Fall TV season is the best time of the year for misunderstood investigators, troubled reporters, feuding country music stars, amnesiac time travelers, Old West widows, and flannel-wearing demon hunters. If you're looking to make space in your TV watchlist for a new network drama but you can't decide if you're in the mood for a rookie FBI agent or a firefighter, let TV Guide help. Our guide to the best and worst new broadcast shows this fall breaks down each show's premiere date, trailer, cast list, and plot, but it also answers the most important question you can ask of any show: Is it good?
More on the fall TV season:
Premieres: Friday, Oct. 7 at 9/8c on CBS
For fans of: Redemption stories, daring rescues, not thinking too hard about the ethics of prison labor
Who's in it? Max Thieriot, Billy Burke, Kevin Alejandro, Diane Farr, Jules Latimer, Jordan Calloway, Stephanie Arcila
What's it about? Bode Donovan (Max Thieriot, who also created the series) joins California's inmate firefighter program only to be assigned to his Northern California hometown, where personal drama complicates his quest to redeem himself.
Is it good? The character dynamics in Fire Country are some of the most confident in a procedural pilot this season. By the end of the first episode, we've got unexpected connections between characters, soapy conflicts over dark secrets in their past, and relationships bound for implosion. And there's fire! Fire is compelling. Too bad it's all in service of a story that romanticizes California's dependence on prison labor, glossing over the fundamental flaws of a program that pays people pennies to risk their lives. Not to kill the buzz of everyone excited to watch a buff dude run through flames — including some of my colleagues, who point out that the show beats the rest of the new fall slate on pure entertainment value — but Fire Country is walking on a lot of hot coals and pretending they're not there. -Kelly Connolly
Premieres: Tuesday, Oct. 11 at 8/7c on The CW
For fans of: Supernatural, being disappointed
Who's in it? Meg Donnelly, Drake Rodger, Jojo Fleites, Bianca Kajilich, Nida Khurshid
What's it about? It's the untold story of Mary (Meg Donnelly) and John Winchester (Drake Rodger), parents to future demon hunters Sam and Dean Winchester from the beloved CW series Supernatural. Set in the 1970s, it follows the pair as they hunt monsters, save the world, search for their fathers, and maybe rewrite some Supernatural canon.
Is it good? Unfortunately, no. No one would blame The CW for attempting a spin-off of one of its most popular shows — and this is the third official try after Bloodlines and Wayward Sisters never made it past the backdoor pilot stage — but The Winchesters comes out feeling like a series relying solely on its source material to carry it along. At least early on, John and Mary are written like caricatures with as much soul as their black-eyed demonic foes, and while several references in the pilot episode will be familiar to Supernatural fans (are you ready to learn more about the Men of Letters?), it's hard to see even the hardcore fan base really get into this one. Just rewatch Supernatural, a far superior show in every single way. -Tim Surette
Premiered: Sunday, Sept. 11 on Fox; airs Tuesdays at 9/8c
For fans of: Nashville, Empire, music, and murder
Who's in it? Anna Friel, Trace Adkins, Joshua Sasse, Beth Ditto, Susan Sarandon
What's it about? This unabashed primetime soap opera set in the world of country music follows a family of Texas icons as they battle for fame, fall in and out of love, and deal with murder.
Is it good? Depends what you're looking for. If you want a drama full of backstabbers, love triangles, and secrets instead of, uhhh, character development and decent dialogue, then Monarch is a perfect world to get lost in. With a future timeline about murder and another about how we got there, it's the kind of show that can't wait to get to the next twist. But beyond the thrills of an avalanche of cliffhangers and surprise revelations, Monarch is pretty empty, even with some energetic musical numbers covering country and pop classics. It's almost as hard to imagine the series keeping this pace as it is to imagine being able to hold interest in it. -Tim Surette
Premiered: Monday, Sept. 19 on NBC; airs Mondays at 10/9c
For fans of: The OG Quantum Leap, time travel, Timeless
Who's in it? Raymond Lee, Caitlin Bassett, Mason Alexander Park, Nanrisa Lee, Ernie Hudson
What's it about? A reboot that's also a revival of the 1989-1993 cult classic, the new Quantum Leap picks up 30 years after Scott Bakula's Dr. Sam Beckett vanished. Dr. Ben Song (Raymond Lee) leads a team that's restarted the Quantum Leap project in the hopes of ironing out the bugs — until Ben steps into the machine with no warning, wiping his memory. Now, he leaps into the bodies of other people throughout history with only a hologram of his fiancée, Addison (Caitlin Bassett), as his guide.
Is it good? It's pretty fun! Quantum Leap is a silly show that could stand to embrace its campiness a lot more, but there's something endearing in its earnestness. The mystery of Ben's unplanned leap is a smart update on the original formula, giving the series a mythology to work with on top of its week-to-week adventures, which can take the show anywhere. But as Maggie Fremont says in her review, what really anchors Quantum Leap is Raymond Lee's charismatic performance. -Kelly Connolly
Premiered: Tuesday, Sept. 27 on ABC; airs Tuesdays at 10/9c
For fans of: The Rookie
Who's in it? Niecy Nash-Betts, Kevin Zegers, Britt Robertson, Felix Solis, James Lesure, Frankie Faison
What's it about? Simone Clark (Niecy Nash-Betts), a former high school guidance counselor and now the oldest rookie in the FBI Academy, battles institutional road blocks as she tries to leave her mark on the Bureau.
Is it good? The Rookie's spin-off benefits from two things. First, it's already got its tone nailed down, because it's the exact same tone as The Rookie. It's not breaking new ground, but Feds moves with a confidence that most of this year's new network dramas haven't found yet. Second, it's got Niecy Nash-Betts. Nash-Betts is, as always, undeniably fun as guidance counselor-turned-FBI agent Simone Clark, even if her coworkers don't pop as much as she does. Feds is the latest in a line of TV procedurals that are trying to get around social critiques of cop shows while still being cop shows. The pilot fires off a few lines about changing the system from the inside as Simone works her way onto a task force that we're told is upsetting the FBI's higher-ups, but their mission is too vaguely defined for the stakes to feel real. Still, The Rookie: Feds is good at being exactly what it is, and what it is is a show with Niecy Nash-Betts. -Kelly Connolly
Premiered: Thursday, Sept. 29 on CBS; airs Thursdays at 9/8c
For fans of: Complicated family dynamics, surveillance gadgets
Who's in it? Skylar Astin, Marcia Gay Harden, Madeline Wise, Inga Schlingmann, Tristen J. Winger, Rosa Arredondo
What's it about? Rule-bending P.I. Todd Wright (Skylar Astin) takes a job as in-house investigator at the law firm of his uptight mother, Margaret (Marcia Gay Harden), after helping her through a personal crisis.
Is it good? It's hard to say what So Help Me Todd is. The crime dramedy can't nail down a tone, bouncing between playful mother-son bickering and wounded mother-son bickering without really landing either the jokes or the family drama. Astin and Harden have mismatched potential, but they spend too much time watching other people do things rather than driving the action themselves, and we're told their characters are good at their jobs without much evidence to back it up. The show is still figuring itself out — check back in later to see whether it cracks the case. -Kelly Connolly
Premiered: Sunday, Oct. 2 on CBS; airs Sundays at 9/8c
For fans of: New York Friggin' City (but not Manhattan), old school cop shows with new world problems
Who's in it? Amanda Warren, Jimmy Smits, Kevin Rankin, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Richard Kind
What's it about? The newly promoted commanding officer (Amanda Warren) of a Brooklyn police precinct tackles crime by doing things her way, though not everyone is on board with her tactics.
Is it good? Usually, a new cop show on TV will have some pronounced wrinkle in it to distinguish it from others, but East New York mostly keeps with tradition, which makes it pretty unspectacular but also comforting for fans of that slice of the genre. (It would fit well as a lead-in to Blue Bloods.) Yes, Warren's character, Regina Haywood, is a Black female commanding officer, and the problems the precinct faces — a skeptical community, racial tension, and preferential treatment for the upper class — are hot topics today, but East New York operates like a no-frills, late-'80s cop show, for better or worse. The first couple episodes want to make two things clear: Hey, you're in East New York, and Haywood is a hard-ass boss. It isn't until Episode 2 that we get a glimpse of Haywood's personal issues, but for the most part, the ensemble cop drama is more interested in what's happening at work, which is very typical cop stuff. And if anyone can explain to me why Richard Kind is on this show, I'd love to hear it. -Tim Surette
Premiered: Thursday, Oct. 6 on The CW; airs Thursdays at 9/8c
For fans of: Walker, Westerns with modern sensibilities
Who's in it? Katherine McNamara, Matt Barr, Katie Findlay, Greg Hovanessian, Lawrence Kao, Philemon Chambers, Justin Johnson Cortez, Gabriela Quezada
What's it about? Katherine McNamara (The Flash, Shadowhunters) stars as Abby Walker, a woman traveling with her husband from Boston to the titular Texas town in the 1870s, where he's taken a job as sheriff. After he's murdered in front of her by a man who then takes the job in his stead, she teams up with local scoundrel Hoyt Rawlins (Matt Barr) to expose the killer. Is there a spark between them? You know there is.
Is it good? If Jared Padalecki's contemporary Western cop drama Walker is Yellowstone, Old West prequel Walker: Independence is 1883. Abby Walker is an ancestor of of Padalecki's Cordell Walker, Texas Ranger, and Hoyt Rawlins is an ancestor of a character with the same name Barr also played on Walker. The show is an overstuffed mix of action, romance, crime drama, and social commentary. It's interesting as an attempt to translate The CW's signature style to the Old West, but we can't say it works. The performers are either trying too hard or not trying hard enough. -Liam Mathews
Premiered: Thursday, Oct. 6 on ABC; airs Thursdays at 10/9c
For fans of: Spotlight, but with moose
Who's in it? Hilary Swank, Jeff Perry, Grace Dove, Ami Park, Pablo Castelblanco, Craig Frank, Meredith Holzman, Matt Malloy
What's it about? Eileen Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), a New York reporter recently disgraced by a story gone wrong, takes an offer from an old colleague (Jeff Perry) to work for an Anchorage newspaper investigating a string of murdered Indigenous women.
Is it good? It's a refreshing change of pace on broadcast TV that feels like a throwback to the kind of show they made 10 years ago, but it still has a lot to figure out. Alaska Daily was created by Oscar-winning Spotlight writer-director Tom McCarthy, but the painful sense of personal violation that made Spotlight hit so hard is missing from this show, which flies in a big city career woman over the heads of locals who are best equipped to do the work. The supporting characters are likable and the story is vital, but the way it's told is patronizing, seemingly just for the sake of being folksy about local journalism. (Might the office of a newspaper in Alaska's biggest city have a printer that works?) The success of recent Indigenous-led shows like Dark Winds and Reservation Dogs has made it harder to get behind a series that leans so hard on an outsider's perspective. Still, if Alaska Daily can shift more of its focus to the characters around Swank's Eileen, it has potential. -Kelly Connolly