New shows this fall
So many new series! It’s like one of those years when half the Congress is voted out to be replaced by ... more Congress. Still, there are trends and changes to descry: to the usual surprising degree, great minds are thinking alike, small ones running in the same gutter. There are three new shows with the word “man” in the title (four if we allow “gentleman”) and beyond them much discussion of the meaning of maleness, in and out of relationships. (Conversely, I am hearing the word “vagina” a lot — it seems to be this year’s “penis,” joke-wise.) There are a lot of shows in which people move in with strangers, two in which fairy tale characters inhabit the mortal world, a pair of post-feminist pre-feminist period pieces whose creators would undoubtedly deny having been influenced by “Mad Men,” two about doctors with a poor bedside manner. And it’s a big year for sitcoms, which makes the new season, genitally explicit humor notwithstanding, something like those of my youth.
Here’s a fairly thorough though unavoidably incomplete guide to what’s coming:
Pan Am (ABC, Sept. 25). A creamy re-creation of the days when air travel was more treat than torture, travelers dressed to fly, and flight attendants were stewardesses. Christina Ricci is the bohemian stew, Karine Vanasse the French one, Kelli Garner the one getting into some business I won’t reveal here, and Margot Robbie the runaway bride. But the prettiest sight: No security lines.
Once Upon a Time (ABC, Oct. 23). Cursed fairy tale characters are condemned to live, unconscious of their former selves, in a small town in Maine. Jennifer Morrison is a skiptracer who may be the lost daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin). Intersects the old “Wonderful World of Disney” time slot, perhaps not coincidentally.
Allen Gregory (Fox, Oct. 30). Jonah Hill (of “Superbad” and other popular youth-coms) co-created and stars in this animated series about a sophisticated 7-year-old brainiac packed off to an ordinary elementary school. French Stewart plays his father, Leslie Mann his teacher, Will Forte the school superintendent.
Hell on Wheels (AMC, Nov. 6). Issue-oriented western finds embittered ex-Confederate soldier Anson Mount working on the railroad as it goes transcontinental. Features the rapper-actor known as Common.
Homeland (Showtime, Oct. 2). Claire Danes is a CIA agent and Damian Lewis a formerly missing soldier who may or not be an instrument of terrorism. But all you really need to know is: Claire Danes. Damian Lewis.
2 Broke Girls (CBS, Sept. 19). Whitney Cummings, who has her own show this fall, co-created this “Odd Couple"/"Cheers” riff in which ruined trust-fund blond Beth Behrs finds refuge waitressing at a Brooklyn diner under the skeptical tutelage of street-smartened Kat Dennings. Garrett Morris as the cashier.
Two and a Half Men (Kutcher edition) (CBS, Sept. 19). L’affaire Charlie ends with this major reboot/sign of relief, as Ashton Kutcher, preserving the titular math, moves into a Sheen-shaped hole as a lovelorn Internet billionaire.
Hart of Dixie (CW, Sept. 26). Scarcely a believable moment interrupts this “Northern Exposure” legatee. New doctor Rachel Bilson is a city snob who’ll have to learn to listen to the crickets when she inherits a practice in an Alabama small town where the girls party like it’s 1849 and the mayor (Cress Williams) is a black former-football star.
Terra Nova (Fox, Sept. 26). A 22nd century family moves to a new neighborhood 85 million years in the past in this Steven Spielberg-branded prehistoric pioneer drama. Ex-cop Jason O’Mara, doctor wife Shelley Conn and their three kids (rebel, nerd, little one full of wonder) escape from “Blade Runner” into “Jurassic Park” to breathe clean air, eat fruit, make life hell for the dinosaurs.
The Playboy Club (NBC, Sept. 19). Sixties-set melodrama flogs objectification-as-empowerment to crowds too young to separate the cool from the corn. Amber Heard is the new bunny who accidentally kills a crime lord, Eddie Cibrian a knight in tarnished armor, Laura Benanti an “old” girl moving up. As the manager in the middle, David Krumholtz brings a lone Chicago accent.
Enlightened (HBO, Mon. 10/10). Laura Dern, in a series she co-created with Mike White (“The Good Girl”), plays a downgraded corporate executive who blows up, goes away and comes back as a determined ray of sunshine. Luke Wilson is her ex, who has bad habits; Dern’s mother, Diane Ladd, plays her mother, who is bemused. Hard to pin down, good to look at.
Angry Boys (HBO Dec. 5). Clever chameleon Chris Lilley (“Summer Heights High”) plays multiple characters to ponder the meaning of maleness, Australian style.
Last Man Standing (ABC, Oct. 11). Tim Allen stars in his first sitcom this century as a man among women (three daughters, wife Nancy Travis) who longs for the days when “men used to build cities just so they could burn ‘em down.” Of course, he’s a softy beneath the bluster. “I’m living with Lord Voldemort,” complains his sensitive middle daughter. “I don’t know who that is,” Tim says, “but he sounds like a very caring father.”
Man Up! (ABC, Oct. 18). The jock block continues. Three suburban friends (Mather Zickel, Dan Fogler and Christopher Moynihan, who also created the series) fret over their masculinity or lack thereof. This is a real issue, I guess, that not even being married to Teri Polo can easily put to rest.
Unforgettable (CBS, Sept. 20). Poppy Montgomery plays an ex-ex-cop who remembers everything except who killed her sister in this latest detective-with-a-talent procedural romance. (It’s female-friendly!) Dylan Walsh is her former boyfriend and present partner; they make out in flashbacks.
Ringer (CW, Tuesday). Sarah Michelle Gellar plays twins, one an exotic dancer on the lam from a killer, the other rich and remote and not what she seems. One may be evil. Nestor Carbonell is the federal agent as confused as you.
New Girl (Fox, Sept. 20). Kooky, klutzy Zooey Deschanel moves in with strangers Jake Johnson (scarecrow), Max Greenfield (tin man) and Damon Wayans Jr. (cowardly lion) after a sudden breakup. Deschanel’s sotto-voce, heart-on-sleeve affect feels original; in a year of solid sitcoms, this is the one they’ll have to pry from my fingers.
Reed Between the Lines (BET, Oct. 11). Former “Cosby” kid Malcolm-Jamal Warner plays an English professor raising a family of three with psychologist wife Tracee Ellis Ross. Press releases promise warmth, as in days of old.
Suburgatory (ABC, Sept. 28.) Single father Jeremy Sisto, unable to tell a frying pan from a fire, drags heroically ironic teenage daughter Jane Levy from Lower Manhattan to the picket-fenced mainland. Surprisingly generous to the exaggerated objects of its comical disaffection. As a done-up, done-over neighbor, Cheryl Hines makes shallow deep.
Revenge (ABC, Sept. 21). A younger-set “Dynasty,” older-set “Gossip Girl” atmosphere reigns as Emily VanCamp sets out to serve the proverbial cold dish to the Hamptonites who destroyed her father. Madeleine Stowe is the woman next door, possibly more sinned against than sinning, Nick Wechsler a selfless townie.
H8R (CW, Sept. 14). Celebrities (Snooki, Kim K., like that) attempt to sway with their citizen-critics.
The X Factor (Fox, Sept. 21). Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul reunite, under a new flag, as bad and good fairy godparents in this cash register disguised as a talent show. The net is cast wider here than on “Idol”: Singers do not — technically — have to be hot or even young to win. Radical! Hosted by Steve Jones — not the Sex Pistol, sadly.
I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Fox, Nov. 23). Jaime Pressly and Katie Finneran are best friends whose best-friend daughters treat them like the losers they already fear they are. The jokes run to harsh, but the stars have good chemistry and Finneran will smear pie on her face for a laugh.
Up All Night (NBC, Sept. 14). Will Arnett, playing a relatively normal person for a change, and the invaluable Christina Applegate are late-maturing new parents in a comedy from “SNL"/"Parks and Recreation” staffer Emily Spivey that stays ahead of its premise. Maya Rudolph costars as a bad influence.
Free Agents (NBC, Sept. 14). Singled co-workers Hank Azaria (divorced) and Kathryn Hahn (widowed) sleep together despite themselves; nosy boss Anthony Head comments. “Party Down” co-creator John Enbom and director Todd Holland (“Malcolm in the Middle”) remake the British original.
American Horror Story (FX, Oct. 5). A troubled Boston family (Dylan McDermott, Connie Britton, Taissa Farmiga) moves to L.A. for a fresh start. Oh, snap! The house is haunted. (But Jessica Lange does live next door.) Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (“Nip/Tuck,” “Glee”) have made this for you.
Whitechapel (BBC America, Oct. 26.) Copycat killers ape famous crimes of history in East London; detectives Rupert Penry-Jones and Phil Davis would like them to stop.
For Better or Worse (TBS, Nov. 23). Indefatigable Atlanta movie mogul Tyler Perry extracts two characters from his “Why Did I Get Married?” films — sports commentator Michael Jai White and salon owner Tasha Smith, still asking that question — for his third TBS sitcom. (One day that’ll stand for Tyler’s Broadcasting System, doubtless.)
The Exes (TV Land, Nov. 30) Kristen Johnson (“3rd Rock from the Sun”) is the classic-sitcom tent pole supporting this fourth TV Land sitcom, as a divorce lawyer who foists needy client David Alan Basche upon roommates Donald Faison and Wayne Knight.
Charlie’s Angels (ABC, Sept. 22). Iconic ‘70s crime-fighting trio gets a 21st-century going-over (more hitting, more kicking, cellphones), with Rachel Taylor, Annie Ilonzeh and Minka Kelly as bad girls gone good. Bosley, I am almost sorry to tell you, is now a Latin lover (Ramon Rodriguez), but Charlie remains invisible.
Person of Interest (CBS, Sept. 22). Hairy, drunk presumed-dead black-ops operator Jim Caviezel is drafted by limping presumed-dead computer genius Michael Emerson (“Lost”) to stop crimes before they happen. It’s “Early Edition” for post-9/11 paranoiacs, or like certain streams of “Lost,” whose J.J. Abrams has fingers in this pie.
How to Be a Gentleman (CBS, Sept. 29). David Hornsby heads my idea of a superstar cast as a magazine etiquette columnist forced to broaden his tone. Kevin Dillon is his guide to the regular-guy lower-depths. Dave Foley plays his editor, Mary Lynn Rajskub his sister, Rhys Darby his brother-in-law.
The Secret Circle (CW, Sept. 15). The humans behind “The Vampire Diaries” turn their attention to witches in this supernatural high school drama. You can imagine. And you’d be right.
Whitney (NBC, Sept. 22). Spiky comic Whitney Cummings (see also: “2 Broke Girls”) slides neatly into this cohabitation sitcom, which takes a kind of tolerant long view of relationships, finding a little love even for the contempt for manners familiarity breeds. Chris D’Elia as her wry, dry boyfriend keeps it plausible.
Prime Suspect (NBC, Sept. 22). Maria Bello puts on Telly Savalas’ Kojak hat as she crawls into Helen Mirren’s old character — a hard-nosed detective getting grief from remarkably unevolved male colleagues — in this American quasi-remake of the celebrated British procedural. Aidan Quinn is her harried-from-all-sides superior.
Good Vibes (MTV, Oct. 27). David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”) is the human consciousness behind this cartoon about a spherical New Jersey teen (Josh Gad) transplanted to a California beach town. Adam Brody is the surfer who befriends him, Debi Mazar his hot mom, Danny McBride a fat (female) teacher of human sexuality.
Beavis and Butt-Head (MTV, Oct. 27). The boys are back in town, anatomizing the ongoing end of civilization in snorts and sniggers.
A Gifted Man (CBS, Sept. 23). A high-priced neurosurgeon with a deadened soul (Patrick Wilson) is packed off to work at a free clinic by the ghost of his late ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle, hard to resist, after all). Jonathan Demme directs the pilot.
Grimm (NBC, Oct. 21.) David Giuntoli is a Portland homicide detective who learns from a dying aunt (Kate Burton) that Grimm’s fairy tales are more straight reporting than fantastic folklore and that he’s been born to keep the supernatural order. Silas Weir Mitchell is a decent-guy werewolf who brings ironic normalcy to the creepy dark and damp.
Jessie (Disney Channel, Sept. 30). Disney player Debby Ryan (“The Suite Life on Deck”) is a small-town Texas teen who becomes nanny to a multicolored family of rich New Yorkers. There is a butler.
Boss (Starz, Oct. 21). Kelsey Grammer taps into the dark waters at which “Frasier” only hinted to play a Chicago mayor hiding a degenerative brain. Connie Nielsen is his alienated wife, Martin Donovan his matter-of-fact amanuensis, Kathleen Robertson the aide who gets naked for premium cable. Gus Van Sant directed the pilot.
Bedlam (BBC America, Oct. 6). Will Young, Charlotte Salt and Joanna Page are young moderns in an apartment building converted from a 19th century insane asylum. I know, right?
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