Perhaps you think I sound pessimistic. You would be right. The fall television season kicks off this week, and that can only mean one thing: in another month or two, half of the new shows will be canceled. Common themes this year seem to be teen children living with their embarrassing parents, adult children living with their embarrassing parents, and adult children working with their embarrassing parents. Parents, it’s a cold, cold, cold world. Meanwhile, cable shows and Netflix continue to exert their influence with ever more sex, violence, and profanity making their way into network television.
But it’s not all necessarily grim—you might not be left to “Lost” or “Downton Abbey” reruns. Here are six shows that offer something a little different, and that may or may not prove to be watchable.
“The Michael J. Fox Show” (NBC, September 26)
In what’s probably the most anticipated show of the fall season, Michael J. Fox returns to television, Parkinson’s disease and all. He plays a news anchor and family man who has taken time off because of his illness but has decided to get back to work. If it works, this show has the potential to be both entertaining and to increase understanding of Parkinson’s disease and of people who live with physical disabilities. One thing it has going for it (besides Fox himself, obviously) is Betsy Brandt, who’s made a name for herself as Marie on “Breaking Bad.”
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” (ABC, September 24)
Between rabid fans of director Joss Whedon and the success of his movie The Avengers, this one would have to be a real turkey to fail. At least that’s what ABC is banking on. Clark Gregg reprises his role as Phil Coulson from The Avengers. After giving us a team of superheroes in the movie, on the small screen Coulson moves on to creating a team of regular people—well, sort of. The tagline says it all: “Not all heroes are super.” We’ll have to wait to see if the show is.
“Hostages” (CBS, September 23)
The story sounds hokey, but word on the street is that it could be pretty decent, at least for one season. A surgeon is set to operate on the President of the United States. The night before the operation, she and her family are taken hostage by an FBI agent who wants her to kill the president during the operation. Her family’s lives are on the line. What could save this show from its premise? Mostly the fact that the surgeon is played by Toni Collette, who is amazing in pretty much everything she does. It’s hard to see how this show could be sustained for more than one season. What next, an airline mechanic kidnapped until he can sabotage Air Force One? We shall see.
“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” (ABC, October 10)
The calculation here is pretty simple: if you love the show “Once Upon a Time,” you’ll probably love this one too. Alice is a young woman in Victorian England who has been admitted to an asylum. She has been talking about her experiences in Wonderland, which is why her sanity is in question. It appears that viewers will experience her alternate realities, one in the asylum and one in Wonderland as she searches for her lost love. If nothing else, Sophie Lowe makes a very appealing Alice.
“Lucky 7” (ABC, September 24)
A diverse collection of coworkers at a gas station win big at the lottery. In a network-staged interview, the actors talked about the fact that money doesn’t solve all your problems; it reveals who you are. What will the money reveal about these characters? How will it change them? The story line is rife with opportunities to explore human nature if the writers are up to the task—we’ll have to wait and see if we’re so, uh, lucky.
“Brooklyn Nine Nine” (FOX, September 17)
I’m a little nervous about suggesting this one because it could go so wrong. An entire show built around professional man-child Andy Samberg? But some of the clips I’ve seen of this cop comedy have a bit of the spark found in early episodes of “The Office,” so I’m willing to give it a shot. Andre Braugher, known for playing a very serious detective on “Homicide: Life on the Streets,” is the straight-man boss, which might balance out Samberg’s silliness. Count on some dumb humor, but hope that smart humor will win the day.
One more show, a drama with a supernatural bent, looks quite interesting too. It’s called “Resurrection.” Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until March (?!) to find out if it’s worth watching. This is what happened to the show “Awake,” which probably does not bode well for television survival.
I’d love to report on new Canadian shows too. Unfortunately CTV doesn’t make shows or even trailers available to computer users in the United States. But hey, Michael J. Fox is Canadian, and “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” is filmed (like so many shows) in Vancouver, British Columbia, so that’s a start. Any of our friends up North want to give us an update on the new offerings from Canadian networks? We’d be happy to hear from you. In fact, we’d love to hear from anyone about the shows they are enjoying. Let us know what you think.