The broadcast networks have more than two dozen shows debuting this fall, including a new Shondaland drama, Katherine Heigl‘s TV comeback, another NCIS and a Flash-y Arrow offshoot. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.
First up on our list….
THE SHOW | Fox’s Gotham (Mondays at 8/7c, premiere date TBA)
THE COMPETITION | CBS’ The Big Bang Theory*/Mom, NBC’s The Voice, ABC’s Dancing With the Stars and The CW’s The Originals (*2 Broke Girls starts Oct. 27)
THE CAST | Ben McKenzie (Southland), Donal Logue (Sons of Anarchy), Jada Pinkett Smith (HawthoRNe), David Mazouz (Touch), Sean Pertwee (Elementary), Robin Lord Taylor, Camren Bicondova, Cory Michael Smith, Erin Richards (Being Human), Zabryna Guevara (Burn Notice) and Andrew Stewart-Jones
THE SET-UP | Grizzled Gotham City police detective Harvey Bullock (Logue) is partnered with glass-half-full rookie/war hero Jim Gordon (McKenzie), just as a better class of criminals begins to maraud their metropolis.
THE FIRST IMPRESSION | Like ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Gotham‘s boon/burden is to co-opt a world immediately adjacent to that of a big screen franchise sans the services of said films’ Big Draw. But whereas Agent Coulson & Co. had only the occasional Avengers cameo to help them out of the gate, Gotham‘s bag of tricks is a bit deeper, including Those Who Would Be Penguin, Riddler, Catwoman and Poison Ivy. The pilot evokes a mildly Nolan-esque atmosphere that’s gray and removed in time (cops carry cell phones yet drive 1970s sedans) yet of course built on a TV budget. Yes, young Bruce Wayne is here, and the way he is folded into the bigger picture — Gordon vows to find who killed the lad’s parents — sets up a mystery that portends to loom large. The cast is solid: Bullock seems tailor-made for Logue, Pertwee promises a fresh/fiercer wrinkle on Alfred and the nascent nemeses all are rife with potential, while McKenzie’s challenge is to give us a noble cop who is at least partly as compelling as the colorful criminals circling him.
There are Easter eggs aplenty for Batfans — GPD brainiac Edward Nigma (Smith) frustrates colleagues by posing riddles, the way Bruce kneels besides his folks’ dead bodies frames them as a bat’s wings and a stand-up comic at least winks at another infamous prankster. A C-plot involving Gordon’s fiancée Barbara (Richards) needs to head somewhere interesting and fast; it was the one scene that arrested the pilot’s Bat-momentum.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | There is no fall series with greater built-in awareness than Gotham — an asset the show will very much need to capitalize on as it endeavors to grab an audience while vying with TV’s most watched comedy, two still-solid competition series and a fellow genre drama. I imagine it will open very well, settle (though hopefully not as sharply as S.H.I.E.L.D. did) and hopefully steady somewhere significantly above Almost Human numbers.