Having had a chance to preview the pilot episodes of the new TV series scheduled to debut on the “Big 5” Networks for the 2012 – 2013 television season, here are the hot new shows to keep an eye out for:
Looking to the new shows being offered by ABC, there are two immediate standouts: LAST RESORT and NASHVILLE. They are polar opposites and defy the descriptive boxes that television commentators will attempt to place them in. Simply put, they must be seen to be truly appreciated. Suffice it to say, I have had the pleasure of watching both pilots several times and enjoyed them more each time.
LAST RESORT – Offering the most complex drama to air this next Fall, LAST RESORT is premised on the story of a U.S. nuclear submarine crew that finds itself under attack by its own government, forcing them to flee and seek sanctuary at a remote Pacific island. It is a political/military thriller of the finest caliber. Created and written by Shawn Ryan (THE CHICAGO CODE, TERRIERS and THE SHIELD), the series captures attention right out of the gate. Viewers will soon be invested in the submarine crew fighting to survive. The show stars: Andre Braugher (HOMICIDE) as Captain Marcus Chaplin, Scott Speedman (FELICITY) as XO Sam Kendal, and Robert Patrick (THE X-FILES) as COB Joseph Prosser, while also showcasing Bruce Davison as Admiral Arthur Shepard; Autumn Reeser (THE O.C.) as Kylie, a lobbyist for a powerful weapons manufacturer; Jessy Schram (FALLING SKIES) as Sam’s wife Christine, and Dichen Lachman (DOLLHOUSE) as Tani, an island resident who assists the submarine crew.
The life-and-death stakes combined with the complex mystery of who in the U.S. government could possibly want to destroy their own sub, makes this a fast-paced, fascinating series to watch. Plus, Andre Braugher is mesmerizing as the sub captain who may or may not have his own agenda once events begin to play out. The interplay between Braugher and Speedman really is the standout part of this series. Loyalty, friendship and the desire to do the right thing is deeply instilled in both their characters, and yet circumstances have evolved to push them both to the brink and forces to make drastic decisions. It is an addictive, compelling series that should be on your “must-watch” list for this Fall. (A sneak peek preview of LAST RESORT may be seen HERE and HERE.)
Related:“Fall TV Pilot Preview: ABC’s ‘Last Resort’ – Shawn Ryan checks in with the ambitious new thriller that has everything from island drama and workplace tensions to government secrets and a long-running mystery.”
NASHVILLE – Also defying expectations, NASHVILLE focuses on established country star Rayna James seeking to make a come back, but finding that it hard to compete against a younger singer who has caught the public eye. Starring Connie Britton (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) as Rayna, and Hayden Panettiere (HEROES) as Juliette Barnes, the series is a finely-tuned showcase of two singers vying for superiority in the cut-throat country music industry. Fortunately, this series is not just about the rivalry and tug-of-war for musical superiority.
Enriching this complex world is the tale of Rayna’s husband, Teddy Conrad (wonderfully portrayed by Eric Close) as he is propelled into the political arena by Rayna’s scheming father, Lamar Hampton (just as wonderfully portrayed by Powers Boothe); and a beautiful tale of young love and a songbird with the voice of an angel. NASHVILLE offers a rich palette of characters that will draw you deep into its world — and songs that will take your breath away. Make time for this show, you will be surprised. (A sneak peek preview of NASHVILLE may be seen HERE.)
Then the CW is debuting a total of five new TV series this next season, and I loved each and every one of them – albeit for different reasons.
ARROW – While not technically a spin-off of The CW’s long-running and extremely popular series SMALLVILLE, there is a very familiar vibe to the new series ARROW that will remind fans of it. In fact, the visual palette and atmosphere takes one right back into the SMALLVILLE-verse. But, in this series, the Green Arrow is portrayed by hot-hunk Stephen Amell (rather than Justin Hartley, who now co-stars on EMILY OWENS, M.D. on the CW next Fall). The fresh take and perspective on the Green Arrow tale makes it easy for new viewers to jump right in and get familiar with the tale of billionaire Oliver Queen, the young heir who was lost at sea, then rescued, and who took on a hero persona in order to reclaim the lost city of his youth.
Re-envisioned by executive producer Greg Berlanti and directed by popular director David Nutter, the pilot feels action-packed and intriguing. They also do a fantastic job introducing the show’s core characters and setting up the long-arcing story of Oliver Queen hiding behind the Green Arrow mask. Helping populate this captivating new world are co-stars Katie Cassidy (GOSSIP GIRL and HARPER’S ISLAND), who plays Oliver’s former girlfriend; Colin Donnell, as Oliver’s best-friend Tommy; Willa Holland (THE O.C.), as Oliver’s rebellious teenage sister; and Paul Blackthorne (THE DRESDEN FILES), as the mysterious Detective Quentin Lance. The show is a simple concept of “a lone hero fighting the good fight against injustice,” but when put together with a compelling cast and other great creative talent, it also makes for a fun TV series for those who love to root for superheroes. (A sneak peek preview of ARROW may be seen HERE.)
BEAUTY & THE BEAST – Continuing to build on their success with shows offering a supernatural-flare, the CW is also offering a reimagined version of the classic TV series BEAUTY & THE BEAST. It should be noted that the secret of success for this series is the chemistry of Kristin Kreuk (SMALLVILLE) and Jay Ryan. They manage to bring the characters of Catherine and Vincent to life in such a way that romantics-at-heart will swoon. Vincent Keller is a former military recruit suffering effects of government experiments who saves Catherine Chandler from a brutal attack. But when the paths of Catherine and Vincent intersect, so do their destinies; and a few years later, Catherine discovers that the mystery man that saved her life is now a suspect in a case she is investigating. The murky world of BEAUTY & THE BEAST is brought to life by the sheer romance of their story. Then helping bring a bit of comedic levity to Vincent’s story is his friend and confidante J.T. Forbes (fantastically portrayed by LIFE UNEXPECTED’s Austin Basis). This is not just a tale of murder, mystery, vengeance and the pursuit of justice, it is a tale of enduring friendship and a love-story written in the stars. (A sneak peek preview of BEAUTY & THE BEAST may be seen HERE.)
EMILY OWENS, M.D. – In a funny, heart-felt tale of how “if life hands you lemons, make lemonade,” this series introduces us to a young doctor as she tries to settle into her residency at a new hospital, where she promptly runs into two people who have influenced her life more than anyone else: her college-crush and her high-school nemesis. Starring Mamie Gummer (OFF THE MAP) as Emily Owens, one cannot help but be drawn to her comedic charm as she attempts to make “lemonade” out of her crazy life. Portraying her college-crush is Justin Hartley (SMALLVILLE) as Will Rider; and her high-school nemesis is Aja Naomi King as Cassandra Kopelson, both fellow surgical residents at her new hospital. But the real person to watch is Dr. Micah Ellis (portrayed by the deliciously scene-stealing Michael Rady), the resident whose gentle guidance helps keep Emily on course and reminds her that life is about more than crushes, jealousies and rivalries. Taken as a whole, the show is a wonderful balance of comedy and light-hearted drama that will tug at your heart-strings and make you laugh along the way. (A sneak peek preview of EMILY OWENS, M.D. may be seen HERE.)
THE CARRIE DIARIES – As a mid-season series, THE CARRIE DIARIES will not debut on the CW schedule until early 2013, but it will be worth the wait. Premised on the early years of Carrie Bradshaw from SEX IN THE CITY, the show introduces us to Carrie while she was in her formulative teenage years – just discovering her fashion sense, the love of high-priced shoes and beginning to be seduced by the lure of life in the magical world of Manhattan. The show skews heavily towards its teenage and twenty-something viewers, but it is a fun look at a girl on the cusp of womanhood discovering the joys of life. It is the charming cast that really captivates our attention; starring AnnaSophia Robb as Carrie Bradshaw, Matt Letscher (SCANDAL) as her good-intention father, Austin Butler (SWITCHED AT BIRTH and LIFE UNEXPECTED) as her teen-crush Sebastian, and Freema Agyeman (DOCTOR WHO) as her party-mentor. THE CARRIE DIARIES sweeps us up into the adventures of a young woman embracing life with eyes and arms wide open. AnnaSophia Robb’s youthful exuberance makes it worth a peek.
CULT – Another mid-season series, CULT will not debut until early 2013, but you will want to check it out when it does. Starring THE VAMPIRE DIARIES’ Matt Davis, the show is a creepy and haunting look at a reporter Jeff Shefton investigating the disappearance of his brother, who was fixated with a reality television series allegedly portraying the fictional life of a cult. But the more he looks into the “cult,” the more it begins to look like there is more going on than meets the eye. Whether there are supernatural forces at play or simply an omnipresent organization stalking those who get too curious about their activities, the show manages to catch our attention. It helps that the “cult” leader is portrayed by Robert Knepper (PRISON BREAK), who offers such a layered performance that one never knows if he is a villain or just a guy portraying a villain in the reality show that Shefton investigates – and a smile is all it takes to send chills down our spines. Part mystery, part thriller, CULT draws one in with its quest for answers that remain elusive and illusory. It deftly sets the stage to make us wonder: what is real? That journey will be chilling and spine-tingling. Definitely keep an eye out for this series.
Taking a walk on the wild-side, CBS ventures out of its cozy police procedurals and it pays off in a big way. Its three new TV series are eclectic and unexpected.
VEGAS – Based on premise alone, this show does not stand out as strongly as it should. But after watching it, I was incredibly surprised. The show is set in the early days of Las Vegas in the 1960’s when local cattle ranchers feuded with the casinos over land and the right to live in peace. What draws the story together is a local politician’s daughter is found murdered and, with the sheriff M.I.A., the mayor ropes in his old military buddy to investigate to ensure that the boiling tensions do not erupt. Starring Dennis Quaid, as the quarrelsome Ralph Lamb who chafes against the encroachment of the local mob business — run by Johnny Savino (pitch-perfectly played by Michael Chiklis) — the series is riveting to watch. The stellar casting of Quaid and Chiklis is enhanced by the addition of Carrie Moss, Jason O’Mara, Michael O’Neill just brings the show to life in an intoxicating way. They inhabit their roles seamlessly and with each passing scene we are curious to see more of the each of them. They have created a world that we simply cannot wait to see more of – especially since there is an undercurrent of tension in each scene foreshadows the violence that could and does erupt as these characters maneuver to get exactly what they want. Do yourself a favor and make time for this show. It’s worth it. (A sneak peek preview of VEGAS may be seen HERE.)
ELEMENTARY – Taken from the Sherlock Holmes mythology, this modern remake offers a Sherlock Homes for the American audience. Starring Jonny Lee Miller (DEXTER, ELI STONE) as Sherlock, and Lucy Liu (SOUTHLAND) as Joan Watson, the show plays fast and loose with its archetype. But it also manages to create a story that one finds themself becoming more and more intrigued by. Sherlock in this version is a recovering addict, whose father hires him a life-coach companion to help him through his recovery. The first meeting between Holmes and Watson in the pilot episode is jaw-droppingly unexpected. But it also sets the tone as to who each of their characters are and the unusual relationship they will have. Fortunately, both Miller and Liu are able to embody these iconic characters with ease and make them their own. The best advice in watching this new series for the first time is: expect the unexpected. One should also be open-minded. This is not the Sherlock Holmes that you think you knew. This is something, and someone different. If you can do that, then you’ll have discovered another fun show to enjoy. (A sneak peek preview of ELEMENTARY may be seen HERE.)
MADE IN JERSEY – It’s a familiar tale of a young girl from the other side of the tracks who gets a chance to work at a high-powered law firm; and Martina Garreti is the young attorney trying to prove she is worthy of the chance bestowed upon her. Due to the appealing performance of Janet Montgomery (HUMAN TARGET) and deft performance of Kyle MacLachlin (DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES), the show feels more fresh and fun than expected. In fact, it comes across more winsome and wholesome than this tale usually warrants, but it also makes it more inviting. It makes you want to see Martina succeed and you’ll be curious how she does it. It’s another show that deserves a chance and I hope you’ll give it one. (A sneak peek preview of MADE IN JERSEY may be seen HERE.)
REVOLUTION – Coming from the minds of J.J. Abrams (LOST, ALIAS) and Eric Kripke (SUPERNATURAL), this new series focuses on a world 15 years after the power went out. One day everything just stops working. All electricity has vanished. It is as if an E.M.P. hit the entire world simultaneously, leaving humanity standing there perplexed. But someone knew it was going to happen and why it happened, and he and a select group are working very hard to protect that knowledge. Then one day, fate comes knocking. Someone knows about the secret and they want the power turned back on. It is an interesting futuristic look at our world after an apocalypse, where humans are forced to live without machinery, communications and transportation. Life only looks simpler. There are petty warlords, local government rulers, renegades and criminals all trying to amass some sort of power and control. In many ways, the series feels similar to last year’s TERRA NOVA, in tone and scope, including the need to rebuild a society from the ground up and with very limited natural resources. The series stars Billy Burke, Traci Spiridakos, Anna Lise Phillips, JD Pardo and David Lyons. It is a tricky series to get a handle on, but given its complex premise, it will likely take more than one episode to fully establish what is going on, who we should be rooting for and who are the true heroes. It is a series that holds promise. Let’s hope it delivers. (A sneak peek preview of REVOLUTION may be seen HERE.)
DO NO HARM – This is the ultimate Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde story for modern times. Dr. Jason Price has a nasty little secret. Five years ago he successfully locked up his alter-ego Ian through the use of powerful pharmaceuticals. But now Ian has found a way to get out and he is hell-bent on destroying Jason, including his career as a neurosurgeon, his love life, and anything else that Jason holds dear. How does one fight a war against someone else when they inhabit your body? It is a fascinating question and Steven Pasquale is phenomenal as the conflicted Jason/Ian personas. The story is in turns creepy, intense and terrifying, yet somehow manages to reign in all that so that viewers can see both sides of the tale. Is Ian the monster Jason believes him to be? Or is Ian just angry that Jason imprisoned him and deprived him of the life he wanted to have? Who is to say which is more worthy of the body they share? The pilot episode was fast-paced and fascinating to watch. Unfortunately, DO NO HARM does not make its debut until early 2013. But it will be worth the wait. So be sure to check it out when it premieres. (A sneak peek preview of REVOLUTION may be seen HERE.)
THE FOLLOWING – Frankly, this pilot was perhaps the best of everything this season. It offers rich visuals, great characters, fantastic casting, as well as brilliant writing and direction. It is the gold standard. But – and this is a big “but” – it is also on the the scariest things I’ve ever seen on television. It is a terrifying look at a serial killer that gets out of prison right before his execution and how he strategically goes after everyone who put him there. He also renews his gruesome work and this time he has “followers.” Starring Kevin Bacon as ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy and James Purefoy as the serial killer Joe Carroll, the show is a “dance with the devil.” Bacon and Purefoy’s interplay as their characters caught up in this deadly game is enthralling and horrifying simultaneously. You will not be able to look away. But fair warning: this show has its fair share of gore and does not shirk from gruesome deaths; and everyone is fair game. There are immediate casualties. So as well-done and captivating as the show is, a bit of caution should be employed when viewing this show. (A sneak peek preview of THE FOLLOWING may be seen HERE.)
With that teasing (and hopefully helpful) preview of some of this Fall’s hottest new TV shows, be sure to mark you calendar as each show’s premiere date is announced. You would not want to miss any of them!