Autumn is creeping in on the Northern Hemisphere once again, which means the American broadcast television networks will be debuting their newest pilots in very short order. So what new genre shows can sci-fi and fantasy geeks look forward to? We break down the new nerd-worthy programs you might want to catch this fall.
MondayTerra Nova [FOX: 8pm] Steven Spielberg teams up with veteran Star Trek producers Brannon Braga and René Echevarria to bring us the most high-concept and sensawunda offering this fall. The distant future Earth has suffered an eco-catastrophe but has developed one-way deep time travel. The solution is to send human colonists back to the age of dinosaurs to restart the human race (though how we're going to avoid the Cretacious-Tertiary Extinction that wiped out the thunder lizards is just one reason the premise is a bit sketchy). It's Jurassic Park meets Avatar, right down to Steven J. "Colonel Quartich" Lang playing basically the same character as expedition leader Frank Taylor. The presence of Life on Mars's Jason O'Mara as the series family-man lead, however, shows promise. If there's one geek show everyone is going to watch at least once, this is it. Terra Nova premieres Sept. 26. [Preview video]
TuesdayUnforgettable [CBS: 10pm] Without A Trace's Poppy Montgomery plays an NYPD detective with hyperthymesia, an extreme autobiographic memory, who is called in to solve the most difficult homicide cases. The meta-plot involves her trying to recall the one murder she can't remember: the death of her sister. Most of the producing team are Without A Trace veterans — in fact, the pitch session was probably Without A Trace meets House or Without A Trace meets Bones — so if you liked those series you'll probably like this one. Unforgettable premieres Sept. 20. [Preview video]
WednesdayWednesdays are strangely bereft of geek-centric network fare. If you're looking for a good night to catch up on the old DVR backlog, this would be it.
ThursdayPerson of Interest [CBS: 9pm] Just when you think No Ordinary Family or The Cape proved that network television has no clue how to produce a decent superhero series, along comes the geek show with the most quietly confident buzz. Granted, we're pretty sure the network doesn't know it's producing a superhero series. The premise is that a billionaire software genius played by Lost's Michael "Linus" Emerson has developed a Echelon-style system for predicting crime, sort of like a combination of Asimov's psychohistory and Minority Report's precogs. The billionaire hires an ex-CIA agent played by Jim Cavaziel to track down and stop his predicted crimes, usually by thwarting the pre-criminals themselves. Imagine if Batman and Bruce Wayne were two different people, and neither felt the need for Dracula cosplay. That's Person of Interest. Oh, and did we mention the show is produced by J.J. Abrams? Yeah, we're excited, too. Person of Interest premieres Sept. 22. [Preview video] The Secret Circle [CW: 9pm] Another attractive teen genre drama, this time from Scream creator Kevin Williamson. It's basically The Vampire Diaries meets Charmed, with a huge chunk of Twilight influence (mostly from the Pacific Northwest setting). A young girl moves back to her mother's hated hometown to discover she's descended from a cliquish coven of witches. Species's Natasha Henstridge and The Sarah Connor Chronicles's Thomas Dekker try to class up the joint, but you know what you're getting with a CW formula show. If you like the other cotton-candy fare from the network...well...we're trying not to judge you. The Secret Circle premieres Sept. 15. [Preview video]
FridayA Gifted Man [CBS: 8pm] The Ghost Whisperer meets Grey's Anatomy, by way of The Lovely Bones. Patrick Wilson, best known to geeks as Nite Owl from the film version of Watchmen, is a brilliant surgeon haunted by the ghost of his recently deceased ex-wife who coaches him through the grieving process. Is he insane, or does he have a guardian angel? If the Friday night timeslot didn't give it away, this one is aimed squarely at the female and family demographics. A Gifted Man premieres Sept. 23. [Preview video] Grimm [NBC: 9pm] The newest genre sacrifice to the Friday Night Death Slot, Grimm is the latest attempt by creator David Greenwalt to recapture the magic of his days as producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff, Angel. He's tried this before with Moonlight, which didn't work out so well. Grimm follows a Portland homicide detective descended from the Brothers Grimm who has inherited their ability to see storybook creatures hiding in plain sight. The series lead, David Giuntoli, is best known as a contestant on MTV's Road Rules who backed into acting. Yeah, don't get too attached to this one. Grimm premieres Oct. 21. [Preview video]
SaturdayActually, I find it comforting that no genre show has been sentenced to slow demise on a Saturday night. The networks may finally have realized that even geeks go out on Saturdays. (It may be to D&D game sessions but still, we go out.)
SundayOnce Upon a Time [ABC: 8pm] NBC has clearly ponied up serious cash for this project, considering the cast includes House's Jennifer Morrison in the lead, along with Big Love's Ginnifer Goodwin and Stargate: Universe's Robert "Dr. Rush" Carlyle. The show also has a dynamite writing staff, including Lost's Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz teamed with Buffy and Battlestar Galactica uber-producer Jane Espenson. (It makes you wonder why the network didn't go all-out and just option Bill Willingham's awesome Fables comic book series for the small screen, the concepts are so similar.) So what's the premise? Fairy tales are real, and the Evil Queen won by exiling the good characters to mundane lives in a repressed New England town, Storybrooke, where they will never remember their fantastic natures and never age. The series follows Morrison's character, who is the earthborn daughter of the amnesiac Snow White and Prince Charming. She's drawn back to Storybrooke to perhaps free her family, or join them in ageless imprisonment. Very dark and very well produced, this one is swinging for the fences. It may fail, but not for lack of effort or resources. Once Upon A Time premieres Oct. 23. [Preview video]
Which genre show are you most excited to catch this season, and which do you think will survive past episode three? Pronouncements welcome in the comments section.Note: TV.com and TechRepublic are CBS brands.
Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can also follow him on his personal blog.