By my estimate, there are approximately 7 billion new shows premiering during the 2014-2015 TV season. Like every fall, the shows range from the typical “friends hanging out and hooking up!” sitcoms to the desperate prestige dramas starring bland male antiheroes to shoddy adaptations of comic books, movies, and even other TV shows — and that’s not even counting all of the returning shows that you have to keep up with! To help you decide what to pay attention to, here are the season’s five most promising new shows.
Gotham (Fox) — Monday, September 22 at 8:00
The Facts: Possibly the most anticipated drama of the new TV season, Gotham places the focus on a young Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and his mentor Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue) investigating the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents. A handful of young villains — Catwoman, the Penguin, the Joker, etc. — will make an appearance.
Why You Should Watch: Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue should be reason enough. But also, we could use a gritty Batman TV show and this origin story hits the spot. The pilot is a great start and I’m sure it will only get better.
Black-Ish (ABC) — Wednesday, September 24 at 9:30
The Facts: This comedy about a black family places a heavy emphasis on cultural identity. Andre (Anthony Anderson) is beginning to worry that his family has assimilated too much to the middle-class world around them and are beginning to lose their racial identity or, to put it bluntly, are not black enough. Andre, along with his father (Laurence Fishburne), struggle to teach the children more about their culture without alienating them from the life they’ve grown accustomed to.
Why You Should Watch: The pilot, while not perfect, is much better than many offerings this fall. It’s a premise that I really like and while I’m not sure how closely they’ll stick to it, there is an ease to Black-Ish that implies it could settle into a funny, family sitcom with smart things to say about race.
Happyland (MTV) — Tuesday, September 30 at 11:00
The Facts: Happyland is a soapy teen comedy set in a theme park, exploring the “seedy underbelly” of the park and the teens who work there. Unfortunately, the twist at the end — a twist that derailed the TCA session this summer — involves two siblings making out. Because, MTV!
Why You Should Watch: That annoying incest hook aside (no, really, why is this happening?), MTV has had a pretty good track record with scripted teen-centric programming, especially when it comes to rising above a shoddy premise. If done correctly, it could turn into a sweet Adventureland-ish sitcom.
Marry Me (NBC) — Tuesday, October 14 at 9:00
The Facts: From Happy Endings creator David Caspe, Marry Me is about an engaged couple (played by Ken Marino and Casey Wilson, which is the number one draw of the show) who run into constant difficulties during their engagement.
Why You Should Watch: Let’s be totally honest: The pilot is not good. The rapid-fire jokes are there, but they’re just not landing. The pilot will not make you want to watch the show but — and I am basing this on the creators, the actors, and my blind faith — Marry Me could end up one of the funniest shows if we’re patient. Remember how Happy Endings turned out?
Constantine (NBC) — Friday, October 24 at 10:00
The Facts: Based on characters from DC Comics, which already spawned a 2005 movie starring Keanu Reeves, Constantine follows a supernatural detective who battles demons and dark forces while dealing with his own tortured past. You know, the normal comic book stuff.
Why You Should Watch: It’s not bad! Admittedly, I haven’t dove too deep into the actual comics so I can’t speak to how faithful it is but the pilot is entertaining, thrilling, and features stunning directing. Matt Ryan is a good choice for Constantine — the nonstop deadpan sarcasm and “too cool” attitude can get a little tiresome, but Ryan sells it expertly. Also, and more importantly, he can definitely rock the loose tie look.