Let’s Be Upfront About This

Posted on May 22, 2013

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I know, I promised to start reviewing movies. I forgot what time of year this is: TV Upfronts Time!

So today I am going to go network by network and review some shows based on the statements released by the networks.

If you want to follow along, IMDB has a complete list of new shows, with Fall schedules, here.

ABC

  • Betrayal: So, these two people meet, have an affair, and then wind up on opposite sides of a murder investigation. If I were a TV exec, I would have put my sneakered feet on my desk, leaned back, and said, “Dude, that’s not a TV series. It’s barely a miniseries. No.” Prediction: This one could become very popular, or it could vanish by episode 2.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: If you are not a Joss Whedon fan, or if you did not watch The Avengers movie last year, then you don’t care. Will I be watching? Yes. Prediction: I have no faith that it will stick around, so I want to catch every episode that I can, while I can.
  • Lucky 7: Convenience store workers win the lottery. Again, this sounds like a miniseries or a movie-of-the-week. Prediction: No idea how they could spin this “comedy” out for even one season, much less multiple.
  • Once Upon a Time in Wonderland: A spin-off from Once Upon a Time, revolving around Alice in Wonderland. I don’t care if John Lithgow does play the White Rabbit, I can barely watch the original any more. Prediction: The only way this show succeeds is if the original show fails, freeing up the creative team that made the original show a success to boost this show. If both shows stay on, you either hire new creative staff which is a risk (admittedly, they could prove to be better) or force the original creatives to stretch – in which case both shows suffer.

NBC

  • The Blacklist: James Spader plays a rogue government agent who turns himself in and offers to give information on criminals he met during his career, but only to a specific FBI profiler. So it’s basically a twist on Hannibel Lecter/The Silence of the Lambs. Prediction: This all comes down to the writing. I have seen the trailer, and James Spader can easily pull off the criminal genius part. The issues are a) how original can they be, b) how well can they avoid cliches/obvious ideas (e.g., the profiler is his daughter), and c) why does his list never end? I want this to succeed, based on the trailer.
  • Ironside: Aside from casting the great Blair Underwood in the part originally played by the late Raymond Burr (coincidentally, his birthday would have been 5/21/13, the day before I first published this), I groaned when I saw this one. Why do we need another reboot? Prediction:This is really about marketing, and they have to walk a tightrope. Suppose the writing is as good as the cast, and you market heavily toward those who remember the Raymond Burr detective. You risk alienating everyone who does not remember. Whereas, if you go after an entirely new audience, you might fail to connect the nostalgia audience with the new cast and style. I think Blair Underwood is a terrific actor, and he is a friend of a friend, so I wish him, and everyone else on the show, success. I’ll probably check it out OnDemand.
  • The Michael J. Fox Show: If you do not watch this comedy, then you are a terrible, awful, heartless person. Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinsons, plays a newscaster who has Parkinsons. His former boss wants him back, but he’s stubborn. His family wants him back at work, too. Prediction: This show succeeds or fails on Michael J. Fox. No pressure, buddy. Seriously, though: This show will either get a huge initial bump in ratings from those of us who remember Family Ties, The Secret of My Success, Teen Wolf, Back to the Future (all of them), and Spin City, or it won’t. If it doesn’t, it won’t last long enough to recover.
  • Dracula: Seriously? This is on NBC? Because it sounds like something from the CW. Vampire wants to bring modern science from America to London. Because, you know, the Industrial Revolution didn’t start in England or anything. He’s trying to get revenge on those who cursed him? So now he’s not the uber, original, vampire anymore. Prediction: Tanks faster than 666 Park Avenue.

CBS

  • Hostages: Rogue FBI agent played by Dylan McDermott takes family hostage so surgeon mom will kill the President of the United States. Prediction: If it initially generates sympathy and suspense, it will peter out by mid-season. What is it with TV series that sound like movies, or miniseries?
  • Intelligence: Josh Holloway (Lost) plays a government agent with a chip in his head. Really, CBS? Ripping off Jake 2.and Chuck? Jake 2.0 aired on UPN, but was distributed by CBS. Chuck was on NBC, but still – been there, done that. Prediction: Hey, three times lucky, right? Probably be a huge success. I don’t intend to watch this, but I might get sucked in later.
  • The Crazy Ones: Robin Williams plays a crazy ad exec with his own firm, and Sarah Michelle Gellar plays his straightlaced daughter. Prediction: If they can’t find a human heart for this show, Williams’ schtick will wear thin before the end of the first season.

Fox

  • Almost Human: Karl Urban plays a near-future cop in a show helmed by JJ Abrams, with androids. Prediction: It won’t gain a big enough audience to offset its SFX budget. I’ve seen the trailer for this, and it looks great, so that’s too bad.
  • Sleepy Hollow: Ichabod Crane pulls a Rip Van Winkle and wakes up in the present day, along with the Headless Horseman. And there’s some murders, and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and…you know what? I don’t care. Prediction: It’s crap on Fox. It will probably run for five seasons.
  • Dads: Seth Green, Giovanni Ribisi, Martin Mull, and Peter Riegert on the same show? Count me in. Prediction: A multi-camera comedy from Seth MacFarlane will probably run forever. I just hope there’s not too much pandering to the lowest common denominator.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: I think Andy Samberg is a talented guy. I do. I just have no patience with maverick cops anymore. Granted, the central conflict of this show is how the maverick clashes with his no-nonsense commander. Prediction: Andy Samberg and Fox are probably a match made in heaven. I, however, will wait and see if this show finds a heart before I watch it.
  • Enlisted: Three brothers wind up in the same rear detachment at a minor Army base in Florida. I should start by saying that I spent a month commanding a rear detachment while I was in the Army. Characterizing the rear detachment as, “the soldiers left behind when everyone else is deployed, because they’re not quite good enough to be sent overseas, yet not bad enough to be kicked out of the Army” is just wrong. Two things make me want to watch this show: Geoff Stults was great in The Finder, and I want to watch him some more. Then there was this, at the end of the marketing stuff: “The Rear D’s main job is taking care of deployed soldiers’ families. Whatever they need, the Rear D soldiers do.” If this show can highlight some of the challenges and difficulties faced by families of deployed military, even if it does so for humor, then I want to support it. Prediction: If it’s funny, it might have legs. However, with our deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan ending, this show may have missed its window.

The CW

  • The Originals: Ugh. No. There’s nothing “original” about it. It’s more tween/Twihard soap opera drivel. Prediction: On the CW, it will probably go 3-5 seasons.
  • The Tomorrow People:  I am curious about this one. The CW is mining the BBC’s library, and rebooting a children’s SciFi show that ran from 1973-1979, and then was relaunched in 1992. Presumably they are targeting the usual CW audience, so it will be heavy on the angst and romantic drama, that talks down to its own audience through writing, directing, and production. Still, I will have to watch some of it. Prediction: I give it a season, maybe two.

Track Record

So let’s talk about how I did last year.

ABC

  • Zero Hour: I was amused by the idea of this show, and then savaged it in my reviews for Forces of Geek. Cancelled after a few episodes.
  • 666 Park Avenue: I refused to watch, and it was cancelled. Those two things are not related.

NBC

  • Revolution: Loved the idea. Hated the execution. Renewed.
  • Community: Lukewarm on the idea of a post-Dan Harmon season. Got a lukewarm season, and I heard it was renewed but it might be a mid-season rather than a Fall starter.
  • The Munsters: Haven’t seen it yet.
  • Silence of the Lambs: This became Hannibal, which I was very surprised to find excellent. My concerns about NBC not being able to show mature, graphic, material were unfounded. Not on next year’s schedule.

CBS

  • Elementary: I thought this was a must-watch for my inner Holmesian. Turns out I was right. I thought the season finale was a little weak, but the rest of the show was so good that the end didn’t matter. Renewed.
  • Vegas: I reviewed this show on the site, and thought it had weaknesses. I don’t see it on the Fall schedule.

Fox

  • The Following: They couldn’t wring anything new out of the serial killer genre. Their FBI agents were unbelievable. Their serial killer was nonsensical. And yet? Midseason renewal.

The CW

  • Arrow: I had to watch. I did. They lost me. Too much angst, meaningful stares, and glowering. Renewed.

Thoughts?

What are you looking forward to watching?

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Posted in: television