It’s that time of year again. With a hint of a chill in the air (we wish), the five broadcast networks are shifting to fall television in hopes of being able to say, “Hey, we're (maybe) just as good as the shows on cable TV you all seem to be watching!”
While I was going through the schedule of new shows that premiere this month, I came to the realization that we have all been considerably spoiled by cable TV. Highly produced, beautifully written, and ridiculously well-cast shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones and Girls really leave these new shows looking a little lackluster.
But it also isn’t fair to dismiss these shows solely because they’re on network TV. There are plenty of shows that rise above the stigma. Community, Parks & Recreation and The Good Wife are just some of the critically acclaimed shows that still appear on network TV. So it's not all bad.
To make things easier for all of you, here are our recommendations for 10 network shows worth checking out this season; many of which are already available online. (Let’s see if this list will fare better than last year’s, where only five out of the 10 suggestions got renewed for a second season...)
The New Normal – Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on NBC
Ryan Murphy (Glee, Nip/Tuck) is joyfully stamping his name on every network these days, and NBC is the latest network to jump on the diversity train with The New Normal. A gay couple, portrayed by The Hangover’s Justin Bartha and Broadway star Andrew Rannells, realizes that what’s missing in their lives is the addition of a baby. They befriend Goldie (Georgina King) who becomes their surrogate, and hilarity (hopefully) ensues.
The series has already been a bit controversial — surprise! there's a gay couple wanting to adopt! — with the most recent headline coming from Salt Lake City where the NBC affiliate announced they would not be airing the show this fall. Hooray for progress and scandal on network TV!
Go On – Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. on NBC
NBC is really trying to make Matthew Perry’s Go On be a thing. The series has aired its pilot for the third time within a month in hopes to capture the attention of American audiences. Perry has unsuccessfully returned to primetime before with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip in 2006 and Mr. Sunshine last year. Perhaps the third time will indeed be the charm for the perpetual sarcsm machine.
Perry stars as sportscaster Ryan King who, after losing his wife, has to attend mandatory group therapy sessions. Here, he befriends a unique collection of characters helping one another get over their bizarre personal tragedies. The show had a nice sampling during the Olympics earlier this summer, and fans of Chandler Bing and John Cho (Harold of Harold & Kumar fame) will be happy to see their old friends each week.
Ben & Kate – Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. on FOX – Premiere date: Sept. 25
Ben & Kate is a series about family. After raising her daughter as a single mom for a couple of years, Kate (Dakota Johnson) tries her luck on the dating scene once again. Problem is, her older brother Ben (Nat Faxon) is a bit of a wildcard and starts wrecking his well-intentioned havoc on her life.
While Ben seems a little too much like a cartoon character at times, I’m a sucker for shows about close siblings and Faxon and Johnson have a nice familial chemistry going on that makes watching them feel comforting.
The Mindy Project – Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on FOX – Premiere date: Sept. 25
It was just a matter of time before Mindy Kaling headlined her own TV show. She’s been a successful writer and actress on The Office and last year released her own comedic memoir. Now in The Mindy Project, Kaling portrays an OB/GYN who, as a hopeless romantic, is on the quest to find the perfect man. The show is basically a half-hour installment of a self-reflexive romantic comedy, but the pilot gives hints that there's much more to come.
While the show tries to find its footing, Kaling shines as the star. It’s no wonder why critics are calling this one of fall’s best comedies of the season. I'm just hoping the show doesn’t drag on the impending “will they or won’t they” storyline between Kaling and one of her co-workers because that’s where the show seems to be heading.
Revolution – Mondays at 9 p.m. on NBC
Revolution comes from sci-fi masterminds, J.J. Abrams (Lost) and Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and is this season’s latest high-concept mythology show. The series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, 15 years after all forms of energy and power mysteriously go out. It focuses on a family that holds the key to finding out what might have happened and a possible way to restore power once again.
NBC has been trying every year to fulfill the sci-fi/action vacuum that was left behind by Heroes, and Revolution may just do it thanks to the heavy dose of promotion it got during the Olympics. The creative team alone is reason for you to at least give this show a shot. Oh, and Breaking Bad’s scene-stealing Giancarlo Esposito is also on the show, again playing a militia boss with a noble purpose.
Last Resort – Thursdays at 7 p.m. on ABC – Premiere date: September 27, 2012
Submarines, government conspiracy, and “this year’s best new drama” are the three tidbits we've seen about ABC’s action/thriller that has convinced us to give this show a shot. The series follows the crew of a U.S. Navy ballistic missile submarine that defies an order to launch nuclear missiles towards Pakistan without any explanation. After getting attacked and left for dead, the crew settles on a nearby island. There, they declare themselves a sovereign nation with nuclear capability while they try to figure out who set them up and how to prove their innocence.
The series comes from Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit), so you know it has the potential to achieve an amazing level of compelling, high-stakes drama.
Elementary – Thursdays at 8 p.m. on CBS – Premiere date: Sept. 27
Sherlock Holmes in New York with a female Watson: that’s Elementary in a nutshell, and it’s causing a bit of a stir. See, there’s this popular BBC show called Sherlock that airs here on PBS and has quite a rabid fan base, and those fans are afraid Elementary will tarnish the work that Sherlock has accomplished. Considering how successful Sherlock is for the BBC, it will be interesting to see if CBS can strike gold with this series. It has a very Mentalist feel and fits in well with every other procedural on TV, so odds are we’ll be seeing this show come next year.
Plus, Lucy Liu stars as the female Watson, so there’s a win already.
666 Park Avenue – Sundays at 9 p.m. on ABC – Premiere date: Sept. 30, 2012
John Locke Terry O’Quinn returns in his first leading role since Lost in this supernatural soap on ABC alongside costars Vanessa Williams (Ugly Betty), Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters) and Rachael Taylor (Grey’s Anatomy). While O’Quinn’s character will be a major player in the series, it’s Annable & Taylor we will follow as they encounter things that go bump in the night in the Manhattan high-rise they just moved into.
The mystery surrounding the building, the tenants and its upscale owners (O’Quinn & Williams) will move the story along each week, and hopefully provide a nice balance of “mystery of the week,” and “season-long mystery arc.”
Arrow – Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on CW – Premiere date: Oct. 10
Looking to cover up the giant superhero hole left by Smallville, the CW is enlisting the help of Green Arrow. Comic book fans will rejoice (or groan) that another one of their heroes is coming to life in a live-action television series, which takes some liberties regarding the canon comic book story of the bow-toting billionaire set out to stop crime. In this day and age, turning a comic book into a live action series is always an easy selling point, and it will absolutely stand out against the teen soaps that the CW typically broadcasts.
The character of Green Arrow was previously introduced to TV audiences on Smallville as portrayed by Justin Hartley. In this series however, newcomer Stephen Amell will be portraying Oliver Queen. What other ties might it have with the man of steel? Longtime Smallville director David Nutter directed the pilot for the series.
Nashville – Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC – Premiere date: Oct. 10
Tami Taylor is back, y’all, and thankfully, she’s not having any more sex with the creepy rubber-suited man. This time around, Connie Britton will be portraying Rayna James, a 40-year-old country superstar that starts losing her star power as a new country act begins stealing the spotlight. Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) co-stars as Juliette Barnes, the aforementioned “new country act.”
The show’s biggest appeal is seeing the universally loved Britton getting back to that Southern charm and attitude that you can’t help but love. For Whose Line is it Anyways? fans, Chip Esten will also co-star in the series as well.
Nashville is expected to be well received in the same way that Revenge was last fall. The series will also feature original music from the actors and actresses of the show that will be available on iTunes after an episode airs.