It’s been a long summer, hasn’t it? In between the resurgence of the War on Women, the torments of The Newsroom, and the slog of the political conventions, I’m ready for it to be fall–and for the return of the fall television season.
This autumn is the beginning of a big turnover for NBC on Thursday nights, as The Office and 30 Rock head into their confirmed swan songs, and Coommunity and Parks and Recreation enter what could also be their final seasons. Fox is more stable, but investing in female-centric comedy as it adds Ben & Kate and The Mindy Project to run alongside New Girl. ABC, coming off a fourth-place finish in the ratings, is throwing everything at the wall, but with more joie de vie and less desperation than NBC. And while I never thought I’d say this, one of the more intriguing dramas of the fall is taking its bow on CBS. To help you sort through the new offerings, here’s the complete ThinkProgress guide to fall television.
Show: Go On (NBC)
The Concept: A radio host (Friends vet Matthew Perry), in deep denial after losing his wife unexpectedly, gets ordered to a support group by his boss (John Cho). There, he meets a possibly-underlicensed group leader (Laura Benanti), a widowed lesbian with anger issues (a fantastic Julie White), a taciturn young man whose brother is in a coma (Tyler James Williams), and a middle-aged Latina woman who’s lost her entire family (Tonita Castro).
Watch If: You appreciated Community‘s ability to pull off a relatively low-concept episode. In a lot of ways, Go On feels like the show NBC initially hoped Community would be, about misfits who choose and build an adult family for themselves. You’re interested in seeing more diverse casts on television. Your mileage may vary on Perry’s white-dude cheerleader effort, but Go On may have the most diverse cast of any network pilot ever, and makes that a strength of the show rather than an excuse for lazy racial and ethnic humor. You like Matthew Perry, who could have the opportunity to do some really interesting work here.
Show: The New Normal (NBC)
Concept: A gay couple, Bryan and David (Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha), decide to try to have a baby by surrogate, and end up working with Goldie (Georgia King), a single mother, who decides to act as a surrogate to fund her dream of going back to law school to give her daughter (a sharp Bebe Wood) a better life–and to escape from her narrow-minded mother (a sharp-tongued Ellen Barkin).
Watch If: You miss the days when Glee had actual focus. The New Normal doesn’t improve on some of Glee‘s core problems, including a weird distance from lesbians and Ryan Murphy’s fondness for stereotypical gay men, mean older women, and Nene Leakes. But at this point, it’s got at least a core story that in some places comes across as deeply felt. You want to see more gay families on television. I’m more curious how Go On will pull off Julie White’s character’s family, but hopefully, Murphy can pull off a gay-headed family with a couple that has more sexual chemistry than Modern Family‘s Mitch and Cam.