Fall TV Roundup: Old and New, Hits and Misses
By Andy Weir
Fall may bring changing leaves and chilling temperatures, but it also means the start of the new television season. And though fall season premieres may seem somewhat antiquated in the age of Netflix, network television has proved it’s not giving up without a fight. Here are a few highlights.
A Season of Hits and Misses So Far
The fall season, so far, has brought the return of some popular shows and the addition of some new ones. Though most of the returns demonstrate exactly why their renewals are warranted, many of the network’s newer additions struggle to prove why they were even greenlit in the first place.
This Is Us (NBC) – The immensely popular This Is Us recently returned to much fanfare, and the show’s talented cast and crew seem to have, at least initially, proven that they don’t need tears to keep viewers enthralled. Despite some minor missteps, most critics seem to agree that the third season of this hit NBC drama is poised to be as captivating as it is emotionally poignant. The Daily Beast’s Kevin Fallon went as far as to write, “The season three premiere of NBC’s crown-jewel drama series used [its] reputation and expectation to prove why it is not only popular, but broadcast TV’s best drama, worthy of being in the same conversation as the best series on TV as a whole.” Airs Tuesdays 9:00 p.m. ET.
The Good Place (NBC) – Another NBC series returned to rave reviews from critics. The Good Place’s season premier debuted last week to much fanfare. Critics praised its outrageous hijinks and quintessential wit with Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall lauding that “Mike Schur’s existential sitcom returns, complete with terrestrial adventures, bad Australian accents and oh-so-much more.” Jen Chaney of Vulture even called it “a beacon of light in this week of darkest timeline news feeds.” Airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET.
The Good Doctor (ABC) – Initially praised for its groundbreaking portrayal of an autistic doctor, ABC’s The Good Doctor returned to television to reinforce its place as one of television’s best medical dramas. In a season premier that is as shocking as it is emotional, Freddie Highmore’s Dr. Shaun Murphy must confront the consequences for a serious mistake he made in the season finale. Summarizing the season premier, IndieWire’s Hanh Nguyen wrote, “ABC’s medical drama continues to double down on heart—literally and figuratively—in a return that’s true to form.” Airs Mondays at 10:00 p.m. ET.
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) – The premier of season 12 of CBS’s long-running sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, was a bittersweet moment for longtime fans of the show. As the series enters its final seasons, fans are eagerly awaiting the answer to some of their final questions. Though critics agree that the season premier had a decidedly normal tone, with absolutely no nods to the series’ impending conclusion, many praised it for its continued wit, charm, and quirky humor that have undoubtedly cemented its place as one of CBS’s most notable sitcoms ever. Airs Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. ET.
That all in mind, reception hasn’t been nearly as positive for many of the networks’ newest shows.
Murphy Brown (CBS) – Take CBS’s revival of Murphy Brown for example. The original series ran from 1988 to 1998 and followed famed journalist Murphy Brown, host of “FYI,” on her daily hijinks as an intrepid journalist. The original series notably made headlines when then-Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the series’ Murphy for giving birth as a single mother. Seeking to regain that cultural relevance, Murphy Brown, now a cable news anchor, this time gets into a faux Twitter war with the sitting President. Though built around a strong premise (i.e. the ever-evolving drama surrounding journalism in 2018), the series falls flat with its blatant pandering to a narrow political base and extremely poor writing. Airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. ET.
A Million Little Things (ABC) – Meanwhile, ABC has made yet another foray into the emotional drama game with A Million Little Things. While the seemingly endless promos evoke a sentiment eerily resembling This Is Us, A Million Little Things’ characters and story lack what This Is Us captures in soul and simplicity. The series follows a group of friends whose lives are shook when one of them commits suicide, a topic bound to bring about strong emotions from most sensible people. But with an excellent cast, one would expect that strong emotion to continue beyond the pilot’s first fifteen minutes. More to the point, much of This Is Us’ success can be attributed to its talented weaving of genuine sadness and simple moments of hope and tenderness. Conversely, A Million Little Things just feels sad. Airs Wednesdays at 9:00 p.m. ET.
Manifest (NBC) – Based on what I can only assume are events eerily resembling those of the MH370 disappearance in 2014, Manifest follows the lives of rescued passengers of a downed airplane after they return home. Apparently, everyone seems to have forgotten about them, and the events prior to the start of the series seem surrounded in a clout of mystery. Despite a somewhat peculiar premise, the ingredients are there for a successful story, but critics agree that Manifest’s story is exactly where it falls apart. In fact, The Hollywood Reporter asked, “NBC's mysterious new drama offers a plane full of potentially fascinating stories to tell, so why are the main characters and their supernatural/spiritual mission so dull?” That is a question many viewers seemed to be asking as well. Airs Mondays at 10:00 p.m. ET.
God Friended Me (CBS) – If one makes it past the absolutely absurd series’ title and premise, God Friended Me is perhaps one of the most promising additions to the network television fall lineup. The series follows an atheist who is, I kid you not, “friended” by God on Facebook. Suddenly, this atheist finds himself as an agent of change in random situations seemingly by fate. The characters and actors are surprisingly strong, but that is not to say its pilot was a success by any means. From religious clichés to lackluster writing at times, God Friended Me has a lot of work to do. The Hollywood Reporter writes, “CBS' latest bid for a faith-based audience has a muddled sense of social media and religion but, in Brandan Micheal Hall and Violett Beane, it may have some OK stars.” Nonetheless, this show is one of the few series premieres to show potential. Airs Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Classic Fan-Favorites Return
As we approach the midpoint of premier season, some popular shows will be returning to television shortly. Here’s a preview at what lies ahead.
Riverdale (The CW) – The popular teen drama Riverdale returns to The CW to hopefull provide answers to some of fans’ burning questions. Season 2 left off with Archie’s arrest and a number of other unanswered questions. The first hints at some of those answers came back in July when the cast premiered the season three trailer at San Diego Comic Con. The cast even hinted at some new characters potentially joining the show. Returns October 10 at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Superstore (NBC) – Jonah and Amy’s “will they or won’t they” is sure to continue when Superstore returns to television this week. One might remember the quite surprising end to season three, which included the accidental taping and broadcast of a rather intimate moment Ben and Amy. Season four is sure to bring more absurd shenanigans, retail drama, and of course, awkward sexual innuendo. Airs Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Will & Grace (NBC) – Another reboot that received mixed reviews from critics, NBC’s revival of Will & Grace is back for a second season, one I imagine will be a little less politically charged than the first. The season finale poised the two titular characters for an all-too-cliché existential crisis. Given that their relationship statuses (i.e. single) are fueling these crises, is it possible that a love interest is in the works for one or both of them? Perhaps season two will tell. Airs Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. ET.
More New Shows Debut
While the majority of series premiers are behind us as these shows settle into their new timeslots, a few series debuts are still left, including one of the most anticipated of the fall.
The Rookie (ABC) – Cop dramas may be making a comeback, or at least that is what ABC hopes. The Rookie follows a prim and posh forty-year-old man who relocates from his tiny town to Los Angeles to join the Los Angeles Police Department. His motivation for such a drastic move is still unclear, but the crime drama will follow the on-the-job adventures of this new recruit. Premiers Thursday, October 16 at 10:00 p.m. ET.
The Kids Are Alright (ABC) – ABC is at it again with a timestamped sitcom. Much like The Goldbergs follows a family of the 1980s, The Kids Are Alright seeks to do the same for an Irish Catholic family in 1973. Set in Los Angeles, the series follows the family’s adventures in navigating the era. Premiers Tuesday, October 16 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
The Conners (ABC) – Perhaps the most anticipated “new” series of the season is The Connors. The Roseanne-less “Roseanne” makes its debut after Roseanne Barr was fired from the series, and while the ensemble cast was always lauded for its performance in the original series, the question remains if that chemistry, whit, and most importantly, nostalgia hosts without the sitcom’s legendary (not always for the best reasons) matriarch. Premiers Tuesday, October 16 at 8:00 p.m. ET.