The Fall Season is here, people. And though premieres will happen up and down what is still anachronistically called a dial, the season remains mainly the domain of the broadcast networks — which seem bent for the moment not on aping cable TV, as many think they should, but rather distinguishing themselves from it. By getting classic.
Which is not necessarily to say good — though not necessarily to say bad, either.
FOR THE RECORD:
Fall TV preview: A capsule description of the new DirecTV drama "Full Circle" in the Sept. 15 Calendar II section said that the show would debut Oct. 10. It will debut Oct. 9. —
There are, for one thing, a lot of family comedies this year, albeit with a fair bit of dysfunction and kids talking about breasts (and stuff). (Teenage pregnancy is also alive and well in the 2013-14 season.) Michael J. Fox, Robin Williams and Kirstie Alley, stars of 20th century situation comedy, are back. Three-camera comedies continue to hold their own. Warming hearts is the order of the day.
As usual, there are uncanny resonances among the new series — call it spooky entanglement at a distance. (If you want to be quantum about it.) There are two series in which parents move in with their adult children and one in which an adult child (with a child) moves back in with her parent; two series in which young women who like to party marry older men who sort of remember they did, too, once, inheriting three children in the bargain; three shows in which figures from literature are recast as heroes in an ancient struggle between good and evil; two buddy-cop shows with fantastic elements. Elsewhere, the legacy of "The Bad News Bears" continues not to exhaust itself.
If you are sane, or wish to remain so, you will not attempt to watch all or even most of them. Here is your seasonal guide through the thicket. Check out our interactive timeline with videos, or continue below for the text listings.
Already in progress
"Six Little McGhees" (OWN). Sextuplets.
"Last Tango in Halifax" (PBS). Seventysomethings Derek Jacobi and Ann Reid take the road previously not taken and find belated love in picturesque Yorkshire. Facebook did it! Sweet, smart.
"Derek" (Netflix). Ricky Gervais' sometimes vexing, more often moving meditation on usefulness, set in a nursing home. Kerry Godliman, as the woman who runs the place, does the heavy lifting, but Gervais producer-stooge Karl Pilkington also acquits himself well. "It's more important to be kind than clever," says Derek (Gervais), stating a theme.
"Wander Over Yonder" (Disney Channel). Jack McBrayer of "30 Rock" voices the lead, a kind of hillbilly alien, in a new cartoon from Craig McCracken ("The Powerpuff Girls"). Think Kenneth in Space, without the darkness. (The darkness of Kenneth, I mean, not of space.)
Sunday, Sept. 15
"Liv and Maddie" (Disney Channel). Dove Cameron plays teenage twin sisters. This being Disney, one of them is famous.
Monday, Sept. 16
"Sleepy Hollow" (Fox). Washington Irving's tale of country superstition gets a shot of steroids and whatever that juice is they keep around the production office, transforming credulous schoolteacher Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) into a Revolutionary War secret agent, Rip Van Winkled into the 21st century in pursuit of the headless horseman, whose name is now Death and whose horse is now pale. Nicole Beharie is the cop who'll be his buddy.
Tuesday, Sept. 17
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (Fox). Andy Samberg is the designated wiseacre super-sleuth ("the only puzzle he hasn't solved is how to grow up") in this motley-crewed, multicultural police comedy. As the new, button-down captain, Andre Braugher classes up the joint, but he can't help that.
"Dads" (Fox). Difficult fathers Martin Mull and Peter Riegert move in with disgruntled sons Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi. The elders' less enlightened laugh lines in this Seth MacFarlane-produced series were the occasion of a critical dog pile at this summer's TCA press tour, which seemed to miss a point. Still, it's as if someone here thought that the problem with "S#*! My Dad Says" was that there wasn't two of everybody.
"The New Atlanta" (Bravo). "Real" young money-seekers of the South, mixed up in fashion, business, music and "event planning." And still they find time to go out at night and drink doubtlessly expensive cocktails. And probably have sex, and sometimes feel sad, and argue.
Friday, Sept. 20
"Great Performances: The Hollow Crown" (PBS). Four Shakespeare history plays, in order of succession: "Richard II," "Henry IV Parts I & II" and "Henry V." With Ben Whishaw, Rory Kinnear, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Simon Russell Beale, Michelle Dockery, David Suchet, Patrick Stewart, James Purefoy, John Hurt. Someone deserves a thank-you.
Monday, Sept. 23
"Mom" (CBS). Could Chuck Lorre be atoning for eight years of Charlie Harper with this relatively serious (relatively, I said!) multi-camera sitcom about addiction, responsibility and motherhood? Anna Faris is the recently recovering alcoholic at the center, with Allison Janney her more-or-less-sober semi-reformed wild-thing mother and Sadie Calvano her alienated daughter. Funnier than it sounds.
"Hostages" (CBS). In which the dour Dylan McDermott takes prisoner the family of surgeon Toni Collette to force her to do something bad to someone important. I can pretty much guarantee you that not only is all not what it seems but that what it appears to actually be will also not be what it seems. To be.
"The Blacklist" (NBC). In which the strange James Spader plays an international criminal mastermind who coerces rookie federal agent Megan Boone into becoming his cop-buddy. (Reasons: mysterious.) I can pretty much guarantee you that not only is all not what it seems here, etc., etc., unless the obvious thing is really the thing and they're serving you a key on a silver platter. Oh, I don't know. We'll talk later.
Tuesday, Sept. 24
"The Goldbergs" (ABC). It's like "The Wonder Years" for the generation that grew up on "The Wonder Years," with a spritz of seltzer and a complementary plate of pickles, plus yelling and cursing. In 1985. Jeff Garlin is grumpy dad, George Segal foxy grandpa. This is one of the shows I mentioned where a kid talks about breasts.
"Trophy Wife" (ABC). Now, gods, stand up for blonds! Malin Åkerman is the hot young stereotype married to older-guy lawyer Bradley Whitford, who comes with three kids and two ex-wives, one of whom is Marcia Gay Harden. Plus Natalie Morales, endorsed by this department.
"Lucky 7" (ABC). New York City working stiffs, deserving and not (in the moral and narrative senses), share and don't share in a big lottery prize. (Nice to see working stiffs, even if they're made rich.) Characters, complications galore.
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC). The season's most controversial series, among copy chiefs: Periods in the title, or periods out? Apart from that, the fact that none of the main characters in this Joss Whedon-created comic-book series is named Nick Fury is not necessarily a deal-breaker. But I will complain a little.
Wednesday, Sept. 25
"Back in the Game" (ABC). James Caan and Maggie Lawson are failed father-and-daughter ballplayers, uncomfortably back living together (with her son) after her divorce. But read the title, man. It's a "Bad News Bears"-type series, actually about baseball.
Thursday, Sept. 26
"The Crazy Ones" (CBS). Robin Williams returns to series TV to test your tolerance for Robin Williams, as a genius madman advertising executive, with Sarah Michelle Gellar as his more grounded daughter. (She'd have to be.) The pilot plays as a gigantic product placement for a certain worldwide hamburger stand, which may or not indicate a "strategy."
"The Michael J. Fox Show" (NBC). Fox's new series has been precision molded to exploit both his gifts and ailment, with the former Alex Keaton as a beloved TV newsman back in the saddle after getting his Parkinson's disease under control — it's analogous! Katie Finneran and Wendell Pierce are among the excellent support Fox doesn't need to stay upright. Cynical about its own sentiment, a way of having its cake and refusing it too.
Friday, Sept. 27
"MasterChef Junior" (Fox). Does "cooking competition for kids" (open to cooks 8 to 13) betoken a softer Gordon Ramsay? Either way, this just looks awesome.
Sunday, Sept. 29
"Betrayal" (ABC). Ripe-to-overripe mystery-soap, long on longing looks and bated breath, hung on the framework of an adulterous affair; or the story of an adulterous affair, hung on the framework of a mystery. Tonally/thematically resembles what used to be called a "woman's picture," or what we now think of as a Lifetime movie, from which network it might have wandered over, in search of the major-network production values, Chicago locations and James Cromwell.
"Hello Ladies" (HBO). Gangly Stephen Merchant, Ricky Gervais' creative bestie and sometime costar, steps out in front in this comedy about finding — which is to say, not finding — love, action or just a little affectionate attention, in velvet-rope Hollywood.
"Masters of Sex" (Showtime). The life and times of Masters and Johnson, analysts of arousal, enacted over 12 episodes by Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. Includes real nudity and pretend sex (I just watch it for the articles, seriously), though for many the main turn-on will be the furniture and fittings in Masters' Midcentury Modern manse.
"Instant Mom" (Nick at Nite). Party girl Tia Mowry-Hardrict marries older-guy doctor Michael Boatman, who comes with three kids, in the season's other sexy stepmom series.
Monday, Sept. 30
"We Are Men" (CBS). Jerry O'Connell, Kal Penn, Tony Shalhoub and Chris Smith are four men of nearly a certain age, and older, whose romantic misfortunes and misadventures have landed them in a singles-type apartment complex that we may be continually embarrassed for them. Smith (in a moment of clarity): "Do you really think you're going to have a meaningful relationship with some 25-year-old you meet at Jamba Juice?" Shalhoub: "Is she Asian?" So, you know.
Wednesday, Oct. 2
"Ironside" (NBC). An old Universal property is taken off the blocks and supercharged, with Blair Underwood as the paraplegic police detective letting no grass grow under his wheels. Who's tougher between Underwood and original recipe Ironside Raymond Burr is nothing I'd care to decide, but abandoning SF for NYC feels wrong. I would also note that "Raymond Burr" is an anagram of "Underwood," if you spell it "Undarryomb."
"Super Fun Night" (ABC). Australian comedian Rebel Wilson stars in a (mostly) broadcast-safe sitcom variously recalling "Ugly Betty," "Girls" and "The Mindy Project." There may be twarguments over the rift between Wilson's stated capability — she's an attorney — and her incredible haplessness, if "The Newsroom" is anything to go by. But female bonding is its main business, with work-superior Kevin Bishop (Jim Hawkins in "Muppet Treasure Island," just saying) the destabilizing male element.
"A Young Doctor's Notebook" (Ovation). Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe — yes, that's right, you heard me — costar (as the same character, simultaneously) in a four-episode comedy based on short stories by Mikhail Bulgakov and set in Russia during that revolution they had. (Oh, it was some time ago.) Have I mentioned they share a bathtub?
Thursday, Oct. 3
"The Millers" (CBS). TV reporter Will Arnett's divorce leads parents Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale to separate themselves and move in with their kids (Margo for Will, and Beau for sister Jayma Mays). "This is either going to be very sweet or very creepy," says J.B. Smoove (he's here too) as Will prepares in a climactic scene to dirty dance with Margo, stealing a thought from your own head.
"Welcome to the Family" (NBC). "Abie's Irish Rose" as an after-school special as a single-camera sitcom. Teenage pregnancy leads to teenage engagement (she's a privileged white mall girl, he's a hardworking formerly Stanford-bound middle-class Latino); prospective in-laws are less sanguine. Schematic as heck, but Mary McCormack (among others) compels your presence.
"Sean Saves the World" (NBC). Sean Hayes is an overextended single gay dad whose mother is played by Linda Lavin, which means you have to watch this at least once. Additional presence of Megan Hilty, still hanging around NBC after the death of "Smash," means you are likely to watch at least twice.
"The Originals" (CW). A "Vampire Diaries" spinoff, set in New Orleans. You can drink on the street there, did you know?
Saturday, Oct. 5
"House of Versace" (Lifetime). Gina Gershon plays Donatella Versace, fighting various demons and work things. Raquel Welch plays her aunt. Ten seconds of online preview suggest this will be the greatest Lifetime movie ever.
"Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight" (HBO). Stephen Frears directs Christopher Plummer, Frank Langella and Benjamin Walker. The arena is the Supreme Court, and at question is Ali's status as a conscientious objector. It happened!
Sunday, Oct. 6
"The Paradise" (PBS). BBC-"Masterpiece" co-production adapts "Au Bonheur des Dames," Émile Zola's 19th century department-store novel, to the north of England. You not sated by "Mr. Selfridge," I hear your happy sighs.
"Witches of East End" (Lifetime). Julia Ormond, Rachel Boston and Mädchen Amick star. Something to do with witches, obviously, in assorted flavors. It's a blessing and a curse. I will get back to you about this.
Monday, Oct. 7
"Dream School" (Sundance Channel). Troubled students get special instruction from Oliver Stone, Suze Orman, David Arquette, Fabien Cousteau and others to help turn them around. Who am I to disagree? From a U.K. series created by Jamie Oliver.
Wednesday, Oct. 9
"The Tomorrow People" (CW). "Got to make way for the Homo superior," David Bowie sang around the time the original British version of this teen-themed awakening-mutant series hit the air. (There is some argument as to who influenced whom.) Many awakening-mutant series later, it has come to rest, remade for America, at the youth-centric, supernaturalistic CW, a bed made for it.
Thursday, Oct. 10
"Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" (ABC). The dual-plane device of "Once Upon a Time" lives haphazardly ever after in this spun-off green-screen mash-up of Lewis Carroll and the Arabian Nights. No little girl our Alice (she is Sophie Lowe, 23), but a grown woman in love with genie Peter Gadiot; impossible-not-to-recognize John Lithgow is the voice of the timekeeping White Rabbit, here gray.
"Full Circle" (DirecTV). Neil LaBute, that old Pollyanna of the theater, penned this 10-episode restaurant-set series. Ally Sheedy, Billy Campbell, Kate Walsh and David Boreanaz are among the patrons linked, duologue by duologue, in a daisy chain of happenstance sure to end in rainbows and unicorns.
Thursday, Oct. 17
"Reign" (CW). "If you were not the future king of France and I were just a girl, would you want this?" asks Mary Stuart, later Queen of Scots.
Friday, Oct. 18
Saturday, Oct. 19
"Dancing on the Edge" (Starz). Five-episode miniseries, in which a black jazz band rises to stardom in early 1930s London. Some good times, some bad times. And then … murder! Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew Goode, Jacqueline Bisset and John Goodman star.
Sunday, Oct. 20
"Burton and Taylor" (BBC America). Temporally focused biopic finds the on-and-off couple-of-the-(20th)-century at the time of their final collaboration, a 1983 revival of Noël Coward's "Private Lives." Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter are the impeccably cast leads.
Monday, Oct. 21
"CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story" (VH1). Late 20th century period piece reenacts the rise of the supermega girl group, with Keke Palmer, Lil Mama and Drew Sidora as the fabulous three. Previews smack somewhat of corporate self-congratulation — I mean you, MTV.
Tuesday, Oct. 22
"Ravenswood" (ABC Family). "Pretty Little Liars" spinoff. Tyler Blackburn's Caleb Rivers is their point in common, moving from Rosewood, Pa., to the more ominously named city of the title. There will be a mystery, and talk of a curse, and some kids trying to get to the bottom of it all. It will probably turn out to be old Mr. Johnson who runs that spooky factory on the edge of town, but that is only a guess, and I am making it up anyway.
Friday, Oct. 25
"Dracula" (NBC). The names are the same, and the fangs look familiar, but that's about it in this steampunky 10-episode Anglo-American limited series. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays the titular bloodsucker, now with American accent and righteous agenda, doing war with ancient enemies, and the looming specter of Big Oil, which you could not have been expecting, in Victoria's London.
Tuesday, Oct. 29
"Naked Vegas" (Syfy). Reality thingamabob follows a group of Las Vegas artists (one from the Syfy makeup competition "Face Off") as they get people out of their dry clothes and into some wet paint. Keywords: zombies, pirates, steampunk, Penn, Teller.
Monday, Nov. 4
"Almost Human" (Fox). From J.J. Abrams and J.H. Wyman comes this thoughtful debate on questions of sentience and soul. Psych! It's a futuristic, mismatched-partners cop show, with robots: Karl Urban is your flesh-and-blood grump, Michael Ealy your emotional android. Lili Taylor and Mackenzie Crook help make sense of the dystopia.
"The Capones" (Reelz). Reality series follows some people related to Al Capone (but not "direct descendants" as advertised), who live together in a big house and work in a restaurant whose Yelp reviews I advise you to read before heading on over. Characters bear nicknames they possibly do not in life: "The Princess," "Madness Cherry Lips," "Sausage," "Toupee Lou," "Meatball." Bickering guaranteed.
Thursday, Nov. 14
"Ground Floor" (TBS). Skylar Astin is a big-deal banker, Briga Heelan the maintenance worker he sleeps with before he realizes she's … a maintenance worker. They have some things to discuss.
Saturday, Nov. 23
"Atlantis" (BBC America). The ancient lost continent of which Donovan sang ("my antediluvian baby" — come on, you remember — "way down below the ocean" — come on!) resurfaces in a 13-part fantasy drama from the people who brought you "Merlin," with Hercules, Jason, Medusa and Pythagoras (which one of these things is not like the other?) mixing it up in the days before even I was born.
Wednesday, Dec. 4
"Mob City" (TNT). Frank Darabont ("The Walking Dead") developed this fact-ish "event series" about Los Angeles cops and criminals in the days of Mickey and Bugsy, when City Hall was still the tallest thing around and they never carded my mother at the Bar of Music. (That last bit probably isn't in it.) Milo Ventimiglia fans, look!
"Kirstie" (TV Land). Reanimated Kirstie Alley (agree now that she is a great lady of comedy or we are done here) plays a Broadway star reunited with the insufficiently glamorous son she gave up for adoption. "Cheers" costar Rhea Perlman plays her best friend; Michael Richards, from another old NBC sitcom, her driver.