Here we go again – all the optimism and promise of a new fall TV season with the full knowledge of those critical crashes and ratings burns still to come for the Big 4 and The CW. The fact is that even with all the chatter of CBS going younger and Fox going more genre, there’s a lot of the same old same old and a lot of NFL on the schedule this year. Yep, a ton of incumbents are back again, spinoffs (you just can’t get enough, can you CBS?) and reboots galore and nights like Wednesdays almost unchanged — which makes sense if you are Fox and you have the first half of Season 2 of Empire debuting in the fall.

Such predictability would seem to make the biggest question of the fall be how often The Walking Dead will kick Sunday Night Football‘s can in the 18-49 demo this season.

Check out the 2015-2016 primetime broadcast schedule, followed by an analysis of key matchups:

Fall TV Grid 2015

New series in green, returning shows in white, new times in italic.
All times ET/PT. Hover over shows for more info.

  • MON
  • 7:00
  • 7:30
  • 8:00
  • 8:30
  • 9:00
  • 9:30
  • 10:00
  • 10:30
  • TUE
  • 7:00
  • 7:30
  • 8:00
  • 8:30
  • 9:00
  • 9:30
  • 10:00
  • 10:30
  • WED
  • 7:00
  • 7:30
  • 8:00
  • 8:30
  • 9:00
  • 9:30
  • 10:00
  • 10:30
  • THUR
  • 7:00
  • 7:30
  • 8:00
  • 8:30
  • 9:00
  • 9:30
  • 10:00
  • 10:30
  • FRI
  • 7:00
  • 7:30
  • 8:00
  • 8:30
  • 9:00
  • 9:30
  • 10:00
  • 10:30
  • SAT
  • 7:00
  • 7:30
  • 8:00
  • 8:30
  • 9:00
  • 9:30
  • 10:00
  • 10:30
  • CW
  • SUN
  • 7:00
  • 7:30
  • 8:00
  • 8:30
  • 9:00
  • 9:30
  • 10:00
  • 10:30
  • CW

To be fair, there is some new blood out there this season, and it looks like the nets are taking a slightly new approach. Unlike past years, CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC are letting their fawns like Supergirl, The Muppets, Rosewood and Heroes Reborn get ahead of the herd instead of protecting them behind established shows. Clinging a little less to the conservative than last year, The CW left two nights exactly the same and moved around the chess pieces on two others, with only Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as their crazy roll of the fall freshman dice. There’s no utopian dream this year unless you count another attempt at variety in primetime, with NBC’s Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris – which I personally think is part of the ex-Oscars host’s secret plan to have a series on every network. Then again, Tuesdays are a brand new battlefield, at least at 10 PM and across the board for Fox with Grandfathered, The Grinder and anthology Scream Queens plus NBC’s Heartbreaker at 9 PM.

And let’s address the comic book battle on the schedule with Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.LD. surrounded. Marvel might be the dominant force on the big screen right now, but DC Comics and Warner Bros TV has small-screen garrisons on Fox (Gotham), CBS (Supergirl) and The CW (The Flash, Arrow). DC and WBTV have more to come with Legends Of Tomorrow on CW and Lucifer on Fox later in the season. Which is to say, it’s time to get in battle mode.

Here are the key matchups to watch this season:

SupergirlMONDAY NIGHT SUPERHERO SHOWDOWN: WBTV can’t be overjoyed to have two of its shows going head to head on different networks at 8 PM on Mondays, but that’s what its got with Gotham on Fox and Supergirl. The latter premieres on CBS in the latter part of the fall, while the former kicks off earlier. That might give the Bruno Heller-created Gotham time to build up its fanbase armor for its second season, but it also could leave the show vulnerable as the new Kryptonian on the block attracts fanboy and fangirl attention with its sheer newness.

CBS scheduling chief Kelly Kahl seems satisfied that the female led series from Flash and Arrow executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg differs fundamentally from the Batman backstory enough not to cannibalize the audience. Perhaps, but it’s hard to see how with Gotham’s slender ratings margins there isn’t going to be blood on someone’s costume between the two – and that could hurt newbie Minority Report at 9 PM on Fox, which already is facing Scorpion on CBS in an action face-off of its own. It could also hurt CBS, which is exactly why the network is keeping some of its tried-and-true comedy series powder dry if an intervention is required. Superhero-heavy The CW is wisely staying out of the fight by keeping Flash and Arrow in their Tuesday and Wednesday spots and debuting CBS Studios’ fish-out-of-water Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Mondays at 8 PM.

FRESHMAN TUESDAY FRENZY: We all say we want more of the new, and now we have almost a whole night of it on Tuesdays — especially at 10 PM. Yes, NBC still has Chicago Fire in the slot later in the year, but otherwise it’s a whole new ballgame at the tail end of Tuesdays this fall. Moving into Person Of Interest’s slot, CBS has the small-screen adaptation of the 2011 Bradley Cooper-starring feature Limitless, with the Oscar nominee and EP set to show up every now and then. ABC goes all FBI with Quantico, which has a lot of the same elements as last year’s newbie Scorpion on CBS. Leaving the drama to the others (at least until the weather gets colder), NBC has planted its 10 PM fall flag with the live one-hour Best Time Ever.

Best Time Ever Neil Patrick HarrisFull of all the skits, performances and all the other ingredients of the variety shows of old, Best Time Ever is the wild card here. Another reason for potential risk, besides its recently less-than-successful format, is that BTE has fellow freshman and medical drama Heartbreaker as its lead-in coming off The Voice at 8 PM on what seems like a very mixed bag of a night for NBC. ABC took a more measured approach with Season 3 of superspy series Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the direct predecessor to the not dissimilar Quantico. And CBS? Well, they’ve loaded Limitless up with the most-watched show on TV in NCIS and the current season’s most-watched new show on TV in NCIS: New Orleans as lead-ins. This is going to be bloodsport 2015, network style.

GIRL ON GIRL ACTION: In the end, the new shows on Tuesdays at 9 PM will see a winner. The question is which female-led show will reign? From the gang that brought us Glee and American Horror Story comes Fox’s horror and comedy mash-up of sorority set Scream Queens. The anthology stars the original monarch of horror herself Jamie Lee Curtis as well as Lea Michele and Abigail Breslin. Over on NBC, there’s the much more traditional drama Heartbreaker Heartbreaker - Season Pilotabout a hardworking and hard-loving glass-ceiling-shattering heart surgeon played by The Slap’s Melissa George. Two female-driven shows up against each other in a slot also shared by NCIS: NOLA and S.H.I.E.L.D. – will the audience expand or contract at the opportunity and who will emerge on top?

KERMIT VS. JOHN STAMOS: Tuesdays are also giving us the clash of the throwback titans. For the generations that grew up on Kermit and Miss Piggy welcoming the likes of Debbie Harry and John Cleese to their stage and fans of the two reboot movies, the return of The Muppets to primetime almost 30 years after its debut has been too long in coming. Besides the more mature docu-style approach to the new limited-run show, ABC is drilling deep to beat Fox to the audience that isn’t watching The Voice or NCIS on Tuesdays. But Fox is rolling out its own blast from the past: with the John Stamos comedy Grandfathered and comedy The Grinder starring 1980s BratPacker alum Rob Lowe, Fox is going for giggling jugular with audiences too. And how will Fresh Off The Boat do in that new 8:30 PM slot after The Muppets after building up its own premiere-season head of ratings steam at 8 PM? Someone will get the last laugh here.

GEEK WAR: They won’t face off right away, but The Big Bang Theory and Heroes Reborn will clash this season at 8 PM on Thursdays and it won’t be pretty – probably for the NBC reboot. The geek fav that first ran from 2006-2010 will need to have some real ratings superpowers to not end up face-down on its pocket protector against the blockbuster geek science comedy. In fact, with Big Bang Theory as its lead-in, freshman Life In Pieces could find a solid slot of its own at 8:30 PM against the 13-episode Reborn.

Then there’s the harsh reality that without any lead-in and more than five years since Heroes was cancelled, Heroes Reborn could be stepping into the quicksand of what has already proved a lousy spot on a less-than-stellar night for NBC. Look at the pounding Allegiance took in the pre-Blacklist slot earlier this year and the ratings shedding that The Biggest Loser had last fall as the lead-in to the now-axed Bad Judge and A To Z. Still feeling heroic, or very 2010?