TV Rays of Sunshine: What to Turn On When Things Get Dark This Fall

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Promo pic for Gotham (Courtesy of Fox)

FAll arts preview 2014Let me guess -- you don't own a TV. Well, isn't that special? The other 300 million of us don't have a problem with plopping down on the couch and bathing in the warm glow of an LCD screen for a few hours. And boy o boy are there going to be some fun shows to watch this fall!

Looking at the list of upcoming shows, I found myself categorizing them by what I perceive as current trends in television: shows based on comic books, series produced by successful comedians, dramas featuring movie stars, retro ("Let's make a show look like the 1960s!") and crime/mystery (the ol' standby.) Looking over the list and the little bits of info I could find on the plots of the shows, here are my picks (and I am quite the armchair critic):


Comic Book: Gotham

Sept. 22
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Who doesn't love Batman? C'mon, everybody out there loves some form of Batman, be it Tim Burton's or Christopher Nolan's version, or even just the campy TV show from ancient times (**POW**). Batman is as American as apple pie and racial tension; it's practically a hallowed institution here. That aside, a show based on Pre-Batman Gotham sounds like a good time, especially one about an actual cop -- Commissioner Gordon before he was commissioner -- trying to solve the murder of little Bruce Wayne's parents. The fact that the producers are telling a story in a world that's already established and is overflowing with dark imagery, it's going to be hard to mess this one up, but you never know...

Runner Up: The Flash

I remember the '90s version of this being great and thanks to renewed interest (probably due to a character on The Big Bang Theory being a big fan), they're giving the story another shot. If you listened to the Best Show on WFMU, you would know that there was a campaign to get the actor who played Barry Allen (AKA The Flash) back in the '90s, John Wesley Shipp, a part on the show and it looks like it succeeded; Shipp will be playing Allen's father.

<i>Last Man on Earth</i>
Last Man on Earth

Comedy: Last Man On Earth

2015 (scheduled to start midseason)
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I could write about something that will actually be airing this fall (and I will), but this show has so much potential I'd be doing you a disservice if I write about anything else. First off, it's Will Forte's return to TV after killing it in Nebraska and the criminally underrated MacGruber. (Before this, much of what Forte did for TV was voice work.) Secondly, it has Phil Lord and Christopher Miller attached, who are also known as the masterminds behind such recent hits like 21 Jumpstreet and The Lego Movie. And these guys aren't TV novices either; they helmed Brooklyn Nine-Nine's pilot episode, and that show has gone on to win some serious awards.

Runner Up: Mulaney

Wow, judging by the trailer, there are going to be a lot of similarities to Seinfeld, which I doubt anyone will mind, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't say something. The show has a lot of potential based on John Mulaney's joke-writing prowess alone; he was the writer behind many of the best recent Saturday Night Live sketches, including Bill Hader's bits as "Stefon."

Madam Secretary
Madam Secretary

Drama: Madam Secretary

Sept. 21
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It looks like CBS really wants Madam Secretary to be a hit, as the network is scheduling a second airing of the show on premiere night, which is a rare action to be taken by a broadcast network (it's commonplace for cable networks). Though the cast is notable -- Tea Leoni totally fits the part -- it's the experienced writer at the helm of the show, Barbara Hall, that will deserve respect if the show takes off. Hall's resume includes Homeland, Northern Exposure, and even Newhart, and it's obvious she's brought that level of quality to the writing on Madam Secretary. Do yourself a favor and watch the extended trailer.

Runner Up: Empire

If you're a music fan like me, this is another show to be excited about coming to Fox in 2015. Terence Howard playing a gangster-turned-music-mogul who finds out he has ALS (topical!) and only three years to live. He is forced to choose which one of his three sons to take over his music company. Sign me up.

<i>Mission Control</i>
Mission Control

Retro: Mission Control

2015 (scheduled to start mid-season)
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I was surprised to find that there aren't as many shows being set in olden times as there have been in recent years, thanks to the game-changing Mad Men. I'm guessing the high amount of flops and expensive set costs have left a bad taste in the mouths of studio execs. But there are good reasons to take a shot on Mission Control and it's not just the made-for-TV Krysten Ritter. Not only is this show being produced by Will Farrell and Adam Mckay's company Gary Sanchez, but its writing is being credited to David Hornsby, also known as "Cricket" on It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Hornsby was not only a recurring character, but one of the first writers for the long-running FX comedy, having join the team when they were just doing shorts.

Runner Up: The Odd Couple

It's weird that they're trying to reboot such an iconic show but the stars are two consistently entertaining actors -- Matthew Perry and Tom Lennon -- and I bet they were matched up for a reason.

<i>Wayward Pines</i>
Wayward Pines

Crime/Mystery: Wayward Pines

2015 (scheduled to start midseason)
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Sure, M. Night Shyamalan has been striking out with the movies recently, but the trailer for this looks like pure Twin Peaks worship, and how can that be a bad thing? Throw in Matt Dillon and Juliette Lewis, and you're going to try to tell me you're not intrigued?

Runner Up: Secrets and Lies

I've been noticing that American production companies have been poaching a lot of shows from Australia -- Wilfred, Review, all of Chris Lilly's stuff -- and bringing them back to the states. Some of them are quite successful, and even the ones that are breaking audience records are still great -- Review is criminally underrated -- so it seems that this is a model that works and can be trusted. This show about a man who finds his 5-year-old neighbor dying, only to become the main suspect in the boy's murder is screaming with potential, thanks to a star-saturated cast that includes Ryan Phillipe and Juliette Lewis (again!).