We’re about three weeks into the new fall television season and even with the first round of cancellations under our collective groaning belt (so long Lone Star and My Generation, we never really wanted to know you) we’re still left with a dearth of quality and/or entertaining shows. Last season there was a glut of science fiction/fantasy shows (well, mostly just science fiction) and almost all of them proved downright disappointing upon execution—here’s lookin’ at you, FlashForward and V—or just couldn’t follow through with fans’ expectations (you listening, Caprica?).
Rather than examine why all those science fiction/fantasy shows turned out to be so shrug-worthy the networks have taken their usual uncreative stance and are instead pumping out nothing but legal dramas, cop shows/procedurals, and reality shows. In the case of the latter they drained that well dry so long ago that they’re down to shoveling up the putrid muck at the bottom of the pit, shoving it into old jelly jars, sticking on labels made of clip art and sadness, and forcing Lara Flynn Boyle resell it on highway exit ramps.
But never fear, dear readers, for I have sifted through the television wasteland for you. I have cleared my schedule and gotten my HazMat suit back from the cleaners so, sit back, relax, and for the next few minutes pretend to care about what some completely random person has to say about some television show you haven’t watched and didn’t even know was still on. (Those with an “*” are new this season.)
*Boardwalk Empire (HBO, Sun. 9 PM): Okay, so technically this isn’t really Alternate History (unless you count changing “Nucky” Johnson into “Nucky” Thompson), but it’s the only show of its kind on television—and is really well done despite the less-than-original material, so I’m sticking it in anyway.
Mad Men (AMC, Sun. 10 PM - Summer leftovers): Again, not Alt-Hist per se, but shame on you if you haven’t been watching. Only two more eps to go before the end of this season which, strangely enough, also coincides with the date I stop watching basic cable on Sunday nights.
*The Walking Dead (AMC, Sun. 10 PM - not premiering until 10/31): Not much to tell yet beyond the tidbits dribbled out at Comic Con other than it is going to be the most awesome thing airing this year. While you’re waiting go watch the official trailers, some behind-the-scenes footage, this unofficial fan-made credit sequence, and pick up the graphic novels.
Legal Drama/Procedural/Mystery/Thriller/Kitchen Sink
*Blue Bloods (CBS, Fri. 10 PM): Look, CBS, if I wanted to see Tom Selleck’s moustache I’d rewatch Magnum, P.I. or Quigley Down Under.
Bones (FOX, Thurs. 8 PM)
Bored to Death (HBO, Sun. 10 PM): Hey, look! Jason Schwartzman is in something non-Wes Anderson. More importantly, yay Zach Galifianakis.
Castle (ABC, Mon. 10 PM): Nathan Fillion is one of those DR people who should be mentioned in everything produced on the interwebs, whether he’s involved or not. Same goes for Neil Patrick Harris and Jon Hamm.
*Chase (NBC, Mon 10 PM)
Chuck (NBC, Mon. 8 PM)
Criminal Minds (CBS, Wed 9 PM)
CSI (CBS, Thurs. 9 PM): Is William Petersen still gone? He is? Never mind then.
CSI: Miami (CBS, Sun. 10 PM) Is David Caruso still there? He is? Never mind then.
CSI: NY (CBS, Fri. 9 PM): I’m sorry, what now?
*The Defenders (CBS, Wed. 10 PM): Sorry, David Tennant, but this seems like a better use of Jerry O’Connell’s time.
*Detroit 1-8-7 (ABC, Tues 10 PM)
Dexter (SHO, Sun. 9 PM): Theresa DeLucci, having been amazed by the show's fourth season, covered the return of the show for Tor.com.
*The Good Guys (FOX, Fri. 9 PM - Summer leftovers): Never doubt the power of a moustache and Colin Hanks.
The Good Wife (CBS, Tues. 10 PM)
*Hawaii Five-0 (CBS, Mon. 10 PM): Lands square in the “Why Must Hollywood Ruin Everything Awesome With Unnecessary Remakes” category (see also: Let Me In). Also, Alex O’Loughlin is no Jack Lord and no amount of gratuitous shots of Grace Park in a bikini will make up for that fact.
House (FOX, Mon. 8 PM): Hugh Laurie. Le sigh.
Human Target (FOX, Fri. 8 PM): Easily the best network show on Friday night. Um, that’s supposed to be a compliment.
Law & Order: SVU (NBC, Wed. 9 PM)
*Law & Order: Los Angeles (NBC, Wed. 10 PM): Law & Order dumps gritty New York City for sunny California and in the process loses most of what made it interesting. On the plus side, with NBC pushing the show as LOLA, Syfy now has some competition in the award for stupidest televisual name change.
Lie To Me (FOX, Mon. 9 PM)
Medium (CBS, Fri. 8 PM)
The Mentalist (CBS, Thurs. 10 PM)
NCIS (CBS, Tues. 8 PM)
NCIS: LA (CBS, Tues. 9 PM)
*Nikita (CW, Wed. 9pm): Fall’s second contender for “Why Must Hollywood Ruin Everything Awesome With Unnecessary Remakes” but with fewer gratuitous shots of Grace Park in a bikini.
*Outlaw (NBC, Fri. 10 PM): Wanna watch Jimmy Smits as an ex-Supreme Court Justice wander around the countryside dispensing legal advice in the most banal way possible like a gavel-wielding Johnny Appleseed? Neither do I.
*Rubicon (AMC, Sun. 9 PM - Summer leftovers): Perhaps one of the best summer premieres you (or anyone else but critics) aren’t watching. Not that AMC makes it easy to catch up, but check out their website for episode recaps and previews that will make absolutely no sense and are really nothing more than a grab-bag of interestingly spoken phrases and reaction shots.
*The Undercovers (NBC, Wed. 8 PM): Mr. and Mrs. Smith for the Will Smith enthusiast. Yes, it is exactly as interesting as you think.
*The Whole Truth (ABC, Wed. 10 PM)
Caprica (Syfy, Tues. 10 PM): Teresa Jusino often writes about the show here on Tor.com.
*The Event (NBC, Mon. 9 PM): Networks, just because you go around shouting about mysterious events and plot twists doesn’t mean you’ve got the next LOST on your hands. In fact, it generally means you know you’re looking at a steaming pile of Lady In The Water and are determined to make back as much money as you can before kicking it into the cesspit of cancelled television. Oh, and, The Event, since you’re headed that way, can you pick up Outsourced and Shit My Dad Says on your way out? Great, thanks.
Fringe (FOX, Wed. 9 PM): Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll watch it eventually. After I finish rewatching The X-Files. Maybe.
*The Gates (ABC, Sun. 10pm - Summer leftovers): Luke Mably is part of my exceptionally-talented-and-wonderfully-named-British-dudes-who-aren’t-nearly-as-famous-as-they-should-be collection, next to Stephen Mangan, Julian Rhind-Tutt, and Finlay Robertson. But, alas, this show does him little justice. Take the worst bits of True Blood and mix in The Vampire Diaries’ inability to follow through an exciting plot point with an equally exciting climax and you’ve got The Gates.
*No Ordinary Family (ABC, Tues. 8 PM): Turned out to be better than I thought, but I’m still not entirely sold. I do wish they had been more creative with who got what superpowers instead of resting on gender-specific stereotypes. It’s still too early to tell if we’re looking at Heroes season 1 or Heroes season 4, but fingers crossed it doesn’t buckle under its own storylines.
Sanctuary (Syfy, Tues. 10 PM)
Smallville (CW, Fri. 8 PM - final season): This show is still on? What do you mean it’s on its tenth season? Sweet zombie Jesus. Wait, where the hell did Lex Luthor go? You cast WHO as General Zod?
Stargate Universe (Syfy, Tues. 9 PM)
Supernatural (CW, Fri. 9 PM): Why are you not watching this? For that matter, why am I not watching it?
Ugly Americans (CC, Wed. 10:30 PM): Heh. Zombies.
The Vampire Diaries (CW, Thurs. 8 PM): (True Blood + Twilight) / network manhandling = meh. Ian Somerhalder struts around the screen like a poor man’s version of a poor man’s Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Wesley’s Stefan is the cardboard lovechild of Bill Compton and Edward, and Nina Dobrev is a blank-faced doe-eyed maiden who obviously graduated from the Kristen Stewart School of Acting with a degree in Sullen Eyes and a minor in Shouting Is The Same As Emoting. In other words, she is exactly like every other actress on the CW.
Not Really Genre But It Was At Comic Con So Why Not
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, Thurs. 8 PM): I enjoy Jim Parsons much more when he’s in a suit of armor.
Community (NBC, Thurs. 8 PM): One of the best new sitcoms from last season returns from the outskirts of near-cancellation by riding the Betty White train.
Alex Brown is an archivist in training, reference librarian by day, writer by night, and all around geek who watches entirely too much TV. She is prone to collecting out-of-print copies of books by Evelyn Waugh, Jane Austen, and Douglas Adams, probably knows far too much about pop culture than is healthy, and thinks her rats Hywel and Odd are the cutest things ever to exist in the whole of eternity. You can follow her on Twitter if you dare...