Gay is the television critic.
We watch so you don't have to -- according to the old saying -- but we also go to the biannual TV critics' press tour in Beverly Hills to spare you the trouble. Not that there's all that much trouble here -- TV writers are usually well-behaved creatures, as are the networks that feed and coddle them for two weeks. But what matters most are impressions, and those are what you're about to get.
Overall vibe: Paranoid. The decline of "American Idol" has left Fox grasping for an answer to "what next?" but more urgently "what now?" The longtime entertainment president, Kevin Reilly, is gone, replaced by Dana Walden and Gary Newman, who will oversee all of Fox Broadcasting, including the studio arm, which is of far greater value than the network.
What to watch: "Gotham." This is the "origins" story of Batman, without Batman. A big risk, but still interesting.
What to avoid: "Red Band Society," even with Octavia Spencer starring. Maybe it's just me, but a dramedy about kids in a hospital in various stages of mortal peril and decline just doesn't scream, "Watch me."
Overall vibe: Confident, and it's well-founded. The NFL joins the Thursday schedule this fall over eight weeks, and as CBS chief Leslie Moonves (who was here with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) said, "This is the program we know is going to work." He's right.
What to watch: "The McCarthys." Yeah, a multicamera, old-fashioned family sitcom. Imagine that.
What to avoid: "Stalker." Kevin Williamson ("The Vampire Diaries") procedural about stalkers, their victims and the cops who save them, played by Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott. Williamson mixed it up here with critics who challenged him about the show's violent content.
Overall vibe: Worried. Primetime ratings are down, and ABC is searching for the next "Modern Family."
What to watch: "How to Get Away With Murder." Starring Viola Davis as a law professor and her students who are (maybe) part of a murder plot, this one comes from Shonda Rhimes ("Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal"), but the show is created by her longtime "Grey's" writer Peter Nowalk. It's a mystery with trick endings and a bunch of other ploys to keep viewers off-balance.
What to avoid: "Manhattan Love Story." The panel for this rom-com -- starring Analeigh Tipton and Jake McDorman -- was more entertaining than the pilot, which is never a good sign. Approach with caution.
Overall vibe: Relieved, buoyant. After multiple seasons of near-death experiences, you'd be relieved and buoyant, too. "The Black List" didn't just save this network, but Sunday NFL football did. Both have given NBC breathing room and confidence. That's allowed the network to stretch a little bit -- finally.
What to watch: "Marry Me." This show with Casey Wilson ("Happy Endings") and Long Island's Ken Marino ("Children's Hospital") appears to be fall's best new network comedy. (The panel session was a riot -- and that's not a bad sign.)
What to avoid: "State of Affairs." The challenge -- one of many -- is to accept Katherine Heigl as a kick-butt CIA analyst with fists of fury.
Vibe Stable: No longer any questions -- at least here -- about long-term survival. The CW seems safe, for now.
What to watch: "The Flash." This DC Comics adaptation starring Grant Justin is about as sure a bet as any newcomer.
What not to watch: With only two shows on display at the press tour (the other is "Jane the Virgin," which I have yet to see), that's hard to say right now.