It’s that time of the year again! The long-awaited 2014 fall television preview article – continuing the series of previews I’ve posted for the past few years (and several years before that via email). I’m returning to a single-post format seeing as how badly I whiffed on last year’s series (2013 Part 1 | 2013 Part 2) and how much better I did with the single 2012 post. There actually isn’t that much to look forward to this year. Without further ado… here are my top 10 fall television shows:

10. A to Z (NBC, October 2)

a-to-z
A to Z stars Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti, who have both worked on television series that recently concluded (although Feldman more so than Milioti). Cristin was most recently on How I Met Your Mother and Feldman worked on Mad Men amongst others. The premise of this series is the hijinks that ensue in the relationship between two very different people that meet each other by accident. Yes, this is a rather generic plot and at best it becomes How I Met Your Mother 2.0, while at worst it gets cancelled after 4 episodes. It really could go either way – but as I typically do, I’ll hope for the best for it. We need more comedies that become stalwarts and stick around a while, there’s only a few shows that endure (Friends, Seinfeld, The Big Bang Theory, and others).

9. How to Get Away With Murder (ABC, September 25)

howtogetawaywithmurder

Designed as a vehicle for Viola Davis – and in her case, who cares if it’s a vehicle? We need more Viola Davis! As Davis stated – she took this job because it was an opportunity for her to be a lead, rather than a supporting actor. It’s generally an interesting departure from the Kevin Bacon vehicle, The Following. While The Following has cult involvement, this is more in the vein of The Good Wife and is going to be a limited-engagement series. I don’t discriminate – sometimes, mini-series or “season-based” television shows can easily be the best of them all (just look at American Horror Story which has topped my ratings for two previews thus far).

8. Gotham (Fox, September 22)

gotham-fox

I’m not a fan of the Marvel universe (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the like). Just way too over the top, and I don’t like the characters. But everybody loves Batman! You know why? Batman’s a normal human being! Yes, he’s insanely rich, but that’s what makes Batman realistic. There’s nothing that isn’t plausible about Batman. And Gotham isn’t about Batman himself, but rather is about the corruption of the city itself. The incredibly realistic back story hasn’t been explored very much either in film or television, so I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing this. Hopefully it doesn’t let us all down, especially with the rich source material it can explore.

7. Scorpion (CBS, September 22)

scorpion_cbs

</scorpion> is a television series that’s finally attempting to capitalize on the world of IT. While there has obviously been characters here and there, and even some television series that had a technological bent – nothing has quite been done on this kind of basis with pure hacking, allegedly including realistic hackers and hacking tools in use. I really can’t see this show garnering wide mainstream appeal, so the best we can hope for is for the show to limp along to the finish line and possibly get renewed for a second season. Even that won’t happen if nobody watches it in the first place, so watch the show!

6. State of Affairs (NBC, November 17)

State_of_Affairs_NBC

The return of Katherine Heigl to television playing a CIA agent tasked with briefing the President (who happens to be the first female black President) on daily security issues the country faces. While most people probably know Heigl best from Grey’s Anatomy, or her tirade after Knocked Up – I actually think her best acting job was in the little-known 100 Girls (2000). As long as she can remain steady in this role and doesn’t jump the shark, I can see this show easily lasting a few seasons – probably 3 to 5. If Heigl doesn’t reconnect with viewers, I don’t see this show lasting since it’s a vehicle for Heigl.

5. Person of Interest (CBS, September 23)

personofinterests3finale

Ah Person of Interest, how do you continue to get better year after year? The storylines, of course. And the overlaying story arc which left us with a dramatic cliffhanger at the end of the third season, which probably feeds the entire upcoming season. It’s that big of a cliffhanger and juicy enough to fill an entire television season with. If you’re at all interested in snappy television shows that feel fresh with a technological & thriller bent (like a Crichton novel), jump in this season!

4. Awkward. (MTV, September 23)

awkward

Okay, I cheated a bit. Awkward. is actually mid-season and took a summer break in the middle of its season. The second half returns on September 23 and given how fantastic this season has been, I can’t wait to see where it goes. This is also possibly the series finale, since it’s the fourth year, the end of high school – which typically only runs 4 years. There have been other high school shows that lasted longer than the 4 years it takes to finish up high school in reality, but they either began in middle school (Boy Meets World), or continued on to college before casting new people and falling on its face (Saved With The Bell and Saved With The Bell: The College Years). Given that it’s MTV, I wouldn’t put it past them to continue Awkward. into college, but cast new faces. At least Awkward. has lived up to the quality of the show whose slot it took (The Hard Times of R.J. Berger).

3. Forever (ABC, September 22)

forever-abc

The biggest gamble of the season – it also has the potential to pay off the biggest dividends, ABC’s Forever. The premise is New York City’s star medical examiner studies the dead to try to find out the secret that has eluded him – the answer to his own immortality. At least it gave us a lovely hybrid photograph of New York City from the 1800s to present. Dr. Henry Morgan is 200+ years old already. I’m hoping that this essentially becomes a blend between House and Grimm or even Highlander. Whatever the case may be, being able to churn out case studies for episodes is always a promising strategy to eventually send a television series into syndication (usually requires about 100 episodes).

2. The Good Wife (CBS, September 21)

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While Person of Interest keeps improving, The Good Wife simply reinvents as a better form of itself. There isn’t a better continuous television show airing right now. There just isn’t a better drama right now. The only thing that can potentially be better is something on premium cable or a limited-run engagement. The landscape is bleak, and a bit of color is brought in by The Good Wife. Simply put – one of the best shows there ever has been, and there’s never been a better time to jump into the series than at the start of a brand new season.

1. American Horror Story: Freakshow (FX, October ??)

AHS_FreakShow

The king of the hill, the #1 seed, the dominator, and all other superlatives you could possibly festoon onto American Horror Story. And yet they are all richly deserved. The cast of characters keeps getting better year after year. Jessica Lange originally only wanted to do one season, but due to the structure of the show (and how much all the cast enjoys making these various seasons, they keep coming back). If this is the formula for great television, I can only wish that more show creators could produce television shows like this – brilliant, creative, unique, and still land a star-studded cast with fantastic acting chops. This is season 4 of the chapter-based television series. One was great (Murder House), Two was strange (Asylum) but improved on one, and Three (Coven) was the best of all thus far. Freakshow is a welcome installment to the series, with the circus theme being a welcome portent for rich storytelling.

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