My previous blog looked at this fall's new broadcast-network comedies. Now let's scoot in the opposite direction; here's a list, rating the serious dramas:
By MIKE HUGHES
In their dream world, broadcast networks deliver what cable
does best – richly crafted drama series that look like movies and think like
And in real life? Occasionally this fall, they’ll pull it
off. “Gotham” looks as good as any movie; “Gracepoint” is even better than the
cable series it adapts.
At other times? Well, two dramas about Washington, D.C.,
women feel like “Homeland Lite.” Here are the most serious new dramas, rating
their pilots on a 0-10 scale; we’ll list the lighter hybrids separately:
A compelling British miniseries called “Broadchurch” has
already aired on BBC America. Is it logical to remake it in an American
setting, with the same star (David Tennant) and a new ending? Yes, actually. As
good as the original was, this is even better. It gives a brighter look to a seaside
town where something awful has happened. Then it adds the pain and the human
quirks that pull us in.
(9 p.m. Thursdays, Fox; starts Oct. 2)
Sure, the opener is all style and no substance. Still, that
style is stunning. We’re in Gotham City, when Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed.
He won’t be Batman for a long time; for now, Detective James Gordon (Ben
Mackenzie) seems like the only honest man in town. The opening story is
monotone, but the look, feel and actors (especially Jada Pinkett Smith) are
(8 p.m. Mondays, Fox; Sept. 22)
The trouble with eternal life is that it’s often accompanied
by vampirism. But Henry (Ioan Gruffudd) simply and inexplicably keeps returning
to life. He’s a medical examiner, Jo (Alana De La Garza) is a cop; he brings
time-tested wisdom to help her solve crimes, but only his friend (Judd Hirsch)
knows his secret. The result mixes rich visuals and smart storytelling.
(10 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC; Sept. 23)
“How to Get Away With Murder” (6)
Clever and confident, Annalise (Viola Davis) teaches a
law-schoo class on her specialty – helping a defendant who may or may not be guilty.
Each year, a few students work with her directly; this time, they’ll end up in
ethical and legal tangles. The bad news is that “Murder” plans to stretch one
case over a season. The rest is good: This has the same sharp writing, casting
and filming that producer Shonda Rhimes delivers in “Grey’s Anatomy” and
(10 p.m. Thursdays, ABC; Sept. 25)
“NCIS: New Orleans” (6)
Forget the sleek, high-tech stuff in the main “NCIS” office.
This bureau is in an old building surrounded by the music and people of New
Orleans. Two NCIS people (Scott Bakula, Lucas Black) are Southerners who love
their roots; the third (Zoe McCellan) is a no-nonsense Northern who will need
time. If the pilot (which aired as two “NCIS” episodes) is a good example, this
will be solid and sometimes fun.
(9 p.m. Tuesdays, CBS; Sept. 23)
An expert on the black arts, Constantine really doesn’t like
his work. He’s already been condemned to Hell; he gives up … until an emergency
lures him. Sometimes fierce and gory, the pilot has its best moments when he’s
with a bewildered young Liv. Oddly, producers decided they’ll soon dump her.
Zed (Angelica Celaya), from the “Constantine” comics, will indirectly take her
(10 p.m. Fridays, NBC; Oct. 24)
“Madam Secretary” (4)
Once a top CIA analyst, Elizabeth (Tea Leoni) is happy
teaching and raising horses. Then comes a tragedy, with the president begging
her to be secretary of state. His chief of staff (Zeljko Ivanek) is less
enthusiastic. Give this show credit for dropping the good-at-work/bad-at-home
cliché; “Madam” gives her a smart, caring husband (Tim Daly). Still, Leoni is
so-so and the opener rarely stirs viewers.
(8 p.m. Sundays, CBS, Sept. 21)
Stalking – usually of regular people, not celebrities – is a
high-volume issue for a Los Angeles police unit, we’re told. “Stalker” focuses
on its no-nonsense boss (Maggie Q) and an enigmatic but brilliant transplant (Dylan
McDermott). Created by Kevin Williamson
(“Dawson’s Creek,” “Vampire Diaries”), this makes flailing tries at humor; it’s
better at showing how troubled these cops are in their own lives.
(10 p.m. Wednesdays, CBS; Oct. 1)
“State of Affairs” (2)
A top CIA analyst (Katherine Heigl) prepares a daily
briefing for the president (Alfre Woodard) … and manages to dabble in foreign
policy. (It helps that she and the president have a personal connection.)
“State” wants you to believe that someone sought by police can take a cab to
the White House and casually enter the Oval Office. Harder to believe is that
this is on the former “West Wing” network.
(10 p.m. Mondays, NBC; Nov. 17)