Fall TV Preview: Animation and Prestige Dramas Reign Supreme on Sunday Nights

CBS sticks with Emmy-bait dramas, Fox is blending live-action sitcoms into its cartoon bloc, and NBC wins every time with football.

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If you like using your DVR to schedule myriad season-pass recordings because all your favorite shows are airing against each other, then Sunday is the night for you! Ever since premium cable picked Sunday as its stomping ground for A-list hour-long dramas, network TV has slowly shifted to the same emphasis, except for Fox (who have long scheduled their animated programming here) and NBC (who cling to Sunday Night Football to keep their ratings afloat).

7 p.m. - 8 p.m. 

Bob's Burgers: I include this timeslot only because Bob's Burgers is sticking to the weird 7:30 p.m. spot Fox moved it to late last year. Whatever gives us regular Bob's Burgers I'm happy about, I guess, but it's too bad Fox banishes it to pre-primetime hours. Nonetheless: Bob's is one of television's funniest and most consistent comedies, and deservedly won its first Emmy for Outstanding Animated Series this year. It shows no sign of slowing down. [Premieres 10/5 on Fox]

Also in this timeslot: America's Funniest Home Videos (10/5, ABC), 60 Minutes (9/21, CBS), and Football Night in America (9/7, NBC).

8 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Once Upon a Time: They tried to launch a spinoff out of this show last year and failed, but Once Upon a Time continues to chug along on ABC with a solid little fanbase. This year, it's going to incorporate Frozen! Because that's a Disney property that's very popular! So, that's cool? No pun intended. Okay, okay, pun intended. [Premieres 9/28 on ABC]

Galavant (NEW): This medieval musical will function as a mid-season fill-in for Once Upon a Time at some point, and boy is it baaaaaad. The songs (by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater) are aiming for funny but end up being, at best, descriptive. The plot (about a dashing hero trying to reclaim a beautiful woman from a villainous king) becomes unnecessarily convoluted as it tries to upend fairytale conventions, giving us no reason to like our main character or our damsels in distress. There's nothing mean-spirited at work here, but there's nothing to love, either. [Premieres January on ABC]

Madam Secretary (NEW): One of the best new dramas of the season is CBS's stately political show, which follows a smart, independent law professor (Tea Leoni) who is suddenly called into the role of Secretary of State by her old CIA buddy who's now the President (Keith Carradine). It's as if CBS finally realized what a good thing they had on their hands with The Good Wife and ordered another prestige drama along those lines: Leoni is subtle and three-dimensional, there are hints of exciting over-arching storylines, and a good mix of wry humor to go in with all the international drama. Sign me up. [Premieres 9/21 on CBS]

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: This was the lone bright spot in Fox's faltering Tuesday comedy lineup last year, often improving ratings-wise on the more-established New Girl. It got a couple Emmy nominations and solid reviews, and it seems poised to take a creative leap forward this year. So Fox, for some reason, has decided to move it to Sundays and sandwich it within its animation lineup, probably because it's safer ground ratings-wise. But oh boy, does that make Sundays crowded. [Premieres 9/28 on Fox]

Also on this timeslot: Sunday Night Football (NBC, 9/7) which almost single-handedly keeps that network in contention for the ratings crown, and the umpteenth season of The Simpsons (9/28, Fox), which feels especially unnecessary now that the older, better episodes are all on FXX.

9 p.m. - 10 p.m.

Resurrection: This intense, mysterious drama about the dead of a small town returning back to life did really well ratings-wise and got that "Coming Home" song stuck in all of our heads. I don't really see where this show goes from its first season, but there's lots more hugging and crying and Omar Epps in our future, I guess. [Premieres 9/28 on ABC]

The Good Wife: This show aired the best season of network television in recent years. It's going to be almost impossible to equal, especially without Josh Charles in the cast, but Matthew Goode has been an impressive replacement and we'll surely get plenty of juicy guest stars (David Hyde Pierce was already announced) and a fun "Alicia runs for State's Attorney" season arc. I couldn't be more excited for The Good Wife, and as long as Kalinda's husband doesn't come back, I'm pretty sure it's going to be great. [Premieres 9/21 on CBS]

Mulaney (NEW): This is the biggest question mark of the fall season for me. Going against it: the "great multi-camera sitcom" is an increasingly impossible lay-up to make in this day and age, and the episode Fox has provided for critics (which doesn't appear to be the pilot) is not very good. But John Mulaney is one of the funniest stand-up comedians alive and he's assembled a very talented cast and set of writers for this low-concept sitcom (he plays a stand-up comedian who writes for a fatuous game show host played by Martin Short). I'll happily give this one some room to grow, and it'll probably get a decent ratings look because of its lead-in of Family Guy, but so far this seems far from the NBC pilot script I adored last year which was inexplicably passed over. [Premieres 10/5 on Fox]

Also on this timeslot: Family Guy (9/28 on Fox), printing money for Seth MacFarlane, and more Sunday Night Football (9/7 onNBC).

10 p.m. - 11 p.m.:

After so much new business, this is a very a dull hour for network TV.

CSI (9/28 on CBS) lives here now with Ted Danson chugging away in the lead (it's been on for 15 years now). It's the only entry in the franchise left, but it'll be used to launch new spinoff CSI: Cyber, starring Patricia Arquette, at some point later in the year. There's also Revenge (9/28 on ABC), which has suffered from diminished ratings and buzz after a solid first season, and yes, never forget, Sunday Night Football on NBC.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.