x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

What to watch: a roundup of TV's new autumn shows

With TV's autumn line-up of new shows and Orbit Showtime Network hosting the return of established favourites, there's plenty to stay home for this season.

The new drama series Pan Am is about airline workers during the Jet Age and will be broadcast on OSN on October 2.
The new drama series Pan Am is about airline workers during the Jet Age and will be broadcast on OSN on October 2.

Whether it is the sharp suits and intrigue of Mad Men, or the highly charged theatrics of Glee, even the most popular US television series were once forced to walk uncertain first steps into the world's most unforgiving entertainment arena.

Identifying the programmes that are likely to become hits before broadcast is notoriously difficult, which is why US networks choose to flood their autumn seasons with dozens of new sitcoms, dramas and animated shows. Rather than survival of the fittest, it's survival of the best-rated, with the most popular shows revived the following year and beyond.

In the coming weeks, the Middle Eastern provider Orbit Showtime Network will host the return of several long-standing favourites, including Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, Glee, Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, as well as regional premieres of many of the US networks' fledgling shows.

This year's crop is as varied as ever. From the trolley-dolly romp Pan Am to mega-budget sci-fi Terra Nova, as well as a small-screen revival of Charlie's Angels, here are some of the ones to look out for.

The X Factor

Viewers from the UK and a number of other countries will probably already be familiar with The X Factor. Created and owned by Simon Cowell, the show first hit screens in 2004, killing the Idol brand stone dead in Britain. Now launching in the US for the first time, the straight-talking talent judge no doubt hopes that American Idol will falter similarly without him on-board.

The format is largely the same, except groups will be able to compete alongside solo singers. Other judges include Idol's Paula Abdul, music executive LA Reid and former Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger. (Broadcast on OSN, Thursday)

Charlie's Angels

In a relatively new spin on a rather worn-out idea (following a 35-year-old TV show and two big screen adaptations), the three butt-kicking "angels" in ABC's latest series begin life not as cops, but criminals.

But the dangerous trio (played by relative unknowns Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh as well as Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights and dating-New-York-Yankees-player-Derek-Jeter fame) decide to become good guys after all, when they receive a second chance from the mysterious Charlie.

While some TV reboots have fared well in recent years, the majority have not. Unfortunately, this lighthearted take looks destined for a fate closer to that of the short-lived Bionic Woman series rather than that of, for example, Battlestar Galactica. (Broadcast on OSN, September 25)

Revenge

Loosely based on the classic novel The Count of Monte Cristo, ABC's glitzy drama sees a mysterious woman (Brothers & Sisters star Emily VanCamp) arrive in the exclusive New York neighbourhood the Hamptons seeking revenge on the people who destroyed her family years earlier.

Combining a fairly trashy concept with an opulent setting, it could make irresistible viewing - but how long will it be before all the story's wrongdoers have either got what's coming to them, or the entire revenge storyline has been abandoned? (Broadcast on OSN, September 26)

Terra Nova

Executive-produced by Steven Spielberg and airing on Fox, the high-concept sci-fi sees the inhabitants of a polluted and resource-drained 2149 sent back in time to Earth's pre-human past where they hope to begin living off the land. Unfortunately, though, nobody bothered to check the natural history books to discover that Earth's past is full of hungry dinosaurs.

The show's pilot had originally been expected to run in May 2011, but the huge number of special effects needed meant delaying its premiere. (Broadcast on OSN September 28)

Pan Am

The pilots and air hostesses of this 1960s drama may at first appear to be cut from the same cloth as Don Draper and Joan Holloway, but instead of slow-burning drama, ABC's Pan Am aims for escapism and camp.

That won't stop the show from being referred to as Mad Men on a plane, though. It sees the Hollywood actress Christina Ricci buckling-up with a host of unknowns to explore everything from women's liberation to Cold War espionage. Expect it to be one of the most talked-about shows of the year. (Broadcast on OSN, October 2)

Once Upon a Time

One of the wackier TV concepts of recent years, Once Upon a Time sees Snow White, Prince Charming and a raft of their fairy-tale companions banished to real-world New England. What's more, none of them know their true identities and their only salvation is a 20-something Boston private investigator (House's Jennifer Morrison), who - confusingly - also happens to be Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter.

The ABC show is produced by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who were responsible for the hugely popular but frequently baffling series Lost. (TBC)

2 Broke Girls

This season's most hotly tipped comedy sees a blue-collar Brooklyn waitress (Kat Dennings) strike up an unlikely friendship with the down-on-her-luck daughter of a billionaire fraudster (Beth Behrs), and the pair decide to go into business together.

Dennings is particularly hilarious in the rude, self-aware and of-its-time CBS comedy, which was co-created by Michael Patrick King. The writer/director, who received widespread praise for his work on the HBO show Sex and the City, will be looking to rebuild his reputation after the widespread scorn that the series' two recent movie outings attracted. (TBC)

Ringer

Two girls from opposite sides of the tracks are also forced together in The CW's new series Ringer - except in this case, they're sisters.

The show sees Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar playing bad girl Bridget and also her estranged socialite sister, Siobhan. It begins with Bridget moving in with her sister in an attempt to avoid testifying in a high-profile murder case, but when Siobhan mysteriously disappears...her entire life is for the taking. The gimmicky split-screen twin trick may be several decades old, but if anyone can give it a new dimension, it's probably Gellar. (TBC)

Person of Interest

From the imaginations of JJ Abrams (Lost, Super 8) and Jonathan Nolan (co-writer of The Dark Knight and brother of the filmmaker Christopher Nolan) comes a suitably mind-bending series, which will debut on CBS.

It sees two strangers gain access to a machine that can accurately predict where and when a violent crime is about to occur, allowing them to prevent it. The pair decide to use the device to help people, but find themselves struggling when the victims-to-be are unaware that they are in danger. (TBC)

Allen Gregory

Other than the rebirth of Beavis and Butt-Head on MTV, the new season is light on animated debuts. Fox's Allen Gregory, created and voiced by Superbad star Jonah Hill, looks the most promising.

It sees a hyper-intellectual, suit-wearing seven-year-old leaving the safety of home-school and entering the terrifying world of other children. Rather than the ludicrous, rapid-fire comedy of Family Guy and its spin-offs, Allen Gregory aims to deliver an offbeat, zany, charm. (TBC)

Hell on Wheels

AMC, the network behind hit shows Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Mad Men has found all three of its biggest properties tied-up by creator disputes of late, so it will have high hopes that its post-American Civil War epic, Hell on Wheels, can help put it back on track.

The show focuses on the raggedy travelling community working on the construction of the Transcontinental railroad, between the east and west coasts of the US. While it seems to have all the period detail and slow-burning charm of HBO's Deadwood, the show may struggle to balance an even more expansive set of characters, while also having a story that will constantly force it to change location. (TBC)