Your summer vacation may have involved lounging by the pool or traveling to Europe, but we’ve spent the first few months of hot weather sorting through the broadcast-network pilots for nearly 40 new scripted shows that will likely air next season. (A caveat: the networks have been known to yank a few before they even make it on the air.) We’ve come out the other side more or less unscathed and can now offer our first takes on the dramas and comedies that are headed to the fall and midseason schedules of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and the CW.
Every year the networks present their usual takes on the familiar doctor-lawyer-cop tropes, and this year is no exception. But there are also a few bright spots. Supernatural thrillers Resurrection and Believe are pretty damn engaging. Lottery-winner drama Lucky 7 is surprisingly alluring. And there are quite a few comedies—Brooklyn Nine-Nine, About a Boy, Trophy Wife, and even (surprisingly) CBS’s Mom—that actually make us want to watch another episode or 10.
So what did we think? First, a few more caveats: (1) our opinions should be considered “first impressions” of the pilots that were made available by the broadcast networks and not reviews. (2) All pilots—from music and dialogue to casting, etc.—are subject to change, so what airs next season may be drastically different from what we saw. (3) We reserve the right to change our initial opinions upon seeing final review copies of these pilots—not to mention a few more episodes. (4) Not all the fall and midseason pilots were sent out by the networks: ABC opted not to send out the pilot for its highly anticipated superhero espionage drama Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or those for Mind Games, Mixology, and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland; NBC didn’t send out Crossbones, Dracula, Undateable, or Chicago PD, to name four; and CBS isn’t letting us see Reckless or Friends With Better Lives just yet, while it picked up Bad Teacher to series after the upfronts. (Quite a few pilots weren’t available to press this year.)
Back in the Game (Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.)
Log line: A former All-Star softball player, smarting from a recent divorce, moves back in with her curmudgeonly dad and her young son and ends up coaching her son’s misfit Little League team.
Cast: Maggie Lawson, James Caan, Lenora Crichlow, Ben Koldyke, Cooper Roth, Griffin Gluck, J.J. Totah, Kennedy Waite.
Jace Lacob: While watching this, I kept thinking to myself that the grumpy, trigger-happy dad should be played by James Caan. What’s that, you say? The dad IS played by James Caan? Oh. It seems that even Caan tries too hard to play a blue-collar James Caan type called the Cannon, and the results are creaky and stiff. The boozy British mother, played by Lenora Crichlow (Being Human)—and her dynamic with Maggie Lawson’s Terry—is a rare highlight in this otherwise drab, lackluster comedy pilot, in which nearly every single joke fails to connect with the bat.
Kevin Fallon: There are elements here that should work. James Caan should be able to play a curmudgeonly drunk grandpa in his sleep and still get laughs. Writers Mark and Robb Cullen aren’t afraid to tread into slightly politically incorrect and sometimes even weird humor. (A friendship builds between Maggie Lawson’s Terry and another school mom that’s delightfully odd and crass.) Each member of the Bad News Bears of a team Terry ends up coaching has what should be a chuckle-worthy quirk. Yet in spite of all this, nearly every joke grounds out. With few laughs to reward an otherwise talented cast, the series is ultimately a swing and a miss.
Verdict: Strike out.
Betrayal (Sunday at 10 p.m.)
Log line: When a married photographer and a lawyer have a chance encounter and begin an affair, they find themselves on opposite sides of a high-profile murder case.
Cast: Hannah Ware, Stuart Townsend, Henry Thomas, James Cromwell, Braeden Lemasters, Chris Johnson, Elizabeth McLaughlin, Wendy Moniz.
Lacob: ABC has had an extremely difficult time finding a time-slot companion for its similarly minded thriller Revenge, but I don’t think the network has found one in Betrayal, which strives to be a high-minded exploration of the fluidity of morality but fails to reach any such heights. Instead, the tone ricochets wildly. Hannah Ware and Stuart Townsend manage to capture some heat together, but ultimately Betrayal feels like heavy lifting.
Fallon: It’s clear that ABC wants another primetime soap hit like Revenge, but like the tried-and-failed Infamous before it, Betrayal won’t be it. The show’s tone is just off—the unabashed campiness that makes Revenge’s wheelings, dealings, and histrionics so fun is missing completely from Betrayal. A distracting business-and-murder side plot doesn’t pay off until the episode’s last moments, setting up the rest of the series, but waiting so long for the big reveal may have been too risky a gamble—will bored viewers have enough patience to wait for it? If they do, they’ll at least be treated to a very steamy love scene between Hannah Ware and Stuart Townsend, who do have engrossing chemistry as forbidden lovers.
Verdict: Less a betrayal, more a nuisance.
The Goldbergs (Tuesday at 9 p.m.)
Log line: In the halcyon days of the 1980s, a loud, overbearing father and a smothering mother attempt to parent their three teenage kids.
Cast: Jeff Garlin, Wendi McLendon-Covey, George Segal, Hayley Orrantia, Sean Giambrone, Troy Gentile.
Lacob: Why isn’t Wendi McLendon-Covey a bigger star? The former Reno 911 costar deserves better than The Goldbergs, which attempts to recapture the essence of the 1980s with retro-vintage elements. While the cast gamely strives for relevance and laughs, the show—based on the creator’s own family—feels tired and predictable. The authentic home movies (on which real scenes are based) are far funnier and vibrant than anything in the pilot itself.
Fallon: The Goldbergs is a novelty sitcom in the vein of That ’70s Show, with the network thinking, let’s dress up a run-of-the-mill comedy in retro clothes, and audiences will laugh just at the sight of it. But jokes about white-washed denim and Flava Flav only stretch so far before audiences realize they’re really just watching a standard sitcom full of groanworthy punch lines. Jeff Garlin turns dad Murray Goldberg into a Fred Flintstone cartoon—you almost expect to see steam come out of his ears during one of his many, many over-the-top tantrums in the pilot. Wendi McLendon-Covey, however, as the kind of mom who sneaks into the backyard to smell her kids’ baby blankets when she feels sad, delivers a comedy tour de force ... all with fierce feathered hair.
Verdict: Acid-washed, rather than acid-tongued.
Killer Women (Midseason TBA)
Log line: The first female Texas Ranger deals with misogyny from her law-enforcement colleagues, who want to see her fail at her job, and attempts to divorce her violent, abusive husband.
Cast: Tricia Helfer, Michael Trucco, Marc Blucas, Alex Fernandez, Marta Milans.
Lacob: Eh. I love Helfer, and the show—based on Argentine crime drama Mujeres Asesinas—is shot in a vivid, punchy style, but it just feels a little too middle of the road for me. Helfer is appropriately crackly and badass as Molly Parker, but it feels like a USA procedural rather than something new and exciting.
Fallon: Tricia Helfer is a gun-wielding sparkplug as Molly Parker, and the cases she’s cracking—at least in the pilot—are just twist-y enough to keep the show moving at a brisk clip. It’s Walker, Texas Ranger in heels. In other words, it’s kind of fun. Like its to-the-point title, there’s not much more to say about it.
Verdict: It’s on the border of watch and skip.
Lucky 7 (Tuesday at 10 p.m.)
Log line: The struggling employees of a downtrodden Queens, N.Y., carwash win the lottery, and their lives change in unanticipated ways.
Cast: Matt Long, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Anastasia Phillips, Christine Evangelista, Lorraine Bruce, Luis Antonio Ramos, Stephen Louis Grush, Summer Bishil.
Lacob: Based on British drama The Syndicate, this charming and unexpectedly toothy drama follows the dramatic highs and lows following an unexpected windfall. While this isn’t the first time the subject has been attempted on television (anyone remember Windfall or At Home With the Braithwaites?), Lucky 7 manages to offer a perfect mix of humor, romance, and dark drama, nicely balancing its comedic elements with some real pathos. Matt Long is appealing as a struggling Everyman who wants a better life for his family, and I’m glad to see Whitlock back on an ongoing show. I can’t wait to see what happens next to this group of people and how wealth changes them. In other words: it’s made of win.
Fallon: This show is not at all what I expected. The log line seemed to telegraph a saccharine morality play on the dangers of vices and excess. Instead the show is a bit spoofy and irreverent, tempering some pretty dark and surprisingly emotional storylines with breaks of much-needed humor. I’m hooked—and surprised that I’m hooked. Plus, as an added bonus, it features some of the best use of music in all this fall’s pilots.
Verdict: Lucky us.
Resurrection (Midseason; Sunday at 10 p.m.)
Log line: In the small town of Arcadia, Missouri., the deceased have inexplicably returned to life years after their death ... and those who loved them in life must deal with the consequences of their return.
Cast: Omar Epps, Kurtwood Smith, Frances Fisher, Samaire Armstrong, Kevin Kelley, Landon Gimenez, Mark Hildreth, Matt Craven, Nicholas Gonzalez, Sam Hazeldine.
Lacob: Absolutely intoxicating. This supernatural drama, based on the Jason Mott novel The Returned, is eerie and enigmatic, as well as heartfelt and wondrous. How would you react if your child died 32 years ago and returned to you at the same age as when you lost him? This question lingers over the action as viewers see how a small town is forever changed by a miraculous event, one that tests the bonds of faith and love. We’re told that Arcadia is a border town in a border county, but the unspoken element is that it is located on the threshold of life and death. While this strong contender is being held until midseason, I want more episodes right now.
Fallon: Of the two “who is this weirdo mysterious kid?” dramas—Resurrection and NBC’s Believe—this is easily the more intriguing option. The central conceit is far more emotionally engrossing than Believe’s. There’s strong work here from Kurtwood Smith, a man reeling when the son who passed away at 8 years old three decades earlier suddenly shows up on his doorstep, not a day older than the day he supposedly died. Why is he there? Is he really his son? Is resurrection real? These are all questions I will happily tune in again to see answered.
Verdict: We’re happy this is coming back.
Super Fun Night (Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.)
Log line: A plucky plus-size attorney and her two best friends have been celebrating “Super Fun Night” indoors for years, but when she’s promoted and must impress her new bosses, the girls have to head out.
Cast: Rebel Wilson, Liza Lapira, Kelen Coleman, Lauren Ash, Kevin Bishop.
Lacob: I was really, really looking forward to this pilot, given that Wilson is usually so phenomenal—she killed at the ABC upfront presentation in May when she introduced her show—but this comedy is anything but funny. I’m not sure why Wilson is being forced to do an American accent, but it detracts from her usually killer delivery. The results are tedious rather than amusing, and the whole thing feels dated and torturous.
Fallon: Super Fun Night may be the most depressing comedy pilot. Not because it’s the least funny. (Though it’s close to it.) It’s because the prospect of Rebel Wilson, perhaps the most exciting young comic actress working, having creative control of her own sitcom was so promising, and the result is such a misfire. There’s far too much let’s-laugh-at-these-pathetic-weirdos comedy and not nearly enough clever or witty writing. (“He’s not gay; he’s just British,” is the funniest line of 1992.) To be fair, Wilson scores in a few big moments, and Kevin Bishop as that not gay, just British crush displays a peculiar though charming dorkiness. But as a whole, Super Fun Night is no such thing.
Verdict: Neither super nor fun.
Trophy Wife (Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.)
Log line: A reformed party girl marries a wealthy man and must deal with his menagerie of children as well as his two ex-wives, both of whom are enmeshed in his life.
Cast: Malin Akerman, Bradley Whitford, Marcia Gay Harden, Michaela Watkins, Natalie Morales, Ryan Scott Lee, Albert Tsai, Gianna LePera.
Lacob: Boasting, along with two high-profile CBS comedies, possibly one of the best casts this year, Trophy Wife packs as much punch as Wendi Deng pummeling a pie-throwing attacker. Malin Akerman is fantastic as the party girl marrying into this blended and sprawling clan, and she ably holds her own even surrounded by such dazzling talents as Whitford, Harden, and Watkins. (Her vodka-chugging scene and its aftermath are hilarious.) There’s a distinct and appealing sweet-tart sort of tone to the show, one that makes you want to stick around for more.
Fallon: This cast is so stacked with talent—Whitford, Harden, Watkins—that I expected Akerman to drown here. But she carries this dizzyingly busy comedy—so many characters, so many wives, so much chaos—admirably. There’s a scene in which Akerman is forced to chug a water bottle filled with vodka to cover for her stepdaughter that’s worth viewing alone. It turns out that as a slurring, stumbling Weeble Wobble of a trophy wife, Akerman really shines.
Verdict: This trophy is a winner.
The Crazy Ones (Thursday at 9 p.m.)
Log line: An unorthodox father-daughter team oversees a struggling ad agency.
Cast: Robin Williams, Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Wolk, Amanda Setton, Hamish Linklater.
Lacob: I wanted to love this show, but the pilot feels a little too on the nose and more than a little too David E. Kelley–style broad. Having said that, James Wolk is absolutely stellar here as slick and charming ad man Zach, who is so slick and charming that he ends up dueting with Kelly Clarkson at one point, and Wolk himself is so engaging and sly that he holds his own in scenes with Williams. (Keep an eye out for their rapid-fire improv song scene.) Surprisingly, it’s Clarkson, playing herself in a guest role, who brings the most humor to the pilot, but given that Mad Men has a lock on the advertising world, it’s hard to see what new take that The Crazy Ones is bringing to the table. Still, a fun and talented cast could pave over the overall bumpiness of the pilot.
Fallon: Robin Williams is Robin Williams–y, with the voices and the wackiness and then knocking you out with a surprise emotional wallop. Sarah Michelle Gellar is fast-talking and commanding, and that crazy combination of cold and charming that only she has. But it’s Bob Benson, er, James Wolk who shockingly steals the show here, goofy and smarmy and going toe-to-toe with Williams in a berserk improv’d sing-along scene and leaving the comedy pro in the dust. The ensemble here is so tight (Hamish Linklater is yet another bright spot in a supporting role) that it’d be, well, crazy if this doesn’t turn into a big hit.
Verdict: We’re reservedly crazy about this one.
Hostages (Monday at 10 p.m.)
Log line: Secrets tumble out when the family of a high-profile surgeon, about to operate on the POTUS, is taken hostage; their captors demand that she kill the president or they will end the lives of those she loves.
Cast: Toni Collette, Dylan McDermott, Tate Donovan, Billy Brown, James Naughton, Mateus Ward, Quinn Shephard, Rhys Coiro, Sandrine Holt.
Lacob: I wanted to be hooked by this high-concept thriller, but the pilot felt a little predictable. I’m additionally not sure how much longevity the concept has (and, yes, I know: it’s being billed as a “limited series”) and how claustrophobic it will feel after a while. That said, Collette, Donovan, and McDermott are very good, and this could develop into something twisty and taut. I’m just not sure it’s there yet.
Fallon: Credit Hostages with creating the eeriest opening scene of the fall. It’s a gasp moment that reins you in early, wise for a drama with the talents of Toni Collette and Tate Donovan in leading roles. Then Dylan McDermott turns around in an FBI vest and a Dirty Harry attitude, and you swoon. When the three actors’ characters interweaving in a mind-bending web of spy games, you’re like what!? ... and, oh yeah, hooked. No drama pilot is this tense.
Verdict: We may or may not be willing to be taken hostage.
Intelligence (Midseason; Monday at 10 p.m.)
Log line: Meet America’s latest super-weapon: an intelligence operative with a microchip embedded in his brain that allows him to become connected directly to the Internet, WiFi, and satellite data.
Cast: Josh Holloway, Marg Helgenberger, Meghan Ory, Michael Rady, John Billingsley, James Martinez, P.J. Byrne.
Lacob: This screams “CBS procedural,” and it will perform extremely well for the network. Holloway is immensely likable, and the role gives him an opportunity to step into the role of hero. While the pilot strayed far too much into the territory of the obvious, there’s enough material here for several years’ worth of stories, though the main draw is clearly Holloway as a more roguishly handsome version of the titular character on Chuck.
Fallon: This could not be more CBS. A strong-willed agent (played by Josh Holloway) and his wide-eyed partner (played by Meghan Ory) banter and fire guns and solve crimes, all with sexual tension that could be cut with a knife. The twist here is that Holloway’s character has a microchip implanted in his brain that makes him see things as if he’s always wearing Google Glass. Marg Helgenberger’s on board as a Q-like mentor. It’s not bad, but it’s so CBS-ish that you start to forget that you’re not actually watching a special episode of NCIS or Criminal Minds ... which is to say Intelligence is fairly forgettable.
Verdict: Needs to be a little smarter.
The Millers (Thursday at 8:30 p.m.)
Log line: A recently divorced news reporter finally breaks the news of the end of his marriage to his parents, who promptly split themselves, and his mother moves in with him.
Cast: Will Arnett, Margo Martindale, Beau Bridges, J.B. Smoove, Jayma Mays, Eve Moon.
Lacob: Free Margo! I found this pilot, which surprisingly came from My Name Is Earl and Raising Hope creator Greg Garcia, so painfully unfunny that I watched it with my mouth agape. It is positively sinful that such talented actors as Arnett, Martindale, and Bridges have been reduced to lame fart jokes and a Dirty Dancing sequence that came years too late. Really, what the hell?
Fallon: I had to give this show two viewings because I was so confused by the first look. Could a sitcom from Garcia starring the likes of Will Arnett, Beau Bridges, J.B. Smoove, and Margo Martindale really be as bad as the first impression I got? It turns out, not quite. While the first few scenes are cringe-inducingly stale, it steadily builds momentum, thanks in large part to the fact that the second half is dominated almost entirely by Arnett and the formidable Martindale, who gives a triumphant performance here that elevates every line she’s given, stale or otherwise. The weakest links—Michael Rapaport and Mary Elizabeth Ellis—have been recast, which bodes well, though I felt it was the material they were given more than their performances that didn’t work. But if Garcia continues to put so much on Martindale’s shoulders, she can carry this show to big places. (Of course, some smarter writing wouldn’t hurt, either.)
Verdict: File for divorce.
Mom (Monday at 9:30 p.m.)
Log line: A recently sober single mom attempts to raise her two kids in Napa Valley while working as a waitress and dealing with her own mother, a recovering alcoholic who returns to her life.
Cast: Anna Faris, Allison Janney, Nate Corddry, French Stewart, Blake Garrett Rosenthal, Sadie Calvano, Spencer Daniels, Matt Jones.
Lacob: I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed this pilot. While the restaurant scenes played out as a less successful version of Whites, I truly enjoyed the easy rapport between Faris and Janney ... and Faris’s preternaturally excellence here, a smart mix of lovelorn sad-sack and wisecracking put-upon mom. She and Janney are the reason to tune in, really.
Fallon: Every Chuck Lorre sitcom, predictable hodgepodges of tried-and-true tropes and telegraphed punchlines, lives or dies by its leads. (Would Mike & Molly even still be on air were it not for the radiant performance of Melissa McCarthy?) The combination of Anna Faris and Allison Janney is as delicious as that sounds on paper, but when they aren’t sharing scenes with each other—as they weren’t for the first half of the pilot—the show slums in groan-joke territory. Still, Janney and Faris are effortless here in roles they could play in their sleep and enough reason to remember to call Mom each week.
Verdict: Mom needs your love.
We Are Men (Monday at 8:30 p.m.)
Log line: Four recently single guys live together in a short-term apartment complex and become friends.
Cast: Chris Smith, Jerry O’Connell, Kal Penn, Tony Shalhoub, Rebecca Breeds.
Lacob: Meh. O’Connell, Penn, and Shalhoub are clearly game for anything (O’Connell seems to spend most of the pilot in a skintight Speedo, for god’s sake), but there’s something missing from this humdrum comedy pilot. While the guys have a nice chemistry, it’s not enough to get me to tune in week after week to see what misadventures they get up to.
Fallon: Four guys divorce their wives (well, one is left at the altar) and it’s Guys Gone Wild ... which apparently means having Sex and the City–style dish sessions in one scene after the next, getting drunk together, and getting late-night fast food. There’s too much hoo-rah bonding and too little ha-ha laughing. If there was a joke here, I missed it. If there was a scene without a gratuitous shot of a woman’s cleavage, I missed that, too.
Verdict: We are bored.
About a Boy (Midseason; Tuesday at 9 p.m.)
Log line: A needy single mom and her strange 11-year-old son move next door to a horny bachelor, who becomes unlikely friends with his odd new neighbors. Based on the 2002 film, itself based on the Nick Hornby’s 1998 novel.
Cast: David Walton, Minnie Driver, Benjamin Stockham, Al Madrigal, Leslie Bibb.
Lacob: Hilarious and heartfelt, About a Boy is one of the bright spots of this development season. While the pilot treads a little too much on the events captured in the Hugh Grant film (not to mention the Nick Hornby book), Walton, Driver, and Stockham are so fantastic that it’s impossible not to fall in love with this bittersweet comedy, and Parenthood and Friday Night Lights guru Jason Katims is an expert at deftly balancing humor and heartbreak. Definitely one to watch.
Fallon: With Parenthood and Friday Night Lights already on his track record, Jason Katims again proves himself as the go-to guy for taking already familiar material and revitalizing it into a joyous, simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming TV series. After being wasted in the failed Perfect Couples and Bent and a short arc on New Girl, David Walton finally gets the showcase he deserves here, and it’s surprisingly one that doesn’t reduce him to the goofy-manchild sitcom trope he’s been previously typecast into. His multifaceted Will shares Hugh Grant’s playfulness, and once he starts palling around with Benjamin Stockham’s Marcus, you’re immediately on board with the whole “kindhearted knight beneath the cadlike armor” idea the show hinges on. Minnie Driver and Stockham as his neighbor and her son are delectably weird. From the second Driver starts strumming her acoustic guitar and she and Stockham harmonize their rendition of “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, you’re sold on their quirky bond. As is his way, Katims crafts an ending here that leaves you cheering.
Verdict: No man is an island; neither is this charming boy.
Believe (Midseason; Sunday at 9 p.m.)
Log line: A wrongfully imprisoned death-row inmate is assigned to protect a mysterious 10-year-old girl with psychic abilities from those who would do her harm.
Cast: Jake McLaughlin, Delroy Lindo, Kyle MacLachlan, Johnny Sequoyah, Arian Moayed, Jamie Chung.
Lacob: Yes, we’ve seen many mythology-heavy shows come and go in recent years as every network has attempted to recapture the lightning-in-a-bottle effect of Lost, but I thought this was a gorgeous and evocative pilot about the eternal battle between good and evil, and the gifted little girl trapped in the middle of this never-ending tug of war. I won’t spoil the “twist” at the end (which I saw from a mile away), but I believe (heh, see what I did there?) that Alfonso Cuarón and J.J. Abrams have something with this eerie and intriguing new drama. Plus, Kyle MacLachlan as a private-jet-owning villain? Sign me up.
Fallon: Supposedly the intrigue here is that two characters epitomizing good (a gifted, precocious young girl) and evil (a death-row inmate) are forced into partnership with each other, but the problem is neither actor creates a character complex enough for the viewer to care about the dichotomy of that relationship. While Cuarón uses violence so effectively in his films, here it comes off as gratuitous and pointless. When we finally see the girl use those superpowers that are of such high value that gunfights erupt over her custody, you can’t help but wonder, that’s it?
Verdict: Belief is in the eye of the beholder.
The Blacklist (Monday at 10 p.m.)
Log line: One of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives mysteriously turns himself in and offers to help the bureau find a sought-after terrorist, but only if he can work solely with a rookie FBI profiler fresh out of Quantico.
Cast: James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff, Harry Lennix, Ryan Eggold.
Lacob: I was wary of this slick thriller—in which a criminal mastermind teams up with a rookie FBI profiler (sound familiar?)—but I actually found it enormous fun once the action kicked into top gear. Spader is at his scenery-chewing best, but it works here, and Boone convincingly conveys the newness of her experience with a surprising steeliness that works quite effectively. While the reveal at the end is a little too Alias-esque, it does set up a slew of intriguing story threads to be picked up down the road.
Fallon: Just when it seems like The Blacklist was going to be a B-level Silence of the Lambs rip-off, an out-of-nowhere action set piece comes crashing through midway through the episode, instantly invigorating the episode with a jolt that carries through the rest of the hour. Suddenly, James Spader’s creepy-intense former criminal becomes more interesting, and Megan Boone’s Clarice Starling–lite more empathetic and, more important, her own uniquely intriguing character. The final act reaches Homeland levels of intensity.
Verdict: Sign us up.
Crisis (Midseason; Sunday at 10 p.m.)
Log line: The children of Washington, D.C.’s top power players—including the president’s son—are taken hostage while on a high school field trip, igniting what becomes a national crisis.
Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Gillian Anderson, Lance Gross, Rachael Taylor, Michael Beach, James Lafferty, Stevie Lynn Jones, Halston Sage.
Lacob: I’m not sure what to make of Crisis or how long this concept can sustain itself before burning out. Anderson is, as always, top notch, but the pilot is an odd hodgepodge of various tropes and clichés that we’ve seen countless times already. Skip.
Fallon: There are some things working in Crisis. The tense kidnapping scene happens early on in the episode—getting the pulse racing fast. Gillian Anderson does a mean chilly business mogul turned concerned mom, and there’s a kernel of an intriguing twist involving Dermot Mulroney. But everything else about Crisis reeks of a boilerplate episode of Law & Order or NCIS: two-dimensional characters, stilted dialogue, and the kind of needless and overly complicated plot turns that instead of making you gasp, “Huh!?” make you shrug, “Meh.”
Verdict: This show is having its own crisis.
Growing Up Fisher (Midseason; Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.)
Log line: Precocious 11-year-old Henry thinks he has the perfect family, until his kooky mother and blind lawyer father tell him they’re getting a divorce.
Cast: Eli Baker, J.K. Simmons, Jenna Elfman, Ava Deluca-Verley, Jason Bateman (voice).
Lacob: It’s difficult to judge Growing Up Fisher, given that one of the main characters has since been recast ... and Parker Posey—who played the pipe-smoking mother in search of herself—was quite good. Having said that, there’s definitely a sense of The Wonder Years here, albeit a modern-day version in which the father is a virtual superhero who is blind. It’s sweet without treading into saccharine, but at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesdays? It seems already doomed to fail.
Fallon: There’s a very charming Wonder Years vibe to Growing Up Fisher, with its Kevin Arnold–like narration and a precocious wise-beyond-his-years performance from Eli Baker as Henry Fisher. As blind dad Mel, J.K. Simmons’s wry matter-of-factness is a dream, and Parker Posey is delectably Parker Posey–ish as kooky mom Joyce, though that role was recently recast with Jenna Elfman (Dharma and Greg, 1600 Penn)—a comedy pro who no doubt will be winning when the pilot is reshot. The easy, heartwarming tone of the pilot is very appealing, but because it’s so high concept, I can’t shake the feeling this is a great indie film idea that may suffer stretched out as a series. Still, it treads the same delicate high wire as Modern Family, neatly tying up each episode with a moral lesson about love and family that manages to narrowly avoid cloying treacle each week. That’s to say it ends with a satisfying “aw,” an earnestness that’s noticeably missing in so much of today’s sitcom world of sarcasm.
Verdict: May experience some growing pains.
The Michael J. Fox Show (Thursday at 9:30 p.m.)
Log line: A TV reporter, after years of being the poster boy for Parkinson’s disease and a stay-at-home dad driving his family bonkers, finally returns to work.
Cast: Michael J. Fox, Betsy Brandt, Wendell Pierce, Katie Finneran, Conor Romero, Juliette Goglia, Jack Gore.
Lacob: I mean this in the best possible way: it feels like this show has been on the air for a while. Ordered directly to series rather than going to pilot first, The Michael J. Fox Show has a rare confidence and innate sense of self that isn’t often found in pilot episodes. The entire cast, from top to bottom, is fantastic (Fox, as always, is perfection, as are Finneran, who deserves mega-visibility, and Pierce), and they have an ease with each other that matches the characters’ longstanding relationships. This is the comedy to beat next season. I’m setting my DVR right now.
Fallon: This has a brilliant, unexpectedly clever meta spin. Fox is the inspiring poster man for Parkinson’s—he can’t walk down the street without a stranger hugging him to tell him that they, too, know someone with the disease—and his family just could not give less of a crap. “For 20 years he’s poured everything he had into work,” his wife, played with razor-sharp wit by Betsy Brandt. “Now he pours it all into us ... yayyyy.” The writing is bitingly self-aware—a highlight reel set to “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias greets Fox when he returns to work as a reporter—and the supporting players are impeccably cast. Katie Finneran, most recently seen on Broadway as Miss Hannigan, may be fall’s biggest scene-stealer as Fox’s vapid younger sister, who attaches herself to his family far too often and far too closely. This is fall’s strongest comedy pilot, by a mile.
Verdict: The fantastic Mr. Fox.
The Night Shift (Midseason TBA)
Log line: A team of doctors works the night shift at a San Antonio emergency room, where those trying saving lives are constantly butting heads with the administrators trying to cut costs.
Cast: Eoin Macken, Ken Leung, Brendan Fehr, Freddy Rodriguez, Jill Flint.
Lacob: This felt like a paint-by-numbers medical drama that is so overflowing with clichéd medical-drama happenstance that it ran out of the television and onto my living-room floor. It feels like a ’90s drama that didn’t realize it was axed a long time ago.
Fallon: This potpourri of medical-drama clichés is so egregious that it plays closer to a Saturday Night Live mockery of the genre than any sort of effort to add to the already tired canon. There’s the assumption that screaming the word “STAT!” is a substitute to dramatic tension. There’s the can’t-be-tamed blowhard doc with the gravelly voice, disrespect for authority, and penchant for baring his abs. The heartless administrator stalks around telling doctors not to treat patients because they don’t have insurance. The doctors do anyway. There’s not one storyline, scene, or character in The Night Shift we haven’t seen before—and therefore no reason to tune in to the show again.
Ironside (Wednesday at 10 p.m.)
Log line: A remake of the 1960s drama about a hardened police detective relegated to a wheelchair after a shooting.
Cast: Blair Underwood, Pablo Schrieber, Spencer Grammer, Neal Bledsoe, Brent Sexton.
Lacob: Ugh. I think Blair Underwood is great, but this feels so tedious and tired—and filled with groan-inducing banter—that I was nearly bored to tears watching this. It tries for progressiveness and ends up being ... achingly middle of the road.
Fallon: Detective tortures a suspect until he gives a clue to the whereabouts of a missing girl. Detective’s superior arrives on the scene and chastises, “There are procedures, damn it, and they need to be followed!” Girl is found. Detective smugly retorts, “You were saying something about procedures?” But the detective is in a wheelchair, so I guess we’re supposed to find that exchange and the litany of clichés that follow in Ironside more interesting? Not me.
Sean Saves the World (Thursday at 9 p.m.)
Log line: Sean Hayes plays an overworked, divorced—and gay—dad whose life is upended when his 14-year-old daughter moves in.
Cast: Sean Hayes, Linda Lavin, Samantha Isler, Megan Hilty, Thomas Lennon.
Lacob: Poor Sean Hayes. He’s been looking for a comeback since Will & Grace, but I don’t feel like this is it. Hackneyed and dull, it feels like a lazy throwback in every sense of the word. Hayes tries his best to elevate the material, but it’s a pass for me.
Fallon: It’s a shame to see Sean Hayes move from a sitcom that was, at the time, as progressive as Will & Grace to one as depressingly traditional as Sean Saves the World. (Though how far we’ve come since Will & Grace that a comedy about a single gay dad can now be categorized as “traditional.”) Still, when the punchlines are as telegraphed and setups as standard as they are in Sean Saves the World, everything rises and falls on the title star, and Hayes is at the top of his physical-comedy game here, flitting around the set like no time has passed since he retired “Just Jack” on Will & Grace. In other words, Sean Saves the Show—more than saves it, really, making the formulaic sitcom worth watching.
Verdict: World’s end.
Welcome to the Family (Thursday at 8:30 p.m.)
Log line: Cultures clash as two families—one white, the other Latino—must put aside their differences when they learn that their teenage children, just graduated from high school, are having a baby.
Cast: Mike O’Malley, Richard Chavira, Mary McCormack, Justina Machado, Joey Haro, Ella Rae Peck, Fabrizio Guido.
Lacob: You can see the feverish pitch in every second of the pilot, which strives for universality but ends up a muddled, overwrought mess. Predictable from start to finish.
Fallon: Bless their hearts, seasoned, talented pros Mike O’Malley, Mary McCormack, Ricardo Chavira, and Justina Machado are working so hard to sell this paint-by-numbers sitcom you can almost see the sweat dripping from their brows. The pilot moves at a breakneck pace, fast-forwarding through a high school graduation, a surprise teenage pregnancy, and the introduction of his and hers warring families in dizzying fashion, yet somehow still lacks any energy or pep. You root for this one because these are all actors who deserve a hit, but not even a ridiculous finale twist can save it from eye-rolling predictability.
Verdict: Roll out the unwelcome mat.
Almost Human (Late Fall; Monday at 8 p.m.)
Log line: Thirty-five years in the future, cops are paired with humanlike androids to fight crime. An unlikely partnership between a grizzled detective and a highly evolved android proves particularly fruitful.
Cast: Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Lili Taylor, Leanne Adachi, Minka Kelly, Mackenzie Crook.
Lacob: Another fall pilot that I had really high hopes for but which ultimately failed to capitalize on its central conceit. I think Michael Ealy is absolutely fantastic here, playing an android capable of human emotions, but Urban, oddly, seems more robotic than his, er, machine-man partner here. There’s some use of mythology to draw in the viewer, but it feels slightly too lightweight in its current incarnation to draw me in fully.
Fallon: Reliably, J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman, both of the late Fringe, create an intriguing futuristic universe here. But while Fox has a sci-fi thriller hole to fill now that the woefully underappreciated, underwatched series is over, Almost Human falls just short of creating the spellbinding, pulse-pounding mythology and mystery that made Fringe such a gem. The pilot is almost there—Michael Ealy as the part-human robot with more emotional range and vulnerability than his human partner, Karl Urban, is the show’s undeniable standout, and the staging of the action sequences show promise. But when compared to Fringe, being almost as good is not good enough.
Verdict: Almost good.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.)
Log line: A no-nonsense new captain at a Brooklyn police precinct forces an immature but brilliant detective to grow up.
Cast: Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Chelsea Peretti, Joe Lo Truglio.
Lacob: The true MVP here is Andre Braugher, who turns in a riveting and fantastic comedic performance as the gruff new captain at a misfit precinct, rendering every deadpan expression into a master class of subtlety and restraint. Samberg is a good foil for Braugher, though not every one of his jokes lands its mark in the pilot. However, there’s enough that’s working here to make this one of the few bright spots on the schedule next season.
Fallon: Andre Braugher’s deadpan in this show is masterful—a thing of beauty, and a wonder to behold. Braugher, mostly known for his dramatic work, is a revelation here as a Brooklyn precinct’s new captain, whose range of emotions goes from dour to slightly less dour. Andy Samberg as a man-child detective who bounces goofily off Braugher’s epically not amused stone-face lands only every other joke. But when he does, Brooklyn Nine-Nine shows a lot of promise—particularly if the series takes more advantage of scene-stealer Chelsea Peretti’s blissfully odd humor.
Dads (Tuesday at 8 p.m.)
Log line: Two successful gaming entrepreneurs—and best friends—become tormented when their irritating fathers move in with them.
Cast: Giovanni Ribisi, Seth Green, Martin Mull, Peter Riegert, Vanessa Lachey, Brenda Strong.
Lacob: It’s this year’s Rob! Even ABC’s egregious Work It seems like a work of art compared with this horrific trainwreck of a comedy pilot, which so embraces its casual racism that it seems like it was underwritten by bigots living in the 1950s. There is one word for it: vile.
Fallon: No. Just no. No laughs. No originality. No class. No redeeming qualities. No good. No, thank you.
Verdict: Patricide is warranted.
Enlisted (Late fall; Friday at 9:30 p.m.)
Log line: Three military brothers are reunited when the war-hero oldest is sent to supervise the two youngest on a Florida Army base staffed with misfit soldiers.
Cast: Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell, Parker Young, Keith David, Angelique Cabral.
Lacob: I’m honestly not sure what to make of Enlisted. The central trio—Stults, Lowell, and Young—have nice chemistry as brothers, but their characters seem pretty much lifted from central casting. One is dutiful! One is sullen! One is dumb! All three are talented actors, but the material absolutely lets each of them down here. I appreciate the optimism of the show, but it has a way to go before it finds itself. I just don’t think I’ll be sticking around to see if it sticks the landing.
Fallon: Enlisted seems to be striving for a Malcolm in the Middle–like balance of irreverence and heart, but it doesn’t push the envelope enough score the racy laughs it’s shooting for, and the chemistry between the three military brothers isn’t believable enough for the heartfelt moments to ring true. Chris Lowell fares best as the obstinate, rule-breaking middle brother, creating the closest thing to a fully realized character as well as honing the sharpest line deliveries. But that’s not enough to warrant enlisting in a full season of the so-so sitcom.
Verdict: Watching makes you feel like you’ve been drafted.
Gang Related (Midseason TBA)
Log line: A breakout star in L.A.’s gang task force finds his crime-fighting duties complicated by his former allegiance to one of the city’s most dangerous gangs.
Cast: Ramon Rodriguez, RZA, Terry O’Quinn, Jay Hernandez, Cliff Curtis, Sung Kang.
Lacob: Surprisingly great. Fox hasn’t had the best track record with keeping its police dramas on the air for long (am I the only one who watched and loved The Chicago Code?), but I really enjoyed this pilot, and particularly the camaraderie between Rodriguez and RZA. O’Quinn does his usual intense, scary bit as the leader of the joint task force, and the title is so on the nose as to be amusing, but a lot does work within the pilot episode, setting up some intriguing personal and professional conflicts. One to keep an eye on.
Fallon: For all of Fox’s high-concept, genre-heavy new dramas, its most conventional one is the most fun to watch. Gang Related is a buddy cop thriller cut from the same cloth as Hawaii: Five-O, NCIS: L.A., Suits, Rizzoli & Isles, and any number of partners-in-fighting-crime cop shows on TV right now. One partner has a checkered past and a dark streak, the other is a seasoned pro, and they banter as they fight a new crime each week. The series is created and written by Chris Morgan, best known for writing Fast Five and Wanted, which explains the high-octane action sequences that are perfectly timed to break up the drama, not to mention the heavy dose of testosterone that pumps through the entire pilot.
Verdict: Initiate us.
Rake (Thursday at 9 p.m.)
Log line: A criminal-defense attorney takes on outlandish cases that no one else would dare touch. Brilliant as he is in the courtroom, his self-destructive personality leaves his personal life in shambles.
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Miranda Otto, John Ortiz, Necar Zadegan, Bojana Novakovic, Tara Summers, Ian Colletti.
Lacob: Unlike Gang Related, I actually enjoyed Rake less than I thought I would. Based on an Australian drama, it feels like something we’ve seen a zillion times before. While Kinnear is likable and compelling, it all feels a little pat and obvious. Denis O’Hare, as a charming cannibal being represented by Kinnear’s character, all but steals the show. As a guest star in the pilot, that’s a bit of a problem, really. But if you’re looking for a fairly mindless legal drama about some eccentric characters, you’ve come to the right place.
Fallon: When Greg Kinnear was cast in Rake as a self-destructive criminal-defense attorney whose addictive, off-putting personality frustrates its way to charm, the premise was touted as “House in the courtroom.” Instead of finding the cure to unusual medical cases, Kinnear’s character scrambles to get clients off the hook for unusual, arguably indefensible crimes. Kinnear? Always likable. The House-like premise? Expectedly watchable. Rake? Perfectly likable and watchable—it is a House copycat starring Greg Kinnear, after all—but not exactly the most inventive TV.
Verdict: Off to the woodshed with this rake.
Sleepy Hollow (Monday at 9 p.m.)
Log line: A modern-day take on the Washington Irving classic finds Ichabod Crane resurrected in modern-day Sleepy Hollow, where he partners with a local detective to solve a mystery dating back hundreds of years.
Cast: Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones, Katia Winter.
Lacob: No, no, no. Seriously. Just ... no. I found this pilot laughably bad. While the actors clearly are committed to their roles, the whole thing plays like a spoof of a drama series rather than a full-blown supernatural drama. Excessively cheesy, from the creaky dialogue down to the inane conceit, there’s nothing positive to be said about this unexceptional offering.
Fallon: Ichabod Crane wakes up and finds himself in modern-day Sleepy Hollow, New York. He’s baffled by cars. He tells interrogators he serves in George Washington’s army. He asks a black police officer if she’s been emancipated. Sleepy Hollow has all the trappings of an ABC Family made-for-TV movie that would air around Halloween—and all the quality of one, too.
Surviving Jack (Midseason TBA)
Log line: When the matriarch of a Southern California family decides to go to law school, an out-of-his-element father must take the lead raising two teenagers in the ’90s.
Cast: Christopher Meloni, Connor Buckley, Alex Kapp Horner, Claudia Lee.
Lacob: Unlike The Goldbergs, this 1990s comedy uses its period trappings effectively to tell a story of a bygone era, rendering its characters less as stereotypes and more as accurate depictions of people living in that time period. Yes, there are the usual references to color-changing T-shirts and Jurassic Park, but it feels more warranted than throwaway here. Meloni is sensational as the titular Jack, the type of dad who makes his teenage son do laps around the neighborhood in the middle of the night. But this is no Great Santini; like his son, Jack is a man of contradiction and complexity who is also emblematic of a certain generation. The result is fun and inviting.
Fallon: Christopher Meloni is perfectly cast as a father who lives to mortify his teenage kids. The show nails the horror of coming of age in the ’90s, as well as that heartfelt life lesson final act that can be so tricky. (For every The Middle or Modern Family that gets the tone right, there’s the twinkling piano keys and Danny Tanner monologue at the end of each Full House episode.) As an added bonus, Surviving Jack is chock-full of amusing ’90s references—clips of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, heat-activated color-changing T-shirts, Jack bemoaning that every plot point in Jurassic Park is completely implausible.
Verdict: We hope this survives.
Us & Them (Midseason TBA)
Log line: Based on the hit BBC series Gavin & Stacey, the show follows a young couple’s efforts to make their relationship work despite the distance—and extended family of crazies—between them.
Cast: Jason Ritter, Alexis Bledel, Jane Kazmarek, Kurt Fuller, Michael Ian Black, Kerri Kinney, Ashlie Atkinson, Dustin Ybarra.
Lacob: This is the latest attempt to translate James Corden and Ruth Jones’s beloved romantic comedy for an American audience…and it doesn’t quite live up to the effort. Ritter and Bledel are well cast and both have a genuine sweetness about them, one that’s necessary to make their meet-cute not so treacly and nauseating. But I’m not sure I buy into the conceit here, particularly as it will be stretched out endlessly over who knows how many episodes. (The original ran for a tidy 20 episodes in total.) The Smithy character, played by Dustin Ybarra, is so cartoonish as to be off-putting rather than gleefully adolescent. Well lush this is not.
Fallon: Pulling off a romantic comedy on TV is notoriously difficult. Pulling off an American adaptation of a beloved British series is notoriously difficult. Us & Them is trying to do both and starts off on the right track by casting two effortlessly likable actors in Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel, who were both so, so good on Parenthood and Gilmore Girls, respectively. But the comedy of errors that gets in the way of Gavin and Stacey’s perfect romance ends up, frustratingly, as merely chuckles of errors. The pilot never lands on a tone, shifting wildly from the believable sweetness of Ritter and Bledel’s chemistry to the cartoonish absurdity of the supporting characters around them, leaving the pilot, though endearing, a bit of a mess.
Verdict: A bit lost in translation.
The 100 (Midseason TBA)
Log line: Nearly 100 years after a nuclear holocaust made life on earth impossible, the descendants of the survivors—who live on an orbital space station—send a group of juvenile delinquents back to earth to see whether the planet is habitable.
Cast: Eliza Taylor, Paige Turco, Isaiah Washington, Kelly Hu, Henry Ian Cusick, Thomas McDonell, Bob Morley, Christopher Larkin, Devon Bostick, Eli Goree, Marie Avgeropoulos.
Lacob: This dystopian drama assembles a nice array of cast members—adults and teens included—but the pilot doesn’t make me excited to watch more. Predictable to a fault, The 100 isn’t particularly innovative or engaging and relies too heavily on familiar tropes rather than doing something original and daring. Pretty people face danger. Temptation and possible death await around every corner. Something about not enough resources. Teenage delinquents as scouts for humanity. Eh.
Fallon: It’s The Hunger Games meets Lord of the Flies, but without the imagination that made both of those tense and terrifying. Aside from its not particularly creative premise (at least in our current dystopian-obsessed pop-culture landscape), the lead, Clarke Walters, doesn’t have the grit or obstinate passion that makes Katniss Everdeen such an engaging main character. That’s no fault of Eliza Taylor, however, who seems to be itching to do more than she’s given. There’s a kernel of a good show here. It just never pops.
Reign (Thursday at 9 p.m.)
Log line: Mary, Queen of Scots, arrives in France to meet her betrothed, Prince Francis, but encounters intrigue, passion, rivalry, and attempted murder in the French court.
Cast: Adelaide Kane, Megan Follows, Alan Van Sprang, Anna Popplewell, Caitlin Stasey, Celina Sinden, Jenessa Grant, Toby Regbo, Torrance Coombs.
Lacob: Oh, CW, you would like to have a Game of Thrones of your own, wouldn’t you? Or at least one that features pop tunes, risqué fashions, and lip gloss? (There are, however, no dragons or anyone intellectually savvy enough to give Tyrion Lannister any competition.) While at first it appears that this Mary, Queen of Scots, drama wants to be historically accurate, that’s all thrown out the window fairly quickly, rendering this a very CW-like drama from the start. Reign could have been an edgy, provocative historical drama (there’s but one moment of something envelope-pushing), but instead it ends up being a fairly generic drama. It might look beautiful, but there’s little substance beneath the façade.
Fallon: The CW is really taking a leap with this one. Will its demographic really tune in to a costume drama? Of course, this sexed-up, boy-crazy telling of the Mary, Queen of Scots, story isn’t ripped from the pages of the history books—that much is clear by the time Mary and her handmaidens dance barefoot in the ballroom while a Phillip Phillips song plays in the background. So while Reign is risky, it isn’t exactly revolutionary for the network. It’s still very much a “CW show”: silly, light, and soapy, none of which is necessarily meant as an insult.
Verdict: Rein in your expectations.
Star-Crossed (Midseason TBA)
Log line: A group of aliens is forcibly integrated into a human high school, which serves as the backdrop for a Romeo and Juliet-style romance between an alien boy and a human girl who hid him when he first arrived on earth as a child.
Cast: Aimee Teegarden, Matt Lanter, Grey Damon, Chelsea Gilligan, Greg Finley, Malese Jow, Natalie Hall, Titus Makin Jr.
Lacob: A clear effort to make a swoony, dreamy interspecies romance set in the near future as well as to tell a metaphorically charged story of racial integration, the pilot for Star-Crossed felt a little too pat to me, particularly the healing and immune-system story thread. And I do wish the story dove a little deeper and the casting was a little more age-appropriate to boot. Yes, this is a CW show through and through, and the likelihood of seeing a teenager playing a teen seems as likely as the conceit here. But Lanter just looks way too old to play a high schooler convincingly—unless the aliens have the ability to age more rapidly than their earthling counterparts. It took me out of the story entirely.
Fallon: Any time a Friday Night Lights vet gets his or her own show, it’s reason to celebrate, and Aimee Teegarden is as endearing as an angsty, impressionable teen here as she was on that show seven years ago. But the rest of the 30-year-olds-as-teens casting is as eye-rolling as it’s ever been, and the Romeo and Juliet forbidden love motif may have been stretched to its breaking point of tolerability here with the human-girl-loves-the-alien-guy storyline. The show might be just as, if not more, interesting if the sloppy alien element wasn’t tacked oo.
Verdict: The stars are not aligning.
The Tomorrow People (Wednesday at 9 p.m.)
Log line: A group of teenagers, gifted with the power of telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation, represents the next stage in human evolution ... but a shadowy organization wants to eradicate them.
Cast: Robbie Amell, Peyton List, Mark Pellegrino, Aaron Yoo, Luke Mitchell, Madeleine Mantock.
Lacob: Caveat: I was a fan of the original Tomorrow People and the 1990s Nickelodeon revival, so I went into this with diminished expectations ... and then quite enjoyed this latest update on the now classic sci-fi plot, a blend of X-Men and Order of the Phoenix–era Harry Potter in a way. Amell is a perfect find for the CW, joining his cousin (Arrow’s Steven Amell) on the netlet. I’m intrigued enough by the setup at the end of the pilot (which I won’t spoil here) to see how the show functions going forward. But teens with superpowers on the run from a shadowy organization that wants to kill them? That seems like catnip for quite a few million viewers.
Fallon: This is a genius move on The CW’s part, crafting a sci-fi series to be, in essence, a superhero origin story in the vein of The Amazing Spider-Man and Man of Steel. It’s a bit formulaic, sure, but watching Robbie Amell’s Stephen grapple with the discovery of his powers—and the understanding that with those great powers comes great responsibility—is just as fun to watch as in those other stories. The show also boasts what might be the best production values from a CW series yet.
Verdict: Want to watch more today.
The Originals (Tuesday at 8 p.m.)
Log line: The Original Vampire family returns to New Orleans, the city they helped build, to uncover a plot against one of their members.
Cast: Joseph Morgan, Daniel Gillies, Phoebe Tonkin, Claire Holt, Charles Michael Davis, Danielle Pineda, Leah Pipes, Danielle Campbell.
Lacob: I was glad to see that this backdoor pilot, a spinoff of The Vampire Diaries, was shot on location in New Orleans, as the eerie beauty of the city provided the pitch-perfect backdrop for this story. While certain storylines were confusing for nonviewers of the vampire drama (this aired as an episode of Vampire Diaries, after all), there was enough of a setup to provide grist for an ongoing series’s story engine and to inform newbies what the stakes were (see what I did there?) for Klaus and his brethren.
Fallon: I remember watching the pilot for The Vampire Diaries and being so pleasantly surprised by how scary and sexy and brooding it was and how enchanting the trio of Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev, and Paul Wesley were as the leads. Neither the mythology nor the tone here is as beguiling as that first Vampire Diaries episode was, but I suspect the fan base for these characters in this spinoff will score The Originals a decent share of eyeballs.
Verdict: Not that original, but it will sate the appetite of vampire-starved fans.