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This story first appeared in the Sept. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Are there more than five good shows coming down the pike this fall? Of course there are — well, on second thought, that hasn’t always been a slam-dunk truism of the past. But the 2013-14 network television season has plenty of solid offerings, and these five stood out from the crowded pack in various ways, so don’t miss them — or forget to DVR them:
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1. THE BLACKLIST (NBC)
Not that being the buzziest network show among critics means anything ratings-wise, but Blacklist definitely is on everybody’s radar and should be on yours as well. James Spader is particularly magnetic in the pilot, and even though Blacklist is a procedural at heart — catching a different international criminal every week, etc. — it still feels like something bigger and better. Let’s hope it is.
2. HOSTAGES (CBS)
This arguably was the best pilot of the fall — riveting, well-acted, cleverly written. The question is whether there’s an actual series somewhere inside the premise: A rogue FBI agent (Dylan McDermott) forces a doctor (Toni Collette) about to operate on the president to kill him or the agent and his minions will kill her family. The million-dollar question is, what happens next? Expect a big twist soon and hope that there are even more of them coming.
3. BROOKLYN NINE-NINE (Fox)
It’s been forever since a TV series dared to take the cop genre and turn it into a comedy (mostly because, Barney Miller and Police Squad aside, the attempts have been fatally bad). But the tone is right in the pilot as Andy Samberg gets to bounce all kinds of wackiness off of staid Andre Braugher, and a diverse, funny and talented cast made this sitcom (from Parks and Recreation‘s Mike Schur and Dan Goor) easily the biggest surprise among the fall pilots.
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4. THE GOLDBERGS (ABC)
Call it The Wonder Years with more yelling (yes, that’s actually true) and a smidge less sentimentality. Jeff Garlin and Wendi McLendon-Covey are the parents to a trio of kids in the 1980s, with George Segal as their slightly off grandfather. There are sight gags, solid writing and the wince-inducing growing pains. Great use of Garlin’s yelling as a fuel for the jokes, but everybody here is solid.
5. AGENTS OF SHIELD (ABC)
There is such a thing as earned trust in this business and — in the wake of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers — Joss Whedon surely has it. Although the pilot for ABC’s biggest undertaking of the fall is less than blow-your-socks-off great, it’s easy to have faith in Whedon. ABC might have to get its audience up to speed on the Marvel Universe storyline, but this series focuses on those people (in SHIELD) who don’t have superpowers. This is one series that will get a handful of episodes to get it right, but it would make everyone feel better if the second episode did the job.
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