This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
If you're looking for a bunch of big shows that will blow you away, you're going to be disappointed in the fall 2014 television season.
Which is not to say that ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW are letting viewers down.
Sure, there are some bad shows coming our way, but there are also some gems worth checking out.
Here's the best and worst of what this fall has to offer:
BEST SHOW ABOUT A PREGNANT VIRGIN
"Jane the Virgin" (Mondays, 7 p.m., CW/Ch. 30) • Jane (Gina Rodriguez) is a 23-year-old with smarts, ambition and morals. And then she's accidentally inseminated by the gynecologist so, yes, she's a pregnant virgin.
Her fiancé (Brett Dier) isn't happy. And it turns out that the biological father (Justin Baldoni) is someone from her past, and this is his one chance to father a child.
It's crazy in a good way. And Jane is the most winning new character on TV this fall.
"Jane is strong and independent, and she's striving to make her dreams come true," said Rodriguez, who's a breakout star.
This is also the best surprise of the season.
Premiere date • Oct. 13
Prognosis • Let's hope The CW can get people to try this show. Once you've seen it, you'll fall in love with it.
WORST 'SEINFELD' RIP-OFF
"Mulaney" (Sundays, 8:30 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) • John Mulaney desperately wants to be Jerry Seinfeld. He even told TV critics how he came up with this: "Just watched 'Seinfeld' and copied it."
He was attempting humor but, like this show, he failed.
Mulaney stars as a standup comedian who goes to work for an unfunny game-show host (Martin Short) and has a bunch of unfunny friends and neighbors. Unfunny scenes are alternated with Mulaney doing unfunny standup.
Premiere date • Oct. 5
Prognosis • It won't take long before this is replaced by repeats of Fox animation.
BEST GUILTY PLEASURE
"How to Get Away With Murder" (Thursdays, 9 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) • This show is bat-guano crazy, but in a good way. It comes to us from the producers of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal," and they know how to make crazy work.
Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) is a tough, no-nonsense defense attorney who not only defends accused killers but teaches law students how to do it, too. (Thus, the title.)
Each school year, Annalise picks a group of students to work at her law firm. The youngsters each bring their own drama to the series, as do Annalise's associates.
Annalise also has some secrets she's hiding. And before the first hour is over, everyone is caught up in a murder.
"What's more extreme than being a first-year law student who's kind of innocent and naive and being thrust into a murder?" asked creator/executive producer Pete Nowalk.
"Murder" is sexy. It's engaging. And it's nuts.
Premiere date • Sept. 25
Prognosis • Looks like a hit.
BEST NEW SHOW THAT'S REALLY A REPEAT
"Gracepoint" (Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fox/Ch. 13) • This 10-episode murder mystery is not so much an adaptation of the outstanding eight-episode British murder mystery "Broadchurch" as it is a remake. In the early episodes, it's almost a shot-for-shot, exact remake. They even share a star David Tennant played the detective in "Broadchurch"; he's playing (with an American accent) the detective in "Gracepoint." Anna Gunn ("Breaking Bad") plays his partner.
The story revolves around the murder of a young boy, but it's about the media, hysteria and big secrets in a small town.
Will it have the same conclusion as "Broadchurch"?
"I don't think you should rule anybody out as a suspect," said executive producer Dan Futterman. "We end in a very different place."
Premiere date •Oct. 2
Prognosis •You've got to think Fox will air all 10 episodes.
OK NEW SHOW THAT'S SORT OF A REPEAT
"Forever" (Tuesdays, 9 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) • Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd) is a crime-solving New York City medical examiner who is also immortal. He's more than 200 years old, and he doesn't know why he can't be killed.
Every time he is killed, he awakes naked in water. Which is weird.
Henry works to solve various crimes-of-the-week while hiding his secret from everyone but his only friend, Abe (Judd Hirsch). And Henry may not be the only immortal.
Executive producer Matt Miller said answers will "unfold over a very long-term plan."
Gruffudd has a charm, but "Forever" is unexceptional. It's also very similar to the failed 2008 Fox drama "New Amsterdam," which starred Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as an immortal NYPD detective.
Premiere date • Monday, Sept. 22, at 9 p.m.; moves to its regular time slot on Sept. 23
Prognosis • It's going to be an uphill struggle.
WORST VIOLENCE PORN
"Stalker" (Wednesday, 9 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) • CBS and producer Kevin Williamson should be ashamed of this crime procedural. Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott star as LAPD detectives who deal with stalkers. In the first moments of the pilot episode, a woman screams as she's burned to death inside a car. And it actually gets worse. There's a ludicrous, incredibly disturbing plot twist that's impossible to believe.
Williamson told TV critics that if they don't like the show, they should "turn the channel" and watch something else. That's excellent advice.
Premiere date • Oct. 1
Prognosis • I'd like to think it will disappear quickly, but it's not that much worse than "Criminal Minds," which is about to begin its 10th season.
BEST 'WOMAN IN WASHINGTON' DRAMA
"Madam Secretary" (Sundays, 7 p.m. CBS/Ch. 2) • Téa Leoni stars as Elizabeth McCord, an ex-CIA operative who is suddenly called upon by her old boss now the president of the United States to be the secretary of state. She's smart and tough, but she lacks social graces, which is weird for the country's top diplomat.
Elizabeth does know how to get things done, which doesn't exactly please the president's chief of staff. And balancing life as one of the nation's top officials and as a wife/mother isn't easy.
"We're really trying to pull back the curtain on how the State Department actually works and surprise people with what really goes on," said creator/executive producer Barbara Hall.
"Madam Secretary" wants to be "The West Wing," but there's a bit of "Scandal" thrown in there. It might turn out to be a guilty pleasure, but it looks like fun.
Premiere date • Sept. 21
Prognosis • Looks like a good fit for CBS' Sunday.
WORST 'WOMAN IN WASHINGTON' DRAMA
"State of Affairs" (Mondays, 9 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) • Katherine Heigl ("Grey's Anatomy") returns to TV as star and one of the executive producers so she's got no one to blame but herself for the fact that she's woefully miscast and outmatched playing a top CIA analyst who gives the president (Alfre Woodard) her daily briefing.
Even Heigl admitted that the hardest part of getting this project off the ground was "mostly just trying to get people to believe I could actually be a CIA analyst."
Not for one moment do you believe. And it seems cheap and easy that (a) Charleston's fiancé was killed by terrorists and (b) her fiancé was the president's son.
Premiere date • Nov. 17
Prognosis • This won't be around for long.
COMIC-BOOK TRANSLATIONS: BEST TO WORST
1. "The Flash" (Tuesdays, 7 p.m., CW/Ch. 30) • Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) is a nice guy whose mom was killed when he was 11, and his dad was wrongly convicted of the crime.
And then poor Barry is struck by lightning during a S.T.A.R. Labs science experiment gone wrong. But when he wakes up (nine months later), he's a changed man he's the fastest thing on the planet.
What makes "The Flash" so promising is that this is no dark, gloomy, forbidding tale. Barry is enthusiastic and goofy, and the show is just plain fun.
"He's just so endearing," Gustin said. "He's so sweet. He's curious. He's a nerd. And now he's a superhero. There aren't that many better characters out there."
Premiere date • Oct. 7
Prognosis • There's potential for it to catch on with non-nerds as well.
2. "Gotham" (Mondays, 7 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) • A Batman show without Batman, "Gotham" centers on young police detective Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie), who investigates when Bruce Wayne's (David Mazouz) parents are killed.
It's not so much a Batman origin story as it is the origin stories of the Penguin, Catwoman, the Riddler, Poison Ivy and more villains.
"It's about men and women, not about superheroes, and to me that's the more interesting story," said executive producer Bruno Heller.
The big flaw is that we know that these characters will survive, which kind of kills the drama.
"Gotham" is dark and intriguing. If you've seen "Batman Begins," "The Dark Knight" and "The Dark Knight Rises," this won't feel like anything new. But it has possibilities.
Premiere date • Sept. 22
Prognosis • Don't see this turning into a huge hit, but it should succeed.
3. "Constantine" (Fridays, 9 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) • Matt Ryan stars as John Constantine a demon hunter with a (predictably) dark past in this series based on DC Comics' "Hellblazer."
"We are a horror show," said executive producer Daniel Cerone. "We do want to be dark and edgy, but we also want to be a character-based show and have some fun."
The comic books are dark and fun because Constantine is a smart-aleck. The show's premiere tries hard to mimic that without much success. It's not that "Constantine" is terrible; it is just sort of … meh.
Premiere date • Oct. 24
Prognosis •Maybe NBC will give this time to find itself.
"The McCarthys" (Thursdays, 8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) • This is a loud, boisterous sitcom about a loud, boisterous Boston family. At the center is Ronny (Tyler Ritter), the gay son. He's the favorite of his mother, Marjorie (Laurie Metcalf), and his family is supportive, but they don't quite get him.
Ronny is headed out of town until his father (Jack McGee) offers him a job as his assistant basketball coach.
"That's based on me," said creator/executive producer Brian Gallivan. And the broad comedy does have a strange sense of reality.
You know where this is headed, but that's OK. It's often laugh-out-loud funny.
And as played by Metcalf, Marjorie is an instantly unforgettable TV mom.
Premiere date • Oct. 30
Prognosis • If CBS can make successes out of awful shows like "2 Broke Girls" and "The Millers," surely it can make a success out of "The McCarthys."
OK SITCOM SORT-OF BASED ON 'MY FAIR LADY'
"Selfie" (Tuesdays, 7 p.m. ABC/Ch. 4) • Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan, "Doctor Who") is a social-media superstar who has 263,000 followers and is really, really full of herself until she has an unfortunate mishap that's shared across the web. So she turns to a co-worker, marketing guru Henry (John Cho, "Star Trek"), to rebrand her. He's an uptight dude who has no interest in helping her … but you know he will.
According to creator/executive producer Emily Kapnek, the similarities to Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle were not intentional.
"We realized that in telling a story … there was inherently a 'Pygmalion' sort of aspect," she said. "So we sort of embraced it."
Plus, Gillan and Cho have chemistry. This is ABC's funniest fall sitcom.
But it feels like a great idea for a movie that's being dragged out into a series.
Premiere date • Sept. 30
Prognosis • This is a very tough time slot, so it's an iffy proposition.
WORST LEGAL COMEDY
"Bad Judge" (Thursdays, 8 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) • Kate Walsh ("Private Practice") stars as Rebecca Wright, an aging party girl/judge … and hilarity does not ensue.
"I want to be this lady who wakes up with a hangover and stumbles around getting a pregnancy test," Walsh said, "and then the reveal that she's a judge was just awesome to me."
She drinks too much and has the morals of an alley cat, but she's also compassionate. So we're supposed to like her.
It would be possible to get past all this if "Bad Judge" were funny. But it's not.
Premiere date •Oct. 2
Prognosis •Not only is this show struggling badly, but it has changed showrunners.
BEST CROSS BETWEEN 'ER' AND 'GLEE'
"Red Band Society" (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Fox/Ch. 13) • This is the only new show this fall narrated by a character in a coma 12-year-old Charlie (Griffin Gluck), who introduces us to a group of teenage long-term patients at Ocean Park Hospital.
The teens (Nolan Sotillo, Charlie Rowe, Astro, Ciara Bravo, Zoe Levin) are dealing with cancer, heart disease, cystic fibrosis and eating disorders. They also want to have fun and live their lives.
They're not all saints by any means, but their illnesses clearly change them.
Overseeing this all are no-nonsense Nurse Jackson (Octavia Spencer) and pediatric surgeon Jack McAndrew (Dave Annable). And this mix of hospital drama and teen angst/comedy works.
"I was surprised at how uplifting it was," Spencer said.
Premiere date •Sept. 17
Prognosis •The pilot works, but it seems more like a movie than a series. It won't be easy to keep it going.
WORST DETECTIVE/MOMMY SHOW
"The Mysteries of Laura "(Wednesdays, 9 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) • Debra Messing is unbelievable as "brilliant" NYPD detective Laura Diamond and as the mother of young twin boys.
"What makes her such a great detective is her intuitive talent as a mother as she applies that to being a detective," said executive producer McG.
That sounds good, but the attempt to mix drama with comedy in this show is a complete failure. And the resolution to the first mystery in "The Mysteries of Laura" is ludicrous and laughable.
Premiere date • Sept. 17
Prognosis •With any luck, this will be gone quickly.
OK REVENGE OF THE NERDS
"Scorpion" (Mondays, 8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) • What if sort-of-funny computer nerds worked for Homeland Security?
That, in a nutshell, is the concept behind "Scorpion." A bunch of misfits with sketchy pasts take on high-tech threats to America while battling personal awkwardness.
"The hook into the show [is] that being mentally enabled ain't all it's cracked up to be," said executive producer Nick Santora.
Team leader Walter (Elyes Gabel) is a flat-out genius; Happy (Jadyn Wong) is a mechanical genius; Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a behaviorist who can read anyone; and Sylvester (Ari Stidham) is a statistics guru. Also on board is Paige (Katharine McPhee), who has a misfit young son and a romantic interest in Walter.
They work for federal agent Cabe Gallo (Robert Patrick).
In the premiere, the team is called in when the Los Angeles air-traffic control system goes haywire, and it's got some really cool action scenes.
Premiere date • Sept. 22
Prognosis •This show isn't as funny as CBS thinks it is, but it is kind of fun. The pilot is exciting; a lot will depend on keeping that energy up.
"NCIS: New Orleans" (Tuesdays, 8 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) • This is exactly what you think it is: "NCIS" in the Big Easy.
Scott Bakula stars as the team leader, a New Orleans native who's tough and smart. He leads a group of quirky agents (Lucas Black, Zoe McClellan and CCH Pounder).
Not only will there be frequent crossovers with the "NCIS," but that series' star, Mark Harmon, is an executive producer of "New Orleans."
"We have big shoes to follow big footprints in the sand," Bakula said.
If anyone can fill them, "NCIS: New Orleans" can.
Premiere date • Sept. 23
Prognosis •There has never been a successful network TV series set in New Orleans. But this is an "NCIS," so you've got to think it will be the first.
WORST DIVE INTO THE REALITY GARBAGE HEAP
"Utopia" (Tuesdays and Fridays, 7 p.m. Fox/Ch. 13) • What this show is supposed to be and what it really is are two completely different things.
Fifteen people give up their lives and move to a remote location to create "a brand-new world," according to Fox, which describes this as "the largest social experiment ever televised." Which sounds so high-minded.
In practice, "Utopia" is full of people who scream, argue and make fools of themselves. It's "The Real World" with twice as many people.
Premiere date •Sept. 7
Prognosis •This is supposed to run an entire year, but the early ratings are not good. It doesn't appear to be headed for a long run.
ROMANTIC COMEDIES BEST TO WORST
1. "Marry Me" (Tuesdays, 8 p.m., NBC/Ch. 4) • Three things go into a good romantic comedy: writing, casting and chemistry. And "Marry"appears to have all three.
It comes to us from David Caspe, the writer/producer behind "Happy Endings." It stars Ken Marino and Casey Wilson (Caspe's real-life wife). Marino and Wilson are great together, and the premiere is hilarious.
Jake (Marino) and Annie (Wilson) are a longtime couple who keep trying to get engaged. Except that, without giving anything away, their attempts go hilariously wrong.
"The show going forward is not really about a wedding or a marriage, necessarily," Caspe said. "It's just sort of about a couple and their friends and their parents and stuff like that."
Premiere date •Oct. 14
Prognosis •Tough time slot, new show leading off the night. This isn't going to be easy.
2. "A to Z" (Thursdays, 8:30 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) • The impossibly cute title of this show it's about Andrew (Ben Feldman, "Mad Men") and Zelda (Cristin Miloti, "How I Met Your Mother") is a hint about where we're headed. Add to that the premise that Andrew and Zelda will date for eight months, three weeks, five days and one hour and it's already almost too adorable for words.
Andrew is a romantic guy who works for an online dating company; Zelda is a no-nonsense lawyer. He thinks they're destined to be together; she thinks he's annoying.
Executive producer Ben Queen says "the idea is that you can sort of comprehensively look at … a relationship from beginning to end."
Feldman and Miloti are appealing, but they don't have much chemistry in the pilot.
Premiere date •Oct. 2
Prognosis • We're not going to see Andrew and Zelda grow old together.
3. "Manhattan Love Story" (Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) • This sitcom relies on one annoying device : We hear the thoughts of Dana (Analeigh Tipton) and Peter (Jake McDorman) as they navigate their relationship.
"The premise of the series is the distance between what we think and what we say and the relationship with our family and work," said executive producer Jeff Lowell. "We're going to stick with the device."
Dana is a small-town girl who recently moved to the Big Apple. She's a romantic, and annoying. Peter is an annoying native New Yorker. And they don't have any discernible chemistry.
They are, however, less annoying than the supporting characters, a collection of parents, siblings and in-laws.
Premiere date • Sept. 30
Prognosis • Maybe it will make it through half a season.
SHOWS YOU WISH WERE BETTER
"black-ish" (Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) • Andre "Dre" (Anthony Anderson) is a successful man who fears that his family members are losing touch with their African-Americanism. His wife (Tracee Ellis Ross) is less concerned, but their four kids are far more suburban than urban.
And Dre's father (Laurence Fishburne) disapproves of pretty much everything.
In the pilot, the 13-year-old wants to have a bar mitzvah, which Anderson said happened in real life.
"We're going to tell our truths and our stories," he said. "And that's what's going to resonate with the people, the honesty and the authenticity in which we tell these stories."
The premise of "black-ish" is great. The cast is good. The pilot is OK; it's just not particularly funny.
Premiere date • Sept. 24
Prognosis • It's tough to be too optimistic about a comedy that fails to be funny. But maybe this one can find the laughs.
"Cristela" (Fridays, 8:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) • Comedian Cristela Alonzo stars in this autobiographical sitcom that feels like a blast from the past: loud, predictable and seemingly right out of the 1970s.
Like the real Alonzo, the fictional Cristela is a member of a big, Mexican-American family. She's working her way through law school, sharing a home with her sister, brother-in-law, their two kids and her domineering mother.
On the workfront, she just landed an internship at a snooty law firm.
"The character in the show is very much who I am in person," Alonzo said."
Cristela's standup act is funny, but the jokes in "Cristela" are not.
Premiere date • Oct. 10
Prognosis • This won't be a big hit. But it's not any worse than "Last Man Standing," which is headed into its fourth season.
The best new shows
1. "Jane the Virgin"
2. "How to Get Away With Murder"
3. "Red Band Society"
4. "The Flash"
5. "The McCarthys"
The worst new shows
3. "The Mysteries of Laura"
5. "State of Affairs"