What to watch, what to skip on networks this fall

From left, Mandy Moore as Rebecca and Milo Ventimiglia as Jack in “This Is Us.”
From left, Mandy Moore as Rebecca and Milo Ventimiglia as Jack in “This Is Us.” NBC

The broadcast networks’ canceling binge in the spring has made way for a generous crop of new fall shows. And judging by the pilots made available (in most cases, networks only released one episode of a show), we’re getting a better batch of TV to cozy up to than we did last year.

That’s not to say they’re all winners. CBS in particular has a disappointing lineup of stale sitcoms – “Kevin Can Wait” and “Man With A Plan” are yawners – but the network will somewhat redeem itself with the much anticipated “Bull,” starring “NCIS” veteran Michael Weatherly.

There are a handful of other pretty good shows scattered here and there, but our favorite shows of the fall popped up on NBC, Fox and ABC.

If we had to pick three don’t-miss newcomers, they’d be “This is Us” (NBC), “Pitch” (Fox) and “Designated Survivor” (ABC). All three are dramas and all offer something we haven’t seen before – and they have us eager for more.

We’ve boiled everything down to brief capsule reviews to help you decide what you’ll try this fall and what you’re likely to skip.

Brooke Cain

New show: Kevin Can Wait

When/where: Sept. 19, 8:30 p.m., CBS

Cast: Kevin James, Erinn Hayes, Gary Valentine

Premise: Kevin James is Kevin, a New York cop on the cusp of retirement who has aspirations of spending his newfound free time with his buddies and his family.

Verdict: This multicamera sitcom with an overzealous laugh track disappoints. James plays a similar type of guy’s guy that he did so well in “The King of Queens.” While he’s still amusing at times, he’s not given great material, and his generic sitcom wife (Hayes) is no Leah Remini, whose chemistry with James in “Queens” made the show so popular. I’m not sure if this family sitcom will convince James fans to tune in.

Jessica Banov

New show: The Good Place

When/where: Sept. 19, 10 p.m., NBC

Cast: Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper

Premise: A selfish, destructive woman (Bell) dies and in the afterlife is mistakenly sent to “the good place,” run by a somewhat bumbling manager (Danson).

Verdict: Love the premise. Love the cast. Wanted to love the show more. Bell’s character is truly awful, and even with the strongest motivation a human being could possibly conceive (being kicked out of paradise and into hell), her efforts at self-improvement are minimal. She’s just so annoying (Danson is very funny, though). Still, I didn’t hate it, and I may keep watching.

Brooke Cain

New show: Bull

When/where: Sept. 20, 9 p.m., CBS

Cast: Michael Weatherly, Freddy Rodriguez

Premise: Based on the life of Dr. Phil McGraw, who was a renowned jury trial consultant before Oprah made him a household name.

Verdict: Weatherly fans will love this. There’s a different case each week, giving the brilliant Dr. Jason Bull ample opportunities to analyze, scrutinize and crack wise. It follows the successful CBS crime procedural formula, which is good or bad, depending on your perspective. And if you can watch without hearing the smart-alecky lines coming from Dr. Phil’s mouth, it’s just fine.

Brooke Cain

New show: This is Us

When/where: Sept. 20, 10 p.m., NBC

Cast: Milo Ventimiglia, Mandy Moore, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley

Premise: We’re introduced to a group of people all turning 36 on the same day: a young married couple expecting triplets; an actor unhappy with his career; a woman struggling with a weight problem; and a family man searching for the father who abandoned him at a fire station as a newborn.

Verdict: Man, do I love this show. It checks off all the right boxes for me: great writing, great performances, cringe-worthy bits of brutal honesty, heartwarming moments, heart-shattering moments and a beautiful sense that everything in the universe might somehow be connected. There are a couple of tearjerker scenes, but it’s not manipulative. And Gerald McRaney in the pilot will blow you away. Advice: Do not read anything approaching a spoiler for this show. Go to it as fresh and innocent as possible.

Brooke Cain

New show: Lethal Weapon

When/where: Sept. 21, 8 p.m., Fox

Cast: Damon Wayans, Clayne Crawford, Keesha Sharp, Kevin Rahm

Premise: Wild, possibly suicidal cop Riggs and his aging, family-man partner Murtaugh solve crimes. You likely know what you’re gonna get here from the FOUR “Weapon” movies starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.

Verdict: If you go in with low expectations, which I did, it will keep you entertained. Much of the credit goes to Wayans, as Murtaugh, and Crawford as Riggs. They seem to be having fun with these characters and not just trying to copy Glover and Gibson. The action scenes – as over-the-top and ridiculous as they are – are never boring. No, this isn’t appointment TV. But you could do worse for mindless entertainment.

Thad Ogburn

New show: Speechless

When/where: Sept. 21, 8:30 p.m., ABC

Cast: Minnie Driver, John Ross Bowie, Mason Cook, Micah Fowler, Cedric Yarbrough

Premise: Fiercely protective (and ferociously funny) mother Maya DiMeo (Driver) will do anything to help her teenage son with cerebral palsy, sometimes to the detriment of her other two children.

Verdict: Finding humor in a family dealing with a condition such as cerebral palsy can be a tricky business. But “Speechless” is off to a great start, lifted by the go-for-broke comedy talents of Driver. She’s willing to be both the butt of the joke and to point out the ridiculousness of others – like the way son JJ (actor Fowler has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair) is patronized by his new teacher and classmates. Add in Yarbrough as the school janitor who becomes the translator for JJ’s typed messages, and you’ve got the makings of a hit.

Thad Ogburn

New show: Designated Survivor

When/where: Sept. 21, 10 p.m., ABC

Cast: Keifer Sutherland, Natasha McElhone, Adan Canto

Premise: Low-level Cabinet secretary Tom Kirkman, designated to sit out the State of the Union Address, suddenly finds himself president after an explosion wipes out the Capitol building and all the other government leaders inside.

Verdict: In an election year in which many voters aren’t happy with their presidential choices, Sutherland’s Kirkman is going to prove to be very popular. Called “as straight a shooter as you’re gonna find in Washington,” he’s a far cry from Sutherland’s most famous role, Jack Bauer of “24.” And that’s a good thing. It’s his decency and his smarts that will likely carry the day in this compelling drama with echoes of “The West Wing” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

Thad Ogburn

New show: Notorious

When/where: Sept. 22, 9 p.m., ABC

Cast: Piper Perabo, Daniel Sunjata

Premise: The producer of a big-time cable news show gives airtime to clients of a celebrity attorney in exchange for inside scoop on the clients and their crimes.

Verdict: I’ll keep watching. It’s fast paced with lots of twists, plus there’s a ripped-from-the-headlines appeal. Inspired by the relationship between “Larry King Live” producer Wendy Walker and lawyer Mark Geragos, the show will present new stories each week, but there’s an underlying mystery from the pilot that will likely thread through the season.

Brooke Cain

New show: Pitch

When/where: Sept. 22, 9 p.m., Fox

Cast: Kylie Bunbury, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Michael Beach, Ali Larter

Premise: Ginny Baker (Bunbury) is the first female baseball player in Major League history.

Verdict: This is a winner. The drama is as much about Baker’s experience pitching for the San Diego Padres – her teammates, management, the fans, her performance – as it is about how she got there, and the complicated relationship with her dad (Beach), who relentlessly pushes her to excel. Another pilot that will reward viewers who avoid any possible spoilers.

Brooke Cain

New show: MacGyver

When/where: Sept. 23, 8 p.m., CBS

Cast: Lucas Till, George Eads, Sandrine Holt

Premise: Yet another reboot, this time of the popular 1980s action-adventure show.

Verdict: Meh. It looks pretty, in a high-tech “CSI”-like fashion. And Till is fine as Angus “Mac” MacGyver, whose motto is “improvise!” when faced with a challenge. And he’s faced with a bunch of them. So why wasn’t I more invested in the characters and the action, and less bothered by the slow exposition and the clunky writing? In the end, “MacGyver” is just kind of there. And for a thrilling adventure show, that’s not a good sign.

Thad Ogburn

New show: The Exorcist

When/where: Sept. 23, 9 p.m., Fox

Cast: Geena Davis, Alfonso Herrera, Ben Daniels, Alan Ruck

Premise: Reboot of the classic horror film from 1973.

Verdict: And why reboot a classic horror film? Clearly, the Devil made them do it. There’s not much new here. Conflicted priests? Check. Heads that spin completely around? Check. Lots of shrieking and projectile vomiting? Check and check. It’s deathly serious and deathly dull, though I did laugh when Davis, as a worried mom, immediately concludes that her sullen, withdrawn teenage daughter is possessed by a demon. Or she could just be, you know, an average teenage girl.

Thad Ogburn

New show: Conviction

When/where: Oct. 3, 10 p.m., ABC

Cast: Hayley Atwell, Eddie Cahill

Premise: A DA with political aspirations (Cahill) basically blackmails a former First Daughter (Atwell), whose mother is running for Senate re-election, to run an innocence project-type task force that examines the validity of controversial convictions.

Verdict: In a generous mood, I’ll say it’s fair. But you’ll need to get past the ridiculous speed at which the office investigates and potentially frees the wrongly convicted (it takes about a week). Most interesting is the former First Daughter character, clearly a talented attorney but, how should we say ... messed up.

Brooke Cain

New show: Timeless

When/where: Oct. 3, 10 p.m., NBC

Cast: Abigail Spencer, Malcolm Barrett, Goran Visnjic, Matt Lanter

Premise: A history professor (Spencer), a scientist (Barrett) and a soldier (Lanter) travel back in time to thwart a villain (Visnjic) who uses a stolen time machine (luckily, they have two!) to try to change events in history.

Verdict: Not bad. The first episode involves the Hindenburg fire and there’s plenty of action, drama and even a little humor (each episode will visit a different time in history, like the assassination of Abraham Lincoln). The hardest (actually, impossible) part for the team will be stopping the villain without changing anything themselves.

Brooke Cain

New show: No Tomorrow

When/where: Oct. 4, 9 p.m., The CW

Cast: Tori Anderson, Joshua Sasse

Premise: A list-making rule follower (Anderson) meets her gorgeous and free-spirited dream man (Sasse), who challenges her to take more risks and embrace life like there’s no tomorrow. One problem: he could be crazy.

Verdict: I’m in. It’s funny and sweet, but not sappy. Just as it veers toward sap, it snaps back to a not-so-ideal reality. But it’s hopeful. And also kinda doomed. Put this one on your list (you make lists, right?) and mark it off every week.

Brooke Cain

New show: Frequency

When/where: Oct. 5, 9 p.m., The CW

Cast: Peyton List, Riley Smith, Mekhi Phifer

Premise: A broken ham radio mysteriously connects a detective (List) with her father (Smith), who was presumably killed while undercover – 20 years ago. The thing is, he still thinks it’s 1996 and List’s Raimy is firmly planted in 2016.

Verdict: The show is inspired by the 2000 film of the same name, with a few changes. First, there’s a daughter on the other side of the radio, not a son. And they’re cops, not firefighters. No matter. List (“Mad Men”) carries just the right mix of incredulousness and pure emotion, and the sci-fi premise is intriguing. Just like space-time continuum in “Back to the Future,” any change to the past can dramatically alter the present.

Jessica Banov

New show: American Housewife

When/where: Oct. 11, 8:30 p.m., ABC

Cast: Katy Mixon, Diedrich Bader, Ali Wong

Premise: A middle-class family rents a home in upscale Westport, Conn., to take advantage of the good public schools. But the stay-at-home mom doesn’t want her three kids to be like the vain people in the town (it could be too late for a couple of them).

Verdict: Very funny, with sharp writing. In the pilot, the mom worries that when her fat neighbor moves, she’ll be “the second fattest housewife in Westport” (aka “The Vice Fattest”). But worrying about how the kids will turn out is the crux of the show: the teenage daughter has embraced the Westport lifestyle; the tweenage son is a Scrooge McDuck; and the smallest girl has crippling OCD (but she’s super cute and a sweetheart).

Brooke Cain

New show: Man With a Plan

When/where: Oct. 24, 8:30 p.m., CBS

Cast: Matt LeBlanc, Liza Snyder and Kevin Nealon

Premise: LeBlanc plays Adam, a beleaguered TV dad who gets a crash course in what his wife (Snyder) juggles every day when she decides to go back to work.

Verdict: LeBlanc is funny enough in his delivery, but it’s hard to tell what the show will look like. The episode made available stars Jenna Fischer (Pam from “The Office”) as his wife. She has since wisely been recast with Snyder, known for her work on “Yes, Dear.” My hope is she’ll be a better match for LeBlanc. It will pair well on Monday nights with a very similar “Kevin Can Wait,” but if I had to choose, I’d go with “Man With a Plan.”

Jessica Banov

New show: The Great Indoors

When/where: Oct. 27, 8:30 p.m., CBS

Cast: Joel McHale, Stephen Fry, Susannah Fielding

Premise: McHale is Jack, an outdoorsman who writes adventure pieces for an outdoor magazine. He’s less than pleased when he has to come in from the field and supervise his indoor-bound millennial colleagues.

Verdict: McHale’s snark, fine-tuned from years on “Community” and “The Soup,” is in full force, and he’s the best part of this sitcom. While it’s hard to tell if he’s having fun yet, there is promise with a possible office romance and the potential for him to bond with the younger set. Fry steals the scenes he’s in, as does a certain cuddly creature that makes a cameo.

Jessica Banov

New show: Pure Genius

When/where: Oct. 27, 10 p.m., CBS

Cast: Dermot Mulroney, Augustus Prew

Premise: James Bell (Prew) is a brash millionaire who builds a state-of-the-art hospital to help those with rare and hard-to-cure illnesses. He recruits Dr. Walter Wallace (Mulroney), a surgeon who discovers Bell’s intentions with the hospital are more personal than originally thought.

Verdict: This has a different feel than your typical case-of-the-week medical drama. Mulroney is well cast as a daring surgeon with a mysterious past, and the young diverse team of doctors is appealing. Produced by Jason Katims (“Parenthood” and “Friday Night Lights”), it might provide the happy endings not found in other medical shows. It certainly offers feel-good counter-programming to “The Blacklist” and “How to Get Away With Murder” in the same timeslot.

Jessica Banov