Hey, look at all the women!
As the fall TV season rolls out, women are law professors and judges, detectives and presidents, Cabinet members and secret agents. They’re running the show, making their own rules, doing everything but lighting up Virginia Slims. There’s even a pregnant virgin.
Give credit to “The Good Wife” and “Scandal” — must-see hits that moved network shows back into the “relevant” column by putting women at the forefront. Even on testosterone-fueled crime procedurals, there’s a chick back at the lab, doing all the real work.
But all that sincere flattery doesn’t mean that all this fall’s female-centric imitators will be watchable. Along with the privilege of taking risks comes the freedom to fail, no matter who’s wearing the pants.
And movie stars keep joining the TV party, with Jada Pinkett Smith, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer snagging shows. So cuddle up with the remote and our guide to new small-screen dramas, thrillers and comedies.
“Madam Secretary,” CBS, 7 p.m.
When Téa Leoni is tapped to step in as America’s next secretary of state during a crisis, she’s wearing pigtail braids. And that’s pretty much all you need to know about this half-hearted attempt to cash in on the steamy political success of “The Good Wife” and “Scandal.” With Keith Carradine as the president.
“Gotham,” Fox, 7 p.m.
Last year, the Marvel Comics-based “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” gave us a superhero show without superheroes, and this year, DC Entertainment gives us a Batman show without Batman. But while “S.H.I.E.L.D.” built its world at an agonizingly slow pace, “Gotham” kicks off with two murders that, in a decade or so, will give birth to the Dark Knight. Which means, with the right ratings, we will have 10 seasons of watching Detective James Gordon (Ben McKenzie of TNT’s “Southland”) tragically fail to save the people of Gotham City from the crime-infested environment that will also create the Penguin, the Catwoman, the Riddler and more.
Brought to you by the people who brought you “Rome,” “Gotham” will be well-served if it follows the example of another HBO drama, “The Wire,” rather than the melodrama of the WB’s comic book show, “Arrow.” The pilot, for better or worse, offers plenty of both. Starring Jada Pinkett Smith and Donal Logue.
“Scorpion,” CBS, 8 p.m.
CBS would like for us to refer to its new drama about freelance hackers as “”. Hopefully the story, based on the real-life Irish genius who helped catch the Boston Marathon bombers, doesn’t share that level of affectation. With Elyes Gabel, Katharine McPhee and Robert Patrick.
“Forever,” ABC, 9 p.m.
Medical examiner Henry Morgan spends a lot of time with dead people, especially for a guy who can’t die. Ioan Gruffudd of “The Fantastic Four” stars as an unkillable hero who uses his immortality to solve cases with the help of an NYPD detective (Alana de la Garza of “Law & Order”) and a musty confidante (Judd Hirsch). After the Monday premiere, the show moves to Tuesday nights at 9.
“NCIS: New Orleans,” CBS, 8 p.m.
Scott Bakula takes the helm as the grizzled, wisecracking veteran of the latest “NCIS” franchise. He even has a great name: Dwayne Cassius Pride. Filmed on location in New Orleans, this “NCIS” hits the ground running with a multi-episode serial killer plot. With C.C.H. Pounder, Lucas Black and the occasional assist from Mark Harmon.
“Black-ish,” ABC, 8:30 p.m.
After being consistently funny in mediocre projects (“Guys With Kids,” etc.), Anthony Anderson is taking a risk with “Black-ish,” a comedy about an upper-middle-class, African-American father questioning just how much his four kids should assimilate into white suburbia. (“There’s no point guards in field hockey, Dad!”) With Tracee Ellis Ross (“Girlfriends”) and Laurence Fishburne.
“How to Get Away With Murder,” ABC, 9 p.m.
Viola Davis, a two-time Oscar nominee for roles in “The Help” and “Doubt” that highlighted her vulnerability, embraces her powerful side in the latest project from Shonda Rhimes of “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
Davis is Annalise Keating, a criminal law professor who takes four students under her wing every semester. She’s ruthless, seductive and demanding, drawing them into a murder mystery and courtroom battle that is anything but academic. Soon, they have to decide just how far they’ll go to please her.
“Transparent,” Amazon, 12:01 a.m.
Jill Soloway, an Emmy-nominated writer for “Six Feet Under,” created and directed this comedy-drama about a father coming out to his family as a late-in-life transgender woman. (Trans-parent, see what they did there?) Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”) is already racking up praise for his performance as Mort, on the way to becoming Maura for good. With Gaby Hoffmann (“Louie,” “Girls”) and Judith Light (“She’s the Boss”).
“Selfie,” ABC, 7 p.m.
A shallow, social media-obsessed narcissist (Karen Gillan of “Doctor Who”) enlists the help of a marketing expert (John Cho) to make her into a respectable human being. In case you miss the “My Fair Lady” overtones, their names are Eliza Dooley and Henry Higgenbottam. From the creator of “Suburgatory.”
“Manhattan Love Story,” ABC, 7:30 p.m.
This sitcom’s premise taps into the minds of 20-somethings in a brand-new relationship, letting us in on every paranoid, insecure thought from both sides. Analeigh Tipton of “Crazy, Stupid, Love” hooks up with Jake McDorman (“Greek”) for this warmhearted exercise in excessive voice-overs.
“Happyland,” MTV, 10 p.m.
Teen amusement park worker Lucy (Bianca A. Santos) is all set to leave Happyland, the fictionalized, sprawling complex of plastic castles and forced smiles, in this new MTV comedy. But then a cute guy named Ian (Shane Harper) shows up, so you know, she might reconsider. Watch for singer Josh Groban as a dude called Dirty Dave.
“Stalker,” CBS, 9 p.m.
Kevin Williamson, writer of “Scream” and other movie franchises about slicing up the ladies, made a splash with “The Following,” Fox’s Kevin Bacon thriller that pushed everyone’s boundaries when it came to gore, creative violence and inept policing. “Stalker” follows Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q as task force detectives, but mostly it follows a creepy guy in a mask as he hunts down victims. The pilot begins with an homage to the opening sequence of “Scream.”
“Gracepoint,” Fox, 8 p.m.
“Broadchurch” was a really good British mystery about two detectives searching for the killer of a little boy. David Tennant (“Doctor Who”) was the lead detective, and the show ran on BBC America last year. Instead of leaving well enough alone, Fox decided to remake it, rename it and relocate it to California, with Tennant once again leading the search for a child killer. This time around, he has help from “Breaking Bad’s” Anna Gunn as his partner. Also starring Oscar nominees Nick Nolte and Jacki Weaver.
“Bad Judge,” NBC, 8 p.m.
Kate Walsh was Dr. Addison Montgomery — first on “Grey’s Anatomy,” then on “Private Practice” — for so long, you might forget she has a comedy background. As Judge Rebecca Wright in this Anne Heche-created ensemble, Walsh gets to party, sleep around and send bad guys to jail, which sounds a lot more fun than filling out malpractice paperwork.
“A to Z,” NBC, 8:30 p.m.
When we last saw Ben Feldman, he was trying to woo Elisabeth Moss on “Mad Men” by presenting her with his severed nipple in a box. Let’s hope he’s got better game in “A to Z,” which follows the relationship between Andrew (Feldman) and Zelda (Cristin Milioti of “How I Met Your Mother”). With narration from Katey Sagal.
“Survivor’s Remorse,” Starz, 8 p.m.
LeBron James produced this sports comedy series, and we can only assume he served as a consultant, too: “Survivor’s Remorse” is the story of Cam Calloway (Jessie T. Usher), a young basketball star whose lucrative NBA contract blows up his life in ways he didn’t expect. With Teyonah Parris of “Mad Men” and Mike Epps.
“Mulaney,” Fox, 8:30 p.m.
“Saturday Night Live” writer John Mulaney stars as … John Mulaney (we’re sensing a pattern here). The fictionalized John Mulaney is also a comedy writer, and his life turns upside down when he’s hired to write for a legendary game show host (Martin Short). Elliott Gould stars as Mulaney’s colorful neighbor.
“The Flash,” the CW, 7 p.m.
A police scientist gains the ability to run at the speed of sound in this spinoff of the CW’s “Arrow.” The Flash is one of the earliest and — among longtime fans — most beloved of DC Comics’ superheroes, and the episodes of “Arrow” that featured the Scarlet Speedster’s alter ego, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), were among last season’s best.
The supporting cast features Tom Cavanagh (formerly of ’90s cult hit “Ed”) as Barry’s mentor, as well as former “Prison Break” stars Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as bad guys Captain Cold and Heat Wave. But the real challenge to “The Flash”? Fighting crime at super-speed on network TV’s special-effects budget. Then again, “Smallville” eked out 10 seasons.
“Kingdom,” DirecTV, 8 p.m.
This is a drama about mixed martial arts fighters that just happens to star Nick Jonas. Does this mean there’s a chance of seeing one of the Jonas Brothers get beaten down by Chuck Liddell?
“American Horror Story: Freak Show,” FX, 9 p.m.
The fourth season of “American Horror Story” goes from last season’s campy coven to a 1950s carnival of bearded ladies, conjoined twins and, of course, Jessica Lange. Beyond that, creator Ryan Murphy hasn’t given many clues to what viewers can expect, though we hope to see at least one killer clown and, given the decade, perhaps even some of those scary old communists.
“Cristela,” ABC, 7:30 p.m.
Standup comic Cristela Alonzo honors the industry tradition of creating her own show, sharing a first name with her character and inviting other comics for guest appearances (see “Mulaney,” above). Alonzo stars as a recent law school grad with an internship that doesn’t pay and a family who doesn’t cut her any slack.
“The Affair,” Showtime, 9 p.m.
Yes, cheating on your wife is bad, but this dark, 10-episode drama is going to show you just how bad it can be. When a privileged writer (Dominic West of “The Wire”) hooks up for a summer fling with a married waitress (Ruth Wilson), he puts more than his marriage at risk. Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson star as the wife and husband scorned.
“Jane the Virgin,” the CW, 8 p.m.
In this comedy/drama adapted from a Venezuelan telenovela, a goody-two-shoes teen (Gina Rodriguez) ends up pregnant after a routine visit to the gynecologist includes an accidental artificial insemination. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
“Marry Me,” NBC, 8 p.m.
This is a comedy about people so … anxious? high-maintenance? incompetent? … that they decide to wait until they can get the proposal right to get engaged. It’s not that hard, guys. With Casey Wilson (“Happy Endings”) and Ken Marino (“Role Models”).
“Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight,” DirecTV, 7 p.m.
DirecTV’s first original scripted comedy is based on an acclaimed play by Tony winner Peter Ackerman. The bedroom farce examines modern L.A. couples who always ruin everything once they start talking after the fun part of bedtime is over. With Kerry Kenney of “Reno 911!” and Eddie Kaye Thomas (“American Pie”).
To bolster its lineup, DirecTV has acquired the British comedy “Uncle,” about the bond between a 30-year-old man-child and his tween nephew. “Uncle,” which also starts Oct. 15, will air on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m..
“Transporter: The Series,” TNT, 8 p.m.
This Canadian-made spinoff of Jason Statham’s action movie franchise re-casts Frank Martin, the hard-punching, well-dressed courier with a very specific code of conduct. This time, it’s Chris Vance (“Prison Break”) delivering the packages, but Francois Berleand remains as Inspector Tarconi.
“Constantine,” NBC, 9 p.m.
The gathering forces of darkness are about to wage war on humanity, and the only thing in their way is … Columbo? Not really, but John Constantine, the third DC Comics character getting his own TV series this fall, certainly resembles Peter Falk’s legendary detective, except Constantine (Matt Ryan) is British and something of a reluctant magician.
Many people from many other good shows (“Dexter,” “Game of Thrones”) and movies (“Batman Begins,” “The Descent”) have their hands in “Constantine.” For the show to succeed, though, there will have to be enough TV watchers who prefer their spiritual medicine men to be more “House” than hunk.
“The McCarthys,” CBS, 8:30 p.m.
Laurie Metcalf, who was on a little show called “Roseanne” back in the day, returns to sitcoms to play Marjorie McCarthy, the mom of a sports-obsessed Boston family. When her gay son Ronny (Tyler Ritter, son of John) takes a job working with his dad as an assistant basketball coach, the other kids have opinions. With Boston accents.
“The Missing,” Starz, 8 p.m.
Acclaimed Irish actor James Nesbitt stars as Tony Hughes, a dad who will stop at nothing to find his 5-year-old son who disappeared on vacation in France. An intricate, action-packed narrative will unfold over two heartbreaking timelines as the years-long search threatens to break Tony apart from his wife, Emily (Frances O’Connor). The eight-part series will air simultaneously on BBC One.
“State of Affairs,” NBC, 9 p.m.
Alfre Woodard as the president? Yes, please. But Katherine Heigl as her trusted national security adviser? Really? This horror series — sorry, political drama — was created by Joe Carnahan, who also writes and directs for “The Blacklist.”