Fall Television Preview: 12 Best and Worst Pilots
With almost 30 new scripted shows debuting this fall, it might be overwhelming to know where to even begin. So let me do the work for you. Here are the 10 new shows you should make room for on your DVR. Plus two you may want to skip. (Check your listings for updated schedules.)
What to Watch
The best pilot of the season doesn’t feature a major star, special effects or characters with special powers. Instead, with a tremendous ensemble and a heartfelt script that feels refreshingly new, this story of seven co-workers and a lotto win could be the hit of the fall. With luck, that is. Premieres Tuesday, 9/24 at 10:00 p.m.
The premise seems better suited for a drama: a former alcoholic mom (Anna Farris) tries to mend her relationship with her kids and with her own addict mother (Allison Janney). Yet in the hands of two brilliantly talented actors, Farris and Janney—not to mention being created by Chuck Lorre (Roseanne, The Big Bang Theory)—this darkly funny pilot could be the beginning of a great new comedy. Premieres Monday, 9/23 at 9:30 p.m.
The Tomorrow People
A teenager discovers he has special powers, like teleportation and telekinesis. He also discovers he isn’t alone. The show is ridiculously fun and will pair perfectly with the buzzy hit from last season, Arrow. Premieres Wednesday, 10/9 at 9:00 p.m.
Andre Braugher stars with Andy Samberg. In a comedy. Written by guys from Parks and Rec. Premieres Tuesday, 9/17 at 8:30 p.m.
Masters of Sex
Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan star in this captivating, fictionalized account of William Masters’ revolutionary study of human sexuality. With a Mad Men aesthetic, A-list actors and the Showtime-afforded freedom with nudity, the show is too tantalizing to be missed. Premieres Sunday, 9/29 at 10:00 p.m.
The night before she is to perform surgery on the President, Dr. Ellen Sanders (Toni Collette) and her family are taken hostage. Either she kills the president during surgery or the kidnappers will kill her family. Who knows if this storyline can sustain a 15-episode first season (or a second one for that matter), but the taut, cinematic pilot will keep you coming back to find out. Premieres Monday, 9/23 at 10:00 p.m.
There’s a strange Modern Family/Big Love hybrid thing going on here (minus the whole sister-wives thing): one man (Bradley Whitford), two ex-wives (Michaela Watkins and Marcia Gay Harden), three kids, and one new, younger wife (Malin Akerman) trying to find her wife within the family. Yet, a great cast and great writing should help the blandly titled show to find an audience. Premieres Tuesday, 9/24 at 9:30 p.m.
James Spader plays an international criminal who turns himself in. He will provide information to the authorities, including that on a recent kidnapping, but only if he works directly with a new recruit (Megan Boone). This new take on a Lecter/Starling relationship will be one to watch. Premieres Monday, 9/23 at 10:00 p.m.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
No other show shares its pedigree: ginormous budget, Joss Whedon as writer/director/producer, and cast members from The Avengers. Obviously the initial episodes will draw a huge audience. But can the show live up to the buzz and grow into something of its own? Or will it be something people only watch because Robert Downey, Jr. might show up? Premieres Tuesday, 9/24 at 8:00 p.m.
Michael J. Fox Show
Most of the new NBC shows feature a lead male character with a major descriptor: Sean Save the World, gay dad; Dracula, dead; The Michael J. Fox Show: Parkinson’s. Using Fox’s own diagnosis as inspiration, the show—where a former newscaster must decide whether to go back to a job he left because of his illness—is over reliant on Parkinson’s jokes. But who cares? It’s a joy to have Fox back on TV. Hopefully, for many seasons to come. Premieres Thursday, 9/26 at 9:00 p.m.
What to Skip
It feels like the jokes were written and then randomly assigned to characters by draw of hat. The writers need to do more than just use (much ballyhooed) racial stereotypes or Married-with-Children-like lines to elicit catcalls from a studio audience. They need to focus on developing characters. Otherwise, it’s just $#*! My Dad Says all over again. Times two. Premieres Tuesday, 9/17 at 8:00 p.m.
The fascinating, true story of Mary, Queen of Scots has been turned into a vapid, angsty, teen drama where the French speak with English accents and all the girls—including the Queen—are boy crazy. Fortunately, the story involves a beheading. Unfortunately, it isn’t Mary. Premieres Thursday, 10/10 at 9:00 p.m.