Every fall, TV networks unleash a slew of new dramas and sitcoms knowing that all but a lucky few will be canceled by the end of the year. But with so many splashy new premieres in the weeks to come, it can be difficult to know which shows are actually worth your attention (or the space on your overstuffed DVR). Here, the 10 most promising new shows of the fall season:
1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
Premieres Tuesday, September 17 at 8 p.m.
What it is: A talented but immature police detective (Andy Samberg) butts heads with a new, no-nonsense captain (Andre Braugher) who plans to whip the precinct into shape.
Why you should care: There are countless police dramas on the air, but no police comedies, which makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine feel like a much fresher spin on the shopworn genre. It was created by Michael Schur and Dan Goor, whose other show — NBC's Parks & Recreation — is easily the best sitcom on television. And with Samberg's film and music careers reaching new heights this year, it's hard to imagine that the Saturday Night Live alum would have signed on to star in a series unless it was something special.
2. The Blacklist (NBC)
Premieres Monday, September 23 at 10 p.m.
What it is: One of the FBI's most wanted criminals (James Spader) turns himself in and says he'll provide the FBI with a list of the most dangerous criminals and terrorists he's encountered — but only if he's allowed to work with a specific rookie profiler (Megan Boone) to help take them down.
Why you should care: It's looking like a rough year for new network dramas, but The Blacklist is probably one of the more promising of the pack. It's hard to imagine a more played-out premise for a TV show — did we seriously need another drama about a criminal who teams up with the cops to catch other criminals? But The Blacklist does have one major ace up its sleeve: James Spader, who has spun his distinctive brand of offbeat, vaguely unsettling drollness into memorable performances on series like Boston Legal and The Office. If Spader's Hannibal Lecter riff proves as compelling as his previous Emmy-winning performances, The Blacklist will have an edge over the average crime drama.
3. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
Premieres Tuesday, September 24 at 8 p.m.
What it is: A spinoff of Marvel's successful string of superhero movies centered on S.H.I.E.L.D., the non-superheroic government agency tasked with investigating strange cases in the wake of the alien attack on New York City featured in The Avengers' climax.
Why you should care: From Iron Man to Captain America to Thor, Marvel has taken great care with its superhero franchises, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a savvy (and cost-effective) way to translate those successes to the small screen. Executive producer Joss Whedon, who directed The Avengers, has a long history of critically and cultishly adored genre shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. And though it's still not clear how Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) survived the events of The Avengers to reemerge in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it's a relief to see a familiar face from the films in a starring role.
4. The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)
Premieres Thursday, September 26 at 9 p.m.
What it is: In his long-awaited (and semi-autobiographical) return to television, Michael J. Fox stars as a retired news anchor who goes back to work five years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's.
Why you should care: There are few actors more inherently likable than Fox, and though he's spent recent years turning in reliably strong guest performances on shows like Rescue Me and The Good Wife, it's exciting to see him returning to TV in a starring role. Also smart: The decision to incorporate his Parkinson's into the show's story, which will account for any genuine health problems that might arise and provide a rare opportunity to educate viewers about the disease.
5. The Crazy Ones (CBS)
Premieres Thursday, September 26 at 9 p.m.
What it is: A successful but unpredictable Chicago ad man (Robin Williams) teams up with his ambitious daughter (Sarah Michelle Gellar) as they attempt to win over a wide variety of clients.
Why you should care: It's all but certain that creator David E. Kelley pitched The Crazy Ones by saying something like "imagine Mad Men as a contemporary comedy." (The supporting cast even features James Wolk, who played Bob Benson in Mad Men's sixth season.) But as trite as it sounds, that's actually a pretty solid sitcom pitch, with a revolving door of clients that offers plenty of untapped opportunity for comedy. If The Crazy Ones manages to keep Williams' crazier, more irritating comedic impulses in check, there's a lot of promise here.
6. Masters of Sex (Showtime)
Premieres Sunday, September 29 at 10 p.m.
What it is: A drama based on the true story of Dr. William Masters (Michael Sheen) and Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan), who pioneered research into human sexuality in the 1950s and 1960s.
Why you should care: Much ink has been spilled about the amount of sex on premium cable — but with the exception of HBO's short-lived (and underrated) Tell Me You Love Me, no show has really dedicated itself to exploring the complexity of human sexuality. The story of Masters and Johnson's controversial sex research is a genuinely fascinating one, and the show has two stellar lead actors in Sheen and Caplan. If Masters of Sex lives up to the promise of its very strong premiere episode, Showtime finally has a series that can stand up alongside Homeland — or even surpass it.
7. Hello Ladies (HBO)
Premieres Sunday, September 29 at 10 p.m.
What it is: A hapless British man (Stephen Merchant) attempts to navigate single life in Los Angeles.
Why you should care: Merchant is the co-creator of The Office (and its lesser sister shows, Extras and Life's Too Short), but Hello Ladies finds him working without Ricky Gervais for the first time. The loose, ambling premise of Hello Ladies suits Merchant's offbeat, squeamishly awkward sensibilities, and it's refreshing to see him unencumbered from the sharper, crueler comedy favored by Gervais.
8. Dancing on the Edge (Starz)
Premieres Saturday, October 19 at 10 p.m.
What it is: A black jazz band, led by the charismatic Louis Lester (Chiwetel Ejiofor), finds success playing in London in the 1930s.
Why you should care: Dancing on the Edge, which aired in the U.K. on BBC Two in February, received middling reviews upon its premiere. But even if it's not the next great drama to make it across the pond, there's a lot to like here: a fascinating setting, a terrific jazz soundtrack, gorgeous production design, and a top-notch cast that includes Ejiofor, Matthew Goode, Jacqueline Bisset, and John Goodman.
9. Almost Human (Fox)
Premieres Monday, November 4 at 8 p.m.
What it is: In the year 2048, an L.A.P.D. cop (Karl Urban) is assigned to work with an android partner (Michael Ealy).
Why you should care: Yes, it's another cop show — but Almost Human's out-there, Blade Runner–esque premise adds an intriguing sci-fi spin to the tired genre. Urban, who also stars in co-creator J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movies, is a magnetic and likable screen presence, and the moral and philosophical questions raised by the idea of an android police officer raise all kinds of intriguing story possibilities that the average crime drama would never have the opportunity to tell.
10. Enlisted (Fox)
Premieres Friday, November 8 at 9 p.m.
What it is: Three enlisted brothers are assigned by the Army to stay in the United States and maintain a Florida military base.
Why you should care: In a fall season that's packed with derivative spin on the same shopworn sitcom premises, Enlisted is clearly offering something that's markedly different than the usual family/workplace comedy norm. Stars Geoff Stults (The Finder), Chris Lowell (Veronica Mars), and Parker Young (Suburgatory) share a believably prickly chemistry, and the idea of a show centered on wildly divergent brothers is a surprisingly underutilized concept in TV comedy.
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