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Look out: A fall harvest of new broadcast TV shows

Wednesday - 8/28/2013, 1:10pm  ET

This image released by NBC shows Jack Gore as Graham Henry, left, and Michael J. Fox as Mike Henry in "The Michael J. Fox Show," premiering Sept. 26. (AP Photo/NBC, Eric Liebowitz)

FRAZIER MOORE
AP Television Writer

NEW YORK (AP) -- There's something antiquated about the custom long known as the Fall TV Season.

It was born of a bygone era (and still harkens back to it) when fall signaled all things important in America: the much-anticipated return to school, the resumption of football and the grand unveiling of next year's car models.

It was an era of the Big Three. And not just General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, but also ABC, CBS and NBC, which each autumn launched their new shows with the stated intention of airing these dramas and comedies through much of the season to come.

This was an orderly, narrowly consigned TV world. So the Fall Season represented for viewers most of what they could expect to see in prime time for months ahead, at least until the "summer replacement" shows arrived the following June.

"Midseason" (a term even Fox boss Kevin Reilly said recently he'd love to ban) wasn't part of the lingo back then.

Nor, of course, were terms like "cable networks," HBO, Hulu or Netflix.

A half-century later, the Fall Season persists -- a festival of premieres by not three, but the five self-designated broadcast "majors" (which somehow includes the little-watched CW), with, some years, no discernible dividing line between the fall crop and the winter harvest.

And no acknowledgment that outside this magic garden, bumper crops of other network shows are always blooming, stealing viewers (and a large share of Emmy love).

With all those caveats in mind, then, make way for the Fall Season.

DON'T I KNOW YOU?

Many of more than two dozen new series may already be familiar, at least by name, to viewers, since the networks have been flogging them all summer.

They are familiar to TV critics, too, who got early copies of many of the new shows as long ago as June (with the proviso from the networks that some of these episodes were "non-reviewable," since they were subject to be altered in small or large ways before their premiere date -- or even re-shot completely).

At some point before each show's premiere date, a version designated "reviewable" will be furnished to critics.

This doesn't necessarily help. For a critic to make a sweeping assessment of any TV series' potential on the basis of a lone episode, or even two or three, is as reasonable as writing a tell-all biography of someone after meeting at a speed-dating event.

So there's a possibility that CBS' "The Crazy Ones" will ultimately reveal itself to be hilarious, and not one of the lamest new comedies on the schedule (as an initial viewing might suggest). A comedy set at an advertising agency, it brings back Robin Williams to TV sitcoms after "Mork & Mindy" 35 years ago (which TV's most-sought-after viewers, as well as many present-day network execs, aren't old enough to remember).

"The Crazy Ones" isn't really a comedy. It's a mystery: Who thought it, and bringing back Williams as its star, was a good idea?

NBC (whose motto could be borrowed from a cable network hit, "The Walking Dead") has brought back another sitcom veteran with what seems like happier results: Michael J. Fox in a self-named comedy. Addressing the real-life health problems (and triumphs) of this breakout star of "Family Ties" in the 1980s, "The Michael J. Fox Show" strikes a fresh, funny tone amid the flood of new comedies.

NBC has further relied on its once-stellar past by reviving the successful cop show "Ironside," this time with Blair Underwood, not Raymond Burr, as the intrepid detective in the wheelchair.

FANTASTIC?

Fantasy is fueling many new shows.

NBC's "Dracula" stars Jonathan Rhys Meyers in a reimagining of the vampire as a proto-environmentalist. In his guise as a 19th-Century American industrialist, Dracula wants to develop cheap, alternative energy in defiance of his enemy, Big Oil.

There's also Fox's set-in-modern-day "Sleepy Hollow" (complete with a headless horseman), ABC's very cool, comic-driven "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," and ABC's storybook spinoff, "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland," which explores the psyche of tumbled-down-the-rabbit-hole Alice, complete with CGI rabbit voiced by John Lithgow.

CW's "The Originals" is a spinoff of "The Vampire Diaries," while the same network's "The Tomorrow People" is a sci-fi series about a genetically advanced race that also happens to be young and sexy, and the paramilitary group of scientists who see this band as a threat to the status quo. And Fox's "Almost Human" is a police drama set 35 years in the future, when human officers work alongside humanlike androids.

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