The fall TV season officially kicks off tonight — with a new season of Parenthood on NBC and the return of 90210 and Sarah Michelle Gellar (in Ringer) on The CW — so I’m just in time to list off the five new shows I’m most anticipating (my list of returning shows will be posted tomorrow).
Buzz on the new crop isn’t particularly positive (in fact, this season might be generating the least excitement in recent memory), so my “anticipating” shows here does not necessarily mean I think they will be the best; rather, these five series, even if they turn out to be terrible, are the ones I’m most excited to watch, due to intriguing premises, the caliber of the cast or behind-the-scenes production team, or what have you. My list after the jump:
5. Up All Night (premieres 9/14 at 10 p.m. on NBC): The comedy from former Parks and Recreation and SNL writer Emily Spivey follows new parents Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as they discover how different life becomes with a newborn. The original pilot was retooled to give Maya Rudolph a larger supporting role, and while it doesn’t sound like most of the changes were necessarily improvements, the talent involved is too big to ignore. As Alan Sepinwall wrote yesterday, it is very difficult to judge new shows — and especially comedies — based on pilots alone, so I’m hoping, even if it isn’t an instant classic, Up All Night can follow the trajectory of other great comedies that got off to a shaky start (Parks and Rec, Cougar Town) and settle into a groove that best utilizes its top-notch cast.
4. New Girl (premieres 9/20 at 9 p.m. on Fox): Fox, thinking it has a potential hit on its hands, has been spreading the New Girl pilot around the Internet in hopes of generating positive word-of-mouth in advance of the official on-air premiere, and I took advantage of that marketing strategy and recently watched the episode on iTunes. Before watching, I recognized the charm of Zooey Deschanel but wasn’t quite sold on her ability to carry a show. After watching, well — I’m sold. It’s not that she does anything particularly special. The rest of the ensemble (which will see Lamorne Morris stepping in for Damon Wayans, Jr. after the pilot) is fine, but, again, nothing special. The jokes are funny, but not at the level of something like the Modern Family pilot, which was firing on all cylinders from the get-go. No, New Girl is nothing amazing in the context of sitcoms (and, in fact, feels overly sitcommy at several points), but Deschanel’s winningly dorky lead performance had me smiling the whole time. This season, that’s enough to be looking forward to more New Girl and to land it in my Top 5.
3. Homeland (premieres 10/2 at 10 p.m. on Showtime): The first series from new Showtime president David Nevins seems to be a departure for the premium cable network best known for Dexter and its high-concept half-hour “comedies.” Homeland, starring Claire Danes as a CIA analyst who suspects a recently freed Iraqi POW (Damian Lewis) of having been turned by the terrorists who held him captive, is getting good early reviews from critics and seems to be one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dull fall schedule, with much of that due to the cast (also including Morena Baccarin and Mandy Patinkin) and the guidance from former 24 producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa. If 24 represented our approach to terror in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, maybe Homeland will reflect the changes in that approach ten years later. [And, like New Girl, the pilot is already available online.]
2. American Horror Story (premieres 10/5 at 10 p.m. on FX): This is the one I’m perhaps most dreading and most looking forward to. On the plus side: A serialized horror show is certainly innovative. Connie Britton is amazing and deserves another lead role as rich as Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights. Tim Minear, who has worked on other great series such as Terriers, The Chicago Code, Firefly, and Angel, recently came aboard as a writer. And FX has a strong track record in nurturing their showrunners’ creativity. But then there’s the fact that the showrunners in this case are Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk of Glee. Basically, American Horror Story has all the makings to be absolutely off-the-walls crazy, and the premise (Britton and husband Dylan McDermott move into a haunted house in Los Angeles) probably means that it will fall apart even sooner than most Ryan Murphy shows. But, like Glee, it will undoubtedly be interesting to watch, no matter what happens.
1. Terra Nova (premieres 9/26 at 8 p.m. on Fox): This should have premiered last fall, and then last spring, but it kept getting pushed back because of production constraints (namely, the massive amount of time and money it takes to shoot a prehistoric drama with dinosaurs on location in Australia). Now, though, it’s firmly on the schedule (though with only a 13-episode season order), and I can’t wait to see how it turns out. This is another pilot that has undergone several rounds of changes, even if most of the feedback sounds like those “improvements” are anything but, making things even more expositional and undercutting the few moments of genuine tension and emotion. However, pilots get changed all the time and regular audiences will never know the difference, and it’s where the show goes from there that really matters. Given the aforementioned time and money spent on Terra Nova, it has the potential to become one of the biggest hits or biggest flops of the season, and I’ll surely be watching to see which one it turns out to be.
What are others most looking forward to this fall, in terms of new TV shows? Will any of the five I listed above be getting a Season Pass? Or, like me, are you more eagerly awaiting mid-season dramas like Awake and Smash? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!