It’s impossible to know, from a pilot episode, which new fall TV shows will wear well over time — there are plenty of great shows with subpar first outings, or shows whose first episodes dazzled before a fizzle, or a cancellation, later on. But the raw materials of a good show — the cast, the sensibility — ought to be in place early on. These are the eight upcoming fall TV shows that seemed the most sturdily built, the ones that encourage us to watch more as the season goes on. (It’s worth noting that a couple of pilots, including NBC’s Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders, were not available to screen by press time. Like so much about the fall TV schedule, we’ll have to wait and see.) Here are the best new fall TV shows premiering in 2017:
Premieres Sept. 10 on Fox
This overstuffed and perhaps overambitious hour was created by and stars Family Guy mastermind Seth MacFarlane and yet plays it entirely straight. Indeed, the series, an overt homage to the original Star Trek, has far fewer out-and-out jokes than one might expect, instead relying on a general tone of zany adventurousness to earn your attention. Though far from perfect in its early going, the show’s fun, sunny energy could win over fans of classic sci-fi and those who vibe with MacFarlane’s geekier, less nihilistic impulses.
Me, Myself and I
Premieres Sept. 25 on CBS
Even more than most series, a show with a clever premise is hard to judge early on as its fortunes will rise or fall based on how well the premise wears over time. And yet in the early going, CBS’s new Bobby Moynihan sitcom is eminently likable and warm-hearted. Moynihan plays a man living in the present day — we toggle back to see him as a child (Jack Dylan Grazer) and forward into the future to see him as a successful golden ager (John Larroquette). Lessons — fairly simple ones, but this is only a pilot — from his youth resonate through the years, as he only begins to figure them out in midlife and enjoys the benefits as an old man. Do any of the three look like one another? Not really! But the conceit’s carried out with good humor that will hopefully last for seasons to come.
The Good Doctor
Premieres Sept. 25 on ABC
Freddie Highmore of Bates Motel plays another character who sees the world differently on this adaptation of a South Korean drama series. His precocious Shaun Murphy is a pediatric surgeon on the autism spectrum whose House-like ability to see what other doctors can’t runs up against his… well, House-like lack of a bedside manner. Not much is new in this pilot but Highmore sells the part, and an elegantly-made, confident medical procedural is always welcome.
Ten Days in the Valley
Premieres Oct. 1 on ABC
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) returns to TV with this taut, painfully intense kidnapping thriller. As Jane Sadler, a producer for a generic crime drama, Sedgwick is both a ringleader of mayhem and a victim. While she’s in her writer’s shed at home one night trying to finish a scene, her young daughter disappears from her bed. Jane’s chaotic professional life and her somehow-even-messier-than-it-seems relationship with her estranged husband could play a role in her daughter’s disappearance. Either way, they provide ample material for the star of a psychological study to play. Sedgwick, here, begins to come apart, and does so virtuosically.
Premieres Oct. 1 on Fox
Adam Scott and Craig Robinson — players on, respectively, Parks and Recreation and The Office — were always strong even when their shows faltered a bit. So it’s no surprise that together, their chemistry elevates a pilot for a series whose plot is a bit too convoluted to be satisfyingly explained in thirty minutes. Scott plays a conspiracy theorist obsessed with the paranormal, while Robinson plays an ace investigator who’d been taken off the job. Together, they’ve been recruited to be a sort of overtly comic X-Files team, digging into supernatural happenings around L.A. The plot, in the show’s first half-hour, is less compelling than the pair’s star power. They make for a team worth following; let’s see if the show’s story picks up steam.
Premieres Oct. 2 on Fox
The Gifted, which tells the story of young mutants exploring their powers, promises to be one of the best Marvel-universe TV series because it plays things relatively straight. The series lacks the elaborate fripperies that made FX’s Legion such a challenging watch and also eschews the endless throat-clearing that characterizes some of the Marvel series on Netflix. This is a brisk, to-the-point story that quickly establishes compelling stakes: Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker play the parents of two children (Natalie Alyn Lind and Percy Hynes White) with mutant abilities, forced to try to evade a government that would prefer to wipe out those who deviate from the norm. Who knows how it’ll wear over a season, but the first hour was delightfully decisive in a way few other comic-book shows allow themselves to be. This is a show that knows what it wants to do and trusts you to go along.
Premieres Oct. 3 on ABC
Courtney Rose (Brandon Micheal Hall) is an aspiring rapper who decides, in a bid for attention, to run for municipal office. It should come as no surprise, given the state of American politics, that he ends up winning. Indeed, Courtney’s sanguine about winning the post — how much work does a mayor have to do, anyhow? — but shocked that the job lasts a whole four years. The time will go by a little easier with help from a political hack played by Lea Michele (refreshingly finding a new tone from her aggressively peppy Glee character) and the support of his mom (Yvette Nicole Brown). In its first thirty minutes, The Mayor establishes an appealing set of characters in a real-feeling yet slightly askew town and finds a chilled-out, amiable tone that could eventually place it in the top tier of ABC’s strong family comedies.
Premieres Oct. 11 on The CW
A sharp-edged update of the classic melodrama from soap savant Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Gossip Girl), Dynasty exists precisely on the wavelength of its potential viewers. The “dynasty” here is a family-run energy company whose patriarch, Blake Carrington (Grant Show) is on the precipice of an ill-advised marriage to an interloper, the arriviste Cristal (Nathalie Kelly), to his equally avaricious kids’ horror. Just about the only flaw — for viewers who’ve been hungering for cruel, witty thrills — is the insistence on trying to connect the story to contemporary themes, as with references to other “dynasties” in the news (the Trumps, the Kardashians). Who needs such laborious grasps at relevance when the fun of hair-pulling is eternal?