The promised land for television is once again on our doorstep.
After an unusually strong summer of TV content on cable, the broadcast networks are finally ready to debut their 2011-2012 shows in the coming weeks. And while the networks have several strong drama contenders lined up, the cable channels still landed four slots on our fall preview list.
The following list contains our picks for the most intriguing new shows of the 2011 season. Not all of these shows are going to catch on, but somewhere on this list is the next breakout hit or fan favorite series. Make your predictions about the fall schedule in the comment section below!
Person of Interest
Thursdays, 9PM CBS
Debut: September 22
Who are the only people who could possibly make us care about a crime procedural on CBS?
Why, that would be Jonathan Nolan ("The Dark Knight") and J,J. Abrams ("Star Trek"), of course. "Person of Interest" is Nolan's first TV project while Abrams has had a nearly golden touch with genre favorites like "Lost," "Alias" and "Fringe."
Jim Caviezel stars as former CIA agent John Reese, a presumed dead man who finds himself recruited by the mysterious billionaire Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson from "Lost") to stop crimes that will take place in the future based on a program (written by Finch) that can predict the identities of people who are about to be involved in violent crimes. The catch is that the program can't distinguish between victims, witnesses or perpetrators, leaving Reese to sort it all out before events come to a head.
On paper, it strikes us as an interesting mix between a quasi-science fiction premise and the old school procedurals that CBS loves so much. There's only one word that strikes fear in our hearts about this one:
But it appears that Abrams has learned his lesson from that misstep and with "Person of Interest" inheriting the coveted Thursday night time slot of "CSI," it could be poised to become this fall's biggest hit.
American Horror Story
Wednesdays, 10PM FX
Debut: October 05
The words "From the creators of 'Glee'" may inspire horror of a different type from some of our readers, but Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have a history at FX with "Nip/Tuck" and by all accounts, "American Horror Story" is going to be one of the strangest shows on TV this year. And I mean that in a good way.
Dylan McDermott ("The Practice") and Connie Britton ("Friday Night Lights") star as Ben and Vivien Harmon, a married couple who move their family into a new house as they try to repair their relationship in the aftermath of Ben's infidelity. As you might expect from the title of the show, the house is haunted by bizarre ghosts and apparitions that feed off of the family's fears and desires.
Genre veterans Tim Minear ("Angel") and James Wong ("The X-Files') are among the notable writers on this show, which also boasts a stellar supporting cast, including Jessica Lange, Denis O'Hare and even Zachary Quinto for a few episodes as a former owner of the house.
FX tends to have some of the best dramas in television and "American Horror Story" is likely to continue that tradition. The only thing that can kill this show is if viewers simply don't watch it.
Thursdays, 8PM ABC
Debut: September 22
"Charlie's Angels" is either going to be fun throwback show or an unmitigated disaster. But never underestimate America's desire to watch pretty women in action!
Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly and Rachael Taylor certainly are attractive enough to be among Charlie Townsend's famous "angels," but other updates are more head-scratching. Whose idea was it to make Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez) into a young Latin computer hacker. That makes as much sense as turning him into Bernie Mac.
The new series was adapted by "Smallville" creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who have a long history of updating concepts for a modern audience. Say what you will about "Smallville" (and I've said plenty), but it worked as a series and nothing can take away the fact that it had an incredible ten year run.
Will "Charlie's Angels" be able to achieve anywhere near that level of success? We'll find out soon enough…
Fridays, 9PM NBC
Debut: October 21
This fall, a new series invites us into a world in which fairy tale characters are real.
Former "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" writers David Greenwalt and Jim Kouf are bringing "Grimm" to NBC starting in October. The series is described as part cop procedural, part dark fantasy.
Homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli) discovers that he is descended from the legendary hunters known as Grimms, who confront dark supernatural forces. And now it's Nick's turn to continue the family legacy and take on all of the evil fairy tale characters alongside his partner, Hank Griffin (Russell Hornsby) and a "reformed Big Bad Wolf" named Eddy Munroe (Silas Weir Mitchell).
But on Friday nights, "Grimm" faces an even scarier dilemma: it's directly up against both "Fringe" and "Supernatural," two shows with a passionate fan base that aren't likely to switch over for a new series. If "Grimm" is going to survive the season, it needs to be something really special.
Once Upon A Time
Sundays, 8PM ABC
Debut: October 23
This fall, a new series invites us into a world in which fairy tale characters are real. Now, where have we heard that one before?
That's right, there are TWO fairy tale related shows on the air this fall. And if you think that's confusing, wait until next year when we get two "Beauty and the Beast" series.
Unlike "Grimm," "Once Upon A Time" focuses more on the legendary characters like Snow White, Prince Charming, Pinocchio and the Seven Dwarves among others, as they struggle to remember their true selves while living in a town called Storybrooke. The similarities to Bill Willingham's "Fables" comic book series are very striking, but former "Lost" writers (and "Once Upon A Time" creators) Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have insisted that their story is different than Willingham's epic.
Former "House" star Jennifer Morrison leads the series as Emma Swan, the possible daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) who discovers the link between the real world and the fantasy characters who now inhabit it. Even one of our favorite "Stargate Universe" actors, Robert Carlyle will have a starring role as Rumplestiltskin and his real world alter-ego, Mr. Gold.
Horowitz and Kitsis have also stated that "Once Upon A Time" won't have the heavy mythology that "Lost" became known for. But what if we liked that mythology?
Regardless, Sundays are sink or swim for ABC. Either "Once Upon A Time" pulls in the viewers immediately or it'll be gone before you can click over to the next page.
The Playboy Club
Mondays, 10PM NBC
Debut: September 19
Have you ever wondered if shows like "The Playboy Club" would get so much attention if the Parent's TV Council didn't constantly try to drum up so much publicity for a boycott?
The PTC freaked out over reports that Amber Heard, Jenna Dewan, Leah Renee, Eddie Cibrian and other stars of "The Playboy Club" had signed contracts that included nudity clauses. But don't get too excited. Despite the PTC's overheated rhetoric about NBC broadcasting porn, those scenes are probably meant for the eventual DVD and international releases. Too bad… I'm more interested in seeing that version of the series.
What we're left with is a show that's essentially "Mad Men" meets "Playboy." Whether it lives up to that description is anybody's guess.
But as I've said before, never underestimate America's desire to watch pretty women prance around in revealing costumes!
Sundays, 10PM Showtime
Debut: October 02
This fall, former "24" producer Howard Gordon is bringing the Israeli TV series "Prisoners of War" to the U.S. as "Homeland." The premise for the series is reminiscent of "The Manchurian Candidate" and it follows an American Marine named Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) who is freed from Al-Qaeda after nearly a decade as their prisoner. At home he is hailed as a hero for surviving his ordeal, but CIA operative Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) soon becomes convinced that Brody has become Al-Qaeda's secret weapon for their next devastating terrorist attack on our country.
The twist is that Carrie might be out of her mind. Her credibility is called into question because she's apparently addicted to various pills and for some of her questionable personal affairs. It's more than likely that Carrie will be proven correct. But the idea that she could be wrong is very compelling.
Mandy Patinkin ("Criminal Minds"), Morena Baccarin ("V") and David Harewood ("Robin Hood") head up the rest of the supporting cast. Showtime is demonstrating a lot of confidence by pairing "Homeland" with "Dexter" on Sunday nights. If it lives up to the hype it could be one of the network's next signature hits.
Fridays, 10PM Starz
Debut: October 21
After a long career in television and movies, Kelsey Grammer should have nothing left to prove to anyone. And yet his latest role could spark a reinvention for how we see Grammer as an actor.
In the new Starz original series "Boss," Grammer will portray Tom Kane, the ruthless and power hungry mayor of Chicago who has a knack for making government work by any means necessary. Especially if it means that government works for him.
In addition to his political enemies, Kane also has to deal with a degenerative disorder in his brain that is causing the iron fisted politician to slowly lose his grip on his empire. While speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Grammer described Kane as "tenacious, egomaniacal, philanthropic, empathic, vicious and irredeemable."
While we probably wouldn't vote for Kane if we knew that much about him in real life, it sure sounds like he's going to be a fun character to watch this fall.
Hell on Wheels
Sundays, 10PM AMC
Debut: November 06
Despite a year that's seen behind-the-scenes turmoil on "The Walking Dead," "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men," AMC is poised to add another series to its original line up in November, with "Hell on Wheels."
The title of the show refers to the lawless frontier towns that literally moved with the construction of the transcontinental railroad. "Hell on Wheels" is set in 1865 after the Civil War, with Anson Mount starring as Cullen Bohannon; a former confederate soldier who is hunting down the union soldiers who murdered his wife. As Cullen seeks his revenge by joining the growing construction site, his situation is complicated when the Native American tribes essentially declare war on the railroad company for encroaching upon their lands.
Rapper turned actor, Common co-stars as Elam Ferguson, a recently freed slave, with "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" veteran Colm Meaney as "Doc" Durant, one of the primary investors behind the railroad. Dominique McElligott, Ben Esler, Philip Burke and Eddie Spears round out the cast.
"Hell on Wheels" looks like the closest thing to a serious Western on television since "Deadwood" went off the air. (Although some have suggested that the show should be called a "mid-Western.") The best part about this series is that it will begin airing right around the time that most broadcast networks start pulling their original programming for the winter. As fans of TV, we need new programming year round.
Luckily, "Hell on Wheels" looks like it might be one of the best shows just when we need it the most.
Mondays, 8PM Fox
Debut: September 26
Earlier I mentioned that "Charlie's Angels" could be a fun show or a complete disaster. Well… that goes double for "Terra Nova."
The series was originally planned to debut last season before a series of delays saw it shelved until later this month. And during the long hiatus between the pilot and the series, nearly all of the writers were reportedly released and the budget for the first episode was said to be among the most expensive in TV history at $30 million. But what did you expect when the plot revolves around humanity escaping from a doomed future to an alternate past tmeline in which the dinosaurs are still around… and some of them are very hungry for human flesh.
Jason O’Mara stars as Jim Shannon, a man who leads his wife, Elisabeth (Shelley Conn) as well as their children Josh ( Landon Liboiron), Maddy (Naomi Scott) and Zoe (Alana Mansour) to the past to join the Terra Nova colony run by Nathaniel Taylor; who is played by Stephen Lang of "Avatar" fame.
Half of the pilot was screened at Comic-Con International earlier this year. And while it looks very promising, the real test of the series will be how well it holds up over the course of its thirteen episode first season.
There's a long list of producers attached to this show, but Steven Spielberg is by far the most well known name associated with the project. But if there was ever a TV series that was too big to fail, it's "Terra Nova."
If the series pops at all in the ratings, look for Fox to give it an early renewal for next season to get a jump on production. But if "Terra Nova" turns into another "Lone Star," it's going to be a long time before you see another sci-fi series on Fox.