ST. LOUIS — More than two dozen new shows will roll out this fall on the broadcast networks, but don’t look for many surprises.
For better or, often, worse, the new season finds the networks sticking with what they think they do best — procedurals for CBS; soaps for ABC — and even the quirky concepts seem somehow predictably quirky. Several new dramas are solid and entertaining; a few new comedies are engaging, funny or both.
But none of them, based on the pilot episode, is great or groundbreaking.
Here are the top new fall series:
“Nashville,” Oct. 10, ABC (3 stars out of 4): In the best new drama of the season, Connie Britton is a country music superstar who finds success slipping away; Hayden Panettiere is a fast-rising young diva who threatens her. The pilot is well-written and mostly well-acted, (Panettiere doesn’t ring entirely true), and the music covers the broad range of what’s labeled “country” today. “Nashville” isn’t perfect, but the pilot shows lots of soapy promise.
“The Mindy Project,” Sept. 25, Fox (3 stars): Mindy Kaling created and stars in this potentially amusing comedy about a doctor who’s inept at love. It’s a very Mindy project, so how much you like it might depend on your tolerance for Kaling; I was moderately charmed.
“Ben & Kate,” Sept. 25, Fox (3 stars): A young single mom (Dakota Johnson) has to cope with her lovable loose cannon of a brother (Nat Faxon) in a comedy with so much charm (and such a cute kid, played by Maggie Jones) you’ll overlook the fact the pilot is more amusing than hilarious.
“Elementary,” Sept. 27, CBS (3 stars): Fall’s best new procedural stars Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson, living in contemporary New York and consulting with the police on challenging cases. Well, he consults; she keeps an eye on him as his “sober companion,” hired by his father. It’s all surprisingly engaging.
“Revolution,” Sept. 17, NBC (3 stars): Written by Eric Kripke (“Supernatural”) and produced by J.J. Abrams (“Lost”), “Revolution” begins intriguingly, as all the power in the world goes out, never to return. Fifteen years pass before a young woman (Tracy Spiridakos) sets out for Chicago to find her uncle. I’m still intrigued, but “Revolution” feels a bit too much like “Terra Nova” for its own good.
“The Following,” midseason, Fox (3 stars): Kevin Bacon tracks serial killers who seem to be working together under the spell of a mastermind (James Purefoy) in an engrossing thriller from Kevin Williamson (“The Vampire Diaries”).
“The New Normal,” Sept. 11 on NBC (2 1/2 stars): Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells are gay partners who want a child, and Georgia King is the single mom who may become their surrogate in a comedy from Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) and Ali Adler. The pilot is shrill and silly, with stereotypes (especially Ellen Barkin as King’s hateful grandmother) overflowing, but also with heartfelt scenes that suggest the better show this might become.
“Partners,” Sept. 24 on CBS (2 1/2 stars): David Kohan and Max Mutchnick (“Will & Grace”) are longtime friends and writing partners, one straight and the other gay. They’ve written their relationship into this heavy-handed comedy about a stereotypical gay guy (Michael Urie of “Ugly Betty”) and a strait-laced straight one (David Krumholtz) who are architects and best friends, until a fiancée (Sophia Bush) enters the picture.
“Emily Owens, M.D.,” Oct. 16 on the CW (2 1/2 stars): Way more fun than it sounded, “Emily Owens” stars Mamie Gummer as a young doctor who was a high school nerd and thinks she can get a fresh start at her new hospital. Sadly, the bullying and heartbreak follow her. Gummer (her mother is Meryl Streep) is charming and relatable, and “Emily Owens” comes off as a younger, more innocent “Grey’s Anatomy.”
“Go On,” Sept. 11 on NBC (2 1/2 stars): Matthew Perry tries to get over the death of his wife by joining a group of other grieving people in a downbeat comedy (already previewed by NBC) that will have to perk up if it plans to make viewers laugh.
“666 Park Avenue,” Sept. 30 on ABC (2 stars): A series I was predisposed to like, given the stars (Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams) and spooky-silly premise (a Manhattan apartment building has sinister powers) actually turns out to be more confused than genuinely creepy. The attempted mixture of humor and horror is still appealing, but “666” is only halfway there.
“Last Resort,” Sept. 27 on ABC (2 stars): A submarine commander (Andre Braugher) goes rogue in an action drama with too much action and too little character development to hook me in the first hour. What “Lost” did right, among other things, was introduce the characters first and let us get attached before going off in bizarre directions. “Last Resort” needs to settle down and tell its stories in a more straightforward manner.
“The Carrie Diaries,” midseason on the CW (2 stars): AnnaSophia Robb is young Carrie Bradshaw, in high school in the 1980s, in a “Sex and the City” prequel that has elements going for it (notably, Carrie and her family and friends) but may be taking a wrong turn by bringing in the New York fashion world prematurely.
“Vegas,” Sept. 25 on CBS (2 stars): Michael Chiklis and Dennis Quaid star as a mobster and a lawman butting heads in 1960 Las Vegas. What a great show that could be. “Vegas,” unfortunately, is dull and uninvolving.
Made in Jersey,” Sept. 28 on CBS (2 stars): Janet Montgomery (she’s British; see if you notice) balances her big, loud New Jersey family with a new job at a fancy Manhattan law firm in a drama that’s a typical CBS procedural, with Jersey humor that may escape people who don’t get the whole New Jersey thing.
“Animal Practice,” Sept. 26 on NBC (1 1/2 stars): You’ve probably seen this one, if you wanted to. NBC previewed it during the Olympics and repeated it afterward, hoping to lure viewers with a cute monkey and annoying humans. As I said then: The monkey deserves better.
“Guys With Kids,” Sept. 26 on NBC (preview Sept. 12) (1 1/2 stars): Men toting babies. Hilarious! And how about them trying to change diapers? Wacky, huh? Anthony Anderson, Zach Cregger and Jesse Bradford are dads coping in manly fashion in a sitcom that doesn’t aim high.
“Chicago Fire,” Oct. 10 on NBC (1 1/2 stars): Firemen clash with paramedics, often with their shirts off, in a Dick Wolf drama with a been-there, sprayed-water-on-that feeling.
“Mob Doctor,” Sept. 17 on Fox (1 1/2 stars): Jordana Spiro is the only good thing in this dark, messy, muddled drama about a young woman who, for some reason, has to work for the mob. Zach Gilford (“Friday Night Lights”) is in it, but that doesn’t help.
“The Neighbors,” Sept. 26 on ABC (1 1/2 stars): Ordinary folks move into a gated community where everyone else turns out to be from outer space, in a comedy that has very little to say about aliens, America or anything else. It might make you laugh a few times, though.
“Arrow,” Oct. 10 on the CW (1 1/2 stars): Actually, I’d like to give “Arrow” two stars for its character-driven aspects, in which Oliver Queen (Stephen Arnell) returns after a shipwreck that stranded him alone on an island, and one star for its super-hero silliness. The series itself could go either way.
“Malibu Country,” Nov. 2 on ABC (1 star): If you were a fan of “Reba” - well, this is the same show, with full-on Reba McEntire (as a country singer who moves her family to Malibu) but somewhat less charm. The best I can say is that it is precisely what it aims to be.
“Beauty and the Beast,” Oct. 11 on the CW (1/2 star): This unnecessary remake of the ‘80s romantic (and campy) classic is truly dreadful, from the convoluted setup to the bad acting (oh, Kristin Kreuk) to the decision to give the “beast” (Jay Ryan) a tiny scar on his cheek. Calling them “Catherine” and “Vincent” is the final blow to fans of the original.
“Cult,” midseason on the CW (1/2 star): A TV show about a mysterious cult bleeds (and I do mean bleeds) over into real life in a crackpot drama that’s part gruesome procedural and part mind-control silliness.
“The Family Tools,” midseason on ABC (1/2 star): Poor Kyle Bornheimer (“Perfect Couples”) is stuck in this horrendous sitcom about an uninspired young man who takes over the family handyman business from his perpetually irate father (J.K. Simmons) and moves back in with the family, including his aunt (Leah Remini). The only response to this show is to want to run away from home to avoid watching more.
“How To Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life),” midseason on ABC (1/2 star): Sarah Chalke is a single mom forced to move back in with her folks (Brad Garrett and Elizabeth Perkins) in a comedy that’s just sad. And embarrassing. And not funny.