It’s a fall of premieres

If you’ve been anywhere near a tv or the internet lately, you know there have been a ton of new shows premiering this fall. But how’s a person to figure out which ones to watch? Well, you could quit your job and watch one after another until you run out of money to pay your rent/mortgage and have no food to eat.

Or you could just let me make suggestions. Cause I’m helpful like that. For me, a few new shows stand out from the rest. Let me break down my top three for you. (All air times are in EDT. Cause, East Coast girl here.)

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World – charming, heartfelt dramedy (think Brothers and Sisters meets Eureka or Parenthood meets Good Witch)

Tuesdays at 10 pm on ABC; Hulu

Premise: guy who can’t get his life together ends up with the power to save the world. It’s a common enough premise but that’s because it’s a good one. Add the fact that the lead is Jason Ritter (who legit proved his acting capabilities to me in Parenthood) and I was willing to give it a shot.

What I love: I seriously underestimated this show. Fifteen minutes in and I was already telling my husband he needed to watch it. It surprised me with nuance and warmth. The humor is honest, the characters relatable. As others have pointed out, the mystical black woman as spirit guide can be a cliché, but the creators have promised they have given the character more depth and plot that will ensure they avoid cliché land, and Kimberly Hébert Gregory absolutely sparkles in the role. Add Joanna Garcia Swisher (who has that Sandra Bullock-esque quality of being likable in every role she tackles) and I’m so invested already.

The Brave – military drama with a strong, complex ensemble (think NCIS meets Chicago Fire or Quantico meets The Closer)

Mondays at 9 pm on NBC; Hulu

Premise: a Special Ops squad and a team of analysts work together to protect and defend American citizens. Unlike a lot of military action dramas, this one shows both sides of the spectrum, giving the analysts their own recognition. And each character has complexity and a backstory that unfolds throughout.

What I love: you mean besides the fact that there’s a female sniper? While there are certainly some cowboy moments, this show stands out from other cop or military shows in the way it focuses on tactics and intel. Both sides of the team have to be adaptable, making quick decisions to achieve the best outcomes, instead of just bursting in with guns blazing. The head of the ops team isn’t your usual over-the-top alpha male (thank goodness), but a perceptive leader who values his team, and the director of the analysts is an intelligent, decisive woman with her own tragedies to process. There’s a lot to explore, so I’m interested to see where this show goes.

The Good Doctor – emotionally complex medical drama (think House meets Switched at Birth or The Night Shift meets Monk)

Mondays at 10 pm on ABC; Hulu

Premise: as he begins a new job, a surgical resident’s autism and savant syndrome provide both advantages and disadvantages, helping him see the world in a unique way while also making it difficult for him to communicate and understand human behavior.

What I love: I was entirely unprepared for the way this show would casually reach in and rip my heart out. In my experience knowing people with autism, this show is one of the few to express it accurately (although, I have to point out, autism is a broad spectrum that varies widely in characteristics). This protagonist, played brilliantly by Freddie Highmore, is no emotionless, robotic character, but a young man who clearly feels deeply while having difficulty processing or expressing those emotions. The struggles of his past, revealed through flashbacks, provide context and show more of his humanity, while the present day storyline shows him adapting to life in the medical world. He’s underestimated, misunderstood, wholehearted, and brilliant, exactly the kind of character I want to root for.

There you have it, folks. Three solid options that range across genres and styles. What do you think? What new shows are you watching this fall?

 

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Once Upon a Time…

As a writer, I adore characters. So not only do I love to read, I also love to watch tv. Because characters–they’re everywhere! One show that has swiftly become a favorite of mine is Once Upon a Time (OUAT). Why do I love it? I have a list for that.

  1. Strong women. Not even kidding. The main character, the heroine, is an intriguing and focused woman, still trying to figure out who she is but dedicated to those she loves. The main villain(ess) is also a strong female who is wholeheartedly dedicated to her goals. And there are a handful of other female characters who have their own strengths. Yes, there are some incredible male characters too. But what I love is that the female characters don’t simply exist to be rescued by the males or to support the males as they go on adventures. The women of OUAT are the story.
  2. Complex characters. The heroine is not squeaky clean. She has made her own bad choices, doubted herself, tangled with some dark stuff. The villainess shows moments of light, situations where she makes the right choice, sacrifices herself or her goals. And she has actually become increasingly helpful, or “good,” over the seasons. I love that kind of honesty, characters who aren’t purely one thing or another. They’re messy and flawed and constantly learning. Like real humans.
  3. Double duty identities. As you can probably imagine, OUAT finds its roots in fairy tales. But most characters have more than one fairy tale identity. For instance, Rumplestiltskin is also the crocodile from Peter Pan, as well as Belle’s Beast. Red Riding Hood is also the wolf. (Wrap your head around that one.) I love how the writers refuse to conform to the usual fairy tale limitations. And somehow they keep all the storylines straight.
  4. Real world consistency. When these fairy tale characters are first transported into the real world, they are given real world identities and have no memory of their previous lives. But who they are, at their core, doesn’t change. Snow White is a teacher. Jiminy Cricket is a therapist. The Huntsman is the sheriff (although that changes later). A change in circumstances and setting doesn’t suddenly change who they are.
  5. Difficult choices. The characters don’t have easy lives. (And thank goodness, because otherwise I’d get bored.) They’re constantly presented with difficult choices and situations, ones that don’t have an obvious answer. And they struggle. Sometimes they make the wrong choice. Sometimes they hesitate for too long. Sometimes they follow terrible advice. And I love it. Because haven’t we all done stupid things at some point?

There you have it. Five reasons I watch Once Upon a Time.

And if that weren’t enough, I’m apparently like the main character. No, really. See?

INFP - OUAT

When an INFP is the heroine, I kind of have to watch.

For me, great stories are all about the characters–their personalities, their humanity, how who they are impacts their choices. When a writer forces a character to act in a way that contradicts their personalities simply to advance a concept or a plot piece, I stop reading or watching. Because if you compromise your characters, twist them around so they aren’t genuine any more, what’s the point? You’ve ceased to be a storyteller. Now you’re just playing with toys.

Be a storyteller, my writer friends. Honor your characters.

And if you need inspiration, watch Once Upon a Time. 😉