Notorious (Thursday, Sept. 22, ABC), series debut: A really, really, really ridiculously good-looking lawyer (Daniel Sunjata) and really, really, really ridiculously good-looking news producer (Piper Perabo) delve into “the unique, sexy and dangerous interplay of criminal law and the media” in a beyond-stoopid mash-up of The Newsroom and Law and Order with a vanilla title. (Considering its other useless new legal drama, Conviction, it’s like ABC isn’t even trying.) Notorious is based on a real-life behind-the-scenes media/law relationship that existed on ye olde Larry King Live, upping the “Who Gives a Shit?” quotient by 10. Don’t worry; Scandal will be back before anyone notices.
Pitch (Thursday, Sept. 22, Fox), series debut: Female pitcher Ginny Baker (Kylie Bunbury) is called up to play Major League Baseball for the San Diego Padres because shut up you sexist troll; it could totally happen, and why do you hate stories about strong women making their way in a man’s world? Pure intentions and Bunbury’s impressive performance aside, Pitch isn’t the statement-making pinnacle of the fall season that Fox wants it to be, and definitely not the 10-season journey that co-creator Dan Fogelman envisions: It’s an overanxious, overacted mess that will probably annoy feminists and baseball fans alike—common ground for disparate camps! Mission accomplished?
MacGyver (Friday, Sept. 23, CBS), series debut: Despite a few done-to-death spy-ops clichés (bickering about old missions gone wrong, hiring quirky-hot criminal hackers, playing dress-up at the gala, etc.), the CBS reboot of 1985-1992 series MacGyver delivers a surprisingly fast and fun pilot episode—one down, 12 to go. It’s also inconsequential covert fluff that makes 2010’s MacGruber takeoff look like The Bourne Identity, but, c’mon, it’s Friday night. Lucas Till may look too young to be this accomplished at, well, MacGyvering, but he’s charming as hell, and co-star George Eads provides unexpected comic relief after all those years of CSI grimacing. Speaking of CSI: Is it necessary to apply slick graphics and labels to every object MacGyver 2.0 manipulates? We can recognize a paper clip without a freeze frame.
The Exorcist (Friday, Sept. 23, Fox), series debut: Remember A&E’s quickly failed Damien series? Neither does Fox. The Exorcist, of course, is based on the iconic 1973 horror film that managed to wrap up a hellacious case of demonic possession in about two hours; Fox has 13 hours to fill. When young, skeptical Father Tomas (Alfonso Herrera) and haggard, consumed Father Keane (Ben Daniels) convene/collide in Chicago to investigate an evil household presence (keep your mother-in-law jokes to yourself), the result is spooky, atmospheric and … not much else. The result is kind of a letdown, considering that this is THE EXORCIST and all. Cue up Cinemax’s satanically superior Outcast instead.
Van Helsing (Friday, Sept. 23, Syfy), series debut: You may have caught the first episode of Van Helsing when Syfy snuck in a surprise preview of the new action-drama after Sharknado 4 in July—or not, because, Sharknado. This vampire hunter is a woman (Vanessa Van Helsing, played by Kelly Overton), but that’s not the only twist: Vamps in this universe age; they can be turned back to human by being bitten by Helsing (!); and VH’s showrunner is divisive film director Neil LaBute. It all works; Van Helsing is Syfy’s best-yet entry in its comeback line of sci-fi dramas led by ass-kicking females, improving on recent winners like Wynonna Earp, Killjoys, Dark Matter and The Magicians. Now let’s take a moment to forget that Hugh Jackman movie …
Channel Zero, Aftermath (Tuesday, Sept. 27, Syfy), series debut: If the current season of American Horror Story isn’t creepy enough for you, here’s Channel Zero, a new anthology series based on tales of creepypasta (Internet urban legends); first up is “Candle Cove,” wherein a man digs up increasingly disturbing memories of a kiddie TV show from his childhood. How bad could it be? How about a flesh-eating skeleton puppet and a child made entirely of teeth? Channel Zero’s implied terror and imagery is more effective than its dramatic execution, and the same goes for its Tuesday-night companion, Aftermath, which is yet another supernatural-apocalypse series—but this time, it’s about family! Mom is Anne Heche, so just bring on The End already.