Breaking down the season's new TV shows from traditional networks and streaming services

click to enlarge Kal Penn stars in Sunnyside, from the folks behind Parks & Recreation.
Kal Penn stars in Sunnyside, from the folks behind Parks & Recreation.

In the age of streaming and cord-cutting, the notion of a fall TV season is kind of outdated, but the major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, The CW) still roll out most of their major premieres in the fall, and cable and streaming outlets also promote some of their splashiest new series. I watched all 16 network pilots to pick out what to watch and what to avoid, and took a look ahead at some high-profile streaming premieres that aren't yet available to screen.

WORTH A LOOK

Stumptown (ABC, Sept. 25) Cobie Smulders plays a private investigator with a train wreck of a personal life in this conventional but entertaining comic book-based procedural. It's a solid mix of familiar crime-drama elements, appealing characters and a distinctive setting, taking place around the intersection of hipsters and criminals in Portland, Oregon.

Evil (CBS, Sept. 26) There's a strong X-Files vibe to this supernatural-ish drama from The Good Wife/Fight creators Michelle and Robert King, in which a forensic psychologist (Katja Herbers) and a priest-in-training (Luke Cage's Mike Colter) team up to investigate alleged instances of paranormal phenomena. It's spooky but snarky, a mix that proved remarkably reliable for The X-Files.

Sunnyside (NBC, Sept. 26) Fans of producer Michael Schur's civic-minded sitcoms Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine should enjoy this pleasant, earnest comedy about a disgraced New York City councilman (Kal Penn) who makes a bid for redemption by working with an oddball group of immigrants seeking citizenship.

Almost Family (Fox, Oct. 2) The ripped-from-the-headlines story of a fertility clinic doctor (Timothy Hutton) who impregnated dozens of women with his own sperm serves as the jumping-off point for a sensitive and funny drama about inherited and chosen family from producer Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood).

Batwoman (The CW, Oct. 6) The CW's stable of DC Comics-based superhero series has become a well-run juggernaut, and this show about Bruce Wayne's cousin Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) fits right in. It's a little bit cheesy and a little bit exhilarating with fun characters, a hammy villain and some cool looking costumes.

STAY AWAY

Bluff City Law (NBC, Sept. 23) A gifted lawyer (Caitlin McGee) joins the crusading Memphis-based law firm run by her civil-rights advocate father (Jimmy Smits) in this hokey legal drama, full of silly courtroom grandstanding and emotionally manipulative scenes of wronged clients detailing the injustices perpetrated on them by heartless corporations.

Prodigal Son (Fox, Sept. 23) The tired set-up of the insensitive, idiosyncratic genius who's brilliant at crime-solving gets a grim, absurd update in this procedural about a guy who's great at catching serial killers — because he's the son of a serial killer! Michael Sheen amusingly chews scenery as the killer dad, but the rest of the show is plodding and humorless.

Carol's Second Act (CBS, Sept. 26) Patricia Heaton returns to the multi-cam sitcom with this annoying show about a divorced woman who decides to spend her later years pursuing a career as a doctor. It's a bit like Scrubs for the Fox News demographic, with a studio audience that laughs uproariously at the mere mention of the term "woke bae."

STILL A MYSTERY

The Politician (Netflix, Sept. 27) The first show in superproducer Ryan Murphy's massive new deal with Netflix co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow as the mother of an ambitious, privileged teen (Broadway star Ben Platt) who begins his political career by running for student body president. Expect Murphy's typical mix of provocation and sentimentality.

Modern Love (Amazon, Oct. 18) A seriously star-studded cast (Anne Hathaway! Dev Patel! Tina Fey! Catherine Keener! John Slattery!) leads this anthology series based on the New York Times column of the same name, with each episode covering a different love story. Romance-expert filmmaker John Carney (Once, Sing Street) is the showrunner.

click to enlarge Watchmen hits HBO.
Watchmen hits HBO.

Watchmen (HBO, Oct. 20) Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof imagines a sequel to the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (previously made into a 2009 movie by Zack Snyder), about a dark alternate-history America where superheroes are both dangerous and subversive. Regina King, Jeremy Irons and Don Johnson lead the cast.

The Morning Show (Apple TV+, Nov. 1) Apple's foray into the increasingly heated streaming wars launches with this pricey drama set behind the scenes at a national morning news show. Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell play high-powered journalists dealing with a #MeToo-style scandal that shakes up their newsroom.

The Mandalorian (Disney+, Nov. 12) The prime selling point for Disney's new streaming service is the first-ever original Star Wars live-action series, created by Jon Favreau. Set after the events of Return of the Jedi, the show stars Pedro Pascal as a mysterious intergalactic bounty hunter with ties to Star Wars fan-favorite character Boba Fett. ♦

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Sat., Dec. 14, 2 p.m.
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