News Column

Fall TV: what to obsess over and what to avoid

September 14, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 14--The kids are back in school, the leaves are changing color and more than 25 new TV shows are ready to make their debuts. It's fall TV time, and whether your interests lie in tales of twisted criminals, supernatural beings or steamy love affairs, the networks have you covered.

Many new pilots are counting on moms and dads to bring in viewers. Caring or obnoxious, hot-headed or fiercely protective, parents are front and center this season. You'll want to check out two shows with a strong parent at the helm.

The family drama/political thriller "Hostages" (CBS) stars Toni Collette as a surgeon who's about to operate on the U.S. president. She finds herself in an impossible situation when her family is held hostage by a group that wants her to kill POTUS.

Semi-autobiographical, "The Michael J. Fox Show" (NBC) features Fox playing a devoted husband and father of three who quits his news anchor job to spend more time with his family after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. When the extremely involved dad decides to go back to work, his kids and wife are thrilled. The sitcom already has been given a full-season run.

Most of the other new shows containing a strong family thread are comedies and include "Welcome to the Family" and "Sean Saves the World" (NBC); "Mom," "The Millers" and "The Crazy Ones" (CBS); "The Goldbergs," "Trophy Wife" and "Back in the Game" (ABC); and "Dads" (Fox).

For more about these new shows, premiere dates and our Must See and Worth Considering picks, here's our Fall Television Guide.

Sunday

BETRAYAL

Talk about a complicated affair. Jack (Stuart Townsend) and Sara (Hannah Ware) can't resist their attraction to each other, even though they're both married to other people. Things turn tricky when Sara finds out Jack and her husband, both lawyers, are going up against each other in a high-profile murder case. 9 p.m. Sept. 29 (ABC)

Monday

MUST SEE -- THE BLACKLIST

James Spader gets his creep on playing Raymond "Red" Reddington, a renowed criminal with a government background who turns himself in and is offering to help the FBI track down international terrorists. The twist? He'll talk only to Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), an attractive rookie agent whom he's obsessed with for reasons unknown. It's an intense ride, with Spader masterfully playing an evil genius, and worth watching just to see him stay calm and steady as everyone around him is in major freak-out mode. 9 p.m. Sept. 23 (NBC)

MUST SEE -- HOSTAGES

Lots of secrets, twists and a major cliffhanger are parts of an intense new drama starring Toni Collette as a surgeon hired to operate on the president of the United States. Unfortunately, someone doesn't want the surgery to be a success and takes the good doctor's family hostage to ensure a different outcome. The well-executed, high-concept suspense thriller is led by a compelling performance from Collette and Dylan McDermott's intriguing turn as a rogue FBI agent. "Hostages" is a limited-run series of 15 episodes, but we're guessing there's a good chance for a second season if it delivers the ratings. 9 p.m. Sept. 23 (CBS)

MUST SEE -- ALMOST HUMAN

Thirty-five years in the future, crime rates exceed our wildest dreams, and Los Angeles cops are armed with humanlike androids as they attempt to fight the bad guys. But who are the people wreaking havoc on Los Angeles? From "Fringe's" J.H. Wyman and J.J. Abrams, this futuristic police thriller about an android-hating detective (Karl Urban) assigned a robotic partner (Michael Ealy) with real emotions makes for an adrenaline-fueled ride. 7 p.m. Nov. 4 (FOX)

SLEEPY HOLLOW

Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and the Headless Horseman (Richard Cetrone) are transported to the 20th century in a drama inspired by Washington Irving's classic 1820 short story. Let's just say it doesn't take the Horseman long to get the hang of modern weaponry as he attempts to hunt down Crane. 8 p.m. Sept. 16 (FOX)

MOM

In this Chuck Lorre-produced sitcom, Christy (Anna Faris) is a newly sober single mom of two who is pushed to the limit by a married boyfriend, her sassy teenage daughter and an overbearing and recovering alcoholic mom (Allison Janney). 8:30 p.m. Sept. 23 (CBS)

WE ARE MEN

A guy-centric comedy about Carter (Chris Smith), a man who, after being left at the altar, decides to move into an apartment complex where he quickly becomes buddies with three divorced guys -- Jerry O'Connell, Tony Shalhoub and Kal Penn. 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30 (CBS)

Tuesday

MUST SEE --BROOKLYN NINE-NINE

The best comedy of the fall comes from former "Saturday Night Live" star Andy Samberg, who plays a smart but immature police detective. Samberg has two odd-couple pairings -- his serious work partner (Melissa Fumero) and his tough, deadpan new captain (played brilliantly by Andre Braugher). The brainchild of "Parks and Recreation's" Michael Schur and Dan Goor, the show's goofy and potentially lovable cast, including standouts Joe Lo Truglio and Chelsea Peretti, is a desperately needed addition to TV's comedy roster. 7:30 p.m. Sept. 17 (FOX)

MUST SEE -- MARVEL'S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.

Every fall, a hot new show gets all the buzz. This season, it's "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." Joss Whedon's return to TV picks up where "The Avengers" left off, following the battle of New York. Turns out presumed dead agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is alive and assembling a team of humans to investigate supernatural happenings, including a man with incredible strength played by J. August Richards. The cast is an attractive bunch that delivers playful lines filled with smart and funny jokes. Chloe Bennet ("Nashville") is a standout as witty computer hacker Skye, and the nerdy science team of Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) provides a comic relief and cool flying gadgets. It's worth a watch, even if you're not familiar with the Marvel backstory. 7 p.m. Sept. 24 (ABC)

DADS

This comedy from Seth MacFarlane stars Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi as video-game developers whose unpleasant dads (Peter Riegert and Martin Mull) move in with them. 7 p.m. Sept. 17 (FOX)

THE GOLDBERGS

Adam F. Goldberg's sitcom, based on his childhood, is hoping we're still nostalgic for the '80s. It reminds us of a time filled with "The Karate Kid," "ALF" and REO Speedwagon. Be warned: There's a lot of yelling, especially by the family's volatile patriarch played by Jeff Garlin ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"). 8 p.m. Sept. 24 (ABC)

TROPHY WIFE

Brad (Bradley Whitford) marries Kate (Malin Akerman), an attractive younger woman, who must adjust to life with his three kids and two very involved ex-wives, who are -- surprise! -- not her biggest fans. 8:30 p.m. Sept. 24 (ABC)

LUCKY 7

Based on the British series "The Syndicate," gas station workers strike it rich when their lottery pool wins a $45 million jackpot. But don't count on money to solve all their problems. 9 p.m. Sept. 24 (ABC)

THE ORIGINALS

This "Vampire Diaries" spinoff is set in modern-day New Orleans and focuses on the world's original vampires. The tense relationship between two brothers, one a vampire-werewolf hybrid; the mystery surrounding the city's witches; and a ridiculously good-looking cast are highlights. 8 p.m. Oct. 3 (CW)

Wednesday

BACK IN THE GAME

After a rough divorce, a former softball star (Maggie Lawson) moves back in with her beer-loving hothead of a father (James Caan). The two have a rocky relationship but come together to coach a "Bad News Bears-ish" baseball team of misfits, including her son. 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25 (ABC)

IRONSIDE

The classic NBC series starring Raymond Burr is revived with Blair Underwood playing the role of a paraplegic NYPD detective who doesn't let being confined to a wheelchair get in the way of solving tough cases. 9 p.m. Oct. 2 (NBC)

SUPER FUN NIGHT

Australian comedian Rebel Wilson ("Pitch Perfect," "Bridesmaids") co-created and stars in "Super Fun Night," playing a socially awkward, yet supersmart lawyer. Along with her besties, Wilson gets into some particularly embarrassing situations that are more cringeworthy than laughable. Conan O'Brien is executive producer. 8:30 p.m. Oct. 2 (ABC)

THE TOMORROW PEOPLE

Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) isn't just a good-looking high schooler. He's also part of a superhuman group known as the Tomorrow People led by Cara Cobum ("Mad Men"). They represent the next wave of evolution and are capable of teleporting, telepathic communication and telekinesis. Of course, there's a bunch of seemingly bad guys who want to destroy them. 8 p.m. Oct. 9 (CW)

Thursday

MUST SEE -- THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW

Award-winning TV anchor Mike Henry (Michael J. Fox) quits his job to spend more time with his family after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Much to the delight of his wife and kids, he decides to return to work. There are lots of Parkinson's jokes in this pilot, and the charming Fox, who revealed he had the disease more than a decade ago, takes on these somewhat uncomfortable moments with a playfulness that makes it clear why he's a perfect leading man. Betsy Brandt ("Breaking Bad") is Fox's likable wife and Wendell Pierce ("Treme" and "The Wire") his good-humored news producer. 8 p.m. Sept. 26 (NBC)

WORTH CONSIDERING -- WELCOME TO THE FAMILY

Two very different families are forced to get to know each other when their teens announce they're having a baby. The chemistry between the polar opposite fathers played by Ricardo Chavira ("Desperate Housewives") and Mike O'Malley ("Glee") is great, making for a fun sitcom. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3 (NBC)

WORTH CONSIDERING -- REIGN

Adelaide Kane portrays a young Mary Queen of Scots in this period drama filled with sex, backstabbing and beheading. With a potential love triangle, an evil mother-in-law and a mysterious person looking out for the queen, "Reign" is the CW's 16th-century answer to "Gossip Girl" complete with a hunky Nostradamus. What it lacks in historical accuracy it more than makes up for with an attractive cast led by the beautiful Kane. 8 p.m. Oct. 17 (CW)

THE CRAZY ONES

David E. Kelley is back with this comedy about a quirky, hyper ad exec played by Robin Williams. His business partner and no-nonsense daughter (Sarah Michelle Gellar) worries as much about ad campaigns as keeping track of her eccentric dad. The show's most likable character is fellow adman and charmer Zach Cropper (James Wolk, "Mad Men"). The pilot also features a cameo by Kelly Clarkson. 8 p.m. Sept. 26 (CBS)

THE MILLERS

Will Arnett, Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale star in this sitcom about a longtime married couple -- he's a grump and she's gassy -- who separate after hearing about their adult son's divorce. Greg Garcia ("Raising Hope" and "My Name Is Earl") is executive producer. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3 (CBS)

SEAN SAVES THE WORLD

Sean Hayes is back on NBC, this time playing a divorced gay father whose 14-year-old daughter moves in with him. In the pilot, his attempt at being a good dad is thwarted by a seemingly coldhearted boss. 8 p.m. Oct. 3 (NBC)

ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND

In this spinoff of "Once Upon a Time," ABC takes viewers on a journey down the rabbit hole with characters from "Alice in Wonderland." The Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) and White Rabbit (voiced by John Lithgow) by her side, Alice (Sophie Lowe) travels back to the mythical land, and she's not afraid to kick some butt to get there. Naveen Andrews plays Jafar. 7 p.m. Oct. 10 (ABC)

Friday

WORTH CONSIDERING -- ENLISTED

This military sitcom could get lost in the fall TV shuffle, especially with its Friday night time slot. But with funny material, a big heart and the chemistry of its main characters -- brothers played by Chris Lowell, Parker Young and Geoff Stults who don't have much in common except they're all in the Army -- it deserves attention. 8:30 p.m. Nov. 8 (FOX)

MASTERCHEF JUNIOR

Kids as young as 8 try to impress Gordon Ramsay with their culinary skills. 7 p.m. Sept. 27 (FOX)

DRACULA

Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the bloodsucking vampire, posing as an American businessman in 19th-century London and set on killing members of a secret society responsible for his wife's death. 9 p.m. Oct. 25 (NBC)

Amy Carlson Gustafson can be reached at 651-228-5561. Follow her at twitter.com/amygustafson.

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