Summer isn't the television wasteland it used to be, not when shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad are busy enthralling us, but fall is still when the television landscape really gets busy. To that end, we've put together a schedule of interesting shows, some returning and some new, for you to watch indoors over the next few months while it gets colder outside.
Homeland — Showtime's most critically lauded series returns after a strange and bumpy second season. Brody has fled the country after basically the whole CIA was blown up, and, significantly complicating matters, Carrie helped him escape. So it seems this new season will be about Carrie's quest to clear her troubled lover's name while trying not to seem crazy. Can the series sustain the heady mix of knotty espionage intrigue and interior melodrama that won its first season an Emmy? Well, it had a hard time doing that last season, which zigzagged wildly in tone and pacing in its middle stretches before finding its way again (mostly, anyway) by the finale. That the Brody family seems to be back for this season is troubling, but previews suggesting that there will be a deepening of the Saul/Carrie dynamic are promising. Showtime has a lot riding on the continued success of this series, a story that’s almost as exciting to follow as the show itself. (9/29, Showtime)
Masters of Sex — Now that Showtime has had awards success with a political thriller, they're trying their hand at something more in the vein of Mad Men. But, this being Showtime, such a show has to have a least some tawdry appeal. Enter (ew) Masters of Sex. Set in the late 1950s, this new series depicts a soapier version of the real life Masters and Johnson research team, who conducted controversial and groundbreaking sex studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan are our sex-curious scientists, while Beau Bridges recurs as the crusty old dean. Caplan and Sheen are terrific in most things, so it's hard to imagine they could be a bad duo here, but is Showtime ready for a period drama all about science? We're not talking about the Manhattan Project here, but it's still pretty, uh, earth-shaking stuff. (9/29, Showtime)
Betrayal — ABC tries to recreate the success of Revenge with this sultry, high society romantic thriller. Y'know, sexy people and powerful families and dark secrets and all that. NBC tried to bite Revenge's style last year with the better-than-you-might-think Deception, but it tanked pretty badly. (As did the sorta similar Red Widow.) Does that mean that the success of Revenge a fluke (it did, after all, lose a lot of steam in its second season), or do people want more of this sudsy genre? Betrayal might give us the answer. And, hey, if the show's not to your liking, you could always go see the play version instead. (9/29, ABC)
Hello Ladies — Ricky Gervais's comedy partner Stephen Merchant, co-creator of the British The Office, heads to America for his own series, about a clueless Brit trying to pick up American birds. So, it's a lot of awkward jokes likely garnished with a little sweetness and sentiment. Sounds perfectly enjoyable, doesn't it? (9/29, HBO)
Elsewhere: HBO's increasingly engaging period crime drama Boardwalk Empire enters its fourth season (9/8) ... Fox's hysterical and frequently poignant animated series Bob's Burgers returns for a fourth season too (9/29) ... Eastbound & Down comes back to HBO for what is likely its last run of episodes (9/29) ... The Good Wife remains the best drama on CBS by a mile (9/29) ... Julia Ormond and others play witches on Lifetime's Witches of East End, which has nothing to do with The Witches of Eastwick (10/6) ... AMC's The Walking Dead lurches back onto the airwaves after an incredibly grim third season (10/17)
Mom — Chuck Lorre is tightening his chokehold on network television comedy with CBS's Mom, a show with a promising cast that yields not so promising results. Anna Faris plays Christy, a single mom in AA who works as a waitress in Napa Valley. In the pilot, she reunites with her equally messed-up mother, played by Allison Janney. The show's material is arguably edgier than your average multi-camera laugh-track sitcom—there's talk of addiction and extreme parental neglect—but the jokes tend to fall flat in the pilot. Faris is good, though, and she told Vulture her character is "getting stranger" as the season progresses, which might help. (9/23, CBS)
Sleepy Hollow — What say you to a show that combines two Washington Irving stories, George Washington, witches, and the apocalypse? If that doesn't sound too overwhelming, then Fox's Sleepy Hollow might be the right new show for you. The high concept series follows Ichabod Crane, who mysteriously wakes up in a cave in the present day and must contend with modern life while helping a local police officer battle the Headless Horseman. The Horseman, it turns out, is one of the Four Horsemen of Biblical fame, and, it might excite you to learn, at one point in the pilot he wields a huge assault rifle. So, if all of that sounds at all appealing, then tune in. It's an extremely silly ride, though leads Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie do their best with the material given to them. (9/16, FOX)
The Blacklist — NBC is heavily hyping James Spader's return to television. Spader plays a wanted criminal who surrenders himself to the FBI and offers to help them on one condition: He'll only work with a particular young, pretty agent. Spader's a classic alluring villain here—a character NBC now has in full supply between this and Hannibal—and seems to acquit himself nicely. Note: Diego Klattenhoff is in this, a.k.a. Mike from Homeland. It is unclear whether he will be making huevos rancheros. (9/23, NBC)
Hostages — CBS' limited-run (at least for now) series has a taut and intriguing pilot, anchored by good performances from the likes of Toni Collette, Tate Donovan, and Dylan McDermott. In the pilot, Collette and her family are taken hostage by McDermott, who orders Collette to kill the president when she performs surgery on him during a procedure scheduled for the next day. Naturally, everything does not go as planned and nothing is what it seems. This is not really a happy family, for one. Donovan is not faithful, the son is dealing pot, and the daughter is pregnant. Meanwhile, McDermott is an FBI agent by day who has a daughter and a sick wife at home. Finding out what's really going on with him is what will keep you watching after the pilot. (9/23, CBS)
Elsewhere: The last season of How I Met Your Mother, the entirety of which takes place over the course of one weekend, gets underway at CBS (9/23) ... ABC sees if Dancing with the Stars still has any mojo left (9/16) ... The Voice will continue to prop up NBC's entire business (9/23)
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. — The Marvel movie crossover show with the annoying name is perhaps the TV event of the fall, with the main question being: will it work? The show, as co-creator Joss Whedon has explained, is about the Everyman in the world of superheroes, that Everyman being Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson, who died in 2012's The Avengers, but was revived for the purposes of the show. Response so far has been pretty good (though not all good) and Whedon certainly knows how to make deft TV magic, but will people tune in to a series connected to the Avengers that doesn't actually feature any Avengers? (9/24, ABC)
Trophy Wife — ABC is really betting big on Tuesdays, with a lineup that's entirely new shows, one of which is the surprisingly sweet comedy Trophy Wife. Though the setup seems pretty familiar — a guy (Bradley Whitford), his third wife (Malin Akerman), and his ex-wives (Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins) try to manage their blended family — the show doesn't lean on the same lame jokes we've seen before, and that the title implies. Executive producer Lee Eisenberg has said that the title is supposed to be "ironic," and so far it is. Harden and Watkins—who has found a solid career playing hilariously loopy moms—are blessedly not entirely evil or shrewish, even though Harden does do intense very well. (9/24, ABC)
The Originals — The CW loves the ratings-devouring fiends of The Vampire Diaries so much that they've spun some of them off into The Originals. The new show sees the familiar mix of vampires, werewolves, and witches, this time roaming around New Orleans. Will this be the Angel to the Vamp Diaries's Buffy? That's something of a tall order, but at least everyone on the show is really really good looking! Note: the show premieres on a Thursday, but will move into its regular Tuesday time slot the following week. (10/3, The CW)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine — Andy Samberg might actually have a post-SNL career as the star of Fox's Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a comedy from Parks and Recreation's Mike Schur that transfers some of that show's kooky workplace humor from local government to the Brooklyn Police Force. Terry Crews and Chelsea Peretti are hilarious in supporting roles, while Andre Braugher's lovably gruff boss could be a new (gay!) Ron Swanson. (9/17, FOX)
Elsewhere: Fox's terrible Dads debuts, terribly (9/17) ... Fox's strong duo of New Girl and The Mindy Project, the latter of which now has more James Franco, both return (9/17) ... NCIS fanatics can get their Gibbs's Rules fix on CBS (9/24) ... Idris Elba fans can swoon once again with the return of BBC America's Luther (9/3 ) ... Sons of Anarchy revs up again on FX (9/10)
American Horror Story: Coven — Everyone's favorite gruesome, gunky horror anthology returns to FX after its punishing (but, we suppose, ultimately uplifting?) mental asylum season. It will be nice to be out of that dingy hell hole and off to New Orleans, the appropriately atmospheric setting for a story all about witches. And what a cast Ryan Murphy has assembled to play those witches. Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, Taissa Farmiga, Kathy Bates, Patti LuPone, Angela Bassett, Sarah Paulson, Gabourey Sidibe, Christine Ebersole, and Mare Winningham are all part of the actress-heavy cast. (Though, of course, not all of them are necessarily playing witches.) In addition to the strength of the cast, we're encouraged by suggestions that this season will be a little lighter than last year. (Thank Manon?) Though, it's certainly not going to be a sunshiny romp. The season's Wikipedia page lists Coven's themes as, "witches, witch hunts, incest, minorities, slavery, mothers and daughters, and witchcraft versus voodoo." So, yeah, it's still gonna be pretty dark. (10/9, FX)
Super Fun Night — Rebel Wilson, a popular supporting player in movies like Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids, takes the lead on this single-camera ABC sitcom, about three homebody friends who decide to change their lives by hitting the town and meeting some men. After receiving a massive overhaul, and a change in network, Super Fun Night is finally ready to make its debut. Will Wilson be a breakout success? Will ABC be able to capture some of Fox's recent youth-skewering sitcom magic? Judging by the pilot we've seen, unfortunately no. It's painfully awkward and uneven, and that's just Wilson's American accent. Still, Wilson is such a likable presence in general that we're hoping the show can smooth things out after the pilot. They've already done some retooling, so why not keep tinkering until they really get it right? (10/2, ABC)
Law & Order: SVU — Yes, this show is still on. And surprisingly it's had a complete rejuvenation in the last couple of seasons. That's owed largely to new showrunner Warren Leight, who's brought a sense of unexpected introspection to this oftentimes blunt and melodramatic series. And the cast has actually benefitted from the departure of longtime too-close-to-the-caser Chris Meloni, becoming a bit livelier and looser in his absence. We're still dealing with gnarly subject matter, material that certainly won't appeal to everyone, but for those who can stomach it, SVU has aged into one of the better dramas on network television. And what a cliffhanger we ended on last season! At the moment, the fate of our beloved Olivia Benson hangs scarily in the balance. Plus there's this ripped from every headline episode to look forward to/dread. It's been on for a million years, but SVU is still worth checking out. More so than ever before, in fact. (9/25, NBC)
The Tomorrow People — IMDb describes the characters on this CW thriller series as, "the next stage in human evolution," meaning people who can teleport and mind-read and whatnot. So basically we're talking X-Men-like folks, super-powered individuals who aren't necessarily called superheroes, but c'mon, pretty much are. As is The CW's wont, the cast is stuffed with young lookers like Robbie Amell and Amanda Clarke, but who interests us most is creator Phil Klemmer, who, before adapting Tomorrow People from a 1970s British series, wrote 15 episodes of Veronica Mars, among other things. Might he bring the same wit and creativity to this Heroes-esque yarn? Let's hope so. (10/9, The CW)
Elsewhere: The long-running but still fruitful It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns for its ninth season, this time on the new FX spin-off FXX (9/4) ... Survivor: Blood vs. Water puts veterans on the same island as their loved ones, which should be a nightmare (9/18) ... The likable Maggie Lawson (no relation) stars alongside James Caan in the largely unlikable new ABC sitcom Back in the Game (9/25) ... The Middle, Modern Family, and Nashville all return to ABC's big-time Wednesday night (9/25) ... A new season of Bravo's eminently watchable Top Chef begins, this time in New Orleans (10/2) ... Blair Underwood plays a cop in a wheelchair in the new NBC procedural Ironside (10/2)
The Crazy Ones — Robin Williams makes a supposedly triumphant return to television in this CBS comedy from David E. Kelley. Williams stars alongside a latter day TV icon, Buffy's Sarah Michelle Gellar, the two playing father and daughter ad execs doing wacky things to land big accounts. (The pilot has Williams and co-star James Wolk performing a rap for Kelly Clarkson, playing herself.) What we've seen so far is a little strained, but don't you want to root for these two? Williams has had a bumpy, oh, decade or so, and Gellar misfired with Ringer a couple seasons back, so it would be nice if this worked out for them. But it's going to be an uphill battle, we're afraid. (9/26, CBS)
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland — ABC's goofy fairy tale adventure Once Upon a Time is popular enough to have merited a spin-off, this one set in, duh, Wonderland. Alice is now a beautiful young woman diving back into Wonderland to rescue her lost love from the evil Red Queen. John Lithgow voices the White Rabbit and Lost's Naveen Andrews guest stars in the pilot. While still boasting the same hokey production values, Wonderland is, compared to its predecessor, at least not saddled with the modern-day conceit that often makes original OUAT so silly. Who knows if Wonderland will capture family fancy in the same way as the original. Its Thursday time-slot, versus OUAT's family friendly Sunday night, suggests perhaps something just a little bit darker. (10/10, ABC)
The Michael J. Fox Show — NBC took something of a risk on this, ordering a full season of the show sight unseen. Though, we're sure many would argue that there's nothing risky about beloved Michael J. Fox returning to television. His new show is a family comedy about a New York City reporter returning to work after taking time off to deal with his Parkinson's disease. So it's a true-to-life kind of a thing, which is fine. That often works. We just wish everything we'd seen of the show so far, which admittedly is just a few clips, showed a little more promise. Still, we should probably give Michael J. Fox the benefit of the doubt. Just as NBC did, in a big way. (9/26, NBC)
Reign — Forget Carrie Diaries. (Don't actually forget Carrie Diaries! It's good!) The CW is going for a real period piece with the ambitious Reign, set in 1500s France. The story follows Mary, Queen of Scots as she negotiates her teen years in the French court, dealing with sexy princes and other such problems. So it's basically Teen Tudors, only without all the explicit sex. (Oh well.) Also Nostradamus is involved somehow? A sexy, young Nostradamus? Sure, why not. The CW knows what people want. All things considered, this could be fun. Everyone loves a teen royal. Who isn't Joffrey Baratheon, anyway. (10/17, The CW)
Elsewhere: CBS's deeply unpleasant The Millers tragically wastes both Will Arnett and Margo Martindale, forcing them to make a lot of bad fart jokes (9/26) ... Glee returns for what is sure to be an intense series of episodes as they deal with the death of star Cory Monteith (9/26) ... The critically adored Parenthood returns for its improbable fifth season (9/26) ... We'll let the promo for NBC's Welcome to the Family speak for itself (10/3) ... Sean Hayes tries to hit comedy pay dirt once more with the NBC single dad comedy Sean Saves the World (10/3) ... White Collar and Covert Affairs return to USA, sure to delight those mysterious people out there who apparently watch those shows (10/17)
Dracula — Just in time for Halloween comes this new limited-series take on Count Dracula, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the title role. Rhys Meyers's Dracula is posing as an American in 19th Century London, which has the aesthetic of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films. There's revenge, electricity, and possibly a reincarnated wife. Did you like Downton Abbey or The Tudors? Well then NBC hopes you'll tune into this, since that's the pedigree the promos are touting. (10/25, NBC)
Enlisted — Army comedies, when done well, can be classics. Think: M*A*S*H or Hogan's Heroes. (Ed. note: Also, Major Dad.) This comedy, from Cougar Town co-creator Kevin Biegel, isn't quite there yet, but it has a nice mix of bouncy humor and untreacly heart. Enlisted follows Sergeant Pete Hill (Geoff Stults) who is sent home from Afghanistan and put in charge of a Rear Detachment unit in Florida where his goof-off brothers are stationed. They're an Army family, but Stults's character is the only brother who actually seems to take the life seriously. Chris Lowell (Veronica Mars' Piz) is the wisecracking middle brother who doesn't really want to be there, and Parker Young is the eager younger brother who's, well, not terribly bright. Sure, Army life is probably a lot deeper than this, but Enlisted makes for enjoyable viewing that could easily have been too jingoistic. (11/8, FOX)
The Carrie Diaries — This Sex and the City prequel surprised us last year by exceeding some very low expectations, and we're even more intrigued to see what happens when Samantha Jones-junior enters the picture. Lindsey Gort has been cast as the younger version of Kim Cattrall's iconic, extremely sex-positive character. Gort is a dead ringer for Cattrall looks-wise, so it should be fun to see how the bawdy character takes on the '80s. (10/25, The CW)
Elsewhere: Gordon Ramsay's empire expands with Masterchef Junior (9/27) ... ABC's alien comedy The Neighbors had enough love in its first season to get a second (9/20)
Get up off the couch and go somewhere. Or watch a movie.
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