Tuesday, September 24, 2013

NBC 2013 Fall Schedule -- The Voice, the Peacock and Michael J. Fox

With three new dramas and three new comedies on the schedule, this fall NBC will be working hard to find new candidates for long-term success.  With their once magnificent Thursday comedy block almost completely revamped for this season after the finales of The Office and 30 Rock, and with CBS' competing comedy block looking like there's at least one strong contender with 9pm's The Crazy Ones, revving up Thursdays nights isn't going to be easy.  More on that later.

Monday night on NBC sees the return of the successful singing competition show The Voice from 8p - 10pm.  NBC is using the strong lead-in to premiere their best chance for a drama hit this season there, much as they previously launched Revolution.  The Blacklist stars unique TV favorite James Spader (Boston Legal, The Office, The Practice, Crash, Stargate, White Palace, Sex, Lies and Videotape) as a brilliant government agent-gone-rogue who offers to help the FBI capture a sordid assortment of the worst criminals out there.  His only catch is the stipulation that a newly-minted female agent, played by Megan Boone (Law & Order: Los Angeles, Blue Bloods, My Bloody Valentine), be assigned solely to work with him.  Although NBC isn't trying very hard to divorce itself from Silence of the Lambs weirdness comparisons -- e.g., when they meet, Spader is trussed up and emerges from a plastic cube -- NBC already has their actual Hannibal series coming back next year.  That series was a critical success despite its disturbing core of grotesque violence probably better suited to cable. The Blacklist with its emphasis not on serial killers but instead terrorists and more refined evildoers seems not be heading into the quite same blood-soaked territory (we hope).

Co-starring with Spader and Boone are Harry Lennix (Man of Steel, Dollhouse, Emily Owens, M.D., Little Britain USA as the President, 24, the last two Matrix movies) and Diego Klattenhoff (Homeland, Pacific Rim, After Earth, Mercy, Men in Trees) as FBI colleagues and Ryan Eggold (90210, Entourage, Daybreak, Dirt) as Boone's onscreen husband, a relationship which is secret. Buzz is very positive; everybody loves Spader in anything these days, and the suspense is genuine in this series that could definitely become a new crime procedural hit.  The Blacklist airs -- naturally, using TV logic -- directly opposite CBS' own super-suspenseful new drama Hostages.  If you prefer your leads on the deliciously hammy side, go for Spader who never disappoints.  The Blacklist airs on NBC at 10pm beginning Monday, September 23rd.

Wednesday nights at 10pm NBC premieres a reboot of the network's long-running -- 1967 to 1975 -- police series starring Raymond Burr as a San Francisco police detective with a wheelchair.  A novel concept at that time, this time the action's in New York and we have the appealing Blair Underwood (The Event, L.A. Law, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Dirty Sexy Money, In Treatment, Fatherhood, Sex and the City) filling Burr's formidable shoes.  Ironside co-stars Brent Sexton (Justified, The Killing, Life, Deadwood, Surface) as Ironside's friend and fellow detective, Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black, The Wire, Weeds, A Gifted Man, Lights Out, Dirt) as a tough cop whose home life is key for him, Spencer Grammer (Kelsey Grammer's daughter, As The World Turns, Greek) as a female police officer who thrives on the thrills, Neal Bledsoe (Smash, Law & Order: SVU, Ugly Betty) as a rebellious cop who comes from money, and Kenneth Choi (Sons of Anarchy, Glee, 24, Red Dawn) as Ironside's intense captain with whom he doesn't always see eye to eye.  Buzz on Ironside isn't too positive; Underwood is a draw but the police action feels tired, a little too by-the-book.  Of course there's some built-in pop culture familiarity, but anybody who saw Ironside the first time around is certainly not the demo NBC is probably looking for.  Ironside airs on NBC at 10pm beginning Wednesday, October 2nd.

Thursday nights bring three new comedies to follow the returning Parks and Recreation.  First up at 8:30pm is Welcome to the Family, the story of two very different families who are thrown together when their teenage children find out they are expecting a baby.  This is one of those plots that is only possible in a world where nobody's heard of birth control or abortion; in other words, a world much like a lot of America, unfortunately.  Basically we have the culture clash of a white family getting to know the Latino parents of their daughter's boyfriend.  Mike O'Malley (Glee, Justified, My Name is Earl, Yes, Dear, Parenthood) and Ricardo Chavira (Desperate Housewives, Six Feet Under, Monk, Burn Notice) are the fathers, Mary McCormack (In Plain Sight, The West Wing, ER, Murder One, K Street) and Justina Machado (Six Feet Under, Private Practice, Desperate Housewives, Three Rivers, Burn Notice) are the mothers.  Ella Rae Peck (Gossip Girl, Deception) and Joseph Haro (Awkward, Glee, Broadway musicals) are the young couple.  Welcome to the Family has enough elements to make it the 21st century version of that very old play Abie's Irish Rose -- out of place girl marries into family with different culture -- which probably means it's not offensive but also unlikely to go anywhere you can't see coming. Buzz is good cast, tired premise, despite the attempt to update it into the most likely cross-cultural pollination we'll be seeing during our lifetimes.  Welcome to the Family airs on NBC at 8:30pm beginning Thursday, October 3rd.

Thursdays at 9pm sees the premiere of Sean Saves the World starring the multi-talented Sean Hayes (Will & Grace, Smash, Up All Night, an outstanding Larry Fine in The Three Stooges, a great Jerry Lewis in the Martin and Lewis TV movie, and theater such as Damn Yankees and Promises, Promises).  Hayes plays a divorced gay father whose fourteen-year-old daughter moves in with him.  Newcomer Samantha Isler (child reporter on Today) plays his daughter, veteran Linda Lavin (Alice, more theater than you can imagine) is Sean's opinionated mother, Thomas Lennon (Reno 911, The State, The Dark Knight Rises) is his pompous boss, Echo Kellum (quite amusing on last season's Ben and Kate) is his co-worker, and Megan Hilty (Smash, The Closer, lots of theater and voice work) is Sean's best friend.  Everybody knows that Sean Hayes is indefatigable and will wring any possible laughs out of the material given to him. This show will rise or fall on his funny bones so let's hope he's got what it takes to elevate this one past the usual and predictable domestic sitcom.  I think I like everything about it except the fatherhood part; that cast is killer, isn't it?  It will be competing directly against CBS' The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams; we'll have to wait to find out which of these gifted comic actors will be able to go the distance.  Sean Saves the World airs on NBC at 9pm beginning Thursday, October 3rd.

Thursdays at 9:30pm is the home of the new The Michael J. Fox Show, one of the season's most anticipated new series because of its titular star.  If everybody loves James Spader for his slightly creepy quality, they love Michael J. Fox for just the opposite reason.  He's earned his place as one of the most beloved celebrities thanks to his genuine nice guy personality, unending talent and the matter-of-fact way he's conducted his life with Parkinson's Disease.  Show business loves Michael J. Fox, too, with his string of hits dating back to the early '80s and his breakout role in Family Ties (and for NBC, too), then movie stardom with titles like Back to the Future, Teen Wolf and Doc Hollywood, then back to TV for successful series Spin City in the mid-'90s and more recent work in Boston Legal, Rescue Me, and The Good Wife.

His new sitcom plays off his real-life circumstances; Mike Henry is a big-time TV journalist who was diagnosed with Parkinson's, took some years off (which Fox never did), and now is coming back into the business.  His family is all for the change -- too much dad time -- and how MJF deals with being in the spotlight again is what we can look forward to enjoying.  Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad, Private Practice) is Mike's wife, Conor Romero (Sleeping With the Fishes) is his older son, Juliette Goglia (Ugly Betty, Joan of Arcadia (remember the little girl who played God?), Desperate Housewives, Vanished) is his teen daughter, Jack Gore is his younger son, and Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Treme) and Ana Nogueria (Blue Bloods, The Battery's Down) are workplace buddies.  Charles Grodin and Candice Bergen have also been cast as Fox's parents in at least one episode.  Given a full-season order before it even began and picked up without a pilot solely on the strength of Michael J. Fox, The Michael J. Fox Show has a lot going for it in goodwill but it will take really good comedy to keep audiences watching. Everybody wants this one to work.  The Michael J. Fox Show premieres on NBC at 9pm for a two episode intro on Thursday, September 26th but moves into its regular 9:30pm slot beginning Thursday, October 3rd.

Fridays brings another supernatural series to NBC's Friday fright night to act as companion to the successful Grimm which enters its third season this year. This time it's a Victorian England-set rendition of the classic vampire tale Dracula, a British co-production (10 episodes only) with some exciting provenance behind the camera (talent from HBO's Carnivale, Downton Abbey, The Tudors) and the equally exciting Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors, Velvet Goldmine, Gormenghast, Bend it Like Beckham, Elvis, Mission Impossible III) in the title role.  Dracula is in London looking for revenge and pretending to be an American businessman.  All the familiar characters are there and more, played by a mostly British cast:  Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Lark Rise to Candleford, William and Kate: Before Happily Ever After playing Prince William, Ken Follett's World Without End, Mr. Selfridge) is Jonathan Harker, Australian actress Jessica De Gouw (The Arrow) is Mina, Thomas Kretschmann (The River, King Kong, Downfall, Transsiberian) is Van Helsing, Katie McGrath (Merlin, The Tudors) is Lucy Westenra, Nonso Anozie (Games of Thrones, The Grey, Conan the Barbarian,) is Renfield, Victoria Smurfit (Ballykissangel) is Lady Jane, Ben Miles (the original British series Coupling, The Forsyte Saga, Lark Rise to Candleford) is Mr. Browning, and Robert Bathhurst (Downton Abbey, The Pillars of the Earth, Cold Feet) is Lord Davenport.  This one looks plenty good -- maybe a little Steampunky, hopefully -- but it will have to accomplish more than that to keep Grimm watchers happy.  They like thrills, chills and some personality, too; let's hope this Dracula isn't too refined for its own good.  Dracula premieres on NBC at 10pm on Friday, October 25th.

NBC has several other series on tap for mid-season and we'll cover them at that time.  There are real opportunities for NBC to regain some of the strength that they've lost over the last several years.  We have the highest hopes for The Blacklist and The Michael J. Fox Show, but as we know there are few safe harbors anymore on TV.  We'll see what transpires over the next few weeks as the early ratings offer either hope or something less to these contenders.

Next up, the CW!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fox TV 2013 Fall Schedule -- X Still Marks the Spot

The Fox Network is working on its strength this season, keeping their solid Sunday animation block intact, adding a couple of new male-oriented comedies to lead into their successful Tuesday night girly sitcoms, trying to launch a new drama or two, and still loving the competition reality genre that they do so well.

Monday nights at 9pm beginning in September will see the launch of the stylish fantasy police drama Sleepy Hollow, starring potential heartthrob Tom Mison (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Parade's End, Lost in Austen) as a mysteriously revived Ichabod Crane of Headless Horseman story fame. Created by the Kurtzman/Orci team who brought us Fringe and the new Star Trek movies, Sleepy Hollow dabbles in American Treasure territory with a plotline stuffed full of Revolutionary War strangeness including Freemasons and their ilk and moving on to Bible-y creepiness including that quartet of Apocalyptic Horseman -- of whom the also-revived Mr. Headless is a member -- and so on.  We will see Ichabod in his 18th Century world via flashbacks to his life there with his wife Katrina, played by Katia Winter (Quinn's stripper girlfriend Katia on last season's Dexter), who is stuck between worlds and whose predicament is part of Ichabod's eerie mission.  Ichabod is teamed up with modern-day detective Abbie Mills, played by Nicole Beharie (42, The Good Wife, Woman Thou Art Loosed), the perfect partner for the beleaguered time traveler since she has psychic gifts that could come in handy.  Their boss at the police station is played by the always interesting Orlando Jones (Men in Trees, Rules of Engagement, Evolution, MAD TV).  The extravagant underpinnings of Sleepy Hollow will either charm you or leave you cold, but perhaps with the same leap of faith it may have taken to embrace Lost in years past, Sleepy Hollow might be a helluva ride.  (Does anybody remember another attempt by Fox to bring Ye Olde America to TV a few years back with New Amsterdam?  That one worketh not.) Sleepy Hollow premieres Monday, September 16th at 9pm.  Latest News:  The debut of Sleepy Hollow was a ratings success.

Later this Fall, Fox will move out Bones (which goes to Friday nights) to welcome Almost Human, a futuristic police action adventure hour from J.J. Abrams (Star Trek reboot, Fringe, Lost, Revolution) & Company.  J.J.'s Star Trek's Dr. McCoy Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings, Doom) stars as John, a catastrophically-injured police detective repaired with robotic parts who is reluctantly paired with an empathetic android played by Michael Ealy (Sleeper Cell, Californication, The Good Wife, Flash Forward).  Lili Taylor (Six Feet Under, I Shot Andy Warhol, The Conjuring) is the police captain who supports John in his transition, Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Caribbean, Game of Thrones, The Office British version) is the brainy technician who makes the technology work, Minka Kelly (Charlie's Angels, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, Lee Daniels The Butler as Jackie Kennedy) is a detective specializing in the human mind, and Michael Irby (The Unit) is the skeptical colleague who fights John and his new partner all the way. Nobody doubts that J.J. Abrams knows how to make exciting and provocative movies and TV, so hopes are high for the debut in late Fall.  Almost Human will premiere Mondays at 8pm.

Tuesday night brings two new comedies.  At 8pm Fox introduces Dads starring Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family Guy, Robot Chicken) and Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar, My Name is Earl, Friends) as best friends video game inventors who both find their lives changing in amusing ways when their fathers move in with them.  Green plays the flaky half of the duo while Ribisi is married with children.  Martin Mull (Two and a Half Men, Arrested Development, The Ellen Show, Fernwood Tonight, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Roseanne) is Ribisi's sometimes successful entrepreneurial father, and Peter Riegert ( The Good Wife, One Tree Hill, Damages, The Sopranos, Crossing Delancy) is Green's negativity-spewing papa.  Brenda Song (The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Scandal, New Girl) plays a co-worker at the game company, and Tonita Castro (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Little Britain U.S.A.) is Green's empathetic housekeeper.  Lots of negative early buzz on this for a disliked pilot with particular vitriol reserved for its racist jokes.  Despite a good and capable cast things don't sound overly promising for Dads.  Dads premieres Tuesday, September 17th at 8pm.

The outlook appears much brighter for Tuesday's 8:30pm comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Comedian Andy Samberg (Saturday Night Live) and esteemed actor Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street, The Last Resort, House, M.D., Men of a Certain Age, The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson) head the cast in this NYC-set police comedy.  Braugher is a newly-assigned by-the-book precinct captain and Samberg is the ringleader for a merry band of detectives who may not be regulation but get the job done.  Co-starring are Melissa Fumero (Gossip Girl, One Life to Live), Terry Crews (Bridesmaids, Arrested Development, The Newsroom, Everybody Hates Chris), Joe Lo Truglio (Reno 911, Sons of Tucson, lots of web series), Stephanie Beatriz (Modern Family, The Closer), and actress-writer Chelsea Peretti (Parks and Recreation).  The creators have credits including comedy hits 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and The Office, and the buzz is reporting that their talents have not been squandered.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine showed up on lots of favorite pilots lists, and we're betting that this workplace comedy with a little law-and-order twist will be a hit.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine premieres Tuesday, September 17th at 8:30pm.

The last new show for this Fall is Friday night's MasterChef Junior.  It's exactly what it sounds like -- the often ferocious Gordon Ramsay is back, this time urging twenty four budding young chefs from 8 to 13 to achieve their best culinary creations in this popular competition format.  Kids in kitchens...could be watchable.  (This format has already worked in Britain and Australia, but those little kids have those wonderful accents so that already puts them ahead of the competitors here.)  MasterChef Junior premieres Friday, September 27 at 8pm.

The rest of Fox's development slate won't be on display until mid-season.  Their service comedy Enlisted was set to premiere in the Fall on Fridays after Raising Hope, but has been held back until January to gain momentum from promotion inside sports.  More series on tap include Rake with Greg Kinnear as a charismatic bad-boy lawyer, Gang Related about a former Latino gang member who is now a cop, Surviving Jack based on a best-selling autobiography about the son of an oncologist and a lawyer and he still can't get a date, and Us and Them, starring Jason Ritter in the story of two unlikely people who fall in love despite the nutty bunch of friends and family around them.

We think Fox and audiences will be happy with Sleepy Hollow and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and Almost Human later this Fall.

Next up, NBC's Fall slate.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

CBS TV Fall 2013 Schedule -- The Network Where Crime Definitely Pays

Remember when CBS used to be referred to as "The Tiffany Network"?  Even as they have transitioned into their current programming slate which is a little more than half crime procedurals, CBS has still managed to hang onto a veneer of class, though that's probably just a polite term for the slight musty aroma of the older viewers who are such an important part of the net's demographic.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, though I personally think that the steady diet of victim flayings, serial killers, urban murders, psychos and sickos isn't doing a lot of good for the mental outlook of their audience, reflected in a wary populace fearing every knock at the door and determined to "stand their ground" often to horrifying effect.  I wonder if the so-called "Hollywood Liberals" would admit that their bread-and-butter is contributing to creating a society exactly the opposite of what they might prefer?  No matter; it's gold to CBS.
All this means that CBS is doing quite well, replacing very few of their shows because all the crime franchises are thriving.  Two new comedies are up for Monday nights, and Mike and Molly is on hold until mid-season for a return. 

Mondays at 8:30pm brings new situation comedy We Are Men about the bromance between four single men of various ages who all live at a large apartment complex.  The cast is good, including the much-admired and always watchable Tony Shaloub (Monk, Galaxy Quest, Wings, Cars), ditto for Kal Penn (House, the Harold and Kumar movies, political advisor to Pres. Obama), Chris Smith (Paranormal Activity 3, Enough Said), and Jerry O'Connell (Stand By Me, Jerry McGuire, Crossing Jordan, Sliders), with Australian actress Rebecca Breeds as their pretty neighbor young lady. You can probably guess the gist of the show is exploring male bonding of the hopefully humorous kind.  Everybody has written about the fact that O'Connell spends much of the pilot dressed in a Speedo, but it's not winning any critics' hearts.  CBS has given We Are Men a good lead-in and lead-out, but these days that doesn't necessarily mean much.  We Are Men premieres Monday, September 30th at 8:30pm.

The more favorably buzzed-about comedy Mom gets the 9:30p slot out of 2 Broke Girls and is also a Chuck Lorre creation.  Anna Faris (The Scary Movie franchise, The House Bunny, The Dictator, Entourage) is getting lots of love in her starring role as a divorced single mom who's newly sober and struggling to make it through life in Napa Valley.  Back into that new life comes her own dysfunctional recovering alcoholic mother, played by Allison Janney (West Wing, Juno, The Help, American Beauty), and the game is on.  Mom also boasts a good co-starring cast including French Stewart (Third Rock from the Sun, The Middle), Nate Corddry (The Daily Show, Harry's Law, Children's Hospital), Matt Jones (Breaking Bad), Black Garret Rosenthal (New Girl), Sadie Calvano, and Spencer Daniels. The solid 2 Broke Girls lead-in could definitely lead to sampling and intel is that Mom will have the requisite laughs to keep audiences satisfied.  Word is that anything with Faris + Janney onscreen is gold.  Mom premieres Monday, September 23rd at 9:30pm.

New Monday 10pm drama Hostages looks like a first-class CBS drama project all the way.  This limited series has a thriller movie premise -- Presidential physician is reluctantly enlisted in a plot to do away with the Chief Executive -- and a cast to match.  Hostages features Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, The United States of Tara, Little Miss Sunshine, Muriel's Wedding), Dylan McDermott (The Practice, Olympus Has Fallen, In The Line of Fire, Steel Magnolias, American Horror Story), Tate Donovan (Damages, Argo, Good Night,and Good Luck, Deception), Rhys Coiro (Entourage, A Gifted Man, Person of Interest, 24, Dexter), Billy Brown (Sons of Anarchy, The Following, Dexter, Cloverfield), Sandrine Holt (House of Cards, Rapa Nui), Quinn Shephard (Made in Jersey), Mateus Ward (Weeds)  and Tony Award-winner James Naughton (Chicago on Broadway, The Devil Wears Prada, Damages, Gossip Girl).  Hostages premieres Monday, September 23rd at 10pm. 

In February drama Intelligence will take Hostages' place.  Intelligence stars Josh Holloway (Lost, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) as a cyber-enhanced secret agent.  Meghan Ory (Ruby on Once Upon a Time), Marg Hellenberger (CSI), and Michael Rady (Emily Owens, M.D., The Mentalist, Melrose Place) co-star.  Intelligence will premiere Monday, February 24th at 10pm.

Tuesday and Wednesday bring back-to-back-to-back crime procedurals, as usual.

CBS' Thursday night comedy block adds two new titles, the first at 8:30pm with The Millers.  Comedy veteran Will Arnett (Arrested Development, 30 Rock, Up All Night) stars as a recently divorced grown son news reporter who learns that his own parents are also splitting and his mom is coming to live with him.  Beau Bridges (The Fabulous Baker Boys, Without Warning: The James Brady Story, The Second Civil War, Brothers & Sisters) and Margo Martindale (Emmy winner for Justified, Dexter, Million Dollar Baby) play the parents, with J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Clear History, Saturday Night Live, Pootie Tang, The Rukus) as Arnett's best friend.  Buzz is clearly positive for Martindale, but less so for producer Greg Garcia (Raising Hope) and his overall vision in the pilot.  Some recasting has ocurred, so maybe the chemistry and laughs will improve.  The Millers premieres Thursday, October 8th at 8:30pm.

Thursday night at 9pm features another new comedy with a particularly solid acting line-up.  The Crazy Ones brings comedy legend Robin Williams (Mork & Mindy, Good Will Hunting, Good Morning, Vietnam, Dead Poet's Society, Mrs. Doubtfire and so many more) back to TV screens playing the unhinged creative genius who co-runs a big ad agency alongside his by-the-book daughter played by Sarah Michelle Gellar (forever fan favorite for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ringer, I Know What You Did Last Summer).  James Wolk (Bob Benson on Mad Men, Political Animals, Lone Star) co-stars as a charismatic co-worker ad man, Amanda Setton (Gossip Girl, The Mindy Project) is the office manager, and Hamish Linklater (The New Adventures of Old Christine, The Good Wife, The Newsroom, The Future) is their neurotic art director.  Buzz is pretty good on this one, mainly for the laughs inherent in this top-notch cast.  The Crazy Ones premieres Thursday, September 26th at 9pm.  Though the once much-counted-on halo effect -- that hit shows give boosts to those that surround them -- is a bit tarnished these days with viewing not tied to time period at all, it can't be bad for The Crazy Ones to be preceding Two and a Half Men, though I think I'd rather be following The Big Bang Theory, like The Millers. (We'll watch for a switch there especially if The Millers falls short, with Mike and Molly waiting in the wings to come to the rescue of that series or Monday's We Are Men.)

In general, CBS tends to have terrific luck with their dramas; they know their audience and what they like, and go after the same.  Comedies are more of a gamble, but the network's move several years ago to establish a Thursday comedy night payed off big.  Now they can incubate comedy on two evenings, and they're taking advantage of it.  We'll see if the four new comedies this year are up to the task.

Next up, the Fox Network!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

ABC TV Fall 2013 Schedule -- Once Upon a Time at ABC...


ABC comes on strong this season with a whole new Tuesday and handful of other new series, including a spin-off two years in to their Sunday night success Once Upon a Time.  Lots of new comedies -- four in total -- but the biggest anticipation (at least from fanboys and girls of all ages) is the new comic book movie-inspired Marvel action adventure series which leads off Tuesdays.
The cast of "Betrayal"
Beginning on Sunday, ABC's solid performances from Once Upon a Time and Revenge will be joined by the network's attempt to find a truly compatible 10pm show to mesh with Revenge's soapy intrigue.  They've hit upon Betrayal, an American adaptation of a hit Dutch show, and if you love watching sex, subterfuge, romance, family complications, political ambition, murder, courtroom hysteria and the like then you will definitely want to tune into Betrayal.  The attractive cast includes Hannah Ware (Starz' Boss, Oldboy), Stuart Townsend (Chaos Theory, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Chris Johnson (The Vampire Diaries, Against the Wall, South Beach), veteran actor James Cromwell (Babe, Six Feet Under, American Horror Story, 24, L.A. Confidential and many more), Henry Thomas (E.T., Psycho IV, Indictment: The McMartin Trial), Wendy Moniz (Guiding Light, Nash Bridges, Damages), Elizabeth McLaughlin (The Clique), and Braeden Lemasters (Men of a Certain Age, Six Feet Under). Whether or not Betrayal captures the sheer fun of watching ridiculously complicated personal entanglements the way Revenge does is yet to be seen.  Betrayal premieres Sunday September 29th at 10pm.

The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Tuesdays for ABC start off in superhero mode -- but with a down-to-earth twist -- as revered Executive Producer Josh Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers) brings us Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a spin-off from the collection of big-screen mega-successes The Avengers, Thor 2, Iron Man and the rest.  The throughline to the movies is actor Clark Gregg reprising his role as Agent Phil Coulson; the agent perished in The Avengers but Whedon is bringing the likeable character back to life again here.  Coulson is the guy who puts his expertise to the test fashioning a cadre of specially-talented individuals who do the work of superheroes when there are no superheroes around to do it. In addition to the Everyman quality brought by Gregg (The New Adventures of Old Christine, The Shield), this imaginative adrenaline-charged hour features its own cadre of young and good-looking actors including Brett Dalton (Blue Bloods, Killing Lincoln), Ming Na-Wen (ER, Eureka, Push, Two and a Half Men, the voice of Mulan), Iain De Caestecker (British series The Fades), Elizabeth Henstridge (Reach Me), and singer-actress Chloe Bennett (Nashville, The Nightlife).  Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premieres Tuesday September 24th at 8pm.

Meet "The Goldbergs"
Following the excitement of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents' derring-do, ABC takes a step backwards with half-hour comedy The Goldbergs, set in the 1980s and designed to push all the right nostalgia buttons.  The gimmick is that one son takes home movies and the show, narrated by the son, takes off from those antics.  It's a family comedy and whether or not you like it probably will depend on how well you take to the cast.  Playing bombastic, Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is the dad, Wendy McLendon-Covey (Reno 911, Bridesmaids) is the mother, veteran actor George Segal (Just Shoot Me!, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Owl and the Pussycat, A Touch of Class and so many more) is the sassy grandfather, Hayley Orrantia (The X Factor) is the cute teen daughter, Troy Gentile (Nacho Libre, Drillbit Taylor) is the teen boy and Sean Giambrone is the geeky youngest son with the camera.  Based heavily on producer Adam F. Goldberg's own family experiences and home movies, The Goldbergs will have to win over comedy seekers already getting laughs from Fox's successful New Girl The Goldbergs premieres Tuesday September 24th at 9pm.

The cast of "Trophy Wife"

Ex-wives and resentful stepchildren provide the comedy fodder for the next new show on Tuesday night.  Trophy Wife is the tale of a perky young blonde who becomes the third wife of a rich older lawyer, inheriting his fractious exes in the transaction.  The plot is based on the real-life experiences of one of the writers, a trend that appears to be growing as the original ideas pool is evidently drying up. Giant gleaming kitchens, huge houses, sassy teenagers -- I think we can see where this is going.  This kooky free spirit has her work cut out for her. 

The titular Trophy Wife Kate is played by Malin Akerman (Suburgatory, Watchmen, Children's Hospital, The Comeback), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Good Guys) is the clearly smitten lawyer, Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock, Mystic River, The Newsroom, Royal Pains, Damages) is Whitford's ambitious first wife who's a brusque physician, Michaela Watkins (New Girl, Enlightened, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Saturday Night Live) is the hippy-dippy second wife, Natalie Morales (90210, Parks and Recreation, White Collar) is Kate's best friend, and Bailee Madison (Wizards of Waverly Place, Once Upon a Time), Ryan Scott Lee (Super 8) and Albert Tsai are the trio of children who live with their father. Does this Trophy Wife get the prize?  The pilot uses a squished hamster as a joke line, an unnecessary touch that isn't very funny, so I say not yet.  (Also, the premise of the show is a lot like that arc on New Girl where she got involved with a rich older guy and also when Hannah from HBO's Girls had a brief fling with a loaded M.D.  This is one fantasy that just won't die.)  However, if you like the idea of an unlikely Cinderella, this is well-performed by a very able cast.  Trophy Wife premieres Tuesday September 24th at 9:30pm. 

The cast of "Lucky 7"

Tuesday night ends with a drama that's getting some good buzz.  Lucky 7 is the story of seven gas station employees who win big in a lottery, and it's based on a British hit series with the same premise. Since winning a lottery has now become the actual American dream -- forget about working hard and prospering the old-fashioned way -- this could touch the audience in just the right place.  The cast includes Isiah Whitlock (The Wire, Veep), Matt Long (Private Practice, Jack & Bobby, The Newsroom), Stephen Louis Grush (Detroit 1-8-7, Steppenwolf Theater), Lorraine Bruce (The Syndicate, the British version of Lucky 7), Anastasia Phillips (Murdoch Mysteries, Skins, Bomb Girls), Summer Bishil (Towelhead, The Last Airbender), Luis Antonio Ramos (The Huntress, Queens, Early Edition), and Christine Evangelista (The Good Wife, Killpoint).  Lucky 7 premieres Tuesday September 24th at 10pm.

The cast of "Back in the Game"

Wednesday is ABC's true comedy night, with the returning The Middle and Modern Family offering support to two new sitcoms.  At 8:30pm ABC premieres Back in the Game, the story of a female softball player and her young son who are forced by circumstances to move back in with her ex-pro ballplayer father.  The son isn't a great athlete and doesn't make the local Little League, but when all the other athletic misfits come together into their own weird team, our ex-softballer steps in to lead them as coach, with help from her cranky dad.  Maggie Lawson (Psych, Party of Five, It's All Relative) stars as daughter Terry, veteran actor James Caan (Las Vegas, The Godfather, Misery, Brian's Song) is her unfettered father, Brit actress Lenora Crichlow (Being Human, Doctor Who) is a rich woman who bankrolls the team, Griffin Gluck (Private Practice, United States of Tara) is Maggie's son, Ben Coldyke (How I Met Your Mother, Work It) is another coach with a crush on Maggie, J.J. Totah (Jessie) as a boy with lots of fabulousness, along with Kennedy Waite and Cooper Roth as other teammates.  Other than being pretty much a doppelganger for The Bad News Bears, Back in the Game will have to prove that it's got the comedy skills to make this one score big.  Back in the Game premieres Wednesday September 25th at 8:30pm.

The post-Modern Family 9:30pm slot goes to newcomer Super Fun Night, the Conan O'Brien-exec produced sitcom starring fearless Australian comedy charmer Rebel Wilson.  Wilson (Bridesmaids, Pitch Perfect) is Kimmie, a newly-minted junior attorney with two best girlfriends and a standing evening-in each week with them.  When her suave boss invites her to a business party out, she figures it's time that she and her friends take their act on the road.  Wilson co-stars with Lauren Ash (Lars and the Real Girl, Scare Tactics), Liza Lapira (Don't Trust the B-- in Apt. 23, 21, Cloverfield, NCIS, Dollhouse), and Kevin Bishop (Muppet Treasure Island, The Kevin Bishop Show) is the new boss.  Though everybody seems to agree that Rebel Wilson is a unique delight in her other performances, early buzz on this series is waaay on the dismal side, Wilson's innate talent notwithstanding.  (FYI, NBC passed on a multi-camera version of this show last season.)  Plus, if you like her real Australian accent you won't get to hear it here -- she plays American.  Super Fun Night premieres Wednesday October 2nd at 9:30pm. 


Thursday at 8pm brings Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, the much-anticipated spin-off from Sunday night's storybook adventure Once Upon a Time which is entering its third season.  Known also as Once in Wonderland and set in atmospheric Victorian England, the series boasts creative input from Lost alumni and promises the same intricate fantastical plotting and high quality production values as its parent series.  Sophie Lowe (Beautiful Kate, The Slap) stars as Alice, along with Michael Socha (Being Human), Peter Gadiot (The Forbidden Girl), Emma Rigby (Ripper Street, Hollyoaks), Naveen Andrews (Lost, Sinbad), John Lithgow (Dexter, 3rd Rock from the Sun, The World According to Garp, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, Terms of Endearment) as the voice of the White Rabbit, Keith David (They Live, The Cape, ER) as the voice of the Cheshire Cat, and rocker Roger Daltry (from The Who) voicing the Caterpillar.  Once Upon a Time in Wonderland premieres Thursday October 10th at 8pm.

Overall, ABC seems to have a winner -- if all the portents are correct -- in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and couple of other maybes.  We'll discuss this more on our night-by-night analysis.

Next Up, CBS!