This year, fall TV has more than a few black faces. While you’ll still have to look to Tyler Perry or Shonda Rhimes to see more than just one or two black faces on any given show, several black actors are happily cashing network checks this fall TV season. There are a few compelling questions this new season and we decided to take a look at some of the most highly anticipated shows to figure out if they’ll end up as television history or as television afterthoughts. With so many ways to watch TV these days – via laptop, iPad, Roku box, Hulu site or delayed to the time and day you want through the power of DVR technology, we know that TV is more accessible than ever before. But is it good TV? Fortunately, though the reality genre has its fans, there is still some quality TV available. Here are some of the biggest questions involving new and returning shows with black cast members this season.
CAN “GUYS WITH KIDS” WORK?
We sort of love the idea of Anthony Anderson and Tempestt Bledsoe together, especially since the last time we saw Bledsoe on TV it was as Darryl Bell’s longtime girlfriend in the short-lived “Househusbands of Hollywood.” In this new sitcom, which has a sneak peek tonight at 10:00 p.m. on NBC, (it officially premieres on September 26 at 8 p.m.) was created by comic/late night TV host Jimmy Fallon, so it comes with high expectations. Former “Sopranos” star Jamie-Lyn Sigler is a castmember as well. The premise, what happens when formerly cool guys become parents, is a promising one, but for some reason although dads are hot in Hollywood lately (“My Baby’s Daddy,” also starring Anderson and the flop “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” ) they seem to get the tone right when they’re dealing with gay dads, not straight ones. (Hmmm, we think that says something about Hollywood). Prognosis: Unclear, it depends on execution.) Watch a preview here.
WILL T.J. HOLMES BRING NEW FLAVOR TO LATE NIGHT?
Well, we already love the title of former CNN anchor’s new show “Don’t Sleep.” Given that Holmes left a sweet gig at CNN to move to BET, we hope that means this is gonna be good. The problem is, though, that it’s on BET, which has a sketchy history not only in late night, but with its show’s hosts. No matter how successful the show, recent history has proven that somehow or another BET parts ways with its late night TV shows. We hope this one sticks, not just because Holmes is smart and he’s easy on the eyes, but because late night hasn’t had this much flavor since Arsenio Hall. And as the late entrepreneur millionaire Reginald Lewis once said “Why should white guys have all the fun?” The problem for T.J.? That late night field is pretty crowded, although most shows come on a half hour later. We hope Holmes can make “Don’t Sleep” a success. We’ll be watching. Prognosis: Good. With the right mix of talent and presentation, Holmes might be able to carve his own niche in nighttime. Premiere: Monday, October 1, at 11 p.m. on BET. Watch a preview here.
WILL “666 PARK AVENUE” WIN OR WANE?
We kind of dig the premise of “666 Park Avenue,” which stars Vanessa Williams along with “Lost’s” Terry O’Quinn as a sinister New York apartment building owner. Maybe it’s because we’re from New York and it seems plausible, or maybe it’s because it’s “Devil’s Advocate” meets “The Firm” concept is pretty compelling. Not to mention, there’s something we love about Williams and O’Quinn together and Williams has put her mark on portraying shady divas at this point. We always kind of love it when evil is allowed to reign unchecked and all the scenarios possible are just too juicy to contemplate. Prognosis: Good. But it all depends. Sometimes mainstream America can’t get into shows that are New York-centric and it will require a steady hand to keep the balance of good, evil and campy that will ultimately make the show successful. Premiere: Sunday, September 30 at 10 p.m. on ABC. Watch a preview here.
WILL SCANDAL BE AS HOT AS ITS FIRST SEASON?
After just 7 introductory episodes, Shonda Rhimes’ new show “Scandal” was an out of the box hit. But can it live up to that early promise? One of the first dramas in TV history to star an African-American female character, it did a great job of making Kerry Washington’s character Olivia Pope (based on a real-life Washington fixer) both strong and vulnerable. This time around “Scandal” gets a full-season order (though just 13 episodes) from ABC. But will it wear out after time? We doubt it. Washington, D.C. has enough ripped from the headlines drama to fill up several seasons and as long as the sizzle factor exemplified in the steamy, illicit relationship between Pope and the President stays hot, we think “Scandal” stays on top. Prognosis: Excellent. Washington plays her position well as does the ensemble cast. Rhimes is a winner. And there’s enough scandalous doings in politics to keep viewers happy. Premiere: Thursday, September 27 at 10 p.m. Watch a preview here.
WILL “INFAMOUS” SIZZLE?
It may be the most intriguing fall TV concept of all. Meagan Good stars in “Infamous,” a show that seems cut directly from the “Revenge” vein. Good plays a police detective who goes undercover to her wealthy childhood friend’s home where she was raised as the daughter of the family’s maid. That friend ends up dead and the ongoing mystery will be, of course, whodunit. Well, obviously that’s going to take a while and presumably Good will get mixed up in the shady family business. While the idea might be a good one and the show offers two African-American leads in Good and Las Alonso who was killed off of “Breakout Kings,” we’re just not sure we can handle two long-term mystery sagas playing out over time in wealthy families. We’re already way too invested in “Revenge.” We’re happy for Meagan, though. She’s having a pretty good year. Prognosis: Unclear. Two African-American leads haven’t worked on a TV show yet, but it also hasn’t been the right show yet. We’ll see if this one is. Premiere: The midseason replacement is set to air in 2013. Watch a preview here.