The four major networks — ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC — all unveiled their new schedules for the 2012-13 TV season this week, offering the first previews of the dozens of freshman series they're set to launch. From a charming new sitcom featuring The Office's Mindy Kaling to a pulse-pounding thriller starring Kevin Bacon, here's a look at the five shows that critics are most excited about:
1. The Mindy Project (Fox)
One season after Zooey Deschanel, Whitney Cummings, Chelsea Handler, and a slew of other young comediennes led a female-driven sitcom renaissance — with various levels of success — former The Office star and writer Mindy Kaling fronts The Mindy Project, about a kooky, unlucky-in-love OB/GYN. It's one of the few new comedy trailers "to generate legit LOLs," says Andy Greenwald at Grantland. Fox has scheduled the show right after Deschanel's New Girl and Kaling's "Bridget Jones tripping over a drunk Jane Austen" character and Deschanel's adorkable Jess should make a good pair. Kaling even shines attempting one of the most cliched romcom bits, says Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon: Praying for the perfect date ("May he have the wealth of Mayor Bloomberg, the personality of Jon Stewart… the penis of Michael Fassbender").
2. Vegas (CBS)
Dennis Quaid stars as the cowboy sheriff of the Las Vegas of the early '60s in this aptly titled cops-and-robbers drama. The Shield's Michael Chiklis stars as his main foil, a Chicago mob fixer attempting to take control of the town, while Terra Nova vet Jason O'Mara and The Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss lend support. "If you're going to do a period mob drama with cowboy trappings," says Matt Zoller Seitz at New York, this is the pedigree you want behind it. The Coen Brothers/Breaking Bad feel of the trailer is refreshing change of pace from CBS' typical procedural fare. However, says Greenwald, you can't help but feel that the "sordid, violent underworld" depicted would be better off playing out on a cable network that's able to tackle it with real, gritty, and graphic verve.
3. The Following (Fox)
Dubbed "the new 24," The Following stars Kevin Bacon as a FBI profiler called out of retirement to hunt down an escaped serial killer who has inspired a cult of copycat murderers around the world. Everything about this is intriguing, from the manhunt premise to the casting of Bacon, who has a track record of choosing worthy projects, says Laura Aguirre at Screen Crave. The challenge will be keeping that search interesting over the course of an entire season — and possibly longer. Not only does it look "especially creepy," says Kelly West at Cinema Blend, but it's unlike anything else Fox has to offer. The big bummer: Audiences will have to wait until mid-season for the show to debut.
4. The New Normal (NBC)
As the trailer proudly touts, The New Normal is "from the imagination of Ryan Murphy," the man behind formula-flouting shows like Glee, Nip/Tuck, and American Horror Story. The pioneering series focuses on a gay couple (played by Broadway's Book of Mormon star Andrew Rannells and The Hangover's Justin Bartha) who hire a surrogate mother to have their baby. The surrogate's brassy grandma, played by Ellen Barkin, and the couple's sassy friend, played by Real Housewife Nene Leakes, make up the rest of the non-traditional family. The heartfelt preview looks like the show "could have been pulled from a future episode of Glee in which Kurt and Blaine decide to have a child," says Margaret Hartmann at Hollywood. The "half-quirky, half-earnest humor" will be a delicate balancing act, says Zoller Seitz. But I'll tune in just to see Barkin in this role.
5. Revolution (NBC)
The search for the next Lost gets another entry with Revolution, a dystopian thriller about a future earth that has suffered a catastrophic disaster which zapped all the planet's energy, rendering anything electrically-powered useless. "You had me at plane falling out of the sky," says Tim Surette at TV.com. Better yet: The show's talented pedigree and "no shortage of badassery." It's so visually impressive that it looks "like a big screen movie," says John Kubicek at Buddy TV, unlike anything on any network. It's easily the show "I'm most looking forward to."