Brash cops, brazen dinosaurs, bewitched townsfolk, and body-swapping twins are just some of the characters being introduced on TV this fall. Whether it’s Fox with its risky, ambitious, and costly projects (“Terra Nova,” “The X Factor“), ABC with its return to the glory days of primetime soaps (“Revenge,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Once Upon a Time“), or NBC with its comedy-heavy slate (“Up All Night,” “Free Agents,” “Whitney“), the new season promises variety. With roughly 35 freshman shows on the roster this year, we’ve set out to pick our favorites of the bunch. Take a look at the list below, and make sure to set your DVR.
“Terra Nova” (FOX)
Premiered: Mon. Sept. 26 @ 8/7c (2-hours) Record Now
Stars: Jason O’Mara (Jim Shannon), Stephen Lang (Cmdr. Nathaniel Taylor), Shelley Conn (Elisabeth Shannon), Landon Liboiron (Josh Shannon), Naomi Scott (Maddy Shannon), Alana Mansour (Zoe Shannon), Mido Hamada (Guzman), Christine Adams (Mira), Allison Miller (Skye)
Premise: Part “Lost,” part “Jurassic Park,” the series follows the Shannon family from the year 2149 as they do the time warp dance to prehistoric Earth in an experiment to save mankind from the wretched existence that is the year 2149.
Why You Should Watch: It’s an ambitious, high-concept series with the backing power of a Hollywood legend (Steven Spieberg). But beyond all the expansive (and expensive) dino visuals lies an intense, superbly acted family drama that will draw you in and keep you hooked.
Premiered: Weds. Sept 21 @ 10/9c Record Now
Stars: Emily VanCamp (Emily Thorne), Madeleine Stowe (Victoria Grayson), Henry Czerny (Conrad Grayson), Josh Bowman (Daniel Grayson), Nick Wechsler (Jack Porter), Gabriel Mann (Nolan Ross), Ashley Madekwe (Ashley Davenport), Christa B. Allen (Charlotte Grayson), Connor Paolo (Declan Porter)
Premise: Emily Thorne is a new, seemingly innocent arrival at the Hamptons. But the wealthy world she’s immersed herself in has a dark history, and she’s anything but the friendly girl next door. When she was a child, her father was framed for a horrible crime by neighbors he trusted, and now Emily has returned full of masked rage to seek revenge on those who wronged her family.
Why You Should Watch: It’s a modern day Count of Monte Cristo with a pitch perfect VanCamp as Edmond Dantès. But instead of 19th century royalty, New York’s affluent class are the antagonists in this nighttime soap. And who wouldn’t like to see a few of them taken down?
“Up All Night” (NBC)
Premiered: Weds. Sept 14 @ 10/9c Record Now
Stars: Christina Applegate (Reagan Brinkley), Will Arnett (Chris Brinkley), Maya Rudolph (Ava)
Premise: Chris and Reagan are a happily married couple whose wild-child days come to a screeching halt with the birth of their baby daughter. The series Why You Should Watch: Anyone who’s ever had a child will relate to the comic sensibility of two parents struggling to retain some sense of their former selves while coping with the day-to-day struggles of being new parents. Applegate, Arnett and Rudolph have a natural chemistry that plays, and the show’s pedigree (from SNL writer Emily Spivey and SNL boss Lorne Michaels) means irreverence is guaranteed.
Premiered: Tues. Sept. 13 @ 9/8c Record Now
Stars: Sarah Michelle Gellar (Bridget Kelly/Siobhan Martin), Nestor Carbonell (Victor Machado), Mike Colter (Malcolm Ward), Ioan Gruffudd (Andrew Martin), Kristoffer Polaha (Henry Butler).
Premise: Bridget Kelly is six months sober, and beginning to get back on track, when she witnesses a professional hit. She’s placed in federal protection under the watch of Victor Machado, an agent determined to see that justice is done. Knowing she won’t be kept safe, she escapes to the New York home of her wealthy, estranged twin sister, Siobhan. When Siobhan mysteriously disappears, Bridget assumes her identity, only to find out her sister has more problems hidden beneath the surface than she ever could have imagined.
Why You Should Watch: You don’t have to be a “Buffy” fan to appreciate Sarah Michelle Gellar’s return to TV (although “Buffy” fans will undoubtedly be pleased too). And you don’t have to be a teenager to enjoy it. The series skews slightly older than the CW’s normal fare on purpose – it was originally intended for CBS. And it works. There’s marital infidelity, a hidden pregnancy, lying, backstabbing, and a murder attempt – all in the first hour.
“2 Broke Girls” (CBS)
Premiered: Mon. Sept. 19 @ 9:30/8:30c Record Now
Stars: Kat Dennings (Max Black), Beth Behrs (Caroline Channing), Garrett Morris (Earl), Matthew Moy (Han Lee).
Premise: Max Black is a struggling, no-nonsense Brooklyn waitress who’s forced to work with a down and out trust fund princess whose recent bad luck forces her to take a job at the same diner where Max is employed. The two strike up an unlikely friendship in the hopes of launching a successful business.
Why You Should Watch: Think “Lavern and Shirley” in the 21st century. Gone is Dennings’ signature indie-girl appeal and in its place is a witty, broad but charming character that plays perfectly to a large audience. Add to that the prestige factor of “Sex and the City” writer Michael Patrick King, and the comedy is a can’t-miss.
“The X Factor” (FOX)
Premiered: Weds. Sept. 21 @ 8/7c (2 hours) Record Now
Stars: Simon Cowell (judge), Paula Abdul (judge), L.A. Reid (judge), Nicole Scherzinger (judge), Steve Jones (host).
Premise: At it’s core, it’s a talent show searching for solo artists and vocal groups who possess that special je ne sais quoi. Up for grabs is a $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music.
Why You Should Watch: It’s an understatement to call it the most anticipated premiere of the season. Fox is hoping to have a hit out of the gates with this fall “Idol” supplement, and it very well may get it. The reunion of Simon and Paula alone is worth tuning in for, but it’s the promise of big name guest mentors (Mariah Carey, anyone?) and even larger caliber talent that has everyone buzzing.
“Prime Suspect” (NBC)
Premiered: Thurs. Sept 22 @ 10/9c Record Now
Stars: Maria Bello (Detective Jane Timoney), Kirk Acevedo (Detective Luisito Calderon), Aidan Quinn (Lieutenant Kevin Sweeney), Brian O’Bryne (Detective Reg Duffy), Damon Gupton (Detective Evrard Velerio), Tim Griffin (Detective Augie Blando), Peter Gerety
Premise: Jane Timoney is a as tough-as-nails NYPD homicide detective. An outsider in an old boy’s club, Jane is brash, troubled and reckless, and most of all disliked by her colleagues. But with her spot-on instincts as a guide, she never misses her mark.
Why You Should Watch: The “Law & Order” set will be pleased to have a new distinctively unique New York-based cop show to turn to. Although Bello’s Jane is a far cry from Helen Mirren’s in the British original, she’s still a force to be reckoned with…A force who has a penchant for wearing hats.
“A Gifted Man” (CBS)
Premiered: Fri. Sept 23 @ 8/7c Record Now
Stars: Patrick Wilson (Michael Holt), Jennifer Ehle (Anna Paul), Margo Martindale (Rita Perkins-Hall), Pablo Schreiber (Anton), Julie Benz (Christina Holt).
Premise: Michael Holt is a brilliant, type-A surgeon who starts to become unhinged when his dead ex-wife returns from the hereafter to teach him the meaning of life.
Why You Should Watch: Simply, there’s nothing on TV like it. The premise might sound a big hokey, but the pilot, directly by Jonathan Demme, has an eerie, unshakable muted quality to it that’s just as unsettling for the viewer to watch unfold as it is for Michael to experience. Theater veterans Wilson and Ehle add unmatched dynamic drama to the screen that’s sure to elicit a few tears.
Premiere: Weds. Sept. 28 @ 8:30/7:30c Record Now
Stars: Jeremy Sisto (George Altman), Jane Levy (Tessa Altman), Cheryl Hines (Dallas Royce), Alan Tudyk (Noah Lerner), Carly Chaikin (Dalia Royce), Allie Grant (Lisa Shay), Rex Lee (Mr. Wolf).
Premise: When New York-based single father George finds a box of condoms on his daughter Tessa’s nightstand, he decides to move them both to a more centered existence in the suburbs. The problem? All Tessa sees are overly cosmeticized “plastic Franken-moms,” mean girls, and the horror of teenage life in a phony suburban world.
Why You Should Watch: It’s a razor-sharp comedy that parodies all of society’s ills. Levy, who played a disenfranchised teen on Showtime’s “Shameless” shines here in a similar, less dysfunctional role.
Premiere: Sun. Oct. 2 @10/9c Record Now
Stars: Claire Danes (Carrie Anderson), Damian Lewis (Sgt. Nicholas Brody), Morena Baccarin (Jessica Brody), Mandy Patinkin (Saul Berenson).
Premise: Carrie Anderson is a CIA officer who becomes convinced a recently rescued American POW (Brody) may be connected to an al-Qaida plot to be carried out on U.S. soil.
Why You Should Watch: It’s a powerful psychological thriller backed by a strong cast of award winners. As wars continue to be fought overseas and doubts are still heightened over homeland security, the timing couldn’t be more impeccable.
“Once Upon a Time” (ABC)
Premiere: Sun. Oct. 23 @8/7c Record Now
Stars: Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White/Mary Margaret), Jennifer Morrison (Emma Swan), Robert Carlyle (Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold), Lana Parrilla (Evil Queen/Regina), Jared Gilmore (Henry), Josh Dallas (Prince Charming/John Doe), Raphael Sbarge (Jiminy Cricket/Archie).
Premise: Due to a curse by the Evil Queen, characters from classic fables are alive in small-town Maine, but bewitched into a state of amnesia about their Enchanted Forest beginnings. Can Emma Swan, a bail bonds collector from Boston, be the one to break the spell?
Why You Should Watch: Who said fairy tales aren’t real? Jumping between two worlds – fairy and present day – proves slightly confusing and perplexing at first, but with a little suspension of disbelief and the help of Morrison as a representation of the audience’s doubt, the series juxtaposes the forces of good and evil to create a timeless family drama. Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, writers of that other fabled series, “Lost,” co-conspire here as well.