Wondering which of the new fall shows are worth adding to your weekly routine and which over-hyped additions to avoid at all costs? You’re in luck. I watched all the fall TV premieres so you didn’t have to! All right, I watched all the fall TV premieres so I didn’t have to work on my thesis. And yes, I didn’t watch all of them, just most of them.* Here’s what you can’t miss, what you might want to tune into and what will make you cringe this fall:
If your tastes are a little more highbrow, then you’ll want to check out Showtime’s “The Affair” for sultry, literary viewing. An hour-long drama, the tension in the first five minutes of the pilot alone promises a gorgeously-directed, well-acted show, like if “True Detective” were about an affair instead of a serial killer. Told through overlapping but mismatched his-and-hers narratives, “The Affair” sets up dark questions about marriage, happiness and indiscretion.
Which of fall’s rom-coms should you add to your schedule? Romance was clearly a big seller during pilot season, as four new ones premiered: “A to Z,” “Manhattan Love Story,” “Marry Me” and “Selfie.” If you choose only one, go with ABC’s “Manhattan Love Story,” about a budding New York romance partially told through the internal monologues of our leads, played by Analeigh Tipton (“America’s Next Top Model,” “Crazy Stupid Love”) and Jake McDorman (“Greek,” “Shameless”). The pair have the rare combination of chemistry and comedic timing, the writing is unexpectedly sharp and who doesn’t love a little love story set in one of the biggest cities in the world?
For action and adventure well-told, look no further than FOX’s “Gotham,” the ominous, visceral depiction of Gotham City pre-Batman, when Detective James Gordon (played by Benjamin McKenzie, “The O.C.,” “Southland”) was the sole beacon of hope. This one could eventually go the way of melodrama, but its premise is fascinating; we learn the creeping, violent backstories of Gotham’s most famous villains, and McKenzie — he of stoic face and ice-blue eyes — plays a convincing, likable Gordon.
The biggest standout of the season is the CW’s “Jane the Virgin.” Normally home to cheesy, guilty pleasure shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and “Hart of Dixie,” the CW pleasantly surprises with this “Ugly Betty”-esque telenovela/fairy tale fusion, which tells the story of a charismatic and virginal Latina twenty-something who — via a mix-up at the gynecologist — finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. The show is adorable, modern and funny, and star Gina Rodriguez lights up the screen in a way newcomers rarely do.
Give it a shot.
If you find a little more time left in your appointment TV schedule, consider adding ABC’s “Black-ish” and NBC’s “Marry Me” to your list. “Black-ish” follows an African American family that is trying to enjoy an upper-middle-class lifestyle while retaining their inherent black identity. Anthony Anderson (“Law & Order,” “The Shield”) is perfectly cast as the “my family is going to be black, not black-ish” dad, and the show is set up to be both hilarious and culturally significant as a commentator on black identity in contemporary America. Veteran comedians Casey Wilson (“Happy Endings”) and Ken Marino (“Party Down,” “Children’s Hospital”) helm “Marry Me,” about a long-dating couple who finally gets engaged (in the most humorously ill-timed proposal ever). With pilots slightly less promising than the above four, these two merit keeping an eye on.
FOX’s “Mulaney” caused me physical pain, as comedian John Mulaney rocks stand-up and seems like a likable guy. Likable his new show is not. This unfunny “Seinfeld” knockoff tries too hard, its jokes are recycled from Mulaney’s stand-up and the pacing leaves much to be desired.
The American version of the BBC’s “Broadchurch,” FOX’s “Gracepoint” is worth skipping so you can instead watch the excellent “Broadchurch.” The pilots are almost identical, except where “Broadchurch” excels (and has lovely British accents), “Gracepoint” has less charm and more clunky acting. Worse yet, FOX stole “Broadchurch” star David Tennant and made him play the same role in “Gracepoint” but with an American accent — let’s fire whoever made that stilted decision.
The Mother (actress Cristin Milioti) and Michael Ginsberg (actor Ben Feldman) collide in NBC’s “A to Z,” my least favorite of fall’s rom-coms. As the title implies, the show follows the story of Andrew and Zelda’s (we get it, their initials are A and Z) relationship down to the letter. Unfortunately, the stars have zero chemistry, making it hard to invest.
In a fairly mediocre season, there are certainly some standouts (and no one can deny enjoying a good guilty pleasure show with all the bad reviews to match). Now go forth and conquer all fall TV has to offer — by now you’ve racked up a few episodes to binge-watch while procrastinating on your latest project.
* Case in point, I have not seen ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” and I don’t know why. Should I be watching? You tell me.