NEW YORK, N.Y. - So many shows! So little time!
You already have to keep up with your slate of favourite returning shows. Now the networks expect you to carve out more hours to sample their 22 newcomers.
What to do? Prioritize, of course. Here are 10 new series that deserve an early look:
Hellcats (CW; premieres Sept. 8)
It's almost laughably formulaic, but the formula works like a charm. Gorgeous prelaw student Marti scorns her university's cheerleading squad. "I don't trust any culture that builds pyramids — human or otherwise," she scoffs. But suddenly she needs to join the squad to keep her all-important scholarship. As luck would have it, Marti (Aly Michalka) was a gymnastics champ in high school. But even as she enters the not-altogether-embracing world of the Hellcats, her scholarship still isn't assured: continued funding for the Hellcats is in question. So is Marti's continued presence on the squad, thanks to a certain scheming rival. But in the meantime, golly, can those Hellcats dance! "Hellcats" is one part youth melodrama, one part "Glee" in skimpy spandex.
Nikita (CW, premieres Sept. 9)
It's payback time for Nikita, who is on the run from the secret government agency that trained her as a spy and an assassin — and now wants her dead. "I'm gonna take you apart, piece by piece, mission by mission," vows this petite powerhouse (played by Maggie Q). Meanwhile, Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) is a new recruit in the sinister, mysterious Division. She wants out, too. An action-packed reboot of the 1990 film and subsequent USA network series, this "Nikita" is a slick celebration of conspiracy and sexy gals who mean to put a stop to it.
Hawaii Five-O (CBS; premieres Sept. 20)
From the opening titles with the timeless rocking theme to the nickname "Danno," this new version of the 1970s original is a miracle of souped-up, loving restoration. Alex O'Loughlin plays simmering Steve McGarrett, who's got a score to settle with some very bad people. The governor of Hawaii gives him carte blanche to set up a justice team, which includes kvetching New Jersey transplant Danny "Danno" Williams (Scott Caan), as well as Chin Ho Kelly ("Lost" alumnus Daniel Dae Kim) and his sexy, two-fisted sister, Kono (Grace Park). The pilot is a fast-paced, eye-popping, modern-day homage. Be there! Aloha!
Lone Star (Fox; premieres Sept. 20)
A charismatic con man is married to one beautiful woman and shacking up with another, deep in the heart of Texas. Bob truly loves them both. He also loves the opportunity this double life affords him to pull scams in two communities — as long as he can keep his two worlds separate. "Lone Star" would make a dandy soap opera, which it is. But it's more: a solid drama of a man in conflict who needs it all. The pilot is outstanding as it introduces this fall's budding breakout star, James Wolk, as the schemer you root for. Adrianne Palicki ("Friday Night Lights") and Eloise Mumford ("Mercy") are Bob's unsuspecting mates. It's been called a blend of "Dallas" and "Friday Night Lights." Judging from the pilot, it's the fall's best new series.
The Event (NBC; premieres Sept. 20)
Do you miss "Lost"? Do you wish last season's "FlashForward" had been better? Check out "The Event," the lone new entry in the serial thriller genre. Boasting a large ensemble cast, far-flung locations and helter-skelter time sequence, "The Event" demands a week-to-week commitment for the viewer to have any chance of making sense of the conspiracy that rages at its core. Certainly the pilot episode gives you fair warning; it's anything but self-contained. The hour introduces a slew of characters (played by regulars including Jason Ritter, Blair Underwood, Laura Innes, Bill Smitrovich and Zeljko Ivanek) and raises a slew of questions. (Like, why do people and things keep vanishing?) Then it's over. NBC has taken a bold chance on this series. Are you willing to take a leap, too?
Raising Hope (Fox; premieres Sept. 21)
Greg Garcia, creator of "My Name Is Earl," is back with a new brood of lovable losers in this wacked-out family comedy. It's a dysfunctional family, of course, whose aimless 23-year-old son, Jimmy (Lucas Neff), stumbles on the fact that he's the father of a baby girl. Suddenly Jimmy has a purpose in life. He persuades his none-too-capable mom and dad (Martha Plimpton, Garret Dillahunt) that baby Hope is their chance for a parenting do-over. Here's "a chance for me to do something good — a chance for all of us to do something good," says Jimmy. And that includes his goofball cousin (Skyler Stone) and borderline-senile grandmother (Cloris Leachman), who sets the unbridled comic tone for this show by occasionally stripping to her brassiere — or even less.
Running Wilde (Fox; premieres Sept. 21)
"Arrested Development" creator Mitch Hurwitz has paired Will Arnett, one of his stars from that preternaturally zany comedy, with Keri Russell ("Felicity") as a radiantly comic odd couple. Arnett plays an oil tycoon's spoiled son named Steve Wilde, the sort of narcissist who welcomes a Humanitarian of the Fiscal Year Award from his own family's company. Steve wants to reconnect with childhood sweetheart Emmy, played by Russell. But she is now an environmental activist whose tree-hugging zeal clashes with Wilde Oil and everything else Wilde stands for. "I am going to undo every entitled impulse ever drilled into you," she tells him grandly. "And then together, we're gonna change the world." Don't bet on either. But the show's a good bet.
My Generation (ABC; premieres Sept. 23)
Granted, this isn't the freshest idea for a drama series. In 1977, "What Really Happened to the Class of '65" followed up on graduates of a fictitious high school 10 years later. Now "My Generation" is framed as a documentary about graduates of Austin's Greenbelt High School in 2010, intercut with footage shot of them as graduating seniors in 2000. Needless to say, the characters' lives have taken unexpected twists, and their paths have crisscrossed one another's in unexpected ways. The characters and their journeys are what make "My Generation" stand out. Boasting fresh writing and a troupe of fresh faces (including Michael Stahl-David, Kelli Garner, Anne Son and Julian Morris), it promises to be a fresh new series after all.
Outsourced (NBC; premieres Sept. 23)
Todd (series star Ben Rappaport) is startled to return from management training to find the Kansas City call centre for Mid-America Novelties has been "right-sized." That's a euphemism for outsourced to India. So Todd is dispatched to India to see if he can manage. Besides its spot-on timeliness, "Outsourced" is a delightful comedy for how it deftly harvests laughs from the inevitable culture clash, from Todd's overeagerness to bridge the gap, and from the innate silliness of the company's product line (whoopee cushions, foam fingers and the like). "Why do Americans need these things?" one of Todd's team wants to know. Todd proudly replies, "Maybe no one NEEDS this, but in America, no one can stop you from making it. This is the definition of freedom." There's also the chance for comedic flirtation: lovely Tonya runs the adjacent call centre for an Australian-based airline. It's a bleakly funny reminder: Outsourcing is a global affair.
No Ordinary Family (ABC; premieres Sept. 28)
Michael Chiklis ("The Shield") plays a police sketch artist who feels meek both at work and at home. Julie Benz ("Dexter") is his brainy wife, and two teenage kids complete this not-so-happy family. Then, through the oddest of quirks, they all gain superpowers. How can they put those remarkable strengths to good use — and make them a unifying family affair? The pilot episode takes too long to lay out the show's premise, but it adds up to a nice blend of sweetness and action. Here's hoping the series will be, too.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org