Fall TV 2019: Ranking all the trailers, from best to worst
And so the five broadcast networks continue launching new TV shows, hoping familiar-face stars and hot-concept premises can generate a This is Us-esque triumph against the ongoing assaults of glossy cable television and the all-streaming-everywhere future. As TV critics, Kristen Baldwin and Darren Franich, certainly can’t form a full opinion about the new dramas and comedies based on their short trailers. But they can certainly make snap judgments! Below, a best-to-worst ranking of all the clips from the upfronts. NOTE: They ignored Katy Keene, because that midseason series’ preview was very short.
1. The Unicorn (CBS)
KRISTEN: The last place I expected to see Walton Goggins (Justified, Sons of Anarchy) is on a CBS sitcom playing an eligible widower — and darn if this trailer wasn’t the happiest surprise of the bunch.
DARREN: The chuckle-to-cry ratio looks high here. Also: Rob Corddry and Michaela Watkins as a married couple is comedy heaven.
2. Sunnyside (NBC)
DARREN: Kal Penn helps a group of immigrants learn what it means to be American. Cool concept, and — god help me — I laughed out loud when the dopey guy sincerely asked if Benjamin Franklin was “Hamilton from Hamilton.”
KRISTEN: Exec producer Michael Schur is quite adept at the group-of-strangers-with-one-weird-thing-in-common set-up. This is the only other comedy trailer (besides The Unicorn) that made me laugh (when Poppy Liu’s snooty rich girl tells Bill Nye to “be less boring”).
3. mixed-ish (ABC)
KRISTEN: This black-ish prequel (starring Airca Himmel as a young Rainbow Johnson) looks like an interesting blend of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Wonder Years, and A Different World. Plus, Gary Cole!
DARREN: I’m over the ’80s. The kids look charming. I worry about second spinoffs. The ishverse has a good track record. Why am I dithering: Gary Cole!
4. Evil (CBS)
DARREN: From Good Fight creators Michelle and Robert King (hooray!) comes a supernatural drama (okay!) about, umm, demons possessing murderers? Choosing to believe that the talent, and a late appearance by Michael Emerson, will make this more special than an Exorcist ripoff.
KRISTEN: There are two things that pushed this trailer to the top-tier for me — the Kings, and this wonderful exchange. “You’re a bitch.” “Oh boy, do you have that right.”
5. Deputy (Fox)
KRISTEN: The Dorff-aissance continues! After an entertaining turn as a cop in the less-than-entertaining third season of True Detective, Dorff plays another lawman here — a cowboy who suddenly becomes the Sheriff of LA County. It’s Walker, Los Angeles Ranger!
DARREN: As a Los Angeles resident, I worry this is a rather gun-happy gloss on the (actually quite fascinating!) recent electoral developments in the LA county’s Sheriff’s Department. Still, I’m glad to see executive producer David Ayer returning to his End of Watch CaliCop milieu. And boy did I love Dorff in True Detective.
6. Carol’s Second Act (CBS)
DARREN: Patricia Heaton is a middle-aged new doctor in a solid-looking medical multicam. Wait, was that silver-haired Kyle MacLachlan? I’m in!
KRISTEN: Heaton is entertainingly perky as the overly-chatty doctor/den mother to her fellow residents. And hey, is that Kyle MacLachlan? I, too, am in!
7. Batwoman (The CW)
KRISTEN: Ruby Rose may have perfect bone structure, but she radiates sexy badassery as the titular superhero.
DARREN: I think I may be more excited about this one than you, Kristen, because I’m looking for anything to fill that Gotham-shaped hole in my heart. Fair to say we’re all ready for a swaggery lesbian caped crusader to heal our broken world.
8. Prodigal Son (Fox)
DARREN: This procedural vibes like a lesser Hannibal with more daddy issues. But my favorite moment in any of these trailers is profiler Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne) saying “I need to give them a hand,” and meaning it literally.
KRISTEN: After Michael Sheen’s polarizing (I liked it!) turn as a flamboyant, Roy Cohn-like lawyer on The Good Fight this season, watching him play a Lecter-esque serial killer seems like the perfect palate cleanser.
9. Stumptown (ABC)
KRISTEN: Any trailer that begins with a Neil Diamond singalong and ends with Cobie Smulders offering a smartass shrug earns my attention. I’m not really sure what Smulders’ character really does — some kind of off-the-books crime fighting, I guess? — but she’s fun to watch.
DARREN: That carfight scene resembles The Raid 2. I know, for logical budget reasons, that nothing after the pilot will ever resemble The Raid 2. But I will watch anything that even briefly resembles The Raid 2. This is my blessing and my curse!
10. Perfect Harmony (NBC)
DARREN: Prissy Bradley Whitford leads a small-town choir to glory. Could be a grown-up Glee riff, but the song choice (“Eye of the Tiger”) already feels painfully basic.
KRISTEN: If I wanted to watch an unlikable guy get drawn in by a group of lovable losers… well, I would have watched Community.
11. NeXt (Fox)
KRISTEN: What if the program behind Amazon’s Alexa (here dubbed “Iliza”) was actually a sinister, self-aware program hell-bent on destroying the humans who created it? Yeah, this is my nightmare.
DARREN: Feels like APB without the drones. God, I hated APB.
12. Tommy (CBS)
Darren: Good news, Los Angeles! Dorff might be your new Sheriff, but Edie Falco is your new Chief of Police, the first female to ever hold that position! A little bombastic for my tastes, though, with a bomb and a riot in the premiere alone.
KRISTEN: Cash that check, Edie. You deserve it.
13. Emergence (ABC)
KRISTEN: ABC loves a “small town is rocked by a mysterious event involving an even more mysterious child” drama, even if they never seem to work. (RIP The Crossing, Resurrection.) But I’ll give anything with Allison Tolman (Fargo) a chance.
DARREN: I’ll see your Crossing/Resurrection reference and note that broadcast TV is still chasing that “mysterious stuff with a plane” Lost buzz. RIP, The Event and Manifest. Wait, Manifest is still on? If that could get a second season, the mere presence of Tolman should ensure a healthy run for Emergence.
14. All Rise (CBS)
DARREN: Simone Missick (Misty Knight from the Netflix-Marvelverse) is a new judge in a show that comes off like tonal mishmash between wacky antics and strident sincerity. “The defendant is not wearing any pants,” come on.
KRISTEN: This seems like an inoffensive dramedy that touches vaguely on current issues (a black judge trying to help correct a system that’s rigged against brown people), while providing just enough CBS flair (hi Marg Helgenberger!) to make it fly with their audience.
15. Filthy Rich (Fox)
KRISTEN: A “southern Gothic family drama” starring Kim Cattrall as the wealthy widow of a televangelist? It sounds like great fun on paper — but nothing about this flat, joyless trailer suggests the show will be anything but a drag.
DARREN: It’s hard to be a soapy-satire, and this doesn’t look funny or campy enough. Also, what’s with all these plane crashes? Weird trend!
16. Bob Hearts Abishola
DARREN: After a heart attack, a sock salesman (Billy Gardell) stalks his nurse (Folake Olowofoyeku). Wait, no, sorry, it’s not stalking, they’re falling in rom-com love! Will probably get better when this becomes a relationship show. Barry Shabaka Henley plays Abishola’s dad, and I’m sworn to watch Barry Shabaka Henley in everything.
KRISTEN: Noted man of comedy nuance Chuck Lorre is behind this lighthearted look at an interracial/cultural romance. What could possibly go wrong?
17. Nancy Drew (The CW)
KRISTEN: Hey kids! You like Riverdale, right? Well, if you squint hard enough, Nancy Drew — featuring a dark-glossy take on the titular teen detective — looks kinda like it.
DARREN: I’m officially over the Neon Plastic Goth Cute phase of teen drama.
18. Outmatched (Fox)
DARREN: Dumb parents wish their smart kids were dumb. Pass.
KRISTEN: The only way I’m going to watch this show is if it turns out to take place in the same sordid universe as Fox’s Not Just Me.
19. Broke (CBS)
KRISTEN: CBS loves Pauley Perette so much, they gave her two shows in one! The NCIS fan favorite plays a single mom working two jobs while raising a son (1), whose life is upended when her formerly wealthy sister (Natasha Leggero) and brother-in-law (Jamie Camil) move in (2). That’s a whole lotta concept for 22 minutes.
DARREN: It’s broke, all right.
20. Bless the Harts (Fox)
DARREN: A lot of boldface names for this cartoon. Kristen Wiig! Maya Rudolph! Executive producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller! And the gag in this trailer is that, like, fast food is bad for you. A very short clip, but whoof, that’s what they’re leading with?
KRISTEN: Don’t forget the questionable humor about how poor Southern people try to pay for their fast food in installments, Darren! Har har.
21. Bluff City Law (NBC)
KRISTEN: For God’s sake, television, can you please find a show worthy of Jimmy Smits? But hey, NBC’s mawkish, one-man-fixes-the-health-care-system drama New Amsterdam got a second season, so maybe this earnestly inspirational legal procedural may do fine.
DARREN: That’s not even how people use Post-it notes.
22. FBI: Most Wanted (Fox)
DARREN: Julian McMahan stars as Agent LaCroix, who… wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, Agent LaCroix? As in La Croix, the sparkling water beverage that famously fills every television writers’ room? Choosing to believe that this spinoff I don’t want of a show I don’t like is a stealth self-parody.
KRISTEN: This reminds me of the time CBS launched a remake of The Fugitive in 2000, and everyone thought it would be a huge hit — but a little under-the-radar show called CSI turned out to be that year’s blockbuster. This has nothing to do with FBI: Most Wanted, really, but I honestly can’t think of anything to say about FBI: Most Wanted.
23. Almost Family (Fox)
KRISTEN: Take This is Us and put it through a Stephen King meat grinder, and you get this horrifying abomination masquerading as a heartwarming family drama. Brittany Snow stars as a young woman who discovers that her father, a famous fertility doctor played by Timothy Hutton, is actually a sociopath who used his own sperm to impregnate about 100 women. But hey, at least now she has siblings!
DARREN: The trailer ends with P!ink on the soundtrack repeating the phrase “There is so much wrong/There is so much wrong.” Accurate.