The leaves are turning and the pumpkin spice lattes are brewing, which can only mean one thing: The Fall TV season is here!
Yes, television has delivered a new batch of shows, with the usual hospital dramas (The Good Doctor), quirky comedies with crazy premises (Me, Myself, and I), and superhero thrillers (Inhumans). And of course, there’s always a trend every year, and this time, it’s the military.
But which shows are actually worth watching? Which ones should you DVR and save for laundry day? And which should you just skip altogether? We’ve put in the hours of watching pilots on your behalf and came up with a quick and easy ranking system.
Now: These are the best, buzziest shows that you should season pass and watch the night-of.
Later: We recommend watching these… eventually. After you’ve watched all the “Now” shows.
Never: Sorry, but not all shows are must-see!
Here, we break down the first week of new fall shows with premiere info and our brutally honest snap judgments. And we don’t always all agree, but with several takes — from Yahoo Entertainment’s Kristen Baldwin, Ken Tucker, Mandi Bierly, Chrissy Le Nguyen, Ethan Alter, Kimberly Potts, and Kelly Woo — hopefully it’ll make deciding what to watch that much easier.
(New series Star Trek: Discovery was not available for screening at the time of this post.)
Premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS
While I don’t watch The Big Bang Theory, Iain Armitage is charming as the titular young Sheldon, and any show that gives The Comeback‘s Lance Barber a prominent role (as Sheldon’s loving but less-than-sophisticated father) is worth an occasional check-in.
The well-written pilot for this Big Bang Theory spinoff establishes the atmosphere for a solid family sitcom. Iain Armitage as the young Sheldon Cooper is a charmer, and Lance Barber, as his gruff father, has an opportunity to join the ranks of great TV-dads.
As far as spinoffs go, this one is warranted — anyone who’s watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory would be curious to know what frustrating Sheldon Cooper was like as a child. It’s just a question of whether you want to see that child every week.
With a performance that’s not just an impression of Jim Parsons, Iain Armitage is perfectly cast as young Sheldon Cooper. The rest of the Cooper family members are equally likable, especially tell-it-like-it-is baby sister Missy (Raegan Revord). And without a laugh-track and shot single-camera, this CBS half-hour comedy is a win in my book!
I’m not big on The Big Bang Theory, but I was pleasantly surprised by this prequel spinoff, largely because Iain Armitage is a real find. While the show surrounding him is still a work in progress — as of now, it’s a forced hybrid of The Wonder Years and The Goldbergs — I already find young Sheldon cooler than his grown-up counterpart.
Iain Armitage was a scene stealer in Big Little Lies, and is perfectly charming as the precocious nine-year-old, high school freshman version of Sheldon Cooper. For those haters of The Big Bang Theory writing this one off, it’s a mistake; the prequel is a sweet coming-of-age story with humor and heart, and unlike TBBT, is shot as a single-cam comedy (i.e., looks great, and you decide when a laugh is deserved).
I am not a fan of The Big Bang Theory, but this spinoff surprised me. It has a sweet, sentimental, often heartwarming tone, and, in many ways, reminded me of The Wonder Years (Jim Parsons’s narration probably has something to do with that). And Iain Armitage is clearly a gifted young actor.
Me, Myself & I
Premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 9:30 p.m. on CBS
Ugh, why can’t this just be a show about Bobby Moynihan as a divorced dad? The whole follow-one-guy-at-three-phases-of-his-life concept is overly and unnecessarily complicated. But I’m pulling for the consistently likable Moynihan, who does a nice job here moving from SNL side player to one-third of a leading man.
Is it possible for a show that asks you to believe Bobby Moynihan ages into John Larroquette to improve? This time-jumping comedy — Moynihan is also played as a youth by Jack Dylan Grazer — has a good cast that includes Jaleel “Urkel” White, and I keep thinking it will yield some laughs down the line.
It’s like a one-man comedy version of This is Us that shows you the defining moments in a man’s life as a teen in the early ’90s, a 40-year-old divorcé in present day, and a 65-year-old in 2042. Bobby Moynihan and John Larroquette give him just enough bite to go with his big heart.
I’ll give this comedy another episode because of its intriguing concept and great cast (I see you, Allison Tolman!), but the pilot was teetering on dull.
The This is Us time-hopping syndrome invades the comedy world to middling effect. Am I only one who’d rather just fast-forward through the Jack Dylan Grazer and Bobby Moynihan sequences to get directly to John Larroquette?
Easy to like cast — Bobby Moynihan, John Laroquette, Brian Unger, Sharon Lawrence, Jaleel White, and It newbie Jack Dylan Grazer — and an interesting concept: following the life of inventor Alex Riley at ages 14, 40, and 65. It’s also a concept that might be tough to sustain, which is another reason to check it out now, from the beginning, to watch its evolution (at least, that’s the direction I hope it goes).
Credit this CBS comedy with cojones for its ambitious premise, but it doesn’t quite pull of juggling three time periods in the life of Alex Riley. The three parts feel disconnected from each other. But the actors are appealing, so there is room for improvement.
The Good Doctor
Premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. on ABC
Look, The Good Doctor, the only — and I mean only — reason I would even consider tuning into yet another “brilliant doctor/lawyer/cop with a serious social deficit” drama is because it stars the fantabulous Freddie Highmore. And then 8 minutes into the pilot you shift the action to some horny medical residents making out in the on-call room? Not cool, Good Doctor. If you expect me to tune into a show about an autistic surgeon starring Freddie Highmore, ALL I WANT TO SEE IS FREDDIE HIGHMORE. I’ll give you one more chance, Good Doctor. One more, better-be-jam-packed-with-Freddie-Highmore chance.
Loved Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates, but here, playing a doctor with autism, he’s caught in one of those dramas-with-noble-uplift projects that are off-putting in their high-mindedness. Of course, his character is smarter and more ethical than anyone around him. The show is predictable from the start.
Anyone who still thinks about a young Freddie Highmore crying on that bench at the end of Finding Neverland will definitely tear up toward the end of the premiere. It’s the hope of being moved like that again that may keep you coming back.
I was ready to cross this medical drama off my watchlist completely (so predictable, what’s up with those wonky graphics?, not a fan of the flashback moments), but Freddie Freakin’ Highmore made me bawl at the very end. So, The Good Doctor gets a few more episodes from me because Highmore can deliver #feels like no other.
David “House” Shore’s return to the medical genre has the best of intentions, but flatlines dramatically early on. Memo to Freddie Highmore: Find two better scripts and call us next pilot season.
Now, only because anything starring Freddie Highmore is a must see. It is a rough pilot, though, filled with TV doctor drama clichés and awkwardness with nearly every character. But another highpoint: British actress Antonia Thomas — lead in the underappreciated Netflix comedy Lovesick — as Dr. Shaun Murphy’s (Highmore) colleague and new BFF?
Think of this basically as House 2.0. Freddie Highmore is excellent as a young, brilliant, autistic doctor. The supporting cast are all very good, the writing is snappy, and the pilot pushes emotional buttons. Not my kind of show, but definitely a worthy addition to the medical drama landscape.
Premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. on NBC
Perfectly well done show, with a perfectly solid cast (Mike Vogel, Anne Heche), but watching military operatives put in harm’s way week-in, week-out hits a little too close to home at this juncture in our country’s history.
This drama weds two government divisions — Special Forces soldiers and Department of Intelligence analysts — in an attempt at a layered look at the overseas war on terror. Too often, however, the Syria-set pilot evoked The Hurt Locker, only to cut to Anne Heche, somewhere in Washington, D.C., staring at a computer screen watching the same rescue mission we’re watching. It’s boring to watch her watch.
In today’s unrelenting world, you might actually find it a bit comforting to watch this Special Ops team (led by the always relatable Mike Vogel) wrap up tense situations in an hour.
I’m being generous with my rating for NBC’s new military drama, but maybe it’s because I screened it before all the other military dramas? Mike Vogel, Anne Heche, and the rest of the diverse cast were fine enough in their roles; everything else wasn’t too awful. I mean, I made it all the way through to the end of the episode, so how hard could it be to give another one a try?
Homeland Season 1 this ain’t. Heck, it isn’t even Homeland Season 3. Instead, the production team between Showtime’s hit espionage series makes an entirely snoozy foray into network TV. Watch it only if you’re feeling… well, brave.
It’s a diverse cast, but not a particularly interesting one. And just like there’s no reason to dislike this military drama, there’s no compelling reason to tune in, either.
This show screams “CBS procedural,” even though it’s on NBC. The characters are so stereotypical, they don’t need names, just titles like “Grieving But Super Smart Boss” or “Super Religious Soldier.”
Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 26 at 10 p.m. on NBC
Menendez creates a new TV genre that I didn’t even know we needed: Prestige TV for the masses. The show is a wonderful mashup of the brisk, controlled Law & Order-style storytelling and captivating performances that run the gamut from Emmy-worthy (Edie Falco) to delightfully absurd (Josh Charles and a fantastically bad wig as Erik’s therapist). Chung-chung!
I thought I never wanted to see those two awfully naughty boys Lyle and Erik Menendez portrayed on television for the umpteenth time, but damn you, Dick Wolf, you’ve Law & Order-ed them into something intriguing. Producer Wolf extends his franchise into the true crime genre with a fine showcase for Edie Falco as defense attorney Leslie Abramson, and a super-cast in vivid smaller roles that includes Josh Charles, Heather Graham, Anthony Edwards, and Lolita Davidovich.
It reminds you why Edie Falco, who stars as defense attorney Leslie Abramson, has earned 13 Emmy nominations, and the casting of Heather Graham as Judalon Smyth, the mistress of Erik Menendez’s shrink, Dr. Jerome Oziel (Josh Charles), is wonderfully insane.
Now, now, now, NOW! Edie Falco is, per usual, outstanding. Josh Charles and Heather Graham are so over the top, it’s insanely good. Parenthood‘s Joel looks great with a ‘stache. Both brothers are just the right amount of creepy. And OMG the wigs, y’all!
Take The People vs. O.J. Simpson, leech out any contemporary social relevance, increase the questionable stunt casting quotient (Heather Graham???) and you’ve got the Law & Order franchise’s not so grand return. You’re better off getting your true crime fix from the countless Menendez Brothers docs instead.
If you’re over the true crime TV obsession, skip it. But even if you’ve already watched all three made-for-TV Menendez movies and the countless Menendez-themed episodes of true crime TV series, Dick Wolf and company have some fresh angles on the siblings’ 1989 murder of their parents, including putting their trial into the context of what was happening in the Los Angeles legal community at the time. Plus, there are some over-the-top moments ahead (not the least of which is Edie Falco’s Leslie Abramson ‘do) and the trademark L&O “doink doink” sound.
If you’re a true crime nut like me, and missing People v. O.J. Simpson, this should be right up your alley. Edie Falco kills it (as usual) as defense attorney Leslie Abramson, and Anthony Edwards is a welcome sight as Judge Stanley Weisberg.
Premieres Wednesday, Sept. 27 at 9 p.m. on CBS
See my thoughts on The Brave.
David Boreanaz chose this as his post-Bones follow-up? After all those years of starring in and directing many Bones episodes, he deserved to take some time off, and maybe ease back into the rat race with, say, an ensemble sitcom where he wouldn’t need to be on-camera all the time. But no, the poor guy is front-and-center, working hard, in this ho-hum drama about the professional and personal lives of a Navy SEAL team.
Bones fans will be happy to see David Boreanaz back on their TVs as the team’s leader, but premiering two days after The Brave, which has Anne Heche as the head of operations for the Defense Intelligence Agency, SEAL Team misses the mark with Mad Men‘s Jessica Paré as a CIA analyst.
I honestly zoned off midway through David Boreanaz’s session with the shrink lady, and that was only a couple of minutes into the pilot. Sorry, SEAL Team! Perhaps if this was the fall’s FIRST military drama to air, you’d be reading my The Brave entry here instead.
How do you spell “better-than-it-should-be military procedural?” S-E-A-L! Kudos to the canny casting director who put together an intriguing ensemble that consists of an ex-vampire (David Boreanaz), a Bates Motel refugee (Max Thieriot) and Don Draper’s most likable ex (Jessica Paré).
The topic of Navy SEALs is inherently interesting, and David Boreanaz and Bates Motel alum Max Thieriot are well-cast as SEALs. But do we need a weekly, CBS procedural-style dose of Navy SEALs? This feels like one I’ll binge watch on a random Saturday five years from now on USA, if the show lasts that long.
Probably the best of the several new military-themed shows this fall, SEAL Team has some exciting action, a nuanced performance by David Boreanaz, and interesting group dynamics. But it just feels like a slightly darker version of the typical CBS procedural.
Premieres Friday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. on ABC
To be fair, candy-colored comic book sci-fi isn’t for everyone. I just wish this clearly expensive pilot didn’t look so cheap, feature such poorly-choreographed fight scenes, and last two damn hours.
Easily the worst new show of the new season I’ve seen thus far. This latest Marvel Comics spawn is a painfully slow, self-serious superhero show that plays like a Saturday Night Live parody of a superhero show. I can cut fantasy-universe shows like this a lot of slack, but not when it is so devoid of humor or awareness of how stodgy and pretentious it is.
Never. After all the great, realistic stuff Marvel has done with Netflix, I don’t want to see a man with hooves.
Yikes! With EVERYONE saying how terrible this pilot was, I felt that I didn’t need to subject myself to two hours of bad television.
Don’t get me wrong, Inhumans is bad. But it’s that special kind of bad that makes it ideal for beer-assisted binge-viewing. Through Duff Gardens-brand beer goggles, it’ll likely be a Hulk-sized hoot instead of a Thor-style bore.
Indistinguishable from every other superhero-focused TV series, except for the ones that are good. Even Iron Fist was more watchable.
This is the worst TV show that Marvel has made — and Iron Fist was so bad — with cheap-looking production values, clunky writing, and wooden acting.
Read more from Yahoo Entertainment:
• One woman guesses the plots of new fall shows from just their titles
• Spoiler! How ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ brings back Colin Firth’s Harry Hart
• The bizarre narrative of the celebrity ‘stepping out’ story