Fall TV 2019: After watching the trailers, I’m bananas for some of these shows, not so much for others (Commentary)


 watched the trailers of some notable fall TV premieres so you don’t have to (but they are embedded here if you want to). Here are my thoughts on each, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the series. All times Eastern:

“Unbelievable” (Sept. 13, Netflix) – There’s a glut of short-form mystery series out there, but this one offers up a slightly new angle. A serial rapist knows how to outsmart the structure of law enforcement, and the details of his crimes are strange enough that victims’ stories seem fishy. Kaitlyn Dever goes from “Booksmart” to a much darker role as one of the victims, joining a cast led by Toni Collette as a detective. Go Bananas Level: 7

“American Horror Story: 1984” (10 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, FX) – The 1980s nostalgia boom continues with at least the third short-form horror series that channels “Friday the 13th” – following “Dead of Summer” and “Slasher” Season 2 – to say nothing of the wider nostalgia of “Stranger Things.” “1984” pays close attention to the fashions, hairstyles and analog film of the era, but the concern remains that TV seasons from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk often finish weaker than they start. GBL: 8

“Prodigal Son” (9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, Fox) – Like a less dark version of “Hannibal,” a profiler named Malcolm (Tom Payne) tracks a serial killer who is mimicking the crimes of Malcolm’s imprisoned father, whom Malcolm regularly consults with. The period look – 1970s, I think – is nice, but the story looks too familiar. GBL: 4

“Emergence” (10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 24, ABC) – The latest in the ubiquitous “weird stuff happens and we gradually learn more until the series ends at a random point” genre centers on a kid found at a crash site who wasn’t on the plane and doesn’t have a scratch on her. If this sounds like “Manifest,” “The Passage,” “The Crossing,” etc., I suspect it’s because they are all the same series, along with a dozen other post-“Lost” entries. But no one has watched more than one of them, so the recycling has never been discovered. GBL: 1

“Perfect Harmony” (8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, NBC) – NBC had a good thing going with “Rise” – about a high school theater program – but dumped it and is instead backing this shallower comedy series about a small-town choir. Anna Camp’s presence will draw comparisons to “Pitch Perfect” that won’t cut in this show’s favor. And since when did Bradley Whitford move into “washed up old guy” roles? Time flies. GBL: 1

“The Unicorn” (8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, CBS) – This story of a widower with a large support group of friends and family as he re-enters the dating scene puts a smile on my face. It’ll be refreshing to see Walton Goggins (one of the villains in “Ant-Man and the Wasp”) play a good-hearted guy who is oblivious about dating yet has to fend off interested women from every angle. GBL: 8

“Evil” (10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, CBS) – Mike Colter appears to have landed on a better series than his “Luke Cage” colleague Simone Missick, who stars as a judge in the CBS dramedy “All Rise.” This supernatural crime procedural also looks better than the aforementioned “Prodigal Son,” and at its best it could call to mind “Miracles,” “The Inside” and “The Exorcist.” But it looks a little slick, like it’s trying to be the mainstream version of those strong but under-viewed shows. GBL: 6

“The Politician” (Friday, Sept. 27, Netflix) – As noted in my “AHS: 1984” entry, Ryan Murphy’s series tend to have an immediate appeal but eventually hit a cliff, and that describes my experience watching the trailer for this series. Initially almost a modern take on “Election” (moved to college and the small screen), it grows grating and over-the-top. GBL: 2

“Almost Family” (9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 2, Fox) – Compared to the many fall shows that look like worse version of past shows, it’s almost refreshing to see the insane premise of “Almost Family.” Julia (Brittany Snow, finally in a starring TV role) finds she is genetically related to everyone who used her dad’s dishonest fertility clinic. With an inexplicably red-haired Snow starring and Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”) bizarrely listed as a producer, I might give this a shot even though it looks terrible. GBL: 3

“Batwoman” (8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, The CW) – It’s a testament to the ubiquity of superhero shows that a Batman universe series doesn’t muster huge excitement. This one looks better than “Birds of Prey” – with which it shares the premise of Batman abandoning Gotham, plus actress Rachel Skarsten – but not as good as “Pennyworth.” It’s another polished-but-tame CW DC series from Greg Berlanti, distinguished by a dash of simplified gender politics (see, she’s Batwoman, not Batman, so get with the program). It’s hard to imagine a viewer can stand so many helpings of this universe per week, but to each their own. GBL: 5

“Nancy Drew” (9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, The CW) – A franchise that somehow produces lots of adaptations without anyone noticing (including a movie earlier this year!) tries to gain attention by adopting the “Riverdale” mood and lighting. I was surprised to find this doesn’t come from the “Riverdale” team, but rather from uber-producer Josh Schwartz (see “Looking for Alaska,” below). Nowadays, a mystery series needs more of a hook than what we see in this trailer. GBL: 2

“Limetown” (Wednesday, Oct. 16, Facebook Watch) – This is like one of those “What the heck happened?” network shows (see “Emergence,” above) but with a little streaming-service grit scattered on it. Here, a small town’s population disappears all at once and Lia (Jessica Biel) investigates. Unless you’ve been anxiously awaiting the latest Jessica Biel project, this will likely blend into the pack. GBL: 4

“Looking for Alaska” (Friday, Oct. 18, Hulu) – Based on a book by John Green (“The Fault in Our Stars”), this isn’t about the state, but rather a girl named Alaska who all the guys fall for at what appears to be a camp for troubled kids somewhat like in “Higher Ground.” The vibe evokes the 1970s, and remarkably for this day and age, the trailer promises mystery without solving it in the trailer. This looks good enough that I might stay subscribed to Hulu after I finish “Veronica Mars” Season 4. GBL: 10

“Modern Love” (Friday, Oct. 18, Amazon Prime) – A loaded cast plays out love and relationship dramas from various angles in an anthology format. If you’re into this genre, you could do worse. GBL: 6

“Watchmen” (9 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, HBO) – Damon Lindelof (“Lost”) brings the alternate universe of Zack Snyder’s epic 2009 film into the present day (the movie was set in 1985). The TV series invents new characters and situations, but continues the theme of the uneasy relationship between superheroes, governmental authorities and the public. It also keeps the often purposely strange needle drops. For fans of the classic Alan Moore comic who always wanted more story, this is the next best thing to more from Moore. GBL: 9

“Dickinson” (Friday, Nov. 1, Apple Plus) – Using the purposely anachronistic style of modern sensibilities in a historic tale, this series stars Hailee Steinfeld as Emily Dickinson as the writers imagine what inspired her lines of poetry. With a good premise and a great actress, there could be something here. GBL: 6

“For All Mankind” (Friday, Nov. 1, Apple Plus) – The premise intriguingly posits that progress stagnated because the USA won the race to the moon; if it had lost, it would’ve kept inventing new space races to win and we’d be exploring the moons of Saturn by now. With sci-fi TV veteran Ronald D. Moore producing, this could be good. GBL: 6

Click here for the schedule of fall TV premieres.