The network's fall season ramps up the fnal week of September, and the best thing anyone can say is it's got to be better than last year. Network ratings for everything except NFL football and the Olympics plummeted, and there are some previously reliable shows whose appeal is diminishing (American Idol, Survivor, and Law & Order: SVU, to cite just three). But still, at least for the next few weeks, there will be fresh fare on CBS, ABC, Fox, NBC and the CW, for whatever it's worth.
Everyone has their stylistic favorites, so it's silly to pretend any one person is somehow a barometer of mass taste. I know I couldn't care less, for instance, about reality TV, most situation comedies or nighttime soaps. There are lots of others who hate crime procedurals and dramas. That said, here are five new shows that hold some promise:
(1) Elementary, CBS (WTVF-5. Thursdays, 9 p.m.)
CBS couldn't get the rights to redo an acclaimed British series about Sherlock Holmes, so it did what was probably the better thing: It created its own knock-off. Jonny Lee Milller was superb during a short stint on Dexter as a serial killer who specialized in murdering women. Now he's the latest variation on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic creation. This Holmes is an expatriate living in New York City. He abuses drugs like his 19th century counterpart (flawed heroes remain in style, at least on TV), and there's no trace of humility in his attitude or interaction with the rest of humanity: he's far from perfect, and needs someone to both assist and watch over him. That's where former surgeon Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) comes (or more accurately, gets thrown) into his life. While CBS never tries to reinvent the wheel, word is it's going to let this one be a bit less procedural in its presentation, a welcome decision.
(2) Vegas, CBS (WTVF-5. Tuesdays, 9 p.m.)
Period piece dramas often soar on cable (Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire) but nosedive on network TV (The Playboy Club, Pan Am). But CBS is betting that ready-for-primetime actors Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis can change that. Quaid portrays real Las Vegas Sheriff Ralph Lamb, who fought a 20-year battle against gangsters beginning in 1961. Chiklis plays one of those figures, a mobster who makes no pretense of his contempt for the law or his desire to do as he pleases. Adding creative punch and credibility to the mix is the marvelous Nicholas Pileggi, screenwriter for the Scorsese classics Goodfellas and Casino. Vegas is his creation, and if the network allows him and Without A Trace veteran Greg Walker to do the show they envision, this might be great.
(3) Last Resort, ABC (WKRN-2. Thursdays, 7 p.m.)
Conspiracy theory sagas can be overbearing, and Last Resort will demand a lot of faith from its viewers. It includes buying the premise that, after refusing an order from the president, the denizens of a nuclear sub become players in an intricate geopolitical game that threatens to destablilize domestic and international regimes. But with Andre Braugher in command as the noble Capt. Marcus Chaplin, and The Shield's Shawn Ryan as co-creator, this at least merits a close look and time to see if the various parts can be woven into a coherent whole.
(4) Nashville, ABC (WKRN-2. Wednesdays, 9 p.m.)
Normally, I stay a million miles away from soap operas, whether they are on at night or among the handful still left in daytime. But Connie Britton was so great in Friday Night Lights that anything featuring her deserves attention. Hayden Panettiere plays a rising country starlet willing to do anything for stardom. Another show with a great pedigree (the pilot is scripted by Thelma and Louise's Callie Khouri, with musical input from her husband T-Bone Burnett), the program's filmed in Music City. Plus Powers Boothe and Eric Close bring plenty of acting power to the ensemble.
(5) Arrow, The CW (WNAB-TV58. Wednesdays, 7 p.m.)
The CW promises this will be a crime/action thriller rather than a cartoon or supersized comic tale. Billionare playboy Oliver North (Stephen Arnell) was shipwrecked and marooned for five years on a deserted island (is there any other kind on TV?). The incident killed his lover and eventually caused his father's suicide. Now North is back in Starling City and demanding to know what happened, but he's also fighting various criminal types at night as Green Arrow — an archer with 21st century technology who designs special arrows while eradicating bad guys. Look for both villains from the DC line and (perhaps) the emergence of The Black Canary, one of the hottest female heroines in comic lore. Katie Cassidy plays Dinah "Laurel" Lance, aka The Black Canary, but the producers are being very cagey about when (and if) the Canary might appear.
Five others that could be winners
(6) Revolution, NBC (WSMV-4. Mondays, 9 p.m.)
(7) Made In Jersey, CBS (WTVF-5. Fridays, 8 p.m.)
(8) Go On, NBC (WSMV-4. Tuesdays, 8 p.m.)
(9) Ben And Kate, Fox (WZTV-17. Tuesdays, 7:30 p.m.)
(10) The New Normal, NBC (WSMV-4. Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m.)