It’s fall TV time again, and the big question worth asking: Why? We officially live in a time now where the best shows aren’t on networks, but on cable and streaming video-on-demand services. And they don’t have to appear during the fall. They show up whenever the hell they want. And, yet, networks are still keeping up the antiquated practice of airing new shows that’ll most likely disappear from the airwaves in a month.
The big trend among the new sitcoms this fall is certain-to-be-tiresome shows about people dealing with their awful-ass parents. Giovanni Ribisi and Seth Green keep butting heads with annoying fathers Martin Mull and Peter Riegert in the Seth MacFarlane-produced Dads (Tuesdays, 8pm, Fox), while Anna Faris has to deal with irresponsible mother Allison Janney for the Chuck Lorre-produced Mom (9/23, 9:30pm, CBS).
Will Arnett serves as referee for his bickering parents in The Millers (10/3, 8:30pm, CBS). The Goldbergs (9/24, 9pm, ABC) takes you back to the ‘80s, as Jeff Garlin and Wendi McLendon-Covey scream their way through raising three children. James Caan is the bastard pops in Back in the Game (9/25, 8:30pm, ABC), as a once-promising athlete who gives his ex-softball-playing daughter (Maggie Lawson) a hard time. Will and Grace scene-stealer Sean Hayes tries not to be an awful parent himself as he plays a gay single dad in Sean Saves the World (10/3, 9pm, NBC). It’s all about culture clash with Welcome to the Family (10/3. 8:30pm, NBC), as white and Hispanic parents find themselves becoming grandparents once their teenage children get together and have a kid. And Sarah Michelle Gellar tries to keep eccentric dad Robin Williams on a leash in David E. Kelley’s The Crazy Ones (9/26, 9pm, CBS).
There are also sad-ass sitcoms about sad-ass single folk. The confidently hilarious Rebel Wilson plays the resident pathetic fat chick in Super Fun Night (10/2, 9:30pm, ABC), where she and her fellow pitiful girlfriends decide to live like Carrie Bradshaw and them. Over on the guys’ side, sitcom killer Jerry O’Connell co-stars with Tony Shalhoub and Kal Penn in We Are Men (9/30, 8:30pm, CBS), about a bunch of divorced dudes living in a swinging singles’ complex.
Not all of the sitcoms look gawdawful. The Michael J. Fox Show (9/26, 9pm, NBC) seems promising, with the TV icon returning to the airwaves as a doting father and admired newscaster who doesn’t let his Parkinson’s deter him from his daily duties. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Tuesdays, 8:30pm, Fox) is another hopefully rewarding half-hour, with Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher as part of a less-than-stellar Brooklyn police precinct. And usual eye candy Malin Akerman tests out her comedic skills as the title character in Trophy Wife (9/24, 9:30pm, ABC).
In the hour-long drama department, the most talked-about show is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (9/24, 8pm, ABC), where Joss Whedon is looking to do a weekly, action-packed, female-friendly drama that will attract both fanboys and the girls they hope to see naked one day. In fact, there’s a lot of sci-fi/fantasy stuff popping off on the networks this fall. Once Upon a Time has gotten so damn popular, there’s a spinoff now: Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (10/10, 8pm, ABC). Sleepy Hollow (Mondays, 9pm, Fox) takes a rather studly Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) and somehow transports him to contemporary times. The J.J. Abrams-produced Almost Human (11/4, 8pm, Fox) is a futuristic police procedural with Karl Urban as a shell-shocked cop and Michael Ealy as his android partner. And even though vampires are so passé these days, there are two new bloodsucking shows this fall. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers takes the title role in Dracula (10/25, 10pm, NBC), and there’s The Originals (10/3, 9pm, CW), a spinoff of The Vampire Diaries that has nothing to do with the Motown singing group of the same name. Damn.
It’s not just vampires, though—villainy is popping up all over this bitch. James Spader gets all nefarious as a sought-after criminal suspiciously aiding the FBI in The Blacklist (9/23, 10pm, NBC), while Spader’s fellow The Practice alumni Dylan McDermott is a rogue FBI agent who takes a family hostage in the aptly-titled Hostages (9/23. 10pm, CBS). That show is based on an Israeli series, but the serial drama Betrayal (9/29, 10pm, ABC) is based on a Dutch series. As the title suggests, you can expect a huge amount of double-crossing, backstabbing and other salacious, sheisty shit. Meanwhile, Lucky 7 (9/24, 10pm, ABC), about a group of co-workers who wins the lottery, is based on a British drama. The Tomorrow People (10/9, 9pm, CW), about young people who possess powers as a result of human evolution, is also based on a British series.
While some networks are going overseas for TV-show ideas, others are going back in time. Taking a cue from Hawaii Five-O, the Peacock Network has rebooted Ironside (10/2, 10pm, NBC), with Blair Underwood slipping into Raymond Burr’s mobile seat. And Reign (10/17, 9pm, CW) takes it back even further—to the 16th century—as it follows the early, juicy years of Mary, Queen of Scots.
So, there you have it: Fall TV 2013, in a nutshell. You can now go back to binge-watching Orange is the New Black.
PW's Summer Guide 2014