As our favorite shows begin their descent into the void (New Girl, Scandal, Girls), new shows are once again out here crying for approval. This year’s TV pilots—full of mostly white male leads and showrunners—include military dramas, medical dramas, Will & Grace and a Lucifer-produced Big Bang Theory spin-off we don’t need.
With attention spans progressively split between television, movies and social media, it’s more difficult than ever to find emotional space for new shows, as we’re often reminded. Young people, according to Ad Week, “watch 13 percent less traditional TV year over year and spend more of their time on over-the-top platforms.” And yet, there’s still too much TV to watch. The Hollywood Reporter notes that fewer new series have been ordered “as shelf space became harder to find across the schedule.”
What’s never going away is Upfronts, where networks get to present their best, brightest and dumbest pilot ideas for media and advertisers—many of which qualify as bad and unwatchable. I’m here to help you make wise choices.
Premise: “Jeffrey Tanner is a tech genius. When his daughter’s murder goes unsolved, he creates a new social network to solve crimes. But can it solve his own daughter’s?”
Anyone in it that I care about? Jeremy Piven, baby.
A revealing line from the trailer: “Wisdom of the crowd, huh?”
My review: Before, I couldn’t picture Jeremy Piven in any role but Ari Gold, yet here he is doing fine as a grieving start-up dad whose app creates “real-time crowd-sourced crime solving,” an idea that’s both terrifying and brilliant.
Should you watch? Yes, but what a bad title. Why not call it Crowd Source??????
Premise: “This new comedy follows the life of a young Sheldon Cooper as he navigates childhood in a football-loving, churchgoing, small town Texas family.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Jim Parsons, apparently.
A revealing line from the trailer: “I was exploring Dimensional Kinematics.”
My review: How did they know a Big Bang Theory spin-off was the first thing I thought about every day for an entire year?
Should you watch? Out of protest, absolutely not. But it doesn’t matter, the show will nevertheless persist.
Premise: “Based on the podcast StartUp, Alex Schuman is a brilliant radio journalist, husband and father of two who is about to do something crazy – quit his job and start his own company. He quickly discovers it’s going to be a lot harder than he thought.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Zach Braff
A revealing line from the trailer: “I’m in.” -Chris Sacca
My review: Wants to be Silicon Valley but for dads?
Should you watch? One episode.
Premise: “A one-hour science fiction series set 400 years in the future that follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Orville, a mid-level exploratory vessel.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Everyone except Seth McFarlane
A revealing line from the trailer: “Aside from shooting your dad, we don’t mean your family any harm.”
My review: Appears to be deeply unfunny.
Should you watch? The answer is no.
Premise: “When actor Josh Roberts’ show gets cancelled, he moves home only to end up in the apartment between his parents and his brother’s family. Comedy has a new address, 9JKL.”
Anyone in it that I care about? That guy whose face looks familiar
A revealing line from the trailer: “I don’t know, his balls were in the way.”
My review: This is the most buh-dum-bum teaser I’ve ever seen. The startling return of the laugh track continues apace.
Should you watch? I forbid you.
Premise: “A single-camera, action-comedy about the unlikely partnership between two down-on-their-luck polar opposites tasked with an even more unlikely mission: saving the human race from aliens.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Adam Scott! Craig Robinson! Aliens!
A revealing line from the trailer: “That was great.”
My review: Like you, my first thought was: Adam Scott! Craig Robinson! Aliens! But the humor in the trailer feels overdone.
Should you watch? Yes, but I’m iffy.
Premise: “A provocative new medical drama that rips back the curtain to reveal the truth of what really happens, both good and bad, in hospitals across the country.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Nope.
A revealing line from the trailer: “I gave her too much potassium. She died. From me. Not the cancer.”
My review: Another show about how doctors have it hard and things go bad sometimes. Looks like a tonally darker but still emo Grey’s Anatomy.
Should you watch? Okay, maybe.
Premise: “Welcome to Jackpot Airlines, a budget carrier whose junket flight from L.A. to Vegas and back again, is filled with dreamers looking for that big score.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Dylan McDermott anyone?
A revealing line from the trailer: “These planes fly themselves.”
My review: This is a show about being on a plane. The only good thing about it is McDermott exaggeratedly playing a leering, perv-voiced pilot and somehow being delightful, kinda like the dad on Bob’s Burger.
Should you watch? Once.
Premise: “In a downward spiral, Kevin returns home to stay with his widowed twin sister and niece. On his first night there, an unlikely celestial being named Yvette appears to him and presents him with a mission: to find and recruit the 35 righteous humans who can restore a sacred balance that will ultimately save the world.” What?
Anyone in it that I care about? Jason Ritter...
A revealing line from the trailer: “I’m not even a little bit righteous.”
My review: Kevin Can Wait traumatized me away from any shows with Kevin in the title.
Should you watch? You can, but I won’t.
Premise: “Stella has spent the last eight years living like she was dying (because she was). But when she finds out that her cancer has been cured, she is suddenly forced to face the long-term consequences of the ‘live in the moment’ decisions she made.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Lucy Hale
A revealing line from the trailer: “I’m dying.”
My review: What I love about CW is that CW loves a show with a cheery young female narrator.
Should you watch? Yes, if you’re 21 and under.
Premise: “This fresh, heart-pounding journey into the complex world of America’s elite undercover military heroes follows D.I.A. Deputy Director Patricia Campbell (Anne Heche) and her team of analysts as they wield the world’s most advanced surveillance technology from headquarters in D.C.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Anne Heche, where you been?
A revealing line from the trailer: “Get off me!”
My review: A good high-stakes government drama is tough to pull off. This might take a few episodes to grab you.
Should you watch? Sure.
Premise: “Follow the lives of the most elite unit of Navy SEALs as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous missions our country can ask of them.”
Anyone in it that I care about? David Boreanaz, aka Angel, aka Booth; Jessica Pare, aka Megan Draper from Mad Men
A revealing line from the trailer: “Like I said, we got this.”
My review: This is all those field op video games you’ve been forced to watch, but as a television show. Boreanaz is charming as hell.
Should you watch? Yes, for all the sexy people.
Premise: “Tired of waiting for opportunity, [a young rapper] cooks up the publicity stunt of the century: Running for mayor of his hometown in California to generate buzz for his music career.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Lea Michele, Yvette Nicole Brown
A revealing line from the trailer: “Why are you doing this?”
My review: Wow, this is one of the silliest show premises I’ve ever heard and has all the makings of something either very bad or surprisingly funny.
Should you watch? At least once, for Yvette Nicole Brown.
Premise: “An elite unit of U.S. Army helicopter pilots called the Shadow Raiders are sent on a top secret mission that goes terribly awry.”
Anyone in it that I care about? A couple of them look familiar.
A revealing line from the trailer: “Maybe the understatement of the year, sir.”
My review: Eh, another military drama.
Should you watch? No.
Premise: “The life of a genius inventor is examined in his childhood, today and in the future.”
Anyone in it that I care about? SNL’s Bobby Moynihan and FINALLY Jaleel White (Urkel)
A revealing line from the trailer: “Wanna dance?”
My review: There’s a bit of charm, a bit of wit and wackiness and triumph and the tone kind of reminds me of The Wonder Years.
Should you watch? Yeah.
Premise: “An encore 11 years in the making. It’ll take Will, Jack and Karen to convince Grace it’s a good idea. Will & Grace is back Thursdays this fall on NBC.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Will, Grace, Jack and the shadiest person alive, Karen.
A revealing line from the trailer: “Hey, what’s crack-a-lackin’, kids?”
My review: While at first I was hesitant about reviving the show (there really is no point), the dumb wit and nostalgia has won me over.
Should you watch? Of course.
Premise: “Set in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, aka ‘The Mother Court,’ this new Shondaland drama follows brand-new lawyers working for both the defense and the prosecution handling the most high-profile and high-stakes federal cases in the country.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Not really.
A revealing line from the trailer: “They’re young, they’re hungry, they’re smart.”
My review: If like me you’ve given up on trying to follow the storyline in How to Get Away with Murder, maybe this is a decent alternative.
Should you watch? Only for Shonda, yes.
Premise: “Jefferson Pierce is a man wrestling with a secret. Nine years ago, Pierce was gifted with the superhuman power to harness and control electricity, which he used to keep his hometown streets safe as the masked vigilante Black Lightning.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Don’t think so.
A revealing line from the trailer: “Now you just pissed me off.”
My review: Another treacly CW series but with superheroes but at least it’s nice that this revolves around a black family.
Should you watch? Yeah, cool.
Premise: “Stars Kyra Sedgwick as Jane Sadler, an overworked television producer and single mother in the middle of a separation whose life is turned upside down when her young daughter goes missing in the middle of the night.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Kyra Sedgwick, Malcolm Jamal Warner
A revealing line from the trailer: “Mother of the year, Jane!”
My review: Though a mystery series about the case of a missing child sounds intriguing, I’d be more likely to watch this as a one-off or mini-series.
Should you watch? Alright, but don’t blame me.
Premise: “When his career is ruined by scandal, superstar magician Cameron Black has only one place to turn to practice his art of deception, influence and illusion — the FBI.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Amaury Nolasco, best known for Prison Break.
A revealing line from the trailer: “It’s not you. I don’t like magic.”
My review: I do like magic and The Prestige is one of my favorite movies, so I’m intrigued.
Should you watch? Yes, check it out.
Premise: “Tells the story of a suburban couple whose ordinary lives are rocked by the sudden discovery that their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from a hostile government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive.”
Anyone in it that I care about? The guy who played what’s her name’s husband on The Game
A revealing line from the trailer: “You.”
My review: Sorry, but it’s hard for me to care much for yet another superhero drama on TV. Just give me a movie!
Should you watch? You choose how you spend your time.
Premise: “Refugees from a war-torn country seek asylum in a small American fishing town, only the country these people are from is America — and the war they are fleeing hasn’t happened yet.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Steve Zahn, people.
A revealing line from the trailer: “She’s breathing. She’s breathing!”
My review: There’s a futuristic setting, a major Earth event and a creepy mysterious kid. What’s going on here? Lost? Leftovers?
Should you watch? Give it a shot.
Premise: “Fallon Carrington is charismatic, cunning, and poised to become the new COO of her father’s global energy empire – or so she thinks.”
Anyone in it that I care about? I’m looking and don’t see any.
A revealing line from the trailer: “Who the hell are you doing here?”
My review: I don’t care about anything that’s happening in this trailer.
Should you watch? If you liked the original Dynasty, give it a try. Or if you’ve had it up to here with Empire.
Premise: “The story of a couple (Jenna Fischer, “The Office,” Oliver Hudson, “Scream Queens”) whose marriage is reignited by their divorce.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Jenna Fisher, Diane Farr
A revealing line from the trailer: “Well, that’s the last thing I want to talk about.”
My review: Seems like a nice, perhaps fun divorce show, largely off the strength of Jenna Fisher.
Should you watch? Yeah.
Premise: “A young surgeon with autism and savant syndrome, relocates from a quiet country life to join a prestigious hospital’s surgical unit.”
Anyone in it that I care about? Nah.
A revealing line from the trailer: “Who are you?”
My review: This is giving me Doogie Howser in the modern era and feels like a show I would want to like but won’t have time.
Should you watch? No.
Premise: “A locally born and bred SWAT sergeant is torn between loyalty to the streets and duty to his fellow officers when he’s tasked to run a specialized tactical unit that is the last stop in L.A. law enforcement.”
Anyone in it that I care about? An ageless Shemar Moore
A revealing line from the trailer: “What color you supposed to be, brother black or blue?”
My review: It’s a drama about law enforcement corruption that tries to tap into the tone of our times.
Should you watch? Skip.
*An earlier version of this post incorrectly included the CBS series Bull.
Videos via NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox and CW; Show “premise” descriptions taken from YouTube and official network sites