We give you the inside scoop on 19 of TV's hottest new shows

For TV viewers, there’s always a sense of anticipation whenever the new fall season is about to be rolled out, with network television unveiling a fresh crop of series that will either become new favourites or, as is the case with many new shows, short-lived failures that vanish shortly after they appear.

This is a particularly unique season for the broadcast networks as they face increasing competition from cable channels and upstart streaming services that continue to churn out a steady parade of scripted programming at an unprecedented rate.

And while Netflix subscribers have taken to binge-watching these shows as they appear on what now seems to be a weekly basis, the U.S. and Canadian TV networks still see fall as the ideal time to showcase their wares.

As always, there are some clear trends that can be spotted amongst the new network offerings.

One of the most noticeable trends this season is the number of shows set in the military, with NBC’s The Brave, The CW’s Valor and CBS’s SEAL Team all focusing on stories of special forces operatives.

Another trend that simply refuses to die down is the networks’ ongoing love affair with remakes and revivals. Along with such reboots as CBS’s update of 1970s cop show S.W.A.T. and The CW’s new take on Dynasty, NBC serves up its highly anticipated revival of Will & Grace while ABC is readying reboots of Roseanne and American Idol, both slated for midseason.

Also retaining a foothold in the new season are spinoffs, with CBS offering its Big Bang Theory prequel Young Sheldon and ABC prepping a firefighter spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy.

Meanwhile, the superhero trend that’s overtaken screens big and small is still in full force, with several new series coming up that will hope to draw viewers further into the DC Comics and Marvel universes.

Here’s hoping you find a new favourite among all the new shows—happy viewing...

 

1. Ghosted – Sundays, 8:30 p.m., City & Fox | Grade: C-

GhostedPREMIERE: October 1

Stars: Craig Robinson, Adam Scott, Ally Walker, Adeel Akhtar, Amber Stevens West

Scott (Parks and Recreation) and Robinson (The Office) star as mismatched polar opposites who are recruited by a shadowy government organization called the Bureau Underground, which investigates paranormal cases that, apparently, Mulder and Scully never had the time to get around to on The X-Files. As they delve into “unexplained” activity in Los Angeles, their mission leads them into all manner of terrifying situations as they attempt to save the planet from an extraterrestrial invasion.

They say: “We sort of drew our inspiration, really, from classic buddy comedies of the ’80s and ’90s, things like Lethal Weapon, to some extent Beverly Hills Cop, and then we’re influenced by more recent movies like This Is the End and thought can we do a true action, sci-fi buddy-based comedy,” explains exec producer Tom Gormican. “That’s really where we launched the show from.”

I say: Considering the talent involved and the Ghostbusters-ish premise, the first episode was nowhere near as funny as it should have been. Here’s hoping future episodes ratchet up the laugh factor, which was woefully low in the mediocre pilot.

 

2. Wisdom of the Crowd – Sundays, 8 p.m., Global & CBS | Grade: C+

Wisdom of the CrowdPremiere: Sunday, October 1 (at the special time of 8:30 p.m.)

Stars: Jeremy Piven, Richard T. Jones, Natalia Tena, Monica Potter, Blake Lee, Jake Matthews

Former Entourage star Piven plays Jeffrey Tanner, a tech billionaire who responds to the murder of his daughter (he suspects the cops botched the case and arrested the wrong person) by creating a crowd-sourcing app that enlists the power of social media to help find fugitive criminals, missing people and the like. Surrounded by a top team of geniuses in his high-tech headquarters—a.k.a. The Hive—Tanner gathers data in real time from the titular “crowd” while the computer connects the dots in next-level crime-solving that leaves the regular cops in the dust.

They say: “I just think it’s such a fertile, beautiful premise because it can go anywhere,” says Piven. “He doesn’t want this thing to be something that solves crime on a bigger level. He simply wants to solve his daughter’s crime, and then there’s all that conflict within that. And to play a guy that has those layers and is a human being and isn’t emotionally available and will ultimately do the wrong thing for the right reasons, I think, is a really brilliant premise.”

Fun fact: If the concept of a tech billionaire using his wealth for altruistic purposes seems familiar, it’s nearly identical to last season’s APB and Pure Genius, which saw billionaires running, respectively, a private police force and a groundbreaking medical centre.

I say: While social media is indeed pervasive and ubiquitous, the idea of solving crimes via Twitter is stretching the boundaries of plausibility just a wee bit.

 

3. Ten Days in the Valley – Sundays, 10 p.m., CTV & ABC | Grade: B

Ten DaysPREMIERE: October 1

Stars: Kyra Sedgwick, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Erika Christensen, Kick Gurry, Felix Solis, Josh Randall, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, Abigail Pniowsky, Francois Battiste

Stressed-out TV producer Jane Sadler (Sedgwick, The Closer) is working late in her backyard shed/office after putting her daughter to bed. When she returns to the house, the girl has vanished, sending her into a panic. The police detective (Lost’s Akinnuoye-Agbaje) working the case becomes suspicious after catching her in several lies (such as her neglecting to mention the late-night visit from her cocaine dealer) and the mystery unravels while secrets are spilled by her and those around her, including her ex-husband (Gurry), who—unbeknownst to Jane—is sleeping with her assistant (Emily Kinney of The Walking Dead). Much like the controversial TV show she produces, everyone has a secret and nobody can be trusted—especially Jane.

They say: “I was having a recurring nightmare: I was working alone late at night in my writing shed about 10 feet away from my house, and that I’d finish writing, and I would come in, and my back door would be locked, and I’d break in, and my kid would be gone,” explains exec producer Tassie Cameron (best known for creating Rookie Blue) of the show’s nightmarish origins. “I don’t have recurring nightmares very often, so when I do, I try and listen to them. I thought I would sort of write it out of my system. I think my shrink would probably say it was the pressures and the worries about being a stressed-out, single mother juggling a career.”

I say: Intriguing and provocative, the two episodes I saw drew me into the mystery, which unfolded in some genuinely unpredictable ways. Where the show ventures from there remains to be seen, but mystery-loving viewers looking for a brain-twisting puzzle to unlock will find plenty to like in the Valley.

 

4. Me, Myself & I, Mondays, 7:30 p.m., CTV; 9:30 p.m., CBS | Grade: B+

Me, MyselfPREMIERE: September 25

Stars: Bobby Moynihan, John Larroquette, Jack Dylan Grazer, Christopher Paul Richards, Brian Unger, Jaleel White, Reylynn Caster, Sharon Lawrence, Skylar Gray, Kelen Coleman

Saturday Night Live vet Moynihan plays Alex, a wannabe inventor we meet on one of the worst days of his life when he discovers his wife is unfaithful. The twist: the storyline interweaves defining moments from his past (with 14-year-old Alex played by Grazer) and the future, with Larroquette (Night Court) playing him at age 65 in the year 2042.

They say: “I always wanted it to be multiple actors playing the same character,” says exec producer Dan Kopelman, explaining the suspension of disbelief required to buy Bobby Moynihan aging into John Larroquette. “There’s a movie called Love & Mercy about [The Beach Boys’] Brian Wilson, with Paul Dano and John Cusack both playing different stages of Brian Wilson’s life. I thought it was really cool that again, they didn’t try and put people in Brian Wilson makeup. They just sort of trusted the audience to go along with it because the story was so great. So I never considered aging Bobby up. It was always going to be having three actors playing the same role. And honestly, it was get the best actors possible for the role and trust that the audience is going to go along for the ride.”

I say: Setting aside my sadness over the loss of seeing Moynihan play “Drunk Uncle” or his other plethora of wacky characters on SNL, MM&I offers a clever, well-executed premise and a great cast—including a comeback of sorts for Jaleel “Urkel” White.

 

5. 9JKL, Mondays, 8:30 p.m., Global & CBS | Grade: C

9jklPREMIERE: October 2

Stars: Mark Feuerstein, David Walton, Elliott Gould, Linda Lavin, Liza Lapira, Matt Murray, Albert Tsai

Feuerstein (Royal Pains) stars as an actor reeling from the one-two punch of his recent divorce and the cancellation of his apparently awful TV crime drama, Blind Cop. With nowhere to turn, he winds up moving into the New York City apartment next door to his parents, played by Lavin (Alice) and Gould (M*A*S*H). Mom is pushy and overbearing, dad wanders around without pants. Cue the laugh track...

They say: “This is a very personal show for Dana and for me,” says Feuerstein, who executive produces the show along with his wife, Dana Klein. “It’s loosely based on the time when I was living in New York, shooting the show Royal Pains and my parents kindly allowed me to stay in the apartment next door to them. So every morning, I would wake up to my father coming in his tighty-whities, going, ‘Mark, what would you like for breakfast? Would you like eggs, French toast? What can I get?’ And every night, after a 15-hour day of shooting, my mother would be waiting by her door like a gunslinger in a nightgown, and the second my hand would touch the doorknob, she’d whip it open and go, ‘Hi, Mark. Would you like to come in for a salad?’ Which, of course, I would do and sit with her from 11 o’clock until midnight talking about the day’s events. Anyway, that was sort of the catalyst for the idea for this show.”

I say: Despite Feuerstein’s passion for the show and the obvious talents of the cast, 9JKL doesn’t quite hit the mark. On the plus side, that leaves plenty of room for improvement.

 

6. The Gifted, Mondays 9 p.m., CTV & Fox | Grade: D+

The GiftedPREMIERE: October 2

Stars: Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, Jamie Chung, Natalie Alyn Lind, Percy Hynes White, Coby Bell, Sean Teale, Blair Redford, Emma Dumont

In this sort-of spinoff of the X-Men flicks set in a world where superpowered mutants are hunted and imprisoned by the authorities, two teenage siblings (Hynes White and Alyn Lind) are mutants whose superhuman powers have been hidden by their parents (Acker and Moyer, whose character, ironically, is a government prosecutor who jails mutants). When the kids’ powers are horrifically revealed at a high school dance, they and their parents seek solace with a fugitive group of mutants hiding out from the feds.

They say: The storyline, explains exec producer Matt Nix (Burn Notice), focuses on “these two families coming together and working together. And ultimately, that relationship evolves and becomes part of a larger commitment.”

Fun fact: The pilot was helmed by Bryan Singer, director of most of the big-screen X-Men adventures.

I say: Proof of superhero saturation, the latest entry in the Marvel universe is dull, drab, noisy and ham-handed. Maybe it’s time for Marvel to slow down on flooding the airwaves with new superhero shows; as this one clearly proves, they can’t all be gems.

 

7. Valor, Mondays, 9 p.m., The CW | Grade: D-

ValorPREMIERE: October 9

Stars: Christina Ochoa, Matt Barr, Charlie Barnett, Corbin Reid, Melissa Roxburgh, Nigel Thatch

When an elite team of U.S. military helicopter pilots—dubbed the Shadow Rangers—take on a dangerous mission in Somalia, things go horribly awry and only two members of the team (Ochoa and Barr) return. The pair, however, are bound by a dark secret about what really happened on that fateful mission, as the shocking truth threatens to reveal itself.

They say: “They’re sleeping with people. They’re cheating on people. They’re struggling with questions of personal morality and personal choices, just like we all do,” says exec producer Kyle Jarrow. “It felt really important to dramatize that in telling a full story of what it’s like to be someone in the military. So in terms of delivering those soapy elements, it actually feels like it’s also being honest about what it is to be somebody in the military. So, hopefully, we can get some good soapy intrigue in a way that feels authentic and true to the lives of military folks.”

I say: A weird blend of military drama and CW-style teen soap, this lacklustre (but sexy!) drama lands squarely in the grey area between “ho hum” and “who cares?” but answers the question: What would it look like if they crossed Black Hawk Down with Beverly Hills, 90210?

 

8. The Brave, Mondays,10 p.m., Global & NBC | Grade: C+

The BravePREMIERE: September 25

Stars: Anne Heche, Mike Vogel, Sofia Pernas, Tate Ellington, Natacha Karam, Demetrius Grosse, Noah Mills, Hadi Tabbal

Heche (Men in Trees) heads the cast of this procedural military drama as D.I.A. Director Patricia Campbell, leading a team of analysts in Washington, D.C., who wield the world’s most sophisticated surveillance technology. Campbell and her team then send the intel they gather to a squad of top undercover operatives, tasked with taking on some of the most dangerous military missions throughout the world.

They say: “We do not become a serialized show, because, again, we’re based in reality,” says exec producer Dean Georgaris. “The truth is, a team like this doesn’t get to go on some vengeance hunt. They don’t go rogue. These men and women go on and do other missions. And so in season one, they go all around the world, you know. Episode two is Nigeria, episode three is Ukraine, four is Afghanistan, five is Mexico. The whole time, Patricia and the D.I.A., they’re doing their job of trying to track down the bomber, but we’re not a serialized show. We’re a mission-of-the-week [show] that happens to take place around the world.”

Fun fact: The original title was For God and Country before being changed to The Brave.

I say: Competently executed with a slick look and solid cast, The Brave will likely appeal to fans of military dramas with a procedural bent.

 

9. The Good Doctor, Mondays, 10:01 p.m., CTV & ABC | Grade: B-

The Good DoctorPREMIERE: September 25

Stars: Freddie Highmore, Nicholas Gonzalez, Hill Harper, Richard Schiff, Antonia Thomas

This Vancouver-filmed series stars Highmore (Bates Motel) as Shaun Murphy, a talented young surgeon beginning his residency in a prestigious hospital—and who just happens to be autistic. He also has savant syndrome, which gives him the ability of perfect recall, which allows him to visualize internal organs and diagnose medical maladies other doctors miss.

They say: “What I think we’re trying to do on this in terms of portraying Dr. Shaun Murphy is moving away from perhaps the stereotypical versions of people with autism that have been shown on television and in certain movies in the past,” says Highmore. “The No. 1 thing being that they’re somehow emotionless, devoid of emotion, that they don’t experience as broad emotional range as neurotypical people do, and of course, that’s complete nonsense. And so whilst we won’t negate or seek to sort of move away from the very real struggles that Dr. Shaun Murphy will experience by dint of his condition, there will also be moments of joy. And that’s what attracted me in the pilot. There’s a humour to it. You understand what makes him tick. You will find out how and why and who he’ll fall in love with and understand him as a fully formed individual. And I know it seems sort of silly having to almost say it, but I think it hasn’t necessarily always been done in the past.”

Fun fact: One of the series’ exec producers is former Hawaii Five-0/Lost star Daniel Dae Kim, who brought the concept to ABC after seeing the original Korean medical drama on which it’s based.

I say: Personally, I’d be more interested in watching an ER-style drama focusing on the fledgling doctor’s struggle to fit in than watching an autistic doctor with apparent superpowers solve a different medical mystery each week. Given this show comes from David Shore, the creator of House, I’m guessing this is going to be the latter.

 

10. The Mayor, Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m., (also airs Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. on CTV) | Grade: B+

The MayorPREMIERE: October 3

Stars: Brandon Micheal Hall, Lea Michele, Bernard David Jones, Marcel Spears, Yvette Nicole Brown

Aspiring rapper Courtney Rose (Hall) runs for mayor of a small, down-on-its-luck California town as a way to drum up interest in his music, but in an unexpected turn of events (mirroring the last U.S. presidential election), he miraculously wins! With the help of his pals, his no-nonsense mom (Brown of Community fame) and his uptight new chief of staff (former Glee star Michele), he embraces his newfound responsibility as best he can.

They say: “I think we really try to portray it honestly and to really engage with what we all know are the social issues and sort of the political issues that take place in a town that’s going through tough times,” says series creator Jeremy Bronson. “I would say, fundamentally, the show is really about this character, Courtney Rose, for he’s becoming a man, who cares about other people, who has so much love for his family... it’s really about, how can I use these relationships, these people that mean so much to me and know my strengths and know my weaknesses and are good, good people, to tackle sort of general issues? We really get into everything.”

Fun fact: Look for a guest-starring appearance from SNL alum David Spade as the incumbent mayor Ed Gunt, who will hopefully make a return appearance later in the season.

I say: Genuinely funny and loaded with heart, The Mayor is one of this season’s best new comedies.

 

11. Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Tuesdays, 10 p.m., CTV & ABC | Grade: ?

KevinPREMIERE: October 3

Stars: Jason Ritter, JoAnna García Swisher, Kimberly Hébert Gregory, J. August Richards, Chloe East, Dustin Ybarra, India de Beaufort

Kevin (Ritter, Parenthood) is a clueless, self-serving slacker whose series of bad life choices has sent him on a downward spiral that finds him moving in with his widowed twin sister (Garcia Swisher). His path changes when he encounters Yvette (Hébert Gregory, Vice Principals), a celestial being that only he can see, who informs him that in every generation there are 36 righteous souls tasked with saving the world from destruction— and he is one of them.

They say: “Our sort of pitch on the show was that one person can’t change the world. That is impossible. But you can change yourself, and then that kind of changes the world,” says exec producer Michele Fazekas (Reaper).

Fun fact: The maybe-angel role was recast, with Cristela Alonzo (the titular star of short-lived ABC sitcom Cristela) replaced by Hébert Gregory, along with a name change from the original title, The Gospel of Kevin.

I say: Since the pilot has been completely reshot, all ABC had to show critics was a three-minute presentation clip. And while I won’t judge the show based on that, what I did see didn’t exactly make me want to see more.

 

12. Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, Tuesdays, 10 p.m., Global & NBC | Grade: ?

Law and OrderPREMIERE: September 26

Stars: Edie Falco, Gus Halper, Miles Gaston Villanueva

Clearly inspired by the success of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, Law & Order mastermind Dick Wolf serves up this true-crime tale focusing on the trial of Erik and Lyle Menendez, Beverly Hills brothers who made headlines when they were charged with murdering their wealthy parents. Falco (Nurse Jackie, The Sopranos) plays the brothers’ defense attorney, Leslie Abramson. This eight-episode event series will take a detailed look at the players, the crime and the ensuing media circus, promising to unveil “the shocking truth of what really went down when the cameras stopped rolling” and make viewers think differently about a famous case they think they know.

They say: “I don’t care what attitude you go in [with]. Your mind is going to receive information that I think will change a lot of people’s attitudes. This is unique for me, after 27 years of Law & Order. This is taken from the headlines. We’ve made some great shows from the headlines. This is on a different level,” says exec producer Dick Wolf, who admits that the brothers’ crime is “absolutely horrible, but when you see the information, I think people are going to realize, well, yeah, they did it, but it wasn’t first degree murder, with no possibility of parole.”

I say: NBC didn’t have advance screeners available at the time of this writing, so I have yet to see the first episode. But given Wolf’s decades of experience with L&O’s “ripped-from-the-headlines” cases and the considerable talent of four-time Emmy-winner Falco, I’d say this true-crime story is in good hands.

 

13. Seal Team, Wednesdays, 9 p.m., Global & CBS | Grade: B+

SEALPREMIERE: September 27

Stars: David Boreanaz, Max Thieriot, A.J. Buckley, Toni Trucks, Jessica Paré, Neil Brown, Jr.

Former Bones star Boreanaz heads the cast of this military drama about an elite group of Special Forces operatives who use their unique expertise to cool down hot spots around the globe, undertaking clandestine missions at a moment’s notice. Meanwhile, viewers also get a glimpse into their personal lives as they struggle to maintain normalcy at home when not occupied with dangerous, top-secret missions for the U.S. government.

They say: “I think it’s a workplace show,” explains Boreanaz. “We all go home and go to bed and are cozy in our blankets at nighttime, and there are people out there that are fighting for our freedom and are fighting for us... it’s about how [my character] deals with that specifically and, when he comes home, how he deals with his own inner turmoil and how he deals with his personal life. That was one of the things that mainly drew me to the show.”

I say: Military dramas are all the rage this season, and SEAL Team is easily the best of the crop. A great fit with the CBS roster of procedural dramas, it’s a no-brainer that Bones fans will follow Boreanaz to his new show.

 

14. Dynasty, Wednesdays, 9 p.m., The CW | Grade: B

DynastyPREMIERE: October 11

Stars: Grant Show, Elizabeth Gillies, Nathalie Kelley, James Mackay, Alan Dale, Sam Adegoke, Robert Christopher Riley, Rafael de la Fuente

The glitzy primetime soap that epitomized ’80s excess is back in this reboot, with Show (Melrose Place) heading the cast as Blake Carrington, patriarch of a wealthy Atlanta family. His grown children, Fallon (Gillies of Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll) and Steven (Mackay), are far from thrilled that Blake plans to marry Cristal (Kelley), an exec at their dad’s energy empire, whom they view as a scheming gold-digger. When Fallon’s attempt to expose Cristal as a fraud backfires, she sidles up to her dad’s biggest business rival, Jeff Colby (Adegoke), to seek revenge. Glittery, soapy shenanigans ensue.

They say: “We are definitely living in an age of dynasties, right?” opines exec producer Josh Schwartz (The O.C.). “You cannot look at the news across a spectrum of parts of society, whether it’s political, whether we are talking about Trumps or Clintons or Kardashians or Murdochs, what have you. Our news is filled with the stories of family dynasties, and that is something that was really exciting to us about why to do the show today.”

Fun fact: Joan Collins’ Alexis was the uncontested star of the original, but the character won’t be introduced until later in the season. The identity of the actress who’ll play her is being kept top secret, although producers have hinted the actress will be familiar to viewers.

I say: Thankfully, this Dynasty reboot never falls into the trap of taking itself seriously, and actually goes in the opposite direction by embracing the campiness of the original, becoming almost too over the top. Though it’s admittedly not my cup of tea, the producers have done a fine job of creating a series that can be enjoyed with no knowledge of the original while bursting with old-school Dynasty references that will be appreciated by fans who watched back in the ’80s.

 

15. Young Sheldon, Thursdays, 8:30 p.m., CTV & CBS | Grade: B-

Young SheldonPREMIERE: MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 25 (at 8:30 p.m. in a “special series debut,” returning in its regular Thursday timeslot on NOVEMBER 2)

Stars: Iain Armitage, Zoe Perry, Lance Barber, Annie Potts, Montana Jordan, Raegan Revord, Jim Parsons

This single-camera prequel to The Big Bang Theory brings viewers a look at the childhood of nine-year-old Sheldon Cooper (Armitage, recently seen in Big Little Lies) as he encounters the pitfalls of being an arrogant young genius in a “normal” family while attending school in a small Texas town that worships football and religion, (and not necessarily in that order). Grown-up Sheldon Cooper (Parsons, who is also an exec producer) narrates via voiceovers.

They say: “I’m a nervous wreck,” admits producer Chuck Lorre, creator of such sitcom hits as BBT, Mom and Two and a Half Men, of his first single-camera series. “It’s an entirely different animal. It’s a wholly different way to tell a story, and the working process is very different. It’s much slower, you know? But the end result is something to be proud of, really... It’s more intimate. The pacing, obviously, is very different. The actors aren’t having to hold for laughs. They’re not playing to the proscenium... a four-camera show is played like a theatrical presentation. They’re playing to the audience, and it changes the tone and the pitch and the pacing. And also, we knew going in that we were going to be working with a cast of young children, and it seemed like the more appropriate way for them to get the best work, to do the best work, was in a closed setting where they had the time to develop these characters.”

Fun fact: If you notice a resemblance between Sheldon’s mom in the prequel and the present-day version on The Big Bang Theory, that’s because Young Sheldon’s Zoe Perry is the daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who originated the role.

I say: Fans of The Big Bang Theory will find plenty to enjoy in this sweet-yet-unsentimental prequel, which (given its timeslot following BBT) is almost certainly destined to be one of the season’s biggest out-of-the-box hits. I just wish it would have been funnier...

 

16. Will & Grace, Thursdays, 9 p.m., Global & NBC | Grade: ?

Will & GracePREMIERE: September 28

Stars: Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, Sean Hayes, Megan Mullally

Will (McCormack), Grace (Messing), Jack (Hayes) and Karen (Mullally) are back, more than a decade after the beloved sitcom took its apparently not-so-final bow, and the result is one of the most anticipated TV revivals yet. Get ready for a slew of dirty martinis and even dirtier jokes as the fab four dust off their iconic characters for a 12-episode victory lap.

They say: “It’s cliché, but it’s like riding a bike,” says star Hayes of reuniting 10 years later. “We’ve all become brothers and sisters and family. Anything as far as moving forward with the show, it’s so easy. Fits like a glove. It’s just a blast. It’s a gift of a lifetime to get together and do this again.”

I say: NBC didn’t release a screener, but given that the network has already ordered another season for 2018, there’s no reason to believe this reboot won’t recapture the giddy comedy magic that made the original must-see TV.

 

17. The Orville, Thursdays, 9 p.m., City & Fox | Grade: C-

The OrvillePREMIERE: SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 10 at 6 p.m. & 8 p.m. in a special premiere, with a follow-up episode airing on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 17 at 6 p.m. & 8 p.m. before moving to its regular timeslot on Thursdays, starting SEPTEMBER 21

Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Adrianne Palicki, Scott Grimes, Penny Johnson Jerald, Chad L. Coleman, Mark Jackson, J. Lee, Halston Sage, Peter Macon, Norm Macdonald

MacFarlane (Family Guy, Ted) is creator and star of this Star Trek-inspired sci-fi series focusing on the crew of a starship called the Orville, captained by Ed Mercer (MacFarlane). In an unfortunate twist, his ex-wife, Kelly (Friday Night Light’s Palicki), is assigned as his first officer. Also on the crew are assorted aliens, including a gelatinous blob voiced by funnyman Norm Macdonald, while Ed and Kelly must put aside their tumultuous history as they lead the Orville to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go... you know the rest.

They say: “Look, if this were a half-hour [show], it would be kind of cut and dry what this is. Because we’re an hour-long show, the story kind of has to come first. And it can’t just be gag, gag, gag, gag, gag. There has to be some reality to where the comedy comes from,” explains MacFarlane. “So we really do see it as a sci-fi, comedic drama in that we allow ourselves room for levity in ways that a traditional hour-long sci-fi show doesn’t. So we’re trying to break some new ground here. And whether we’ve succeeded is obviously up to the viewers.”

Fun fact: The pilot was directed by Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Jungle Book), who also directed the pilot for Young Sheldon.

I say: The Orville isn’t really a comedy, and viewers expecting a wacky, Family Guy-style Star Trek spoof are going to be disappointed. Which begs the question, what exactly is The Orville? As MacFarlane points out, the show is attempting something that’s never been done before, to infuse comedy into a straight-ahead science fiction series, but the attempt falls flat, resulting in a show that’s neither fish nor fowl and winds up looking like a watered-down Star Trek knock-off with the occasional joke thrown in. Hopefully the show will find the right balance, but judging from the three episodes I viewed there’s a better chance that confused viewers will tune out before that has a chance to happen—if it happens at all.

 

18. S.W.A.T., Thursdays, 10 p.m., Global & CBS | Grade: C+

SWATPREMIERE: November 2

Stars: Shemar Moore, Stephanie Sigman, Alex Russell, Jay Harrington, Lina Esco, Kenny Johnson, Peter Onorati

This slick reboot of the 1970s cop show focuses on an elite Los Angeles S.W.A.T. team as they tackle some of the toughest, most dangerous police incidents in the City of Angels, led by hard-nosed ex-Marine Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson (Moore of Criminal Minds fame), who must bridge the divide between his loyalty to his brothers in blue and the crime-ravaged streets where he was raised. Described as “the last stop in law enforcement,” Hondo’s specialized tactical unit risks their lives on a daily basis in order to serve and protect.

They say: “What fascinated me about this show, was to look at the police and the communities that they’re policing and figure out if there is a way to sort of bring these communities closer together,” explains exec producer Shawn Ryan, who brought us a very different type of cop show with The Shield. “Hondo really is the vehicle that I and the rest of the writers on the show are trying to use to tell these stories.”

Fun fact: Fans of the original series (which ran from 1975-’76) will enjoy a brief moment at the end of the pilot when a new version of the show’s disco-era theme song is dramatically debuted.

I say: Moore has a large fan following from Criminal Minds and his earlier days on The Young and the Restless, and his commitment to the character (along with a strong supporting cast) elevates what would otherwise be a somewhat generic cop show.

 

19. Marvel's Humans, Fridays, 9 p.m., CTV & ABC | Grade: D-

Marvels InhumansPREMIERE: September 29 (at the special time of 8 p.m.)

Stars: Anson Mount, Iwan Rheon, Serinda Swan, Eme Ikwuakor, Isabelle Cornish, Ken Leung, Ellen Woglom, Sonya Balmores, Mike Moh

One of several Marvel series arriving this season, the eight-episode Inhumans focuses on a group of superpowered beings who are the result of genetic experimentation on ancient humans by an alien race called the Kree. Centuries ago, these sort-of humans split off from the rest of humanity, and are now ruled by a “Royal Family” that’s headed by Black Bolt (Mount of Hell on Wheels), who cannot speak and has powers that are somehow connected to a six-foot-tall bulldog. When Black Bolt’s brother, Maximus (Rheon, best known as Game of Thrones’ sadistic Ramsay Bolton), stages a coup, the Royal Family is splintered and an unforeseen series of events is set in motion.

They say: “I think one of the things that we really want to focus on, is this is really a story about two brothers, in almost a Shakespearean kind of way, and the woman who is actually caught in between them, who is the queen,” explains Jeph Loeb, executive vice president of Marvel television.

Fun fact: The first two episodes will be shown all over the world in IMAX theatres for a two-week period, starting September 1.

I say: During the Television Critics Association press tour panel for the show, critics were generally bewildered by the whole thing. To my eyes, the still-in-progress (or so we’re told) pilot was utterly underwhelming, and even the fanboy community has already started griping. Early reviews have been throwing around phrases such as “simply awful” and “a big miss for Marvel,” and I can’t say I disagree.

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of our fall preview next week when we take a look at this season's returning series...