Sunday, August 26, 2007

The New Fall TV Season

As hard as it is to believe, it will soon be September. And among other things, September means the start of a new TV season. At least to me this coming fall TV season seems better than most, although it does seem to me that the networks are still debuting a lot of shows that I simply am not interested in. Starting with the youngest network (the CW) and going to the oldest, then, this is my opinion of some of each network's offerings.

The CW: It seems to me that the CW has been determined to prove to all of us that the merger of UPN and the WB was a grave mistake. Never mind that they have cancelled their two best shows (Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars), but they haven't debuted too much of interest since the merger took place. This season is no different. In fact, I think that the fledgeling network is still a bit too dependent on reality shows, competition shows, and similar TV series. As proof, just look at the reality/competition shows they'll be airing this season, both old, returning shows and brand new ones: America's Next Top Model. Beauty and the Geek (which should be titled Beauty and the Nerd--see my post on the topic), Crowned, and Online Nation. For those of you who don't know, Crowned and Online Nation are the two newcomers. Crowned is a mother/daughter beauty competition (think Miss America--the Series). As such, it hold little interest to me. I rather suspect that it will be the same for other viewers. After all, we have seen just a bit too many competition type shows the past several years. As to Online Nation, it features the latest videos from the World Wide Web each week. Honestly, I just can't see how a show can succeed showing what anyone can simply find on YouTube, IFilm, or any number of other web sites.

As to the CW's other new shows, there aren't too many that spark my interest. As a genre show Reaper stands out. The show centres on a young man who finds out upon turning 21 that his parents sold his soul to the Devil when he was still an infant. As a result he must serve as a bounty hunter tracking down souls who have escaped from Hell. I must admit the show sounds a bit derivative--Brimstone meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But it was created by two veterans of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. What is more, the pilot was directed by a fellow named Kevin Smith. Reaper could then be worth checking out. The only other CW show which interests me at all is Life is Wild. Life is Wild follows an American veterinarian and his family who move to a South African game preserve. It is based on the British show Wild at Heart, although both the British series and its new, American remake remind me of a show I loved as a kid called Daktari. Its creators have interesting resumes as well. Among them they've worked on the original British show, Wild at Heart and the movie Mansfield Park. It's difficult to call, but I'd at least say that Life is Wild has possibilities.

Fox: As usual, Fox is debuting a few new sitcoms which they will probably cancel within a month after the new fall season has started. As to shows that actually have a chance to last a bit longer, they seem largely derivative. Among these is Nashville, yet another reality series. Nashville follows a group of young people as they try to climb the ladder of both the country music industry and high society. Honestly, the show does not sound that interesting to me. The same can be said for another reality series, Kitchen Nightmares. The show follows chef Gordon Ramsay from Hell's Kitchen as he visits another problematic restaurant each week. Quite frankly, this sounds like something that should be on TLC, A&E, or another cable channel instead of a broadcast network. I honestly don't see it lasting.

As bad as Nashville and Kitchen Nightmares sound, they don't sound as bad as Don't Forget the Lyrics. It is a game show on which people must remember the lyrics to songs. Sound familiar? It should, as it's the same premise as NBC's summertime hit The Singing Bee. Knowing how long it takes to develop series, I know it is probably not a ripoff of The Singing Bee, but the premise is so similar that it is probably doomed to failure.

This isn't to say that Fox doesn't have some interesting shows. K-Ville is a police drama following officers in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, created by NYPD Blue veteran Jonathan Lisco. There hasn't been a good police drama on television for some time beyond The Shield (police procedurals don't count), so K-Ville could be interesting. Another show that could turn out to be good is The Next Great American Band, from the producers of American Idol. This series is essentially American Idol, but focusing on bands instead of solo singers. Depending on the bands who are competing and how they execute it, this show does have possibilities. Sadly, the only other new show which interests me on Fox has been pushed back from a fall premiere to debuting at mid-season. New Amsterdam follows a New York homicide detective who also happens to be immortal (he started out as a soldier in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam). It was created by a veteran of both Six Feet Under and Lost, so the series has possibilities.

ABC: I really don't know which is worse--the fact that ABC's programmers granted Grey's Anatomy yet another season or the fact that they greenlighted a spinoff from the series, Private Practice. Given the quality of Grey's Anatomy, I have no real faith in its spinoff either. That having been said, Cashmere Mafia could be nearly as bad as Private Practice might be. The show follows female executives in New York City as they juggle their lives with their careers. If it sounds a bit like Sex in the City, keep in mind that show's creator Darren Star numbers among the executive producers of Cashmere Mafia. As to the creator of Cashmere Mafia, Kevin Wade's resume does not inspire a lot of confidence in me. While he was one of the writers on Meet Joe Black, a movie I've always liked, he has also worked on Mr. Baseball, Junior, and Maid in Manhattan, movies I don't like. Between Darren Star and Kevin Wade's credits, I suspect Cashmere Mafia may not have the highest quality for a TV show.

Fortunately, ABC's other newcomers show a bit more promise, although I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Women's Murder Club. It is based on a series of books by James Patterson (one of my favourite authors), following an assistant district attorney, a homicide detective, a medical examiner, and a newspaper reporter (all of them women) as they investigate crimes in San Francisco. The show's creators Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft have written for both The Shield and Angel. Ultimately, Women's Murder Club is a combination police procedural and legal drama, two genres with which network television have been glutted of late. No matter how good the scripts are, I am then afraid that Women's Murder Club might come off as more of the same thing we've seen on television for the last several years.

Big Shots follows the life of a CEO, which doesn't sound particularly interesting, but it was created by Jon Harmon Feldman, who also created Tru Calling (a show I always liked) and a veteran (as co-producer) of The Wonder Years. Big Shots then has some potential. I have rather more hope for Pushing Daisies. The show follows a man who can bring things back to life with but a touch (if he touches them again, they go back to being dead). Besides having an interesting premise, Pushing Daisies is the creation of Bryan Fuller, a veteran of Heroes, Wonderfalls, and the Star Trek franchise. What's more, critics who have seen the pilot having given it good marks. This could possibly be the best show of the new season.

Another contender for best new series could be Dirty Sexy Money. The show was created by playwright Craig Wright, who has also worked on Six Feet Under and Lost. Among the show's producers number X-Men director Bryan Singer, who is also a producer on House (the best show on network television besides Lost). Dirty Sexy Money has an interesting premise: a young, earnest lawyer is hired by one of New York's richest and, unfortunately, most corrupt families. As a dramedy, it definitely has possibilities.

ABC also has the only new sitcom which interests me this season. Cavemen is a spinoff of those Geico commercials featuring, well, cavemen. It follows the adventures of a group of Neanderthals who simply failed to evolve as they struggle with modern society. The premise sounds interesting--it is the sort of goofy concept that television would have come up with in the Sixties. Unfortunately, it is also a concept that could go either way. Cavemen could be uproariously hilarious. It could also be dismally bad. It is definitely a show that falls in the "wait and see" category.

CBS: There was a time when CBS deserved its reputation as the Tiffany Network. Sadly, this coming season is not one of them. In fact, this fall the network is debuting what could possibly be one of the most offensive shows of all time: Lord of the Flies--the Series, I mean, Kid Nation. The show has already received its fair share of bad press. CBS has been accused of bending child labour laws in New Mexico to make the series. Some children accidentally drank bleach. A mother has complained that her daughter was left untreated for burns from splattered grease. I'll admit that I have never cared for reality shows, but this one just reeks of irresponsibility. Indeed, I imagine William S. Paley is spinning in his grave.

Fortunately, Kid Nation seems to be only truly offensive show on CBS this season. The worst that can be said of the network's other new shows is that many of them are rather lacklustre. Viva Laughlin is a musical dramedy based on the BBC serial Blackpool. The men who adapted it for the American screen Bob Lowry and Peter Bowker boast no credits of note, and its only executive producer of note is actor Hugh Jackman. In the past musical dramas have not faired well on television (anyone remember Cop Rock?) and the credits of the show's producers do not inspire any real faith in me. I am guessing that Viva Laughlin could see an early cancellation.

Cane shows a bit more promise. It essentially follows the Hispanic equivalent of The Godfather, the head of a thriving sugar business in south Florida. Unfortunately, the credits of its producers don't really impress me, save for actors Jimmy Smits and Jonathan Prince (and even then, that is their credits as actors, not producers). Ultimately for me, Cane falls in the "wait and see" category. The same cannot be said for Big Bang Theory. The network's only new sitcom, it centres on two nerdy physicists whose world is shook up when a gorgeous new neighbour moves in. The concept does not sound particularly interesting to me. In fact, it sounds like the sort of thing NBC would have scheduled in between the good shows on Must See TV back in the Nineties. Its creators. Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady, have mixed resumes. Between the two of them they have worked on some truly good shows: Roseanne, Dharma and Greg, Star Trek: Voyager, and Gilmore Girls. Sadly, they have also worked on some pretty mediocre shows: Grace Under Fire, Cybill, and Two and a Half Men. Worse yet, Lorre was one of the creators of Two and a Half Men. That alone doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in me with regards to The Big Bang Theory.

One show I was looking forward to on CBS, Moonlight, might not be as good as I had hoped it would be. Moonlight follows a private investigator who is also a vampire. Now this is the same ground covered by both Forever Knight and Angel, but Moonlight has a decent pedigree. One of its creators, Ron Koslow, worked on Beauty and the Beast (the Eighties cult series, not the Disney movie). That having been said, critics who have seen the pilot gave it scathing reviews. While the show looked promising on paper to me, it seems to me that it might actually be one of the worst shows of the news season over all. This is sad, as it means that this is the one time Tiffany Network has no shows of note for this coming new season.

NBC: The good news is that NBC has left its Thursday night comedy lineup of My Name is Earl, 30 Rock, The Office, and Scrubs intact. The bad news is that I suspect viewers might have very mixed feelings about their new shows. It seems to me that when they have people with a good resumes working on a show, that show has a less than interesting premise. And when a show has an interesting premise, the resumes of those involved are less than good.

Their Monday night lineup is a perfect example of this. It leads off with Chuck. Chuck is about a computer nerd who accidentally downloads sensitive government information into his brain. As a result he finds himself working with a sexy superspy based on the data now in his mind. There hasn't been a good spy series since Alias went off the air, and Chuck sounds like it could be fun. Unfortunately, Josh Schwartz is one of the creators of the show. For those of you who don't recognise the name, he also created The O.C., a show which never much impressed me. It is possible that Schwartz's talents were wasted on what yet another forgettable teen drama, so Chuck could have possibilities. Then again, give the quality of The O.C., it may also prove to be a complete waste of time.

Bionic Woman, also on Monday night, is the opposite of Chuck: it is a show with an uninteresting concept, but with a fairly decent pedigree. Bionic Woman is a reimagining of the Seventies series The Bionic Woman, a show I hated even as a kid. Indeed, I really can't see much of interest that can be done with the concept. That having been said, the man who is reimagining it is David Eick, who was also behind the reimagining of Battlestar Galactica on the Sci-Fi Channel. While the new Battlestar Galactica doesn't particularly impress me (it is a good show, but not a remarkable one), he is also a veteran of Spy Game (a very good series that aired only briefly on ABC back in 1997--it remains one of my favourite shows) and Hercules: the Legendary Journeys. It is possible, then, that Eick may be able to do more with the show's premise (which I find rather dull and old hat) than I think anyone possibly can. I am hoping Bionic Woman will surprise me.

Journeyman is a lot like Bionic Woman in having an uninteresting premise, but in also having someone with good credits working on it. Journeyman follows an individual who travels briefly (a few years at most) back in time to improve the lives of people. The concept sounds unoriginal and derivative to me--in fact, it seems in some ways reminiscent of Quantum Leap. That having been said, its creator, Kevin Falls, worked on both The West Wing and Sports Night, two shows which are nothing to sneeze at. Its supervising producer and line producer have worked on Alias and The West Wing respectively. While the concept doesn't seem particularly interesting, the people working on it have some fairly good resumes between them. It might turn out better than one would expect from its premise.

The new show to watch on NBC could be Life. Life follows a police officer who was framed for a murder he didn't commit after he is cleared of the crime. The series' executive producers include veterans of Heroes, House, The X-Files, and the Eighties revival of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, among other shows. With a fairly solid production team and a fairly interesting premise, Life could prove to be the best new show on NBC.

Over all, I think this new fall TV season could be better than most. There are several series debuting which show promise and a minimum of reality shows and police procedurals of the sort that have filled network television schedules in the past several years. As of now, I am predicting that the best new shows on television will probably be Pushing Daisies, Dirty Sexy Money, K-Ville, New Amsterdam, Life, and Reaper. As to the shows that will possibly be the worst, Kid Nation has to be one of the worst shows ever conceived in the history of the medium. As to the other shows that could possibly be the worst, I would count: Crowned, Online Nation, Kitchen Nightmares, Private Practice, and Cashmere Mafia. As to which network has the worst lineup this fall, that dubious honour goes to the CW. Sadly, the second oldest network, CBS, also seems to have the second worst lineup. That having been said and even though the network boasts what must be the worst single show of the season (Kid Nation), it isn't that their shows necessarily appear to be bad, but more that most of them seem as if they will be mediocre. At least NBC, ABC, and Fox all have shows that look like they will be good.

One positive sign in this coming season is that there are indeed several shows that have potential. I am truly hoping that, despite my mixed feelings, such seris as Bionic Woman, Chuck, Women's Murder Club, and Life will turn out to be quality shows. In fact, if every show that has possibilities actually turns out to be good, then this could be one of the best fall seasons ever. I suppose all we can do is wait and tune in.


Jake Malone said...

Watch all 4 Previews !!!!!!!!!!

Viva Laughlin Preview - New Series From CBS

copy and paste

VIVA LAUGHLIN, the new mystery drama with music, will have a special preview on Thursday, Oct. 18 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) following CSI before moving to its regular Sunday (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) time period on Oct. 21 to take advantage of a two week window in the schedule without football overruns.

Thursday, Oct. 18
10:00-11:00 PM VIVA LAUGHLIN (Special Preview)

Sunday, Oct. 21
8:00-9:00 PM VIVA LAUGHLIN (Time Period Premiere)

Josh Miller said...

On the CW...

I'm inclined to agree with you for the most part. Too much competition reality programming. You failed to mention "Farmer Wants a Wife" which is stupid for it's name alone.

Online Nation seems like a straight flop but it's essentially a high tech Funniest Home Videos, which is always popular when there's nothing else on, and I imagine the production cost is essentially nil so it'll probably live for a while. The issue will be keeping the user submitted content coming in so it stays fresh.

I've seen the Pilot for Reaper. It 's a great concept for a movie, I'm not sure it'll work for a series. If you've watched all of the Reaper promos on air you've basically seen the first episode in it's entirety. Boy wakes up, goes to work, has crap day, learns he works for the devil, catches fireman.

Gossip Girl looks like it will be more irritating than interesting.

I'm starting to get long, I probably ought to do my own blog post.

Mercurie said...

Yes, I forgot all about Farmer Takes a Wife. I swear, when I think they can't come up with a lamer idea for a reality show, somehow they do.

Yes, Gossip Girl seems more like it will be more irritating than interesting, not to mention derivative. I know it's based on a series of novels, but it looks to me like just another teen drama like the WB always used to do.

Bob Andelman said...

You might enjoy this entertaining audio interview with Bill Prady, co-creator of "The Big Bang Theory." Prady's other writing and producing credits include "Gilmore Girls," "Muppets in Space," "Dream On," and even an episode of "Star Trek Voyager." You could also subscribe to Mr. Media's RSS feed.