These are the best new shows released on the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, the CW) this fall, which is to say: The universe of shows upon which to draw is not large. The list also comes with a caveat: They’re network shows, and there’s nothing on network television — save for The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine — that can really compete with cable and streaming programs.
However, I have gained some appreciation for network television’s ability to know its place and work within those limitations. They’re shows designed for broad audiences and multiple generations, but the better ones can appeal broadly without dumbing themselves down too much. They’re comfortable, they’re not challenging, but the better ones also manage to use diverse casts to tell good stories on a weekly basis and occasionally even connect with their viewers.
These are the five best of the fall.
5. Single Parents— I’m not saying that ABC’s Single Parents is good, but I need to fill the fifth spot and it is marginally better than CBS’s soon-to-be-cancelled Happy Together and NBC’s cancelled I Feel Bad. Single Parents is also an Elizabeth Meriwether (New Girl) joint, so I feel like it might improve once they establish a base of inside jokes and start to run with the Nick and Jess will-they-won’t-they relationship between Taran Killam’s character and Leighton Meester’s character. That is to say, it’s OK, but it’s also still finding its voice and it may grow into a decent second-season show. I hate to say it, but Brad Garrett’s character is also weirdly the stand-out.
4. The Kids Are Alright — There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here, either — it’s a family sitcom like The Goldbergs, except it’s an Irish-Catholic family set in the 1970s. I mean no offense to Adam Goldberg, either, but Mary McCormack’s Peggy Cleary is also more to my liking than Beverly Goldberg — she’s shrewd, far-less clingy, and yet still fiercely protective of her seven boys. Michael Cudlitz, who plays the Dad, is also straight-up fantastic, and while I wouldn’t miss The Kids Are Alright if it were canceled, I do appreciate having it around.
3. The Rookie — As it turns out, The Rookie — starring Nathan Fillion, and created by Noah Hawley’s twin brother, Alexi — is not as generic as I suspected it would be. It’s more Southland than CSI, and I actually find that I prefer shows about beat cops to shows about detectives. They’re more chaotic and less structured, and they aren’t confined to one murder case a week. In fact, The Rookie is more character drama than procedural — it uses the domestic disturbance calls and canvassing opportunities and dirty cops inside the force to help develop the characters instead of using characters to solve a murder every week. Nathan Fillion is also very charming (he really is his generation’s Mark Harmon), but he has a solid supporting cast with which to work, too. The Rookie has grown on me enough this season to replace Lethal Weapon as the token cop show on my weekly schedule.
2. A Million Little Things — I strongly disliked the pilot episode for A Million Little Things, because it seemed so determined to be a drama that tried to find a reason behind the decision of a character (Ron Livingston) to kill himself. But it’s dramatically evolved — the suicide is sixth or seventh on the list of priorities for this series — into a compelling soap opera. It’s a heartfelt character-driven drama about a close-knit group of friends with secrets, and those secrets drive the plot, but they do not make the show. The characters do, and these are some of the best on network television (with a special shout-out to James Roday, the show’s biggest weapon, and a surprisingly capable dramatic actor).
1. New Amsterdam — God, really? A hospital drama? That’s the best that network television could offer this fall? Well, yes. And it is not in any way novel or original. But it’s heartfelt, the characters are well developed, and it tells some surprisingly great stories, which I appreciate even more because New Amsterdam takes pains to also explore mental health. It’s not just cancer and rare diseases and bullet wounds — for a network TV show, New Amsterdamn does an admirable job of trying to not just treat the diseases or patch up the wounds, but explore the social, cultural, and emotional causes behind them. If This Is Us doesn’t wring all of the tears out of you on Tuesday nights, New Amsterdam will finish the job.
Header Image Source: ABC