Fall TV Preview: Our Night-by-Night Guide

  • Publish Date: August 23, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 8 user comments


Thursday Primetime Schedule (All times ET/PT)
  8:00 8:30 9:00 9:30 10:00 10:30
ABC Charlie's Angels Grey's Anatomy Private Practice
CBS The Big Bang Theory How to Be a Gentleman Person of Interest The Mentalist
CW The Vampire Diaries The Secret Circle [Local programming]
Fox The X Factor [results] Bones [Local programming]
NBC Community Parks & Recreation * The Office Whitney Prime Suspect
Key cable shows:
      Archer (FX)
Beavis and Butt-head (MTV)
Good Vibes (MTV)
It's Always Sunny in Phil. (FX)
The League (FX)

New shows are highlighted in bold above. Cable shows will be covered in full in tomorrow's article.
* New time slot this fall

Key network shows:

(NBC, 8p starting Sep. 22)

One of the least predictable sitcoms on television (last season saw episodes ranging from stop-motion animation to a zombie apocalypse to an homage to, of all things, My Dinner with Andre), Community has won over not only a growing number of comedy fans and TV critics, but, heading into its third season, Hollywood talent as well. Among the recurring guest stars visiting the Greendale campus this season are John Goodman, Michael Kenneth Williams, (Omar from The Wire, here playing an intense new professor), Mel Rodriguez (Running Wilde), and Martin Starr (Party Down, Freaks and Geeks), while co-star Jim Rash has been promoted to series regular as Dean Pelton. Despite sharing a time period with the equally geeky but more successful Big Bang Theory, could this be the year that Community becomes a mainstream hit?

The Office
(NBC, 9p starting Sep. 22)

The first post-Steve Carell season of The Office finds Scranton branch manager Michael Scott replaced by—well, we still don't know, actually, though it will be an existing character rather than a newcomer. The reason for the mystery is that although James Spader will have a recurring presence (after appearing on last season's finale), his uber-confident Robert California character will spend only a brief time in Scott's chair, before getting himself a promotion to CEO of Dunder Mifflin parent company Sabre (effectively filling in for departed recurring star Kathy Bates, though Spader will appear more frequently). Meanwhile, Jenna Fischer's real-life pregnancy will be written into the show (meaning that the Halperts have a second child on the way), though she won't be the only mother-to-be in the office. Later in the season, the warehouse staff will win the lottery, and Stephen Collins (7th Heaven) and Dee Wallace (E.T.) will guest star as Andy's parents, while singer Josh Groban will appear as his brother. Can the show manage a creative rebound following a few sub-par years and the departure of Carell? Find out beginning September 22nd.

NEW Person of Interest Watch trailer
(CBS, 9p starting Sep. 22)

On paper, it's one of the fall season's most intriguing new shows. One part Equalizer, one part Minority Report, the J.J. Abrams-produced Person of Interest brings Lost's Michael Emerson back to the small screen as a crazy billionaire who recruits a former CIA agent (Jim Caviezel) to fight crime as a vigilante in New York City using a high tech system that can predict crimes before they happen. The drama was created by Jonah Nolan, best known for co-writing the screenplays to many of his brother Christopher's films, including The Dark Knight. Taraji P. Henson (Hustle and Flow) also stars, and CBS thinks highly enough of the series to give it the high-profile Thursday night slot formerly occupied by CSI. The pilot, however, was underwhelming, with critics finding Caviezel lacking as a leading man. But given the talent involved, there's still plenty of potential here.

Also on Thursday:

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8p starting Sep. 22) Watch previous season recap
What exactly happened between Raj and Penny in last season's finale? That question will be addressed (though not necessarily answered) when the show returns for its fifth season next month. Howard and Bernadette's wedding planning will occupy much of the season, while Leonard must deal not only with his feelings for Penny but also his girlfriend's move to India. Guest star Christine Baranski returns as Leonard's mother in the premiere.

Bones (Fox, 9p starting Nov. 3)
One of several Fox shows getting a late start to make room for the World Series, Bones returns in November for its seventh season. It will be a short one, however; just 13 episodes will air, sandwiched around 13 episodes of a Bones spin-off called The Finder (more on that later in this article). The premiere picks up with Emily Deschanel's Temperance Brennan still pregnant. (Deschanel's real-life maternity leave is another reason for the short season.) Morgan Fairchild will guest on an upcoming episode, and Tina Majorino may return as Special Agent Genny Shaw.

NEW Charlie's Angels (ABC, 8p starting Sep. 22) Watch trailer
This Miami-set reboot of the 1970s ABC series about a trio of female private investigators comes from Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, and is also produced by Drew Barrymore (who appeared in the 2000 movie version and its sequel). Minka Kelly (Friday Night Lights), Annie Ilonzeh (General Hospital), and Australian actress Rachael Taylor star as the Angels, but while Robert Wagner was originally cast to provide the voice of their unseen boss, that role is now up for grabs. Producers hope to slowly reveal the back story of each Angel and their handler, Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez), as the season progresses, though each episode will mostly focus on a self-contained story of the week.

Grey's Anatomy (ABC, 9p starting Sep. 22) Watch trailer
Season 8 of the long-running medical soap finds April (Sarah Drew, in her second season as a regular) facing challenges as the new chief resident at Seattle Grace, while the two-hour premiere (which picks up five days after last season's finale) will also see a new chief of surgery installed. Even more drama is due behind the scenes, however; the contracts for many key cast members expire at the end of the season, and it is possible that several stars will not return for a 9th season.

NEW How to Be a Gentleman (CBS, 8:30p starting Sep. 29) Watch trailer
Gentleman is loosely adapted by David Hornsby (who plays "Rickety Cricket" on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and also writes for that show) from John Bridges' book of etiquette for men. The buddy comedy centers on an uptight magazine advice columnist (Hornsby) who learns about life with the help of an old high school classmate—a personal trainer who doesn't share his appreciation for manners. The unusually strong cast includes Kevin Dillon (Entourage), Dave Foley (The Kids in the Hall, NewsRadio), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), and Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords), but the pilot has received a lukewarm reception from most critics and TV insiders who have seen it.

The Mentalist (CBS, 10p starting Sep. 22) Watch previous season recap
Season 4 of the hit procedural will feature guest appearances by Kelli Williams (Lie to Me) and Reed Diamond (Homicide: Life on the Street), while Michael Rady has been added to the cast as the new boss for Patrick Jane (Simon Baker).

Parks and Recreation (NBC, 8:30p starting Sep. 22)
While Parks & Rec is losing its post-Office timeslot to make room for Whitney, at least we won't have to wait until midseason to get new episodes of TV's funniest comedy as we did last season. When season 4 kicks off September 22, Patricia Clarkson will guest star as Ron Swanson's (Nick Offerman) first ex-wife Tammy, while Offerman's real-life wife Megan Mullally will return as Tammy 2 and SNL writer Paula Pell will appear as the ultimate Tammy (Ron's mother). And fans of Jean-Ralphio need not worry; Ben Schwartz will appear in the upcoming season despite joining the cast of a new Showtime series (House of Lies).

NEW Prime Suspect (NBC, 10p starting Sep. 22) Watch trailer
Maria Bello inherits the role made famous by Helen Mirren in the acclaimed UK series (which aired here on PBS). In NBC's new take on the police procedural Prime Suspect, Bello plays a detective in a tough, male-dominated New York City precinct; Aidan Quinn, Brian O'Byrne, Kirk Acevedo, and Peter Gerety also star, while Jay Mohr will have a key guest appearance. The adaptation comes from producers Alexandra Cunningham (a frequent writer on Desperate Housewives) and Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights); the latter also directed the pilot.

Private Practice (ABC, 10p starting Sep. 29)
A.J. Langer (My So Called Life) will have a recurring role in season 5 of the Grey's Anatomy spinoff, which picks up immediately where last season's cliffhanger ending left off: with Pete in the middle of a heart attack.

NEW The Secret Circle (The CW, 9p starting Sep. 15) Watch trailer
Based on the young adult book trilogy of the same name by Vampire Diaries author L.J. Smith, The Secret Circle is adapted for the network—like Diaries, which airs before it—by Kevin Williamson (Dawson's Creek). The series centers on an orphaned teen girl (Life Unexpected's Britt Robertson) who moves from California to live with her grandmother in a small Washington town and discovers that she comes from a long line of witches, and, as a witch herself, holds the key to a brewing battle between good and evil. Thomas Dekker (The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Kaboom), Natasha Henstridge (Eli Stone), and Gale Harold (Queer as Folk) also star.

The Vampire Diaries (The CW, 8p starting Sep. 15) Watch trailer
Stefan's move to the dark side—and the resulting relationship between Damon and Elena—will be just a few of the many storylines (set up in last season's finale) that occupy the third season of The Vampire Diaries. Mystic Falls will get several new visitors this year, including Jack Coleman (Heroes), David Gallagher (7th Heaven), and Sebastian Roche (Supernatural); the latter will play a vampire hunter who targets Klaus (Joseph Morgan).

NEW Whitney (NBC, 9:30p starting Sep. 22) Watch trailer
Stand-up comedian Whitney Cummings (Chelsea Lately) somehow has two series debuting this fall. In addition to the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, which she's producing, Cummings wrote the pilot for and will star (opposite Chris D'Elia) in this eponymous NBC multi-camera sitcom about a young couple looking for ways to keep their long-term committed relationship going. The network is giving the show the plum post-Office slot on Thursday nights, but it will need to fix some problems if it wants to keep it; critics found the pilot entirely unfunny. The recent addition of Malcolm In the Middle star Jane Kaczmarek to the cast could be a step in the right direction.

Comments (8)

  • veronicalodge  

    hi,you've specified that cheryl cole will be a judge on the u.s. x factor - she was replaced months ago; the fourth judge on the u.s. panel is nicole scherzinger. cheers.

  • conditionals  

    This is coming from a diehard supporter of NBC comedies: Community is probably the most overrated show on TV. It's OK, but doesn't deserve the hype. The 'randomness' reeks of lazyness... compare it with Parks & Recreation, which ties smart comedy with genuinely affecting storylines. My vote for most underrated would be Cougar Town.

  • SamECircle  

    lamontraymond, I don't have cable, actually :-)! I'll just watch whatever got good ratings on netflix in the summer.

  • LamontRaymond  

    Don't forget the cable stuff, Sam

  • SamECircle  

    What I'm watching:
    Monday: 2 broke girls, hart of Dixie
    Tuesday: New Girl, and Raising Hope if it wins an emmy
    Wednesday: Up All Night, Suburgatory, Modern Family
    Thursday: Community, Parks and Rec, the Office, perhaps Whitney (I’ll see after pilot)
    Friday: My 9yrold sister wants to watch Grimm because the plot’s so similar to the Sisters Grimm kids books, but after the pilot prolly nothing
    Saturday: nothing
    Sunday: Once upon a Time, (same reason as Grimm) until we’re sick of it, then simpsons, perhaps Pan Am

  • GRubi  

    The actor that plays the Dean on Community is named Jim Rash, not Jim Roush.

  • Vaille  

    If Community isn't the best comedy on television right now, it's certainly the most underrated.

  • LamontRaymond  

    The networks have to be quaking in their boots with these lineups. Bottom line? I can't think of more than 2 or 3 new shows that look remotely worth watching. Everything good these days seems to come from HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX, USA, and the other cable channels. It is still the golden age of TV, but if you're going to spend your TIME on free entertainment, make sure you do your research and stick with the quality. There are no risk takers on network TV any more - it's the same old crap. The edgy stuff - the stuff that won't get cancelled after 2 underperforming episodes - is further up your dial.

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