Premieres Sunday, September 19, 9 p.m. on HBO
Starring Steve Buschemi, Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Kenneth Williams, Stephen Graham
Atlantic City, 1920, Prohibition. A potent mix, a fascinating period of American history and Steve Buschemi. Who could want more? Buschemi stars as Nucky Thompson, the city’s corrupt treasurer who runs his business like a mobster. Entertainment Weekly: “Buscemi’s shifty-eyed fixer has no scruples about ordering beat-downs, but he also has a soft heart for a few people who impress him.” EW seems to have some reservations, but Buschemi is the kind of actor who can make a role his own; “Boardwalk Empire” seems to be in a similar vein as “Mad Men,” a period drama that reveals characters’ interiority slowly, almost painfully so. Michael Pitt looks like he’ll make an excellent sidekick; he has the kind of roughshod young face required of bootleggers in the ’20s. Oh, and Al Capone makes an appearance; how fun is that?
Premieres Monday, September 20, 9 p.m. on NBC
Starring Jason Ritter, Laura Innes, Blair Underwood, Željko Ivanek, Scott Patterson, Sarah Roemer
Be wary. Recent big-mystery shows like “FlashForward” and “V” have no pop, and “Lost” ended unsatisfactorily, to put it diplomatically. “The Event” follows a variety of mysteries through Sean Walker (Ritter), who investigates the disappearance of his girlfriend and manages to uncover some sort of government plot. Some heft is given to the cast from Innes, Ivanek and Underwood. Scott Patterson, formerly of “Gilmore Girls,” is also on the cast list, though not in the preview, and as he showed in two of the “Saw” films he plays government investigator well. This pilot will have to judged by how engaging it is; no one is looking to get burned by such a mystery-based show again.
“Mike and Molly”
Premieres Monday, September 20, 9:30 p.m. on CBS
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Billy Gardel
It’s a traditional sitcom, but “Mike and Molly” doesn’t look like a traditional plot. McCarthy and Gardel star as the eponymous characters, a fourth grade teacher and a police officer. Both are overweight; in fact, they meet at an Overeaters Anonymous gathering. Gardell already has some notable roles under his considerably sized belt, including stints on “The King of Queens” and “Yes, Dear.” McCarthy, of course, is best known for her time as Sookie St. James on “Gilmore Girls,” where she was consistently a bright spot and engaging actress. Furthermore, CBS has had some success with more traditional-style sitcoms, including “The Big Bang Theory” and “Rules of Engagement” (as usual, pretend “Two and a Half Men” doesn’t exist). It remains to be seen whether such success will come to “Mike & Molly.”
Premieres Wednesday, September 15, 10 p.m. on NBC
Starring Jimmy Smits, Jesse Bradford, Carly Pope, David Ramsey, Ellen Woglom
Smits plays Supreme Court justice Cyrus Garza, who quits the high court in the pilot and returns to private practice. E! Online: “Why, you ask? Only Garza himself seems to know for sure. To change the legal system? To represent the little man? To make his late father proud? Or does it have to do with his $250,000 gambling debt?” The premise seems a little shaky; Smits is some sort of SCOTUS playboy — something anyone who knows anything about the Supreme Court knows is implausible — but as the below preview makes clear, he has a heart of gold and balls of steel. If anyone can pull it off, Smits is the best bet; it could go the way of “The Good Wife” or “Drop Dead Diva,” two wildly different legal dramas that span the spectrum. The rest of the cast, E! says, doesn’t feature much in the pilot. However, Bradford, playing an ambitious Ivy League grad, has shown how well he can play such sniveling roles before. Pope portrays “the bisexual bad-girl private investigator,” which sounds suspiciously like a rip-off of Archie Panjabi’s Emmy Award-winning character on CBS’s “The Good Wife.” Still, worth a watch.
“The Whole Truth”
Premieres Wednesday, September 22, 10 p.m. on ABC
Starring Rob Morrow, Maura Tierney
I love a legal drama, and this one promises to stay focused on the legal drama. Morrow always seemed constrained on “Numb3rs,” and Maura Tierney has her own set of acting chops (including “NewsRadio,” a seriously underrated comedy). Will it prove more popular than the single-season “Law and Order: Trial By Jury” (another seriously underrated show)? We’ll see.
Bonus Made-for-TV Movie!
Premieres Saturday, September 25, 9 p.m. on SyFy
Quite possibly better than SyFy’s previous hit, “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.” Need I say more?