Every year for the last several years, I’ve listed the television shows that I’m the most keen on. Usually, I include the returning shows and the new ones, because, quite frankly, I’ll start with a group of twenty-five shows and slowly wheedle them down to the ones I watch every week. This year, I’m going after the new ones, and some of them may seem obvious. I’ll admit that I’m excited to see Agent Poulson return to the land of the Avengers in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the idea that everyone has the capability to be a hero whether they’re super or not is intriguing… but I don’t expect that show to last.
On the other hand, here are my picks to be worthwhile out of the new shows headed to the small screen. Which ones seem worth it to you? Which ones did I miss? In the second half of the article, I acknowledge the returning shows that I’m still eager to catch up with.
#1 Almost Human (Mondays @ 8 p.m. on FOX): As a huge fan of Michael Ealy (Sleeper Cell, Flashforward, Common Law), I’m hooked. But when he’s playing a free-willed robot cop, partnered with the emotionally hurting Det. John Kennex (Karl Urban… can he show emotion?), I think that FOX may be able to bust back into the sci-fi business. It’s been slogging along since The X-Files, with more misses (Terra Nova, Alcatraz, Dollhouse) than hits (Fringe). But Fringe alum J.H. Wyman heads it up, and FOX isn’t afraid of spending money on special effects. The pairing seems to be pretty amazing, and it definitely raises the question that’s expected: what does it mean to be human? Of course, we figure that the human partner will learn from the inhuman one what it means to actually love, live, and process moralistically. It’s like the cops of Detroit learning from Robocop about being good cops and good people. Do you have soul… does soul exist? I’m hooked.
#2 Lucky 7 (Tuesdays @ 10 p.m. on ABC) Do you play the lottery? If you’re reading this and you play, you’re probably financially better off than the average person who plays. But with this television show, we’ll see how winning the scratch game benefits and hurts a group of folks, like we’re seeing Hugo’s pre-plane crash life in Lost. It’s a blessing and a curse, and it challenges what we think we think about money, class, life, and our changes of station. Economics versus morality seems to be a pretty high bar, but it’s one that easily has contemporary ripples. “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?”
#3 The Blacklist (Mondays @ 10 p.m. on NBC): Stargate’s James Spader plays Red Reddington, one of the worst criminals on the Most Wanted list, who turns himself into the FBI with the promise of capturing the other “baddies” on the list. But he refuses to work with anyone other than newly-minted agent Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone). It sounds like Covert Affairs meets White Collar with a darker side that will make for some interesting material on NBC. Is Spader’s villain really going good or is he some mash-up between a supposedly altruistic Lex Luther and a genuinely scheming Hannibal Lecter? This seems like a one-shot deal, but Spader isn’t as big time as he used to be. I like the premise of Hostages, too, with Dylan McDermott taking a doctor’s family hostage to control a presidential operation, but I don’t see it being sustainable.
#4 The Michael J. Fox Show (Thursdays @ 9 p.m. on NBC)
NBC used to own Thursday night comedy. Some might say they’ve done okay by The Office and Parks & Rec but anytime they could find the next Friends, they’d be overjoyed. So, why not turn to the guy that baby boomers trusted with their Deloreans and their beloved music? Everyone wins if Fox can rediscover funny, and show how Parkinson’s is debilitating but hasn’t held this child actor-turned-movie star down. Sign me up for that one, and I’m a hard sell for comedy! Fox is a funny dude, and there’s part of me that wants to see it work just to show there’s hope in the midst of a less-than-favorable situation, that Fox didn’t give up. It’s art imitating life imitating art imitating… oh, I give up!
#5 Sleepy Hollow (Mondays @ 9 p.m. on FOX): The guys who re-invented Hawaii Five-O and helped do the same for the big screen Star Trek are taking a crack at the best Halloween tale, providing something that looks more Grimm than Once Upon A Time. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) gets yanked from the Revolutionary War battlefield to the present day, where he and the local sheriff (Nicole Beharie) join forces to stop the Headless (?) Horseman who may or may not be bringing the Biblical Apocalypse with him. Everyone wants to get on the fairy tale bandwagon (ABC and NBC are already there), so it’s not surprising that FOX is giving it a shot. From what I’ve read and seen, it’ll be a love story, a thriller, and a conspiracy mystery, with the added touch that it’s a “man out of time” who is trying to make his way in the world, while dealing with a context that is morally and socially different from what he comes from. Does he adapt or does he stay the same and let the world around him cope?
#6 Ironside (Wednesdays @ 10 p.m. on NBC): Raymond Burr’s detective is getting a redo here, a la Jeffrey Deaver’s Lincoln Rhymes (Denzel Washington played him once). Will it be engaging? Will it be different or the same old procedural we’ve seen, Law & Order with a different name? Blair Underwood may be what NBC needs to jazz up its schedule but time will tell. The preview shows off action and humor, but one has to wonder if there’s room for a new procedural or if we actually need another one. It is certainly true that there aren’t a ton of minority leads on prime time television, so it would be nice to see a solid television show with a diverse cast do well.
#7 Welcome To The Family (Thursdays @ 8:30 p.m. on NBC): Fox’s lead-in looks promising (not as promising as Fox’s though) with the story about two polar opposite families who find themselves inextricably meshed together after their children’s teenage coitus results in a baby. Mike O’Malley’s facial expressions are a big draw here, but the awkwardness of the family we really didn’t choose for ourselves beckons me to give it a spin (at least for a few episodes). Up All Night kept my attention for a few weeks… can WTTF keep me all season? What kinds of things are you dealing with that would make a sitcom funny? It’s ironic that this situation is so sad, but it shows a glimmer of what it’s like to be stuck in a situation that you can’t get out of, to see the people you need supporting you bickering, to recognize that the bonds of family are think and relatively unbreakable.
And the returning shows…
The Amazing Race (Sundays @ 8 p.m. on CBS): It’s a race, around the world. That is all.
NCIS (Tuesdays @ 8 p.m. on CBS): Cote de Pablo AKA Ziva is leaving. And we last saw Gibbs (Mark Harmon) with Fornell (Joe Spano) in the cross-hairs of his rifle. We know he wouldn’t shoot, but this show has me emotionally wrapped up. If you’ve never seen it, then go back to the beginning and check out the first season.
Arrow (Wednesdays @ 9 p.m. on The CW): While Marvel has been pounding the big screen, DC has dominated the animated, straight-to-DVD fair… and the small screen. I still think Oliver Queen’s backstory is compelling, and the stunts are legit.
Elementary (Thursdays @ 10 p.m. on CBS): It’s Sherlock Holmes. (crickets, crickets) It’s S-h-e-r-l-o-c-k H-o-l-m-e-s. And okay, Johnny Lee Miller plays him to a “t” in the modern age.
The Big Bang Theory (Thursdays @ 8 p.m. on CBS): At this point, I don’t care if all of the jokes are insider, geek-related, and driven by dialogue that wouldn’t make sense if you pulled it apart. This is the one show I can count on making me laugh.