Every new television season brings with its incoming slate of network programs one paralyzing question: which Fall 2015 shows should we be watching? It’s often hard to tell, as the vast majority of the material ushered in by the Big Four and The CW isn't for everyone. But, of course, there are signifiers that an individual program might be more worth our while than the average weeknight broadcast: an actor we love, a producer we trust, or even just the effort and interest to break the usual sameness we see holding fast to these programs’ casts and crews. That's why the fact that Shonda Rhimes' The Catch is coming to ABC is both unsurprising and a cause for celebration.
There are a few new additions to the networks’ lineups that we can laud right out the gate for fostering female figures in central roles both in front of, and behind, the camera. Placing women at the head of crime dramas, dark comedies, labyrinthine political stories, and even superhero epics, this swath of series look to be an improvement on the standing state of female representation. With a few series celebrating minority casts and themes of sexual orientation to boot, we’re all in all in for a network season that seems like a step above that to which we’ve been accustomed lately.
The first project that leaps to mind in the consideration of a more female-centric immediate future on the small screen is, doubtlessly, CBS’ Supergirl. Making its way to air long before we’ll get a chance to see the heavily awaited Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel feature films — and beating Disney’s Netflix series AKA Jessica Jones to the punch — the Melissa Benoist-starring Supergirl is among the first female-led superhero projects to brace this generation of mainstream pop culture. (Credit where credit is due: The Marvel show Agent Carter made it to screen just a few months back.)
The Shonda Rhimes Collection
While CBS can only claim the DC property as its sole new venture, its fellow networks have a wider breadth of incoming series, some of which promising progress. Over at ABC, resident creative kingpin Shonda Rhimes and her troupe are backing a number of programs, many of which fostering the feminist ideology on which most of her shows to date have been founded. First, we have The Catch, which stars Mireille Enos as a fraud investigator who, by some pithy stroke of dramatic irony, becomes the victim of fraud. Additionally, Rhimes’ colleague Jenna Bans is the mind behind The Family, a political drama with Joan Allen standing at the center.
This past season, one show that garnered supreme network attention was Fresh Off the Boat, a traditional (albeit funny) family sitcom whose distinguishing factor was that it was about an Asian-American household, and tapped into the experiences of growing up a racial minority in a predominantly white, affluent Florida neighborhood.
Ken Jeong, known for his work on Community and his far more regrettable turn in the Hangover franchise, will headline his own family sitcom: Dr. Ken, focusing on his life and work as a talented physician and befuddled father. This is the first project on the list that we approach with trepidation; hopefully, Jeong’s screen persona will fall more in line with his Knocked Up character than with the stereotypical shtick he has purveyed through many other films, the Hangovers included.
The Real O’Neals
Also at ABC, we find the staking of an even more impressive new piece of territory: the dramatic comedy series The Real O’Neals challenges religious conservatism when the titular family’s son comes out as gay, provoking his loved ones to adopt more honest and open-minded lifestyles. All that, and the casting of Martha Plimpton and Mad Men's Jay R. Ferguson, is enough reason to be duly excited.
The NBC Lineup
I have yet to form an opinion on any of NBC’s new shows, but I'm excited to see female stars — like America Ferrera in the workplace comedy Superstore, Melissa George in the medical drama Heartbreaker, and Carrie Preston and Miranda Cosgrove in the family comedy Crowded — take way… not to mention How I Met Your Mother director Pamela Fryman behind the comedy People Are Talking.
The Big Question
We can’t exactly take The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend at face value with much confidence. The series is set to star talented Internet comedian Rachel Bloom as a “potentially crazy” work-oriented type who sets her career aside to find love. We’re not exactly sure if the show will be playing with these questionable ideas interestingly or following them straight on, but we have to hope that someone on staff understands just how wrong a premise like this can go.
Image: CBS; Getty Images (4)