Ah, fall! Along with your crisp, cool days and the craving for warm apple cider, you bring about television's newest offerings. The networks seem to have recurring (or is that repetitious?) themes this year. Magic abounds, as do fairy tales and other monstrous creatures. And, since the 60s worked so well for AMC's Mad Men, we should have known the era would be ripe for the picking. The following list--in no particular order--are a few of the new series we're looking forward to this year. **Warning, spoilers ahead**
Ringer, Aired September 13, The CW
The premise: Sarah Michelle Gellar returns to television, in not one role, but two, playing twin sisters--Bridget, witness to a crime and on the run from the FBI; and Siobhan, trapped in a high society life and loveless marriage. The pilot episode threw a lot at us (affairs, a faked suicide, attempted murders, impersonation), and might have been better served over two hours. But we admit we're hooked already.
Why we're watching: Umm, SMG is back on television! And for all of the other above reasons. For all that the pilot was busy, we can't wait to see where this winding neo-noir road leads us. Also starring Ioan Gruffudd as Siobhan's husband, Kristoffer Pulka as Siobhan's lover, and Nestor Carbonella (and his too-good-to-be-true eyelashes) as an FBI agent searching for Bridget, all good reasons to tune in.
Death Valley, Aired August 29 on MTV
The premise: Not for the feint of heart or stomach, MTV's original series is in your face gore and snark … and is incredibly fun. Told Cops-style, this mockumentary follows the UTF precinct officers (Tania Raymonde, Texas Battle, et al.) under Captain Dashell (Bryan Callen) as they take on the vampires, zombies, and werewolves that inexplicably appeared in the valley. While it started a few weeks ago, you can get caught up online.
Why we're watching: Irreverent adult humor that turns the supernatural trend on its sparkling head.
Person of Interest, Aired September 22 on CBS
The premise: After September 11, 2001, eccentric billionaire (is there any other kind?), Finch (Michael Emerson of Lost fame) created a pattern-recognition system that collects information--through computers, cell phones, and cameras on the street--to predict who will become involved in violent crimes. Some years later, he teams up with Reece (Jim Caviezel), a presumed-dead CIA agent, to help him stop those crimes. While it doesn't sound like these two initially trust each other: Reece pokes into Finch's past and Finch doesn't really trust anyone. Complicating matters is Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson), who starts tracking Reece.
Why we're watching: Complicated premise? Perhaps. Hopefully this show will find the gray line separating protection vs. spying vs. paranoia … then stomp all over it and make us think. Besides, we'll watch anything with Michael Emerson.
2 Broke Girls, Aired September 19 on CBS
The premise: A(nother) modern take on The Odd Couple, this time featuring snarky street smart waitress Max (Kat Dennings) and bankrupt ex-heiress Caroline (Beth Behrs), who works with Max. These two opposites not only decide to live together, but to start a business together.
Why we're watching: In less capable hands, we might be dubious, but exec producer Michael Patrick King worked on Sex and the City, and we've heard that was a success! Also, Kat Dennings (usually) walks that delightfully fine line between sass and being obnoxious very skillfully, so count us in.
Terra Nova, Aired September 26 on Fox
The premise: Executive produced by Steven Spielberg, this is one of the most ambitious series we've seen in a while. Terra Nova takes us 138 years into a bleak future, where humans have all but ruined Earth. The discovery of a rift in time prompts a new generation of “pilgrims” to go back in time to a prehistoric, Cretaceous-period Earth so they can start fresh. The Shannon family (including Jason O'Mara and Shelley Conn) take the plunge, so to speak, and come under the leadership of Commander Nathaniel Taylor (Avatar baddie Stephen Lang). As the Shannons learn to survive on this new--but old to them--world, they come under the attack of a rogue group of residents called the Sixers, for reasons unknown; deal with the Commander's cagey tactics; and, oh yeah, there's dinosaurs.
Why we're watching: The series is exec produced by Spielberg, and the man knows his way around dinosaurs. Think what you will about Avatar, Stephen Lang was ridiculously over-the-top entertaining, and his role here has a similar feel. And then there's those dinosaurs …
The Secret Circle, Aired September 15 on The CW
The premise: Newly orphaned 16-year-old Cassie (Britt Robertson) is sent to live with her grandmother in the town her mother grew up in, but never talked about. Cassie is approached--and tested--by five of her new classmates (including Thomas Dekker as Adam) who break the news to her: she's a witch, as were all of their parents until something tragic and unspoken happened. Cassie's arrival completes the circle of magic they formed, upping their powers to dangerous and hard to control levels. Keeping things from getting too new agey, two of the parents (Natasha Henstridge and Gale Harold) seem to have a bloody agenda … one that involved killing Cassie's mother, perhaps to lure/force her back?
Why we're watching: Magic seems to be the new vampire, but we're okay with that--for now. Britt Robertson was a delight to watch in Life UnExpected, as was Thomas Dekker in the still missed Sarah Connor Chronicles.
Prime Suspect, Aired September 22 on NBC
The premise: A remake of the British Hellen Mirren staple, Jane Timoney (Maria Bello), is a tough, no-nonsense NYC homicide detective (as so many female cops on television seem to be), who will deal with hostility from both the perps she arrests and her fellow officers. Unlike the UK version, which used an entire mini-series for the case, each murder will be solved within an episode.
Why we're watching: This adaptation is executive produced by Alexandra Cunningham, who worked on the original, as well as NYPD Blue. Though it will probably follow the typical procedural formula we're used to, there's comfort in that style and it's worked for many a cop show. Then there's that news-making hat …
Revenge, Aired September 21 on ABC
The premise: Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) tells it straight: she's come home not to dispense forgiveness, but to exact revenge against those who destroyed her family. Her new neighbors have no idea who Emily is, as she skillfully blends into the community, makes new friends, and sets her plan into motion.
Why we're watching: Every season needs at least one guilty pleasure show, and we're hoping this will be worthy of our time. While the Klingons may prefer their revenge served up cold, there's nothing like a warm summer in the Hamptons to really heat things up!
Grimm, October 21 on NBC/ Once Upon A Time, October 23 on ABC
The premise(s): Taking the fairy tale trail, you have two options (or both, we won't make you chose!). Grimm seems to be the darker of the two, following Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) who discovers he's descended from a line of criminal profilers--called Grimms--tasked with keeping the world's mythological creatures in line.
Once Upon A Time looks to be a beautiful mystery set in the (subtly) named town of Storybrooke, Maine. A group of fairy tale characters are trapped in the town and have been cursed to forget their true origins, including Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), her--possibly--long-lost daughter, Emma (Jennifer Morrison), and, of course, Prince Charming (Josh Dallas). We'll also be treated to flashbacks showing the characters' former lives in Fairy Tale Land.
Why we're watching (both): Though viewers may tune into Grimm, which airs a couple days earlier, and not give Once Upon A Time a chance, we think the two shows will be different enough that you can enjoy both and not feel like you're getting a second helping of the same entreé. Here's wishing upon a star …
Pan Am, Aired September 25 on ABC
The premise: Based on a woman's actual experiences (executive producer Nancy Hult Ganis), many of the larger storylines are at least modeled after real events, including the stealth rescue mission to Cuba and the assassination of JFK. Follow Laura (Margot Robbie) as she runs out on her wedding and takes to the skies with her sister, Kate (Kelli Garner), a Pan Am stewardess. Joining the sisters are they travel around the world are fellow stewardesses Maggie (Christina Ricci) and French-born Colette (Karine Vanasse), and pilot Dean (Mike Vogel).
Why we're watching: Set in the heyday of airline travel, flying has never looked so good. But we don't think this show will be all pie in the sky. It doesn't sound like the writers are going to back away from the tumultuous political climate of the early-to-mid 60s.
Which new shows are you watching? --Jill Corddry