Five shows to watch
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m., Fox; premieres September 17) The most promising new sitcom of the fall features a stellar cast led by Andy Samberg, along with Andre Braugher, Joe Lo Truglio, Terry Crews and Chelsea Peretti, playing the detectives at a Brooklyn police precinct. With the same mix of goofiness and heart that co-creator Michael Schur brought to Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn has more laughs than any other sitcom pilot this year.
The Blacklist (Mondays, 10 p.m., NBC; premieres September 23) James Spader chews all available scenery as a criminal mastermind who offers the FBI information about other criminal masterminds in exchange for interactions with a young agent (Megan Boone). It’s a Silence of the Lambs rip-off mixed with a typical procedural, but Spader’s go-for-broke performance combined with some intriguing plot twists make it worth sticking around to see where things go.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesdays, 8 p.m., ABC; premieres September 24) Thanks to the corporate synergy of both Marvel and ABC being owned by Disney, this series picks right up from The Avengers and the rest of the Marvel cinematic universe, with the resurrected Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) leading a team of agents investigating emerging superbeings. With Joss Whedon as executive producer, the show has his trademark snappy dialogue and vibrant characters, plus the added bonus of a whole comic-book universe to draw on for inspiration.
Masters of Sex (Sundays, 10 p.m., Showtime; premieres September 29) Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan play pioneering sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson in a show that balances humor with historical insight and character development. Much less intense than the typical Showtime series, Masters avoids typical biopic pitfalls in favor of a relaxed pace and a refreshingly up-front attitude about sexuality.
Almost Human (Mondays, 8 p.m., Fox; premieres November 4) Most of the pilot for this sci-fi series from Fringe’s J.H. Wyman (and executive-produced by J.J. Abrams) plays like a typical police procedural with futuristic elements grafted onto it. But the central dynamic between Karl Urban (as a gruff human detective) and Michael Ealy (as his android partner) is strong, and the episode ends with a total WTF cliffhanger that will have you returning for at least one more installment.
Five shows people will be talking about
Dads (Tuesdays, 8 p.m., Fox; premieres September 17) Hands down the worst new show of the fall, Dads combines offensively crass misogynistic and racist humor with a hackneyed sitcom setup (two 30-something friends are stuck living with their embarrassing fathers) and a raucous, overzealous studio audience. The result is terrible in every possible way.
Hostages (Mondays, 10 p.m., CBS; premieres September 23) CBS’ foray into heavily serialized drama has an impressive cast (Toni Collette, Dylan McDermott, Tate Donovan) and a catchy high concept (terrorists kidnap a surgeon’s family to force her to kill the U.S. president during surgery), but by the end of the first episode it’s already deploying lame delaying tactics to drag out the inherently limited premise.
The Crazy Ones (Thursdays, 9 p.m., CBS; premieres September 26) Robin Williams hasn’t updated his shtick for his first regular TV role in more than three decades, and creator David E. Kelley (Boston Legal, Ally McBeal) hasn’t updated his, either, making this dramedy set at an ad agency (and co-starring Sarah Michelle Gellar) a high-profile recycling project.
The Michael J. Fox Show (Thursdays, 9:30 p.m., NBC; premieres September 26) Michael J. Fox is also returning to TV after a long hiatus, and he’s incorporating his struggles with Parkinson’s disease into this sitcom about a Parkinson’s-afflicted news anchor who returns to work after a number of years off. Fox’s fame and illness aside, it’s a fairly limp family sitcom that doesn’t get enough mileage out of its unique angle.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Thursdays, 8 p.m., ABC; premieres October 10) Originally conceived as a short-run show to replace repeats of popular fairy-tale drama Once Upon a Time, Wonderland so impressed ABC executives, they ordered a full season. It’s very much in the vein of the original Once, which means that it’s a pleasant but sort of redundant reimagining of familiar characters, with added soap-opera trappings. –Josh Bell
One TV show you should already be watching …
American Horror Story is the most lurid, disturbing and decadent show on television. It’s also one of the best. Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy have created worlds where anything can—and usually does—happen. Nazi-created mutants, horny nuns, killer babies … there’s little this show won’t do to shock us out of our ADD stupor. But Falchuk and Murphy are also relentlessly clever with their storylines. Each season covers a different horror genre (haunted houses and insane asylums so far) and keeps finding different ways to keep us riveted—and yes, sometimes nauseated. The upcoming third season, dubbed Coven, deals with a group of witches and voodoo in New Orleans. Some core players (Taissa Farmiga, Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters and the immortal Jessica Lange) return, along with newcomers Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe and Kathy Bates. Let the psychic scarring begin! (Wednesdays, 10 p.m., FX; premieres October 9) –Ken Miller