David Bianculli over at TV Worth Watching has asked a number of his critic pals (including yours truly) to kick in with our first impressions on the new season. Everything from this week’s premiere of Hellcats to the launch of Law & Order: Los Angeles Sept. 29. Think of the old TV Guide fall preview issues reduced to Twitter feeds. It’s a speedy read on what works and what doesn’t this fall, from veteran observers like Bianculli, Diane Werts, Diane Holloway, Eric Gould, Tom Brinkmoeller and Theresa Corigliano, with more voices to come. We don’t all agree, but that’s half the fun. Check out our quick take on the 24 new U.S. network shows, in order of their premieres, here.
Meanwhile, my first impressions, including of the hand full of new Canadian entries, appear in order of debut below. You’ll find my expanded take on the fall season in the Sept. 18 edition of the Toronto Star’s Starweek magazine, but for now, a quick look at a fall with few surprises, plenty of familiar faces and, as usual, one or two gems.
Hellcats (Sept. 8 at 9 p.m., The CW and /A)
A brainy girl joins the cheerleader squad to earn a scholarship to law school. You knew Glee had to inspire some sort of spin-off. Give me a “C.” Give me a “W.” Give me a full season pickup whether anybody watches or not.
Shattered (Wednesdays at 10 p.m., Global)
Callum Keith Rennie as a cop with multiple personalities.
Like The United States of Tara but with guns. Strong performances undermined by a ridiculous premise. Unsustainable.
Nikita (Sept. 9 at 9 p.m., The CW and /A)
A spy girl bolts the program and is now out for revenge.
Stars Maggie Q, produced by McG. WWE meets CIA. Shot in T.O. to get around SAG. OMG!!
Lost Girl (Sept. 12, 9 p.m., Showcase)
A succubus (Anna Silk, right) lives off the sexual energy of humans, becomes a cop.
Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer with a badge. It looks great, but the cop-supernatural mash up is a bit jarring in early episodes.
Outlaw (Sept. 15 at 10 p.m., NBC and Global)
A member of the U.S. Supreme Court (Jimmy Smits, left) bolts the bench to fight injustice as a lawyer. Always watchable Smits slums through legal lite as flawed folk hero. Tough times call for law man of the people.
Call Me Fitz (Sept. 19 at 9 p.m., HBO Canada)
A used car salesman (Jason Priestley, right) is a slimeball.
Like an old beater with a fresh paint job and a new air freshener, this series tries to be more than it is. Viewers may want to kick the tires for a few episodes before driving off with this bad boy.
Boardwalk Empire (Sept. 19 at 10 p.m., HBO and HBO Canada)
Steve Buscemi (left) plays the boss of Atlantic City in prohibition-era USA. Buscemi rips into the part of a lifetime, ranging from fierce to funny, from tough to tender, sometimes in the same scene. Stuffs the notion he can’t headline a series straight into the Fargo wood chipper. A compelling, seductive drama, as rich and promising as its jazz age setting.
Men With Brooms (Oct. 4 at 8:30 p.m., CBC)
Like the Canadian curling comedy, but without Leslie Neilsen. Paul Gross (right) narrates.
Might work better on the small screen where people don’t have to hurry hard to see it.
The Event (Sept. 20 at 9 p.m., NBC and Citytv)
The president (Blair Underwood, left) ducks an assassination attempt. This woman up in the arctic knows what’s going on but won’t say. Meanwhile, Jason Ritter can’t find his girlfriend, and NBC is in last place. Is it all connected? Is there a hatch?
Lone Star (Sept. 20 at 9 p.m., Fox and Global)
A con artist (newcomer James Wolk, right) is good looking, leads double life with wife and girlfriend. Lone Star it’s called, and lone star it gets.
Mike & Molly (Sept. 20 at 9:30 p.m., CBS and /A)
Two members of an overeaters anonymous club (Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy, left) fall in love. A sweet, well cast comedy from hot hand Chuck Lorre. The leads charm and deliver by not playing it too big, leaving that to cranked co-stars Reno Wilson, Swoozie Kurtz and Katy Mixon.
Hawaii FIVE-0 (Sept. 20 at 10 p.m., CBS and Global)
Alex O’Loughlin as McGarrett, Scott Caan as Danno (right). The action packed pilot blew up half of Hawaii and stripped Grace Park down to her undies. Aloha! Scott Caan stole the first hour from O’Loughlin, who’s as stiff as Jack Lord’s hair. Should help pull down CBS’ median age—FIVE-0.
Chase (Sept. 20 at 10 p.m., NBC and Citytv)
Kelli Giddish (Past Life) leads a team of U.S. marshalls as they chase down bad guys. Jack Bauer in heels. Every week the bad guys are going to underestimate her, and then be sorry they did. Every bloody week.
Raising Hope (Sept. 21 at 9 p.m., Fox)
A family of zany misfits attempts to raise a child. There are moments in the pilot that are laugh out loud funny and others that are surprisingly sweet and touching. That’s enough to make it my favourite new show of the season.
Running Wilde (Sept. 21 at 9:30 p.m., Fox)
Will Arnett plays a rich A-hole. Keri Russell plays a tree hugger. Hilarity ensues.
Talk about Arrested Expectations. First pilot an unfunny mess. Hurwitz promises sweeping changes. Our money is in the banana stand.
Detroit 1-8-7 (Sept. 21 at 10 p.m., ABC)
Former Soprano Michael Imperioli patrols the means streets of Motor City with Shaun Majumder (right) in on the ridealong. Solid pilot, but there are already 1-8-7 cops shows.
Undercovers (Sept. 22 at 8 p.m., NBC and Citytv)
Two stunningly attractive married spies (Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, left) come out of retirement. From J.J. Abrams. Saw clips of this and thought it’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith with better looking actors. Then watched the entire pilot and was bored to death. Fix it, J.J.!
Better with You (Sept. 22 at 8:30 p.m., ABC)
Montreal native Jennifer Finnigan (Close to Home) and Debra Jo Rupp (That ’70s Show) are among three couples at various ages and stages.
Better with sound off.
The Whole Truth (Sept. 22 at 10 p.m., ABC)
Stars Rob Morrow and Maura Tierney (left) as battling court attorneys. The pilot was declared a mistrial after the original DA—Nip/Tuck’s Joely Richardson—was re-cast. Based on that evidence, The Whole Truth seems about half as good as Law & Order. Appeal pending.
The Defenders (Sept. 22 at 8p.m, CTV, at 10 p.m., NBC)
Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell (right) play high rolling Vegas lawyers.
As Elvis might say, the pilot could have used a little less conversation, a little more action. Belushi and O’Connell appeal, but jury out on seen-it-before script.
My Generation (Sept. 23 at 8 p.m., ABC)
A documentary film crew follows a group of graduates ten years after high school.
This must be Generation Y, as in, Y write a whole script when we can just pretend we’re shooting a documentary? Works for TV comedies, not so much for drama.
$#*! My Dad Says (Sept. 23 at 8:30 p.m., CBS and CTV)
William Shatner (right) plays a cranky dad. Inspired by a Twitter feed. Easily dismissed in 140 characters or less. Joke joke joke format like Twitter water torture. Sensors indicate S#*!e.
Outsourced (Sept. 23 at 9:30 p.m., NBC and Global)
An American novelty company outsources its tele-marketing unit to India.
Screened this with my 17-year-old son. Is this offensive or hilarious, I asked him. “Dad,” he said, “it’s hilarious because it’s offensive.”
Body of Proof (Sept. 24 at 9 p.m., ABC)
Top doc Dana Delany (right) hurts hand, becomes medical examiner. Jeri Ryan plays her boss. Hey, Quincy ran for six seasons.
Ice Pilots NWT (Sept. 17 at 9 p.m., Global)
Daring young pilots steer vintage DC-3s on regular runs across Great Slave Lake. Survivors get to sweep ice off the wings.
The same great Canadian reality show that took off last season on History Television.
Blue Bloods (Sept. 24 at 10 p.m., CBS and CTV)
Tom Selleck (right) plays the patriarch of a New York police family. Donny Wahlberg plays one of his sons. Producer saw this “as sort of a curative after Sopranos to find out what a hero is today.” Selleck is down with that and we’ll see it explored as much around a dinner table as a squad room.
All For One with Debbie Travis (Sept. 26, 9 p.m., CBC)
The home design diva helps communities build homes for local heroes in just five days. Like Extreme makeover: Home Edition with Canadians.
No Ordinary Family (Sept. 28 at 8 p.m., ABC and CTV)
Stars Michael Chikls (right) as head of a family that gets superpowers after a plane crash.
The Powells can stop bullets, leap tall buildings and figure out math problems, but can they outrun lawyers from The Incredibles? No matter. This live action cartoon clone is more fun than Heroes and is super just by being different—no ordinary feat this season.
Law & Order: Los Angeles (Sept. 29 at 10 p.m., NBC and CTV)
Executive producer Dick Wolf got his dream cast including Skeet Ulrich, Terrence Howard and Alfred Molino (left).