The air is crisper and cooler; it’s a little darker when I leave the office, and the public pools are closed. I’m always of mixed emotions when we think about the end of summer, until I remember that my DVR will soon be filled with new imaginary friends and enemies. Of course, I’m also happy to see the old ones return — and you should totally have your TV locked on VH1 at all times — but I thought I’d take a second to tell you about the top 10 new shows I’ve had a chance to check out and am already either totally hooked on, or willing to ask out on a second date. Beginning with my favorite…
No one does TV pilots like J.J. Abrams. And for this one, the Lost/Alias/Felicity/Fringe creator teamed up with Iron Man director Jon Favreau and Supernatural creator Eric Kripke, so it’s no wonder it looks and feels like a movie more than an hour-long drama. I am already totally hooked on the quest of a girl named Charlie whose father maybe probably knew why all the power in the world went out 15 years ago, especially because her quest involves finding her uncle Miles, who happens to be played by Billy Burke. Also, there’s some kickass, Lost-ian world-building for good measure. Premieres Monday, September 17, at 10 p.m. on NBC.
What the Critics Say: “Favreau brings a lot of strong energy to Revolution, giving appropriate weight to moments like that opening sequence and delivering action that is more notable and big than is normal for network TV – a sword fight Miles has with multiple foes is incredibly fun and cool, and instantly helps Burke (bringing the right world-weary vibe to the proceedings) establish that yes, the dad from Twilight can play a kickass hero.” — IGN
The Mindy Project
Mindy Kaling won fans and fame playing cute in front of the camera and smart behind the camera on The Office. Now we get to see her meld those qualities more smoothly (again in front of and behind the camera) in a way that will have many ladies nodding their heads as much as we’re rolling on the floor laughing. Her character, OBGYN resident Mindy Lahiri, aspires to live in a romantic comedy — and succeeds in at least getting to part in those movies where she dates the wrong guys, gets in hilariously slapstick disasters and shows how much pluck and ingenuity she has when it really counts. Not life-changing stuff here, but totally endearing entertainment. Premieres Tuesday, September 25, at 9:30 p.m. on Fox.
What the Critics Say: “It warms me to the the cockles of my heart to see a female protagonist on television who is not white or movie star skinny looking hot, banging babes, making mistakes, and being hilarious, and I can’t wait to see the rest of what Mindy has in store for us.” — Crushable
I have been dying for Connie Britton to get the kind of hit show that will clue the world in to the amazing talent fans of Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story have been admiring for years. My love for her is enough to overcome my distaste for contemporary country music. It also helps that this story — of country diva Rayna and her struggle to come to terms with the fact that her album and ticket sales are slumping while shiny young crossover star Juliette (Hayden Panettiere) is taking over the world — has the kind of classic themes that transcend genre tastes. Premieres Wednesday, October 10, at 10 p.m. on ABC.
What the Critics Say: “You won’t get a much better feud than Connie vs. Hayden this season. Lots of interesting plots to explore in this soapy musical.” — Huffington Post
Andre Braugher has always starred in the kind of shows that I knew I should like, but always seemed a little too much like homework. Little did I suspect that seeing him as a possibly crazy (though certainly saner than the rest of the world) submarine captain would make me realize he is fun to watch. Of course, it helps that he stars opposite my imaginary boyfriend Scott Speedman in this riveting drama about a sub forced to go rogue when another U.S. ship strikes them. This is way more fun than any military drama deserves to be. Premieres Thursday, September 27, at 8 p.m. on ABC.
What the Critics Say: “Last Resort’s premise, while reminiscent of the Tony Scott-directed Crimson Tide, is nonetheless compelling and is unspooled efficiently, affording insight into the varied personalities populating the Colorado’s close confines. The pacing of the premiere is steady with nary a lull, while the occasional spurts of speechifying — especially as the Colorado questions the attack order — are succinct and stirring.” — TVLine
I’m sure comic-book fans are all over this show for reasons completely different from the reasons I am: Stephen Amell’s abs. And also his eyes. But if that all it took for me to like a show, I’d be writing about Chicago Fire here. But Arrow actually has an interesting plot to go around its star’s physical attributes. The only survivor of his father’s yacht wreck, playboy Oliver Queen survived for five years on a deserted island. When he returns home he becomes a vigilante trying to restore justice to his city. Premieres Wednesday, October 10, at 8 p.m. on the CW.
What the Critics Say: “Arrow marks the second time, Nikita included, that the CW has successfully delivered on a gritty, action-packed drama. … The combat sequences, as Arrow sets sight on his first order of business, are thrilling, while Oliver’s at-home interactions with his mother and sister … and scorned ex Laurel are prickly and never within 100 miles of treacly.” — TV Line
666 Park Avenue
Come because you’ve missed Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams from your TV; stay because you want to figure out why they scare and charm the pants off you as the landlords of a fancy Manhattan high rise. Dave Annable and Rachel Taylor are the young couple who move in to be the building’s managers and realize that the tenants seem to be prone to some pretty awful luck. Premieres Sunday, September 30, at 10 p.m. on ABC.
What the Critics Say: “It’s a fun show, though Taylor is definitely the weak link here, O’Quinn and Williams pull of the creepy and spooky factor well enough to keep us engaged in this supernatural mystery for a while.” — Television Without Pity
I’m not the biggest fan of procedurals, but it turns out, when you match Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as a modern-day, New York-based Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, procedural detective stories get a whole lot more interesting. It might remind you of Bones, only with fewer skeletons. Premieres Thursday, September 27, at 10 p.m. on CBS.
What the Critics Say: “As always in television, it’s all in the execution: You can take the oldest, most familiar concept and give it fresh life with crisp writing and appealing actors — and Elementary has both.” — Entertainment Weekly
Beauty and the Beast
First, you have to get over the fact that in this reboot of the old Linda Hamilton/Ron Perlman series, the Beast (Jay Ryan) is actually pretty hot. Except for when he gets angry at the criminals attacking NYPD Homicide Det. Catherine Chandler (Kristin Kreuk), then he gets slightly weird looking. This is all very CW: The people are almost too beautiful to look at for too long, but their beauty also makes us interested to see where the convoluted story will take us. Premieres Thursday, October 11, at 9 p.m. on the CW.
What the Critics Say: “Unlike the demure and often submissive Lana [on Smallville], however, Kreuk’s character in Beauty and the Beast possesses traits that better suit Kreuk’s allure and aura of strength.” — The Hollywood Reporter
The New Normal
The first episode of Ryan Murphy’s comedy about a gay couple, their surrogate mother, her daughter, and her overbearing grandmother has a serious case of pilotitis — it takes up the whole episode introducing us to the characters and central plot without ever giving us a reason to like them. Maybe that’s why multiple episodes are airing this week: They know that we know that any Ryan Murphy show deserves a fighting chance. If for nothing more than to hear NeNe Leakes’ one-liners. Premiered Monday, September 10, will air on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on NBC.
What the Critics Say: “To start, it’s about people who (mostly) like one another working together toward a happy end. … Much about the pilot felt flat or programmatic to me, but much was likable as well, especially the nonchalant tenderness between the male leads. And the cast is good.” — The L.A. Times
Ben and Kate
Though it’s a single-camera comedy, this is the most traditional show on my list, and thus the hardest for me to get into. But by the end of the pilot, the characters — single mother Kate (Dakota Johnson), her wacky brother Ben (Nat Faxon), her 5-year-old daughter Maddie, and their respective BFFs — had somehow worked themselves into my heart. Premieres Tuesday, September 25 at 8:30 p.m. on Fox.
What the Critics Say: “While not every joke is laugh-out-loud funny, the well-cast ensemble makes up for the show’s shortcomings. Multi-talented Faxon (Oscar-winning coscreenwriter of The Descendants and member of Groundlings improv group) creates an endearing character whose ridiculous antics are eclipsed by his charm. Johnson, whose good genes come from father Don Johnson and mother Melanie Griffith, may not be the most convincing single-mom on TV, but she does a convincing job balancing the silly with the dramatic.” — E! Online
[Photos: NBC, ABC, The CW, Fox)