The Player (Thursday, Sept. 24, NBC), series debut: Philip Winchester (Strike Back) plays Alex Cane, an ex-FBI operative now working as a Las Vegas security consultant who’s approached by the mysterious “Mr. Johnson” (Wesley Snipes—yes, that Wesley Snipes) to play a game: Try to stop these high-stakes crimes while a secret society of the super-rich bets on the outcome, aided by a high-tech “crime prediction” computer. So, it’s Person of Interest with a pit boss. Snipes and Winchester are solid, and the action is flashy (The Player comes from the same producers as The Blacklist), but there’s also a tired “Who killed my wife?!” subplot—and the fact that NBC hasn’t launched a viable Thursday-at-9 player since ER ended. I could say roll the dice on this one … but I won’t.
Heroes Reborn (Thursday, Sept. 24, NBC), series debut: Noah (Jack Coleman) is back, and Hiro (Masi Oka) and Matt (Greg Grunberg) drop in, but, as the title suggests, this is a whole new Heroes. See, kids, back in a time when Marvel movies and DC television series weren’t dropping every other week, there was a show called Heroes, about seemingly ordinary people who suddenly discovered they had superpowers—we’re talking ancient history, like 2006. After an excellent first season, the series went cross-eyed, eventually ending unceremoniously with Season 4 in 2010; showrunner Tim Kring promises Heroes Reborn will be the back-on-track reset he originally promised in 2007 … and 2008 … and 2009. You may find yourself rooting harder for Zachary Levi (Chuck) as a vigilante Hero hunter.
Quantico (Sunday, Sept. 27, ABC), series debut: Remember when Homeland didn’t suck, and the term “Sexy Terrorism Drama” actually meant something? Quantico, from Gossip Girl and Smash producer Joshua Safran, aims to bring back the STD … yes, I just noticed it, too. Anyway: A group of pretty FBI recruits (including Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra, who may be the most super-humanly gorgeous being on the planet) learns that one among them may have masterminded a major outside attack on U.S. soil; flashbacks to first day of training and worried realizations of “Well, I’ve had sex with everyone here—but did I bang a terrorist?” ensue. Quantico has an intriguing, twisty story and a solid—and did I mention hot?—cast; now TD just needs to catch up to the S.
Blood and Oil (Sunday, Sept. 27, ABC), series debut: It was originally titled just Oil, but apparently some branding genius thought tacking on Blood and would help—it doesn’t, but nice try. Either the first or second showrunner (No. 1 was escorted away in secrecy) has insisted that Blood and Oil isn’t just Dallas relocated to North Dakota, and that Important Drama lies under all the soapy trappings of starry-eyed young couple Billy and Cody (Chace Crawford and Rebecca Rittenhouse) going to work for the burgeoning new-oil empire of Hap Briggs (Don Johnson), much to the chagrin of Hap’s evil-ish son Wick (Scott Michael Foster). But, really: Billy? Cody? Hap? Wick? Blood and Oil is as ridiculous as a sequel to Will Ferrell’s The Spoils of Babylon and The Spoils Before Dying—call it the Spoils of Oil, and edit out everyone who isn’t Johnson or Crawford.
Grandfathered (Tuesday, Sept. 29, Fox), series debut: John Stamos stars as a single, successful 50-something restaurant owner and all-around playah who suddenly learns he’s a father and a grandfather—cue the age-denial vanity jokes and tired Man vs. Diaper gags. Grandfathered is not only a waste of Stamos (he was a charming, capable actor once … right?), but also of newcomer Josh Peck (The Mindy Project) and veteran Paget Brewster (Community, Criminal Minds). And the show that follows only makes it look that much worse …
The Grinder (Tuesday, Sept. 29, Fox): Fox wound up with one of the worst new sitcoms of the season (that would be Grandfathered), and one of the best, in The Grinder—both just happen to be headlined by handsome older dudes. The Grinder was a charismatic TV lawyer character played by actor Dean (Rob Lowe, taking that loony Parks and Recreation energy to a new level)—so, naturally, after his show is canceled, he returns to his small hometown to work in the real law firm run by his brother, Stewart (Fred Savage). The townsfolk love it; Stewart, not so much. Lowe and Savage are a perfect comic wacky/straight-man team—maybe enough of one to overcome their Grandfathered lead-in.
Code Black (Wednesday, Sept. 30, CBS), series debut: CBS has had as much luck launching new medical dramas as it’s had with non-laugh-tracked sitcoms—which is none, as it’s been 15 years since Chicago Hope ended. “Code Black” refers to an overloaded ER situation in which there are far more patients than good-looking doctors and nurses, hence, shouty “Stat!” drama and plenty of gurneys racing down hallways. Problem is, this Marcia Gay Harden-led slog is so dire and serious that it reminds you why “sexy” doc shows (Grey’s Anatomy, The Night Shift, Childrens Hospital) have sewn up the genre.
Con Man (Wednesday, Sept. 30, Vimeo), series debut: While his former co-star (Nathan Fillion) of the 10-years-canceled space-adventure series Spectrum has gone on to become a huge star, Wray Nerely (Alan Tudyk) can only get work at sci-fi conventions, which are slowly (but hilariously) crushing his soul. If the Firefly/Serenity meta-signal flares have already eluded you, there’s probably no point in mentioning geektastic Con Man cameos like Gina Torres, Summer Glau, Sean Maher and Jewel Staite, as well as Tricia Helfer, James Gunn, Felicia Day, Seth Green, Sean Astin and Joss Whedon himself. The rest of you: Consider your heads exploded.