Fall TV series premieres: what to watch and what to avoid

Sept. 26, 2017, 10:07 p.m.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of shows get sifted through the massively selective pilot process, and very few get ordered to series. For the lucky few that do, the onslaught of criticism (or praise!) often determines the success of the show. There are also plenty of returning shows that are worth watching, but if you’re up for adventure, check out some of these new shows. Depending on what you’re interested in, there’s probably something for everyone. Some of these have already aired, while some are still coming up; I’ve sifted through a few (in alphabetical order) to give you a slice of the upcoming new shows — the hits, the misses and everything in between.

“Con Man” (Syfy, premiered Sept. 9)

I’m incredibly happy that Alan Tudyk’s hilarious and critically acclaimed comedy was picked up by Syfy. I wouldn’t completely call this a new show, but it’s new to primetime, and I would highly recommend checking it out. “Con Man” is a humorous look at a sci-fi star past his prime, played by Tudyk, and he becomes the eponymous Con Man — invited to sci-fi and conventions because of his past fame. This show is definitely of the best comedy series I’ve seen in a while, and I’m hoping that it’ll draw more of a viewer base to a more underrated yet highly talented (unless you’ve watched “Firefly”) actor and creator, Tudyk.

“Marvel’s Inhumans” (ABC, premieres Sept. 29)

Initially released in IMAX as yet another Marvel experiment to control the future of superhero TV, “Inhumans” was a little bit off its mark. Panned by both audiences and critics for having lackluster characters and uninteresting special effects compared to its counterparts (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Supergirl” and the like), “Inhumans” was a little disappointing. Nevertheless, I’m keeping my hopes up because I’m consistently fascinated by both the Inhuman comic book world as well as the growing superhero genre. If you’re interested in taking a chance, then I’d say go for it as well.

“Marvel’s Runaways” (Hulu, premieres on Nov. 21) and “The Gifted” (FOX, premieres Oct. 2)

Both technically Marvel material, “Runaways” is actually under the Marvel Studios umbrella while “The Gifted” is Fox territory (think “Legion” and the “X-Men” franchise). I have not personally been able to watch these shows yet, but I expect them to be similar thematically and narratively — themes of persecution and fear are prevalent in both, and the superhero genre is a way to express these. I’m excited to see what these two have in store for audiences and especially for the diverse teen cast of “Runaways.”

“Punisher” (Netflix, all-episode release date unknown)

The character of Punisher was the surprising hero of “Daredevil” season two — the classic Marvel antihero with a grim past and an extreme desire for violent vengeance on behalf of his family. Netflix and Marvel have both kept things under wraps, but based on Jon Bernthal’s past performance as Punisher, I’m expecting good things in store for the first season.

“Star Trek: Discovery” (CBS, premiered Sept. 24)

“Discovery” has been somewhat of a mixed bag since its first trailer, but it has slowly been gaining the love of trekkies and new viewers alike. The faces of the show are two (two!) women of color (Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh), which is immediately attractive for many viewers. “Discovery” is set in the Star Trek timeline but has enough excess material to not require any prior reading. “Star Trek: Discovery” may have been off to a rocky start, but I’m really looking forward to seeing where this show goes.

“The Deuce” (HBO, premiered Sept. 10)

Mostly creating a buzz due to big names such as James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal, “The Deuce” is a period drama set in the 70s about the rise of the legal porn industry and how it intersected with drugs and those involved. It’s not quite a play-by-play account, but it’s inspired by real events that occurred during that time. This show, like many HBO series, may need a small advisory warning for those not ready to handle the nudity, violence and other more explicit adult themes, but it’s truly a well written, fascinating show. “The Deuce” has also already been renewed for a second season.

“The Mayor” (ABC, premieres Oct. 3)

Daveed Diggs’ producing debut is with “The Mayor,” a show about a hip-hop artist who runs for mayor in a small town and wins. The show snagged Lea Michele (fresh off of the newly cancelled “Scream Queens”) as its big name, and it looks promising in its innovative comedic narrative that acts as a casual political commentary on the side. It’s tough at this point to see where it might soar or fall off into the inevitable pit of dead TV shows, but I’m holding out.

“The Orville” (FOX, premiered Sept. 10)

I was honestly really holding out for this one. Seth MacFarlane is immensely talented, and his shows are so funny — that is, if you like his style. I was never a huge fan, but I recognize his innovativeness, and what’s not to love about sci-fi comedy show? As a lover of sci-fi and comedy, I’ve been waiting for years for a combo of the two, but “The Orville” just isn’t that. It wants to be “Star Trek” but brands itself as a comedy, leading to a rather uninteresting mess. If you’re not as considered about a brilliant narrative structure or fascinating character development and simply want to watch for entertainment, then “The Orville” may be fun, but otherwise, I’d tell you to skip it.

“Will & Grace” (NBC, premieres Sept. 28)

The “Will & Grace” revival hasn’t even aired yet, and it has already been renewed for a second season. Like “Con Man,” this isn’t exactly a new show, but it has been so long that viewer expectations will be high (and probably different) that it’s bound to be a different show. I’m still not sure what I think about reboots, but “Will & Grace” is such a classic, and the actors are all so incredible that I’m interested in seeing where this show goes. It’ll be good to see the gang back together again.

“Young Sheldon” (CBS, premiered Sept. 25)

An attempt to ride off of the success of “The Big Bang Theory,” “Young Sheldon” is unfortunately a bland single-camera comedy that attempts to emulate hundreds of past shows involving an outsider and his or her brilliant rise (think “The Wonder Years”). With this material, it’s tough to shove it into a pure comedy category while trying to keep to the beloved character of Sheldon Cooper from the original series. As an original lover of “The Big Bang Theory,” I was rather disappointed about how they handled the development so far.

Contact Olivia Popp at oliviapopp ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Olivia Popp was a managing editor of Arts & Life for volumes 251 through 254 and the editor-at-large for The Stanford Daily's board of directors for volumes 254 and 255. She hails from Michigan and enjoys science fiction TV shows, independent film festivals, and the Bay Area theater scene.

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