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A new batch of prime shows will soon arrive at our television sets (and mobile devices). With many varied options, here are the top five new programs to look forward to this fall season:
5-“Bull” (CBS) – Tuesday 9 p.m. ET
Michael Weatherly remains on the same network and the same night, Tuesday, in this new legal drama starring in the role as Dr. Jason Bull, head of a major trial consulting firm tasked to construct advantageous juries for their clients. The series is based on the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw. While it is, in essence, another attempt by CBS to re-introduce the know-it-all witty smart aleck (a la “The Mentalist”), it works somewhat effectively here with Weatherly whose Dr. Bull character isn’t as flawless as he appears. “Bull” probably won’t attain the buzz from the supposed “in” TV crowd (this is CBS, after all, which caters to older viewers with its scripted dramas), but it’s certainly a suitable fit on the night, sandwiched in between Weatherly’s former show “NCIS” and its recent spin-off “NCIS: New Orleans.”
Related: Fall 2016 TV Preview (Audio)
4-“Speechless” (ABC) – Wednesday 8:30 p.m. ET
Since the launches of “The Middle” and “Modern Family” in 2009, ABC seems to have found the so-called formula for success in family comedies. This season, the network scores once again with this series starring Minnie Driver as the matriarch of a family with a husband and three kids, one of whom has cerebral palsy and is non-verbal. They all move into a new town, but soon see those in the community are at least a bit apprehensive by the mother’s over-the-top, overbearing nature. Micah Fowler (as J.J. on the show) will get the most attention for he has cerebral palsy in real life. Its pilot episode, though, hits the mark when focusing on how one’s disability affects the entire family, especially upon J.J.’s seemingly overlooked brother Ray (Mason Cook).
Scheduled out of “The Goldbergs” and into “Modern Family,” “Speechless” is projected to attract some decent ratings.
3-“Pitch” (Fox) – Thursday 9 p.m. ET
Kylie Bunbury stars as Ginny Baker, baseball’s first female player. “Pitch,” created by Dan Fogelman, seems to hit the right notes in its depiction of the clubhouse atmosphere and media circus surrounding Baker’s entry into the major leagues. Major League Baseball’s official association with its production adds credibility and resonance to the series, even if it is overly done with the numerous appearances by Fox play-by-play announcer Joe Buck.
The backdrop to “Pitch” of Ginny and her caring but disciplinary father Bill (Michael Beach) lifts the show from being a mere sports tale to a gripping, emotionally-driven drama. Television has tried scripted series about the sport of baseball several times before, but all those attempts were short-lived. And for this new Fox series in a Thursday night time slot versus hefty competition, “Pitch” will certainly face an immediate uphill battle. But its series premiere is highly worth checking out.
2- “Designated Survivor” (ABC) – Wednesday 10 p.m.
In what is projected to be one of the fall’s breakout hits at a time where the United States will be electing a new President, Kiefer Sutherland stars as Tom Kirkman, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who immediately ascends to the presidency after the Capitol building is blown up during a State of the Union address. As the government scrambles to piece itself back together after the attack, most viewers will easily notice the flashes of the pulsating action from Sutherland’s “24” days.
Although most of the characters outside of the Kirkman family – particularly FBI agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) — could use more development, Sutherland’s Kirkman character is the shining force. As opposed to the rebellious Jack Bauer, Kirkman is by-the-book and way over his head in assuming his new position. How he will weave his way through the political mud and probable numerous attempts to usurp his power will make for an intriguing series to come.
1- “This Is Us” (NBC)
Dan Fogelman goes 2-for-2 this upcoming season (also, see Fox’s “Pitch”) with one of the more unique family-themed series ever to air on television and my top pick of this fall. This ensemble dramedy — starring Mandy Moore (“A Walk to Remember”), Milo Ventimiglia (“Heroes,” “Gilmore Girls”), Justin Hartley (“Smallville”) and Sterling K. Brown (“The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story”) — about several people born on the same day and how their lives intersect showcases much heart (without getting too schmaltzy), wit and hope. Like Fogelman’s other new series “Pitch”, this pilot episode also concludes on an interesting plot twist that propels the show moving forward. With its trailer among the most-viewed online for all new fall series back in May and its well-positioned Tuesday time slot following “The Voice,” “This Is Us” seems destined to hit.
Other honorable nods go to two other new ABC dramas: the scandalously entertaining “Notorious” which fits in perfectly smack in the middle of the TGIT lineup, and “Conviction” starring Hayley Atwell (“Agent Carter”), as the troubled former First Daughter blackmailed into leading a legal team tasked to investigate questionable convictions.