Fall TV: Tim Goodman Ranks 10 New Shows, From Best to "Heinous"
THR's chief TV critic sizes up the hotly anticipated freshman series; as usual, quality is all over the spectrum
It might not be a "season" anymore — the television calendar is 52 weeks, with no real beginning or end — but "Fall TV" remains an event. Along with kids going back to school and the return of football and cooler weather, it's the signature starting point of autumn for many people. Below is a ranked list of 10 hotly anticipated new shows (and their premiere dates), in order of preference. As usual, quality is all over the spectrum.
1. Transparent (available Sept. 26, Amazon Studios)
This gem from creator-writer-director Jill Soloway proves Amazon Studios is a real player. Jeffrey Tambor plays Mort, a middle-aged father of three who — many years after he first knew he wanted to — begins living as "Maura." His transition to life as a woman sends his grown-up children spinning in various directions. This is the season's flat-out great work of television.
2. The Affair (10 p.m. Oct. 12, Showtime)
This series about an extramarital liaison between characters played by Dominic West (The Wire) and Ruth Wilson is the type of introspective, smart, painful look at adulthood that high-end cable channels should be producing. Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson co-star.
3. Jane the Virgin (9 p.m. Oct. 13, The CW)
This by far is the best network pilot — drama or comedy — and features the TV season's breakout star, Gina Rodriguez, as a woman who finds herself pregnant despite having practiced abstinence her whole life. Based on a telenovela, the series balances real emotion, magical realism and outlandish humor.
4. The Flash (8 p.m. Oct. 7, The CW)
Based on the DC Comics character (played here by Grant Gustin), this is another excellent pilot that makes The CW look as if it has a strong idea of where it's going. If it sticks with shows such as this and Arrow, the network might escape the vapidity that has encroached on its programming for so long.
5. Black-ish (9:30 p.m. Sept. 24, ABC)
Black-ish stands out not only because it's funny but also because it has a point of view. Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross play a couple grappling with issues of race and identity as their children see the world through a more color-blind lens.
6. Madam Secretary (8 p.m. Sept. 21, CBS)
It won't be hard to keep this show separate in your mind from NBC's State of Affairs. That one is preposterous and annoying; this one is a top-end drama with procedural elements. As a college professor recruited to work for the State Department, Tea Leoni is superb.
7. How to Get Away With Murder (10 p.m. Sept. 25, ABC)
If you're a fan of Shonda Rhimes, then this show will work for you. Written by Peter Nowalk — who shares Rhimes' passion for soap and insanity, as well as her sense of purpose — the college campus-set legal thriller features a likable cast headed by Viola Davis.
See more The Faces of Fall TV
8. Constantine (10 p.m. Oct. 24, NBC)
A show like Constantine, about a demon hunter and "master of the occult" (played by Matt Ryan), might underwhelm at the starting line but is not without hope. I want this thriller, based on the DC Comics series Hellblazer, to improve on its slightly-better-than-average pilot and find success as a quality drama.
9. Gracepoint (9 p.m. Oct. 2, Fox)
This is a remake of the already-English-language Broadchurch that runs on BBC America. Confused? Exactly. The only reason to watch this instead of the superior original is if you can't understand accents.
10. Mulaney (9:30 p.m. Oct. 5, Fox)
There is no saving a show this heinous. If you don't ask yourself, "How did this get on the air?" while watching Mulaney — essentially a TV show about stand-up comedian John Mulaney having his own TV show — then you're not watching Mulaney.