We're anxiously waiting for new cable shows American Horror Story and Hell on Wheels, but since we haven't screened them yet, we have to withhold our final judgment (if nothing else, we're hoping Hell fills the Deadwood-shaped hole in our hearts). And while The X Factor will likely be insanely popular, we can't say that it will actually be good (not that it matters; we'll watch every minute). But we have seen the pilots for virtually every scripted show coming to broadcast TV this fall, and judging by their first episodes, we can confidently recommend setting your DVRs for these ten at the very least:
10. Person of Interest
We're excited about this JJ Abrams-produced series because it stars beloved Lost alum Michael Emerson and appears looks to have a complex background story. But fair warning: the pilot also seemed to foretell a procedural direction for the show, in which Emerson and Jim Caviezel use mysteriously generated Social Security numbers to help stop crimes. We're hoping it's compelling in ways that FlashForward wasn't.
9. A Gifted Man
Another medical drama may seem unnecessary, but this one has a twist: Patrick Wilson plays a brilliant neurosurgeon who starts having visions of his dead ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle). She helps to convince him that he should be a better person. It's well acted (Margo Martindale also co-stars) and seems to have fewer gratuitous on-call hookups than your typical Grey's Anatomy.
8. Prime Suspect
It's not a by-the-book remake of the '90s UK series, but that's a good thing since Maria Bello isn't exactly Helen Mirren. Instead, Bello crafts her own take on the character and hits it out of the park as a very American tough-as-nails cop who has to close cases while hampered by institutional chauvinism.
7. 2 Broke Girls
While our favorite comedy pilot of the 2011-2012 season is for the midseason Apartment 23, this series about two girls who work together and become unlikely friends/roommates will tide us over until that one debuts. And while Whitney Cummings appalled us on-screen in NBC's Whitney, one of the worst of this fall's pilots, she totally kills as the producer of this CBS sitcom thanks to a career-best attitudinal performance by Kat Dennings.
6. Pan Am
Both this show and The Playboy Club really want to capture the early '60s flavor of Mad Men, but end up emphasizing period detail over original characters and storylines. With that said, Pan Am is a light, breezy journey with enough twists and endearing stews to make us want to book a return flight. Sorry, bunnies.
5. Once Upon a Time
Even after watching a full episode, we're still not entirely sure what the hell is going on here. The show alternates between flashbacks to a fairytale land in which classic storybook characters interact and scenes set in a present-day small town populated by modern versions played by the same actors, along with Jennifer Morrison as... wait for it... a bounty hunter. But it all sort of works, intriguing us with a Pushing Daisies vibe and hints of complex storylines to come. (The darker but similarly fairytale-themed Grimm wasn't bad, either, but felt a little too freak-of-the-week for our tastes.)
We are in love with Jane Levy. With her dry wit and spot-on delivery, she's TV's answer to Emma Stone and the perfect remedy for an Awkward-less fall. This single-camera comedy is about a single dad who uproots his daughter from the big bad city and moves her to the suburbs, where pampered neighbor Cheryl Hines immediately schools her on the fashions and customs of the native mean girls. Trust us, it's worth your 22 minutes.
3. Terra Nova
Dinosaurs and time travel on network television? Yeah, we're pretty psyched. While some may quibble over some of the nitpicky details about the science in this sci-fi, the much-hyped series is a thrilling adventure series with solid family drama and plenty of promising plotlines. And it makes a lot more sense than Land of the Lost ever did.
2. New Girl
We understand that there's a faction out there that just doesn't find Zooey Deschanel appealing, and those people... well, they're going to hate this show. But everyone else (like us) will be utterly charmed her adorably nerdy character as she struggles with dating, awkwardly dances, makes up songs and follows the dubious advice of her three male roommates. But fair warning: Zooey's theme tune may nestle into your brain and never leave.
We didn't expect much from this thriller -- after all, Emily VanCamp isn't exactly the strongest actress in the world, much less our first choice to headline a drama. But we were bowled over by this Hamptons-set variation on The Count of Monte Cristo as well as VanCamp's convincing portrayal of a manipulative and possibly murderous young woman. It's everything we hoped Ringer would be and about 100 times better. The return of Madeleine Stowe from oblivion is just a fantastic bonus.
Watch TWoP's editors discuss the best and worst new comedies of fall in this segment airing on the New York Nonstop news channel:
View more videos at: http://nbcnewyork.com.
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