Heading into the new TV season can be overwhelming, daunting, and simply detrimental to your DVR. That’s why TV critics watch all the network pilots – so you don’t have to – and that’s where this Fall TV Preview Cheat Sheet comes in handy. From the must-watch list to the save-your-soul and skip-its, Fancast has you covered.
25 Things You Need to Know About Fall TV 2010
1. Favorite Returning Favorite: Tom Selleck | One of the small screen’s most likable and charismatic leading men (see ‘Magnum P.I.,’ ‘Friends’ and ‘Jesse Stone’), Selleck is TV royalty. Appropriately, he returns this fall on CBS’ ‘Blue Bloods,’ playing the police commish and patriarch of a family of NYC cops. Bridget Moynahan and Donnie Wahlberg costar.
2. Hottest New Star: James Wolk, ‘Lone Star’ | Dark hair, light eyes, and charisma in spades, James Wolk (part Paul Rudd, part George Clooney) fronts this highly anticipated Fox drama about a father-son team of con artists whose grand scam threatens to go belly up when Rob/Robert falls in love with two different women (who also happen to be his latest marks).
3. Biggest Buzz: ‘Boardwalk Empire‘ | Director Martin Scorsese. ‘Sopranos’ alums Steve Buscemi and Terrence Winter (writer/creator). Booze and broads. This lavish Prohibition-era gangster drama – set in Atlantic City during the rise of corrupt politicians and mobsters such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson (played here by an outstanding Buscemi) – is likely to be another mob hit for HBO.
4. The Spies Who Snagged Me: ‘Undercovers‘ | Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw aren’t (yet) household names, but NBC’s sizzling new spy series from J.J. Abrams (‘Alias,’ ‘Lost’) plays like a small-screen ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith,’ with the outrageously gorgeous couple playing married former CIA agents who are drawn back into the biz by handler Gerald McRaney.
5. Agent Provocateur: Maggie Q | Spy guys and gals are in season this autumn, and The CW’s ‘Nikita’ represents the third revamp of the classic French film ‘Le Femme Nikita.’ Glamorous, whip-smart and lethal, Maggie Q – who earned her action-star cred in films like ‘Mission: Impossible III’ – stars as a trained assassin who goes rogue to exact revenge on the top-secret organization who turned her life into one about death.
6. High Profile Remake: ‘Hawaii Five-O‘ | Marketed as a “reboot” (versus remake), this modern version of the cops n’ robbers-in-paradise action series marches to the beat of a slightly different island drummer. You’ll still hear the classic line, “Book ’em, Danno,” but Alex O’Loughlin’s Steve McGarrett is a brooding bad ass and partner Det. Danny Williams (Scott Caan) is a brooding wise ass. ‘Lost’ fave Daniel Dae Kim and sexy ‘Battlestar’ babe Grace Park round out the elite team. P.S. It’s better than you think it’s going to be. Check it out.
7. Three Times a Charm? | Alex O’Loughlin was robbed when ‘Moonlight’ swooped in a few years too early to take a bite out of the current vampire craze. His follow-up series, ‘Three Rivers,’ drowned in bad ratings last season, but here’s hoping this TV hunk finally gets the hit he deserves in his third drama for CBS. Notable Quotable: “If this one doesn’t go, I’m completely bewildered. I have no idea how television works at all.” – O’Loughlin about the prospects of ‘Hawaii’ being a hit.
8. The Biggest Gamble: The Event | This year’s high-concept serialized drama features an over-arching mystery known only as ‘The Event.’ Jason Ritter stars as an average Joe looking for his missing fiancee. That investigation unwittingly begins to unravel a massive global cover-up. Laura Innes (‘ER’) and Blair Underwood (‘Dirty Sexy Money’) also star. Promises, Promises: Showrunner Evan Katz (’24’) swears that viewers will not be frustrated by fizzled plot threads and unanswered questions. That gives the top-secret conspiracy thriller a 50-50 shot at becoming the next ‘Lost’ … or the next ‘FlashForward.’
9. Worst Title: ‘$#*! My Dad Says‘ | A TV show created from a Twitter feed about a son and the musings of his cranky old man, this CBS sitcom has gotten more ink over its crappy title than its dumpy dialogue. Notable Quotable: “Do you know what I wish? I wish they would call it ‘sh*t,'” star William Shatner, 79, said of the bleeped title at a recent press conference. “It isn’t a terrible term. It’s a natural function. Why are we pussy-footing?” Unfortunately for creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan (‘Will & Grace’), TV critics are calling ‘$#*! My Dad Says’ just what The Shat wanted.
10. Worst Title, Runner-up: ‘Raising Hope’ | We’ve already been ‘Raising Arizona,’ ‘Raising Helen,’ ‘Raising Cain,’ and ‘Raising the Bar.’ A better title for this Fox comedy might have been ‘The Cloris Leachman Show,’ because Crazy Cloris is back to Raising Hell as the looney grandmother of a kooky low-class clan (played by Martha Plimpton, Garret Dillahunt and newcomer Lucas Neff) that inherits a baby after the son has a one-night stand.
11. A TV Cop-Out? | Season in, season out, you can count on three things: cops, lawyers and doctor dramas. This year, law enforcement is out in full force thanks to ‘The Defenders,’ ‘The Whole Truth,’ ‘Law & Order: Los Angeles,’ ‘Outlaw,’ ‘Chase,’ ‘Blue Bloods,’ ‘Hawaii Five-0,’ and (whew!) ‘Detroit 1-8-7.’
12. Most Likely DOA: ‘Body of Proof’ | The fall’s lone new medical-themed drama stars Dana Delany (‘China Beach’) as a medical examiner aka the female ‘Quincy.’ Alas, it left us feeling dead cold. (She left Wisteria Lane for this?)
13. Butt-Kicking Babes Alert | Sexy female stars like Maggie Q (‘Nikita’), Grace Park (‘Hawaii Five-O’), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (‘Undercovers’), Kelli Giddish (‘Chase’) and Carly Pope (‘Outlaw’) will be breaking fingers and breaking hearts as they tear it up on TV screens this fall. You’ve been warned.
14. Big Moves: ‘Survivor,’ ‘Big Bang Theory’ | CBS is whipping up a game-changer by moving two of its key players to different nights. ‘Survivor’ heads to Wednesdays at 8/7c (beginning September 15), while the network is breaking up its Monday comedy line-up to make room for the big-hearted comedy ‘Mike & Molly.’ As a result, the geeks of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ now will lead off Thursdays, starting September 23. Instant Analysis: Risky? Yes. Rewarding? Maybe. The still-entertaining ‘Survivor’ will survive anywhere, but let’s hope Sheldon, Leonard et al still make a ‘Bang’ on the highly competitive Thursday nights, where they’re paired with … William Shatner’s ‘$#*! My Dad Says.’ (Ruh-Roh! See #9 above.)
15. Most Glam New Bitch on the Block: ‘Desperate Housewives’ Vanessa Williams | Having sharpened her claws as ‘Ugly Betty’s Wilhelmina, Williams has moved to Wisteria Lane as Renee Perry, the wife of a professional baseball player – and former college rival of Lynette’s – who “shakes things up in the neighborhood and wreaks havoc in the lives of the women of Wisteria Lane.”
16. A Doggone Mystery: ‘Terriers’ | This new FX drama is not about dogs. You should watch it anyway. Born of the brain of ‘The Shield’s Shawn Ryan, it’s a gritty take (did we mention it’s on FX?) on the P.I. world, starring Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James (‘True Blood’) as a pair of unlicensed sleuths. Notable Quotable: “We were looking for the clearest, most understandable name possible,” Ryan has joked about the obscure title, before noting that ‘The Sopranos’ was not about opera singers and yet still worked for HBO.
17. Where Are The ‘Friends’ Now? Updated Edition | Matt Le Blanc is a self-mocking riot on the Showtime comedy ‘Episodes,’ Matthew Perry will bring a ray of light to midseason as ABC’s ‘Mr. Sunshine,’ and it is now confirmed that Jennifer Aniston will visit Courteney Cox’s ‘Cougar Town’ in that hitcom’s Season 2 premiere. Still left out in the cold: David Schwimmer.
18. Best Pedigree, Most Unpredictable Outcome: ‘Running Wilde’ | This Fox comedy comes from the creators of the cult comedy ‘Arrested Development,’ and yet they want you to know: This is no ‘Arrested Development.’ That’s not necessarily a good thing. ‘Running Wilde’ features ‘Arrested’ star Will Arnett as a grown-up rich kid trying to woo his childhood sweetheart, the luminous Keri Russell (‘Felicity’). The pilot was uneven, but we’re giving Mitchell Hurwitz the benefit of the doubt on fixing the funny in this one.
19. Zombies are the New Vampires | AMC brings the popular comic book ‘The Walking Dead’ to undead life in October and there’s nothing like a zombie apocalypse to teach those (tired, trendy) vexed vampires and wild werewolves a thing or two about the meaning of terror on TV.
20. Must-Watch Special: ‘Wishful Drinking’ | Carrie Fisher, the long-suffering Hollywood spawn of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, turned her memoir-ish book featuring her tales of woe and Whoa!? into a hilarious one woman show, arriving on HBO in December. In one gag, the ‘Star Wars’ icon appears on stage in her Princess Leia wig. Notable Quotable: When asked how she felt about wearing her infamous cinnabuns again, Fisher quipped to reporters, “Like an a**hole. Complete, undignified jerk-off. But other than that, really good.”
21. The Best British Import: ‘Luther’
‘The Wire’s Idris Elba stars as a flawed (and smoldering) detective playing a savage game of cat-and-mouse with a cold-blooded female Hannibal Lecter type in this six-episode miniseries thriller airing Sunday nights in October at 10/9c on BBC America.
22. The Super-Powered Posse: ‘No Ordinary Family’ | Described as part ‘Heroes,’ part ‘The Incredibles,’ this ABC series stars Michael Chiklis (‘The Shield’) and Julie Benz (‘Dexter’) as the parents of a family who survive a plane crash … and subsequently develop super-duper abilities. (Let’s hope it’s more ‘Heroes’ Season 1 than ‘Heroes’ Season 3.)
23. Riding the Wave of ‘Glee’s School Spirit | The CW’s cheerleader-themed ‘Hellcats’ needs much work before getting a “Hip-Hip, Hooray!” from us, while NBC’s feel-good makeover show ‘School Pride’ (from Cheryl Hines, ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’) boasts waterworks-inducing school spirit.
24. Most Unnecessary Spin-Off People Will Nonetheless Watch: NBC’s ‘Law & Order: Los Angeles’ | Dick Wolf refuses to move on from the ‘L&O’ franchise, despite losing the mothership to the TV Graveyard earlier this year. So look for a new batch of cops and DAs balancing the scales of justice, starting Wednesday, September 29 at 10/9c. We long for the days of Lennie Briscoe as much as anyone else, but spinning off ‘Law & Order’ yet again should be a crime.
25. The First to Fail? | Fancast had a tough time sorting through all the crap to predict the new series most likely to win the (dis)honor of being the first canceled. But no matter how much we love The Shat – from the classic Captain Kirk to the outrageous Denny Crane – ‘$#*! My Dad Says’ is the bleeping leading pick to get the axe.
So there you have it, gang. Which new shows are you most looking forward to? Which ones have disaster written all over them?