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Twenty of network TV's most intriguing new shows of the 2014 season

Hayley Atwell - AKA Peggy Carter - ,s

(Credit: Sundance Channel)

The fall network upfronts arrive next week and with them, plenty of new shows. But what looks interesting? In the interest of time — yours —  I've put together a list of the 20 most intriguing new series. Each one of these has been ordered, and will arrive on a network near you sometime next year or early 2015. And in no particular order, let's take it away!

"Tooken," NBC

Think: Ellie Kemper, escapes doomsday cult...starts life over in NYC

Reason to get excited:  Ellie, plus Robert Carlock and Tina Fey produce..

Reason not to: No reason except NBC has been all-thumbs when it comes to comedies. Could it actually thumb up this one too?

 "The Slap," NBC

Think: Family drama based on Aussie drama./..about a man who slaps some other family's kid and...from there it starts...

Reason to get excited: Jon Robin Baitz is writing, producing.

Reason not to: Nothing comes to mind except maybe the fact that the cast still seems undetermined.

"Aquarius," NBC

Think: LA cop on the trail of the Manson murders...

Reason to get excited: Two, great title and...David Duchovny stars.

Reason not to: Period drama overkill, and the demise of "Mob City" still fresh...

"Emerald City," NBC

Think: "Land of Oz. Really. The whole thing. With Dorothy too.

Reason to get excited: Oz.

Reason not to: It's a modern-day "reimagining," whatever that could possibly be, and believed to be for 10 episodes only — part of the new trend in TV not to over-commit when you are not over-certain. Plus, sounds violent.

"Mr. Robinson," NBC

Think: Craig Robinson, single-camera, as musician turned music teacher

. Reason to get excited: Robinson, and Greg Daniels, re-teaming...

Reason not to: Pilot has apparently had a muddied, confused past — Daniels is reportedly no longer even attached. So who knows.

"State of Affairs," NBC

Think: Kat Heigl, CIA attache, counsels prez.

Reason to get excited: The return of Kat.

Reason not to: The return of Kat. Plus that cliched title which indicates cliched dialogue, and cliched situations. But let's not judge a book by a tiny corner of its cover, OK people?

"Backstrom," Fox

Think: Rainn Wilson as cranky detective in Portland...

Reason to get excited: Wilson. Plus Hart Hanson of "Bones," who produces.

Reason not to: Nothing immediately obvious — unless Fox has a hard time adapting the Leif G.W. Persson books (though Hanson has experience in this realm...) But Wilson in crime drama? Could take some getting used to.

"Empire," Fox

Think: Hip-hop family empire...

Reason to get excited: Well, Terence Howard stars, Lee Daniels exec produces and so does Danny Strong (who does not star.) Pedigree!

Reason not to: It almost sounds more like a movie than a series. But a lot of networks apparently wanted this, so...

"Gracepoint," Fox

Think: Remake of "Broadchurch."

Reason to get excited: Good cast, headed by David Tennant and Anna Gunn

. Reason not to: Fraught tradition of American remakes of famous British series.

"Gotham," Fox

Think: "Origin" story of "Batman"

Reason to get excited: Anything "Batman" related has to be good, right?

Reason not to: This really is more the origin story of James Gordon (Ben McKenzie) which is interesting and important certainly, but...

"Hieroglyph," Fox

Think: Ancient scroll stolen; master thief sprung from prison to find.

Reason to get excited: Don't think we've had an Egyptian — as in ancient — TV series in recent decades.

Reason not to: Fairly high concept. Will it be serious or just plain silly?

"Last Man on Earth," Fox

Think: Will Forte, must save human race. A comedy...

Reason to get excited: Forte, who was awfully good in "Nebraska," wasn't he?

Reason not to: It's midseason which means a bit of a wait.

"Mulaney," Fox

Think: John Mulaney gets his own sitcom.

Reason to get excited: Martin Short also stars, as does another (like Mulaney) "SNL'er:" Nasim Pedrad.

Reason not to: Do comedies based on the single name of star ever work? (Oh, right, "Seinfeld." Never mind...)

"iZombie," CW

Think: Zombie. Based on Chris Roberson/ Michael Allred comic book series, about med-student-turned zombie who eats brains,and then gains memories of brains, and then solves crimes....

Reason to get excited: I (heart) zombies. Plus Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero of "Veronica Mars" are writing.

Reason not to: Nothing comes immediately to my brain...Except of course possibly this: Eeeewwwwww

"The Whispers," ABC

Think: Alien force intent on destroying human race. Do NOT think classic '60s group of the same name...or recently canceled "The Neighbors."

Reason to get excited: Alien forces are always exciting,no? And Lily Rabe stars...

Reason not to: The aliens are (apparently) unseen — where's the fun in that?

"How to get Away with Murder," ABC

Think: Law prof and students, get entangled in a murder...

Reason to get excited: From Shondaland, who knows how to put the bubbles in soap; but biggest reason is star Viola Davis. And pretty good title too, no?

Reason not to: How many tricks does Shonda Rhymes have up her sleeve, anyway?

"Black-ish," ABC

Think: Black family sitcom

Reason to get excited: Good cast (Anthony Anderson is headliner) and the concept seems to have promise (maybe because it's been done before), about cultural identity and assimilation.

Reason not to: Nothing comes to mind — ABC has done a good job of building new comedies (unlike NBC).

"Agent Carter," ABC

Think: Marvel, and "Captain America." This is about Peggy Carter — Hayley Atwell — set in '46.

Reason to get excited: Marvel has certainly kept things interesting at ABC, but Atwell makes this a probable keeper. She knows Peggy Carter better than anybody, after all.

Reason not to: "Agents of "SHEILD" also got a new season pickup this morning, but doesn't ABC — and Marvel — already have their hands full with this? After all, the first season was not the gang-buster they promised.

"American Crime," ABC

Think: Racially charged crime In California's Central Valley, with Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton

Reason to get excited: Sounds compelling, and not cheap crime procedural knock-off.

Reason not to: Also sounds like a monumental downer.

"Battle Creek," CBS

Think: Josh Duhamel, Dean Winters as cops in Battle Creek, Mi.

Reason to get excited: Vince Gilligan AND David Shore ("House") are producing this. Oh, and Mark Johnson.

Reason not to: Battle Creek? Wonderful city, of course. But a cop series? Set here? (Hey, why not.) Another question that occurred to me: The three showrunners are guys with their own visions and talents - Gilligan and Johnson have worked together (famously on a famous series) but Shore is pretty much been his own solo muse. How will they work together...and on what appears to be (superficial impression - we've seen nothing yet) on another procedural? At the very least, these questions will have interesting answers.  

Duchovny gets Manson-related NBC series

David Duchovny (born Aug. 7, 1960): The actor

(Credit: Getty Images)

David Duchovny, Charles Manson...unrelated names until this point in time: NBC has given a straight-to-series order for his '60s era period drama entitled "Aquarius" about Charles Manson, and the cop - played by DD - who chases him. Word of this show has been "out there," so to speak, but a 13-episode order? That's unusual and indicates a.) This might actually be a good series; and b.) Duchovny,...

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'The Walking Dead' finale recap: The end of the line

This undated image released by AMC shows Lauren

(Credit: AP / AMC / Gene Page)

Quiz time: What were the final words uttered/muttered/sputtered by Rick in the closing seconds of last night's fourth season finale of "The Walking Dead?" 

(And I first offer here the obligatory "spoiler alert!" for those who have yet to watch, or don't even realize that Rick survived -- because of course he did, contrary to whatever chatter was going on this season.)  

 a.) "They just made a major and unfortunate mistake -- unfortunate for them!"

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b.) They don't know who they're dealing with -- maybe they should ask Joe."

c.) "I'm  hungry . . . for neck."

 d.) "Hasta la vista, baby."

e.) None of the above (though a. is a close approximation.)

Correct answer is e.), which means Armageddon approaches again, in the fifth season -- which, by the way, signals yet another major migration for our small survivor pod as they head to Washington. In other words, Terminus is quite obviously not a long-term solution.

What is one to make of Terminus, first seen a couple of episodes ago and which clearly -- to anyone who lived through Woodbury -- was one of those too good to be true places?

Clearly to me it represents some sort of railroadized version of a Nazi death camp -- with its sloganeering and soothing bromides offered by strange unbalanced people who are (were) too smooth, too unrattled, too well-fed.

You expect a sign above the entrance to read: "Arbeit Macht Frei."

 And then the railroad cars.

 A quick glance at any "Dead" affiliated Wiki indicates that "Terminus" was the original name given to Atlanta, where a railroad terminus was built; I have no idea whether that is true, but it seems compelling enough. Who are these people? Why are they here? Why the enforced enslavement, or is the spirit of the Gov'nah alive and well, in other communities of the living?

What Sunday night's fourth season indicated, or demonstrated, is that Robert Kirkman's overall vision, as delineated by Scott Gimple -- who's done a good job with this brutal franchise as new showrunner -- is like a savage hall of mirrors: The dead aren't the ones to fear, as much as the living. Communities can't form without the requisite distillation of all that is terrible and loathsome in human nature -- the need to conquer, to control, and then ultimately, destroy.

 And Rick, recognizing that, has been reduced to his most fundamental nature, too -- ripping out the carotid artery in Joe, while a geyser of blood sprayed his face.

Zounds, that was awful. But it was what this world has become, only worse.   

Next season, (apparently) Washington. Our small and brutalized group should feel right at home there.

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