Here in the United States, the new TV season begins next month. And as always the networks have been advertising all summer long about new shows and new excitement coming in the fall. Unfortunately, it seems to me that for the most part this fall will simply bring more of the same old thing to American network television.
Indeed, even though it has now been five years since CSI: Crime Scene Investigations debuted, the coming season will see the debut of yet more police procedurals. On CBS Criminal Minds will follow a group FBI profilers. On Fox, Bones will centre on a forensic antropologist often consulted by the police. Also on Fox, Killer Instinct follows the San Francisco Police Department's Deviant Crime Unit. While I have always been a fan of CSI and Law and Order, there is a point where there is too much of any one of sort of show on television. In the case of police procedurals, I think American television reached that point years ago. I suppose it might be different if these shows turn out to be substantially different from the other police procedurals on the air, but from the descriptions I have read, they probably won't.
Of course, if there is one genre of show that has been done to death in the past several years it is that of the reality show. Unfortunately, this coming season will see a few more of them. NBC is debuting three alone. Now I really cannot object to Three Wishes, hosted by Amy Grant. The idea behind the show is that deserving individuals and communities will be granted wishes. While the show does not sound like my cup of tea, it seems innocuous enough and even sweet. On the other hand, I have to question the need for an edition of The Apprentice with Martha Stewart (I didn't like the show to begin with). I also have to wonder about the point behind Tommy Lee Goes to College. Is anyone really interested in Motley Crue's drummer going to the University of Nebraska? I suppose that NBC thinks it might be funny. To me it sounds dull. After all, it is not as if we have not seen reality shows placing celebrities in unusual situations before...
I have to admit, however, that I find even reality shows preferable to the few new legal dramas debuting this coming season. Between 1995 and 2003, around 18 different legal dramas aired on network television. In other words, there was a bit of a glut of them on American television for a while. And, quite frankly, I can see no signs that the American people are eager for more legal dramas. While Boston Legal did well in the ratings, both Law and Order: Trial by Jury and Kevin Hill were cancelled. I don't see how the WB thinks Just Legal will succeed, nor can I see how Fox thinks Head Cases will succeed either. Quite frankly, I rather suspect the American people are simply tired of legal dramas.
Of course, I cannot say that there is going to be nothing new on American television this fall. The success of Lost and Medium have resulted in several genre shows (that is, sci-fi, fantasy or horror shows) debuting this season. And I must admit that it seems like it has been some time since theere have been any new genre shows on most of the networks. Unfortunately, many of these shows seem downright derivative to me. Both Invasion on ABC and Threshold on CBS centre on alien invasions, something which Hollywood drove into the ground long ago. Who knows exactly how many movies about alien invasions there have been? It isn't even something new on American television. The Invaders, V, and the syndicated Earth: Final Conflict all centred around alien invasions. As to the other genre shows, The Ghost Whisperer sounds like an outright ripoff of Medium. Of the new genre shows debuting this fall, only three seem to me to have any sort of potential. One is Surface, debuting on NBC, which centres on the discovery of a new lifeform in our oceans. While I'll admit it could turn out really bad, there is also the possibility that it could turn out really good. Another show with possibilities is Supernatural, debuting on the WB. It involves two brothers travelling the United States, fighting the supernatural forces that killed their mother. While I'll admit that the concept may not be that original, it at least sounds more interesting than alien invaders or mediums. Finally, there is Night Stalker, a revamp of the Seventies series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, debuting on ABC. This sounds like the most promising show debuting on any of the networks this fall. It is being produced by veterans of The X-Files (Frank Spotnitz and Dan Sackheim). And unlike the original, they have actually given Kolchak a reason to encounter the supernatural--a mysterious attack which injured him and left his wife dead.
One thing that has me very curious about the coming season is that out of all the shows debuting on the American networks, not one is a quirky, nighttime soap opera. I would have thought that with the success of Desperate Housewives the networks would have rushed to get more on the air. I would have thought we would have seen at least five or six Desperate Housewives imitations. Now don't get me wrong. I am not complaining. I have never seen an episode of Desperate Housewives and, beyond Melrose Place and a nighttime version of Dark Shadows, I've never cared for nighttime soap operas. That having been said, I do think this a bit strange. In fact, it could be the first time in American broadcast history that producers did not rush to imitate the most successful new series on television...
At any rate, I cannot say I am really looking forward to the new fall season. It seems to me that it is simply more of the same old thing, with more police procedurals, more legals dramas, and more reality shows. Even the genre shows which are debuting this season seem like retreads of other shows. I guess one can only hope that the 2006-2007 season will be better.