ABC: New fall shows
Back in the Game Watch trailer
Comedy | Wednesdays at 8:30p starting September 25
"Nearly every joke grounds out. With few laughs to reward an otherwise talented cast, the series is ultimately a swing and a miss."
—Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast
Think of it as Bad News Bears with James Caan. Actually, it is Maggie Lawson (Psych) who finds herself as the coach of a team of misfit Little Leaguers; she's also a former softball player who, after a recent divorce, takes her son and moves in with her estranged, opinionated father (Caan). Critics found the pilot, directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (Crazy, Stupid, Love), mostly lackluster, though a few suggested it could evolve into a decent show, and nearly everyone loved Lawson. The single-camera comedy comes from brothers Mark and Robb Cullen, who previously created the FX series Lucky and wrote the Kevin Smith-directed Cop Out.
Betrayal Watch trailer
Drama | Sundays at 10p starting September 29
"This show is too soapy, and the sexual tension feels forced. There's a lot of swelling music and meaningful glances, but when it comes down to it, the romance just isn't intriguing."
—Maggie Pehanick, PopSugar
The network that gave you Revenge and Scandal has yet another one-word primetime soap for your fall viewing pleasure, and this one is intended to be steamier than the others. (Critics, however, were bored senseless by the pilot, which had none of the camp factor that makes Revenge addictive.) The Chicago-set drama centers on a woman (Hannah Ware) who begins an affair with an attorney (Stuart Townsend), only to learn that he will be opposing her husband (another attorney, played by Chris Johnson) in an upcoming high-profile murder trial. James Cromwell, Wendy Moniz, and Henry Thomas also star for former ER producer David Zabel, who is also the creator of ABC's new Lucky 7 (see below). ABC ordered just 13 episodes for this season.
The Goldbergs Watch trailer
Comedy | Tuesdays at 9p starting September 24
"Charming, nostalgic and sweet, like an old baby blanket -- but not a watercooler show."
—Laura Prudom, Huffington Post
Unlike FX's darker The Americans, ABC newcomer The Goldbergs mines the Reagan era for laughs. Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids) and Jeff Garlin (Curb Your Enthusiasm) star as an "in-your-face mother" and a "hot-tempered father" who try to raise their three kids during the 1980s; George Segal (Just Shoot Me) co-stars, and Patton Oswalt provides Wonder Years-style voice-over narration from the present day as a grown version of one of the kids. Series creator (and former Community producer) Adam F. Goldberg based the series on his own childhood, using old home movies as a reference (some of those clips are incorporated into the show). Adam Sandler is also on board as a producer. Critics were mixed on the pilot; some saw a bit of potential, but many noted that, minus the 1980s elements, it was rote family sitcom and a fairly unfunny one at that.
Lucky 7 Watch trailer
Drama | Tuesdays at 10p starting September 24
"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."
—Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast
What happens when seven gas station employees in Queens win a multi-million-dollar lottery jackpot? With any luck, something interesting ... since that's the premise of ABC's new Tuesday night drama, which is loosely based on the British series The Syndicate. The cast includes The Wire's Isiah Whitlock, Jr. (yes, this guy), Matt Long (Private Practice), and Stephen Louis Grush (Detroit 1-8-7), while Steven Spielberg is among the producers. Critics weren't entirely sure what to make of the pilot, which suffered from having to introduce too many storylines and characters (not just the seven in question, but their families as well), but some were encouraged by the show's light, humourous approach.
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Watch trailer
Drama/Action | Tuesdays at 8p starting September 24
"It's good. It's not great. I'm not even sure I'd put a 'very' in front of 'good.' ... It won't change your life or ABC's life, but it's got potential."
—Daniel Fienberg, HitFix
"The first episode is zippy, slick-looking, and Whedonistically funny. It also seems much more limited in its ambitions than Whedon's past TV shows."
—James Poniewozik, Time
"If you strip away all the hype and history. ... Forget The Avengers, ignore that it's Marvel, and somehow delete from your brain this is Joss Whedon's TV return … if you do all that and just watch this pilot as a regular TV show … it still works."
—James Hibberd, EW
If there's one new fall show you already have marked on your calendar, it's this one: the first weekly live-action television series set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. More important for TV fans, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. marks the return to series television for Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly) for the first time since Dollhouse. In addition to directing the pilot, Whedon serves as executive producer—along with Jeph Loeb (Heroes)—while Whedon's frequent collaborator (and always brother) Jed wrote the pilot with his wife and fellow Dollhouse vet Maurissa Tancharoen.
The series revolves around Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg, reprising his role from The Avengers, where, yes, he did seem to die) and his team of agents (including ER's Ming-Na Wen, Nashville's Chloe Bennet, Coronation Street's Iain De Caestecker, and at least one surprise that you probably already know about) in the worldwide law-enforcement organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. While there will certainly be action, don't expect superheroes; the agents are mere ordinary humans, and the show appears to be structured like a typical procedural, albeit one with wittier-than-normal dialogue and plenty of references to Marvel characters and films. Critics have yet to see a fully finished pilot (a preliminary version screened at Comic-Con to a predictably rapturous response from fans), but that hasn't stopped them from speculating about whether the show will be ABC's savior.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland Watch trailer
Drama/Fantasy | Thursdays at 8p starting October 10
This spin-off from the one-time hit fantasy drama Once Upon a Time focuses on the character of Alice (Sophie Lowe), a young girl believed by doctors in Victorian England to be insane, but who may, in fact, be experiencing quite the adventure. (She's a "kickass" version of the Alice you know, if you believe ABC execs.) The new show will also feature John Lithgow as the voice of the White Rabbit, while Lost's Naveen Andrews will portray Jafar, last seen in the Disney film Aladdin. Rounding out the cast are Peter Gadiot, Emma Rigby, and Michael Socha. Does primetime television need yet another fantasy series? ABC seems to think so (despite declining ratings for Once Upon a Time), giving Wonderland a high-profile Thursday night time slot, though just for 13 episodes this season (divided into two parts to allow a break in January for reality newcomer The Quest). Note that critics haven't had much footage to preview yet, since the show was ordered to series without a full pilot, though the first episode is expected to be a crossover with the original series, with Wonderland's first moments actually taking place in Storybrooke.
Super Fun Night Watch trailer
Comedy | Wednesdays at 9:30p starting October 2
"Most simply said, Happy Endings ... has been replaced with a live-action cartoon, a series with three lead characters that are so off the wall they are not to be believed, let alone rooted for."
—Matt Webb Mitovich, TV Line
After being rejected by CBS a year ago, this Rebel Wilson (Bridesmaids) sitcom was retooled as a single-camera comedy and picked up by ABC for 13 episodes, where it will have Modern Family as a lead-in. The show centers on a group of three women friends (Wilson, Liza Lapira, and Lauren Ash) who have gathered (at home) every Friday night for over a decade, until Wilson's character decides to take things to the next level by forcing the group to go out to a club in an attempt to impress a new work colleague. Conan O'Brien is among the producers, as is former 30 Rock producer John Riggi. But last year's original pilot didn't have great buzz, and critics aren't very fond of the new version, either, with many suggesting that the role isn't suited to Wilson's talents.
Trophy Wife Watch trailer
Comedy | Tuesdays at 9:30p starting September 24
"Knowing that it's hard for a comedy pilot to hit the ground with hilarity, I won't criticize 'Trophy Wife' harshly for making me consistently smile, but not laugh."
—Daniel Fienberg, HitFix
The first show picked up from the in-demand team of Emily Halpern (a writer on Private Practice and The Unit) and Sarah Haskins (whose own marriage serves as the basis for the show), this single-camera comedy boasts a strong ensemble cast that includes Malin Akerman (Childrens' Hospital, Suburgatory), Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden, Michaela Watkins (SNL), Natalie Morales (90210), and Phyllis Smith (The Office). Akerman stars as the titular trophy wife, a "reformed party girl" who finds herself with an instant family after marrying a man (Whitford) with three manipulative children and a pair of meddlesome ex-wives. The Office's Lee Eisenberg & Gene Stupnitsky are also on board as producers. With one of the best-received comedy pilots of the fall (though that's not saying much; critics liked the cast and absolutely loved Akerman, but found the writing closer to average), this sitcom would seem like a perfect fit for a post-Modern Family Wednesday time slot ... leading many experts to question why ABC has scheduled it on a different night.
More new and returning ABC shows this season
The Black Box Date/time tbd (2014)
This 13-episode limited series (which could arrive as soon as January) will star Kelly Reilly (Sherlock Holmes) as a neuroscientist who secretly suffers from mental illness.
Castle Mondays at 10p starting September 23
Despite a brief work stoppage due to a contract dispute between ABC and star Nathan Fillion, the long-running drama will return for a sixth season that will feature House's Lisa Edelstein in a multi-episode guest role.
Grey's Anatomy Thursdays at 9p starting September 25
The medical drama's split 10th season (expect a two-month hiatus in the winter) kicks off with a two-hour premiere and will feature Dexter's James Remar in a multi-episode guest arc, while Gaius Charles, Camilla Luddington, Jerrika Hinton, and Tessa Ferrer have all been upped to series regular status. While Grey's is expected to continue beyond this year, Sandra Oh will depart the series at the end of the season.
Killer Women Date/time tbd (2014) Watch trailer
Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer stars as the lone female officer in the Texas Rangers in a drama based on the Argentine series Mujeres Asesinas. Helfer's former BSG co-star Michael Trucco also stars, along with Marc Blucas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Marta Milans (Shame). The show is produced by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) and Modern Family star Sofia Vergara, and is created by Hannah Shakespeare (screenwriter of The Raven). Other than the nice cinematography, there wasn't much about the pilot that appealed to critics.
Last Man Standing Fridays at 8p starting September 20
The Tim Allen comedy returns for a third season that will see cast members from Duck Dynasty make their "acting debuts."
The Middle Wednesdays at 8p starting September 25
SNL's Rachel Dratch will guest in an early episode of the comedy's fifth season.
Mind Games Date/time tbd (2014) Watch trailer
Will the third time be the charm for creator Kyle Killen, whose previous network offerings (Lone Star 73 and Awake 75) were quickly canceled despite strong reviews? His newest quirky drama stars Steve Zahn and Christian Slater as brothers—one's a bipolar behavioral scientist recovering from an academic scandal, the other a charming ex-con—who start an agency that seeks to solve its clients' problems "using the real science of human motivation and manipulation." Critics have not yet seen the pilot.
Mixology Date/time tbd (2014) Watch trailer
This gimmicky comedy follows a group of 10 singles looking for love at a Manhattan bar over the course of a single night. Yes, the entire series will take place during that one evening—the bathroom line episode is going to be a killer—which seems to portend a short on-air life right from the start. Mixology, which hasn't been screened for critics, comes from the writing duo of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who wrote The Hangover and 21 & Over, two films dealing with a similarly compressed time scale.
Modern Family Wednesdays at 9p starting September 25
Adam DeVine (Workaholics) will have a recurring role as a nanny hired by Gloria in the hit comedy's fifth season.
Nashville Wednesdays at 10p starting September 25 Watch trailer
A modest first-year hit (despite a widely panned cliffhanger finale), Nashville will return for a second season just days after it finds out whether star Connie Britton is a first-time Emmy winner. Lennon and Maisy Stella and Chris Carmack will all be series regulars this season, while newcomers will include Oliver Hudson (Rules of Engagement) and Charlie Bewley (Twilight). Meanwhile, country artist Buddy Miller will replace T Bone Burnett as the show's music composer. Like many ABC dramas this season, the show will take go on hiatus in the winter before returning on February 26th.
The Neighbors Fridays at 8:30p starting September 20
The almost-canceled aliens-next-door series returns for a second season that finds the comedy shifting to Friday nights. Wendy Williams and Jerry Springer will each guest in one episode.
Once Upon a Time Sundays at 8p starting September 29
The fantasy drama's third season will see Michael Raymond-James elevated to series regular. Early storylines will involve a visit to Neverland, where you'll see Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, while the season's sixth episode will introduce Ariel (aka the Little Mermaid, who will be played by Joanna Garcia).
The Quest Thursdays at 8p starting January 2, 2014
Sounding like an MMORPG crossed with The Amazing Race (whose producers are behind this new series), this
reality fantasy competition asks a dozen competitors to undergo a series of challenges in "Everealm," describe by the network as "a land of magic and malevolence, where mythical creatures lurk in the woods, agents of darkness stir in the shadows, and mystical beings infiltrate the keep." Finally, a reality show for LARPers. (At least it's not another singing competition.) The show will take the place of Wonderland on Thursdays for the first few months of 2014.
Resurrection Sundays at 10p starting March 9, 2014 Watch trailer
Based on an upcoming novel (The Returned) by poet Jason Mott, this promising supernatural thriller depicts a small town where long-dead people begin showing up on their loved ones' doorsteps, each seemingly alive and looking exactly like they did on the day they died. Omar Epps (House), Devin Kelley (Covert Affairs, The Chicago Code), Frances Fisher (Titanic), Matt Craven (A Few Good Men), and Kurtwood Smith (That '70s Show) star for creator/producer Aaron Zelman (who has worked on The Killing, Criminal Minds, and Damages). Expect a 12- or 13-episode season. Critics seemed especially intrigued by the pilot, though some questioned the show's ability to work as an ongoing series.
Revenge Sundays at 9p starting September 29 Watch trailer
After an uneven (at best) second season, showrunner and series creator Mike Kelley has departed the show, leaving the soapy drama in the hands of producer Sunil Nayar. Also gone are series regulars Ashley Madekwe and Connor Paolo (though the former will appear one last time in the season premiere). After a batch of fall episodes showcasing a new, more "streamlined" approach, the series will sit out early 2014 and return on March 9th.
Scandal Thursdays at 10p starting October 3
A favorite guilty pleasure of TV critics, the increasingly popular Shonda Rhimes soap—starring new Emmy nominee Kerry Washington—returns for a third season with Scott Foley elevated to series regular, while Lisa Kudrow has just nabbed a recurring role as a politician. Expect the premiere to resume just 22 minutes after the events of last season's finale. Scandal is also expected to have a two-month hiatus in early 2014.
Suburgatory Day/time tbd (2014)
On the bubble last year, the comedy was renewed for a third season, though it doesn't yet have a home on ABC's schedule, and regulars Alan Tudyk and Rex Lee will no longer be in the cast (though Tudyk should still appear in a few episodes). The show's 13-episode order could be extended if other programs on ABC's midseason schedule falter.
Toy Story of Terror Wednesday, October 16 at 8p
This Pixar-produced half-hour Halloween special will feature much of the original vocal cast from the Toy Story films, including Tom Hanks and Tim Allen.
More shows, more networks ...