Around this time each year, the air begins to cool, the leaves begin to abandon their branches, and our TVs fill up with a bunch of sitcoms that are going to be canceled very, very soon (and, OK, a few that won’t). What makes one network sitcom more viable than another? Hell, if I knew that I’d be getting money foot rubs from Les Moonves, or at least from the person he pays to give money foot rubs to people. The answer should be that the sitcoms that are funny survive and the ones that are not funny (aka the vast majority) are canceled after three episodes. Alas, if life were that simple we wouldn’t still be having our senses assaulted by The Big Bang Theory.
Tonight’s the night the sitcoms start rolling in, so my colleague Brianna Wellen and I watched a bunch of official trailers—embedded within—to get a feel for what’s in store. Come with us.
Life in Pieces
Premieres Mon 9/21 at 7:30 PM on CBS
Imagine you’re a TV exec and I’m a creative type and I come to you and I say, “I got this idea for a sitcom . . . about a family.” You scream at me to get out of your office, but I’m like, “W-w-w-wait . . . it’s a sitcom about a big family.” Then you raise your right eyebrow (your “I like what I hear eyebrow”), write me a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars, we go get a couple of hookers, and have a hell of a night. OK, Life in Pieces, a sitcom about a family starring Dianne Weist, James Brolin, and Marie from Breaking Bad, does have a “thing,” which is that each episode is broken up into four vignettes, hence the tagline, “One big family. Four short stories. Every week.” Why not keep going? After that last period add: “For a least a handful of weeks.” Listen. I definitely didn’t get into this business to speak ill of Dianne Weist’s creative pursuits, but I’m dubious of this program’s longevity (even though the bit with Jordan Peele was actually pretty funny). —Gwynedd Stuart
Premieres Tue 9/22 at 7 PM on ABC
Of all the nostalgia-ridden shows on this year’s lineup, The Muppets seems the most palatable at first. The gang of anthropomorphized animals and weirdos is basically omnipresent in our universe anyway, and who doesn’t love Kermit the Frog? So of course the folks at ABC decided to do everything possible to ruin it for everyone. “Let’s test their loyalty,” they likely said while smoking a fat cigar. “How far can we take it before everyone turns on Miss Piggy?” Through maniacal laughs they plant the seed of a breakup between the beloved characters, then make the writers frame the entire series as a mockumentary. “Do you still love the Muppets, America? DO YOU?” —Brianna Wellen
Premieres Tue 9/29 at 7:30 PM
Here’s a fun drinking game: every time someone says the word “lawyer” during the pilot, take a drink. I actually just played it while watching the trailer online, and I’m already hammered. Fred Savage and Rob Lowe star as brothers; one is a lawyer (Savage) and one plays a lawyer on TV (Lowe). And hey, once you’ve done it on TV, you can do it in real life! At least that’s the entire premise of this show. Shenanigans are sure to ensue! Lowe, the obvious favorite son, brings his dramatic courtroom skills to his hometown. I’m really looking forward to this show’s spin-off, The Slicer, in which an actor played by Emilio Estevez becomes a brain surgeon. —Brianna Wellen
Premieres Tue 9/29 at 7 PM on Fox
On Grandfathered, John Stamos plays a contentedly single restaurateur and playboy type who becomes a reluctant parental figure when his long-lost son shows up with a baby and wants advice about girls. It’s Full House with foodstuffs, except that Stamos has spent the past 20 years getting more attractive than he was before. Sure, it looks a little schmaltzy, but I’ll blindly root for anything Stamos does. I don’t even fast-forward when a Dannon Oikos commercial comes on. —Gwynedd Stuart
Premieres Fri 10/2 at 7:30 PM on ABC
I don’t know—I still think Ken Jeong is pretty funny. SUE ME. —Gwynedd Stuart
Truth Be Told
Premieres Fri 10/16 at 7:30 PM on NBC
A lot of these shows don’t seem terribly promising, but the Mark Paul Gosselaar vehicle Truth Be Told is poised to take the dump-truck-full-of-manure-and-week-old-fish-carcasses crown. Here’s the network’s description (try not to cringe): “If you can think it, they will most likely say it in this unabashed new comedy about two diverse couples—Mitch (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, “Saved by the Bell”) and Tracy (Vanessa Lachey, “Dads”), and Russell (Tone Bell, “Bad Judge”) and Angie (Bresha Webb, “Hung”)—a fearless foursome who are both neighbors and best friends. As they navigate through life side by side, they can’t help but analyze and obsess about everything. From sex and race to anything else your parents told you never to talk about, absolutely no topic is out of bounds for this wildly outspoken group.” That is such a long-winded way of saying that it’s a show about people who are annoying. Also notice that another woman plays the Vanessa Lachey character in the trailer. I like that they thought that casting change would fix things. —Gwynedd Stuart
Angel From Hell
Premieres Thu 11/5 at 8:30 PM on CBS
Jane Lynch deserves more than she’s been given. She’s bravely spent so many good years of her life in Glee tracksuits, and this is how we repay her? By casting her as a guardian angel with an edge for the girl from Model Behavior? Where’s Lynch’s guardian angel when you need her? —Brianna Wellen
AND COMING AT MYSTERIOUS POINTS IN THE FUTURE . . .
Premiere TBA on NBC
Back by popular demand among people who are Craig T. Nelson’s friends and family! Actually, I really liked Coach growing up, but that was before I found out CTN is a right-wing a-hole. Anyway, word has it Dauber’s coming back so that’s good. (Also Jerry Van Dyke is still alive—good job, Jer!) —Gwynedd Stuart
Premiere TBA on ABC
Fun fact: the 1989 John Hughes movie Uncle Buck has already been turned into a sitcom once back in 1990 starring Kevin Meany. You don’t remember it because it probably wasn’t very good—but like that would keep network types from giving it another shot 26 years after the movie was a thing. Mike Epps and Nia Long star, for what that’s worth. —Gwynedd Stuart