New for Fall: Next Season’s Best Bets and Biggest Gambles

Top: Mindy Kaling in "The Mindy Project," Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes; Bottom: Jordana Spiro in "Mob Doctor," Janet Montgomery in "Made in Jersey" (Photos: Fox, CBS)

Italian-Americans on both sides of the law, neighbors from another planet, and a new Sherlock Holmes are just some of the scenarios and characters on tap for next fall on network TV.

And now that the fall shows have been announced this week in New York, let’s take a closer look at five shows we liked and five that, well, we didn’t like quite as much. And by the way, this is just a preliminary reaction based on clips we saw, and press release descriptions we’ve read. We’ll get a chance to revise our opinions when we get to see the pilots in a few weeks.

Five Best Bets:

1) “Elementary” (CBS): Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have been around so long that we doubt this reworking, in which Dr. Watson is a woman (Lucy Liu), and Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) has relocated from London to New York (in the modern day), will do undue damage to the Holmes mystique. After all, a modern-day reboot is already airing successfully on PBS (via British television), and numerous versions of the world’s most famous sleuth have been created for movies and television for 100 years. Truth is, in this new drama’s description, this new Holmes sounds a lot like Simon Baker’s character in “The Mentalist,” so introducing “Elementary” in the “Mentalist” time period — Thursday at 10/9c — makes perfect sense to us.

Watch a preview of “Elementary”:
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2) “Vegas” (CBS): This series already has two strikes against it — it’s a ’60s show, and we all know what happened this past season to “The Playboy Club” on NBC and “Pan Am” on ABC; and it’s a gangster show (see item below on “The Mob Doctor”). Still, our fingers are crossed that this series will emerge as an exception to TV’s mob rule, perhaps like “Crime Story,” which was also set in Las Vegas in the 1960s. This new one has Dennis Quaid as Vegas’ top lawman in that decade — the county sheriff — and Michael Chiklis as the Chicago mobster who muscles in on the casinos (much like Joe Pesci’s character in “Casino,” which, like this series, comes from author Nick Pileggi).

Get acquainted with “Vegas” with this behind-the-scenes look:
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3) “The Mindy Project” (Fox): Paired with “New Girl” on Fox’s Tuesday schedule next fall, this comedy from Mindy Kaling, who writes and stars in “The Office” on NBC, even made a stone-hearted, cynical veteran of the TV beat laugh (yours truly) when Fox showed a clip last Monday at its upfront presentation. We expect big things from Fox’s newest girl.

4) “Animal Practice” (NBC): We happen to have a soft spot for Justin Kirk from “Weeds” and he doesn’t disappoint in the role of an offbeat New York City veterinarian in this new NBC comedy. It doesn’t hurt that one of his co-stars is a monkey named Dr. Zaius. We have a soft spot for monkeys too — especially in comedies.

5) “Malibu Country” (ABC): We just happen to think this is a sure-fire concept — the ever-popular Reba McIntyre starring in a sitcom about a newly divorced country music star who relocates with her kids from Nashville to Malibu. Plus, Lily Tomlin’s in it too. Paired with Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” on Friday nights, this new Reba sitcom and this one-hour comedy block seem like winners to us.

Watch Reba McIntyre in this preview of “Malibu Country”:
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Five Biggest Gambles:

1) “The Mob Doctor” (Fox): With the notable exception of “The Sopranos” (and maybe a small handful of others), Mafia dramas on broadcast TV have a tendency to end up sleeping with the fishes. Though we wish that wasn’t so, we’re not so sure “The Mob Doctor” will escape that fate. In the show, Jordana Spiro of “My Boys” plays a recent medical school graduate who’s in debt to her South Chicago Mafia neighbors (a scenario we remembered from the 2003 made-for-CBS movie “Mafia Doctor,” starring Danny Nucci). One thing we do like about “The Mob Doctor”: The great William Forsythe, seen recently as a gangland butcher in “Boardwalk Empire,” plays the mob kingpin here. But from the clips we saw the other day, the vital signs weren’t strong for “The Mob Doctor.”

2) “The Neighbors” (ABC): More than most long-time observers of the TV scene, we are generally very open-minded when it comes to some of the more far-out concepts we’ve encountered in TV shows. But not so much with this ABC sitcom about a gated suburban community populated by aliens from outer space masquerading as humans. We just think this thing is too weird to stick around for long.

See for yourself — get a taste of “The Neighbors” right here:
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3) “Last Resort” (ABC): This action/drama series — starring Andre Braugher — has something to do with a rogue U.S. nuclear submarine on the lam from American military forces after not following an order to fire a missile at Pakistan. Or something like that. Apparently, the sub somehow makes its way to a remote island where the crew then starts a new life in paradise. Based on the description of the show, we can’t decide if this show is the new “Lost” or “Fantasy Island”. Could be it’s a little bit of both — but not in a good way.

Go behind-the-scenes and under water with “Last Resort” here:
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4) “Ben and Kate” (Fox): This new sitcom starring Nat Faxon and Dakota Johnson is about two grown siblings who have a very loving relationship, which is fine — all grown sibs should be so lucky, right? In a clip shown this week at the Fox upfront, the cast seemed extremely capable, but we kept getting the feeling that this relationship — in which the brother Ben moves in with Kate and her small daughter to play the part of “man of the house” — came across as, for want of a better word, icky. What can we say? We were turned off.

5) “Made in Jersey” (CBS): This is another one of those scenarios that gets tried again and again every so often and, for whatever reason, never seems to work: The plucky, working-class young woman from an “ethnic” background (in this case, Italian-American from New Jersey — again!) with hopes and dreams of making it across the Hudson in Manhattan. In this case, it’s in a Manhattan law firm. Here’s how CBS’s description puts it: “Martina Garretti (Janet Montgomery) finds her firm’s cutthroat landscape challenging, but what she lacks in an Ivy League education she more than makes up for with tenacity and blue-collar insight.” That sounds like one big cliche to us. Been there, done that.

Meet CBS’s new Jersey girl in “Made in Jersey”:
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Watch clips for other new fall shows on our Fall TV 2012 page here.

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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