By EW Staff
September 18, 2012 at 04:47 PM EDT
Image Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC
Fall TV

Risk Factor

Every new TV show is a gamble. That’s especially true in the crowded fall season, when the networks roll out an array of new shows. Many of them won’t make it to a second season – and even if they do, it takes years for a TV show to turn a profit. There are ways to mitigate the risk, of course. You cast a recognizable actor. You work with a successful producer – look, there’s Ryan Murphy doing his Ryan Murphy thing with The New Normal! And even in the modern era of DVR and downloading, a good timeslot is still essential. A solid concept also helps – especially if you’re a procedural on CBS, or a female-skewing soap on ABC.

Risk is hardly a bad thing. Some of the biggest crowd pleasers in network history were shows that were eccentric, unique, and overly complicated. Lost was an expensive sci-fi show with an unknown cast headlined by the guy from Party of Five, produced by J.J. Abrams in the days when his brand of serialization was critically acclaimed but commercially unproven. CSI was a crime thriller focused on the geeks in the lab created by then-newcomer Anthony Zuiker, slotted halfheartedly into the schedule on Friday at 9:00. And Glee was a prime-time musical, a genre that was widely considered ratings kryptonite. Notice how nobody ever mentions Cop Rock anymore? (Just for fun, we ran a retroactive Risk Factor on those previous risks-turned-megahit shows. Click here to check it out.)

To kick off this fall TV seasion, we’ve determined the Risk Factor of all 21 new network offerings. We assessed each project by five criteria —  The Pitch (how it fits in within the network’s typical framework), The Stars (who leads the cast), The Team (the creators and showrunners behind the project), The Time (where it falls on the schedule) and Ken’s Risk Rating (EW critic Ken Tucker’s assessment of the quality of each show’s pilot — a determination of high quality translates to a low risk factor rating and vice versa). We assigned a rating of 1 to 5 in each category — with 1 being the least risky and 5 being the most risky. (Click here for an expanded explanation of our terms.) Check out how each new show rates on our scale, below!

Promises: Jonathan Alcorn/Zuma Press

Click to enlarge![/caption]

The Neighbors

Risk Factor: 21

Image Credit: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

The Pitch: 4

The network says:Centers on a family (Lenny Venito, Jami Gertz, Isabella Camp, Clara Mamet, Max Charles) that moves into a coveted New Jersey gated community only to discover that the entire neighborhood is comprised of aliens disguised as humans.

We say: The Neighbors‘ premise and broad jokes (one character is named after Dick Butkus; there is much conversation about an alien device apparently named the “poo-pod”) make the show seem more suited to The Disney Channel than its grown-up corporate sibling. The series is also nothing like its timeslot companions, realistic family shows that employ absurd humor judiciously.

The Stars: 5

There isn’t a single marquee name in The Neighbors’ ensemble, unless you count ‘80s ingénue Jami Gertz. Gertz’s costar Simon Templeman is best known as a voice actor for video games. Nigerian-born Toks Olagundoye, who plays Templeman’s alien bride, has a brief IMDB bio that includes a stint as “Sales Girl” on Ugly Betty. Gertz’s onscreen husband Lenny Venito has starred in a few TV series (Knights of Prosperity, 1998’s Living in Captivity), but never one that lasted more than 13 episodes. Girls fans may be pleased to know that Zosia Mamet’s 17-year-old half-sister Clara costars in The Neighbors as well; then again, Girls doesn’t exactly have an enormous audience, either.

The Team: 4

Creator Dan Fogelman also wrote Crazy, Stupid, Love, as well as several box office hits for Disney and Pixar– including both Cars films, Bolt, and Tangled. In the world of TV, though, he’s untested: The Neighbors is his first series. Co-executive producer Jeffrey Morton has a few seasons of Modern Family (and two Emmys) under his belt, but the rest of his resume – along with those of fellow EPs  Aaron Kaplan and Chris Koch – is littered with one-season wonders like Miss Guided, Kitchen Confidential, and Traffic Light.

The Time: 5

ABC’s alien sitcom is snug in the middle of the network’s family-skewing Wednesday primetime block – but it’s also up against a still strong Survivor, a Britney-enhanced X Factor, and NBC’s Guys with Kids, another gentle comedy that’s presumably trying to garner the same audience as Neighbors. At least The CW’s Arrow is aiming for an entirely different demographic.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 3

NEXT: Animal Practice and Ben & Kate

Animal Practice

Risk Factor: 19

The Pitch: 2

The network says: An office comedy revolving around a House-like veterinarian (Justin Kirk) who loves animals but typically hates their owners.

We say: The workplace comedy formula has always served NBC well in the past. And this show is pretty straightforward – if such a thing can be said about a comedy that prominently features a monkey in a little white coat.

The Stars: 4

The two leads on this cast hold a recognizable list of credits, but no one is yet a proven headliner. Justin Kirk spent the last several years of his career lighting up with the Botwins on Weeds. And JoAnna Garcia-Swisher, while possibly more of a household name, has had trouble finding her breakout role, last starring on the short-lived ABC comedy, Better With You. Crystal the Monkey, meanwhile, is sort of a big deal. But she has no lines.

The Team: 4

This is the first major outing for creators Brian Gatewood and Alessandro Tanaka. The real heavyweights in this corner? Russo brothers Joe and Anthony (Community), who directed the pilot and lend their names as executive producers.

 The Time: 5

Leading the 8 p.m. hour, this comedy finds itself up against the start of ABC’s family comedy block. If that itself wasn’t a challenge, it’s also against Survivor on CBS, The X-Factor (which premiered to a subdued but respectable 8.4 million), and CW’s new drama Arrow.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 4

Ben & Kate

Risk Factor: 18

The Pitch: 3

The network says: A single mother (Dakota Johnson) gets an assist from her brother (Nat Faxon) who moves in with her to help her raise her baby.

We say: Ben and Kate are brother and sister. Ben acts like he’s five, and Kate is a single mom with a five-year-old. There’s not much else to it. In the same way Raising Hope is about a poor family raising a baby and New Girl is about roommates, there’s nothing high-concept here.

The Stars: 5

Ben and Kate might star an Oscar winner — Nat Faxon co-wrote the Descendants — but that fact will be lost on most viewers. (His history of work in animation voice work won’t help with facial recognition either.) Additionally, Dakota Johnson might have famous DNA (her parents are Don Jonson and Melanie Griffith) but this is one of her first TV outings. Pint-sized heart-tugger Maggie Elizabeth Jones might actually be the most immediately recognizable face, as she recently sat on Matt Damon’s shoulders in We Bought a Zoo. Bottom line: The people behind this comedy didn’t worry much about finding a name-actor to helm it, which, as we know from past experience (Hi there, Modern Family and Glee) isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The Team: 5

Speaking of the folks behind the scenes: Dana Fox, who? Aside from some producing work on New Girl and writing 2008’s What Happens in Vegas, the Ben and Kate executive producer doesn’t have a whole lot of credits, which, again, didn’t seem to be an issue for the network. And could pay off…

The Time: 4

In a timeslot that is sandwiched between two new episodes of New Girl (it follows Raising Hope, starting in October), this show is smack in the middle of Fox’s quirky comedy block. Typically, that’s a sweet spot, but it’s the other networks that threaten to crush the charming newbie: It’s up against ratings juggernaut NCIS, The Voice, and Dancing With the Stars’ results show.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 1

NEXT PAGE: Guys With Kids and Beauty & The Beast

Guys With Kids

Risk Factor: 18

The Pitch: 2

The network says: Three thirtysomething guys (Jesse Bradford, Zach Cregger, Anthony Anderson) who enjoy the adventures of parenting despite the fact that they haven’t grown up themselves.

We say: The show feels like a renegade CBS sitcom that wound up on the NBC schedule. It doesn’t have much in common with the network’s acclaimed Thursday sitcoms. If anything, it’s closest in spirit to the network’s other new-baby sitcoms, Up All Night and The New Normal, although Guys has an undeniable bro factor completely absent from those shows. Like Mob Doctor, Guys has a title that gets the point across perhaps too bluntly; unlike Mob Doctor, it’ll need to convince people that jokes about stay-at-home-dads didn’t get stale in the ’90s.

The Stars: 4

The titular guys make for an appealing demographic mix: Jesse Bradford is a former teen demi-star; Zach Cregg has a minor following from his days on The Whitest Kids U’ Know; Anthony Anderson is recognizable face from his Law & Order years and various TV and film supporting roles. Still, none of them have headlined a sitcom before.

 The Team: 3

The marquee name here is executive producer Jimmy Fallon, attempting to convert his recent ascension as Late Night Chosen One into prime-time success. But the person with the most effect on Guys going forward will probably be co-creator Charlie Grandy, an Emmy winner for The Daily Show and SNL who also worked on the middle seasons of The Office.

The Time: 4

Rough. Guys airs opposite the still-vibrant guy-centric Survivor, not to mention the glitteringly rebooted X-Factor and the buzzy Arrow. It also makes a strange fit between the more farcical Animal Practice and the gritty Law & Order: SVU.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 5

Beauty & The Beast

Risk Factor: 17

The Pitch: 2

The network says: Loosely based on CBS’ Beauty and the Beast series from the 1980s, this is a modern-day romantic love story with a procedural twist.

We say: The romantic angle to this series is sure to attract The Vampire Diaries crowd, but that same group might not react well to the show’s procedural element.

The Stars: 3

From a CW point of view, snagging a Smallville alum is the equivalent of booking a Friends cast member: The network is banking on tune-in for sentimental fave Kristin Kruek. Meanwhile, her leading man, Jay Ryan, is a relative newcomer. He’s had mainly overseas success and most recently had a small part in the ill-fatted Terra Nova — not that the CW has ever been afraid to take a risk on newcomers. (Does anyone remember hearing the names Chace Crawford and Ed Westwick before 2007?)

The Team: 2

Executive producers Sherri Cooper and Jennifer Levin spent several years in various producing roles on ABC’s Brothers & Sisters, but this is their first time helming a series as a duo. Meanwhile, former Smallville executive producers Brian Petersen and Kelly Souders, who were added to the series during the summer, have experience in that department.

The Time: 5

This freshman series has a particularly tough battle to fight on Thursday nights because its competition – Glee and Grey’s Anatomy, in particular – will hit it hard in both its youth and female demographics. Its small saving grace might be that the CW has never put much weight in traditional means of audience measurement.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 5

NEXT PAGE: Last Resort and Emily Owens, M.D.

Last Resort

Risk Factor: 17

The Pitch: 4

The network says: Centers on the crew of a U.S. nuclear submarine (led by Andre Braugher) who, after ignoring an order to fire nuclear missiles, winds up being hunted and escaping to a NATO outpost where they declare themselves to be the world’s smallest nuclear nation.

We say: Gotta give points for originality: This ain’t another cop show. Still, Last Resort is on ABC, a network that has recently found its greatest success with serialized soaps that play to the female demographic. Indeed, in its current time slot, Last Resort leads into Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, two dramas from ABC patron saint Shonda Rhimes. Then again, with a concept this eccentric and this ambitious, it’s unlikely that Last Resort would fit in on any network. The question is: Will the audience reaction be “Wow!” or “Bwah?” (Ken Tucker, as you’ll see below from his low risk rating, liked the pilot.)

The Stars: 3

Some members of this huge cast are character actors with familiar faces from the journeyman roles dotting their IMBD page: Robert Patrick, Dichen Lachman, Bruce Davison. Then there’s Autumn Reeser and Scott Speedman — both beloved for their teen-drama days, both struggling to find the right vehicle for their talents. The biggest star on Last Resort is the critically loved Andre Braugher, but Braugher’s talent doesn’t necessarily translate into eyeballs: Men of a Certain Age and Thief were canceled before their time, while Homicide: Life on the Street held on with low ratings in a long-ago era when low ratings were allowed on broadcast networks.

The Team: 3

Co-creator Shawn Ryan helped usher in the golden era of basic-cable television with The Shield and had a decent-sized broadcast hit with CBS’ four-season The Unit (which, curiously, starred Speedman’s fellow Felicity alum Scott Foley.) But his last two efforts – Terriers and The Chicago Code — failed to attract enough viewers for cable or broadcast, respectively. Ryan is running Last Resort with Karl Gajdusek, whose biggest TV credit is his work on canceled Showtime gem Dead Like Me.

The Time: 5

There’s no denying it: Last Resort is heading straight into the trenches. Thursday at 8 has long been a make-or-break murder slot for new shows. That’s especially true for Last Resort, considering that the show – a genre mash-up – is facing off against popular established series which could all bite into its audience. CBS’ mega-hit comedy block Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men is popular with the male demo; the CW’s serialized Vampire Diaries has the youth and the ladies; 30 Rock gets the highbrow crowd (at least, the highbrow crowd that still watches TV on TV); and Fox’s X-Factor soaked up 18-49 ratings last year, even before its buzzy Britney-infused reboot.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 2

Emily Owens, M.D.

Risk Factor: 16

The Pitch: 2

The network says: Glad to leave her nerdy past behind for a fresh start in the adult professional world, a newly minted doctor (Mamie Gummer) discovers that, sadly and comically, life at the hospital where she works is no different than high school.

We say: This high-stakes, soapy dramedy is right in the CW’s wheelhouse, even if its hospital setting is a network first. The only real difference between Emily Owens and the heroes of Gossip Girl is that Emily’s characters aren’t actually teenagers – they just act and sound like them.

The Stars: 2

Mamie Gummer isn’t just a dead ringer for Meryl Streep – she’s the oft-awarded actress’s daughter. And though Gummer’s previous medical drama Off the Map was a flop, her pedigree still makes her a safe choice to anchor a series. Gummer is joined by CW favorite Justin Hartley, who played Green Arrow on Smallville, 2009 Melrose Place alum Michael Rady, and Necar Zadegan, best known as 24’s final First Lady. They’re solid, recognizable faces, if not exactly big-name stars.

The Team: 3

Creator Jennie Snyder cut her teeth as a co-producer of Gilmore Girls and co-executive producer of the CW’s own 90210, though she’s also worked on a few series that didn’t make it past two seasons – namely, Men in Trees and Lipstick Jungle. Her co-exec Bharat Nalluri has almost no TV experience, though their partner Dan Jinks used to produce cult hit Pushing Daisies. Oh, and he also won an Oscar for American Beauty – not bad, even if it’s not always the best predictor of television success.

The Time: 5

With quirky, lady-skewing comedy blocks appearing on three out of five networks, Tuesday from 9 to 10 p.m. is an all-out battle for young, female viewers. Hart of Dixie’s tiny fanbase will probably appreciate Emily’s similar blend of medical drama and high school-style hijinks – but will they forfeit NBC’s The New Normal, Fox’s New Girl and The Mindy Project, and ABC’s Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B— in order to watch Dr. Owens flail? Doubtful.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 4

NEXT PAGE: The Mob Doctor and 666 Park Avenue

Risk Factor: 15

The Pitch: 2

The network says: A young female thoracic surgeon (Jordana Spiro) who becomes indebted to the South Chicago mafia is forced to moonlight as a “mob doctor” while also working full-time at Chicago’s most prominent hospital.

We say: You can’t argue with brevity. The title makes it clear that this is an attempt to craft a perfect network-TV hybrid: half criminal procedural, half doctors-who-care medical drama. The only title more immediately appealing to the majority of America would be NCIS: American Idol. Mob Doctor gets a 2, though, just because this premise is perhaps playing it too safe.

The Stars: 2

Jordana Spiro is an undeniably appealing headliner, but plugging the immensely charming My Boys star into a hard-edged lead role does not come without some risk. She’s supported by a supporting cast filled with talent — William Forsythe, Zeljko Ivanek, Zach Gilford – but no big names.

The Team: 3

Mob Doctor was co-created by Josh Berman and Rob Wright, a pair of journeyman TV writers. Berman was a writer/producer for CSI and Bones, both successful procedurals; Wright worked on Las Vegas and Crossing Jordan, both NBC shows with decent ratings and zero afterlife. Berman created Drop Dead Diva, a solid cable performer that Wright joined in the third season. There’s a sense that Mob Doctor is their call up to the big leagues.

The Time: 4

9 on Monday puts Mob Doctor right after Bones, another medical-themed crime show with a beautiful female lead – a good pairing for the network. The problem is Doctor is opposite the ascendant The Voice, the all-star season of Dancing With the Stars, and a pair of top-rated CBS comedies 2 Broke Girls and Mike & Molly, and so it won’t be easy to dig itself out of the hole it found itself in with just 5.1 million tuning into the premiere on Monday.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 4

666 Park Avenue

Risk Factor: 14

The Pitch: 2

The network says: When a young couple (Dave Annable, Rachael Taylor) accepts an offer to manage one of the most historic apartment buildings in New York City, they unwittingly begin to experience supernatural occurrences, which complicate and endanger the lives of everyone in the building. Based on the book by Gabriella Pierce.

We say: 666 feels like a Frankenstein-esque attempt to create the ultimate ABC show. It’s a female-focused nighttime soap with a hip, urban setting. It’s serialized, but not to an extent that seems likely to get confusing. The two biggest stars come from Lost and Desperate Housewives, a pair of shows that helped redefine ABC’s lineup in the mid-00s. All it’s missing are doctors with sexy problems! Odds are, if you like anything on ABC, you’ll probably check out 666. The question is whether you’ll stay for the not-terribly-original haunted-house concept.

The Stars: 3

Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams were key supporting players on ABC’s Lost and Ugly Betty. Since those shows left the air, Williams injected some juice into the declining Desperate Housewives, while O’Quinn lent his gravitas to Hawaii Five-O. Bringing them together as a scheming husband-and-wife feels like a match made in heaven. But at least in the pilot, O’Quinn and Williams are playing second fiddle to unproven Australian actress Rachael Taylor, whose career has become something of an ABC passion project: She had a big recurring role on Grey’s Anatomy before playing one of the three leads in last year’s disastrous Charlie’s Angels reboot.

The Team: 4

Creator David Wilcox worked on the shortlived Life on Mars remake, and seasons 2 and 3 of Fringe. Showrunner Matt Miller was an executive producer on Chuck and took over the second season of the late Human Target. That’s a lot of history with genre TV shows adored by rabid fans and mostly ignored by the mass audience. Let’s hope 666 is the crossover moment.

The Time: 1

A soap opera about mysterious rich people and mysterious supernatural entities, 666 makes an almost too-perfect follow-up to Once Upon a Time and Revenge. Even better: At 10, opposite The Mentalist and football, it should have the female audience all to itself.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 4

NEXT PAGE: Made In Jersey and Revolution

Made In Jersey

Risk Factor: 14

The Pitch: 1

The network says:A legal drama that centers on a working-class woman (Janet Montgomery) who uses her street smarts to compete with her more polished colleagues at a top New York law firm.

We say: It’s a CBS procedural aimed at older viewers; this is a no-brainer for the network.

The Stars:  3

There are no huge names in this procedural. Lead actress Janet Montgomery is best known for her recurring role on Entourage. Fan-favorite Kyle MacLachlan has made a career of dropping in on different television shows, from his Golden Globe-nominated turn in Twin Peaks to How I Met Your Mother. He’s probably best known now as Trey McDougal on Sex and the City. Made in Jersey also stars Felix Solis (NYC 22) and Toni Trucks, aka Mary from the Twilight movies. While the individual cast members don’t have strong fan bases, fans of procedurals in general may show up. In fact, Law and Order: SVU alum Stephanie March is in the courtroom again here.

The Team: 2

Created and written by Dana Calvo, whose previous credits include being a story editor for Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, as well as a producer and writer on Franklin & Bash, Covert Affairs, and Greek. This is the first show she’s created, and she’ll work under showrunner Kevin Falls (EP, co-showrunner on Franklin & Bash); Jamie Tarses, Julia Franz, and Jan Nash are also producing.

The Time: 3

It won’t be easy for Jersey to break out, going up against Grimm, Fringe, What Would You Do?, and Nikita. While all those shows have their fans, Grimm – as a procedural – will be especially difficult for Made in Jersey. But the aforementioned older viewers do bump its prospects up a bit.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 5

Revolution

Risk Factor: 14

The Pitch: 4

The network says: In the epic adventure thriller, a family struggles to reunite in a post-apocalyptic American landscape: a world of empty cities, local militias and heroic freedom fighters, where every single piece of technology — computers, planes, cars, phones, even lights — has mysteriously blacked out … forever.

We say: Revolution has zeitgeisty post-apocalyptic setting, to say nothing of the Hunger Games-baiting advertisements featuring star Tracy Spiradakos looking extremely Katniss-y. But the last few times a broadcast network tried to launch a show with such an ambitious concept and an epic tapestry, the results were Terra Nova, The Event, and FlashForward. Of course, once upon a time, the result was Lost.

The Stars: 4

Giancarlo Esposito is the most exciting face in the Revolution cast, graduating to a broadcast show after his triumphant turn as Gus Fring on Breaking Bad (he also played Magic Mirror/reporter Sidney Glass on Once Upon a Time). But Esposito’s hardly a household name. Nor, for that matter, is anyone on the Revolution cast (except maybe Billy Burke, a veteran TV actor best-known as Bella’s dad from the Twilight movies). The addition of Elizabeth Mitchell is a step in the right direction, although the talented actress couldn’t do anything to save her last genre show, the rebooted V.

The Team: 1

The collaboration between platinum hitmaker J. J. Abrams and beloved geek auteur Jon Favreau made this a top Comic-Con property from day 1. And showrunner Eric Kripke created Supernatural and steered that show through its first five seasons, establishing a proven track record with complicated genre material.

The Time: 2

Monday at 10 feels a bit late in the evening for a show that walks like a mass-appeal blockbuster — but that didn’t stop it from debuting to a blockbuster 11.7 million viewers Monday night. Airing opposite the female-friendly Castle and the less serialized Hawaii Five-O could give Revolution a chance to build a loyal following, and the Voice lead-in doesn’t hurt, either.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 3

NEXT PAGE: Arrow and Malibu Country

Arrow

Risk Factor: 13

The Pitch: 1

The network says: Based on the DC Comics comic book, this hour-long drama is a modern retelling of the legendary DC Comics character Green Arrow.

We say: The CW crowd is comfortable with both superheroes (having watched Smallville, or at least commercials, for it for 10 seasons) and superhotties (picture The Vampire Diaries‘ Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley alongside Supernatural’s Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles and smile). In Arrow, billionaire playboy hottie Oliver Queen returns as a vigilante after developing his aim and Bourne-esque asskicking skills while shipwrecked on an island for five years.

The Stars: 4

First-time leading man Stephen Amell’s best-known credits (a supporting role on HBO’s Hung and recurring guest spot on ABC’s Private Practice) probably don’t overlap much with the CW’s target demo, but the good news: he was hot enough during an otherwise forgettable two-episode 2011 arc as a werewolf on The Vampire Diaries that fans of the network’s top-rated show will remember him. And he’s shirtless in the Arrow pilot. A lot. Meanwhile, Katie Cassidy (a familiar face from the net’s Melrose Place reboot and stints on Gossip Girl and Supernatural) co-stars as Laurel Lance, Oliver’s ex lady love who — cross your fingers — will someday become Arrow’s partner Black Canary.

The Team: 2

Exec producers Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim cowrote the Green Lantern movie, but don’t hold that against them. Instead, focus on the fact that Berlanti is also behind Everwood, Brothers & Sisters, and USA’s recent Political Animals. The pilot is directed by David Nutter, who also helped launch Dark Angel, Smallville, and Supernatural.

The Time: 3

Wednesday at 8, leading into the seasoned Supernatural, should set both shows up nicely. However, a late premiere date (Oct. 10) means viewers could already have re-committed to one or two of Arrow‘s veteran timeslot competitors — The X Factor (Sept. 12), Survivor: Philippines (Sept.19), and The Middle (Sept. 26) — or gotten hooked on a new comedy involving a monkey (Animal Practice), aliens (The Neighbors), or guys with kids (Guys with Kids).

Ken’s Risk Rating: 3

Malibu Country

Risk Factor: 13

The Pitch: 1

The network says: Her life reads like a country music tune: Her husband cheated on her and spent all of their money, and after she gets mad, she’s going to get even. A hilarious new comedy about new beginnings that will make your heart sing.

We say: It’s Reba 2.0! When her husband cheats on her, Reba packs up the kids and moves to Malibu, along with her mom (Lily Tomlin). The older audience who has made Reba a syndication success is a safe bet for another hokey traditional sitcom.

The Stars: 2

While the show is unlikely to attract any new Reba fans, the name recognition of its star/executive producer should be enough to gain some eyeballs, though McEntire hasn’t been seen on television since her self-titled CW sitcom went off the air in 2007. Add in legendary Oscar winner Lily Tomlin – whose on-liners during the pilot are certainly a highlight – and Sara Rue as her nosy “Real Housewife” new California neighbor, and it has a built-in fan base.

The Team: 3

Malibu Country is being executive produced by Reba McEntire and Kevin Abbott. Abbott was an executive producer of ABC’s Last Man Standing. He also used to serve as an executive producer on Reba, and a consulting producer on My Name is Earl.Most recently, he was an EP for a few episodes of Retired at 35.

The Time: 3

It’s no secret: Friday night can be a hard time to find an audience, but the low-key night might benefit the freshman series. At 8:30, it’ll be going up against CSI: NY on CBS, Community on NBC,  and Kitchen Nightmares on FOX. To its benefit, none of these shows are like Malibu County. Yes, Community is a comedy, but the target audiences couldn’t be more different. Malibu‘s lead in, Last Man Standing, will also assist in going after the same demo.

Ken’s Rating: 4

NEXT PAGE: Chicago Fire and The New Normal

Risk Factor: 12

The Pitch: 1

The network says: Action-driven drama exploring the complex and heroic men and women of the Chicago Fire Department

We say: Touted as a classic NBC drama, we can’t imagine the network worried much about greenlighting a tale about working class heroes backed by the man (Dick Wolf) who brought them the courtroom gift (Law & Order) that keeps on giving.

The Stars: 2

Fresh off of an eight-season run on House, Jesse Spencer will headline his first series alongside fellow looker Taylor Kinney, who had a part on The Vampire Diaries shortly after starring on one season of NBC’s Trauma. Though largely an ensemble cast, if the pilot is any indication, these two will carry more than their fair share of the dramatics – and, we’re guessing, many of the shirtless scenes as well. How they handle the load will be telling.

The Team: 1

With a creative team that includes Law & Order godfather Wolf, this show might have more stars behind the scenes than in front of the camera. Longtime Law & Order EP Peter Jankowski will also executive produce, as well as Michael Brandt and Derek Hass, who together wrote 3:10 to Yuma and Wanted. And former Prison Break EP Matt Olmstead is set to act as showrunner.

The Time: 3

We can’t imagine Fire shares many potential viewers with likely hit Nashville, but Chicago Fire might have a battle to fight against procedural fave CSI.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 5

The New Normal

Risk Factor: 12

The Pitch: 3

The network says: A heartwarming comedy about a blended family of a gay couple and the woman who becomes a surrogate to help them start a family.

We say: Combine Ryan Murphy’s reputation for pushing boundaries with the always hot topics of same sex marriage and parenting, and some viewers are already on alert (hello, One Million Moms and Salt Lake City). While ABC’s Modern Family has Cam, Mitchell, and Lily, they’re part of a larger ensemble. Here, the gay couple is the center of the show. And after all, NBC is the old home of Will & Grace.

The Stars: 3

Andrew Rannells (a Tony nominee for The Book of Mormon who guested on HBO’s Girls and has a very small role in the movie Bachelorette) and Justin Bartha (the least famous guy from The Hangover) star as the couple. The surrogate (Scottish newcomer Georgia King) has an eight-year-old daughter of her own (Bebe Wood), as well as a homophobic, racist mother (Ellen Barkin). Throw in The Real Housewives of Atlanta‘s NeNe Leakes as an assistant to Rannells’ character, and it could all seem a bit mishmash — unless the cast’s chemistry works.

The Team: 1

Murphy (doing more Glee and Popular than American Horror Story and Nip/Tuck) co-created the show with Ali Adler. It’s loosely based on his desire to have a child with his husband, David Miller; Adler (who’s penned episodes of Glee, No Ordinary Family, and Chuck) has two children with ex Sara Gilbert. Write what you know.

The Time: 3

Tuesday at 9:30 is apparently a good time for hip irreverent humor, with The New Normal facing off against Fox’s The Mindy Project and ABC’s Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23. With The New Normal having just grabbed 7 million viewers in its time slot debut, a decent but not unbeatable number for NBC, it’s officially game on.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 2

NEXT PAGE: Partners and Go On

Partners

Risk Factor: 12

The Pitch: 1

The network says: A personal story of two lifelong friends and their business partners. Architects Charlie (David Krumholtz) and Louis’ (Michael Urie) friendship has lasted longer than either of their romantic relationships and almost seems like a weird marriage. When Charlie decides to propose to his girlfriend, Louis’ neurotic attempts to be supportive nearly result in the breakup of his own relationship.

We say: A comedy about two best friends, one gay, one straight, and the complications to their friendship when their romantic relationships get serious, is mostly a sitcom-by-the-numbers. However, there is a definite edge/raunch factor here that should help it on CBS, where comedy hits like 2 Broke Girls and Big Bang Theory have broken out alongside all those procedurals. Indeed, premiering right before 2 Broke Girls, this show should have no problem finding an audience. It will, however, also need to find the laughs.

The Stars: 3

While none a huge star in their own right, the core four have a decent track record. Three of the stars come from shows with fervent fanbases: Michael Urie was a fan favorite on Ugly Betty; Sophia Bush was a teen idol from her days on One Tree Hill (which shockingly she was on until last year); and Brandon Routh (Superman Returns) is coming off a recurring role on cult-favorite Chuck. And don’t forget that Krumholtz anchored Numb3rs, the CBS procedural which ran for an impressive (albeit buzzless) six seasons.

The Team: 3

David Kohan and Max Mutchnick created Will & Grace, one of the last great successes of the Must See TV era on NBC. Since then, though, they’ve had difficulty launching an equal-sized hit: Witness Good Morning, Miami; Four Kings, and $#*! My Dad Says.

The Time: 1 

Taking 2 Broke Girls’ old spot after lead-in How I Met Your Mother (with 2 Broke Girls following) Partners will fit right in to CBS’s Monday night comedy block. The standard sitcom – complete with laugh track – seems poised to possibly repeat 2 Broke Girls’ 2011 success. The show will go up against The Voice on NBC, Dancing with the Stars on ABC, and Bones on Fox. But for fans of Mother and 2 Broke Girls, the show seems likely to capture the same eyeballs that are on CBS the rest of the night.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 4

Go On

Risk Factor: 11

The Pitch: 2

The network says: An irreverent yet charming sportscaster tries to move on from loss and finds solace with the members of his mandatory group therapy sessions.

We say: Once again taking on the slightly Anti-Chandler role, Perry plays Ryan King, a radio broadcaster who recently lost his wife and joins a grief support group. Sad? Sure, but also exactly on point with the heartstring-plucking comedy trend that seems popular as of late.

The Stars: 1

Did someone say Matthew Perry?!

The Team: 2

Perry reunites with Friends writer-turned-show-creator Scott Silveri for this role. The question: Do two Friends make a right?

The Time: 3

With a Voice lead-in (not to mention a post-Olympics push), NBC is giving this comedy top billing — and 9.6 million viewers just tuned in to watch it at its regular time, a strong number for NBC. What could hinder it? The fact that it will air opposite demo heavyweight New Girl and hip cult comedy Happy Endings.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 3

NEXT PAGE: Elementary and Nashville

Elementary

Risk Factor: 10

The Pitch: 1

The network says: A modern take on the cases of Sherlock Holmes, with Sherlock now living in New York City.

We say: CBS is home to the procedural, and while the genre spans the dial with networks trying different and increasingly odd hooks to make shows appear unique, there’s something about a modern Sherlock Holmes series (even with a female Watson, played by Lucy Liu) that feels refreshingly classic.

The Stars: 2

British actor Jonny Lee Miller (of the short-lived Eli Stone and Smith) isn’t the first actor to play Sherlock Holmes (on TV… this year), but he is the first one to act opposite a female Watson who serves as the recovering addict sober companion-turned-partner. American audiences know Miller, but not well enough that he’s without mystery, which is fitting. Liu hasn’t always had good luck on TV either (Dirty Sexy MoneyCashmere Mafia), but she’s known for playing strong, smart women, most recently on TNT’s cop drama Southland.

The Team: 5

This is exec producer Rob Doherty’s first test as a showrunner after working on Medium and Ringer, and his fellow EPs, Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly, have a track record that’s equally hit (Justified) and miss (Unforgettable). While Sherlock Holmes is a proven brand on both the small and big screens, it means comparisons will be drawn, and some fans will appreciate the creative license taken while others may not.

The Time: 1

Following the procedural Person of Interest starring the enigmatic Michael Emerson, Elementary shouldn’t have to hunt for an audience on Thursdays at 10 opposite NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams and ABC’s Scandal.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 1

Nashville

Risk Factor: 9

The Pitch: 3

The network says: A family soap set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene that follows one star at her peak and one on the rise.

We say: ABC has tried and failed at a country-fried show before (the more comedic GCB), and some viewers will always be skittish when music is involved. But Nashville is a true sudser, which ABC viewers should appreciate.

The Stars: 2

On Friday Night Lights, Connie Britton exuded strength, soul, and decency — perfect for playing Rayna Jaymes, the respected queen of country music whose ticket sales droop enough that her label wants her to open for a young crossover starlet, Juliette Barnes (Heroes‘ Hayden Panettiere, whose early reviews have also been raves). Powers Boothe costars as Rayna’s powerful estranged father who wants to groom her husband (Eric Close) for public office. And since this is country music, there has to be the threat of someone cheating: Rayna’s guitarist and band leader (Charles Esten) is an ex who still has feelings for her, and Panettiere’s Juliette wants him to be her Romeo, both personally and professionally. 

The Team: 2

They’re all about the authenticity: The idea to set a show on Music Row came from exec producer Steve Buchanan, who oversees the Grand Ole Opry. EP R.J. Cutler is a noted documentarian (The September Issue, The War Room). The show’s creator, Callie Khouri, who wrote Thelma & Louise, knows the Nashville club scene. Khouri’s husband, T Bone Burnett, serves as the show’s executive music producer. And that music includes original tunes that are performed by the actors. In the pilot, there’s a duet sung by sweet young songwriter Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) and the up-and-coming singer Gunnar Scott (Sam Palladio) that you’re guaranteed to rewind.

The Time: 1

Wednesday at 10 puts it up against CSI and the fellow newbie Chicago Fire. Look for Nashville to climb the ratings chart.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 1

NEXT PAGE: Vegas and The Mindy Project

Vegas

Risk Factor: 9

The Pitch: 2

The network says:Period piece set in the 1960s centered on the true story of Ralph Lamb (Dennis Quaid) — rodeo cowboy turned longtime Sheriff of Las Vegas.

We say: Vegas is not a straight-up CBS procedural — it’s a bona fide period piece. It’s not quite as flashy and stylized as ABC’s Pan Am or NBC’s The Playboy Club, so the historical setting doesn’t feel like too much of a gimmick. The pilot (especially scenes set in the casino) plays out a bit like Boardwalk Empire goes to the Desert — but instead of jumping in on an already-established landscape of excess, Vegas as we know it today is only beginning to take shape.

The Stars: 1

Dennis Quaid makes his network television series debut as real-life “cowboy sheriff” Ralph Lamb in this 1960-set mob drama, and his natural stoicism lends itself well to the role. Michael Chiklis, who everyone still misses from The Shield, returns to bad-guy terrain (after a stint playing an average nice-guy dad on No Ordinary Family) as Chicago mob man Vincent Savino. The Chiklis/Quaid pairing is the main draw, although it helps that they’re supported by recognizable faces like Carrie-Ann Moss (The Matrix) and Jason O’Mara (who may have finally found the right vehicle after the one-season failures of In Justice, Life on Mars, and Terra Nova.)

The Team: 3

The big name is co-creator Nicholas Pileggi the writer of Goodfellas and Casino. This is Pileggi’s first attempt at a TV show since Michael Hayes, the shortlived 1997 David Caruso vehicle. Co-creator and showrunner Greg Walker might be the real name to watch here. Walker steered the later seasons of Without a Trace, a massive hit for CBS, though his most recent project – crusading lawyer drama The Defenders – only lasted for one season.

The Time: 1

At 10 on Tuesdays, Vegas is up against ABC’s Private Practice and NBC’s Parenthood, which will make it the natural choice for viewers who aren’t necessarily looking to get in a good cry. With NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles as lead-ins, crime fans will already be tuned into CBS by 10.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 2

The Mindy Project

Risk Factor: 7

The Pitch: 1

The network says: A young Bridget Jones-type doctor, trying to navigate both her personal and professional lives.

We say: Less adorkable and more biting than New Girl, Mindy Kaling’s The Mindy Project couldn’t have found a better show to be paired with. Together, they cap Fox’s comedy block, which starts with Raising Hope and the riskier new odd-couple sibling series Ben and Kate.

The Stars: 1

The good will toward Kaling, who climbed the ladder to executive producer at The Office penning and directing episodes, is enormous. After years of watching her as supporting singleton Kelly Kapoor and appear as “the friend” in big screen romantic comedies like No Strings Attached and The Five-Year Engagement, fans want to see her take center stage. That’s why it’s okay that the pilot’s guest stars (Ed Helms and Bill Hader) outshine the likable regular cast (Chris Messina, Anna Kamp, and Ed Weeks).

The Team: 1

Kaling created the show, and her voice is a familiar one thanks to Twitter and her book of personal essays, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). She’s both surrounded herself with Office vets, like EP Howard Klein, and branched out: Her showrunner is EP Matt Warburton,who was president of the Harvard Lampoon and graduated summa cum laude in Cognitive Neuroscience before joining the writing staff of The Simpsons and serving as a consulting producer on the third season of Community.

The Time: 2

Tuesdays at 9:30 means comedy fans will have to choose between the quick wit of The Mindy Project, The New Normal, and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23, as well as the second half-hour of the CW’s romance-challenged doctor dramedy Emily Owens, M.D (drama fans will be watching NCIS: Los Angeles). That New Girl lead-in will come in handy.

Ken’s Risk Rating: 2

Related:

Risk Factor: ‘Lost,’ ‘Glee,’ ‘CSI,’ and other risks that paid off

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