Every fall, TV aficionados are treated to a barrage of new programs. Some will hit it big, others will slowly fade away and many more will be so bad they'll be canceled before you even remember they existed. To save you the time and effort, and because I'm a nice guy, I've watched the pilots for this fall's new shows. All of them. I focused only on programs a majority of people can watch, which means pilots on stations you can view even if you only have the most basic cable package or just a TV antenna (NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, The CW).
So what's hot this fall? Comedies and Tuesday night. There are a surprising number of good comedies this year and Tuesday night will be packed with five new network programs. What's not? Most new NBC shows. Only one makes this list. Of course, TV series evolve over time. Some stumble before finding their footing and others start hot then fade. But based on their pilot episodes, here are my picks for the best new fall shows.
"The Muppets," ABC, premieres Sept. 22
What's it about: The Muppets star in a documentary-style comedy that explores their lives in front of and behind the camera.
In this new series, Kermit the Frog and the rest of the crew have begun production on the late-night talk show "Up Late with Miss Piggy." Kermit and Piggy have officially broken up, which makes for an interesting work environment.
Why you should watch: Audiences were reminded how much they missed Kermit and friends following the 2011 film starring Jason Segel and Amy Adams, so the timing is right for a new Muppets TV show. This television adaptation, while still kid-friendly, takes a more adult look at everyone's favorite marionette/puppets. The relationships of several characters are front and center and with the Muppets in on most punchlines, this show has a recipe for success.
"Supergirl," CBS, premieres Oct. 26
What's it about: 12-year-old Kara Zor-El escaped the doomed planet Krypton at the same time as her infant cousin Kal-El, who would one day grow up to be Superman. Raised on Earth by her adopted family, Kara learned to hide her powers and to keep her identity a secret. Now an adult working at a newspaper, Kara is forced to use her superhuman abilities and become the hero she was always destined to be.
Why you should watch: Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, the team behind hit CW series "Arrow" and "The Flash," have once again hit pay dirt, this time with a female superhero on a different network. Colorado native Melissa Benoist shines as a precocious young woman with a big heart and a sense of adventure. Calista Flockhart returns to TV and is a pleasant surprise as Kara's demanding and business-driven boss.
"Limitless," CBS, premieres Sept. 22
What's it about: A good man with a messy life, Brian Finch turns things around when he takes the drug NZT, which vastly enhances a person's mental powers. When his unusual cognitive abilities are discovered, Brian teams up with the FBI to use his skills to solve cases.
But what the FBI doesn't know is that Brian also has a mentor in Sen. Edward Mora (Bradley Cooper in a recurring role), a longtime NZT user. The series is a continuation of the 2011 film of the same name.
Why you should watch: One of this year's biggest trends is creating television show versions of popular movies. "Limitless" does this better than any other new program. As a man with almost unlimited mental capacity, Finch makes Sherlock Holmes seem only mildly perceptive.
With a plot device that has tons of potential, there are a variety of paths the TV version of "Limitless" can go. Having three-time Academy Award nominee Cooper on board as a frequent guest and producer doesn't hurt either.
"Quantico," ABC, Sept. 27
What's it about: Seven new recruits have just reached Quantico, Va., for their FBI training. A mix of people from different cultures with a variety of backgrounds and skills, they are the best of the best and were supposed to be heavily vetted, but they all have secrets. One of those secrets is planning and staging a terrorist attack on New York City. But which trainee is it?
Why you should watch: "Quantico" has an air of mystery to it, much like the ABC hit series "How to Get Away with Murder" (but it's not a Shonda Rhimes show). A multicultural cast of mostly unknown actors are the focal point of this drama and they do a solid job, especially Priyanka Chopra, a former Miss World. Smart, tough and stunning, "Quantico" marks Chopra's American television debut after becoming one of Bollywood's highest paid actresses.
"Scream Queens," Fox, premieres Sept. 22
What's it about: Kappa House is the sorority every woman wants to pledge for even though it's ruled by a dictatorial sorority sister. But when an anti-sorority dean decides that pledging must be open to all students and not just Kappa's select few, things run amok on campus.
An unusual mix of dark humor, mystery and horror "Scream Queens" is a series where viewers never know which character is a murderer or who could be the next victim.
Why you should watch: Show creator Ryan Murphy ("Glee," "American Horror Story") has blended two uniquely different genres - comedy and horror - and managed to do so without crossing into camp. Emma Roberts is stellar as the mean girl sorority sister who meets her match in a dean played by the original scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis.
Honorable Mention - Five other shows with real potential
"Heroes Reborn," NBC, Sept. 24 - Creator/executive producer Tim Kring gets a second shot at bringing people with extraordinary abilities to the small screen with a reboot of his 2006 series "Heroes."
"Minority Report," Fox, Sept. 21 - Based on the 2002 film, "Minority Report" follows the partnership between a man who can see the future and a police officer as they race to stop the worst crimes of the year 2065 before they happen.
"The Grinder" Fox, Sept. 29. - Dean (Rob Lowe) is an egomaniacal actor who spent eight seasons playing the title role on the hit legal drama "The Grinder." When his TV series ends he decides to move back to his hometown, where his shy brother Stewart (Fred Savage) struggles to run the family law firm.
"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," The CW (Oct. 12) - An eccentric lawyer leaves her high-paying corporate firm in New York City to follow her childhood sweetheart to West Covina, Calif.
"Angel from Hell," CBS, (Nov. 5) - Jane Lynch plays an alcohol-swilling, loud-mouthed guardian angel for an uptight doctor. This odd couple creates uncomfortable moments and plenty of laughs.
Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.