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Fall TV's Best New Shows

by Maureen Ryan, posted Sep 9th 2010 1:30PM
Your TV will be flooded with new shows in coming weeks, so consider this an attempt to help you sort through your couch-potato options.

Of course, when it comes to new shows, no one can accurately predict which ones will fulfill their early promise and which ones will flame out creatively or get canceled within weeks of their premieres. And this year there are few slam-dunks along the lines of 'The Good Wife' or 'Modern Family' (to get our comedy kicks we'll probably have to go with returning shows, given that none of the new comedies look too promising).

Without further ado, these are the fall programs that, on first glance, appear to have quite a bit of potential:

(Plus: Check out the
worst new shows)

'Boardwalk Empire,' premieres 9PM ET Sept. 19 on HBO: This tale of Prohibition-era Atlantic City is everything you expect of a marquee HBO drama: It's fantastically acted, gracefully written and visually arresting. Martin Scorsese (who directed the first episode) and ex-'Sopranos' writer Terence Winter expertly bring this panorama of America in the 1920s to vivid life, and Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald are mesmerizing as the drama's lead characters, corrupt politician Nucky Thompson and striving immigrant Margaret Schroeder. 'Boardwalk Empire' is not just the fall's best drama, it's 2010's best new show.

'The Event,' premieres 9PM ET Sept. 20 on NBC: Show of hands: Who's excited about another conspiracy-oriented thriller with a large cast and genre-flavored mythology? OK, so maybe viewers have been burned a few (dozen) times with that kind of show, but I cannot deny that the pilot for this drama was intriguing and made me want to see more. It helps that, unlike the sludgy 'FlashForward,' 'The Event' has a very appealing lead actor, Jason Ritter, who plays a regular guy caught up in dangerous situations he doesn't quite understand.

'Law & Order: Los Angeles,' premieres 10PM ET Sept. 29 on NBC: The 'Law & Order' mothership is gone, but don't count out this sturdy franchise. NBC hasn't sent critics the pilot for this show yet, so it may be a dud, but that'd be a shocker, given the show's solid pedigree. The excellent Skeet Ulrich stars as one of the lead cops, Terrence Howard and Alfred Molina play the deputy district attorneys, and Rene Balcer, the writer who revived the flagship franchise in recent years, is in charge of 'LOLA's' writing staff, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the 'L&O' thunk-thunk fares in L.A.

'Lone Star,' premieres 9PM ET Sept. 20 on Fox: This intelligent and thoughtful drama follows a smooth-talking con man and his grifter father, who have been running scams on naive "investors" for years. The son wants to start building a new life based on love, not lies, which brings him into conflict with his hard-charging father. It's unclear whether this premise will merit a full season of TV, but so far, 'Lone Star' feels like something you'd see on the classier cable channels, and David Keith's galvanizing portrayal of the senior con man is worth the price of admission.

premieres 10PM ET Oct. 17 on BBC America: There are dozens of cop procedurals all over TV, but what makes this one special is a galvanizing lead performance by Idris Elba ('The Wire,' 'The Office'). In this London-set series, Elba plays a character who could be a cliche -- a volatile detective who gets results -- with such conviction that the more derivative and conventional aspects of the show are relatively easy to live with.

'Nikita,' airs 9PM ET Thursdays on the CW (premiered Sept. 9): In this story of a tough intelligence operative driven to take revenge on her former employers, Maggie Q is eminently watchable and the series as a whole promises a lot of escapist fun. (For a full review of 'Nikita,' look here.)

airs 10PM ET Wednesdays on FX (premiered Sept. 8): This engaging tale of two shambling private investigators has a surprisingly serious side, and it mixes buddy comedy and noir-ish skulduggery with low-key flair. Donal Logue, in particular, gives a deep and entertaining performance as Hank Dolworth, a recovering alcoholic and former cop with the tenacity of, yes, a terrier. (For a full review of 'Terriers,' look here.)

'The Walking Dead,'
premieres 10PM ET Oct. 31 on AMC: Ever since executive producer Frank Darabont ('The Shawshank Redemption') unveiled a four-minute clip from this Apocalyptic zombie drama at San Diego Comic-Con in July, nerdboys and fangirls everywhere have been eagerly awaiting this adaptation of the acclaimed Robert Kirkman comic. Alas, the teaser clip is all that's available, but it looks as though it will be as tasty to genre fans as brains are to zombies.

The Show That Almost Made This List:
'The Defenders' (10PM ET Sept. 22 on CBS) is completely in CBS' procedural wheelhouse: It's not greater than the sum of its derivative parts, it's exactly the sum of its derivative parts (some of which are more than a little clunky). Yet I must recognize the meat-and-potatoes appeal of this surprisingly zesty legal drama about a couple of Las Vegas lawyers (played by Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell) who are one step above ambulance chasers. And I must commend Belushi for giving a very enjoyable performance as a slightly sleazy lawyer with a strong (if well-concealed) moral code.

The Show You Might Expect to Be on This List But Is Not:
'Undercovers' is a much buzzed-about new spy drama from J.J. Abrams that premieres 8PM ET Sept 22 on NBC, but so far the buzz is just noise. Sure, the flashy first hour looks nice, but so far 'Undercovers' comes across as style over substance. It'll have to up its game substantially to stay on my Season Pass list.

For a video preview of the fall shows, in which AOL TV staffers Kelly Woo, Maggie Furlong and myself discuss which shows we loved, liked and didn't love, look

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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Blue bloods? www.danceenterprise.com , www.danceenterprise.co.uk

April 24 2011 at 12:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Funny, one of your "best" new shows Lone Star has already been cancelled.... yet one of your "worst" new shoes Raising Hope has been picked up for a full year... Oops.

October 06 2010 at 8:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sunnyside i'm with you. They should bring back Eli Stone!!! what a great show! no sex, or violence or reality crud. Just uplifting stories that left you feeling good. Thats probably why it didn't work. I wish one of the cable networks would bring it back for us "boring" types lol. I like feeling good!

September 20 2010 at 9:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Indy viewer

The only reason the media loves "Modern Family" is because it features a homosexual couple, which is the same reason liberals blessed it with an Emmy. The viewers think differently because last season it was consistently in the 40-50 range in the Nielsen ratings. I tried to watch it once and made it through about 15 minutes. Boring, preachy, and over-rated.

September 15 2010 at 1:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


September 12 2010 at 7:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a question???? Where is CRIMINAL MINDS on the list of shows to watch. It is one of the most interesting show on TV right now. The characters are dead on, and Tony Montega(replacing Mandy Patankin) was pure genius...Each one on the BAU has their own particular skill and keeps you on your toes the entire episode..Always a good ending, but getting there is the most suspensfull. Thomas Gibson has long been over-looked for an Emmy as have all the actors/actresses and the show itself

September 11 2010 at 2:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Maria's comment
Craig Ranapia

How does Criminal Minds make a list of Fall's best NEW shows?

September 11 2010 at 8:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jerry smith

outside of Scrubs and House, all other medical shows fail miserably

September 10 2010 at 2:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jerry smith

Only House, and the comical Scrubs are the medical show worth watching---ALL the others are tiresome bores

September 10 2010 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I will be very surprised if "Law & Order: L.A." makes it to a second season. With NBC cancelling "L&O", I can't figure out why anybody would try the L.A. edition

September 10 2010 at 1:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ms. Ryan, If you are going to present yourself as an expert of some kind, please use correct grammar. The most glaring: it is "...Kelly Woo, Maggie Furlong and I discuss...", not "myself"!! Thanks.

September 10 2010 at 1:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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