Summer has come to an unofficial end, and with fall arrives the start of the TV season and a host of shiny new series. While the cable channels are on a year-round calendar these days, staggering their shows’ seasons throughout the year, the broadcast networks still use September and October to launch the majority of their returning and first-time programs. While the offerings on the big four networks don’t tend to display the creative freedom that cable series do, there’s always the chance that a new “30 Rock,” “Community” or “The Good Wife” sneaks in under the radar. Here are our picks for the five most promising-looking new shows on the big networks this fall, from a 1960s-set Western to a supernatural drama.
“666 Park Avenue”
Premiere: Sunday, September 30, at 10pm on ABC
The idea of something demonic lurking in the upscale apartment blocks of the Upper East Side is an appealing one — how else do people afford those rents? Created by “Fringe” alum David Wilcox and based on the novel of the same name by Gabriella Pierce, “666 Park Avenue” appears at first glance to follow in the finely wrought urban horror tradition of “Rosemary’s Baby,” with its set-up of a young couple (Dave Annable and Rachael Taylor) moving into a high-end tower they could never otherwise afford to serve as the building’s managers. But a look at the trailer suggests the show is actually going to follow in the footsteps of another demonic, upscale New York tale — “The Devil’s Advocate,” a film in which satanic deals are a perfect excuse to chew on the scenery. “Lost”-er Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams ham things up as two of the building’s most mwa-ha-ha evil residents in what looks to be a cheesily fun supernatural take on innocents getting more than they bargained for in the big (Beelzebub-infested) city.
Premiere: Tuesday, September 25, at 10pm on CBS
Obviously, if we had to choose only one modern-day interpretation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous character, it would be the delightfully snippy incarnation of the legendary detective engineered by BBC and Benedict Cumberbatch. But new episodes of the UK “Sherlock,” which airs here in the U.S. on PBS, are few and far between, with the third season not slated to start production until early next year, which leaves plenty of room for another contemporary take on Holmes. The idea of Jonny Lee Miller playing the detective as a petulant ex-pat in recovery in Brooklyn is enough of a twist to ease the premise into the more regular realm of a network procedural. And for anyone who’s ever wondered if Holmes and Dr. Watson weren’t awfully close as roommates for such a long period of time, the gender-flipped casting of Lucy Liu as Holmes’ sober companion Dr. Joan Watson seems to confirm that the close partnership could really use more sexual tension, even if the show’s creators promise that isn’t part of the plan.
“The Mindy Project”
Premiere: Tuesday, September 25, at 9:30pm on Fox
“The Office” alum Mindy Kaling is a welcome addition to the continuing evolution and growing prominence of funny women on the big and small screens. While the idea of a female lead looking for love while trying to balance it with her work life is a standard one on the small screen, the idea that her character Mindy has obsessed over romantic comedies and spent her life waiting for a meet-cute while working in a demanding career as a doctor is genuinely poignant, and the series looks to be about her attempts to take more control of her life as much as it is about her meeting Mr. Right. “Girls” it’s not, but the show does appear to touch on some of the same post-feminist confusion of Lena Dunham’s HBO series, as Mindy struggles to let go of an ongoing casual hook-up in order to start a real relationship. And the bickering chemistry between Kaling and her hospital colleague and sure-to-be-eventual-love-interest Danny (Chris Messina) is awfully appealing. [Preview the full first episode of “The Mindy Project” online here.]
Premiere: Wednesday, October 10, at 10pm on ABC
Connie Britton stole our hearts as mother (or for some, MILF) extraordinaire Tami Taylor on “Friday Night Lights,” and her well-deserved lead role in the ABC drama “Nashville,” written and created by Oscar-winning “Thelma & Louise” screenwriter Callie Khouri, suggests that her steel magnolia stylings are going to be put to appropriate use. Britton plays Rayna James, a country music star and mother of two whose career is on the wane and whose record company is trying to pair her up with teen crossover hit-maker Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), a ruthessly ambitious star ready to “All About Eve” her. Then there’s Rayna’s husband Teddy (Eric Close), who’s running for mayor while living off her money; Clare Bowen as an up-and-coming songwriter who may be key to saving Rayna’s career; and Powers Boothe as Rayna’s powerful, controlling daddy. For added real-life frisson, you can always pretend that Britton is playing Faith Hill to Panettiere’s Taylor Swift.
Premiere: Tuesday, September 25, at 10pm on CBS
So last year’s “Mad Men” knockoffs “The Playboy Club” and “Pan Am” didn’t make it to a second season (or, in the case of the former, very far into a first season). But while “Vegas” may also be set in the ’60s, it’s not another saga of retro drinking habits and sexism in one of our nation’s urban centers. “Vegas” is a Western, one set in the title town several decades before the arrival of the flagship “CSI” series. Beyond a new twist on a small-screen period drama, which is written by Greg Walker and “Casino” scripter Nicholas Pileggi, “Vegas” has a promising cast — Dennis Quaid makes his TV debut as Ralph Lamb, a rancher-turned-sheriff who’s pitted against the newly arrived Chicago mobster Vincent Savino (“The Shield” star Michael Chiklis) in his attempts to bring order to the city. Jason O’Mara, Carrie-Anne Moss and Sarah Jones co-star, while “3:10 to Yuma” and “Walk the Line” director James Mangold is helming the pilot.