September 29, 2014 12:00 PM


No. 1 How to Get Away with Murder
A killer role for Viola Davis


You know who gets away with murder? Shonda Rimes, creator of Scandal and now executive producer of this new ABC legal thriller starring Viola Davis. Rimes is fearless, even cavalier about violently changing narrative course—her “twist” is anyone else’s dislocated pelvis—yet her shows leave us feeling entertained instead of ripped off. Annalise Keating, a ruthless, glamorous defense attorney and criminal-law professor, gives her best students the chance to develop her hot-potato cases. The students are bland, like Grey’s Anatomy interns without the authority inherent in white coats, but no matter: Davis’s Annalise even dominates the scenes she’s not in. Her stare is unnerving, and the wiring of her mind seems to be as lethally tough as the stuff used to string pianos. And yes, the pilot ends with a whammy. (ABC, Sept. 25, 10 p.m.)

No. 2 black-ish
Anthony Anderson knows best


This is ABC’s best sitcom about a “modern family” since—guess when. Anthony Anderson is an ad exec who wonders if his kids no longer understand their black identity. He also worries whether, back at the office, he’s held back by his. Smart and wry. (ABC, Sept. 24, 9:30 p.m.)

No. 3 Gotham

The early days of Commissioner Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Batman’s future nemeses. Fun idea, even if the town looks like one big urban funeral. (FOX, Sept. 22, 8 p.m.)

No. 4 Tracks

Mia Wasikowska, resilient as a sunflower, travels solo across the desert by camel. The fine cinematography avoids being merely scenic. (PG-13, Sept. 19)

No. 5 Ask Me Anything


A celeb, a keyboard, an open dialogue with the Internet—Reddit’s great interview series is now a flashy new app. High-lights: Robin Williams and Bill Murray. (

No. 6 The Best Books of the Fall

Treats of this year’s curl-up-and-read season include an array of celebrity memoirs and some smart, engrossing fiction.

Brooke Shields: There Was a Little Girl

Her mom okayed a nude photo shoot when she was 10 and let her play a prostitute in Pretty Baby at 12. So what was that relationship like? Well, complicated. Two years after Teri Shields’s death, Brooke looks back in an emotional memoir. (November)

Jeff Hobbs: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace

Hobbs details his former Yale roommate’s trajectory from slum kid to Ivy League star to victim of clashing worlds. Nuanced and shattering. (September)

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

Inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure series of his youth, Harris has written a fun, faux-interactive memoir. Will you choose to be Doogie Howser, M.D., and the world’s best awards show host—or just some loser? (October)

Sarah Waters: The Paying Guests

A beautifully observed tale of murder, suspense, crumbling class distinctions and steamy lesbian love in post-Edwardian London. Like something Virginia Woolf might have written if she’d been racier. (September)

Jane Smiley: Some Luck

From Pulitzer winner Smiley (A Thousand Acres), a multigenerational saga about an Iowa farming family’s shifting fortunes. The first volume of a planned trilogy. (October)

Amy Poehler: Yes Please

Think you love her now? Wait until you read her hilarious book. Not quite a memoir, it’s the Parks and Rec star’s musings on everything from her Boston-area childhood and SNL days to her looks (“a face for wigs”). Pure charm. (October)

David Nicholls: Us

The bestselling author of One Day (which became a movie starring Anne Hathaway) is back with another crowd-pleaser, this time about a man trying to save his collapsing marriage and connect with his teenage son during a family tour of Europe. (October)

Hilary Mantel: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

Henry VIII is nowhere to be found in this highly anticipated collection of contemporary short stories from the author of the prizewinning historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. (September)

No. 7 The Maze Runner

A towering metal maze reconfigures itself each night, leaving a group of kidnapped boys trapped in its center convinced they’re doomed. Based on the James Dashner trilogy, Maze Runner is propelled by the mystery behind its bold premise, as teen angst is elevated into a form of existential rebellion. (PG-13, Sept. 19)

No. 8 Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, Cheek to Cheek


An unlikely pairing results in beautiful music on this album of jazz standards. While Bennett brings his usual croon, pop changeling Gaga surprises with lovely, pure, stripped-down vocals. She’s a revelation. (Sept. 23)

No. 9 The Good Wife
Can Alicia be tempted to enter the political arena?


Somehow The Good Wife continues to defy all laws of TV gravity (what goes up must come down); it follows a stellar season 5 with an equally strong premiere. Alicia (Julianna Margulies) makes a quick decision about seeking political office, and a beloved character is in major trouble. (CBS, Sept. 21, 9:30 p.m. EST/9 p.m. PST)

No. 10 This Is Where I Leave You
A family that gets together regrets together


For this tale about adult siblings uncomfortably reunited to mourn their dead father, director Shawn Levy somehow crammed a large dream cast under one roof: Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll—and Jane Fonda as their mother. As old tensions flare up again, it’s like a much kinder August: Osage County. (R)

No. 11 Madam Secretary

In Téa Leoni we trust. As Elizabeth McCord, the blunt, bold, results-over-gridlock Secretary of State, Leoni storms the halls of power convinced she knows how to do things better—and has us rooting for her every step of the way. (CBS, Sept. 21, 8:30 p.m.)

No. 12 Kenny Chesney, The Big Revival


Taking a break from touring in 2014 to focus on recording, the singer-songwriter reclaims his spirituality, starting with the title track, “The Big Revival.” (Sept. 23)