Happiness is a Warm TV

Fall TV preview: We pick the winners and losers among all the new shows

Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) is a 9-year-old genius living with his mother (Zoe Perry), father and two siblings in East Texas and going to high school in “Young Sheldon” on CBS.
Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage) is a 9-year-old genius living with his mother (Zoe Perry), father and two siblings in East Texas and going to high school in “Young Sheldon” on CBS. CBS

Last year’s TV season gave us some cool surprises – two new shows set in North Carolina and one based on a famous Durham murder. Unfortunately, two of those shows got canceled and the third – the sitcom based on the Mike Peterson murder case — will return (summer of 2018), but will have a different focus.

Without substantive North Carolina connections in the 2017-2018 lineup (except for native Sharon Lawrence co-starring in the promising new sitcom “Me, Myself and I”), we’re left with two big trends: more military and more Marvel.

We get two new shows from the Marvel Comics universe this season – “Marvel’s Inhumans” and “The Gifted” – and three shows about the military – “The Brave,” “Valor” and “SEAL Team.” (For those keeping score, we count six military shows in the lineup and three Marvel shows, not counting the six Marvel series on Netflix – plus five DC Comics shows, but no new entries there this season).

Of all the new military and Marvel entries, NBC’s “The Brave” is by far the best bet.

My other favorites of the new season include “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World,” “The Good Doctor,” “Young Sheldon,” “Me, Myself and I,” “S.W.A.T.” and “Ten Days in the Valley.”

Here’s a brief rundown of the season. Please note in that in most cases, I only got to see the pilot, and it’s awfully hard to judge a whole series from one episode.

September 5

If the bee-spitting clowns in the trailer don’t send you screaming into the night, the focus of the latest AHS installment might: the Trump-Clinton election serves as the backdrop, with maniacal characters on both sides of the political spectrum dealing with the personal ramifications of the election while pure, unadulterated fear takes over their lives. If you’re worried the topic sounds too brainy and the themes too subtle, don’t. Remember this is Ryan Murphy, so there’s plenty of gore and plenty of murderous, gas-lighting clowns to keep the chills running up and down your spine. “American Horror Story” regulars Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson return, and they are incredible, as usual.

Watch: 10 p.m. Tuesdays on FX

September 10

You may expect this Seth MacFarlane space series to be just another silly, overly crude comedy. Nope. If forced, I’d actually call it a workplace drama. A very lighthearted workplace drama with some jokes and sight gags, but one that mostly plays it straight. Just not too straight. (You may have guessed this one is a little hard to put in a box.) MacFarlane is a space officer who falls apart after finding his wife (Adrianne Palicki) in bed with an alien. One year later, he’s a little more together and gets command of an exploratory space vessel, staffed with a host of interesting characters. The hiccup in his fresh start is that his ex-wife is assigned to be his second-in-command.

Watch: Two-part premiere 8 p.m. Sunday Sept. 10 and 17 on Fox; moves to regular 9 p.m. Thursday time slot on Sept. 21

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(L-R): Scott Grimes, Mark Jackson, J. Lee, Seth MacFarlane and Adrianne Palicki in the new space adventure series “The Orville.” Michael Becker/FOX

September 17

This isn’t technically a new series, but it is a highly anticipated new 10-part, 18-hour documentary series from Ken Burns, who brought us “The Civil War,” “Baseball,” “Jazz” and “The Roosevelts.” It lives up to Burns’ stellar reputation, taking a deep but fascinating dive into the war that divided America.

Watch: 8 p.m. nightly Sept. 17-21 and Sept. 24-28 on PBS / UNC-TV

September 24

This new series, set roughly a decade before the original “Star Trek” series, follows the crew of the USS Discovery. Yes, it’s “Star Trek,” but it’s a new ship with new characters and all new missions. The pilot was not made available for review.

Watch: Debuts 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24 on CBS, but all subsequent episodes will air on CBS All Access ($5.99/mo). There are 15 episodes in all, running from Sept. 24 to Nov. 5 and then resuming in January.

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Michelle Yeoh, left, as Captain Philippa Georgiou and Sonequa Martin-Green as First Officer Michael Burnham in the new CBS All Access series “Star Trek: Discovery.” Jan Thijs CBS

September 25

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Iain Armitage plays young Sheldon Cooper in the CBS comedy “Young Sheldon.” Robert Voets CBS

As someone who grew tired of “Big Bang Theory” after a few seasons, I didn’t expect to like this BBT prequel, but it couldn’t be more different or more charming. Jim Parsons, who plays grown-up Sheldon Cooper on “Big Bang Theory,” narrates this origin story of his character – a precocious 9-year-old genius growing up (and very much standing out) in East Texas in 1989. Unlike BBT, “Young Sheldon” doesn’t rely on jokes or a live audience for laughs, but more subtle bits of humor and sweet moments between Sheldon (Iain Armitage) and his parents (especially his mother, played by Zoe Perry, who is obviously this little guy’s lifeline). Sometimes bittersweet, “Young Sheldon” is perfectly cast and pretty irresistible. And you don’t need to watch “Big Bang Theory” to enjoy it. (Fun note: Zoe Perry is the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalf, who plays grown-up Sheldon’s mother on “Big Bang Theory.”)

Watch: 8:30 p.m. Monday Sept. 25 on CBS; moves to its regular Thursday time slot on Nov. 2

In this very likeable new sitcom, Jack Dylan Grazer, Bobby Moynihan and John Larroquette play Alex Riley at different stages of life – at 14 in 1991, at 40 in 2017 and at 65 in 2042. This is another comedy without constant jokes or a laugh track, which manages to be funny and sweet at the same time. I dig it. Bonus: North Carolina native Sharon Lawrence also stars (try very hard to ignore the age difference between her and Larroquette).

Watch: 9:30 p.m. Mondays on CBS

This may interest you even if you’re suffering from military TV fatigue. It follows a special ops team working in Syria and led back home by Anne Heche. In the opening episode, the team – headed by Mike Vogel – works to rescue a kidnapped American doctor, but the mission gets complicated when they learn exactly why she was taken. It’s an exciting hour of television with a cliffhanger that will leave you eager for the next installment.

Watch: 10 p.m. Mondays on NBC

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Mike Vogel, left, as Captain Adam Dalton in NBC’s “The Brave.” NBC Simon Mein/NBC

Next to a great crime drama, I love me a good doctor show. This one with Freddie Highmore gets you right in all the feels. Highmore (“Bates Motel”) plays Dr. Shaun Murphy, a surgeon with autism and savant syndrome who moves from his rural town to San Jose to take a job as surgical resident. The hospital administrator, a longtime friend and supporter, is played by Richard Schiff in all his “West Wing”-Toby-speechifying goodness. It’s heartwarming without being hackneyed, and some of Shaun’s flashbacks to his childhood are emotional and difficult to watch. It’s definitely memorable – and definitely going on my must-watch list.

Watch: 10 p.m. Mondays on ABC

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Shaun Murphy (Freddie Highmore), is a young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, in the ABC drama “The Good Doctor.” Liane Hentscher ABC

September 26

Another offering in Dick Wolf’s “Law & Order” franchise, but this one is an anthology series – like “American Crime Story” or “American Horror Story” (both on FX), which have different characters and plots each season. This eight-episode season is about the 1996 murders of Jose and Kitty Menendez at the hands of their sons, Erik and Lyle. Edie Falco plays the brothers’ attorney Leslie Abramson, Josh Charles plays Erik’s psychiatrist and Anthony Edwards plays the trial judge. It’s very much in the traditional “Law & Order” style, and Falco is the most compelling.

Watch: 10 p.m. Tuesdays on NBC

September 27

David Boreanaz plays the leader of an extra-elite team of Navy SEALs who is ordered to undergo therapy – against his will, of course – to cope with a tough past mission in which lives were lost. The show follows the personal and work lives of the SEALS. I didn’t find much fresh or compelling here, but longtime “Bones” star Boreanaz has a big following.

Watch: 9 p.m. Wednesdays on CBS

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The new CBS drama “SEAL Team” stars David Boreanaz (left), Neil Brown Jr. (center) and Max Thieriot. Skip Bolen CBS

September 28

This one doesn’t need much of an explanation: the much-loved sitcom (1998-2006) returns with the same actors and characters for a 16-episode ninth season (a 13-episode tenth season has already been approved). The pilot is not yet available for review, but check back around Sept. 12.

Watch: 9 p.m. Thursdays on NBC

September 29

The first two episodes of this series about a race of superheroes already premiered at some IMAX theaters. It wasn’t pretty. I can’t make myself care about all these Marvel TV shows, but even so, this one is generally considered – even by Marvel fans – as pretty bad. Just be patient, as “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” returns after this wraps up.

Watch: 8 p.m. Fridays on ABC

October 1

Jeremy Piven stars as a Silicon Valley tech mogul who walks away from his Facebook-like company to focus his time (and apparently dwindling resources) on a real-time crowd-sourcing crime-solving app. His motivation comes from his desire to find the person who murdered his college-age daughter – believing that the man caught, convicted and imprisoned is, in fact, the wrong man. Along the way to solving his daughter’s case, a lot of other crimes will get solved. And we get to see the ways a crowd-sourced app like this can go very right and very wrong. I don’t know how this will fare as a TV show (I like it), but as a fan of true crime, this idea is very intriguing.

Watch: 8:30 p.m. Sundays on CBS

Based on the title, I was expecting this to be about ghost hunters. Nope. Scientist and UFO true believer Adam Scott and former LAPD missing persons expert Craig Robinson help a top secret federal paranormal investigation unit try to find one of their missing agents. Even though ghosts are not involved, it has a “Ghostbusters” vibe – think “Ghostbusters” meets “X-Files” in comedy form. In my opinion, given the cast, this should be funnier. And given the cast, it has to improve after the somewhat flat pilot. Not blown away, but also not giving up on this one.

Watch: 8:30 p.m. Sundays on Fox

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Craig Robinson, left, and Adam Scott in “Ghosted” on Fox. Kevin Estrada/Fox

Kyra Sedgwick plays the head writer of a TV crime drama whose daughter is abducted from her home in the middle of the night. Fans of Sedgwick’s Brenda Johnson character in “The Closer” may take a little time to adjust to this, as Sedgwick plays a deeply flawed divorced mother who is not always a sympathetic character. It’s a terrific performance, though, and even several episodes in, the mystery of who took the child and why is still unknown. The whole cast is pretty solid, especially Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as the police detective running the case.

Watch: 10 p.m. Sundays on ABC

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“Ten Days in the Valley” stars Kyra Sedgwick (center) as Jane Sadler, an overworked television producer and single mother in the middle of a separation whose life is turned upside down when her young daughter goes missing in the middle of the night. Eric McCandless ABC

October 2

A very broad and very old-fashioned sitcom – complete with robust laugh track – about a divorced actor (Mark Feuerstein) who moves into an apartment in New York City between his overbearing parents (Elliott Gould, Linda Lavin) and his surgeon brother (David Walton). Actually, I say “old-fashioned” but there really are too many jokes about genitals for that to be accurate. I have a soft spot for David Walton that is sorely tested by this one.

Watch: 8:30 p.m. Monday on CBS

As with ABC’s “Marvel’s Inhumans,” this Marvel story – about teenagers who are mutants with special powers – was nearly unwatchable for me. But please just chalk that up to my lack of interest in most things Marvel. My best advice is if you like Marvel shows, check it out.

Watch: 9 p.m. Mondays on Fox

October 3

Brandon Michael Hall is a struggling young rapper who runs for mayor of his California hometown – just to get a little publicity – and ends up winning. The pilot is a little flat, but Yvette Nicole Brown is great as his mother and it definitely has potential. We’ll need to see more before making a final call on this one.

Watch: 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays on ABC

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In ABC’s “The Mayor,” Brandon Michael Hall plays Courtney Rose, a young rapper who runs for mayor of his hometown to generate buzz for his music career and then wins. Tony Rivetti ABC

Jason Ritter is Kevin and he’s going through a rough patch. He goes back to his hometown to stay with his sister (JoAnna Garcia Swisher) and sullen teenage niece, Reese (Chloe East). When his sister, a weapons analyst, is called away for work in the middle of the night, Kevin and Reese see a meteor crash and go to check it out. They find the meteor, Kevin touches it and is blown up into the air. That’s when the crazy stuff starts to happen. Like when Yvette (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), a messenger from God – who only he can see – appears and tells him he has been “chosen,” that he has a higher purpose and is meant for something greater. Is Yvette real or is Kevin having a breakdown? It’s all about faith. It’s weird and funny and touching, and Ritter is extraordinarily pleasing to watch. All in.

Watch: 10 p.m. Tuesday on ABC

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Jason Ritter plays Kevin Finn in the ABC drama “Kevin (Probably) Saves the World.” Ryan Green ABC

October 9

In this soapy, conspiracy-driven military drama, a group of elite Army helicopter pilots lie about what really happened during a mission that left a crew member behind – a mission for which they subsequently received medals. It didn’t move me. It stars Matt Barr, Christina Ochoa, Charlie Barnett, W. Trè Davis, Corbin Reid, Nigel Thatch and Melissa Roxburgh.

Watch: 9 p.m. Mondays on The CW

October 11

The reboot of this ’80s prime time soap is updated, multicultural and even a tiny bit feminist. It opens with a couple of finance bros mistaking Fallon Carrington (Elizabeth Gillies) for a stewardess. She’s actually the head of acquisitions at Carrington Atlantic (the company is based in Atlanta instead of Denver this time) and pushing hard to be the new COO – and she’s having a fling with the family chauffeur, who is black. And Jeff Colby, the finance whiz who comes in to shake up the company (and later marry Fallon, at least in the original) – also black. Then there’s Blake Carrington’s (Grant Show) fiance Cristal (Nathalie Kelley), who instead of being a passive society maven is an executive at Carrington who is trying to convince the boss that the company is out of touch. Oh, and she’s Latina. Steven is still gay, but this time he’s not a dark family secret. Is there a cat fight, you ask? Of course. But not in a fountain (at least not yet). And for an extra bit of nostalgia, we even get to hear the old theme song in a Carrington Atlantic ad pitched to Blake, who criticizes the music as “too ’80s.” I can’t help myself – I really liked the pilot.

Watch: 9 p.m. Wednesday on The CW

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(L-R): Nathalie Kelley as Cristal Flores, Grant Show as Blake Carrington and Nick Wechsler as Matthew in “Dynasty” on The CW. Jace Downs Jace Downs/The CW

November 2

In this reboot (there’s a 1975 TV show and a 2003 movie), Shemar Moore plays Hondo Harrelson, a S.W.A.T. sergeant put in charge of his unit after a bad officer-involved shooting. A native of the Los Angeles streets he is charged with protecting, Hondo uses community policing methods to gain trust in an angry neighborhood on the verge of a race war. It’s very shoot-em-up with crazy car chases, fight scenes and stunts (Justin Lin, director of four “Fast and Furious” movies, is an executive producer and directed the pilot), and it’s better than I expected. Jay Harrington and Kenny Johnson (Lemonhead!) also star.

Watch: 10 p.m. Thursdays on CBS

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Shemar Moore plays a locally born and raised S.W.A.T. sergeant who runs a specialized tactical unit in Los Angeles in the new CBS drama “S.W.A.T.” Michael Yarish CBS

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