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Fall TV: 'Manifest,' 'FBI' lead wave of new flights, but don't land

Updated 10:07 AM ET, Mon September 24, 2018

(CNN) - Fall TV is underway. Previewing some of this week's new network series premieres:

Manifest. Ever since "Lost" landed (or didn't, actually), networks have been enamored with seeking to replicate that sort of mystery, with mostly unsatisfying results. Enter "Manifest," an NBC drama that owes a sizable debt to a particular "The Twilight Zone" episode about a lost flight -- a format where such fare has historically worked best, as opposed to an open-ended series commitment.

The basic conceit involves a flight that hits turbulence before the plane and passengers land, it turns out, five years later, having not aged a bit during that lapse. Their loved ones back home, naturally, have to varying degrees dealt with their grief and, in some instances, moved on, adding soap-opera-esque elements to the science fiction aspect -- asking, namely, where they were and why.

With an ensemble cast and a lot of moving parts, "Manifest" is getting an assist with its liftoff by following NBC's "The Voice." That said, it's always difficult with such concepts -- and perhaps this one more than most -- to see whether the producers can sustain enough interest to keep the show airborne. (Premieres Sept. 24 at 10 p.m. on NBC.)

A Million Little Things. If "Manifest" is this season's "Lost" wannabe, "A Million Little Things" owes a strong debt to another 2004 hit, "Desperate Housewives," although given the character composition, it's really more like "Desperate Husbands."

As with that earlier ABC show, an inexplicable suicide sets events into motion, causing a close-knit group of buddies -- who share hockey tickets -- to begin contemplating their lives, while revealing deep, dark secrets along the way. It's a good ensemble, but the whole exercise feels too conspicuously like a throwback to a certain kind of ABC drama that, frankly, has seen better days, and which has begun yielding diminishing returns. (Premieres Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. on ABC.)

New Amsterdam. "The Good Doctor" was one of the surprise hits of the 2017-18 season, so NBC trots out its own version of the kind of physician everyone wishes they had -- one who puts patients first and never asks about co-pays. In "New Amsterdam," it's Dr. Max Goodwin, played by "The Blacklist's" Ryan Eggold, the new administrator at a hospital, who announces right off the bat that he'll fire anyone "who places billing above care." Eggold is appealing, in an old-fashioned, "Marcus Welby" kind of way, and the show does contain a few unexpected twists. The series is loosely based on a medical administrator's memoir, but the idea of a square-jawed doctor who really, really cares feels like an awfully familiar procedure. (Premieres Sept. 25 at 10 p.m. on NBC.)

FBI. Producer Dick Wolf brings his "Law & Order" formula to CBS with "FBI," a series made more notable -- given the bureau's long history on the screen -- by the current criticism directed its way from the White House. Other than that, the only significant wrinkle is that the show features a Muslim agent, played by Zeeko Zaki. He's paired with a female agent, portrayed by Missy Peregrym ("Rookie Blue"), who -- in keeping with the model of dripping out personal details about characters while focusing on the crime of the week -- is a widow, not that the show has time to explain why. CBS has a good history with abbreviations ("CSI," "NCIS"), but creatively speaking, "FBI" is DOA. (Premieres Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. on CBS.)

The Cool Kids. Given TV's historic pattern of ageism, it's nice to see a show built around older stars, even if it's one as tired as "The Cool Kids." David Alan Grier, Martin Mull and Leslie Jordan play residents of a retirement community who suddenly have an open seat at their customary table when their fourth pal dies. Enter Vicki Lawrence, who shakes up the group dynamic. It's all very broadly played -- to go with its lead-in, "Last Man Standing" -- but raises the question how long lines like "Everybody relax. Act like we have Alzheimer's" are going to prevent the show from facing the TV version of retirement. (Premieres Sept. 28 at 8:30 p.m. on Fox.)


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