New Fall TV Season: Mondays

Fall TV 2014

Fall TV 2014

Despite year-round introductions of new series on the scores of cable channels, whole seasons being dropped at once online, and the increased ability to pick up episodes or whole seasons for later viewing, there is a thing about broadcast TV’s new fall season, if only tied to nostalgia for fresh shows and inch-thick TV Guide special editions. There is, again, not much truly great on the big broadcast networks this fall because some time ago they figured they didn’t have to be better than they are to keep their ratings. Plus they had all those commercial breaks to serve up. But hype alone requires that the new season deserves our consideration here, which we will do, day by day, all week.

NEW SHOWS

“Gotham” (Fox, 8 p.m., starting tonight) has been getting some of the most hype of the season, mostly for its ties to the franchise that will not die, “Batman.” The angle here is pre-Batman, dwelling on the days when Bruce Wayne was a boy, his parents were just murdered, and the hero is a policeman named Jim Gordon. In the future, Commissioner Gordon would seem to be a bumbling administrator, but here, portrayed by strong jawed young Ben McKenzie, navigating a city that’s dark and almost impressionistic, in a time neither here nor there (there are computers but no cell phones; fedoras abound), he’s the superhero. And all around are future Batman villains, from future Penguin to future Catwoman to future Riddler. It’s like a dark, brooding “Lil’ Archie” that ultimately, like just about every modern superhero series and movie trying so hard to be dark and adult, stalls in its own funk. TV and film creators must start to mine some other areas or, better yet, come up with their own original ideas. Useful as they were, many of us have long since outgrown superhero comics.

“Jane the Virgin” (The CW, 9 p.m., Oct. 13) is an adaptation of a Venezuelan telenovela about a likable young woman who gets accidentally inseminated in a doctor’s office mixup. If lead actress Gina Rodriguez is half as appealing on screen as she is in person, this show will have the cheery universal appeal “Ugly Betty” had at first, as well as one of the few inclusive, largely Latino casts. If anything can save network TV this fall, it’s diversity, and this is one of the chief examples.

“Scorpion” (CBS, 9 p.m., tonight). The computer was a boon and a curse to TV. It made it easier to write scripts, I imagine. But it also meant that procedurals bogged down in looking at a lot of screens. And even if you put them on cool translucent glass, the computer readouts were still ultimately dull. This new tale is about a group of nerds (and you can tell they’re nerds because of their hats and girth) who are employed to help a shadowy federal agency. That Katharine McPhee appears as a waitress with a smart kid, is mostly for eye candy.

“State of Affairs” (ABC, 10 p.m., Nov. 17) is a result of the success of “Homeland” and “Scandal” about powerful women in D.C. But in this one, even more than in “Madam Secretary,” the situations are even harder to believe. Katherine Heigl plays the CIA person who puts together the president’s daily briefing, but she is also the President’s would-be daughter-in-law until her fiancé got killed. In her role, she makes a lot of global policy decisions on her own because she thinks it would be best, and she is chased by people with guns. It’s a little more than absurd and so is the idea that her personal life is a “mess.” Nothing about Heigl’s precise manner is a mess.

RETURNING SHOWS

“The Big Bang Theory” (CBS, 8 p.m., starting tonight), “2 Broke Girls” (CBS, 8 p.m., Oct. 27), “The Voice” (NBC, 8 p.m., tonight), “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC, 8 p.m., returned last week), “The Originals” (The CW, 8 p.m., Oct. 6), “Mom” (CBS, 8:30 p.m., Sept. 29), “Sleepy Hollow” (Fox, 9 p.m., tonight), “The Blacklist” (NBC, 10 p.m., tonight), “NCIS: Los Angeles” (CBS, 10 p.m., Sept. 29), “Castle” (ABC, 10 p.m., Sept. 29).

 

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