Here’s a key sign of “getting back to normal”: ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and The CW are locking in their schedules for the 2021–22 television season. The broadcast networks’ primetime lineups include more than two dozen new scripted comedies and dramas. We’re not gonna lie: Some of these “new” shows feel like old news already. (In other words, the franchise spinoffs and continuations don’t impress us much.) But there’s still plenty to get excited about.
Below, we’ve ranked 25 new offerings from least to most promising. Here are the titles and their loglines, and our snap judgment on each one.
FBI: International (CBS)
“FBI: International follows the elite agents of the FBI’s International division as they travel the world with the mission of protecting Americans wherever they may be.”
Our take: CBS isn’t giving us a lot to go on here. Also, we kinda wish Dick Wolf would make more standalone shows and fewer franchise continuations. (Oh, and CBS already gave us a show about globetrotting FBI agents: the short-lived Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.)
NCIS: Hawai’i (CBS)
“Latest spin-off of the franchise which follows the first female Special Agent in Charge of NCIS Pearl Harbor and her team as they balance duty to family and country, investigating high-stakes crimes involving military personnel, national security, and the mysteries of the island itself.”
Our take: “The mysteries of the island”? What is this, Lost? We’re not convinced we need another NCIS show, but at least this one stars Vanessa Lachey, a woman of color, staking a claim in what is traditionally a very white male franchise. Plus, with the Aloha State setting, it should at least be pretty to look at!
CSI: Vegas (CBS)
“CSI: Vegas opens a brand new chapter in Las Vegas, the city where it all began. Facing an existential threat that could bring down the Crime Lab, a brilliant new team of forensic investigators must welcome back old friends and deploy new techniques to preserve and serve justice in Sin City.”
Our take: It will be interesting to see how this new CSI iteration navigates current controversies around policing in the United States. And there’s no other CSI show on TV right now, so we’re not running the risk of franchise oversaturation. William Petersen and Jorja Fox are returning, which is good…but why isn’t Marg Helgenberger? The door is open now that All Rise has ended.
The Cleaning Lady (Fox)
“The Cleaning Lady is a darkly aspirational character drama about a whip-smart doctor who comes to the U.S. for a medical treatment to save her ailing son. But when the system fails and pushes her into hiding, she refuses to be beaten down and marginalized. Instead, she becomes a cleaning lady for the mob and starts playing the game by her own rules…”
Our take: Props to Fox for pioneering the “darkly aspirational” genre…? But, hey, we loved watching Elodie Yung in Daredevil, and at least this show of hers isn’t The Mob Doctor.
“Based on the BBC’s BAFTA-winning crime anthology, where each episode opens in a courtroom on the accused without knowing their crime or how they ended up on trial, the drama is told from the defendant’s point of view. In Accused, viewers discover how an ordinary person got caught up in an extraordinary situation, ultimately revealing how one wrong turn leads to another, until it’s too late to turn back.”
Our take: Credit where credit is due: This isn’t your ordinary courtroom drama, and the success of the British original gives the idea street cred. That said, executive producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa’s previous series 24 and Homeland were both exciting concepts with problematic storylines.
Good Sam (CBS)
“Drama about a talented yet stifled surgeon who embraces her leadership role after her renowned and pompous boss falls into a coma; when he awakens and wants to resume surgery, however, it falls to her to supervise this overbearing blowhard who never acknowledged her talents—and also happens to be her father.”
Our take: Interesting premise, odd title. (And yet another “good” TV show.) Still, we’ll tune in to see Sophia Bush scrub in on what could be a patriarchy-toppling medical show.
“Pivoting follows three women after the death of their childhood best friend. Faced with the reality that life is short, in desperate attempts to find happiness, they make a series of impulsive, ill-advised and self-indulgent decisions, strengthening their bond proving it’s never too late to screw up your life.”
Our take: Sounds like a cringe-humor spin on A Million Little Things, which might not be a bad thing! And props to this show for assembling Eliza Coupe, Maggie Q, and Ginnifer Goodwin.
“Multicamera comedy in which after being laid off from the assembly line at the GM factory, a seemingly ordinary man makes the extraordinary decision to provide for his family by following his dream of becoming a professional bowler.”
Our take: Gotta hand it to The Eye: A sitcom about a down-on-his-luck family man turned professional bowler sounds like a strike, or at least a spare—especially with Chi McBride, Katie Lowes, and Pete Holmes on the call sheet.
Welcome to Flatch (Fox)
“In the half-hour series, a documentary crew goes to a small town to study young adults and their current concerns. Their focus is the daily lives of cousins Kelly and Shrub Mallet and their idiosyncratic surroundings.”
Our take: All Fox needed to see from this pilot was the one day’s worth of footage the cast and crew shot last March before shutting down production, per Deadline. That’s a good sign, as is the fact that the pilot was helmed by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.
“Based on the short film Maggie by Tim Curcio, Maggie follows a young woman trying to cope with life as a psychic. Maggie regularly sees the fate of her friends, parents, clients and random strangers on the street, but when she suddenly sees a glimpse of her own future, Maggie is forced to start living in her own present.”
Our take: We’re getting Eli Stone vibes from this one, and creator Maggie Mull’s Life in Pieces and Family Guy credits give us hope.
“An animated comedy set in mythical ancient Greece…centered on a flawed family of humans, gods, and monsters that tries to run one of the world’s first cities without killing each other.”
Our take: Greek gods in an animated comedy? Sign us up. Creator Dan Harmon has certainly had controversies and PR nightmares, but his comedy credits—on Community and Rick and Morty, for example—are practically mythic.
“Domestic take on the recent British comedy series about a young couple whose dreams come true when they inherit a beautiful country house, only to find it’s both falling apart and inhabited by many of the deceased previous residents.”
Our take: The house is a fixer-upper, but this premise has a solid foundation. Plus, we’re big fans of the two stars of the show: iZombie’s Rose McIver and The Mindy Project’s Utkarsh Ambudkar.
Abbott Elementary (ABC)
“In this workplace comedy, a group of dedicated, passionate teachers—and a slightly tone-deaf principal—are brought together in a Philadelphia public school where, despite the odds stacked against them, they are determined to help their students succeed in life. Though these incredible public servants may be outnumbered and underfunded, they love what they do—even if they don’t love the school district’s less-than-stellar attitude toward educating children.”
Our take: We’re always down for a teacher comedy, especially one with and aspirational worldview, especially one written by and starring A Black Lady Sketch Show actress Quinta Brunson.
4400 (The CW)
“Reboot of the 2004-07 series in which 4400 overlooked, undervalued, or otherwise marginalized people who vanished without a trace over the last hundred years are all returned in an instant, having not aged a day and with no memory of what happened to them. As the government races to analyze the potential threat and contain the story, the 4400 themselves must grapple with the fact that they’ve been returned with a few upgrades, and the increasing likelihood that they were all brought back now for a specific reason.”
Our take: CW Executive 1: “The 100 is ending. What should we do?” CW Executive 2: “Multiply it by 44!” OK, all jokes aside, USA’s The 4400 is an inspired choice for a reboot, and its sci-fi slant and superhuman angle are a good fits for The CW.
Grand Crew (NBC)
“From Phil Augusta Jackson and Dan Goor comes new comedy that proves that life is better with your crew. This group of young professionals are all trying to navigate the ups and downs of life and love in Los Angeles—and they always find time to gather at their favorite bar to “wine down” and unpack it all. There’s Noah, a hopeless romantic too eager to settle down; Nicky, a go-getter in both real estate and romance; Sherm, a low-key genius who plays the dating odds; Anthony, whose true love is his career; and Wyatt, who’s relieved to be married and out of the dating scene. And just like wine, their friendship gets better with time.”
Our take: Goor cocreated Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Jackson was a producer on that show, so we have every reason to believe this comedy will be just as funny and endearing, especially with wine involved. In vino veritas, after all!
“Monarch is a Texas-sized, multigenerational musical drama about America’s first family of country music. The Romans are fiercely talented, but while their name is synonymous with honesty, the very foundation of their success is a lie. When their reign as country royalty is put in jeopardy, Nicky Roman, the heir to the crown, already battling an industry stacked against her, will stop at nothing to protect her family’s legacy.”
Our take: Sounds like Dallas meets Nashville with a catfishy twist, and that’s all we need to know. (OK, some cast information might be nice, but we’re still in.)
Ordinary Joe (NBC)
“Life is all about the choices you make—and sometimes what you do in a single moment can change everything. This new heartfelt, life-affirming drama follows Joe Kimbreau, who faces one of these decisions at his college graduation. The three parallel stories that diverge from that night find Joe and the people around him with different careers, relationships, and family lives, showing the unexpected ways that things change—and stay the same. But when it comes down to it, there is no ‘right’ choice; no matter what happens, Joe’s life is always messy, exciting, tough, unpredictable…and beautiful.”
Our take: We’re all for a Sliding Doors story, and we’ve been a fan of James Wolk ever since he starred in the canceled-too-soon Lone Star. We just wonder how long this show can juggle its parallel timelines.
The Big Leap (Fox)
“The Big Leap is a big-hearted, rowdy dramedy about a group of diverse, down-on-their-luck characters attempting to change their lives by participating in a potentially life-ruining reality dance show that builds to a live production of Swan Lake. What this group of underdogs lack in dance training, they make up for with their edge, wit, and desire to reimagine an iconic story to fit their own mold. The Big Leap is a modern tale about second chances and chasing your dreams and taking back what’s yours. Inspired by a U.K. reality format, The Big Leap is an innovative show-within-a-show that takes viewers on a journey of self-acceptance, body positivity, and empowerment at any age.”
Our take: It’s like Smash but with ballet instead of Broadway and with a meta, show-within-a-show twist! We can’t think of another scripted series adapted from a reality show, and we’d pretty much watch anything with Piper Perabo and Scott Foley.
American Auto (NBC)
“Set in Detroit, the corporate executives of Payne Motors are at a crossroads: Adapt to the changing times or be sent to the junkyard. Shaking things up is the new CEO, whose leadership, experience, and savvy is only slightly offset by her complete lack of knowledge about cars. Luckily, her team has some of the best minds in the business—when they aren’t fighting or trying to outwit each other. From the corporate office to the factory floor, the crew of Payne Motors is driving home the laughs.”
Our take: This comedy comes from Superstore creator and Office writer Justin Spitzer, who certainly knows his way around a workplace comedy! Plus, SNL alum Ana Gasteyer deserves another moment in the spotlight.
“Estranged and out of touch, four women in their 40s reunite for a chance to recapture their fame and regain the swagger they had as the Nasty Bitches—their ‘90s group that made them legends in the hip-hop world.”
Our take: Unlike Girls5Eva, a comedy with a similar presence, this show actually features ‘90s recording artists—in this case, Brandy and Eve—playing ‘90s recording artists. We’re sold, especially with girl group members nicknamed Professor Sex, Butter Pecan, and Xplicit Lyrics.
La Brea (NBC)
“An epic adventure begins when a massive sinkhole opens in the middle of Los Angeles, pulling hundreds of people and buildings into its depths. Those who fell in find themselves in a mysterious and dangerous primeval land, where they have no choice but to band together to survive. Meanwhile, the rest of the world desperately seeks to understand what happened. In the search for answers, one family torn apart by this disaster will have to unlock the secrets of this inexplicable event to find a way back to each other.”
Our take: Please let there be dinosaurs! But seriously, La Brea seems like the kind of ambitious, high-concept adventure drama that we haven’t seen since Fox’s long-since-extinct Terra Nova. In TV landscape dominated by reboots, revivals, and procedurals, NBC is taking a big swing with this show.
The Wonder Years (ABC)
“Inspired by the beloved award-winning series of the same name, The Wonder Years is a coming-of-age story set in the late 1960s that takes a nostalgic look at a black middle-class family in Montgomery, Alabama, through the point of view of imaginative 12-year-old Dean. With the wisdom of his adult years, Dean’s hopeful and humorous recollections show how his family found their ‘wonder years’ in a turbulent time.”
Our take: ABC isn’t just cashing in on recognizable IP with a straight reboot: It’s giving a new point-of-view to a familiar format. The cast boasts Dulé Hill and Don Cheadle, and Wonder Years star Fred Savage is on board as director, so it’s no wonder we’re in.
The Thing About Pam (NBC)
“Two-time Academy Award winner Renée Zellweger stars in a riveting true-crime drama inspired by one of the most popular, compelling sagas ever told on Dateline NBC. What appeared to be a straightforward murder case would eventually set off a chain of events exposing both a wrongful conviction and a diabolical scheme involving a woman named Pam Hupp.”
Our take: We couldn’t be more excited for Zellweger to star on network television, and as we previously covered, the “thing about Pam” really is a stranger-than-fiction tale grislier than your typical true-crime saga.
Our Kind of People (Fox)
“Inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham’s provocative, critically acclaimed book, Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class, the series takes place in the aspirational world of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard, a historical stronghold where the rich and powerful black elite have come to play for over 50 years. Our Kind of People follows strong-willed, single mom Angela Vaughn as she sets out to reclaim her family’s name and make an impact with her revolutionary haircare line that highlights the innate, natural beauty of black women. But she soon discovers a dark secret about her mother’s past that will turn her world upside-down and shake up this community forever.”
Our take: We’re so glad that Star collaborators Karin Gist (mixed-ish) and Lee Daniels (Empire, The United States vs. Billie Holiday) are back in business together on what sounds like a must-watch family drama that’s soapy in all the right ways. Plus, Chicago Med‘s Yaya DaCosta leads a strong cast.
Women of the Movement (ABC)
“The series will be comprised of six episodes focusing on Mamie Till Mobley, who devoted her life to seeking justice for her son Emmett Till following his brutal murder in the Jim Crow South, and is inspired by the book Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement by Devery S. Anderson”
Our take: We wish the Emmett Till story weren’t so relevant now, 65 years later, but alas, some people still think “black lives matter” is a controversial phrase. With this series, ABC is shining a light on one of our country’s most shameful injustices in what promises to be searing and vital television.