We all must admit that there are only a dozen basic plots for television shows. There’s the comedy about a group of friends dealing with Life Challenges; the ensemble drama about a dysfunctional but oddly attractive family; the period drama; the medical show; the cop show; the superhero show; the show with the two mismatched but in-sync detectives; the thriller about the man on a dangerous mission; and the horror show that eventually has to kill off every- one just to come up with storylines. There’s the show about a real-life celebrity playing a less successful, more accessible version of him or herself; the mystery show with the twist ending that ultimately pleases no one; and, finally, the post-apocalyptic nightmare scenario series. (That one’s a swing, as it can manifest as irreverent comedy or violent drama).
I’m not belittling or discounting these tried-and-true templates, but if I spent too much time discussing their various iterations on the fall 2015 schedule, we’d be here for days.
So, instead, here are five new shows that might actually break ranks. No promises for quality, but points for originality.
Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullen) writes, directs, produces, and stars in this period police drama set in 1967 New York. Think Mad Men, but with tough Irish vice cops instead of spit-shined ad sales execs. With Steven Spielberg as an executive producer and a big-name cast that includes Michael Rapaport and Brian Dennehy, Public Morals might just have enough gritty cache to be the heir apparent to Boardwalk Empire.
(ABC, debuts Sept. 22)
OK, OK, I know the Muppets are not new. Trust me: their new show is. Spoofing the single-camera, documentary-style confessional structure made popular by The Office with an added, winking dose of self-deprecation, this family-friendly-but-made-for-adults Muppets takes us behind the scenes, exploring the personal lives, romantic entanglements and workplace travails of our favorite band of fuzzy animalian misfits.
(Fox, Sept. 29)
The clever premise of this courtroom/family comedy sends up TV tropes from the get-go: Rob Lowe plays a famous actor known for the beloved legal drama The Grinder, who, with nothing to do after the season finale, decides to try to practice real law—much to the chagrin of his brother, an actual struggling lawyer (Fred Savage).
(Fox, Sept. 29)
Based on the fact that the website for Grandfathered features a photo of John Stamos printed with the acronym “GILF,” this fish-out-of-water comedy—about a middle-aged restaurateur playboy who finds out he has both an adult son and a granddaughter— is likely to be both predictable and bad. But did you ever think we’d see a series centered on a sexy grandpa? On network TV, no less? What a time to be alive.
Angel From Hell
(CBS, Nov. 5)
Guardian angels have shown up on TV before (Charmed, Touched by an Angel), but never like this: Jane Lynch, finally free from Glee’s Sue Sylvester tracksuit, stars as a day-drinking, sex-talking, not-so-ethereal mess of a spirit guide to a perfectionistic dermatologist (Psych’s Maggie Lawson) whose life is—unbeknownst to her—hitting the skids.
The Best of the Rest
Life in Pieces (CBS)
The Bastard Executioner (FX)
Code Black (CBS)
Shades of Blue (NBC, midseason)
Legends of Tomorrow (CW)
The Player (NBC)
Scream Queens (Fox)
Master of None (Netflix)