For the big-four TV networks, it all starts Monday (Sept. 23).
Over the next week, they’ll introduce 13 new fall shows (including “The Unicorn,” shown here), with the final three arriving a week later.
Here’s a round-up of those 16, all starting Sept. 23-29, except where noted. We’ll have a separate story on the CW network, which starts two weeks later. The others – PBS cable, streaming – have been busy year-around and we’ve had ongoing coverage.
THE BEST: “Perfect Harmony,” 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, NBC.
A prickly Princeton prof finds himself leading a tattered church choir in small-town Kentucky. He grumbles and grouses, but these folks are so pleasant that insults don’t stick. The result finds a rare balance between snark and warmth. Bradley Whitford (“West Wing”) triumphs in the lead, with great support from Anna Camp and mountainous newcomer Geno Segers.
— “Bob (hearts) Abishola,” 8:30 p.m. Mondays, CBS.
Some of Chuck Lorre’s comedies – especially “Mom” and “Two and a Half Men” — ripple with cynicism and openly confessed sins. Now for the exact opposite: Bob (Billy Gardell) is a sweet-spirited guy, instantly in love with his cardiac nurse. She’s a Nigerian native, living with her parents and perplexed. The result is slow, sweet and thoroughly likable.
— “The Unicorn,” 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, CBS. While Bob and Abishola have their peaceful pace, this is the opposite, a frenetic comedy, leaping between brief scenes. A widower (Walton Goggins) is being nudged into the dating pool. His daughters say no, his friends say go, he’s hesitant. The result is inconsistent, but zips quickly to the good parts.
— “Mixed-ish,” 9 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC. “Black-ish” fans have heard snippets of Rainbow’s past as a biracial kid with hippie parents. Now – sort of “Young Sheldon” style – she narrates it. We see Bow go from the tranquillity of a commune to the chaos of a real school. It’s a good start, but leaves us wondering where it can go from here.
— “Sunnyside,” 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, NBC. A great talker became an awful city councilman. Now he’s disgraced, broke and living on his sister’s couch. Then he gets a job teaching immigrants who are desperate for citizenship. Kal Penn is perfect in the lead. Still, the opener (which he co-wrote) slides between clever moments and mere excess.
— “Carol’s Second Act,” 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, CBS. Patricia Heaton is excellent, as usual, in a story that fits her neatly – a divorced teacher who got a belated medical degree. It’s a good idea, but the script is so-so and the characters around her are flat and one-note.
— “Bless the Harts,” 8:30 p.m. Sundays, Fox. TV seems to think it’s entertaining to see well-meaning, low-income Southerners blow their money on scheme. That’s the plot of the series “To Become a God in Central Florida” … and of the first episode of this animated show. It has some laughs, some sadness and occasional fun.
THE BEST: “Stumptown,” 10 p.m. Wednesdays, ABC.
A tough-eyed private-eye, given to anger and gambling, has a crummy car, a crummy life and a good heart. So far, that’s an old cliche; make it a female detective and you have … well, a newer cliche. Still, it works here because it’s a well-written show; Cobie Smulders turns an angry ex-military person (yes, that’s another cliche) into a strong, yet sympathetic hero.
— “Almost Famous,” 9 p.m. Wednesdays (Oct. 2), Fox. Julia (Brittany Snow) is a likable young woman, fretting about a date and about delivering an introduction for her dad (the terrific Tim Hutton), a renowned fertility doctor. Then her world collapses: He was using his own sperm; he’s in jail, the business is wobbling … and she has lots of half-siblings, some of them people she already knew. It’s a serious story, but it stirs in some humor and humanity.
— “Emergence,” 10 p.m. Tuesdays, ABC. Allison Tolman is back to being a police chief, something she did brilliantly in one “Fargo” edition. Now a plane crash yields a survivor – a girl who can’t seem to remember anything. At its best, this reminds us of Sigourney Weaver in “Aliens” — maternal instincts in a sci-fi settng. At its worst? Well, the broadcast networks have a wretched record of starting sci-fi tales they never finish. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.
— “All Rise,” 9 p.m. Mondays, CBS. We meet a judge on her first day of work. She’s bright, caring, struggling with a difficult world of hurry-up cases. Some of this stretches credibility, but it’s a fast and fun ride, sort of a bridge between the comedies at 8 p.m. and “Bull” at 10.
— “Bluff City Law,” 10 p.m. Mondays, NBC. We expect to see an idealistic young lawyer working with her corporate-conservative father, but now it’s flipped. Sydney has been making big money defending businesses; now she’s reluctantly working with her dad (Jimmy Smits), a long-time lawyer for the common guy. It’s a solid story, but not, at first, an involving one.
— “Prodigal Son,” 9 p.m. Mondays, Fox. A criminal psychologist has good reason to probe killers – his dad is one. Now he must reluctantly visit his father (Michael Sheen) in prison, for a sort of consultation. This proves broadcast can be as dark as cable – but not necessarily as good.
— “Evil,” 10 p.m. Thursdays, CBS. Yes, another cable-nasty show on broadcast. This one has an “X-Files” type pairing: She’s a doubter, he’s a believer who’s been hired by the Catholic church to chase dark mysteries. It’s a tough show to enjoy, despite great talent – producers Robert and Michelle King (“The Good Wife”) and stars Mike Colter and Katja Herbers, plus Michael Emerson at his creepy best.
— “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” 8 p.m. Sundays (Oct. 6), ABC. Tiffany Haddish takes over the old Art Linkletter/Bill Cosby duties of chatting with kids who are bright and unfiltered.
— Wrestling, 8 p.m. Fridays (Oct. 2), Fox. Yes, TV is going way back. “Darndest Things” began with Linkletter’s radio show, which started in 1945; wrestling first reached network prime time in 1948. Now the wrestlers are back, in flashy WWE style. That’s progress, sort of.