The TV.com Staff Takes On the New Network Dramas of Fall 2013
The fall TV season has officially begun! What's worth watching, and what's not worth your time? The TV.com team has screened the inaugural episodes of nearly every new fall series in an attempt to help you decide—below, you'll find multiple (and sometimes contradictory) opinions of each network newbie. Pilots will be pilots, of course, and lots of shows get better once they've had a chance to settle in. But that's why we'll be back in a few weeks with the TV.com 4-Episode Test, where we'll check back in with these freshman series as they find their footing. For now, first impressions are all that matter.
Below, you'll find our take on which new network dramas are looking good, bad, average, and just plain ugly. And, assuming you like to laugh (just like you said in your internet dating profile!), take a look what we had to say about this year's new comedies, too.
Premiered: Monday, September 16 at 9pm on Fox
TIM: This is pure insanity distilled to its most concentrate. I doubt it will ever be great, but it knows what it is and how to have fun with it. Plus there is a dude without a head who rides a horse and cuts people's heads off. Give the brain a rest and just enjoy Sleepy Hollow.
KAITLIN: I was pleasantly surprised by this mashup of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," supernatural phenomena, and the present day. I think it's fun, and I think that's more than enough. Not every show needs to be serious and thought-provoking to be entertaining. Also, Tom Mison? I approve. P.S. Here's my full review of the premiere!
JEN: I agree that "batshit crazy" can be worthwhile, but there's only so much of that type of TV one can take. The leads are good, and if the show maintains its healthy sense of self-awareness, it could be a really entertaining watch. But already there's so much going on after one episode that I'm just as likely to give up on Sleepy Hollow in favor of something that's actually good, as opposed so ridiculous that it's good fun.
LILY: This acted on my brain like a family-size bottle of Nyquil PM. It earns points for its two charismatic leads, but any series whose forward momentum will be based off of George Washington's bible is begging for my side-eye. It seems Fox is meeting ABC's Disney-based OUAT franchise with a little souped-up Judeo-Christian/Early American lore: Sleepy Hollow's police force will be staving off the literal Apocalypse. Sure it's high-stakes, but WTF? Bible fan fiction? And everything was writ a touch too large in the premiere, including Mrs. Crane's headstone detailing that she had been burnt for witchcraft (P.S. witches didn't get headstones—know your history, East Coasters!). The blueprint for the season was laid out in no uncertain terms by like, a microfiche recording or something? If your story is straight-up preposterous, then take a lesson from Lost and OUAT and pace yourself in unveiling it.
NOEL: I'm thankful for Tim Mison and Nicole Beharie, because without their easy chemistry and terrific deliveries, I think Sleepy Hollow could very quickly spiral into pointless silliness. It'll never be appointment viewing for me, but I could see this being a great show to cue up on the DVR while I clean my apartment.
Premieres: Monday, September 23 at 10pm on CBS
TIM: It's got superstars for leads, but the limiting premise doesn't allow it to move anywhere interesting. And if we're being honest, and you know I would never steer you wrong, it was kinda boring!
KAITLIN: I wanted to like this based on the cast alone, but the pilot was less than thrilling. And I don't see how CBS will be able to get a compelling weekly story out of this. I'd watch this if it were a 90-minute movie, but as a TV series it could really suck.
JEN: This pilot simultaneously made me glad that CBS has been stressing Hostages' 15-episode season—thank goodness the count isn't 22—and curious as to how the show is actually going to fill those 15 hours. I might watch a few more episodes just to see where it goes; I'm fearing it'll mostly be filler, but hey, the cast is good, they must've seen something in the project other than a quick paycheck, right? Am I being too optimistic?
CORY: Don't let the high-profile cast fool you. Hostages is much more boring than it has any business being, and until the show decides to embrace the silliness of its plot and quits relying on Dylan McDermott's "style" of "acting," it's in trouble. Toni Collette and Tate Donovan are really good, though.
Premieres: Monday, September 23 at 10pm on NBC
TIM: Another network attempt at cable-style drama that just doesn't get there, despite a solid performance by James Spader. The pacing and one standout action sequence made me like the pilot more than I should have, but the writing made it clear that this won't work as an ongoing series. Also: Who schedules a really important adoption meeting on their first day of work... at the FBI!?!?!? Our leading lady, Agent Elizabeth Keen, that's who.
KAITLIN: I've never taken to James Spader, but he turns in a great performance here. It's just too bad the pilot wasn't as good. It held my attention in that this-is-weird-and-I-want-to-see-how-it-all-turns-out kind of way, but I don't think it's a series I'll tune in for every week. It's a boring procedural playing dress-up, and there are far too many plot holes.
JEN: It's not good good, but I actually really enjoyed The Blacklist's first episode. Let me explain: James Spader is awesome and as Spadery as Spader can be. Together, he and Megan Keen give off a pretty fun Hannibal-and-Clarice vibe. The show is entertaining, and it features some good action. As a popcorn procedural, it has a decent chance. However: If you start to dissect the plot even a little, you'll find lots of holes. Once you start thinking remotely hard about what's happening, things start to fall apart. But as long as people don't try to use their brains, this has a decent shot of doing well for NBC.
CORY: One of the hardest dramas of the season to read, The Blacklist pilot is extremely dumb, but I think the show knows that. Spader chews away all the scenery, and I actually believe there is a weekly procedural series here, but anytime it tries to raise the stakes with its central character Elizabeth Keen, it comes to a screeching halt. Just let Spader be Spader, yo.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Premieres: Tuesday, September 24 at 8pm on ABC
TIM: I apologize in advance for my opinion, everyone! Okay ready? I was pretty disappointed in this pilot. I expected something different from the most-anticipated show of the season, but it wasn't much more than a network sci-fi show with a little bit of Whedon slapped on it, and his trademark witty dialogue comes off as a bit shtickish at times. It's not at all bad, but it's not the amazing show we were all hoping for. Send your hatemail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
KAITLIN: Anyone who's a fan of Whedon's previous work would be wise to check this out. It has Whedon's trademark style all over it. But you don't have to be a Buffy or Firefly fan to enjoy this series. It has heart, snark, comedy, and the right amount of action to appeal to even the casual viewer.
JEN: I didn't lurrrve the pilot simply because comics-based action drama isn't really my genre. But I'm not sure that'll matter too much; I liked the dialogue a lot—Whedon's wit is fully intact—and the cast is compelling. This won't be my new favorite show, but I don't see any reason that it shouldn't be everybody else's.
Premieres: Tuesday, September 24 at 10pm on ABC
TIM: Despite having a very busy pilot, it's predictable, boring, and simple with some really silly storylines. The first episode makes some lame mistakes, like trying to hook viewers with an exciting flashforward that takes place seven months after the lottery win, but then never revisiting the scene. A dud.
KAITLIN: I feel pretty neutral about this pilot. I know it was supposed to toy with my emotions and make me feel for the characters, but it didn't. And it did nothing to make me want to keep watching.
JEN: Emotionally, this one got me. Maybe it's 'cause I'd read Tim's preview before watching and lowered my expectations accordingly, but I find the characters and the question of how winning the lottery affects people compelling enough to give it a shot. I totally agree about the uselessness about the opening scene, though.
NOEL: I'm with Jen on this. I think the potential impacts of their lottery win on their lives could make for a very interesting drama. More than anything else, though, it's not a high-concept genre show or a procedural, and that's a real breath of fresh air right now.
The Tomorrow People
Premieres: Wednesday, October 9 at 9pm on The CW
TIM: There's nothing all that new here, but there's nothing terribly off about it either, especially if you like the genre. It's a standard superhero origin story with new pretty faces.
KAITLIN: I was weirdly surprised to see Roger Sterling's ex-wife in this, but I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed it. There's a twist at the end that I think makes it more than just your average super-hero story.
MARYANN: ERMAGHERD THAT IS THE FORMER MRS. ROGER STERLING (Peyton List)! Hey, gurl, hey. Um. I liked it. I mean, it’s pretty twenty-somethings playing pretty teenagers and they’re all gifted and special and pretty—classic C-dubs stuff. It’s a little bit X-Men, a little bit Prey (OMG remember Prey?) and it has Mark Pellegrino and special effects that are actually pretty good, all things considered. Also, daddy issues. So many daddy issues.
Premieres: Wednesday, September 25 at 10pm on NBC
TIM: I mean, he's a cop in a wheelchair. Who aso coaches ice hockey. That's about it. Blair Underwood is great as always, though. Still skippable!
KAITLIN: Let me put it this way: It took me an hour and a half to watch this 40-something-minute pilot because I kept finding better, more interesting stuff to do. It's not a bad show—it's a boring show and that's worse. We don't need another cop procedural. Blair Underwood seems like a cool guy, someone save him from this, stat!
JEN: Blair Underwood is awesome, and he deserves better. The pilot feels melodramatic and overwrought instead of emotionally nuanced; Ironside and his temper do a lot of overcompensating for the detective's unfortunate situation, and I felt annoyed rather than empathetic. The show will almost certainly be routine, procedural fare. Reminds me of how I felt about Chicago PD last year—which means it may stick around, but I'm going to pass either way.
CORY: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. It's not even bad, it's just derivative. Blair Underwood tries his best, but Ironside is bound to join Prime Suspect in the NBC Cop Remake scrap heap.
Premieres: Sunday, September 29 at 10pm on ABC
TIM: Potentially the worst thing television has ever given us, and the lovebirds in the middle of this have absolutely zero chemistry—that's a major problem. This showcase of bad decisions is worth a watch just to see how awful it really is.
KAITLIN: I laughed harder at this dramatic affair/political/corruption pilot than I did at half of the new comedies. It's overdramatic, poorly written, and poorly acted. Stuart Townsend's emotionally torn and tortured face makes him look constipated. The only good thing about Betrayal is that its title looks cool next to that of Revenge on the schedule, which this show will be for at least one week (but probably no more than three).
JEN: Sure, watch the first episode just to marvel at the bottom-of-the-barrel sludge that can somehow still make it to air in this golden age of TV. Or just skip it—it's really low-level stuff. Put it in your Dead Pool and be done with it.
Premieres: Thursday, October 3 at 9pm on The CW, then moves to Tuesdays at 8pm on October 8
KAITLIN: A darker, more adult vampire story in New Orleans? And Daniel Gillies is a series regular? Hell yeah, I'm going to watch the crap out of this.
CORY: The hybrid baby storyline already makes me sad, but this is a tremendous cast, set in a location with a whole lot of history to play off of. Also: Are we sure that Joseph Morgan can carry an entire show after spending two years being a cuckolded villain? Thank goodness for Daniel Gillies.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Premieres: Thursday, October 10 at 8pm on ABC
TIM: Disclaimer: My demographic is the exact opposite of what this show is looking for. It's more fantasy silliness from the OUAT crew, but this one starts right out of the gate with absurdity. If you're still into the original series, you'll dig it. But if you're looking for a repeat of OUAT Season 1, pop in the OUAT Season 1 DVDs instead, because you won't find it here.
KAITLIN: While I'm not against an Alice in Wonderland story, this is not the one I want. The writing is horrendous, but I also feel that way about the original OUAT, which plenty of people seem to like. I'm not sure how basing the entire premise on saving/finding a character no one actually knows or cares about is going to work. But I DO think that if you like the original OUAT, you might find yourself drawn to this.
JEN: I kind of enjoyed this! Don't get me wrong, it's silly. And the screener we viewed was crazy unfinished, so we still don't have a great idea of what the finished project will look like (spoiler alert: I'm not expecting much to change when it comes to the not-so-great CGI), but so far I like Wonderland's setup, with Alice trying to explain to her captors at insane asylum that she's not crazy, she really did used to do all sorts of fun intra-universe stuff like fighting pirates and swimming with mermaids and such. Also, John Lithgow voices the White Rabbit! While I haven't watched the original OUAT since about midway through Season 1 (and don't intend to return to the show), I might actually give this a shot.
LILY: This pilot perhaps owes more to Flash Gordon than OUAT in terms of tone and sensibility. The version ABC screened for press is only about 20 minutes long, and the remarkably poor integration of CGI backgrounds and action sequences—which will hopefully be fixed up before the official series premiere—is super cheesy. Also, OUAT apparently couldn’t spare a single strong dialogue scribe to moonlight for Wonderland, which, if you watch OUAT, should tell you something. Still, what I saw was loony enough to be “bad in a good way” fun.
Premieres: Thursday, October 17 at 9pm on The CW
TIM: Historical accuracy can suck a fat one! This is Gossip Girl and princess fantasies in olden times, with a modern-day soundtrack that you should never get used to. I think it's a story about keeping Mary's virginity? Which is kind of awesome! There's a lot of potential for fun garbage-watching with Reign, especially with its ridiculously attractive cast of mid-20-somethings playing innocent and horny teens.
KAITLIN: I applaud The CW for attempting a period piece, but if you're going to go period, you need to fully embrace it. This felt more like a modern-day teen had been warped back to the time of Mary, Queen of Scots. Women, even teenagers, did not act that way in the 1500s. Class dismissed.
MARYANN: I actually didn’t mind the modern soundtrack. It isn’t utilized as well as in Marie Antoinette or The Great Gatsby, but IDK, I dig the contrast. Other than that, it’s pretty terrible—and not in a hilariously bad way, just a bad way. Also, are we gonna talk about how Mary totes gets beheaded by her step-sister later on? I think this series could have been awesome if it wasn’t a CW show. Sorry, CW. <3 u.
Premieres: Friday, October 25 at 10pm on NBC
TIM: Outlandish and ridiculous, even for vampire fare. Dracula tries to bring renewable energy to Victorian-era London. I repeat, Dracula—a famous vampire—becomes a major player in Old London with wireless and energy-efficient electricity. What's next, Frankenstein starting a free-range chicken farm? And wait 'til you get a load of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' American accent.
KAITLIN: The pilot was well done, I guess? But the story is completely ridiculous and not at all exciting or interesting. I also loathe Jonathan Rhys-Meyers using an American accent when his natural Irish brogue is so appealing, even though the story necessitates it. And to be honest? Even *I* am getting burnt out on all the vampire stuff.
JEN: Oh dear, oh dear oh dear oh dear. I just didn't have the patience for this pilot; it was really and truly bothersome to try to follow what Drac was up to. The most fun bits of the pilot, for me, were the implication Jack the Ripper was actually a story made up by Van Helsing to hide vampire killings from the press, and recognizing Xaro Xhoan Daxos from Game of Thrones and Sir Anthony Strallan from Downton Abbey in supporting/bit roles. But I recommend saving your DVR space for something else (I'd definitely choose Sleepy Hollow over this in filling that "utterly ridiculous" spot). And like Tim and Kaitlin hinted at, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' American accent is simply atrocious.
Premieres: Monday, November 4 at 8pm on Fox
TIM: There are a lot of problems with the pilot, but the look and feel of this awesome near-future series is not one of them. Aesthetically, it's one of the best futures network television has created. I love the series' potential, and J.H Wyman's Fringe feel is here, so I will be watching. Oh, and hi Minka Kelly!
KAITLIN: Eomer! Lyla Garrity! Whatsherface from Say Anything! I really enjoyed this, but science-fiction is generally a home run for me, so I'm not sure I can be particularly unbiased here. But I loved this pilot, and I have high hopes for the show.
JEN: I <3 Michael Ealy so much in this. I'm not sure whether I'll stick around for this one long-term, but it certainly didn't offend me in any way. It's fun, and it presents a really intriguing view of the near future.
NOEL: Almost Human is so right up my alley that I may not have noticed Tim's concerns—beyond the very unnecessary last 30 seconds of the pilot. That aside, I'm all in, not only for Ealy's sly line readings—"I’m running my colloquialism routine so I express most data conversationally, man."—but for Karl Urban's scowling and the potential for the exploration of big sci-fi questions about what it means to be human.
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