'Hostages,' 'Mom,' and more: 6 shows our TV critics are keeping an eye on

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Image Credit: CBS

As EW’s TV critics, we’ve already weighed in with our six best new shows of the fall, including buzzy series like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The Blacklist. But now, we present six more new shows — these ones aren’t necessarily the best, but there is potential in them. Here are the shows we’ll be keeping our eye on this fall.

Dracula
Premieres Friday, Oct. 25, at 10 p.m. on NBC
The vampire drama has been done to death. But if anyone can bring it back from its shriveled, dehydrated-human-jerky corpse, it’s Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who’s such a pale, slithery nightstalker, it’s easy to believe he actually spends his nights slurping from goblets of Type-A Negative and growing out his fingernails to Nosferatu lengths. So it’s a stroke of genius to cast him as Dracula in this 19th century period drama, which finds our fanged hero posing as an American entrepreneur so that he can seek revenge on the Order of the Dragon, a group of Victorian high-society folks who cursed him long ago. Because Dracula is brought to you by the exec producers of Downton Abbey, there’s also plenty of frilly costumes and forbidden romance: Dracula keeps getting distracted by the beautiful Mina (Jessica DeGouw), who might be the reincarnation of his dead wife. The melodrama is cranked up so high, you can almost see Rhys Meyers stifling laughs. But Dracula’s fight against the rich kids does have a certain 99-percenter timeliness, and the secret-society angle should excite the Comic-Con geeks — especially when Van Helsing shows up. —Melissa Maerz

Hostages
Premieres Monday, Sept. 23, 10 p.m. on CBS
Based on an Israeli series with a similar concept, Hostages couldn’t be more American if the kidnappers did their bargaining with Big Macs. It follows a rogue FBI agent (Dylan McDermott) who takes the president’s surgeon (Toni Collette) hostage, along with her husband and two kids, and forces her to choose whether she’ll help him assassinate POTUS, or let her family die. From the moment the opening scene clicks its stopwatch, ticking down the seconds in real time every episode, the influence of producer Jerry Bruckheimer and white-knuckle dramas like 24 is clear. You could design a network thriller drinking game around this show, taking a shot every time there’s a high-drama action sequence, or a secret revealed about a character (there’s at least three in the pilot), or a shocker cliffhanger. Luckily, the creators and cast save it from becoming just another too-slick network procedural. Collette captures what panic feels like quite well, with darting eyes and frantic movements that can make anyone watching her feel anxious. Writer-director Jeffrey Nachmanoff, who has worked on Homeland, brings real suspense to the pilot, with camera angles that whip around corners and creep through doors, creating a burgeoning sense of paranoia within the Sanders house. And with a limited run of just 15 episodes, there’s reason to believe that Hostages can sustain that tension until the inevitable Explosive, Homeland Security-Agitating Conclusion. —Melissa Maerz

The Michael J. Fox Show
Premieres Thursday, Sept. 26, at 9 p.m. at NBC
There is Michael J. Fox before Parkinson’s, and there is Michael J. Fox since Parkinson’s, and the pilot episode of the living legend’s latest sitcom trades off of our relationship to the icon to powerful effect. As an iconic NYC TV anchorman rethinking his choice to retire because of the disease and pour his considerable energies into being a stay-at-home super-dad…which is driving his wife and three kids nuts. Fox is basically playing himself, and he does it well: “Mike Henry” is as naturally funny, emotionally open, and inspiring as his alter-ego. Through his family (which includes Breaking Bad‘s Betsy Brandt at his wife), we see our response to Fox: Celebrating his moxy, grieving what has been lost, still adjusting to the new normal. The shows wants to find its humor and heart in being an unvarnished, unsentimental take on life with the disease — the physical challenges, the relational complications, even sex. The pilot feels more like a promise of intention than proof of concept. But we root confidently for success. It’s Michael J. Fox, after all. How can you not? —Jeff Jensen

Mom
Premieres Monday, Sept. 23, at 9:30 p.m. on CBS
From Chuck Lorre (The Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly) comes yet another well-cast sitcom that doesn’t make you laugh as much as you want it to. But the lack of mirth in Mom is due to writing that takes seriously the rough edges of its lead character: Anna Faris is quite appealing as Christy, whose messy present and damaged history reveals itself by surprising degrees over the course of a smartly scaled pilot. She’s a single mother with modest career prospects and two kids, including a wild child teen daughter who has zero respect for her authority, and for good reason: Mom is a recovering alcoholic whose efforts to reform might have more integrity if she still wasn’t making dumb choice like dating her married-man boss. Christy is a bruised apple that hasn’t fallen far from the tree: Her own mother, Bonnie (Allison Janney), is a former drug addict and rather unrepentant about her dubious brand of parenting, but not without her redeeming qualities. The pilot’s poignancy and hard-knock, hard-living characters give this sitcom an interesting point of difference — and if it can be, like, 19 percent funnier, it could be something special. —Jeff Jensen

Reign
Premieres Thursday, Oct. 17, at 9 p.m. on The CW
Reign isn’t your usual YA-on-CW with pretty young things, dubious adult supervision, a pop-rock soundtrack and a ghoul or two. No, it’s mostly that — but set in Renaissance France. Which makes the anachronistic music a bold choice, but like most aspects of Reign’s ambitious pilot, it works. (I can’t wait for them to figure out how to work in Lorde’s summer surprise “Royals.”) Adelaide Kane (Teen Wolf) is the grounded and gorgeous Mary, Queen of Scots, betrothed since early childhood to the future king of France (Toby Regbo). We meet her as she starts her adult life at the French royal court, at a time of intensifying religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants. She arrives with her future ladies in waiting, a hot and haute-ly coutured quartet that includes Anna Popplewell from the Chronicles of Narnia, and they immediately get to work producing steamy intrigues and politically charged conflict with a Court full of powerful, power-hungry personalities. Megan Fallows (Anne of Green Gables, all grown up) makes for a compelling villain as Queen Catherine, whose machinations are informed by input from a certain seer named Nostradamus (Rossif Sutherland). All of this, plus a mysterious castle ghost (?) who’s watching out for Mary and a mysterious cult that resides in the surrounding woods and practices bloody rituals. Yes, Reign wants to be many things, and the pilot blends them well. Sustaining its winning mix of historical drama, Gothic romance, and modern soap will be the difference between a long rule and a short tenure. —Jeff Jensen

Super Fun Night
Premieres Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 9:30 p.m. on ABC
At a time when buddy comedies almost always focus on men — DadsWe Are Men, a few other shows that could’ve been called Dudes Behaving Badly — it’s refreshing to see a show about three girlfriends who are just as buffoonish as the guys. For more than a decade, Kimmie (Wilson), Marika (Lauren Ash), and Helen-Alice (Liza Lapira) have spent every Friday night together, bypassing clubs and bars to hide out in their apartments and dress up in troll costumes or perform massively awkward singalongs from the musical Wicked. They’re total nerds, and not in that just-remove-her-glasses-and-her-scrunchie-and-she’s-actually-a-supermodel kind of way where nerdiness is just a trick to get a date. (“C’mon we don’t need boyfriends,” the very butch Marika argues. “I can build all of our shelves.”) And yet, when Kimmie riffs on Xena-like action figures with her work crush Richard (Kevin Bishop), or helps him workshop his tractor beam impression, there’s legitimate chemistry there. True, the pilot isn’t as funny as it could’ve been, and the fat jokes are groaners. (Does Kimmie really have to rip her dress twice?) But coming off Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect, Wilson has so much potential that I can’t give up on her (or her sketchy American accent) just yet. —Melissa Maerz

Read more:
Fall 2013 TV hub on EW.com
This Week’s Cover: EW’s Annual Fall TV Preview
Fall TV 2013: EW’s Critics Pick Six

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