A Taste of the Fall 2011 Televison Season

The first wave of new fall programming shows promise.

By , Columnist
Now that the May upfronts are a memory and the long days of summer are upon us, it's time for the networks to send television critics those much anticipated fall preview screeners. What fun! It's almost like having Christmas in June. The actual review copies, with their finalized music and CGI, are sent out closer to premiere time. I will have a more detailed look at the new shows then. For now, here's a small taste of what you can expect from the 2011 fall season.

Will there be any familiar faces? The answer is a resounding "yes"; some nice surprises are in store and here are a few examples. A trio of television veterans, Maya Rudolph (SNL), Will Arnett (Running Wilde), and Christina Applegate (Married...With Children), will be returning to TV in the NBC sitcom Up All Night. Entourage' s Kevin Dillon has one of the lead roles in the CBS comedy How To Be a Gentleman, and Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) stars in the CBS sitcom Bent. Shows like these have an edge at the start - their star power will help garner interest and, perhaps, bring in some respectable ratings. The trick is to keep the audience coming back by providing them with quality entertainment each week. Therein lies the challenge for the creative team.

More good news - J.J. Abrams, former executive producer of Lost, has had both his pilots picked up. One will premiere in the fall while the other is slated for a mid-season debut. The fall entry, Person of Interest for CBS, is a crime drama starring Lost alumnus Michael Emerson and James Caviezel (The Prisoner). It concerns an ex-CIA agent (Caviezel), presumed dead, who is enlisted by mysterious billionaire Emerson to help fight crime in New York City. Emerson's presence will be enough to attract an audience, at first. The question is, will this complex show manage to keep its viewers captivated?

Alcatraz is Abrams' mid-season entry, and the mystery at the heart of this show makes it more compelling than Person of Interest. It will air on FOX and star Sam Neill (Jurassic Park), Lost alumnus Jorge Garcia, and Sarah Jones (Sons of Anarchy). The spooky factor here is off the map - a group of Alcatraz prisoners who mysteriously disappeared over 30 years ago are now returning to wreak havoc, without having aged a day.

I also like ABC's Once Upon a Time, a show that asks the question, "What if those fairy tales you read as a kid were true?" It stars Jennifer Morrison (House) as Emma Swan, a bounty hunter who holds the key to saving both the parallel fairy tale universe and the real world from evil. As well as having an intriguing and imaginative premise, its creatures, castles, and colorful costumes make it a visual treat.

My favorite entry into this fall season fray, so far, is the CBS drama A Gifted Man. It stars Patrick Wilson as a preeminent neurosurgeon haunted by the ghost of his dead wife. Yes, I know what you're thinking, but the episode I watched was good and Wilson is fabulous in this role. I'm hoping A Gifted Man lives up to the promise of its pilot and and becomes a hit with both critics and audiences alike.

Even more good news - the network pilots this season actually seem a cut above the norm. My hope is that this freshman crew is given ample time to build an audience and, perhaps, become shows that last for a multitude of seasons.

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Mindy Peterman is a freelance writer whose focus is on television, movies and pop culture. She has written over one hundred articles for the award winning Blogcritics.org website and has conducted interviews with producer Peter Asher, psychic-medium John Edward, Greg Grunberg and Bob Guiney from Band…

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