ABC Previews Its Fall Shows at the TCAs

By: Megan Walsh-Boyle

After gaining Level 7 clearance at the ABC portion of this summer’s press tour, I was able to screen the first episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It was, in a word, awesome. There were the special effects, kick-ass action and smart-aleck dialogue audiences have come to love and expect from the Marvel franchise. The best part, however, is the (somewhat mysterious) return of fan fave Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). After presumably being killed off in the “Avengers” film, Coulson’s back to lead a team of rather colorful and complicated agents, including Melinda May (ER’s Ming-Na Wen), a legend in the field who, for some as yet untold reason, wanted a break from the danger. My only concern is that S.H.I.E.L.D. risks becoming a procedural in the vein of CSI, but with cooler gadgets and scarier villains. Not that audiences wouldn't watch that, but here's hoping executive producer and geek god Joss Whedon and his S.H.I.E.L.D. team have assembled something more unpredictable than that.  Premieres September 24 at 8 pm.

The Goldbergs is really trying hard to be a Reagan-era version of The Wonder Years. It’s based on creator Adam F. Goldberg’s own dysfunctional childhood and stars Bridesmaids' Wendi McLendon-Covey and Curb Your Enthusiasm's Jeff Garlin as the well-intentioned but overbearing parents. “Yeah, we were the family that yelled and cursed, but to this day we still love each other,” says narrator Patton Oswalt as the grown-up version of 11-year-old Adam (Sean Giambrone), a self-proclaimed geek who sees everything through the lens of his oversized video camera. If you want to relive the ‘80s---and don’t mind poop jokes and a lot of shouting---this might be the sitcom for you. And with veteran scene-stealer George Segal playing Pops, a character who’s described in the pilot as “80 years of pure awesome,” you know you’re in for a few laughs. Premieres September 24 at 9 pm.

Malin Akerman (Suburgatory) charms in the Trophy Wife, a sitcom about Kate, who goes from being single and carefree to married to a man with three kids and two exes after a chance encounter at a karaoke bar with a divorced lawyer named Pete (The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford). The premise revolves around Kate adjusting to the demands of having a family and struggling to win acceptance from just about everyone, especially Pete’s overachieving first wife (played to bitchy perfection by Marcia Gay Harden).  It’s hard to resist falling for this in-over-her-head newlywed, even as she gets drunk in the pilot to protect her snarky teen stepdaughter from getting caught with vodka. Maybe not the smartest move, but Kate’s even witty and delightful when she’s totally plastered. She’s what you call a keeper! Premieres September 24 at 9:30 pm.

Does money solve all problems, or just make them more complicated?  That seems to be the premise behind Lucky 7, a drama from Detroit 1-8-7 duo David Zabel and Jason Richman and executive produced by Steven Spielberg about a group of down-on-their-luck employees at a service station in Queens who hit a $45 million jackpot just moments after two of the pool winners---brothers Matt and Nicky (played by Matt Long and Stephen Louis Grush)---pull something desperate to make some quick cash. Although set in modern times, the pilot conveys a slick ‘70s vibe, in part due to a soulful soundtrack and an attention-grabbing car chase.  It also has a lot of characters, some of whom are more interesting than others, to follow. But, in the end, the first episode was engaging and definitely worth tuning into this fall. Premieres September 24 at 10 pm.

Back in the Game is reminiscent of the 1976 comedy “The Bad News Bears.” It stars the uberlikeable Maggie Lawson (Psych) as a single mom and former all-star softball player who offers to coach her son’s baseball team of misfits. Helping her lead this motley crew is her beer-swilling, crass-talking dad played by the always terrific James Caan. While this father-daughter duo doesn’t always play nice---she’s resentful towards him and America’s pastime, and with good reason---they do have the potential to make a great odd couple.  And fans of a good underdog story should find it easy to root for this show’s colorful cast of characters. Premieres September 25 at 8:30 pm.

Fans of sight gags and slapstick antics may find Super Fun Night a superfunny addition to the Wednesday night lineup. It follows three socially-awkward best friends played by Rebel Wilson (of Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect fame), Liza Lapira (Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23) and Canadian actress Lauren Ash. In the pilot, the besties’ 13-year-old ritual of staying in every Friday night gets shaken up after Wilson’s Kimmie receives a promotion at her law firm and is invited out for drinks with her handsome British coworker (Kevin Bishop). Even though the ladies find themselves in one embarrassing predicament after another, they end up having more fun than any evening of tacos and virgin margaritas in their PJs could offer and decide to hit the town more often.  Wilson clearly has the comedic chops to carry a sitcom, but her character is bordering on cartoony and her over-the-top behavior could grow annoying without some down-to-earth moments to balance it out. Premieres October 2 at 9:30 pm.

Who knew Betrayal could be so boring? This Chicago-based drama stars Stuart Townsend as attorney Jack McAllister and Hannah Ware as photographer Sara Hadley, two impossibly gorgeous people who would be just perfect for each other if they weren’t already married with kids. Still, they develop an instant attraction to each other one fateful night, and although they know they shouldn’t, they just can’t control their feelings and enter into an adulterous affair that has ramifications neither could have imagined. Yet it’s hard to care when the acting is rather ho-hum and the leads come off as more selfish than sympathetic. With the exception of the always-reliable James Cromwell as a corrupt businessman who doesn’t take treachery lightly, this Betrayal just doesn’t seem worth it. Premieres September 29 at 10 pm.

ABC takes viewers down the rabbit hole in their Once Upon a Time spin-off, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. And just as the original ABC series has enchanted with its fresh retelling of classic fairy tales, it seems certain viewers will grow curiouser and curiouser as to what creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz have in store for Lewis Carroll’s characters. From what I’ve seen of the first episode, Alice (Sophie Lowe) is a beautiful, smart, kiss-ass young woman who after her “miraculous, strange and terrifying adventures” in Wonderland has been committed by her father to an insane asylum. It seems nobody buys into her tales of a hookah-smoking caterpillar and invisible cat. They also don’t seem to believe her devastation over losing the love of her life, a genie named Cyrus (Peter Gadiot). Good thing her friends a CGI White Rabbit (voce of John Lithgow) and the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) have got her back.  My advice: Don’t be late for this trip to Wonderland! Premieres October 10 at 8 pm. 

 

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