It's at this point in the fall, when most of the new series have premiered, that we're forced to look at our overflowing DVRs and figure out which shows to keep and which ones to let go. And then, of course, there are the shows we haven't gotten around to checking out yet. For those of you trying to play catch-up and need a little help deciding which new series are worth a look, we've come up with a list of the keepers this season.
These are the shows you should be watching! And in this wonderful age of streaming video, it's not too late to get caught up, either. In many cases, the previously aired episodes are available online, so we've included the links to get you to the episodes you've missed. Here they are (in no particular order).
Airs: Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m. ET on ABC.
Episodes aired so far: 1
Get caught up: Episode 1 (also free on iTunes).
It should be said up front that an appreciation for and interest in country music is not a requirement for ABC's new drama series Nashville. I know this for a fact because mine is limited on both fronts and I still fell in love with the pilot for this series. While there is a heavy emphasis on the music industry and country music, at its heart, Nashville appears to be a drama about people trying to make it and trying to keep it.
The series premiere introduces us to Rayna James (Connie Britton), a 40-year-old country singer whose career is showing signs of faltering. Once a superstar, she's faced with some tough choices as the demand for her music is not what it once was. Meanwhile, Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) is an up-and-coming country singer who knows she's the hot new thing. Rayna and Juliette rub each other the wrong way from the start. Maybe Rayna's threatened and a little bit jealous of this younger female singer. Maybe somewhere deep down Juliette knows her talent doesn't measure up to Rayna's. Neither woman is perfect, though, which is part of what makes them interesting from a viewer's perspective.
There are other things introduced in the pilot, including numerous romantic entanglements, and family complications for both Rayna and Juliette. There's also an interesting budding story involving a songwriter named Scarlett who may have more talent than she realizes. There's music and plenty of drama in the first episode. Only one episode has aired, so we'll have to wait and see if the series lives up to its pilot, but from the start, Nashville's on track to be a hit. -Kelly West
Photo Credit: ©ABC
The New Normal
Airs: Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC
Episodes aired so far: 6
Get caught up: Free on Hulu.
A comedy created by Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler, with over-the-top characters, The New Normal pulls out all the stops to display the ridiculous nature of prejudice and the very concept that there is any such thing as a normal family. The show is filled with characters who are walking stereotypes, and uses those stereotypes to make the viewer realize just how silly they actually are.
Two gay men, one fashion-conscious and a little OCD (Bryan - played by Andrew Rannells), the other a quiet doctor (David - played by Justin Bartha) who seems barely out of the closet make an odd couple who seem to prove opposites attract. When the two decide to add a baby to their world, they hook up with Goldie (Georgia King), a young mother desperate to leave the mistakes of her past behind and give her daughter a new life. She comes with the baggage of a grandmother whose bigotry is so extreme as to be almost a parody, with every word out of her mouth either a racial slur or an ignorant and small-minded assertion about anyone who doesn’t fit into her worldview.
While The New Normal uses stereotypes to get laughs, it does so in such a way that you can’t help but see how ridiculous they are. It also has a way of digging deeper, and behind the stereotypes are people you can’t help but like for their strengths and their weaknesses. There’s something both hilarious and touching about watching Bryan connect with Goldie’s offbeat daughter Shania, a moment that makes it clear this show is about finding the normal in lives that are anything but. - Leslie Kasperowicz
Airs:Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET on The CW.
Episodes aired so far: 1
Get caught up: Episode 1 (or $2.99 on iTunes).
Despite a less than stellar “Pilot,” The CW’s Arrow is still a new series worth watching thanks to some solid action and great source material. The first half of the premiere clunkily introduced the many, many characters involved with Oliver Queen’s vigilantic return to Starling City but, once it found some momentum in the second, Smallville’s heir apparent started showing a lot of promise. The comics will provide the series with an endless stream of compelling stories as well as great adversaries, especially since the writers have the entire DCU at their disposal and uperheroes are often only good as their villains.
Arrow has also adopted the ‘gritty and realistic’ aesthetic made popular by Christopher Nolan’s superhero flicks, so fans of The Dark Knight trilogy should definitely be tuning in to watch Stephen Amell beat up bad guys as Bruce Wayne with a bow. Don’t get me wrong, there are differences between him and Queen - I especially like the feel of the flashback castaway sequences even if they could be more seamlessly inserted - but it’s hard not to see the influence of the Batman all over Arrow. That’s not a bad thing by any means. Oh, but unlike the caped crusader, Oliver Queen has no problem killing bad guys in cold blood. So there’s also that... It’s not easy being green. - Jesse Carp
Airs: Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m. ET on NBC.
Episodes aired so far: 6
Get caught up: ”Big League Chew”, the most recent episode. Hulu Plus subscribers can catch all the episodes.
Matthew Perry is an intensely likeable actor. The best example of this is still Friends, however, giving the prolific gig a run for its money is Go On, a new half-hour comedy that stars Perry as the snarky Ryan King, a sports radio guy who recently lost his wife. He’s having a little trouble with the grieving process, and so he joins a wacky support group led by Lauren Bennet (Laura Benanti, and yes, the barely existent name change is confusing).
Go On features an ensemble cast at work and another with King’s support group, but the show relies heavily on our main character’s shoulders, and he makes the most of it. That isn’t too say the ensemble cast isn’t worth a lark—Julie White as Anne, one of the women in the support group, Allison Miller as Carrie, Ryan’s assistant, and Bill Cobb as the blind group member, George, get their comedic timing just right. While Go On doesn’t surprise me with an earth-shattering premise, it does constantly impress me with how the plotlines at the office and the plots within the support group capably intertwine to tell a fluid story. The writing is as clever as the jokes.
Each episode is also capably self-contained, so if you miss one, you can jump right in the following week, without losing too much character knowledge. However, if you’ve missed all six, now is probably the time to give NBC’s smart new comedy a shot. Just because each episode doesn’t need to be watched chronologically doesn’t mean the comedy is a miss. -Jessica Rawden
Airs: Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.
Episodes aired so far: 3
Get caught up: ABC.com (also available on iTunes).
Shawn Ryan and Karl Gajdusek's new drama combines the suspense and thrilling side of a submarine thriller with the intrigue and story of a character drama with ABC's Last Resort. The series follows the crew of the USS Colorado, a fictional sub that receives orders to fire one of their nuclear weapons. When the captain questions the orders, he's relieved of his duties and his lieutenant is put in charge and given the same orders. Like his commander, something doesn't seem right here so he requests further information, after which the sub is fired upon by another U.S. ship. They manage to escape and take refuge on a nearby island and that's where they're set up right now, having been declared enemies of their own country.
We're still at the point where we're just getting to know these characters. In addition to the crew from the sub, there are the locals on the island and a whole other set of dangers lurking there as some of the residents don't appreciate these visitors. And then there are the people back in the U.S., including the officials trying to get to the bottom of the situation. The cast alone is reason enough to watch, with Andre Braugher, Scott Speedman, Dichen Lachman and Robert Patrick among the ensemble. Last Resort only seems to be getting better with each episode, as this story continues to unfold. It's not too late to get on board with this exciting new drama. -Kelly West
Photo Credit: ©ABC
Airs: Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.
Episodes aired so far: 2
Get caught up: First two episodes at CBS.com. Also on Amazon.
If you’ve been holding back from giving Elementary a shot because you’re a fan of the British version – or if you simply haven’t managed to get this new series on your viewing schedule yet, now is the time. Elementary is a sharp, witty crime drama with a very human side, and you don’t need to be a Sherlock Holmes fan to enjoy it.
Our hero in this updated take on the old detective stories is fresh out of rehab and diving right back into what he does best – solving crimes. His intelligence, eye for details, and lack of concern for stepping on toes make him both an excellent detective and a man who keeps people at arm’s length. Enter Dr. Watson, a surgeon whose career ended suddenly and tragically and who is now working as a companion to newly released rehab patients. Her assignment to Holmes puts into sharp relief her unhappiness, but at the same time seems to open a door to a new future.
While Elementary is about solving crimes, it’s also about two people thrown together by chance who are also facing the task of solving themselves and each other. It provides all of the mystery and fast-paced drama of a good crime show, but does so with humor and with insight into the very human side of the two main characters.
With Elementary only two episodes in, the series has just started scratching the surface of what looks to be both a fun ride and a strong drama. Now is the time to get on board. - Leslie Kasperowicz
The Mindy Project
Airs:Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
Episodes aired so far: 3
Get caught up: Limited availability on FOX.com (or $2.99 per episode on iTunes).
Of all the new network comedies, The Mindy Project is one of the few that actually feels fresh. Mindy Kaling’s series could be funnier (and I think it will be), but even without a lot of big laughs in the first three episodes, it’s still a very enjoyable show to watch. The “Pilot” did a great job introducing the romantic comedy obsessed, young female doctor looking for love (played by writer/creator Kaling) with an inventive bit of storytelling that stood out from the standard sitcoms showing up on all the other networks.
I expect the stories to continue to impress (and only get funnier) because of the talent Kaling, who’s no slouch herself, has assembled to work on the scripts with her including former Community writers Chris McKenna and Matthew Warburton. And The Mindy Project’s actors are a perfect match for the material especially her lead, Chris Messina as Doctor Danny Castellano and Ike Barinholtz as male-nurse Morgan Tookers. It also doesn’t hurt to have Anna Camp and Stephen Tobolowsky in support, even if neither has much to do at the moment. NBC passed on TMP and, in light of their recent ‘broad’ comedy policy not to mention treatment of the gems they have, I’d say that serves as a great endorsement for the show. - Jesse Carp
Airs: Mondays at 10:00 p.m. ET on NBC.
Episodes aired so far: 5
Get caught up: Pilot and the other past episodes are available at NBC.
Revolution relies on a shaky premise and features a teen romance plotline that would make a tired old mule look sprightly. However, NBC’s new sci-fi post-apocalyptic drama makes up for this in its epic scope, a surprising level of violence, and a few finely tuned characters that will leave you guessing and coming back for more each week.
Revolution follows humanity after electricity across the globe has been cut off. Flash forward a couple of decades to a landscape wrought with strife and decay, controlled by a militia regime that is often brutal. The militia’s leader, Monroe (David Lyons), is looking to turn the power back on, and to do so, he’s after his former buddy, Miles Matheson (Billy Burke) and Matheson’s oddball group of traveling companions, hoping to find some answers in the ragtag crew. Meanwhile, Matheson’s group is traveling through the wilderness, encountering their own problems.
My plot summary doesn’t encompass cheesy-but-promising electricity amulets, sword fights, more violence that network TV usually delves in (an exception being Criminal Minds), Giancarlo Esposito, settings that look as if they are straight out of Life after People, a fast pace, and a slew of interesting characters. It’s hard to balance an out-there premise with a cast that’s genuinely interesting and writing that works. Revolution has a little bit of everything going for it, and, while it may not yet stand among the science fiction television greats, there’s certainly enough to the program to bring audiences back each week. If you haven’t caught the show, yet, start with the pilot. -Jessica Rawden