With all of the network schedules now announced, the American viewing audience now turns their eyes ahead to the coming nightly deathmatches between TV shows new and old. We offer you this easy guide to which shows to watch every night—not which shows will triumph in the ratings, or the live plus sevens, or the demo. Just what, on any given timeslot on any given night, should command your attention if you happen to be sitting on your couch.
8:00pm: CBS’s comedy block now mostly leans on 2 Broke Girls and Mom, while ABC and NBC toss two flagging competition shows (Dancing with the Stars and The Voice) at us and hope we’ll fall asleep for two hours. No thank you. The obvious winner is Fox’s new show Gotham, a Dark Knight prequel starring Ben McKenzie.
9:00pm: With the competition shows thudding on, CBS is trying to debut its genius-squad drama Scorpion out of its multi-cam sitcoms, while The CW has telenovela adaptation Jane the Virgin, whose plot description alone beggars belief. No need to change the channel—the second season of Fox’s rollicking Sleepy Hollow should be even more nutty than the first.
10:00pm: ABC’s stalwart hit Castle will get oldies-skewing competition in the form of NCIS: Los Angeles, which is moving away from the safe Tuesday lead-out of its forbear. Go with The Blacklist, which is not nearly as smart as it thinks it is, but has enough James Spader scenery-chewing to distract. Come November, it goes on hiatus to make way for State of Affairs, which looks like a real trainwreck.
8:00pm: ABC’s comedy pairing of Selfie and Manhattan Love Story will probably be too grating to handle together, even if Selfie’s trailer showed a little bit of promise (Manhattan showed none). Fox’s reality show Utopia and NBC’s The Voice are easily ignored, and NCIS has enough viewers already. The CW’s The Flash actually looks like a ton of fun, a zippy, self-referential superhero show. That’s an easy win.
9:00pm: This is the first real power-hour I’ve had to contend with. NBC’s new sitcom Marry Me has great pedigree, and should form a pleasant hour with About a Boy. ABC’s Agents of SHIELD actually improved by leaps and bounds in its second half. NCIS: New Orleans will almost certainly be the year’s biggest new hit by viewership. But I’m sticking with Fox’s comedy block. New Girl had some hiccups in its third season and The Mindy Project still has a lot of room to improve, but the former especially remains must-see TV.
10:00pm: Oof, a power-hour followed by a real fun vacuum. Chicago Fire is doing serviceable soapy drama over at NBC. ABC’s new show Forever about an immortal medical examiner looks as dumb as rocks but Ioan Gruffudd looks charming as always. But, y’know, CBS’s procedural Person of Interest has become quite a clever, subversive paranoia thriller in its three years. Go with that.
8:00pm: CBS’s Survivor will always have its die-hards. So, in smaller droves, will Fox’s Hell’s Kitchen. NBC’s “single mom juggles life and job” cop show The Mysteries of Laura promises to be a laughable trainwreck. The CW’s Arrow has, against all odds, done very nicely for itself. But ABC has a great comedy pairing in The Middle and The Goldbergs, the latter of which is moving into the network’s solid Wednesday block where it is very suited.
9:00pm: Modern Family and new Anthony Anderson family comedy Black-ish are probably your safest bets, and would be much more fun than CBS’s Criminal Minds or NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Fox’s Red Band Society, set in a pediatric ward, could be just as miserable, but it has some decent pedigree in both its adult cast (Octavia Spencer and Dave Annabale) and its creator (Margaret Nagle of Warm Springs and Boardwalk Empire). Give it a shot at least.
10:00pm: NBC’s dull Chicago P.D. is the latest bulwark in Dick Wolf’s new Chicago empire, while CBS’s Stalker is Kevin Williamson doing more creepy The Following-esque material about a special stalker unit of the LAPD. It has Dylan McDermott and Maggie Q, but c’mon, have you seen The Following? Just watch Nashville on ABC.
8:00pm: It’s the hour that barely changed at all! The newcomers here are Fox’s Bones (replacing the dead and barely mourned X Factor) and NBC’s The Biggest Loser (replacing half of the age-old comedy block). Both of those shows have been on for around 10 years. There’s also football on CBS (to be followed by The Big Bang Theory and The Millers) and Grey’s Anatomy entering its eleventh season. I guess watch The Vampire Diaries on The CW. It’s pretty crazy and fun!
9:00pm: Scandal, the former must-watch champ of this hour, has lost some of its luster. So too has NBC’s comedy block, now reduced to just new shows Bad Judge and A to Z, which may be doomed to a swift death. CBS has comedies too—the final season of Two and a Half Men and the first of working-class family comedy The McCarthys. The CW’s Reign is actually a lot of fun, but I’m giving the edge to Fox’s limited series Gracepoint, particularly if you haven’t seen Broadchurch, which it’s based on. Should be an arresting murder mystery.
10:00pm: It’s actually a pretty stacked hour! There’s the final season of NBC’s Parenthood and the solid CBS Sherlock drama Elementary. But the capper on ABC’s all-Shonda Rhimes night, How to Get Away with Murder is just too alluringly juicy to ignore, and has maybe the best trailer of any new show this year.
8:00pm: Stay far, far away from ABC’s Last Man Standing, which is paired with new family sitcom Cristela (which looks like an okay, if ordinary time). The Amazing Race has been moved here for CBS after years on Sunday night, and NBC has Dateline like it always does, but I’d spring for MasterChef Junior on Fox. Have you ever seen those adorable little geniuses cooking? It’s something else!
9:00pm: Hawaii Five-0 is part of CBS’s “we send old shows to Friday to die” legacy program. NBC’s Grimm certainly has a cheerful cult following keeping it alive, and The CW still has America’s Next Top Model, now and forever. Fox for some reason needs a second hour of its reality show Utopia here. The obvious pick is Shark Tank on ABC, which is more gripping than it has any right to be.
10:00pm: If it’s 10pm and you’re home watching TV, don’t go for Blue Bloods or 20/20. Check out NBC’s Constantine, which has been banished to this doldrum hour but looks genuinely visually inventive as well as scary.
7:30pm: Hey, programming goes so early on this night that you can catch Fox’s Bob’s Burgers here! Do that! It’s the funniest, most consistent show on TV!
8:00pm: ABC has Once Upon a Time, but sometime in mid-season that’ll be replaced with Galavant, which has high potential to be the funniest disaster on network TV in years, although it at least looks self-aware. Fox moved Brooklyn Nine-Nine here, but do you really want to watch the forty-zillionth season of The Simpsons with it? No, try out CBS’s Madam Secretary, which looks surprisingly restrained and watchable given that it stars Tea Leoni as the Secretary of State.
9:00pm: ABC has brought back Resurrection, which is a dour stinker. Fox’s new show Mulaney is one of my most-anticipated, but it’s paired with Family Guy, which I only watch under pain of torture. Oh, what’s that? CBS’s The Good Wife is probably the best drama on network TV? Yeah, good call.
10:00pm: Sorry, I’ll stop screaming with horror. ABC’s Revenge had a better season this year but is still a little past its sell-by date. CBS is giving us CSI until it follows it with…CSI: Cyber. Ouch. NBC is still airing Sunday Night Football, so I guess tune into the end of that, or, if you’re smart, use this hour to catch up on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Mulaney on your DVR without those pesky animated shows in the way.
Final network tally:
The CW: 2