restrictions allow for a broader range of comedy, and the high-volume of talent actively courting HBO means that shows tend to be front-loaded with solid performers and strong material. The shows frequently take on the quality of character studies as much as outright comedies, and that alone should be a good reason to give this a shot, even if the premise reads a bit quirky and simplistic. Of course, quirky simplicity is likely the point. The simpler the premise, the less setup required to get right to the funny.
Premiere Date: Sunday, September 29, at 10:00 PM
Overview: This sultry drama centers on a volatile romance between a beautiful photographer named Sara Hayward (Hannah Ware) and a lawyer named Jack McAllister, who hails from a powerful family. Both are unhappily married, and are naturally drawn to one another as a result of their circumstance. However, a murder trial threatens to complicate their love affair in ways neither could imagine.
Why You Should Watch: The show seems like a fitting companion to Revenge, which airs in the time slot before Betrayal. The series is a primetime soap opera in the clearest, most dramatic sense of the term, throwing all pretense of haughty themes and subtext out the window. And that could do wonders for this show’s watchability, as it could be a really fun, addictive viewing experience.
So what do you think of the new fall TV season? Sound off in the comments, and check back tomorrow for part 2, which will cover October and November!