The new shows are coming, the new shows are coming! This year, networks made several pilots available online (some have been pulled) before their premieres, which is great since I’m usually too impatient to wait for all the new series to debut. Following are a few quick thoughts of three I’ve watched.
Last Resort (ABC, Thursdays, 8 p.m., premieres Sept. 27)
This new series from Shawn Ryan (who also created The Shield) is easily the best of the five pilots I’ve seen. The crew of a submarine called the U.S.S. Colorado receives a suspicious order to fire nuclear missiles at Pakistan, and when Captain Chaplin (Andre Braugher) questions its validity, he’s removed from his position and First Officer Sam Kendal (Scott Speedman) assumes control of the sub. There are also some Navy SEALs on board, and an admiral’s daughter (named Shepard; ABC regulations must dictate a Shephard/Shepherd/Shepard on every show), and Robert Patrick, whom I’m always glad to see. I don’t want to reveal too much plot because there are several twists, but the pilot plays like a high-budget, high-tension one-hour feature, and was helmed by Martin Campbell, who directed Casino Royale.
Nerd verdict: Nerve-wracking Resort
See it now: Download it for free from iTunes
The Mindy Project (FOX, Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m., premieres Sept. 25)
I really wanted to like this, but the pilot didn’t provide as many laughs as it could have. Mindy Kaling plays OB-GYN Mindy Lahiri, who believes in romantic-comedy happy endings, which is partly responsible for her making bad decisions in her love life. The character is likable, but it seems as if Kaling has taken some of the edge out of her comedy now that she’s a sitcom lead instead of a kooky supporting character. Lahiri is far from being cookie-cutter, and Kaling does slip in some un-PC jokes, but the character isn’t crazy-funny like Kelly was on the The Office. Chris Messina, as a colleague whose constant hostility toward Mindy might actually be attraction, is interesting to me for the first time; I’ve always found him completely forgettable in movies like Julie & Julia and Vicky Christina Barcelona. Also engaging is Zoe Jarman as Betsy, Mindy’s assistant. She’s just weird enough for me to want to see more of her.
Nerd verdict: This Project needs work
Ben & Kate (FOX, Tuesdays, 8:30 p.m., premieres Sept. 25)
There’s nothing really wrong with this sitcom; it just wasn’t special enough to make me want to immediately give it a season pass on my DVR. Nat Faxon plays Ben, a dreamer who moves in with his sister Kate (Dakota Johnson) and her five-year-old kid (Maggie Jones) because he can’t seem to hold down a job. Kate works at a bar and wants to get back into the dating game. In the pilot, Ben enlists Kate and his friends to help him stop the wedding of an ex-girlfriend. As with The Mindy Project, the most interesting characters seem to be the supporting ones. Echo Kellum induces chuckles as Ben’s pal Tommy, who is hopelessly in love with Kate. And anytime Lucy Punch shows up, you know things are going to get nutty, as they do here whenever she’s on screen as Kate’s randy coworker, BJ (yes, really).
Nerd verdict: Might be funnier as Tommy & BJ
Which new series or series return are you most looking forward to?