The Superhero Saga
In 2001, Smallville sold superhero pop to the spandex-wary masses with ”no tights, no flights” as its mantra. More than a decade later, the world has gone Comic-Con, and television can let its geek flag fly. The Flash is proof: It’s all tights, all flights…of fancy. It’s also great fun — a brightly lit companion to the gritty noir of its CW predecessor Arrow. Grant Gustin charms and commands as Barry Allen, egghead CSI–turned–fastest man alive. He’s a nerd-sweet man-child of steel, and he wears the scarlet unitard like he was born to it. Tom Cavanagh as the morally murky mentor is an alluring enigma, and better, makes the sci-fi nonsense sound sensible enough. Zip past the pilot clunk and run with this one, true believers: The Flash promises to be a gas.
Tuesdays / 8 P.M. / The CW
Casey Wilson, late of Happy Endings, is a ridiculously talented comic actress who knows how to earn laughs and squeeze truth out of that not-always-admirable female archetype, the manic hot mess desperately seeking love. Ken Marino has been one of TV’s great, versatile character actors for years, from Veronica Mars to Childrens Hospital. In a better world, they’d already be big fat TV stars; in this world, we can only hope Marry Me, the latest zany, punchline-a-second comedy from Happy Endings creator (and Wilson’s husband) David Caspe, gets them closer. They’re razor-blade sharp and effortlessly funny, and they generate genuine chemistry as longtime opposites-attract lovers. He’s rational and romantic. She’s a lovable wreck. They banter-gush as if it were their native tongue, and they energize everything familiar and make you fall for it all over again.
Tuesdays / 9 P.M. / NBC
The Teen Melodrama(?)
Is it a teen drama? A hospital drama? Not even a drama at all but a comedy? What is it even about? Stop asking — just watch. The inventive, bighearted pilot for Red Band Society introduces us to a diverse set of characters via an omniscient narrator, a boy in a coma. They’re all either professionals or patients in a spacious ultramod hospital — an instantly realized world and one of the season’s best new sets — and by story’s end, one of them will rally an assortment of maybe-doomed misfits into a carpe diem clique. Can the series sustain the pilot’s inspired storytelling? Can this quirky saga avoid devolving into annoying quirk? Can Octavia Spencer’s tough nurse please-please-please hook up with Griffin Dunne’s wealthy hypochondriac? Stop asking! Just watch.
Wednesdays / 9 P.M. / Fox
The Family Drama
Transparent is about a trans parent: Jeffrey Tambor plays Mort, an L.A. father who hasn’t told his adult children that he’s now living as a woman, Maura. But the title is more than a pretty good pun. Created by Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under), the series is a sharp meditation on transparency: Apparently the kids — a suburban mom (Amy Landecker) with a secret life, a music producer (Jay Duplass) who preys on young starlets, and a late bloomer (Gaby Hoffmann) who has burned through all her money — aren’t honest about who they really are either. Soloway perfectly skewers a particular L.A. brand of Peter Pan syndrome, but she’s also empathetic, delving into how hard life can be when the way you see yourself doesn’t match the way others see you. In her hands, the story of a transgender head of family feels totally relatable. This isn’t just the best fall pilot: It’s groundbreaking television.
Sept. 26 / Amazon
The Murder Mystery
No one serves up ridiculousness quite as brilliantly as Shonda Rhimes, who is an exec producer on this fizzy legal thriller created by Pete Nowalk (Grey’s Anatomy). Like its fellow Shondadramas, Grey’s and Scandal, this one boasts a diverse array of beautiful young folks who probably aced their SATs but can’t stop stumbling into situations where people end up dead. How to Get Away With Murder follows a group of hyperambitious law students (including Alfred Enoch from Harry Potter and Matt McGorry from Orange Is the New Black) as they get mixed up in a homicide that involves their criminal-law professor (Viola Davis). It’s sexy and suspenseful and just the right amount of over-the-top, with plenty of in flagrante walk-ins and quick-hide-the-evidence! tension. But it’s Davis who really sells this as the season’s must-watch soap. She commands attention so fiercely, she’s riveting even when she’s just writing very forcefully on the blackboard.
Thursdays / 10 P.M. / ABC
The High-Concept Serial
You’ll want to watch this pilot twice. The first time, you’ll get the basics: Noah (Dominic West) is a writer with a wife (Maura Tierney) and four kids — and a mistress, Alison (Ruth Wilson), who’s married to a rancher (Joshua Jackson). During the pilot’s first half, when a detective interrogates Noah about his affair, the story seems fairly clichéd. But when the second half shifts to Alison’s perspective, allowing her to revise Noah’s story, The Affair really pulls you in. Were the clichés just Noah’s attempt to cover up the real story? Is Alison any more reliable than Noah? And why are they talking to a detective? Who knows!? As the POV continues to shift between Noah and Alison, The Affair could descend into a mess. But until these mysteries are solved, it’s something that I’m gonna watch the hell out of.
Sundays / 10 P.M. / Showtime