FOX/GLOBAL/NOV. 4/7 p.m.
Starring: Karl Urban, Michael Ealy and Minka Kelly
Premise: A near-future cop thriller in which police officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids -- except for central character John Kennex (Urban), who's paired with an older, discontinued model (Ealy) with a few personality flaws.
Lowdown: This stylish drama arrives amid high expectations, since J.J. Abrams (Lost, Fringe) is among its executive producers. Urban's character, Kennex, has awakened from a 17-month coma after surviving an attack on the police department that killed his partner; among the after-effects he carries is a deep-rooted hatred of androids, so his pairing with an advanced robot partner is sure to cause tension.
Quotable: "For me, personally, the better sci-fi is about humanity, and points out why we're so flawed, but also so exceptional. And that is sort of a nod to, 'Hey, maybe the old way of doing things is better.' For instance, things like ethics, like integrity, like trust in your fellow man, things that sort of make the world go around today, and in the past. Are we losing sight of these things in the future?" -- executive producer J.H. Wyman, on creating a future world that respects the past.
Bottom line: A show that has a bright future.
CITYTV/SEPT. 30/7:30 p.m.
Starring: Jay Malone, Harland Williams, Randal Edwards, Julia Voth
Premise: Three brothers who are inseparably tangled in each other's lives suddenly find their family ties are coming undone when one of them meets the woman of his dreams.
Lowdown: This Canadian-made comedy was originally slated to debut last spring, but Citytv opted, for reasons unexplained, to hold it until fall. By delaying its premi®re until September, the network definitely hurt Package Deal, because it now finds itself in the most competitive month of the TV year. Attracting an audience is going to be a huge challenge.
Bottom line: Late might not be better than never.
CBS/SEPT. 30/7:30 p.m.
WE ARE MEN
Starring: Tony Shaloub, Jerry O'Connell, Kal Penn, Chris Smith
Premise: A comedy about four single guys, of different ages and from different failed-relationship backgrounds, who form a bond while living in a short-term apartment complex.
Lowdown: The premise is tired, the jokes are tired, the attitudes seem out of step with current real-life perspectives -- it all feels old. Like many of this fall's below-average sitcoms, the overwhelming impression is that we're watching a terrible waste of comedy-acting talent.
Quotable: "A number of years ago I was divorced (and) I was a mess. Part of me wanted to get back with her; part of me never wanted to see her again... And then another part of me just wanted to have fun and have a lot of sex. So I took those different parts of my life, and I kind of put them into these four guys." -- series creator Rob Greenberg, explaining the deeply personal inspiration for a quartet of flawed characters.
Bottom line: After spending 22 minutes with these guys, you'll understand why the women in their lives ditched them.
FOX/GLOBAL/SEPT. 30/8 p.m.
Starring: Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie
Premise: A modern-day spin on the Headless Horseman saga in which Ichabod Crane (Mison), a soldier in the U.S. revolutionary war, is wounded in battle and wakes up 250 years into the future, only to find that an enemy soldier he beheaded in battle has resurfaced and is wreaking axe-wielding havoc in the modern world.
Lowdown: Despite some pretty heavy-handed mythology concocted to explain the modernization of the familiar spooky yarn, this drama manages to create some believable drama as Crane partners with cops in present-day Sleepy Hollow. Given TV audiences' willingness to accept whimsical crossovers from fantasy realms to more familiar settings (Once Upon a Time, Grimm), this one might find a following.
Quotable: "I can say one of our main missions was fun... It was ... just finding the right tone and the right balance of horror and suspense and the fantasy element. But we just kept making sure that (the show is) really fun -- that was a real goal of ours." -- executive producer Len Wiseman, on balancing spooky, scary and silly.
Bottom line: Unlike some of the Horseman's victims, this show likely won't get the axe.
CBS/CITYTV/SEPT. 23/8:30 p.m.
Starring: Anna Faris, Allison Janney
Premise: A newly sober single mom's (Faris) ongoing struggle to keep her life on track becomes even more difficult when her recovering-alcoholic mother (Janney), from whom she inherited all her self-destructive tendencies, turns up and announces she wants to rebuild their relationship.
Lowdown: Mom comes from executive producer Chuck Lorre, who already has three successful sitcoms (Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly) in the schedule. But the pilot episode lacks the heart, as well as the focused joke delivery, of those shows, and neither of the central characters is all that likable. Still, if CBS's faith in Lorre translates into patience while Mom finds a workable rhythm, there might be a chance to make this watchable.
Quotable: "I think that this isn't just a show about addiction. It's about a character who made some mistakes in her life and who's really trying to get better. And I think that because she's trying to get better, we can forgive her a lot of her past. And I think Anna (Faris) is so lovable, so it's really easy to root for her..." -- executive producer Gemma Baker, explaining why viewers will be able to connect with these characters.
Bottom line: Unlikely to become a Monday-night addiction for most viewers.
CBS/CTV/SEPT. 23/9 p.m.
Starring: Toni Collette, Dylan McDermott
Premise: A renowned surgeon is thrust into a deadly political conspiracy when her family is taken hostage and the leader of her captors tells her she must assassinate the U.S. president during a surgery she is scheduled to perform.
Lowdown: The biggest challenge facing Dr. Ellen Sanders (Collette) might be the time slot in which she's been brought to prime-time life. A solidly engaging (though far-fetched) drama that boasts a particularly attention-grabbing performance by McDermott as the rogue FBI agent leading the kill-the-president conspiracy, Hostages is up against the fall season's best new drama (The Blacklist) and a solid returning series, Castle.
Quotable: "Our goal is not to point a bunch of guns we don't fire. We are hoping the elegance of the conundrum ... is played out over the first season in a really acute, stressful, suspenseful way. So we are not going to try to avoid the question... We are working towards something, and each episode builds on the next. ... We are not going to shy away from the dilemma we throw out there." -- executive producer Rick Eid, promising viewers won't be imprisoned by narrative dead ends.
Bottom line: This one's tough to predict -- it's a pretty good new show in direct competition with a really good new show.
NBC/GLOBAL/SEPT. 23/9 p.m.
Starring: James Spader, Megan Boone, Diego Klattenhoff
Premise: A former government agent who's now among the FBI's most-wanted fugitives turns himself in with an unexpected, obviously agenda-driven offer to help the bureau capture terrorists.
Lowdown: Spader, a master of offbeat characters, is very much in his element in this riveting new drama. His character, Raymond (Red) Reddington, offers his expert help to the feds on one condition: that he'll deal only with rookie FBI profiler Liz Keen (Boone). She's never met him, but he knows an awful lot about her. If you think their uneasy relationship feels a bit like a Hannibal/Clarice reunion, you're probably not alone.
Quotable: "I think there's a big difference between the characters on our show and the characters of Hannibal and Clarice. Red is not a psychopath. He is someone who is much more of an enigma. Is he good? Is he bad? ... He's very distinct from Hannibal Lecter." -- executive producer John Eisendrath addresses the inevitable comparisons.
Bottom line: Put this one on the hit list, because it's going to be a hit.
George Stroumboulopolos Tonight (Sept. 16, CBC)
Dancing With the Stars (Sept. 16, ABC)
Bones (Sept. 16, Fox/Global)
The Voice (Sept 23, NBC/CTV)
How I Met Your Mother (Sept. 23, CBS/Citytv)
2 Broke Girls (Sept. 23, CBS/Citytv)
Castle (Sept. 23, ABC)
Murdoch Mysteries (Sept. 30, CBC)
Cracked (Sept. 30, CBC)