Every fall TV season is full of promise. The promise of a fresh start for older shows, for freshman hits to build on their success or a comeback for a show a bit long-in-the-tooth. Naturally, the big talk is on the premieres, the new shows ready to take on the fall and become hits in their own rights. Of course, networks are a bit wary today given the high amount of programming available on streaming services and thus many anticipated shows are being held for mid-season such as the Jennifer Lopez cop drama The Thin Blue Line and the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow.
As always, there can be a crap shoot in what to pick to succeed or not. If there’s one thing you can count on with every season, it’s the supposed “sure fire” hit being cancelled by mid-season while the show no one gave a chance becomes a big hit. That’s not to mention shows that can have a slow build but catch fire later on while more than a few series have had a terrific pilot but falter afterward. It’s tricky to figure out what the likely hits are but going by early reviews and growing buzz, here are 12 series that look to be the best to check out this fall and worth clearing some space on the DVR for.
12 Angel From Hell
For the last six years, Jane Lynch has been busy with her Emmy-winning role as the wicked Sue Sylvester on Glee. Now, she takes on a different tack as a woman who may (or may not) be from heaven. Maggie Lawson plays Maggie, a perfectionist doctor who prefers order and has her entire life planned out when she runs into Amy (Lynch), a quirky woman who claims to be Maggie’s guardian angel.
Naturally, Maggie thinks she’s nuts until Amy starts revealing so much about Maggie and seems to know things such as how Maggie’s boyfriend is cheating on her and making predictions that come true. Maggie isn’t sure if Amy is telling the truth or not but soon starts relying on her help to loosen up and enjoy life a bit more.
The CBS comedy is gaining more attention with many citing the Lynch-Lawson chemistry as terrific and the mystery of whether Amy is a loon or an angel adding some dimension to make it one of the top new comedies of the fall.
The pitch for this show was reportedly Grey’s Anatomy meets Homeland, a high pedigree to live up to but so far, the buzz indicates it fits. It begins with a massive terrorist attack that ravages downtown Boston, a young FBI graduate agent (Priyanka Chopra) surviving and soon realizing that one of her classmates at the FBI Academy at Quantico was the sleeper agent responsible for this.
Unfortunately, the FBI thinks she’s the terrorist and she’s forced to go on the run to find the truth and clear her name. The episodes will bounce between her search in the present and flashbacks to the group in training, each with their own secrets as Chopra tries to figure out which one is the true sleeper agent. It’s a daring idea but ABC has had great success with flashback-laden series (Lost, How to Get Away With Murder) and the mix of real-life thrills and character development (not to mention hot-looking young actors) should help push this ahead as a smart thriller to hook onto.
10 Minority Report
One of two movies adapted to television this season, this Fox show is a sequel to the 2002 Steven Spielberg film where “precogs” were used to predict future murders before they could happen. Set in 2065, one of those precogs (Daniel Sands) is now living on his own but still struck by visions of crimes that are to come. When he interferes in an investigation, a police detective (Meagan Good) realizes who he is and decides to use his help in stopping murders. As they do their job, they have to keep a step ahead of a secret government agency out to find the precogs and use their gifts for sinister purposes.
The mix of great FX and crime procedural should be intriguing as well as Good and Sands handling chemistry, with the overall mystery of what happened to the precogs driving things on and serving as a worthy successor to the popular movie.
The other big movie to TV adaptation, this doesn’t just replicate the 2011 Bradley Cooper movie as Cooper himself reprises his role from the film as Edward Nora (now a Senator) who takes a drug that opens his mind to amazing strengths. In the pilot, he gives the same drug to Brian Finch (Jake McDorman), an average joe who now has his IQ pushed to four digits and has perfect recall to everything that he’s ever seen, read or done, with his physical abilities pushed as well.
Realizing how important he is, the FBI (headed by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) recruits him to help them with cases with Jennifer Carpenter as his partner. Finch helps them by solving various crimes and getting involved with people caught up in them, all the while working a secret plot with Nora who has his own plans for his protégé.
The procedural motif fits CBS well and having Cooper popping up will be good to draw viewers in with “case of the week” as the overall story arc progresses and promises a show that pushes new limits in entertainment.
8 Into the Badlands
Imagine Mad Max crossed with a Hong Kong action film and you’ve got a good idea what this new AMC series is about. In the future, society has fallen, the world divided into lands ruled by barons like the feudal system of old. Crossing the countryside on a motorcycle is a loner named Sunny (Daniel Wu) who saves a young boy from nomads. It turns out Sunny is taking the child to his own master, Quinn (Marton Csokas) who trains boys into killers. But growing close to this child during their journey, Sunny has a crisis of conscience and begins fighting back which makes him wanted by half the country.
With its amazing cinematography, Wu’s charisma and amazing fight sequences, the series looks to put its own spin on the genre and in wild style. Creators Al Gough and Miles Millar (Smallville) are well used to handling the fantastic and so for those who want a little more life in the post-apocalyptic tale, this can be a true winner.
7 The Bastard Executioner
How do you make historical fantasy even darker than Game of Thrones? If anyone is up for that challenge, it’s Kurt Sutter. The creator of Sons of Anarchy tackles this new drama, set in the 14th century, shortly after the Welsh rebellion. A former knight, his courage broken by his experiences in war, has vowed never to fight again. But when his village comes under attack, he has to take up the deadliest weapon of them all, the massive sword of an executioner.
Expect plenty of violence and blood with a cast that includes Sutter’s wife, Katey Segal, as well as some noted European actors. The trailers promise a lot of dark story but with some flair, providing a fresh new take on a familiar genre.
6 Heroes Reborn
Heroes is often cited high on the list of series that were “great in the first season, terrible for the rest.” Five years after its sudden cancellation, the NBC phenomenon is making a big comeback in this 13-episode series. While some faces won’t be around (most prominently Hayden Panettiere as cheerleader Claire), many more return with Jack Coleman as Noah Bennett and Masi Oka as time-travelling Hiro.
The plot has the super-powered humans called "Evos" blamed for a massive disaster and forced into hiding with Noah searching for the truth. The new cast includes Robbie Kay, Zachery Levi, Gatlin Green, Danika Yarosh and Kiki Sukezane and promises to return to the same mix of thrills, action and mystery that made the show a hit in the first place. While there are doubts, the fact NBC is giving it a new chance promises the closure fans of the series never had and perhaps a true rebirth and redemption for a series that seemed to lose its way.
Over the last few years, Greg Berlanti has managed the feat of bringing DC Comics lore to life in the CW hits Arrow and The Flash. Now, he tackles one of the big icons of the DC Universe in this new CBS drama.
Melissa Benoist is Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin, rocketed to Earth to escape her home’s destruction and has been hiding herself in secret. But when disaster strikes, she has to step up to the bar and prove herself as a heroine while still being in her famous cousin’s shadow. The supporting cast includes Calista Flockhart returning to television as the appropriately named Cat Grant, the owner of the media company Kara works for; Chyler Leigh as Kara’s adopted sister; and Mechad Brooks as Jimmy Olson who helps her with her new life. Plus, former Superman Dean Cain and big-screen Supergirl Helen Slater appear as her parents.
There was concern over the first trailer emphasizing a more “rom com” feel but the pilot has been met by far better reviews. Benoist is good in the lead role and given the love and care for comics that Berlatni has shown, this should work out. While plans for crossovers with those CW series appear unlikely, it looks like this heroine will be able to soar quite high on her own.
4 Scream Queens
Ryan Murphy has specialized in some freaky stuff with his American Horror Story anthology. But this new Fox series promises to mix just as many laughs as with the screams. It looks terrifying enough with a serial killer plaguing a college and a sorority in the middle of it. However, the show is firmly tongue-in-cheek as the brutal murders are punctuated by students more interested in their appearance and dates than the killer and send-ups of horror movie tropes.
There’s also the amazing cast with Emma Roberts as the sorority president, Ariana Grande, Lea Michele in a massive neck brace, Keke Palmer, Skyler Samuels, Abigail Breslin, Nick Jonas, Niecy Nash as the inept security guard and Jamie Lee Curtis as the Dean who’s more annoyed than upset about these killings marring the college’s good name. With it style, high-profile cast and mix of horror and humor, this series may be able to outdo Murphy’s own AHS as the “screamer” hit of the fall.
NBC is often accused of going overboard with mythology-laden series but their latest entry actually looks pretty good. Jaimie Alexander (Sif from the Thor movies) plays an amnesiac woman found in a bag in Times Square, her naked body covered head to toe in tattoos. One of the names mentioned is a top FBI agent (Sullivan Stapleton) who’s called in to help her. They soon realize that each tattoo is a clue to a different crime and go to solve them, with the woman showing off some serious fighting skills while figuring out who she is and who did this to her.
The pilot got a great reaction at Comic Con and Alexander has been a star just waiting for the right vehicle to truly take off. The overall storyline of the mystery behind Jane Doe will mix with the “case of the week” format and the mix of mystery and action and its spot behind The Voice should give it a good ratings build and blossom as a new hit.
2 Ash vs the Evil Dead
After two decades, the prayers of horror movie fans have finally been answered: Geek god Bruce Campbell steps back into the role that made him famous, the goofball demon hunter Ash Williams. Sam Raimi not only produces but also wrote and directed the pilot episode, returning to the mold of the classic Evil Dead movies.
Ash has settled down to a quiet life as a hardware store employee, putting the horrors of his past behind him. But when someone gets hold of the Book of the Dead and summons demons, he’s forced to strap on the chainsaw hand and once more go hunting. This time, he has help from a state trooper (Jill Marie Jones) and a fellow worker (Ray Santiago) as he takes on the hordes of darkness.
Starz is prepared to allow Raimi to cut loose with plenty of R-rated gore and violence and Campbell is right back to his old wisecracking ways and thus promises a series replicating that cult film’s magic while reminding new audiences of how bad-ass Raimi and Campbell are together. Groovy.
1 The Muppets
The Muppets have never truly gone away but it has been quite a few years since they graced the television screens. But at long last they’re back and the buzz has been huge for their new show which takes a “mockumentary” style, showing them behind the scenes as they put together Miss Piggy’s late-night talk show. Of course, the Muppet humor is there, from taking shots at their own series to breaking the fourth wall and even the actual “Mockumentary” genre itself.
The promise of various celebrity cameos will pull viewers in as well as the “drama” of Kermit and Miss Piggy working together after breaking up. There’s also the fun look at the Muppets outside the studio in their “private lives” as the idea of what these lunatics get into when they’re not performing is comedy gold. The early reactions are great, ready to pull in adults as much as kids and prove that when it comes to genre-busting comedy, the Muppets still remain one of a kind.