The broadcast networks have more than two dozen shows debuting this fall, including Katherine Heigl‘s TV comeback, a trip to Gotham, a third 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.
Next up on our list….
THE SHOW | ABC’s How to Get Away With Murder (Thursdays at 10/9c, premiere date TBA)
THE COMPETITION | CBS’ Thursday Night Football/Elementary and NBC’s Parenthood
THE CAST | Viola Davis (The Help), Billy Brown (Sons of Anarchy), Charlie Weber (Underemployed), Liza Weil (Gilmore Girls), Alfred Enoch (Harry Potter), Jack Falahee (Twisted), Katie Findlay (The Killing), Aja Naomi King (Emily Owens. M.D.), Matt McGorry (Orange Is the New Black) and Karla Souza (Verano de amor)
THE SET-UP | As the promos make clear, revered criminal law prof Annalise Keating lords over a course she affectionately dubs “How to Get Away With Murder,” choosing from her brightest students a select few to toil at her law firm. These star pupils, however, are put to a test for which no text book has an answer key, when a dead body lands at their collective feet!
THE FIRST IMPRESSION | The latest ride to open at Shondaland, Murder (or HTGAWM?) is very much in the style of Scandal, boasting a slick look, a crackling zip to the storytelling and an occasional darkness to the narrative. Be forewarned, this pilot demands your attention — the story abruptly toggles between timelines and it will take some time to get the assorted telegenic kiddies straight, so if you’re the type to zone out after the 140th character of a tweet (or article), this is not for you. Murder invites you to wonder, throughout its first hour, what (and who) it is about; those who play the game will get reeled in, real quick, and in turn possibly discover a new TV obsession.
Davis is expectedly commanding in her scenes, be they in a classroom, courtroom or (a makeshift) bedroom, and Annalise is a morally gray character designed to keep us guessing. Weber and Weil play her associates (yet get little screen time in the pilot), while Brown/his pecs and Tom Verica (American Dreams) portray the two men in her life. Among the younger ranks, Falahee and King immediately pop (as conniving Connor and overachiever Michaela), though Enoch (as Everyman Wes) arguably is the lead, or at least the “Quinn Perkins” through which we enter and view Annalise’s, er, “complicated” world. (The pilot has great fun showing us how far, and in what specific ways, each student will go to help Keating with her current case.) A Goth’d Findlay, playing Wes’ hissy neighbor, promises to get pulled into the larger narrative as the series goes on.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | Created by Pete Nowalk (a producer on 80-plus total episodes of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy), Murder caps ABC Thursday’s new Shondaland trifecta as a spot-on lead-out to Scandal and is poised to garner the same sort of “What just happened…?!” watercooler buzz. The question is, will it grab an audience straight away (as “the new Scandal” and all) or will it, too, need time to cultivate a fanatical following? (Phrased differently: Who on this cast is up for live-tweeting?)