Now, Later, or Never: Rating the Week in Premieres, From ‘This Is Us’ to ‘Lethal Weapon’

Yahoo TV Staff
(Credit: Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC)
(Credit: Fox, NBC, CBS, ABC)

For some of the new shows, you’ve been excited since casting announcements first came down (ahem, This Is Us). For others, you just saw a poster on the side of a bus and actually said, “Huh?” loudly enough that others heard you. Well, the time is nigh. All those new fall TV shows are here. You can stop counting down the days and start setting the DVR. But which ones are worth watching, which ones should you skip, and which ones should you save for a snow day (because they’re coming, whether we like it or not)? We’ve put in the hours of watching pilots on your behalf and came up with a quick and easy ranking system.

Related: Fall TV Preview: The Scoop on 35 New Fall Shows

Now: These are the best, buzziest shows that you should season pass and watch the night-of.
Later: We recommend watching these… eventually. After you’ve watched all the “Now” shows.
Never: Sorry, but not all shows are must-see!

Here, we break down the first week of new fall shows with premiere info and our brutally honest snap judgments. And we don’t always all agree, but with several takes — from Yahoo TV’s Kristen Baldwin, Ken Tucker, Mandi Bierly, Chrissy Le Nguyen, and Ethan Alter — hopefully it’ll make deciding what to watch that much easier.

Kevin Can Wait
Premieres Monday, Sept. 19 at 8:30 p.m. on CBS

Kevin James and Erinn Hayes in 'Kevin Can Wait' (Credit: Dave Giesbrecht/CBS)
Kevin James and Erinn Hayes in ‘Kevin Can Wait’ (Credit: Dave Giesbrecht/CBS)

Baldwin: Later
I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a big fan of The King of Queens, so I was predisposed to like his new comedy. Though Kevin Can Wait is essentially a generic family sitcom — not a Queens redux, as the CBS promos would have you believe — if you like James’s style of good-natured, everyman(child) humor, this is a pleasant way to spend 22 minutes.

Tucker: Never
Kevin James in the 2016 version of The King of Queens. If you liked that, you’ll like this. I made it through the pilot. Never again, most likely.

Bierly: Never
Kevin James and his TV wife, Childrens Hospital‘s Erinn Hayes, are a likeable duo, but anyone with cable or a Netflix subscription has better comedy options.

Nguyen: Never
I’m indifferent towards Kevin James, and this new sitcom didn’t really change my mind. Everything about it felt dated and unoriginal.

Alter: Later
There’s something quixotically amusing about Kevin James’s attempt to bring an oh-so-‘90s family sitcom kicking and screaming into the 2010s. While the storylines and material can’t help but feel stale, the appealing cast is pleasant to spend time with. Special shout-out to the always-funny Erinn Hayes as the spouse of James’s retired cop; had the show been called Erinn Can Wait, this would have been an easy “Now.”

The Good Place 
Premieres Monday, Sept. 19 at 10 p.m. on NBC

Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in 'The Good Place' (Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC)
Ted Danson and Kristen Bell in ‘The Good Place’ (Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC)

Baldwin: Now
This is a very high-concept sitcom, and the jokes in the pilot don’t always land — but it’s from Mike Schur, who’s responsible for some of the best comedy on TV in recent years (The Office, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), so I’m all in. Plus, Ted Danson and Kristen Bell are, as always, immensely likable.

Tucker: Now
In a season with its share of oddball premises (see Son of Zorn), this one is both the oddest and, potentially, best-thought-out: Kristen Bell is a bad person who dies and arrives in The Good Place, i.e., a TV version of Heaven, with Ted Danson as her guide to the joint. The pilot is funny, subsequent episodes seem as though the producers are still working out the kinks.

Bierly: Now
This version of heaven from Parks and Recreation‘s Mike Schur — where Kristen Bell’s misplaced Eleanor has to learn to be a good person from the man (William Jackson Harper) who is supposedly her soulmate before her selfish ways ruin “the good place” created by first-time architect Michael (Ted Danson) — has that same innate goodness and ability to be a sort of snarky that’s relatable instead of grating.

Nguyen: Now
Even though the premiere didn’t quite meet my high expectations, the combined comedic pedigree of Mike Schur, Ted Danson, and Kristen Bell makes this comedy a forking must-watch.

Alter: Now
The only thing that could make Mike Schur’s inventive follow-up to Parks and Recreation any more satisfying would be an Albert Brooks cameo. After all, his marvelous 1991 comedy, Defending Your Life, is an obvious inspiration for The Good Place and these twin visions of the afterlife manage to be funny and profound at the same time. Plus, if you think Ted Danson and Kristen Bell are hilarious now (and they’re both really, really hilarious) just imagine how much fun they’d have batting the comedy ball back and forth with Brooks.

Bull 
Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. on CBS

Michael Weatherly in ' Bull' (Credit: David M. Russell/CBS)
Michael Weatherly in ‘Bull’ (Credit: David M. Russell/CBS)

Baldwin: Never
Michael Weatherly is perfectly charming, and this high-tech, courtroom drama spin on the charismatic-anti-hero-solves-problems-with-his/her-unique-gift procedural is perfectly serviceable… but if I didn’t watch Elementary, Scorpion, The Mentalist, Lucifer, Sleepy Hollow, etc., I’m not going to watch this.

Tucker: Never
Seems like putting NCIS’s Michael Weatherly in another CBS hour-long drama — here playing a variation on Dr. Phil, The Early Years (!) — would be a sure thing. Just not one I’d ever watch again — cocky, predictable, and off-putting.

Bierly: Later
Fans of NCIS vet Michael Weatherly will definitely enjoy him in the more serious, but still charming, role as a young Dr. Phil-type who heads a trial consulting film. But it’s the kind of show you binge on demand when you’re home sick.

Nguyen: Later
Without ever watching a single episode of NCIS before, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked Michael Weatherly in this slick CBS procedural. Bull won’t be appointment television for me, but I probably wouldn’t change the channel if it happened to be on.

Alter: Never
I should begin with the caveat that legal procedurals aren’t typically my bag. And Bull does nothing to change my general indifference to the genre. The “dramatic” courtroom reveals were eye-rollingly over-the-top, and the title character’s cynical strategies to game the judicial system just bummed me out. I’d rather volunteer for jury duty than watch another episode.

This Is Us
Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 10 p.m. on NBC

Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia in 'This Is Us' (Credit: NBC)
Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia in ‘This Is Us’ (Credit: NBC)

Baldwin: Now
This sweet, character-driven family drama gets a little mawkish at times for my taste, but it’s also a smart, different, emotionally rich show about and for grown-ups — and those don’t come around every day.

Tucker: Now
You have to watch, if only to have an opinion about what will doubtless be network television’s most talked-about drama, a twisty-narrative showcase for some fine, emotional ensemble acting. People who’ve been missing Parenthood: Give this a shot and tell me what you think.

Bierly: Now
Arguably the most hyped fall drama after its trailer was an instant hit, it actually delivers with a Parenthood-esque realism and tug at the heartstrings that combines unique stories with wonderful casting.

Nguyen: Later
I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of this pilot that featured Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia (especially the cameo by Milo’s booty), but I’d have to watch more episodes to see if the show’s other three storylines become interesting enough to grab me on a weekly basis.

Alter: Later
Well played, This Is Us. Just when I was about to write you off as a less ambitious (and less interesting) version of Netflix’s bold “everyone is connected” boondoggle, Sense8, you spring a final-act surprise with this large cast of character that genuinely… well, surprised me. I still prefer Sense8’s wild swings to This Is Us’s more conventional gameplay, but I’m genuinely curious to check in down the line to see the kinds of moves it’s making.

Lethal Weapon
Premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. on Fox

Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans in 'Lethal Weapon' (Credit: Richard Foreman/FOX)
Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans in ‘Lethal Weapon’ (Credit: Richard Foreman/FOX)

Baldwin: Later
After the travesty that was CBS’s Rush Hour, I was ready to dismiss this as another lazy network remake… but it’s actually a very entertaining (and surprisingly moving!) police procedural — thanks in large part to the easy chemistry between Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford.

Tucker: Now
I know: I didn’t expect a TV adaptation of an old-ish movie to be any good either, but I laughed at the interplay between Damon Wayans and Rectify’s Clayne Crawford. It’s called chemistry, people!

Bierly: Now
The pilot has the exact tone you want: serious when it needs to be (addressing Martin Riggs’s suicidal tendencies) and just plain fun the rest of the time. Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans nail it.

Nguyen: Later
Lethal Weapon is by far the best of the season’s many reboots and revivals. Mismatched cops Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford are extremely likeable as our heroes and their action-packed, crime-solving adventures could be fun to watch here and there.

Alter: Never
Clayne Crawford couldn’t be boring if he tried, but the same can’t be said for the show surrounding him. Stepping into a role made famous by the now-infamous Mel Gibson, Crawford has a lightness of touch — and an appealingly offbeat edge — that this blandly square-jawed action series doesn’t itself possess.

Speechless
Premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC

John Ross Bowie, Minnie Driver, Micah Fowler, and Kyla Kenedy in 'Speechless' (Credit: Nicole Wilder/ABC)
John Ross Bowie, Minnie Driver, Micah Fowler, and Kyla Kenedy in ‘Speechless’ (Credit: Nicole Wilder/ABC)

Baldwin: Later
This would have been a never for me (sorry, Minnie Driver, but you’re just a little too effective playing the crusading-to-the-point-of-being-obnoxious mom of a special-needs kid) if it weren’t for Cedric Yarborough as Kenneth the groundskeeper, who is as effortlessly funny and likable as Driver’s character is annoying.

Tucker: Later
I found Minnie Driver heroically unlikable as a mom doing everything she can to make one of her children, who has cerebral palsy, happy in our sometimes-cruel and unfeeling world. I get that her character feels the need to be pushy to get results, but do I want to watch her rudeness every week, let alone laugh at it? Not sure at all.

Bierly: Later
It shows you both the similar and the extraordinary challenges one family faces with a deft touch.

Nguyen: Later
ABC family comedies are my kryptonite — yes, even Dr. Ken and The Real O’Neals have spots on my DVR — so Speechless already has that going for it. The pilot’s message of inclusion didn’t feel too preachy, and the imperfect, sweet, relatable DiMeos fit perfectly alongside the network’s other quirky clans.

Alter: Now
ABC continues its successful tradition of building perceptive, funny family comedies around families that are too often underrepresented on television — in this case, a tight-knit clan where one member, teenager J.J. (Micah Fowler), has cerebral palsy. The series smartly mines its humor from other peoples’ reactions to J.J., whether it’s mom Minnie Driver’s strident overprotectiveness or new friend Cedric Yarbourgh’s casual acceptance. Speechless is evidence that a network sitcom can entertain and educate at the same time.

Designated Survivor 
Premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 10 p.m. on ABC

Natascha McElhone and Keifer Sutherland in 'Designated Survivor' (Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/ABC)
Natascha McElhone and Keifer Sutherland in ‘Designated Survivor’ (Credit: Ben Mark Holzberg/ABC)

Baldwin: Later
Keifer Sutherland is excellent (as always), Kal Penn is charmingly smarmy, and Maggie Q is effectively steely… but I’m just not sure I have the emotional strength to watch an intense drama about a catastrophic terror attack every week.

Tucker: Now
Keifer Sutherland, playing a rather meek fellow who’s suddenly propelled into the presidency after a terrorist attack, knows how to act behind his owlish horned rims. I’m curious to see how this character develops, and this is one of the few pilots with genuine buzz.

Bierly: Now
This “what if” scenario is more interesting than Quantico‘s: What if a politician (Kiefer Sutherland), who’s so low on the totempole he’s asked to be the one who skips the State of the Union address, is forced to become president after a terrorist attack on the Capitol? You want to see who lacks faith in him, and when he’ll go Jack Bauer on them.

Nguyen: Now
One of my favorite new shows of the fall, the premise of this political drama instantly intrigued me and by the end of the pilot episode, I wanted to see more. I particularly liked seeing the not-Jack Bauer side of Kiefer Sutherland.

Alter: Now
President Keifer is a candidate we can all vote for, and the pilot for Designated Survivor wrings maximum tension from its near-apocalyptic premise. Comparisons to Quantico are inevitable, but the show Designated Survivor most reminds me of is Shawn Ryan’s Last Resort, which also brought the U.S. to the brink of war in its killer series premiere before frittering away that tension over the subsequent half-season. History could easily repeat itself here, but the first episode, at least, doesn’t disappoint.

Notorious
Premieres Thursday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. on ABC

Daniel Sunjata and Piper Perabo in 'Notorious' (Credit: Eli Joshua Ade/ABC)
Daniel Sunjata and Piper Perabo in ‘Notorious’ (Credit: Eli Joshua Ade/ABC)

Baldwin: Never
For all of its Shondaland tropes (sexy, intense people dealing with political and celebrity scandals!), this non-Shonda Rhimes drama is really just a law procedural in #TGIT clothing. Good cast, competent execution, just not my thing.

Tucker: Never
One of a couple of new shows that try to approach the fast-paced, literate soap opera of Shonda Rhimes’s work without actually having been created by Rhimes, this charmless series about a news producer and a defense attorney (Piper Perabo and Daniel Sunjata, respectively) is flashy and empty.

Bierly: Later
It’s not as glossy or sudsy as a Shonda Rhimes show, but it has promise with a juicy premise (plus, The Boy Next Door‘s Ryan Guzman).

Nguyen: Never
I appreciate the good-looking cast (call me, Ryan Guzman!), but this Shonda Rhimes wannabe is just that: a too soapy, too over-the-top knockoff.

Alter: Later
I’m all in on Piper Perabo and Daniel Sunjata as the dynamic duo of News Producer Lady and D.A. Dude. But I’m not as persuaded by the show’s flat-footed attempts to be both an episodic event-of-the-week programmer and a crazily serialized Scandal imitator. Maybe I’ll tune back in when Notorious picks a lane and stays in it.

Pitch
Premieres Thursday, Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. on Fox

Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Kylie Bunbury, and Dan Lauria in 'Pitch' (Credit: Fox)
Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Kylie Bunbury, and Dan Lauria in ‘Pitch’ (Credit: Fox)

Baldwin: Later
Oh Pitch, you had me at “now” until the totally unnecessary twist at the end (which I won’t spoil here). Still, Kylie Bunbury is fantastic, a real star in the making, and I could never fully write off a show that includes Mark-Paul Gosselaar in the cast.

Tucker: Later
If you’re psyched for seeing a show about a woman playing baseball in the major leagues, by all means, tune in. As a glancing baseball fan, I was mildly intrigued, but the pilot strained for uplift and takes a twist at the end that made me groan.

Bierly: Now
It’s a fresh concept for a network drama — the first woman (Kylie Bunbury’s Ginny Baker) takes the mound in a MLB game, with all the pressures that go with high (and low) expectations— and at least in the premiere, she’s not flirting with any of her teammates.

Nguyen: Now
I loved this pilot! Kylie Bunbury is a delight to watch and Mark-Paul Gosselaar is truly at his finest. The reveal at the end of the episode was a heart-wrencher that had me reaching for a box of Kleenex. I haven’t been this excited to watch sports on television since Friday Night Lights.

Alter: Now
There’s so much great stuff packed into the Pitch pilot, I’m willing to forgive the genuinely bizarre creative choice the powers that be make as the show rounds third and heads for home. Led by a star-making performance from Kylie Bunbury as a rookie female pitcher, Pitch’s must-see status is cemented by a surprisingly great Mark-Paul Gosselaar turn as a grizzled veteran catcher, and exciting on-field action aided by the full participation of Major League Baseball. There’s still time to have a do-over on that final inning…

MacGyver 
Premieres Friday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. on CBS

George Eads and Lucas Till in 'MacGyver' (Credit: Annette Brown/CBS)
George Eads and Lucas Till in ‘MacGyver’ (Credit: Annette Brown/CBS)

Baldwin: Later
CBS hasn’t made the first episode available (the pilot was reshot over the summer), but the previews make it look like just what you’d want out of this remake: cute guy engineering great escapes with a team of sexy helpers. I could see myself getting sucked in while channel surfing on a Friday night.

Tucker: Never
Did you love the original MacGyver? Was the original MacGyver worthy of love? Probably more so than this energetic, but not especially imaginative reboot.

Bierly: Later
Having thoroughly enjoyed the Lethal Weapon reboot, the odds of both of them getting it right feels slim.

Nguyen: Never
TBH, I was relieved that I didn’t have to watch this one.

Alter: Later
I watched enough of MacGyver Sr. growing up to be mildly curious about the explosive hijinks his son will get up to. And if there’s a MacGyver/MacGruber crossover episode in the works, that’ll earn a place on my DVR Hall of Fame.

The Exorcist 
Premieres Friday, Sept. 23 at 9 p.m. on Fox

Alan Ruck and Geena Davis in 'The Exorcist' (Credit: Chuck Hodes/Fox)
Alan Ruck and Geena Davis in ‘The Exorcist’ (Credit: Chuck Hodes/Fox)

Baldwin: Never
It’s grim, gross, and features a truly horrible scene with a possessed little boy. (Kids in peril are one of my TV no-gos.) I’ll pass, thanks.

Tucker: Never
Yes, a variation on William Friedkin’s 1973 scary movie. No, not scary, and not absorbing enough in its exploration of supernaturalism or religion, either.

Bierly: Never
After watching the film in college, I had to put the VHS tape on my roommate’s side of the dorm room so I wouldn’t see it. I don’t need that kind of stress in my life.

Nguyen: Never
Demonic possession is just not my jam. Sorry, Geena Davis (loved you on Grey’s, though)!

Alter: Later
Although the small-screen Exorcist wisely opts to sequelize William Friedkin’s 1973 horror classic instead of remake it, there’s no escaping the long shadow cast by Pazuzu and his spider-walking, pea soup-spitting ways. The series premiere does feature one genuinely creepy moment: an encounter between the new priest (Alfonso Herrera) and the new object of this demon’s possession (Hannah Kasulka) in a darkened attic. That sequence suggests that there may yet be life left in this walking corpse of a franchise.

Son of Zorn 
Premieres Sunday, Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m. on Fox

Tim Meadows, Cheryl Hines, and Zorn voiced by Jason Sudeikis (Credit: Fox)
Tim Meadows, Cheryl Hines, and Zorn voiced by Jason Sudeikis (Credit: Fox)

Baldwin: Later
Yes, it’s a one-joke idea (He’s just a cartoon barbarian! He doesn’t understand our modern ways!), but Jason Sudeikis and Tim Meadows can turn even the thinnest material into solid laughs.

Tucker: Later
You’ll want to tune in once to see how they integrate the animated title character with the human co-stars, who include Cheryl Hines and Tim Meadows. But unless the jokes improve mightily on the pilots, once will be enough.

Bierly: Never
You’ll want it to be more subversive than it is. Also, it’s never addressed in the pilot why, if everyone is comfortable with cartoon Zorn walking around, we haven’t seen any other animated characters in live-action Orange County.

Nguyen: Never
I can’t get pass why they didn’t just throw a loin cloth on Jason Sudeikis. I would’ve given that a chance for sure.

Alter: Never
Take Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and drain out all of the humor, and you’ve got Fox’s version of a cartoon character set loose in a live action world. While the animators and star Jason Sudeikis nail the look and sound of a ‘70s Hanna-Barbera knock-off, the unpleasantly caustic comic tone itself makes you long for the subtle stoner comedy of Scooby-Doo.