Early grades on season’s new shows
Here are our assessments of the fall shows. In most cases, the opinions are based on only one preview episode, so they may change as the series evolve.
(Complex ABC thriller, Sept. 27)
Starring: Priyanka Chopra
Concept: Strangers are picked to live in a training facility while they aspire to become FBI agents. They are asked to dig up dirt on each other as part of an exercise. "Quantico" is what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. And then there is a terrorist attack. And the show flashes between training and the attack. And then there's sex and family stuff, too. A lot goes on.
Am I hooked? As confusing as it was at times, there were parts of the first episode — which balanced soapiness, action, and, curiously enough, successful bits of comedy — that did pique our interest.
Alternate title: "Complicatico"
"Blood & Oil"
(ABC sudser, Sept. 27)
Starring: Don Johnson, Chace Crawford, Delroy Lindo
Concept: This time, Johnson, formerly doing TV business as Sonny Crockett and Nash Bridges, plays a North Dakota oil baron with a scheming wife and a loser son. Crawford is the oil-biz newcomer hoping to become his partner — and his surrogate son.
Am I hooked? Somebody wants to be the next "Dallas." And that's just fine; soaps — think "Empire" — can still catch on. But don't expect anything original or surprising here. It's your everyday, average nighttime soap, with Crawford and Johnson looking perhaps just a little too clean and pretty to be playing crude dudes.
Alternate title: "Gossip Goil"
"Life in Pieces"
(CBS family comedy, Sept. 21)
Starring: Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, Colin Hanks, Thomas Sadoski, Betsy Brandt, Dan Bakkedahl
Concept: A multi-generational family comedy where the focus is divided equally between the older parents (Wiest and Brolin) and the families of each of their three children (Sadoski, Brandt, and Hanks) who are at different stages of life.
Am I hooked? Even with this tremendous ensemble, the first episode featured a lot of predictable beats. But it provided enough chuckles, and we like every one of these actors so much, it will get a second look.
Alternate title: "Another Modern Family"
(Fox futuristic thriller, Sept. 21)
Starring: Meagan Good, Stark Sands, Wilmer Valderrama, Nick Zano
Concept: Based on Steven Spielberg's 2002 film, which was based on a Philip K. Dick story, it follows an adult "pre-cog" in 2065 as he and a detective try to stop crimes before they happen.
Am I hooked? Too late to stop this one before it happens? It's just another frantic network attempt to use a presold title — one with Spielberg cred — to sell mediocre, if visually striking, goods. Why does Hollywood keep doing this when TV reboots of old movies so often fail? Another problem: Despite the humorless tone, there's nary a hint of the moral problems inherent in pre-crime arrests.
Alternate title: "Prescience Fiction"
(Nutty new musical dramedy on the CW, Oct. 12)
Starring: Rachel Bloom
Concept: Bloom, who created the show with "The Devil Wears Prada" writer Aline Brosh McKenna, has starred in several popular online videos but is still largely unknown. Here she plays Rebecca, a successful New York lawyer who gives up the glamorous life in the city to chase after her first love, her camp sweetheart. She sings and dances along the way because, why wouldn't you?
Am I hooked? Bloom is incredibly charming in what could potentially be a very irritating role as a panicky drama queen, and the show's quirkiness errs on the sunny side without being saccharine.
Alternate title: "Glee-fully Deranged"
(CBS comic book series, Oct. 26)
Starring: Melissa Benoist, Calista Flockhart, Mehcad Brooks, Chyler Leigh
Concept: Yes, my friends, it's yet another superhero series, and yet another superhero series from Greg Berlanti of "Arrow" and "The Flash." Benoist from "Glee" suits up as Superman's cousin, Kara Zor-El, a mild-mannered assistant at a great media outlet who chases National City villains in her free time. Her boss, Flockhart's Cat Grant, is straight outta "The Devil Wears Prada."
Am I hooked? If you can handle more spandex, you might like this family-oriented take featuring a rare female TV superhero. The lighthearted script — complete with meta-conversations about what to name a female superhero — is welcome; too many of these stories drown in their own bleak worlds. And Flockhart has fun doing her version of Meryl Streep's Miranda Priestly. But still, the need for weekly crime-solving and Kryptonian history could gum up the works considerably.
Alternate title: "Zor-Potensh-El"
(NBC mystery procedural, Sept. 21)
Starring: Jaimie Alexander, Sullivan Stapleton, Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Concept: The phrase "female Jason Bourne" is getting thrown around in NBC's promotion for this one from uber-producer Greg Berlanti. A woman with amnesia is found naked and unconscious in a duffel bag in Times Square with a set of clues tattooed all over her body. Talk about tramp stamps.
Am I hooked? Maybe. The premise is cool, if it doesn't remind you too much of your last drunken blackout; but the unfolding conspiracy had better be good or I'll lose interest fast. Alexander is mesmerizing, which helps.
Alternate title: "Nameless in Drama"
(CBS thriller adapted from a movie, Sept. 22)
Starring: Jake McDorman, Jennifer Carpenter
Concept: A sequel of sorts to the 2011 Bradley Cooper film of the same name, McDorman plays a guy with a dead-end life who becomes a super-genius when he takes a drug that helps him utilize nearly all of his brain. Problem is, the drug might kill him. Cooper — an executive producer — shows up to illustrate how to stay alive, and his character and the FBI agent played by Carpenter figure out who is behind the drug.
Am I hooked? McDorman, a great screen presence who may have finally found the right vehicle, sells the effects of the drugs. I'm ready to take a few more pills to see where things go.
Alternate title: "Intoxicating Potential"
(Fox horror comedy, Sept. 22)
Starring: Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lea Michele, Abigail Breslin, Nasim Pedrad
Concept: Ryan Murphy blends his "Glee" and "Popular" teen spoofery with his "American Horror Story" fright for this anthology series. The first season revolves around murders at a sorority house headed by Roberts's queen bee of all queen bees, the evil Chanel. Look for one murder per episode.
Am I hooked? I'm wary. Murphy gives good pilot, and this one's no exception. The girls talk in clever pop culture code filled with hysterically nasty one-liners, and the cast, particularly Curtis as the sorority-hating dean, is a kick. But I can easily imagine the bitch wit getting tiresome, especially since none of the characters is at all likable. And the scares are nonexistent. Like "Glee," this one could quickly become a bummer.
Alternate title: "Phi Beta Heathers"
(Fox comedy, Sept. 29)
Starring: John Stamos, Josh Peck, Paget Brewster, Christina Milian
Concept: An aging but still sexy lothario (Stamos), who runs a trendy LA restaurant, is gobsmacked to learn all in one encounter that he is both a father and a grandfather. He attempts to integrate his new family into his confirmed-bachelor, celebrity-shoulder-rubbing lifestyle.
Am I hooked? Stamos is . . . Stamos so yeah, we're in for a while anyway. He is very charming in the pilot, and Paget Brewster, as the one that got away and mother of his son, is always worth watching.
Alternate title: "Hot Grandpa"
(ABC serial killer drama, Oct. 27)
Starring: Ed Westwick, Jeremy Sisto, Gabriel Luna
Concept: Set in the '80s in Los Angeles, it's the dawn of the metal scene on the Strip. The hair is high and so are the voices. Plus there's a lot of other high-pitched screaming happening because a serial killer is on the loose. Westwick is the murderer, and Sisto and Luna are tracking him.
Am I hooked? The whole pilot wasn't available due to recasting, so we can't say yet. In the clips we saw, the setting has some fun period allure but, given the central conceit, there was a lot of blood.
Alternate title: "Hair Metal Murders"
Grade: Not available for preview
(ABC mup-umentary, Sept. 22)
Starring: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear
Concept: Surely you've heard of the Muppets? They're more popular than ever, and this mockumentary from Bill Prady and Bob Kushell — with hand-held camerawork and confessional interviews — follows the gang's private lives as they make a late-night talk show called "Up Late With Miss Piggy."
Am I hooked? A late-night talk show hosted by a woman (kinda)? How novel. But I digress. The 10-minute clip that ABC previewed is adorable, guest-star-filled, and tinged with amusing adult-ish references, including jokes about human-puppet love. Fingers crossed.
Alternate title: "The Way of All Felt "
Grade: Not available for preview
(Fox single-cam-com, Sept. 29)
Starring: Rob Lowe, Fred Savage, William Devane
Concept: So totally not to be confused with hookup app Grindr. Two brothers start a law firm in Idaho. One is a real lawyer, the other just an actor who played one on TV.
Am I hooked? Just maybe I am, if the writing can make something more than a one-joker of the premise. Can an actor be a good lawyer, if a good lawyer needs to be a bit of an actor? Lowe literally continues to milk the narcissistic-but-lovable comedy persona he developed on "Parks and Recreation," and Savage is cute and underdoggy as his frustrated younger brother. They're an odd couple with potential.
Alternate title: "Better Mind Grinder"
(NBC spinoff, Nov. 17)
Starring: S. Epatha Merkerson, Yaya DaCosta, Oliver Platt
Concept: Following the "Law & Order" franchise pattern, NBC and Dick Wolf are taking over Chicago with this spinoff of "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago P.D." Soap operatics and bloody gurneys, it's a thing.
Am I hooked? This is a symbol of just how unambitious NBC has become since its heyday. No "ER," this. The presence of Merkerson can only improve the predictable scripts, which, of course, will regularly cross over with the other NBC Chicago shows. Indeed, NBC has already announced a crossover with the three Chicago shows and "Law & Order: SVU" for next year. Expect an explosion or shooting in every episode.
Alternate title: "Chicago Nope"
(Sunny Fox cop procedural, Sept. 23)
Starring: Morris Chestnut, Jaina Lee Ortiz
Concept: Dr. Beaumont "Rosie" Rosewood (Chestnut) is a hotshot private medical examiner in Miami who works his own cases and also consults with the police, including wary new detective Annalise Villa (Ortiz). He is an arrogant ladies man who is an expert in his field. So, yeah, you've seen this guy before.
Am I hooked? Chestnut is always charming, but Rosewood is less so, too cocky and not interesting enough to justify the swagger. Ortiz barely registers in what is a formulaic hour.
Alternate title: "Quincy: Miami"
(CBS medical drama, Sept. 30)
Starring: Marcia Gay Harden, Bonnie Somerville, Luis Guzman, Ben Hollingsworth
Concept: This wants to be the next big hospital drama, the next "ER" or "Grey's Anatomy." It's set in an LA emergency room that's often so overcrowded it calls code black like a teenager checks Instagram.
Am I hooked? Surprisingly, given that I'm not a fan of TV clones, and that it's hard to make the hospital genre fresh, I didn't hate this. Why? Harden, who is compelling and persuasive, brings more to her all-business head of the ER than the writing merits. And Guzman is likable as the wise head nurse. Also, the 100-mph pace distracts from the stock soap opera material. It's a thoroughly average show with an above-average lead actress.
Alternate title: "Marcia Yay Harden"
(NBC action drama, Sept. 24)
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Philip Winchester, Charity Wakefield
Concept: Apparently, there is a secret cabal of uber-wealthy people who like to bid on crime. Snipes plays the cabal's real-world pit boss directing the moves of the "Player" (Winchester) on whom they gamble, as he runs and shoots and chases and flees and basically lives like he's in a video game.
Am I hooked? Nope — I know when to fold 'em. There are some good action sequences, and Snipes is his usual smooth self, but neither is enough to compensate for the convoluted, leaden premise. Game over.
Alternate title: "Wesley Hypes"
(NBC reboot, Sept. 24)
Starring: Zachary Levi, Jack Coleman, Masi Oka
Concept: "Heroes" returns, only five years after cancellation, to revisit unanswered plot questions from the fourth season and to introduce new ones after the "evos" are blamed for a terrorist attack in Odessa, Texas. Coleman's back as Noah Bennet, a.k.a. Horn Rimmed Glasses Man.
Am I hooked? Not hooked all over again. Yes, the first season of "Heroes" was a keeper, but after that the writing devolved into clumsy nonsense, and the show's premise suffered irreparable damage. I can't explain NBC's decision to revive a drama that so recently died ignominiously. But I know that the two-hour premiere didn't lure me back in; just when I thought I was out, I was.
Alternate title: "Heroes: Embalmed"
"Angel From Hell"
(CBS single-cam-com, Nov. 5)
Starring: Jane Lynch, Maggie Lawson, Kyle Bornheimer, Kevin Pollak
Concept: Lynch is the hard-partying guardian angel — or a hard-partying stalker lunatic pretending to be the guardian angel — to a woman who could use some loosening up.
Am I hooked? Lynch is, as usual, effortlessly entertaining, even as she mugs and hams. You have to like her to like the show. And her chemistry with Lawson is sweet. But the writing is unerringly formulaic and trite, without the "Wilfred"-like originality that can turn a "guardian angel" into something a lot more interesting and complicated.
Alternate title: "Jane Fair"
(ABC office/family comedy, Oct. 2)
Starring: Ken Jeong, Suzy Nakamura, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Dave Foley, Jonathan Slavin
Concept: Jeong based this series on his own life as a medical doctor before he became an actor. It splits the difference between family comedy tropes and workplace comedy tropes.
Am I hooked? This may be the most likable character Jeong's ever played, but he's too milquetoast and rote — he puts a GPS tracker on his daughter's phone and hijinks ensue! — to garner much enthusiasm.
Alternate title: "Dr. Feel Meh"
"Truth Be Told"
(NBC multi-cam sitcom, Oct. 16)
Starring: Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Tone Bell
Concept: Formerly known as "People Are Talking," it's about people — two neighboring couples — who talk, a lot. Gosselaar and Tone Bell are the hubbies who can't stop picking apart hot-button issues of sex and race.
Am I hooked? No, no, and no. NBC's only new fall comedy tries much too hard to provoke, as the guys debate whether or not a white person can sing the N-word in a rap song, or whether it's acceptable to hire a hot baby sitter. Not helping matters: The characters have no character. They're bland mouthpieces for "edgy" standup shtick.
Alternate title: "Family Natters"