10 new fall TV shows worth a look
With the arrival of fall, a flurry of new shows descends from the five broadcast networks. Many will be gone by next spring's thaw.
Here are 10 worth a look:
1. "Ben and Kate" (Fox; premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25): This is the funniest new comedy of the fall. Ben is a high-rev, up-for-anything flibbertigibbet. Kate, his younger sister, has been pressed into timidity by setbacks in life. A single mother of adorable Maddie, she is barely making ends meet as a bar manager. How fortunate that Ben drops in to stir up chaos. Meanwhile, she and Maddie are ready to help ground him a bit. This slender premise is made robust by the writing and the actors, notably Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson in the title roles. And Lucy Punch is a scene-stealer as Kate's co-worker and best friend. "Ben and Kate" strikes a wonderful balance: wacky and warmhearted.
2. "Emily Owens, M.D." (CW, premieres Tuesday, Oct. 16): This romantic drama proposes that hospital life is like a high school do-over. At least, Denver Memorial Hospital could end up being that for Emily Owens, a former geek and recent medical school graduate. Emily is smart, dedicated and sensitive. As played by the appealing Mamie Gummer, she brings some new moves to the well-worn premise of callow-intern-confronting-the-world.
3. "Last Resort" (ABC, premieres Thursday, Sept 27): This drama spins questions one after another in its pilot episode. Why has the commander of the U.S. ballistic missile submarine Colorado received orders to fire nuclear weapons at Pakistan? Why, when the commander demands confirmation, is the submarine targeted and hit? And with the crew taking refuge on a tropical island, how can they discover why they've been declared traitors? Created by Shawn Ryan ("The Shield," "The Unit"), with Andre Braugher headlining a large cast, "Last Resort" in its first episode is a fire hose of action and unsettling twists. This show could get fascinating fast.
4. "Made in Jersey" (CBS, premieres Friday, Sept. 28): With her plentiful hair and short skirts, Martina Garretti is a not-so-secret weapon in the lofty Manhattan law firm where she's just starting out. A New Jersey girl with a blue-collar background and a big Italian family, she has street smarts and empathy to help her in the courtroom and in preparing her case: Turns out she's a pretty good detective as well as a fine lawyer. This drama works nicely thanks to its aversion to stereotyping and the spot-on performance by British actress Janet Montgomery, who stars as Martina. This isn't a fish-out-of-water tale. It's the story of a different kind of fish getting used to life in a posh aquarium.
5. "The Mindy Project" (Fox, premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25): Maybe Dr. Mindy Lahiri is Dr. Emily Owens a few years down the line. She's a seasoned physician, but, like Emily, her love life is a mess. The long-term appeal of this single-camera comedy will largely depend on Mindy Kaling, the star as well as creator-writer-producer. The riskiest thing about "The Mindy Project" is its effort at mixing madcap comedy (typically Mindy off the job) with serious moments (at her medical practice). But the pilot serves as an auspicious start.
6. "Nashville" (ABC, premieres Wednesday, Oct. 10): Ideally, this show can find the perfect blend of family drama, showbiz shenanigans, music performances and good, old-fashioned soap opera. Happily, the pilot episode comes close to nailing it. Of course, "Nashville" from the outset can claim one huge asset: Connie Britton. She is pitch-perfect as Rayna James, a country music superstar whose popularity in the youth-obsessed marketplace has begun to evaporate. All too ready to seize her throne is scheming up-and-comer Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). Theirs isn't the only power struggle. Rayna's happy home is threatened as her husband ponders running for mayor of Nashville. And she's got a past lover who's back in the picture. A touch of Southern gothic melodrama adds spice to "Nashville."
7. "Mob Doctor" (Fox, premieres Monday, Sept. 17): Dr. Grace Devlin is a top Chicago surgeon, but in between saving lives as part of her ordinary workday, she's obligated to make house calls to South Side mobsters for their on-the-job injuries, thanks to her deal with the mafia to pay off her brother's gambling debt with on-demand medical services. It keeps her on the run. But she isn't a victim of some Faustian pact, as it first appears. The narrative potential of "Mob Doctor" emerges from the viewer's growing realization that Grace, played by a glowing Jordana Spiro, relishes the power she wields.
8. "666 Park Avenue" (ABC, premieres Sunday, Sept. 30): Imagine a macabre variation on "The Love Boat" as a luxury apartment house where residents arrive with desires but end up losing their souls. "What I do is fulfill needs," says Gavin Doran, the building's mysterious owner, played by Terry O'Quinn. But the deposit he charges is steep, and the lease can't be broken. Gavin works in cahoots with Olivia (Vanessa Williams), his bewitching wife, who together tempt and torment their captive tenants.
9. "The New Normal" (NBC, premieres Tuesday, Sept. 11): Bryan and David are a committed, loving couple. But there's something missing from their relationship: They want a child. Fortunately, they meet Goldie, a single mother and struggling waitress who agrees to help them achieve their dream — she will carry their child — in exchange for their help in achieving hers: the financial means for her and her daughter to break from their difficult past. Starring Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha and created by no-holds-barred producer Ryan Murphy, "The New Normal" is edgy yet life-affirming. One other thing about "The New Normal": It's funny.
10. "Vegas" (CBS, premieres Tuesday, Sept. 25): "Vegas" returns to the early 1960s, a time when Las Vegas still clings to a dual identity as a cow town and a budding gambling empire. Conflict is inevitable as Sheriff Ralph Lamb, a fourth-generation rancher, clashes with Vincent Savino, a Chicago gangster who is staking his claim with his glamorous casino. Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis star.
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