The next two weeks are some of the busiest on the TV calendar, with nearly two dozen new series debuting across broadcast, cable, and streaming networks.
Some of these releases are among the most high-profile shows their networks have on offer, including NBC’s big bet at finding the next ER. And some of them are quirky little half-hour dramas imported from Australia. But we’ve watched all of them — and everything else that’s around — and we’re highlighting the ones we think are the most interesting.
Few of these shows are great, and we often have limited information on whether they’ll get better. (It’s rare-to-impossible for broadcast networks, especially, to send out many episodes to critics beyond the first couple.) But there’s something inside all of these shows worth checking out, especially if you’re a particular fan of their genres.
Read on for thoughts on CBS’s FBI, NBC’s New Amsterdam, FX’s Mr. Inbetween, and ABC’s A Million Little Things. We’ll be back later in the week with thoughts on shows debuting between Thursday and Sunday.
(A note: We’ve only given ratings to shows where we feel we’ve seen enough episodes to judge how successful they will be long-term, which for right now is just Mr. Inbetween.)
CBS’s FBI is a great reminder that Dick Wolf knows what he’s doing — if you like that sort of thing
TV super-producer Dick Wolf has launched two franchises that completely took over NBC. The first was Law & Order, which launched five spinoffs (as well as a recently announced sixth, Law & Order: Hate Crimes). One spinoff, Law & Order: SVU, has now run almost as long as the original — 434 episodes to the original’s 456 (it should catch up in May of 2019).
And then there’s the Chicago franchise, spun off of Chicago Fire; it now encompasses four shows, three of which are still running.
The point is: Dick Wolf knows how to make an iron-clad procedural, even if his premise is as vague as, “Here are some FBI agents.” And now that Wolf has joined forces with CBS — a network that never met a crime-solving drama it couldn’t turn into a big hit — to make a show about those very FBI agents, it’s not hard to imagine the two could make beautiful, bloody corpses together. (This is the first series Wolf has produced for a network other than NBC since a 2003 reboot of Dragnet for ABC.)
Whether you enjoy FBI will depend heavily on how happy you are to consume stories as un-skeptical of law enforcement as this one, or on how much seeing Wolf’s signature font in the closing credits will fill you with happy memories of long, wintry Saturdays watching episode after episode of vintage Law & Order.
But as always, the show is brilliantly cast (putting Missy Peregrym at the FBI’s center suggests Wolf has found his new Mariska Hargitay), perfectly paced, and solidly constructed. Is it great TV? Nah. But it’s highly competent TV, and that counts for something in this day and age. —Todd VanDerWerff
FBI debuts Tuesday, September 25, at 9 pm Eastern on CBS.
New Amsterdam is a thoroughly conventional hospital drama. But maybe that’s your thing?
I kept watching New Amsterdam, NBC’s new medical drama set in a public hospital that doesn’t turn away patients, thinking I had seen much of it before. On the one hand, I had — it’s hard to break new ground in the medical drama genre in the post-The Good Doctor, post-Grey’s Anatomy, post-ER, post-St. Elsewhere, post-Marcus Welby, M.D. universe. But even more specifically, the series feels like it’s riffing on Fox’s medical drama The Resident, now in its second season, which is too minor of a show to rip off.
But where The Resident and its doctors who care so much that they won’t stop trying to save lives!! are aggro in an irritating way, New Amsterdam takes some of that show’s ideas and pulls back on them just enough to become a fitting series to air right after NBC’s mega-hit This Is Us.
New Amsterdam, like This Is Us, is more interested in making you cry than anything else, and both series are busy, bustling shows with lots of characters who are wildly varied in terms of how compelling they are. Nobody is trying to reinvent the wheel, but maybe the wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented.
If there’s going to be something different about New Amsterdam, it will be thanks to the show’s central two characters, Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold) and Dr. Hana Sharpe (Freema Agyeman). Goodwin is a no-nonsense reformer who takes over New Amsterdam Hospital and immediately starts ruffling feathers and making big changes — but he’s also got a big secret, one he’s only comfortable really sharing with Sharpe.
Again, nothing new here, and Eggold isn’t close to the level of Agyeman’s performance. But the details ring true, and the second episode improves on the first, which is always a good sign. —TV
New Amsterdam debuts Tuesday, September 25, at 10 pm Eastern on NBC. It’s weird that this show exists when there was a Fox drama about an immortal police officer of exactly the same name just 10 years ago, but you probably forgot that one existed, huh? It starred Jaime Lannister!
Mr. Inbetween boasts a cutting sense of humor, and a lead performance to die for
As strange as it might sound, the market for hitman TV shows in 2018 is a crowded one. The latest on the scene is FX’s Mr. Inbetween, created by, written by, and starring Scott Ryan. It draws on a lot of what we’ve seen already this year in Barry, as Ray Shoesmith (Ryan) tries to balance the ins and outs of his job with his domestic life, though Mr. Inbetween is tonally a little closer to Killing Eve on its default level of darkness.
That’s not to say that Mr. Inbetween is lacking for laughs — if anything, the deadpan humor on which Ray operates is the main reason to tune in. Ryan’s performance is transfixing, as he’s hilarious and horrifying by turns. Bald, slightly gaunt, and sporting a grin that wouldn’t look amiss on the Joker, Ryan infuses Ray with a volatility that vaults him up to one of the more impressive turns of the year. He’s opaque in a way that his TV contemporaries aren’t, which makes it all the more frightening when he finally lashes out.
The story that’s built around him, however, isn’t quite as solid. The brevity of the season — it’s just six episodes long (all of which were sent out for review), with each episode clocking in at around 25 minutes — means that it moves at a neat clip.
This is to the show’s advantage as far as recommendations are concerned, but it also doesn’t leave a lot of time to accomplish all that much. Ryan is great, but Mr. Inbetween never manages to land on one side of the fence or the other as far as whether Ray is actually the force of justice that he seems to think himself to be.
The show also never reckons with the fact that there needs to be a little more meat on the bones of a story about a white man getting away with everything for it to really stick in a contemporary cultural landscape. But given how trim it is, Mr. Inbetween is charming enough, and Ryan’s performance shouldn’t be missed. —Karen Han
Mr. Inbetween debuts with two back-to-back episodes Tuesday, September 25, at 11:30 pm Eastern on FX, in between airings of Mayans M.C.
A Million Little Things has some nice elements that become suffocated by a pointless, all-consuming mystery
A Million Little Things, ABC’s new drama about a group of friends dealing with a tragedy, is one of the first big network dramas to really feel like an attempt to copy what made This Is Us such a big hit.
And in brief, fitful moments throughout the first three episodes, it really does get at some interesting things about adult friendships, male bonding rituals, and the burden of mental illness. But it’s also a cautionary tale about what happens when network notes won’t just let a premise be.
In the opening moments of the show’s pilot, Jon (Ron Livingston) kills himself, interrupting the lives of his three best friends and their assorted loved ones and other compatriots. (Livingston will continue to appear throughout at least season one, in flashbacks and the like.)
The death affects each character differently, and the show’s most successful moments deal with how depression can affect a life, especially when Jon’s friend Rome (Romany Malco) sees in his friend’s suicide a reflection of his own suicidal ideation and finally decides to pursue therapy. It’s the sort of subject matter broadcast network dramas don’t always tackle, and rarely with the sort of emotional depth Things displays from time to time.
Unfortunately, the rest of the time, A Million Little Things is burdening itself with an over-busy mystery story about why Jon might have killed himself and the plan he set in motion to help take care of his friends after his death, which sometimes makes him feel like an all-seeing god and at other times makes him feel like a mildly cheeky ghost.
A Million Little Things shows that it understands how depression can hurt even people who seem to have it all together. So why does it need to have a big mystery about what John might have been up to, except for network fears that nobody would care about a group of friends learning to deal without one of them being there? (Yes, it’s similar to This Is Us, but that show kept the central death a mystery from the audience, not the characters, to deliberately mimic emotional repression. A Million Little Things has no similar creative justification.) It stands in the way of a show that would otherwise hold promise. —TV
A Million Little Things debuts Wednesday at 10 pm Eastern on ABC. No, it’s not based on the famous James Frey “memoir.” That’s A Million Little Pieces.
- CBS’s Magnum P.I. (Monday, 9 pm) is a terminally boring reboot of the Hawaii-set detective drama. No show that begins with a man skydiving from space should be this uninvolving!
- NBC’s Manifest (Monday, 10 pm) wastes a good premise — a plane experiences turbulence that seemingly transports it forward in time five years — in favor of weak-sauce family drama and mystical hooey.
- ABC’s Single Parents (Wednesday, 9:30 pm) has a great cast (including Leighton Meester and Brad Garrett) and great creators (New Girl’s Elizabeth Meriweather and J.J. Philbin) but a pilot that tries to do way too much with a thin premise (a bunch of single parents hang out). Maybe it’ll get better?