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By George, Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" is coolest show of the fall

By Alan Pergament

I had to laugh when I saw a critic for a national publication had to list the Top 10 new fall shows of the season.

Ten?

Are you kidding me?

I couldn’t find five.

That's how slim the pickings are for this season, which unofficially begins this week and officially begins the week of Sept. 23.

I'm returning to my pre-retirement, annual rite of analyzing each network one at a time, starting today with a preview of Fox.

The network needs a new hit badly, with "American Idol" no longer a powerhouse and "House" having retired his cane two seasons ago.

It has some of the season's best new shows and some of its worst.

Here is a show-by-show look.

Sleepy Hollow,” 9 tonight, repeats on Fridays: Fox played enough promos for it during the Bills game Sunday, which led one cynical wag to suggest it won't last six episodes. It might not but it is Fox’s best new series. British actor Tom Mison stars as professor of history Ichabod Crane in a series set in the 18th and 21 centuries that plays loose with Washington Irving’s short story. It seems Ichabod, who knew George Washington, has somehow leapt into another century and is amused to discover there is a Starbucks on every corner and what else has happened in the modern world.

He has convinced one detective, Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), that he isn’t nuts and he actually can help solve crimes that have been unsolved for centuries. I don’t want to explain too much more, but "Sleepy" is anything but sleepy as a headless Horseman wrecks havoc everywhere.  It is the coolest show of the fall season. It is a stylishly filmed, exciting, wild ride in an "X-Files" sort of way and also has some humor and warmth. 3 and a half stars out of 4 

 "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," 8:30 p.m. Tuesday: This is a horrible season for new comedies. Viewers will be able to judge how horrible it is this Tuesday because this comedy starring "Saturday Night Live" alumnus Andy Samberg and former "Homicide" star Andre Braugher was named the best new comedy by my colleagues in the Television Critics Association. In other words, it is all downhill from here.

The likable Samberg plays a wise-aleck, rule-breaking detective -- he refuses to wear a tie -- who also breaks arrest records and is in a competition with a pretty detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) he wants to date. He is suddenly challenged by a new by-the-book new captain (Braugher) in the 99th Precinct. The pilot is a lot like a “SNL” sketch” – funny at times but the joke lasts too long. The cast of characters, which include a dull guy who thinks he has a chance with a pretty and angry woman who is out of his league, has the potential to make this a modern equivalent of “Barney Miller.” The opener gives away too much information about the characters – especially the captain -- so it may be hard to make future episodes as enjoyable. Rating: 3 stars out of 4

"Dads," 8 p.m. Tuesday: The season’s worst comedy -- and that is saying something.  Fox's answer to critics' hostility is to run promos from "ordinary people" that say forgot the critics. (One ran during the Bills game.) By that logic, "ordinary people" should also forget the critics' praise for "Brooklyn Nine-Nine." The mind-boggling nature of how bad "Dads" is probably is magnified because one of the creators is Seth MacFarlane of "Family Guy" and "American Dad" fame. The show illustrates how much more difficult it is so to make sophomoric material funny when the characters aren’t animated.

It also wastes a lot of talent. Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi play business partners in the video game  industry – they invented a Kill Hitler Game -- with dad problems. The father of Green’s character is played by University at Buffalo graduate Peter Riegert, the father of Ribisi's character is played by Martin Mull. The dads are coarse, have hygiene and money issues and spend a considerable amount of time talking about bodily functions. The topics are a lot funnier in cartoons. Viewers should have as much trouble spending time with these fathers as their sons do. Rating: 1 star

 "Almost Human,"arrives on Mondays, Nov. 4.: Set 35 years in the future, the latest series from the prolific J.J. Abrams follows a damaged part-machine cop (played by Karl Urban) who practices police brutality and is trying to remember who ambushed him 17 months earlier. He is partnered with the one thinking part-human android (Michael Ealy) who is considered to be flawed because he has feelings. The cast includes Minka Kelly of "Friday Night Lights" fame. It is intense, futuristic, suspenseful.  And did I mention it co-stars Minka Kelly. Rating: 2 and a half stars

“Enlisted,” 9:30 p.m. Fridays, Nov.8:  I didn’t make it past 10 minutes of what appears to be a painful attempt to be similar to one of my favorite comedies growing up – "Sgt. Bilko." I don’t remember any of it, except to say I imagine this series about three brothers who are stationed at a Florida Army base is about as much fun as a tour in Afghanistan. It is buried on Fridays so no one is bound to ever see it anyway.

“Gang Related," midseason: Terry O’Quinn ("Lost") is the squad leader of an elite Gang Task Force in Los Angeles in a series that plays like a Hispanic version of the Martin Scorsese film "The Departed." Great movie to copy, but the results are predictable. Most of the characters don't act as much as they yell in a pilot that is shot full of clichés and poorly acted. Only relatives could watch it all the way through. 1 and a half stars 

“Surviving Jack," midseason:  A midseason comedy starring Christopher Meloni ("Law & Order: SVU") as a poor role model as a father in the 1990s who believes in tough love. There is a lot of that going on this season. There is a lot of talk about sex. There is a lot of that going on this season, too. Believe me, you can survive until the midseason before seeing this piece of trash. 1 and a half stars

“Us and Them," midseason: Based on a British series, this is a sweet romantic comedy in which Jason Ritter ("Parenthood") and Alexis Bledel ("Gilmore Girls") worry about their first date with each other after flirting online for months. The “them” is their quirky parents and friends. The cast includes veteran character actors Kurt Fuller and Jane Kaczmarek. As sweets as it sounds, these two adorable young stars are pretty much wasted. In short, I can't see this series getting many second dates.  1 and a half stars

"Rake," midseason: Greg Kinnear stars in the season's most disappointing drama as an excellent lawyer with a gambling addiction who lives above a Chinese restaurant and defends someone accused of being a cannibal. It appears to be a legal version of "House." The pilot is way too dark and probably more suitable for pay-cable. It ends with a Perry Mason-like moment that illustrates how seriously it should be taken. Not at all. 1 and a half stars

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