It’s officially network TV’s Premiere Week, and two of the fall’s more interesting new dramas—NBC’s Ordinary Joe and Fox’s The Big Leap—get their start. CBS’ top-rated NCIS moves to a new night, leading into the tropical spinoff NCIS Hawai’i. Still seeking a permanent host, Jeopardy! welcomes back Mayim Bialik to read the clues for the next month and more.
There’s nothing ordinary about this sentimental drama that follows everyman Joe Kimbreau (Watchmen and Mad Man’s charismatic James Wolk) down three distinct life paths in parallel timelines, diverging after a pivotal moment at his college graduation. In one version, he’s the rock star he always yearned to be. In another, he adopts the family tradition of becoming an NYPD cop. In the third, he’s a devoted nurse who’s sacrificed family for career. The decision he makes after college affects everyone else in his orbit, especially the women in his life: BFF and (in one world) wife Jenny (You’s Elizabeth Lail), and Amy (Natalie Martinez), the politically ambitious woman he meets-cute at commencement and becomes the rocker Joe’s wife. As the stories overlap and echo each other, we’re drawn into Joe’s very different Sliding Doors worlds, with NBC hoping that this could fill the emotional void when This Is Us departs after this season.
The 19th season is one of change—a new night and time period, and also a reckoning for Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon), whose status as NCIS team leader is still in question as the rest of the team—now including Special Agent Jessica Knight (Katrina Law)—are looped into his search for a serial killer. Pam Dawber (Harmon’s real-life wife) returns as journalist Marcie Warren. As for Gibbs’ boat: Rest in pieces.
The gorgeous scenery of Oahu does the heavy lifting in this routine spinoff, distinguished mainly by putting a woman in charge for the first time in franchise history. Vanessa Lachey is Jane Tennant, a divorced supermom described as being “stubborn and incapable of staying in line” on the job, where she oversees a diverse crew whose first assignment is to investigate the crash of a top-secret experimental Navy aircraft.
Fox’s big swing this fall is a hybrid drama within a fictional dance-competition reality show, starring Scandal’s Scott Foley as the show’s cynical producer with an eye more for manipulating on-camera soap opera than nurturing talent. The amateur contestants, all vying for roles in a modernized Swan Lake, are all looking for second chances in life, and you’ll especially root for Gabby (Simone Recasner), a single mom whose dance dreams were derailed after high school. Veteran TV stars Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs) and The Fosters’ Teri Polo, as a former ballerina, also give it their all. Suspend some disbelief about how this kind of TV actually gets made and there’s plenty to enjoy here.
Well, that first week was embarrassing, with Mike Richards looking so sheepish in retrospect as the short-lived host. The quiz show moves on with at least a semblance of stability, as Mayim Bialik takes the reins for the next seven weeks (through Nov. 5), with the rest of 2021 toggling between her and Ken “GOAT” Jennings as host until the studio figures out the next step in this embarrassingly botched period of transition.
Inside Monday TV:
- Live with Kelly and Ryan (syndicated, check local listings): The hit daytime show presents its trademark “Record Breaker Week,” with guests each day trying to set new Guinness World Records. (On Tuesday’s show, Joel Strasser from Washington State will try to break his own title for the most pencils in a beard.)
- Top Story with Tom Llamas (7 pm/ET, streaming on NBC News NOW): Senior national correspondent Tom Llamas, previously with ABC, anchors a weeknightly hourlong news program (Monday-Friday) with deeper dives into the stories of the day. Top Story will also focus on issues affecting Hispanic and Latin America with a recurring segment, “The Americas.”
- The Voice (8/7c, NBC): Ariana Grande joins returning coaches Blake Shelton, Kelly Clarkson and John Legend for the singing competition’s 21st season. They’ll all be operating those swiveling red chairs in the Blind Auditions, always the most enjoyable part of any season.
- The Neighborhood (8/7c, CBS): The amiable sitcom’s fourth season opens with Dave (Max Greenfield) making a genealogical discovery that isn’t likely to thrill neighbor Calvin (Cedric the Entertainer): They’re very distant cousins. A pregnant Gemma (Beth Behrs) gets a warmer response from Tina (Tichina Arnold), who helps her with her morning sickness.
- Bob Hearts Abishola (8:30/7:30c, CBS): The third season of the romantic comedy finds Bob (Billy Gardell) and his intended, Abishola (Folake Olowofoyeku), traveling to her native Nigeria to fetch her son Dele (Travis Wolfe, Jr.). Along for the ride to see how their homeland has changed in their absence: Auntie Olu (Shola Adewusi) and Uncle Tunde (Barry Shabaka Henley).
- Dancing with the Stars (8/7c, ABC): The dancing competition, now in its 30th round, has already made news by announcing that pop star JoJo Siwa will be paired with a same-sex pro for the first time in the show’s history. Other contestants include Olympic gymnast Suni Lee, the NBA’s Iman Shumpert, WWE’s The Miz, fitness guru Cody Rigsby, actors Brian Austin Green, Martin Kove and Melora Hardin, country singer Jimmie Allen, Spice Girl Melanie C, The Talk’s Amanda Kloots, the usual reality-TV flotsam (Kenya Moore, Christine Chiu, Matt James) and “influencer” Olivia Jade. Len Goodman is back as a judge, alongside Bruno Tonioli, Carrie Ann Inaba and Derek Hough.
- 9-1-1 (8/7c, Fox): The first responders of the 118 have their hands full as the fifth season begins, with ransomware threats causing chaos throughout L.A., Athena (Angela Bassett) facing her past trauma when her attacker goes to trial, and Maddie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) suffering from postpartum depression.
- Muhammad Ali (8/7c, PBS, check local listings at pbs.org): The second installment of Ken Burns’ lively biographical documentary covers the turbulent years of 1964-70, when the controversial Muslim boxer’s decision to refuse to serve in the Vietnam War led to him being banned from the sport for several years.
- Time100 (10/9c, ABC): The newsmagazine’s eclectic annual list of the world’s most influential people includes the likes of Harry and Meghan (returnees), Simone Biles, Billie Eilish, the embattled Britney Spears and the beloved-by-all Dolly Parton. A new special features some of those on the list with profiles, interviews and tributes, with surprise musical performances and appearances from past honorees.
- Reservation Dogs (streaming on FX on Hulu): The acclaimed comedy about indigenous teens in rural Oklahoma wraps its first season with a tornado blowing into town while the Dogs become vigilantes.