The watch list: Rating the fall premieres

From comedy to drama, there’s a new show for everyone this fall.



(CBS drama, premieres Sept. 23)

Starring: Toni Collette, Dylan McDermott, Tate Donovan

Concept: Collette, in her first network series, is a famous surgeon about to operate on POTUS. McDermott’s FBI agent kidnaps her family and tries to make her kill her patient. The season is 15 episodes.


Am I hooked? It’s possible this could spiral out into something addictive. But the pilot promises yet another twisty “24”-like scenario that’s too absurd and predictable to be truly suspenseful.

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Alternate title: “Drastic Surgery”

Grade: B-

“We Are Men”

(CBS single-cam man-com, Sept. 30)

Starring: Jerry O’Connell, Tony Shalhoub, Kal Penn, and Chris Smith

Concept: Four recently divorced or separated men relish singlehood in a short-term apartment complex. Alcohol is consumed.


Am I hooked? Good lord, yet another “Hangover”-like sitcom effort to excavate bromance? The actors are likable, but their adventures fall flat.

Alternate title: “They Are Devo”

Grade: C-


(CBS multi-cam mom-com, Sept. 23)

Starring: Anna Faris, Allison Janney

Concept: The latest from sitcom super-force Chuck Lorre has Faris’s newly sober single mom moving to Napa Valley to start over. She reconnects and clashes with her mother, Janney, who’s also in recovery.


Am I hooked? When Janney shows up midway through the uneven pilot, the comedy finally kicks in. Faris and Janney are great throwing barbs at each other, lifting the mediocre material to something approaching good. But CBS’s other female-centric Monday sitcom, “Two Broke Girls,” went from auspicious pilot to embarrassingly primitive series, so I’m wary.

Alternate title: “Mother and Child Reunion”

Grade: B+

“Sleepy Hollow”

(Fox paranormal drama, Sept. 16)

Starring: Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie

Concept: A take on the Washington Irving story has Mison as Ichabod Crane rising from the grave after 250 years. He partners with Sleepy Hollow’s sheriff, Beharie, in a town ravaged by the headless horseman.

Am I hooked? The first fall premiere, this modernization has a welcome sense of humor. But ultimately it has no compelling plot points, especially when the mythology junks up the works and the world seems to be drowning in foggy atmosphere.

Alternate title: “Heading Nowhere”

Grade: C+

“The Blacklist”

(NBC drama, premieres Sept. 23)

Starring: James Spader, Megan Boone

Concept: It’s a little bit “Hannibal,” a little bit “Homeland.” Spader’s most-wanted criminal mastermind turns himself in to the FBI with the mysterious condition that he will only work with Boone’s rookie profiler – his Clarice? – to catch terrorists.

Am I hooked? Not hooked, but not not hooked either. Spader is fun to watch, and his artful creepiness just may be enough to hold onto viewers from the lead-in “The Voice.” But Boone lacks charisma and the plots of the week need to become more memorable.

Alternate title: “Lambs, Lies, and Videotape”

Grade: B

“Almost Human”

(Fox sci-fi cop drama, Nov. 4)

Starring: Michael Ealy, Karl Urban, Lili Taylor

Concept: New J.J. Abrams shows are required every year. This futuristic cop drama has LAPD officers partnered with androids. Ealy’s android has human feelings, Urban’s human is more like a machine. Buddy rapport ensues.

Am I hooked? It looks great, and the action is well done. Also, Ealy has charm. But the pilot is all setup. Let’s see how this one unfolds and if it can be more than just another unlikely partners cop series.

Alternate title: “Good Robot”

Grade: B


“Trophy Wife”

(ABC single-cam comedy, Sept. 24)

Starring: Bradley Whitford, Marcia Gay Harden, Michaela Watkins, Malin Akerman

Concept: Akerman’s party girl marries older man Whitford who has three manipulative kids and two disapproving ex-wives – Harden’s surgeon and Watkins’s New Ager.

Am I hooked? Kinda sorta maybe. Akerman, from “The Comeback,” is great as the overwhelmed stepmother of three, and the two exes have promise as thorns in her side.

Alternate title: “Big Ex-Love”

Grade: B+

“The Goldbergs”

(ABC single-cam yell-com, Sept. 24)

Starring: Jeff Garlin, Wendi McLendon-Covey, George Segal

Concept: It’s the 1980s, and three teens grow up with a loud father and an overbearing mother. Youngest son Adam – based on show creator Adam F. Goldberg – videotapes it all.

Am I hooked? Stop yelling! The 1980s gimmick and the raucous atmosphere can’t hide the fact that this is a standard family sitcom (named after the 1949-56 TV series). McLendon-Covey is fierce and funny, but the rest, including a shrill Garlin, are forgettable.

Alternate title: “The Thunder Years”

Grade: B-

“Lucky 7”

(ABC drama, Sept. 24)

Starring: Stephen Louis Grush, Matt Long, Isiah Whitlock Jr.

Concept: Based on the British series “The Syndicate,” with seven employees at a Queens gas station winning the lottery. Lives are changed.

Am I hooked? No, at least based on the pilot. I love the idea of diving into class and money issues, as members of the 99 percent get a windfall. But this hour moves slowly, none of the characters stand out, and truisms about love and money loom.

Alternate title: “Not the Ticket”

Grade: C

“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

(ABC superhero action drama, Sept. 24)

Starring: Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen

Concept: Joss Whedon resurrects Agent Phil Coulson from his death in Whedon’s “The Avengers” to assemble a team of top-secret agents taking on global law enforcement and paranormal phenomena.

Am I hooked? This one arrives with high expectations, since Whedon – the “Buffy” man – is revered. And the pilot, a handsome action-filled hour with playful dialogue, almost meets those expectations. Almost. Newcomers to the Marvel-verse will be a little at sea, as the sometimes jumbled plot lines link up to the movies. Plus, our culture is already overstuffed with superheroes. Still, it’s Whedon, and I’m willing to keep sampling.

Alternate title: “Y.I.E.L.D.”

Grade: B


(Fox multi-cam bad-com, Sept. 17)

Starring: Seth Green, Giovanni Ribisi, Martin Mull, Peter Riegert

Concept: Seth MacFarlane’s comedy is about two video game developers whose high-maintenance fathers move in with them.

Am I hooked? So not hooked. The concept is creaky, as the dads embarrass the sons. And too many of the jokes are racy but not funny, particularly the ongoing gags about Asians.

Alternate title: “Duds”

Grade: D

“The Originals”

(The CW spinoff, Oct. 3)

Starring: Joseph Morgan, Daniel Gillies

Concept: This “Vampire Diaries” spinoff is about the world’s original vampires, three siblings – including Morgan’s villainous Klaus – who return to New Orleans. They reunite with a former protégé who now rules with an army of vampires and witches.

Am I hooked? Not really; been there, done that too often with other hottie CW creatures. But I sense that fans of “The Vampire Diaries” will want to feed on this pretty mood piece.

Alternate title: “No Fang You”

Grade: C+

Beth Dubber/Fox
Andy Samberg (left) and Joe Lo Truglio in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”

(Fox single-cam cop-shop-com, Sept. 17)

Starring: Andre Braugher, Andy Samberg, Terry Crews

Concept: Samberg is a juvenile but brilliant detective, Braugher is his tough but paternal captain. They’re surrounded by a precinct house of big characters. This goofball comedy was created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur of “Parks and Recreation.”

Am I hooked? Definitely. Braugher expertly works his deadpan, and his chemistry with Samberg is promising. There’s not a bum choice in the ensemble, with Chelsea Peretti walking off with a few scenes. The spoofing of TV’s crime dramas is also spot on.

Alternate title: “Homicide: Fun on the Streets”

Grade: A-

Colleen Hayes/ABC
From left, Liza Lapira, Lauren Ash, and Rebel Wilson in “Super Fun Night.”


“Super Fun Night”

(ABC single-cam sitcom, Oct. 2)

Starring: Rebel Wilson, Lauren Ash

Concept: Created by Wilson, the popular Aussie actress from “Pitch Perfect,” and produced by Conan O’Brien, this comedy tracks a trio of nerdy women who get together every Friday night to stay home in PJs. But what’s this? They’ve decided to start stepping out.

Am I hooked? No. It could have been a “Big Bang Theory” for awkward women finding empowerment, but the formulaic writing isn’t good enough. Wilson is saddled by mediocre jokes, which she wrote, and an inhibiting American accent.

Alternate title: “Super Fun Not”

Grade: C-

“Back in the Game”

(ABC single-cam fam-com, Sept. 25)

Starring: Maggie Lawson, James Caan

Concept: Lawson is a divorced single mother who moves in with her estranged father, Caan’s beer-drinking “The Cannon.” They coach a little league team of misfits – including her son – together.

Am I hooked? The pilot is sweet but forgettable, and Caan strains to be Caan-like. The character I might return for is Lenora Crichlow’s gonzo sidekick.

Alternate title: “Meh News Bears”

Grade: C+

“The Tomorrow People”

(CW paranormal thriller, Oct. 9)

Starring: Robbie Amell, Peyton List, Mark Pellegrino

Concept: A teen begins to teleport in his sleep. Turns out he and others with special powers are the next stage in human evolution. There’s a shadowy group of scientists after them, natch. Amell is a cousin of Stephen Amell of “Arrow,” the lead-in show.

Am I hooked? This remake of a 40-year-old British children’s series isn’t fresh, but it’s a decent teen paranormal soap with lots of pretty faces.

Alternate title: “They Could Be ‘Heroes’ ”

Grade: B-


(NBC procedural remake, Oct. 2)

Starring: Blair Underwood, Pablo Schreiber

Concept: Underwood takes on the Raymond Burr role from the 1967-75 series. He’s a wheelchair-bound detective leading a top team of specialists. The location has been changed from San Francisco to New York, and Ironside’s unfolding back story is more complex.

Am I hooked? Not really, although it’s not Underwood’s fault. The cases he solves are run-of-the-mill, always a problem for a procedural. The writers need to get creative.

Alternate title: “Blah & Order”

Grade: C+


“The Michael J. Fox Show”

(NBC single-cam fam-com, Sept. 26)

Starring: Michael J. Fox, Betsy Brandt, Wendell Pierce

Concept: Like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Episodes,” this is a meta-twist on the star’s life. Fox plays a news anchor with Parkinson’s who returns to work, much to his family’s relief. But he hates the way people treat him like a hero.

Am I hooked? I’m optimistic. It’s great to see three-time Emmy winner Fox on a new series, his self-deprecating charm as strong as ever; his visits to “The Good Wife” have been brilliant. But while making light of Parkinson’s works for an episode or two, it will get tired if the writing doesn’t explore other avenues.

Alternate title: “Comeback City”

Grade: B+

“The Crazy Ones”

(CBS single-cam sitcom, Sept. 26)

Starring: Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk, Hamish Linklater

Concept: David E. Kelley’s first sitcom since “Doogie Howser, M.D.” has Williams as a genius nutjob who oversees a struggling ad agency with his daughter, Gellar. In the pilot, they fight to keep a McDonald’s account.

Am I hooked? We all know that Williams’s shtick can lose its kick when he layers it on too thick. And his sentimental side is cringeworthy. I’m in wait-and-see mode, hoping Kelley and Co. will manage Williams properly, use the talented Wolk and Linklater wisely, and not go overboard with product placement.

Alternate title: “Mad Man”

Grade: B

Richard Foreman/CBS
Will Arnett and Margo Martindale in “The Millers.”

“The Millers”

(CBS multi-cam-com, Oct. 3)

Starring: Margo Martindale, Will Arnett, Beau Bridges

Concept: Arnett’s reporter gets divorced, which inspires his parents to divorce. Martindale moves in with him, Bridges moves in with his sister. It’s from Greg Garcia of “My Name Is Earl.”

Am I hooked? The talented cast is sunk by lame material. I’ve loved Martindale for years, but not here. The pilot has been reshot since it was shown to critics; I’m hoping it was rewritten, too.

Alternate title: “Margno Martindale”

Grade: D

“Welcome to the Family”

(NBC single-cam multiculti-com, Oct. 3)

Starring: Mike O’Malley, Mary McCormack, Ricardo Chavira, Justina Machado

Concept: A white family and a Latino family learn their teens are expecting a kid together. Shock and awe ensues.

Am I hooked? I always love a culture clash comedy – not. This is painfully predictable, as the warring parents give in to those loving kids and those tired ethnic cliches.

Alternate title: “Romeo and Julietcom”

Grade: C-

“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”

(ABC spinoff, Oct. 10)

Starring: Sophie Lowe

Concept: The creators of “Once Upon a Time” jump into the world of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Alice is in an asylum, telling doctors about her rabbit hole tales.

Am I hooked? No, based on the short pilot ABC showed critics. The combination of digital effects and flat story lines is numbing.

Alternate title: “Don’t Ask Alice”

Grade: C


(CW period drama, Oct. 17)

Starring: Adelaide Kane, Toby Regbo

Concept: The young Mary, Queen of Scots, goes to France since she has been told to marry Prince Francis. Enter his controlling mother, her gal pals from England, and a love triangle. This ain’t the History channel.

Am I hooked? No, unless I decide to laugh-watch it. The historical premise and costumes are unusual for the CW, which is nice to see. But the stories and the cast — scruffy guys, boy-obsessed girls — are absurdly contemporary.

Alternate title: “Ye Gossip Girl”

Grade: C-

“Sean Saves the World”

(NBC multi-camera sitcom, Oct. 3)

Starring: Sean Hayes, Linda Lavin, Megan Hilty

Concept: Hayes from “Will & Grace” returns to TV as a divorced gay dad whose 14-year-old daughter moves in with him. Lavin is his caustic mom.

Am I hooked? No. This is super familiar, an overly broad sitcom with physical comedy, a little schmaltz, and a sexed up elder. Hayes’s hamming almost makes the formulaic material watchable — almost. Hard to believe it’s from Victor Fresco of the far more original “Better Off Ted.”

Alternate title: “Just Jack”

Grade: C



(NBC supernatural drama, Oct. 25)

Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Concept: The vampire of vampires comes to life in Victorian London pretending to be an American entrepreneur. He wants revenge on those who wronged him many years ago. He instantly falls in love with a woman who looks just like his dead wife.

Am I hooked? Yes, but be forewarned: I lose my head when it comes to such lushly designed Victorian settings. I’m not dependable. This is silly rehash, but I’ll watch until someone puts a stake through my remote. Rhys Meyers is perfectly cast.

Alternate title: “If You’re the Right Type”

Grade: B

Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME
Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen in “Masters of Sex.”


“Masters of Sex”

(Showtime period drama, Sept. 29)

Starring: Michael Sheen, Lizzy Caplan

Concept: This fact-based series based on Thomas Maier’s biography follows legendary researchers Dr. William Masters and Virginia Johnson back to their first studies of sex in the 1950s, long before they made the cover of Time magazine in 1970. How did these pioneers begin, and what kinds of resistance did they encounter?

Am I hooked? Yes. The pilot is businesslike and crowded with setup; but it’s nonetheless promising, and it’s about more than viewer titillation. There’s even a touch of “Mad Men” in the portrayal of Masters’s vacant marriage. Let’s see if the dramatic tension continues to grow after the pilot.

Alternate title: “Doin’ It Well”

Grade: A-


(ABC soap opera, Sept. 29)

Starring: Hannah Ware, Stuart Townsend, Henry Thomas

Concept: Ware’s photographer has an affair with Townsend’s lawyer, but the plot thickens when he has to go up against her husband in a murder case.

Am I hooked? This is a companion to “Revenge,” and it has a touch of “Dirty Sexy Money” about it, but it’s not fun. It’s a glum melodrama that wants to play with morality but fails.

Alternate title: “An Affair to Forget”

Grade: C

“Hello Ladies”

(HBO comedy, Sept. 29)

Starring: Stephen Merchant

Concept: Merchant, Ricky Gervais’s partner on “The Office,” “Extras,” and “Life’s Too Short,” goes solo this time as a gawky British Web designer who moves to LA and isn’t great with the ladies.

Am I hooked? HBO hasn’t released episodes yet. But Merchant knows how to do cringe. I’m extremely eager to see this one.

Alternate title: “Merchant of Awkward”

Grade: ?

“Witches of East End”

(Lifetime supernatural drama, Oct. 6)

Starring: Julia Ormond, Eric Winter, Rachel Boston, Madchen Amick

Concept: A family of witches lives in a seaside town. It’s based on Melissa de la Cruz’s novel.

Am I hooked? Lifetime didn’t make the pilot available, but ever since her turn as Megan’s mother on “Mad Men,” I’m an Ormond fan.

Alternate title: “Charmed, I’m Sure”

Grade: ?

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.