The Ten Most Promising TV Shows of the 2011-2012 Network Season
10. Pan Am
Description: In this modern world, air travel represents the height of luxury and Pan Am is the biggest name in the business. The planes are glamorous, the pilots are rock stars and the stewardesses are the most desirable women in the world. Not only are these flyboys and girls young and good looking, but to represent Pan Am they also have to be educated, cultured and refined. They’re trained to handle everything from in-air emergencies to unwanted advances - all without rumpling their pristine uniforms or mussing their hair. There’s Dean (Jonah Lotan) - a cocky, charismatic and ambitious new pilot - the first of a new breed not trained in the war. On the sly against company policy, he’s dating Bridget, a stunning beauty with a mysterious past. A rebellious bohemian, Maggie (Christina Ricci) turns into a buttoned up professional for work so she can see the world. Rounding out the crew are flirtatious Collette (Karine Vanasse), the adventurous Kate (Kelli Garner) and, finally, Laura (Margot Robbie) - Kate’s beauty queen younger sister, a runaway bride, who recently fled a life of domestic boredom to take to the skies.
Biggest Selling Point: I completely understand that ABC is attempting to jump on the “Mad Men” bandwagon, but it’s a era like watching on TV, and the idea of a show focussed on stewardesses is compelling. It looks like it will be a solid show for half a season, and then jump the rails, like “Desperate Houswives.”
9. Charlie’s Angels
Description: Set in Miami, this fun, glamorous, action-packed take on the 1970s smash hit series introduces us to three new angels, all fearless detectives, head-turning beauties and close friends. There’s Abby (Rachael Taylor), a Park Avenue princess who became a world-class thief. Then there’s Kate (Annie Ilonzeh), a Miami cop who fell from grace, losing both her career and her fiancé. Finally there’s Gloria, a disgraced army lieutenant who has a way with explosives. When one of the angels’ missions ends in Gloria’s tragic death, Charlie persuades them to partner with Gloria’s childhood friend, Eve (Minka Kelly), a street racer with a mysterious past. They may not know each other yet, but one thing’s for sure — Abby, Kate and Eve will always have each others’ backs.
Biggest Selling Point: It may ultimately be terrible, but the idea of three attractive women kicking ass in leather is hard to overlook; it’d be like three Yvonne Strahovski’s in one show! It has the potential for the same guilty fun as the first Charlie’s movie. They need a new Bosley, though. That voice is terrible.
8. Prime Suspect
Description: Based on the critically acclaimed British television series of the same name, “Prime Suspect” has been redeveloped for American audiences by writer Alexandra Cunningham (“Desperate Housewives,” “NYPD Blue”), director Peter Berg (NBC’s “Friday Night Lights”) — and stars Maria Bello (“A History of Violence”) as tough-as-nails Detective Jane Timoney. Timoney finds that being a homicide detective in New York City is tough enough and having to contend with a male-dominated police department to get respect makes it that much tougher. She’s an outsider who has just transferred to a new precinct dominated by an impenetrable clique of a boys’ club. Timoney has her own vices too — with a questionable past — and she tends to be forceful, rude and reckless. But she’s also a brilliant cop who keeps her eye on one thing: the prime suspect.
Biggest Selling Point: Mario Bello, Peter Berg, and solid source material in the British series. It also has a solid cast, and the trailer suggests a lighter slightly more playful tone than I anticipated.
7. Terra Nova
Description: From executive producers Steven Spielberg (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Jurassic Park”), Peter Chernin, René Echevarria (“Castle,” “The 4400”) and Brannon Braga (“24”) comes an epic family adventure 85 million years in the making. TERRA NOVA follows an ordinary family on an incredible journey back in time to prehistoric Earth as a small part of a daring experiment to save the human race. In the year 2149, the world is dying. The planet is overdeveloped and overcrowded, with the majority of plant and animal life extinct. The future of mankind is in jeopardy, and its only hope for survival is in the distant past. When scientists at the FERMI Particle Accelerator unexpectedly discovered a fracture in time that made it possible to construct a portal into primeval history, the bold notion was born to resettle humanity in the past - a second chance to rebuild civilization and get it right this time. The series centers on the Shannon family as they join the Tenth Pilgrimage of settlers to Terra Nova, the first colony established in this beautiful yet foreboding land.
Biggest Selling Point: Spielberg, sci-fi, a new world, dinosaurs, and creatures, plus what appears to be a guaranteed full, uninterrupted 13-episode season. It definitely gets the benefit of the doubt.
Description: From executive producer J.J. Abrams and writer and executive producer Elizabeth Sarnoff (“Lost,” “Deadwood”) comes ALCATRAZ, the chilling new thriller centered on America’s most infamous prison and one-time home to the nation’s most notorious murderers, rapists, kidnappers, thieves and arsonists. When San Francisco Police Department DET. REBECCA MADSEN is assigned to a grisly homicide case, a fingerprint leads her to a shocking suspect: JACK SYLVANE, a former Alcatraz inmate who died decades ago. Given her family history - both her grandfather and surrogate uncle, RAY ARCHER (Robert Forster, “Jackie Brown”), were guards at the prison - Madsen’s interest is immediately piqued, and once the enigmatic, knows-everything-but-tells-nothing government agent EMERSON HAUSER (Sam Neill) tries to impede her investigation, she’s doggedly committed. Madsen turns to Alcatraz expert and comic book enthusiast, DR. DIEGO “DOC” SOTO (Jorge Garcia, “Lost”), to piece together the inexplicable sequence of events. The twosome discovers that Sylvane is not only alive, but he’s loose on the streets of San Francisco, leaving bodies in his wake. And strangely, he hasn’t aged a day since he was in Alcatraz, when the prison was ruled by the iron-fisted WARDEN EDWIN JAMES (Jonny Coyne, “Undercovers”) and the merciless ASSOCIATE WARDEN E.B. TILLER (Jason Butler Harner, “The Changeling”). Madsen and Soto reluctantly team with Agent Hauser and his technician, LUCY BANERJEE to stop Sylvane’s vengeful killing spree.
Biggest Selling Point: The biggest selling point is also the weakest: J.J. Abrams. Even if it starts out as a great show, how long will it hold up? But Hurley? How can I resist? Plus, after watching the preview, I already hate that I can’t stop watching it. Damn you, Abrams.
5. Persons of Interest
Description: “Person Of Interest” stars Jim Caviezel, Emmy Award winner Michael Emerson and Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson in a crime thriller about a presumed dead former-cia agent who teams up with a mysterious billionaire to prevent violent crimes by using their own brand of vigilante justice. Reese’s (Caviezel) special training in covert operations appeals to Finch (Emerson), a software genius who invented a program that uses pattern recognition to identify people about to be involved in violent crimes.
Biggest Selling Point: It’s not Abrams this time, it’s Jonathan Nolan, co-writer of The Dark Knight and Memento, as exec-producer, that’s so hard to resist. Plus, Michael Emerson is a great draw. Caviezel as a bad ass is a hard sell, but there’s definitely potential here, and as Abrams suggests in the preview, there are some parallels with The Dark Knight.
4. New Girl
Description: NEW GIRL (working title) is a new single-camera comedy from Liz Meriwether (“No Strings Attached”) that features a young ensemble cast and takes a fresh and outrageous look at modern male/female relationships. JESS DAY (Zooey Deschanel, “(500) Days of Summer”) is an offbeat and adorable girl in her late 20s who, after a bad breakup, moves in with three single guys. Goofy, positive, vulnerable and honest to a fault, Jess has faith in people, even when she shouldn’t. Although she’s dorky and awkward, she’s comfortable in her own skin. More prone to friendships with women, she’s not used to hanging with the boys - especially at home.
Biggest Selling Point: Zooey Deschanel, and an adorable trailer sure to alienate half our readership.
3. Apartment 23
Description: After a naïve Midwestern girl’s big city dreams are dashed her first week in New York, she finds herself living with her worst nightmare in this hilarious, contemporary comedy about a female odd couple who are surrounded by an outrageous cast of characters. June (Dreama Walker) moves to Manhattan for a dream job and the perfect company apartment, only to have them disappear in a puff of reality, thanks to a CEO from the Bernie Madoff school of embezzlement. Deep in debt and out on the streets, June scrambles to land a job and place to live. It seems her luck has turned around when she gets hired at a coffee shop and finds Chloe (Krysten Ritter), a charming, vivacious roommate… with the morals of a pirate. She swindles June out of all her savings, but she and her snarky friend, James Van Der Beek (playing himself), soon learn that, just because June’s naïve, she isn’t stupid. June ingeniously turns the tables on Chloe, who is so shocked about being scammed herself that she decides to pull June into her colorful band of friends. Sure, it’s all dysfunctional, bizarre and overwhelming, but so is New York City. And with the help of Chloe and the other oddballs around her, June might just learn the survival secrets she needs to make it there.
Biggest Selling Point: James Van Der Beek. As himself.
Description: “Awake” is an intriguing drama about a detective (Jason Issacs, “Harry Potter,” “Brotherhood”) who finds he is leading an arduous double life that defies reality. When Detective Michael Britten (Issacs) regains consciousness following his family’s car accident, he is told that his wife Hannah (Laura Allen, “Terriers”) perished but that his teen son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, “Saving Grace”), has survived. As he tries to put the pieces of his life back together, he awakens again in a parallel reality in which his wife is very much alive — but his son Rex died in the accident. In order to keep both of his loved ones alive at one time, he begins living two dueling realities in parallel worlds, which churns up confusion — in one moment, Michael and his wife debate about having another child to replace their son, while in the other reality, he is attracted to his son’s tennis coach, Tara (Michaela McManus, “The Vampire Diaries”), to fill the void from the loss of his wife.
Biggest Selling Point: That description is the most confusing description of a TV show I’ve seen on network television in a long time, and that combined with the dark somber tone of the preview sets it apart from everything else on the fall schedule. But really, the trailer sells it.
1. Up All Night
Description: From Emily Spivey (NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”) and legendary Emmy Award-winning producer Lorne Michaels, comes “Up All Night,” a modern take on parenthood that shows the challenges of balancing a career, marriage and a new baby. Christina Applegate (“Samantha Who?”) stars as Reagan, a successful public relations executive, and Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”) plays Chris, Reagan’s supportive, stay-at-home husband. The two have just become parents - a surprise that has set their lives on a new path as responsible adults — for the most part. Maya Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live,” “Bridesmaids”) stars as Ava, Reagan’s outlandish boss and best friend, whose whirlwind social escapades serve as constant reminders of Reagan’s former carefree life.
Biggest Selling Points: Applegate has been a bright spot in all of her post-“Married with Children” sitcoms, Arnett is not playing a blowhard, and Rudolph is coming off the success of Bridesmaids. Plus, of all the clips I watched from the Upfronts, this is the only one that hooked me within 22 seconds.