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Robert Wisdom, Charles Esten, Connie Britton, Eric Close, Hayden Panettiere, Powers Boothe, Sam Palladio, Clare Bowen and Jonathan Jackson star in ABC's “Nashville.” Photo: ABC/CRAIG SJODIN
The 21 new fall TV shows, ranked by watchability

A few good shows anchor this year’s lineup, but a lot more are mediocre — or worse.

First Published Sep 12 2012 05:54 pm • Last Updated Dec 25 2012 11:31 pm

This isn’t a good season for new TV comedies. It’s a pretty good season for another J.J. Abrams science-fictiony show, while prime-time soaps are making a bit of a comeback.

It’s always a bit of a crapshoot when it comes to predicting what TV series will be good, what will be bad, what will work, what will fail — because TV critics are making judgments on viewing the first episodes, without seeing the second installment or the rest of the season.

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So consider this a preseason poll of the 21 new series premiering this fall on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW — a first-to-worst ranking of the good, the bad and the fair-to-middlin’.

1. "Nashville" (Wednesdays, 9 p.m., Oct. 10, ABC/Channel 4):

Country-music icon Rayna James (Connie Britton) finds her career stalled at the same time as no-talent Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) is on the rise. If that’s not enough, Rayna’s powerful, manipulative father, Lamar Wyatt (Powers Boothe), plots to make her husband, Teddy (Eric Close), the mayor of Nashville, a move that could push Rayna toward her former flame, Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten) — a man Juliette also has designs on. This has all the makings of a really great, non-campy prime-time soap. How can you not love Connie Britton? And you don’t have to like country music to like "Nashville." This is a show that could run for years.

2. "Last Resort" • (Thursdays, 7 p.m., Sept. 27, ABC/Channel 4):

When Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher), commander of the ballistic missile submarine Colorado, is ordered to nuke Pakistan, he requests confirmation — and his ship is fired upon by another U.S. warship. Chaplin takes drastic measures to ensure the safety of his crew in the single best pilot on any network this fall. There are jaw-dropping developments you’d never expect to see on a network show. The caveat is that it’s difficult to imagine that ensuing episodes can match the premiere — and Thursday at 7 p.m. seems an odd timeslot.

3. "Revolution" • (Mondays, 9 p.m., Sept. 17, NBC/Channel 5):

Something turns off all the electricity and all the technology on Earth — permanently. As the story picks up years later, a local militia kidnaps young Danny (Graham Rogers, "Memphis Beat"), sending his sister, Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), looking for him and reuniting her with her mysterious uncle, Miles (Billy Burke), who might know something about restoring the power. There are mysteries within mysteries in a show that almost has a "Walking Dead" vibe, but without the zombies. And there’s a shocking twist at the end of the pilot. Can’t see this show from "Supernatural" creator Eric Kripke and J.J. Abrams being a big hit, but it could achieve "Lost"-like cult status.

4. "Elementary" • (Thursday, Sept. 27, 9 p.m., CBS/Channel 2):

Jonny Lee Miller stars as a rehabbing, modern-day Sherlock Holmes, who has a weird genius for solving crimes. Lucy Liu stars as ex-Dr. Watson, who babysits him during recovery. Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work probably won’t recognize either character — and might complain about this adaptation — but this shows every sign of being another successful CBS crime drama.

5. "Vegas" • (Tuesday, Sept. 25, 9 p.m., CBS/Channel 2):

CBS adds a period crime drama to its contemporary crime dramas. Dennis Quaid stars as real-life former Las Vegas Sheriff Ralph Lamb, who enforced the law in the 1960s when Las Vegas was becoming a gambling mecca. Lamb matches wits with Vincent Savino (Michael Chiklis), a mobster who comes to town to exploit the casino business. Their ongoing battle plays out across the series as different crimes occur in each episode. This is another CBS show with promise.

6. "The Mindy Project" • (Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m., Sept. 25, Fox/Channel 13):

Mindy Kaling ("The Office") is the creator, executive producer and star of this comedy, which casts her as a successful doctor who in her personal life is insecure and entirely unlucky in love. She wishes she were thinner, wishes she could find a great guy — and her friends/co-workers wish she were less annoying. The ensemble cast (Chris Messina, Ed Weeks, Ike Barinholtz, Stephen Tobolowsky, Zoe Jarman, Amanda Setton and Gwen Grandy) is great. "Mindy" is funny and charming in a "New Girl" kind of way and should do well in the post-"New Girl" timeslot.

7. "Made in Jersey" • (Friday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m., CBS/Channel 2):

This is sort of "Working Girl" meets "L.A. Law," with a whole bunch of the 2001-02 series "That’s Life" thrown in. Martina Garretti (Janet Montgomery) is a smart, talented lawyer who works in a big Manhattan firm and tries to overcome her disability — that’s she’s from New Jersey. She’s playing in the big leagues, but she still has a big family behind her in Jersey. Kyle MacLachlan and Kristoffer Polaha also star. The pilot is promising and quite entertaining, but it’s usually tough for any show to get traction on Friday nights.

8. "Arrow" • (Wednesdays, 7 p.m., Oct. 10, The CW/Channel 30):

Based on the comic-book character Green Arrow, this drama revolves around Oliver Queen, a megarich young man who was presumed dead in a shipwreck. He returns a much different man after five years — he’s superfit and he can shoot arrows like nobody’s business; he’s an enigma to his mother, sister and ex-girlfriend; and he’s a vigilante out to fight the forces of evil and make Starling City a great place to live. It’s all sort of dark and mysterious, which works better than the brief attempts at comedy. Comic-book fans who don’t nitpick this ought to enjoy it; there’s potential for nonfans to catch on as well.

9. "666 Park Avenue" • (Sundays, 9 p.m., Sept. 30, ABC/Channel 4):

A nice young couple, Jane (Rachael Taylor) and Henry (Dave Annable), accept a too-good-to-be-true job as managers of a swanky New York apartment building. Turns out the owner, Gavin (Terry O’Quinn), is either Satan or one of his minions. Certainly, you make a deal with him and you’re making a deal with the devil — and seemingly everyone in the building has made a deal of some kind. The pilot is intriguing, but it’s hard to see how this is going to hold up on a weekly basis.

10. "Chicago Fire" • (Wednesday, 9 p.m., Oct. 10, NBC/Channel 5):

To sum this one up — hunky men and gorgeous women fight fires, save lives, deal with personal drama and spend a lot of time showering. From executive producer Dick Wolf ("Law & Order"), this is pretty much what you’d expect: a bunch of TV tropes blended into a decent drama with nice action scenes and even romance. It’s not great, but it’s watchable. Not a big hit in the making, but could be successful enough to stick around for a while.

11. "Go On" • (Tuesdays, 8 p.m., Sept. 11, NBC/Channel 5):

Matthew Perry ("Friends") stars in this dark comedy as Ryan King, a smart-mouth sports-talk radio host who’s having trouble dealing with the death of his wife. His boss (John Cho) orders him to join a grief-support group, where he meets a rather annoying therapist (Laura Benanti) and a motley crew of fellow grievers (Julie White, Tyler James Williams, Suzy Nakamura and Brett Gelman). Perry has fantastic comedic timing, but this show is an odd mix off humor and pathos. It’s worth keeping an eye on, but it will be tough to pull off.

12. "Partners" • (Monday, Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m., CBS/Channel 2):

From David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the creators of "Will & Grace," this sitcom is about two longtime best friends/business partners. Joe (David Krumholtz), the straight one, gets engaged to Ali (Sophia Bush) in the pilot, which upsets his relationship with Louis (Michael Urie), the gay one. Louis, however, has a partner of his own, Wyatt (Brandon Routh). The pilot has some laughs and a likable cast. But it’s hard to get past the fact that this "Partners" is a rip-off of the 1995-96 sitcom "Partners." Or that Kohan and Mutchnick rather quickly ran out of ideas on "Will & Grace." Still, it has a good chance in the middle of CBS’ Monday sitcom lineup.

13. "The New Normal" • (Saturdays, 10 p.m., Sept. 15, Channel 30):

Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) are a well-to-do gay couple who want a baby. Goldie (Georgia King) is a waitress who just left her cheating husband, taking her 8-year-old daughter (Bebe Wood) with her. She agrees to be the surrogate mother for Bryan and David, much to the horror of her bigoted mother (Ellen Barkin). This comedy from "Glee" producer Ryan Murphy seems more interested in making a point than making laughs — it’s well-intentioned, but not particularly funny. Locally, KUCW is airing this sitcom that KSL rejected — which may not last long.

14. "Emily Owens, M.D." • (Tuesdays, 8 p.m., Oct. 16, The CW/Channel 30):

Emily Owens (Mamie Gummer) is a former high-school geek who’s now a talented, newly minted doctor beginning an internship at a Denver hospital. And she’s still an insecure mess. She has a crush on a fellow doctor (Justin Hartley) and is tormented by an intern (Aja Naomi King) who bullied her in high school. It’s sort of a cross between "Grey’s Anatomy" and "Ally McBeal." Gummer is appealing; the show is just OK.

15. "The Neighbors" • (premieres Wednesday, Sept. 26, 8:30 p.m.; moves to regular time slot Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m., ABC/Channel 4):

Marty Weaver (Lenny Venito) gets a great deal on a house in a gated New Jersey community. But when he moves in with wife Debbie (Jami Gertz) and their three kids, they discover the neighbors are odd. Because they’re aliens. From outer space. And they don’t really get human behavior. You’ll either love this or hate it. There are some very funny sight gags in the premiere, but you can only use those once. This doesn’t look like a long-term proposition.

16. "Animal Practice" • (Wednesdays, 7 p.m., Sept. 26, NBC/Channel 5):

Think "Scrubs" in an animal hospital, only far less funny. Dr. George Coleman (Justin Kirk) runs a New York veterinary practice. He’s goofy and free-spirited. Dorothy Crane (JoAnna Garcia Swisher, "Reba") has just inherited the business, and she’s tough and straitlaced. They clash, as they have a Sam-and-Diane from "Cheers" kind of thing going on. It’s not terrible, and the monkey, Crystal, is funny. But when the monkey is the funniest thing on a show, that’s not a good sign.

17. "Ben and Kate" • (Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 25, on Fox/Channel 13):

You never have to worry about the will-they-or-won’t-they thing in this relationship comedy — this couple are brother and sister. Kate (Dakota Johnson) is the responsible one, except that she got pregnant in college and is raising 5-year-old Maddie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) on her own. Ben (Nat Faxon) is an idiot who lives in a dream world. He moves in, ostensibly to help raise Maddie, but he really needs a parent himself. You’ll want to like this show, but it really isn’t funny, which is a problem for a comedy.

18. "Malibu Country" • (Fridays, 7:30 p.m., Nov. 2, ABC/Channel 4):

Reba McEntire stars in this sitcom as the wife of a country-music star who doesn’t stand by her man when he’s caught with more than just a cheatin’ heart. Along with her two teenagers and her mother (Lily Tomlin), she moves to Malibu, Calif., and tries to jump-start her own country-music career. This is a throwback — a broad, ’80s-style sitcom that’s all about setups and jokes. And it’s an awful lot like McEntire’s last sitcom, "Reba." If you liked that one, you might like this one — but that one was better.

19. "The Mob Doctor" • (Mondays, 8 p.m., Sept. 17, on Fox/Channel 13):

As the title suggests, this show is about a doctor who works for the mob. Duh. And it’s not much smarter than that. It’s like one of the doctors from "ER" spends half her time on "The Sopranos." Jordana Spiro stars as Grace Devlin, a brilliant surgeon whose brother — you guessed it! — got in trouble with the mob. Now she’s indebted to them and has to pull bullets out of mobsters and that sort of thing. It’s ludicrous.

20. "Guys with Kids" • (Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m., Sept. 26, NBC/Channel 5):

Having kids is hilarious if you’re a dad, or so this unfunny comedy from executive producer Jimmy Fallon would have us believe. Gary (Anthony Anderson), the stay-at-home dad; Nick (Zach Cregger), the go-to-work dad; and Chris (Jesse Bradford), the divorced dad, are buddies who sort of try to help each other cope. The show includes wives and ex-wives (Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Tempestt Bledsoe and Erinn Hayes), a whole bunch of kids and precious little that’s actually funny. The actors and director apparently think that shouting unfunny lines will make them funnier. It doesn’t. This won’t last long.

21. "Beauty and the Beast" • (Thursdays, 9 p.m., Oct. 10, The CW/Channel 30):

This is a remake of the 1987-90 series — with none of the charm and a whole lot of stupid. Catherine "Cat" Chandler (Kristin Kreuk) is a police detective who, years earlier, witnessed her mother’s murder. And something (dum, dum, DUM!) saved her. Years later, a case leads her to Dr. Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan), and he (dum, dum, DUM!) is hiding a dark secret. When he gets mad, he turns into a beast. Which makes him more like Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde or the Hulk. Overall, this show remarkably bad, and the only entertainment value here is how unintentionally funny it is.

spierce@sltrib.com




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