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Fall TV preview

The challenge for the networks will be to replace venerable, quality shows that are signing off this season or next

By David Wiegand

San Francisco Chronicle

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 08:59 p.m. HST, Sep 10, 2013


It's easy to spot the trends in TV in the fall of 2013 — pretty much the same as last year, but more so: Broadcast is flailing around as it tries to compete against cable and new content delivery platforms, binge watching is all the rage, time-shifting is becoming the default way of watching shows.

But there is one big difference: Several major shows are either already gone, are about to leave or have only another season or maybe two to go.

Ask yourself if you've seen anything recently that might take the place of "Breaking Bad," "Futurama," "Burn Notice," "The Office," "30 Rock," "Dexter," "Enlightened," "Fringe," or "Southland."

"The League," "Sons of Anarchy" and "Mad Men" each have one more season.

But when all of these shows are gone, what's left? "Homeland" is still strong, but you have to ask how long the conceit of the high-strung CIA agent and the former POW can maintain this high-wire act. Where are the new "Breaking Bads" or "Dexters"? And, on the broadcast front, where are the new "Nashvilles" and "Modern Families"?

Surveying the array of new shows this fall, there is some good news: Several look watchable. We even see some real hope on the sitcom front, with Michael J. Fox and Robin Williams returning to series TV. Fantasy dominates big time in new drama, with "Dracula," "The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D," "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland," "Almost Human," "The Tomorrow People," "The Originals" and "Sleepy Hollow."

New dramas also continue to feed on our general sense of paranoia. Not sure any of the new shows do that quite well as "Homeland" and "Person of Interest," but "Hostages" might manage.

Premium cable isn't offering a lot this fall, although Showtime is banking heavily on "Masters of Sex," a dramatic series about the personal and professional relationship between Virginia Johnson and Dr. William Masters. The first couple of episodes left me unimpressed, although Lizzy Caplan is terrific as Johnson. But there is nudity — a lot of it — and the show could get better once Masters' character, played by Michael Sheen, removes the stick from his nether region.

HBO has the Stephen Merchant sitcom, "Hello Ladies," as well as a few one-offs, including a dramatization of the behind-the-scenes Supreme Court decision about Muhammad Ali's conscientious-objector draft status.

BBC America will celebrate "Doctor Who" in a big way this fall, with a 50th-anniversary special, as well as a feature film called "An Adventure in Space and Time," about the first actor to play the doctor.

It also has a new fantasy series coming called "Atlantis," which mixes multiple myths together, but somehow I doubt it's aimed at Greek scholars.

In terms of the next great show, TV will be in a holding pattern this fall, and our best hope is for midseason and beyond. Think about that as you watch the final episodes of "Breaking Bad."

Capsule descriptions of many of the new shows heading your way this fall:

ABC

» Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesdays, Sept. 24): Joss and Jed Whedon team with Marvel on a fantasy action series about a team of super­agents battling aliens and other weird cases. Clark Gregg reprises his Phil Coulson role from "The Avengers," rising from the dead to do so.

» Back in the Game (Wednesdays, Sept. 25): Maggie Lawson ("Psych"), former softball all-star, is a newly single mom who takes on coaching a team of "Bad News Bears" Little Leaguers. James Caan is her crusty but lovable dad.

» Lucky 7 (Tuesdays, Sept. 24): Seven people working at a Queens, N.Y., gas station win the lottery, and it changes their lives. Damon Runyan meets "Touched by an Angel." Money can't buy happiness.

» The Goldbergs (Tuesdays, Sept. 24): Wendi McClendon Covey and Jeff Garlin are '80s parents, George Segal is his dad. Promising sitcom from Adam F. Goldberg ("Breaking In") based on his life.

» Super Fun Night (Wednesdays, Oct. 2): Sitcom vehicle for Aussie comic wunderkind Rebel Wilson, who gets a new job and attracts the attention of a handsome attorney who likes large women. Conan O'Brien is one of the producers.

» Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Thursdays, Oct. 10): Somewhat darker spinoff of "Once Upon a Time," focusing on Alice's descent through the rabbit hole and into a CGI Wonderland. Sophie Lowe is Alice, and John Lithgow voices the White Rabbit.

» Trophy Wife (Tuesdays, Sept. 24): Malin Akerman plays the sexy, younger new wife of Bradley Whitford's character and finds herself having to deal with the baggage of his two ex-wives. Marcia Gay Harden plays one of the exes in the sitcom.

» Betrayal (Sundays, Sept. 29): Soapy drama about an unhappily married photographer (Hannah Ware) who hooks up with unhappily wed lawyer (Stuart Townsend). Their illicit relationship is complicated when they find themselves on opposite sides in a murder trial.

BBC AMERICA

» Atlantis (Saturdays, Nov. 23): Action fantasy series starring Jack Donnelly as Jason, with Mark Addy as Hercules. Other cast members include Juliet Stevenson as the Oracle and Robert Emms as … Pythagoras? Does this mean a math quiz?

CBS

» Mom (Mondays, Sept. 23): It's a sitcom created by Chuck Lorre and Eddie Gorodetsky, directed by Pamela Fryman, and stars Anna Faris as a recovering alcoholic single mom saddled with her zany mom, played by Allison Janney. The collective pedigree is good, but is that enough?

» The Crazy Ones (Thursdays, Sept. 26): Robin Williams returns to series TV in a David E. Kelley sitcom as an unpredictable ad agency head whose straitlaced daughter, Sarah Michelle Gellar, tries to be the ambitious voice of reason. James Wolk supports, and he knows something about ad agencies ("Mad Men").

» We Are Men (Mondays, Sept. 30): Think "The Exes," with Jerry O'Connell, Tony Shalhoub and Kal Penn as divorced men who try to support newly dumped Chris Smith. O'Connell's Speedo is a cinch for a supporting award.

» Hostages (Mondays, Sept. 23): Complex action drama about a family of a surgeon (Toni Collette) taken hostage by a loose cannon FBI agent (Dylan McDer­mott). She's ordered to kill the president during surgery. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer ("CSI-NY").

» The Millers (Thursdays, Oct. 3): More of an old-fashioned sitcom than you'd expect from Greg Garcia ("Raising Hope"). Will Arnett stars as a newly divorced guy whose parents, Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale, split up after years of marriage, and Mama moves in with her son.

THE CW

» Reign (Thursdays, Oct. 17): Surprisingly sophisticated production values (for the CW) in a show about the early years of Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane), betrothed since childhood to the future king of France (Tony Regbo). They are both "Gossip Girl"-ready hotties, of course, but the show works as a kind of "Tudors" knock-off.

» The Tomorrow People (Wednesdays, Oct. 9): Robbie Amell (cousin of "Arrow's" Stephen Amell) is part of an evolved class of humans with superpowers, although he doesn't realize it at first. Naturally, all the Tomorrow people are, like, totally hot.

» The Originals (Thursdays, Oct. 3): This is a sometimes confusing mishmash of vampires, werewolves and witches in New Orleans. The show's title refers to the original vampires who are out to reclaim control over the supernatural world. Yes, it's a spinoff of "The Vampire Diaries." How did you guess?

FOX

» Enlisted (Fridays, Nov. 8): Military sitcoms are the unexpected distant relatives who show up for dinner on television. The real world usually makes it difficult to find humor in a fictional TV show. But Fox makes an attempt with a show about two screw-up brothers (Chris Lowell and Parker Young) whose much more with-it brother shows up at their Florida Army base and gets saddled with them and other "Bad News Bears" recruits. Hey, second time I used "BNB" as a reference. TV may be on to something … again.

» Almost Human (Mondays, Nov. 4): Michael Ealy stars as an android LA cop 35 years into the future who teams up with a human cop, played by Karl Urban. Lili Taylor is also in the cast, and the show is produced by J.J. Abrams ("Person of Interest"), among others.

» Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Tuesdays, Sept. 17): Andy Samberg plays a rule-breaking young cop and Andre Braugher is his tough new boss in a "Barney Miller"-like sitcom.

» Sleepy Hollow (Mondays, Monday): Ichabod Crane rises from the dead in the 21st century and is pursued by the headless horseman, with lots of other occult and supernatural plot twists and nifty CGI. Starring Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie and Orlando Jones.

» Dads (Tuesdays, Sept. 17): The sitcom is getting slammed for having Brenda Song dress as an Asian schoolgirl to woo Asian businessmen to her bosses' company.

Fox won't reshoot the offensive scenes, so far. But also so far, the show wastes an amazing cast by not writing funny. Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi play young guys on their way up who are saddled with their set-in-their-ways dads, played by Martin Mull and Peter Riegert.

FX

» American Horror Story: Coven (Wednesdays, Oct. 9): Ryan Murphy's Emmy-grabbing little miniseries just keeps chugging along, and Jessica Lange is along for the ride, albeit as a different character from season to season. Something witchy this way comes with "Coven," with powerhouses Kathy Bates, Patti LuPone and Angela Bassett adding to the brew.

HBO

» Hello, Ladies (Sundays, Sept. 29): Ricky Gervais' sometime collaborator Stephen Merchant is out on his own with a sitcom in which he plays a very tall man with limited abilities to attract women. He's gotten better at it in real life, he says. Honest.

NBC

» The Blacklist (Mondays, Sept. 23): Kinda like "White Collar" and a zillion other shows where the bad guy works with the good guys to solve crimes. James Spader is the baddie in question, working with rookie FBI agent Elizabeth Keene (Megan Boone), who doesn't trust him. They share some secret in their past that he knows about and she doesn't. Let's guess. Might she be shopping for a Father's Day gift soon?

» Ironside (Wednesdays, Oct. 2): A 21st-century take on the old Raymond Burr series about a very able cop in a wheelchair, this time played by Blair Underwood. The action crime series includes flashbacks of Ironside before he was injured, reaffirming that he hasn't let a wheelchair stop him from being a doggedly tough cop.

» The Michael J. Fox Show (Thursdays, Sept. 26): What else do you need? Years of guest shots on "The Good Wife" and other shows have only made us miss his regular presence even more. Here he plays a news anchor briefly sidelined by his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, but he's too bored not working. He decides to go back to the job, much to the relief of his wife and kids.

» Sean Saves the World (Thursdays, Oct. 3): After making a ton of money producing other television shows, Sean Hayes is back on series TV as a single gay dad with a 14-year-old daughter. Hayes gets sitcom royalty in the person of Linda Lavin to play his mother. Megan Hilty, liberated by the demise of "Smash," plays his best friend.

» Welcome to the Family (Thursdays, Oct. 3): "Romeo and Juliet" played for laughs, as a cute Latino teen (Joey Haro) knocks up his Anglo girlfriend (Ella Rae Peck) and the two families need to get along. Some family members make an effort, but it's tougher for the dads, played by Ricardo Chavira and "Glee's" Mike O'Malley. The conflicts aren't ethnic, just diff'rent strokes for diff'rent "gente."

» Dracula (Fridays, Oct. 25): Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is sharpening his teeth to play the world's most famous vampire in a British-American limited series meant to cement NBC's Friday night strength alongside the second season of "Grimm."

PBS

» Last Tango in Halifax (Sundays, began Sunday, runs through Oct. 13): Former schoolmates who missed a romantic connection 60 years earlier reconnect and decide to get married.

Love conquers all, but not always when "all" includes the baggage of the couple's children and grandchildren. The series, with Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid, is irresistible, but not just unvarnished fluff. It has a neat contemporary edge. Even cynics will be won over.

» Genealogy Roadshow (Mondays, Sept. 23): The concept of the enduring hit "Antiques Roadshow" is adapted for family history in a promising new series from the Bay Area's KQED.

» The Paradise, Masterpiece Classic (Sundays, Oct. 6-Nov. 17): Emile Zola's story of a young shopgirl's rise to riches set in a British department store.

SHOWTIME

» Masters of Sex (Sundays, Sept. 29): A period dramatic series based on the real-life working and personal relationship of Virginia Johnson and Dr. William Masters, starring Lizzy Caplan and Michael Sheen.

STARZ

» Dancing on the Edge (Saturdays, Oct. 19): A five-part miniseries from Britain about an African-American jazz band making its mark in pre-World War II Britain, performing for London aristocrats. Cast includes Chi­we­tel Eji­o­for, Jacqueline Bisset, Tom Hughes, Matthew Goode.

TNT

» Mob City (Wednesdays, Dec. 4): It's gone through several titles, but Frank Dara­bont's new venture is a crime drama set in Los Angeles in the '40s, with Jon Bernthal, Milo Ven­ti­mi­glia, Jeffrey Munn. Dara­bont created "The Walking Dead" for AMC.

When does my fave show come back?
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Even if you're not excited (at least not yet) by the new fall series on the broadcast networks, you're probably eager to see your favorites return with new episodes. Here, in chronological order, are the major network season premiere dates:

WEDNESDAY

>> "The X Factor," Fox (also Thursdays)

MONDAY

>> "Dancing with the Stars," ABC
>> "Bones," Fox

SEPT. 17

>> "New Girl," Fox
>> "The Mindy Project," Fox

SEPT. 18

>> "Survivor," CBS

SEPT. 20

>> "Last Man Standing," ABC
>> "The Neighbors," ABC
>> "Shark Tank," ABC

SEPT. 23

>> "How I Met Your Mother," CBS
>> "The Voice," NBC (also Tuesdays)
>> "2 Broke Girls," CBS
>> "Castle," ABC

SEPT. 24

>> "NCIS," CBS
>> "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS
>> "Chicago Fire," NBC
>> "Person of Interest," CBS

SEPT. 25

>> "The Middle," ABC
>> "Revolution," NBC
>> "Criminal Minds," CBS
>> "Law & Order: SVU,"

NBC

>> "Modern Family," ABC
>> "CSI," CBS
>> "Nashville," ABC

SEPT. 26

>> "The Big Bang Theory," CBS
>> "Parks and Recreation," NBC
>> "Glee," Fox
>> "Grey's Anatomy," ABC
>> "Two and a Half Men," CBS
>> "Elementary," CBS
>> "Parenthood," NBC

SEPT. 27

>> "Undercover Boss," CBS
>> "Hawaii Five-0," CBS
>> "Blue Bloods," CBS

SEPT. 29

>> "The Amazing Race," CBS
>> "Once Upon a Time," ABC
>> "The Simpsons," Fox
>> "Bob's Burgers," Fox
>> "Family Guy," Fox
>> "The Good Wife," CBS
>> "Revenge," ABC
>> "American Dad," Fox
>> "The Mentalist," CBS

OCT. 3

>> "The Vampire Diaries," CW
>> "Scandal," ABC

OCT. 6

>> "America's Funniest Home Videos," ABC

OCT. 7

>> "Hart of Dixie," CW
>> "Beauty and the Beast," CW

OCT. 8

>> "The Biggest Loser," NBC
>> "Supernatural," CW

OCT. 9

>> "Arrow," CW

OCT. 25

>> "The Carrie Diaries," CW
>> "Grimm," NBC

NOV. 8

>> "Raising Hope," Fox






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