In the new print issue of TIME, we have our summer Arts preview (subscription required), in which I blurb 11 summer TV shows I’m most interested in seeing. This is not to say the “best” shows of the summer, because they’re shows that I have not yet watched (the new series, like The Newsroom), whose new episodes I haven’t seen yet (returning series, like Breaking Bad) or that I cannot watch without a time machine (the Olympics and the conventions).
OK, so much for summer; let’s move on to fall! Network upfronts week is over, and even as the schedule becomes more year-round and cable networks take up a bigger share of our season-pass lists, this week still feels like Christmas. A Christmas, granted, in which most of the gifts will be disappointing and discarded a year from now.
But TV criticism is the falling-in-and-out-of-love business, so let’s hang onto that Xmas-morning feeling a bit longer: before I’ve seen any of the pilots in full, which shows am I most eager to see?
First, the usual caveats. As I said, I’ve seen no more than trailers of any of these shows. I’ll be watching the pilots gradually over the summer, those pilots are subject to change before they air and the series may change in subsequent episodes. So this is not a list of the best shows, just those that most interest me—and any opinions I have are subject to revision, re-revision, re-re-revision, and then possibly reversion. And I once I see the pilots, I may fall in love with a show that didn’t impress me in trailer form.
Also, I’m going to focus on fall shows only here—anything scheduled for midseason I’m treating as hypothetical at this point. All that said, among the first shows I want to see full pilots of, in no particular order, are:
Nashville (ABC). Because Mrs. Coach! Because I have to believe that there is a more interesting drama set in the music business than Smash turned out to be. And maybe because I just visited the Country Music Hall of Fame for the first time—check out the exhibit on the Bakersfield sound if you have a chance—I think the company town of country music could be the place to do it.
Last Resort (ABC). A cast I want to see (Andre Braugher, Scott Speedman, Dichen Lachman of Dollhouse. A creator I’ve wanted to see more from (Shawn Ryan, The Shield). And loose nukes on a renegade submarine! What could go wrong? Well, plenty, I guess–one question is how Ryan will craft an ongoing series out of, essentially, a massive hostage situation. But it has my attention.
Revolution (NBC). Here’s, it’s my general weakness for postapocalyptic drama that draws me in, not a sense that the trailer looked especially well-written. (That latter concern did not stop me from watching Jericho beginning to end.) But Giancarlo Esposito on a horse gets me in the door, at minimum.
Go On (NBC). Radio host spends his days seeking therapy to get over his wife’s death: not something that would make me lay money on the longevity of a comedy. But the trailer made me laugh, and easy as it is to tar Matthew Perry with his short-lived post-Friends shows, the guy can deliver a line, even one that does not include the clause “Can you BE…?”
Vegas (CBS). Looks cinematic, looks well-cast, looks well-enough written and looks like a premise rich with ongoing stories, Also looks like a great serial crime drama… for FX or AMC. CBS will have to deal with broadcast content restrictions—which The Good Wife does well enough, but The Good Wife does not take place among mobsters in Las Vegas. Still, focusing on a hero rather than an antihero (with Michael Chiklis, seemingly, as a more straight-ahead villain) may make this something a big network can pull off.
The Mindy Project (Fox). This is the best trailer I saw all week. That is not a guarantee of success. For one thing, sitcom trailers are notorious for looking better than the finished show. (Yes Dear’s pilot brought down the house back when I saw it. Then I saw Yes Dear.) For another thing, this looks like a very, very good trailer—for a 90-minute romantic comedy in movie theaters. But there’s nothing inherent in the premise that says this couldn’t sustain as a series, and if someone’s going to have to deliver on outsized expectations, it may as well be Mindy Kaling.