by Julian Spivey
Most Anticipated Drama Return: “NCIS” (CBS)
“NCIS” never fails to end seasons in an incredibly entertaining and nail-biting way and the finish to last season’s season 10 finale was among the show’s very best. When we left Gibbs and Co. at NCIS they were in shambles with Tony (Michael Weatherly), Ziva (Cote de Pablo) and McGee (Sean Murray) resigning as means of saving Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) job. The season ended with Gibbs aiming a sniper rifle at old pal and FBI agent Tobias Fornell (Joe Spano) and a gunshot being heard as the episode faded to black. I can’t wait to see what happened. The mystery surrounding Ziva’s departure from the show just ups the ante even more for the start of the season. It’s incredibly rare for a show that’s been on television this long to remain this good.
Most Anticipated Comedy Return: “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS)
The ninth and final season of “How I Met Your Mother” is upon us and the very last thing we saw in season eight was the reveal of “the mother” (Cristin Milioti). Meeting the mother is something that hardcore fans of this show have been dying to see for almost nine years and this season we all get the opportunity to get to know her. Among the biggest questions for fans will be is this girl really good enough to be Ted’s wife. The other storylines of the show wrapping up should make for one interesting final season and creator Carter Bays’ announcement that this season will feature some of the show’s most non-linear episodes yet makes it all the more intriguing.
Most Anticipated New Drama: “The Blacklist” (NBC)
When I heard that multiple time Emmy winner James Spader was returning to television – his last TV role in ABC’s legal drama “Boston Legal” was one of the greatest in television history – I knew immediately that this was going to be my most anticipated new show of the fall season. When I found out that Spader was going to play a criminal mastermind who turns himself into the FBI to help bring down fellow criminal masterminds I was downright giddy. It’s to be seen whether or not the supporting cast and the storylines of this show will be up to par with Spader’s performance, but at least we know Spader will be among the better performances on network television. It’s almost a given.
Most Anticipated New Comedy: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Fox)
The most anticipated new comedy of the fall season is really one of the tougher categories to pick for this fall TV preview. Robin Williams’ return to television after 30 years in the CBS sitcom “The Crazy Ones” should be interesting. Michael J. Fox’s return to television full time in NBC’s “The Michael J. Fox Show” is also an intriguing choice. However, I’m going to go with Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” as my most anticipated new comedy because I like the show’s two leads: Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher and the setting, a police precinct, is not your typical sitcom setting, even when it comes to workplace sitcoms.
Show Likely to Be Canceled First: “Dads” (Fox)
So, this is why “Raising Hope,” one of television’s finest sitcoms, is been pushed to the ratings black hole that is Friday night and faces likely cancelation as a result? “Dads” is easily the worst reviewed new series of the fall season by critics and is immature comic Seth MacFarlane’s first attempt at non-animated network comedy. The show stars Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi as … oh, well, who really cares it’ll probably be canceled before you finish reading this piece anyhow.
Most Anticipated Return to Television: James Spader in “The Blacklist” (NBC)
There are a ton of greatly anticipated returns to television this fall. The two biggest ones are likely Robin Williams, returning to television in CBS’ “The Crazy Ones” for the first time since “Mork & Mindy” ended in 1982, and Michael J. Fox, who’s making his full time return (he’s guested on numerous shows from “Boston Legal” to “The Good Wife” to “Scrubs”) since he left “Spin City” in the late ‘90s after his Parkinson’s diagnosis. You also have a trio of Emmy winners returning to television with Allison Janney in CBS’ “Mom,” Bradley Whitford with ABC’s “Trophy Wife” and Tony Shalhoub in CBS’ “We Are Men.” There are even great returns from people who haven’t been away all that long like both Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher in Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” But, James Spader in “The Blacklist” takes the honor here simply because I think he stands the chance of giving the best performance; it really does help that he’s the only one of these great returning actors who has the benefit of a meatier role in a drama series.
Most Heartbreaking Departure from Television (Show): “How I Met Your Mother” (CBS)
“How I Met Your Mother” is really the only choice for this category right now, because it’s the only show that I know of before the start of the season that’s ending this season. There may end up being some unplanned endings that turn out to be more heartbreaking (like if NBC finally decides to part ways with the excellent “Parenthood” or if “The Mindy Project” doesn’t get higher ratings for Fox). ‘HIMYM’ has been one of the finest comedies on television during the last decade and it will be incredibly hard to say goodbye to Ted, Marshall, Lily, Robin and Barney.
Most Heartbreaking Departure from Television (Actor): Cote de Pablo (NCIS) [Network] & Matt Smith (Doctor Who) [Cable]
I really have to split this one into two groups. This fall television season preview is mostly for network television, as that’s where most of the shows are premiering anyway, but there are two high profile acting departures from shows this year – one on a network show and one on a cable show – that could leave gaping holes in their respective series. When I heard that both Cote de Pablo was leaving “NCIS” and Matt Smith was leaving BBC America’s “Doctor Who” I was absolutely dumbfounded not thinking either actor would be leaving so suddenly (even though that’s kind of the way things go for “Doctor Who”). Neither de Pablo nor Smith has more than just a couple of episodes left to say goodbye to their fans and vice versa so their last episodes shall prove to be very emotional and hopefully incredibly good.
Show Most Dangerously Close to Losing a DVR Season Pass: “Once Upon a Time” (ABC)
Boy, did ABC’s fairytale drama “Once Upon a Time” seem to get off-track last season or what? Hopefully we can just chalk it up to the old sophomore slump, because if things keep going the way that they did last season I might not have much more patience for this show. The biggest issue the show had in season two was the addition of way too many new characters (many of which weren’t even that interesting) and were merely added because the creators/writers seemingly just wanted to see how many different fairytale characters they could weave into the series. The answer was a whole helluva lot, but the weaving didn’t always work so well. Seriously, Mulan? I’m very worried where season three is going to go because I know the show is just going to continue adding more storybook characters along the way, I just hope they don’t forget too much about the main core of characters, which they seemed to do sometimes during season two.
New Series I Couldn’t Care Less About: “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” (ABC)
Don’t you think we’re getting a little too crazy with spinoffs in this country when a television show that’s only been on the air for two seasons is already getting a spinoff? “Once Upon a Time” should be way more concerned with what’s going on right now on its show after the uneven season two than it is with what Alice is doing in Wonderland. Frankly, I don’t see the need for two fairytale dramas on the same network by the same people at the same time. Wonderland wasn’t even all that interesting when the original series went there in the first season. I think I’m going to have to pass on this one. I doubt most who like the first series will though, so the ratings should be just fine. But, fix the other one and I’ll stay.
Bubble Show I’d Most Hate to See Canceled: “Parenthood” (NBC)
“Parenthood” has been the best drama on network television (if not all of television) almost as long as it’s been on the air (it’s entering its fifth season), but it’s also been a bubble show that entire time and it’s truly a miracle that it has survived and that NBC has let it survive. In fact, even though it’s likely still a bubble show, it seems better off now than ever before with NBC actually giving it a full season order and moving it to a likely better timeslot of 9 p.m. on Thursdays instead of 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. However, I doubt this incredible ensemble and naturalistic drama is going to gain many viewers this far in the game and the fact that it has three brand new sitcoms scheduled ahead of it might not give it a great lead-in. I definitely think there are other good shows in more danger of cancelation than “Parenthood” (probably “The Mindy Project” and “Raising Hope”), but this would be the one that would hurt the most to see go.
Show with the Biggest Question Mark: “Saturday Night Live” (NBC)
This category is actually quite easy. With so much changeover at “Saturday Night Live” with the departures of longtime cast members Fred Armisen, Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis and the impending departure of head writer and Weekend Update anchor Seth Meyers there is a giant question mark hanging over Studio 8H in Rockefeller Centre. This is not really something unusual for ‘SNL’ as this type of changeover happens every so often, but it feels like it’s been a while since an overhaul of this type. This will be the largest cast over-change since 1995 when cast memebers like Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri made their debut. The show still has some great talent in Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, Jay Pharoah, Kenan Thompson, Cecily Strong and Kate McKinnon that should keep the laughs coming, but it’ll be interesting to see just how many laughs walked out the door with Hader, Armisen and Sudeikis (I’m guessing quite a lot) and how well the new cast members do in their debuts. Only time will tell.