Debut Shows Shine in Primetime’s New Fall Lineup

I had planned to add only one new show to my already busy fall TV lineup as of a month ago. Now I’ve seen 11 pilots and plan to add six new shows. Few of them have me obsessing, but I see a lot of potential. I’m not sure how I’m going to find time to watch all of these shows, but I’ll make it work somehow. Here are the new shows I’m most excited about, in descending order. 

Sleepy Hollow (Mondays at 9 p.m., FOX) 

Sleepy Hollow was a surprise for me. The hot mess of a trailer suggested Washington Irving’s titular short story meets Irving’s other short story, “Rip Van Winkle,” meets Supernatural meets National Treasure. The leads, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), are more or less playing the X-Files‘s Mulder and Scully as they investigate supernatural crimes and mysteries in the delightfully creepy town of Sleepy Hollow. The show’s pacing is fast, and several myths appear to be unfolding simultaneously, but it all sort of works. Everyone seems to be connected in a web of intrigue that includes, among other things, witches, George Washington, a fairly terrifying satyr, a Headless Horseman with a machine gun, and, of course, the apocalypse. Prophesying the End Times in the first episode is a bold move (Supernatural waited several seasons) but I’m already too invested to worry. After all, Sleepy Hollow has everything I would want in a show: mystery, monsters, and murder. Sleepy Hollow is a mishmash of fantasy genres, but it’s the most fun I’ve had watching anything other than Parks and Recreation so far this season. 

Back in the Game (Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m., ABC)

The comedy genre is rather bleak this year, and I didn’t expect to like anything, much less another series about baseball. However, Back in the Game is the only pilot that had me rolling. I wondered if it was just that particular joke which got me, but all of the players are on their A game. Psych’s Maggie Lawson is feisty and relatable as Terry Gannon, the former softball star who moves into her father’s house after a messy divorce. James Caan is a riot as “The Cannon,” who insists on teaching his grandson baseball as well as breaking car windows to defend his honor. Danny (Griffin Gluck) has some trouble with girls, as all young boys in sitcoms do, but has a self-confident charm that’s refreshing after so many bumbling losers (looking at you, Trophy Wife). Back in the Game is like other sports series—a gang of misfits will undoubtedly band together to show the bullies what they’re made of by winning big at the end. Predictable though it may be, Back in the Game is just too funny to skip.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesdays at 8 p.m., ABC) 

I’ve been restlessly anticipating Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. since it was announced in 2012. I love anything with superheroes and Joss Whedon’s name on it, so S.H.I.E.L.D. was bound to be a win. It ties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, making direct references to the two latest films: The Avengers’ Battle of New York and Iron Man 3’s Extremis virus. S.H.I.E.L.D. has everything a Marvel-fan-slash-Whedonite would love: spectacular heroism, surprise villainy, cool gadgets, bromance, and Whedon’s trademark wit. Above all, however, the show is carried by fan favorite Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), back from the dead thanks to the healing powers of Tahiti—or so he thinks (I’m guessing he took a trip to the Lost island). Coulson assembles a group of lovable rogues that resembles, in one way or another, the Scooby Gang, Angel Inc., and the Serenity crew. It’s a bit early for me to have fallen in love with them all, but they have a lot of potential. Knowing my history with Whedon shows, I will be obsessed with S.H.I.E.L.D. come midterms.

The Crazy Ones (Thursdays at 9 p.m., CBS)

It’s a feat for CBS to make a sitcom I like, given my distaste for The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, and Two and a Half Men (not to mention the laugh track-backed disaster that is Mom). However, The Crazy Ones has won me over. It follows a father-daughter advertising team played by Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Williams is the best reason to watch this show; although some of his more offensive jokes fall flat, he tells enough of them that watching him ends up being an entertaining experience. Gellar is by default the straight man, although she does get her own moment of crazy via bursting into song at a restaurant. Thankfully, we get more singing from Kelly Clarkson, who is hilarious as a sexed-up version of herself, although it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing her again in this show. Nevertheless, The Crazy Ones is an entertaining half-hour of television. The improvised jingle “Drive-Thru Lovin’” was probably the highlight of my week.

Honorable Mentions 

I’m also interested to see where Lucky 7 and Trophy Wife go this season, although both are only mildly entertaining. Contrary to my expectations, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. But it’s not for me—I’m not a huge fan of Andy Samberg or his goofy, dickish character, and the show gives off too much of an Office vibe. The Michael J. Fox Show is good, but too sentimental for my taste. I shy away from domestic comedies, and my cold heart can’t handle so much emphasis on family. The Blacklist also failed to impress me, as the opening scene read far too much like a poor, Brad Pitt-less remake of Se7en. I’d rather wait for Hannibal to return in the spring. 

Dishonorable Mentions

I made the mistake of watching the pilots for Mom and Dads, which amounted to 44 minutes of my life I will never get back. Dads is decidedly worse; while Mom flounders under Anna Faris’s over-the-top antics, Dads cuts right to the chase by offending every possible interest group. One of the dads actually uses the word “Orientals.” Both shows, of course, feature laugh tracks—that most basic barometer of bad comedy. Are we laughing at the dads or with them? Next to them? Alas, we are not laughing at all. We are weeping for humanity. We are changing the channel. To literally anything else. Probably Sleepy Hollow, because that show is awesome.

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