The operative word for the fall TV season is “crazy.”
We have a resurrected Redcoat and a Headless Horseman. We have sensitive robots and comic book super agents. We have vampires galore, and Alice down the rabbit hole. We even have a comedy with “crazy” in the title, which oddly enough isn’t crazy at all.
High-concept, mythology-heavy series haven’t done well for the broadcast networks of late. “Revolution” survives on NBC, but so many others couldn’t win audiences.
With cable taking more and more of their viewers, though, the broadcast networks (except rock-solid CBS) don’t feel inclined to play it entirely safe. So in addition to introducing shows that feel like a lot of shows we’ve already seen, they continue to go out on limbs that could break under them.
Here, ranked from best to worst, are the series making debuts on the broadcast networks for fall 2013.
“Sleepy Hollow,” Fox, 8 p.m. Mondays (Sept. 16) 3 stars: My favorite new drama is crazy, scary and crazy-scary, but it also brings us the best new buddy relationship of the season. Tom Mison is Ichabod Crane, but the Washington Irving character is re-imagined as a British redcoat, buried since the Revolutionary War. Now he’s awake, and understandably confused. Nicole Beharie is the cop who’s the only one to believe him, even after an also-awakened Headless Horseman begins dealing out decapitations. There’s a lot of murky, mythology here, blending dark conspiracies with supernatural forces and biblical prophecies, so I don’t know which way “Sleepy Hollow” is heading. The first hour, though, is a heck of a ride.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Fox, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays (Sept. 17) 3 stars: The best new comedy of the season is surprisingly smart and just silly enough. Andy Samberg is a detective who relaxes with crazy pranks, especially directed at his main rival, played by Melissa Fumero. But they’re both excellent cops, which wins Samberg’s character a margin of slack from his new boss, played straight-faced by Andre Braugher.
“Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” ABC, 7 p.m. Tuesdays (Sept. 24) 3 stars: No matter what you might or might not know about the Marvel universe and “The Avengers,” this action-fantasy-dramedy from Joss Whedon’s company is a lot of fun. Rather than superheroes, the protagonists (including Ming-Na Wen, Brett Dalton, J. August Richards and Chloe Bennett) form a team dedicated to saving the world from mysterious threats.
“The Blacklist,” NBC, 9 p.m. Mondays (Sept. 23) 3 stars: Strange and yet compelling, this thriller with “Silence of the Lambs” (and thus “Hannibal”) overtones stars James Spader as a creepy super-criminal who promises to help the FBI catch other bad guys, but only if he can work with a brand-new FBI agent played by Megan Boone. Dark and violent and purposely puzzling, the pilot is impossible to look away from when Spader is on screen. In fact, you might not be able to blink.
“Almost Human,” Fox, 7 p.m. Mondays (Nov. 4) 2½ stars: Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy in the newest “Star Trek” movies) is a future cop coming back from a catastrophic injury and Michael Ealy is his sympathetic android partner in a slick-looking sci-fi drama from J.H. Wyman (“Fringe”). It’s fun to see what Wyman imagines the world is like in 2048, and the drama’s underlying mystery will grab viewers who like that sort of thing. But for most of us, the reason to watch will be the growing friendship between Urban’s bitter curmudgeon and Ealy’s warm, cuddly robot.
“The Michael J. Fox Show,” NBC, 8:30 p.m. Thursdays (two episodes air at 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26) 2½ stars: We love Michael J. Fox; we love the fact that he’s feeling up to series TV again and that he’s willing to poke fun at himself and his Parkinson’s disease. Even though most of us won’t love the show based on the pilot, we’ll be willing to cut it some slack.
“Lucky 7,” ABC, 9 p.m. Tuesdays (Sept. 24) 2½ stars: In a drama based on a British series, service station employees finally hit the lottery jackpot, resulting in a lot of life changes. Matt Long and Isiah Whitlock Jr. are the most familiar faces in the quirky ensemble cast, which includes Lorraine Bruce from the British version. The pilot stupidly starts in the middle of the action, but once it settles down, “Lucky 7” shows promise.
“The Crazy Ones,” CBS, 8 p.m. Thursdays (Sept. 26) 2½ stars: Robin Williams returns to series TV as an eccentric ad man who works with his two kids, straitlaced daughter Sarah Michelle Gellar and charming son James Wolk. Williams reins in his zany humor enough to keep the show from imploding, and Wolk seems as if he could be Williams’ actual offspring. Surprisingly, Gellar is a problem point playing a thankless character who likes to spoil the fun.
“The Millers,” CBS, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays (Oct. 3) 2½ stars: Will Arnett as a newly divorced guy plays straight man to his parents (Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges) in a sitcom from Greg Garcia (“Raising Hope,” “My Name Is Earl”). One of the funniest of the new season’s comedies, “The Millers” is also unfortunately heavy on body-function humor. And that stinks.
“Trophy Wife,” ABC, 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays (Sept. 24)
“Betrayal,” ABC, 9 p.m. Sundays (Sept. 29)
“The Goldbergs,” ABC, 8 p.m. Tuesdays (Sept. 24)
“Hostages,” CBS, 9 p.m. Mondays (Sept. 23)
“Mom,” CBS, 8:30 p.m. Mondays (Sept. 23)
“The Originals,” CW, 8 p.m. Tuesdays (preview 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3)
Don’t waste your time
“Super Fun Night,” ABC, 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays (Oct. 2)
“Dracula,” NBC, 9 p.m. Fridays (Oct. 25)
“Welcome to the Family,” NBC, 8:30 p.m. Thursdays (Oct. 3)
“Back in the Game,” ABC, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays (Sept. 25)
“Reign,” CW, 9 p.m. Thursdays (Oct. 17)
“Sean Saves the World,” NBC, 8 p.m. Thursdays (Oct. 3)
“The Tomorrow People,” CW, 9 p.m. Wednesdays (Oct. 9)
“We Are Men,” CBS, 7:30 p.m. Mondays (Sept. 30)
“Ironside,” NBC, 9 p.m. Wednesdays (Oct. 2)
“Enlisted,” Fox, 8:30 p.m. Fridays (Nov. 8)
“Dads,” Fox, 7 p.m. Tuesdays (Sept. 17)