Monday, March 31, 2014

How I Met Your Mother: A Coda

WARNING: The following contains spoilers regarding "Last Forever", the double-length series finale to the CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother. If you have yet to see the episode, please turn back now.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Glut of New Shows -- ABC

 photo newabclogo.png

If I haven't said so before I will say so now, of all the major broadcasters I think I may have the most attachment to ABC. You may ask why this is, but that matter is very tricky to explain. The closest thing I can put forward is a nostalgic factor. This is something of a stretch, because I grew up in the 90s when the field of options had already exploded. My childhood was spent watching cable networks like Nickelodeon and outlets like Kids' WB and Fox Kids, which housed the best shows on TV. (This is comparable to today's young viewers having cable and the internet.) I was just starting elementary school when Disney bought the network and started to change the daytime material for children, beginning with the phasing out of afterschool specials. I saw some, some content on ABC Saturday Mornings, but I wasn't around long enough to really see the boom years before Disney homogenized the lineup in its waning years and I only know of "Captain O.G. Readmore" and all those stupid PSAs through YouTube.

However I also had older siblings, whose actions and interests also rubbed off on me. We would watch the TGIF lineup of youth-orientated sitcoms for as long as the block was relevant. I have fond memories of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and many from my generation can agree that Boy Meets World still stands out today. And even watching reruns of certain shows on cable as a kid, there was just something about the shows that ran on ABC Saturday Mornings that retained the presence of the network they aired on. As an adult when I look back, this strange, elusive quality seems even more potent, especially when I look up the records and watch old promos online.

And even today when the wide berth of options enables the broadcasters not to bother with certain functions they may have embraced in the past, there is still a youthful quality to ABC in some of their programming and the way they present it. (Even if you can say it's a little corny, or even kid-friendly, not helped by the presence of Disney.) NBC may have a history of success with family sitcoms as well and are even eager to return to that pool this year, but for my money ABC is and was always the best network for this subgenre. And that tradition even continues today with all the family sitcoms airing from The Middle to Modern Family, to three of the four new sitcoms launching in the fall. (If you look to cable, this feeling is quite prominent as well. ABC Family can make an arguably better successor to the WB than its actual successor, the CW with their successful teen-orientated shows.)

Or, it could just be their promos. They have such a great energy to them, and bring so much liveliness to the shows they promote.

And besides, while this network may still hit it big with family sitcoms and shows about young people both past and present, we should not forget just how much it has evolved over time. The modern ABC has many a dramatic success, going back to the 2004-05 launches of shows like Desperate Housewives, or the still-running Grey's Anatomy. From that point, they have developed a ton of primetime soaps, intensely dramatic shows with patently adult and very dark scenarios. From Nashville to Revenge, to Scandal, to even the Disney fairy tale-inspired Once Upon a Time. These are the kinds of shows that lend themselves to appointment viewing, commanding a long weekly viewing period over time.

But as far as new shows are concerned, ABC is trying some new things while also relying some tired-and-true elements, including some franchises. Certainly a business-wise strategy that needs to pay off big.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesdays 8/7c; Starts 9/24) -- Starting a whole new, fresh-from-scratch Tuesday night lineup is the TV extension of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. ABC's parent, Disney has owned Marvel Comics since 2009 and ever since has worked hard at trying to expand the company's multimedia success into television. And now, just north of a year since Marvel's The Avengers made $1.5 Billion worldwide this dramatic television series picks up right out of the events of that movie. The titular "Agents" are given wide-open clearance, learn that Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson is still alive and well, and he has secret assignments for them. This may in fact the one show with the most pressure on it to perform.
The Goldbergs (Tuesdays 9/8c; Starts 9/24) -- The first of three new family comedies to launch this season, and therefore one of the three to get its pilot pre-screened online in advance. Now, I watched this pilot along with the other two offered, and while the humor was a little rocky in places this was very funny and likable. This show takes us back to a strange, radically different time known as the Reagan Years, following around a standard, dysfunctional nuclear family. The pilot contains so many references to hammer home the period setting, but it also displays a standard setup for a pilot done in an endearing manner, so much potential for future installments.
Trophy Wife (Tuesdays 9:30/8:30c; Starts 9/24) -- Of the three pilots made available in advance, I tuned into this one first mostly because the cast imbued so much confidence, based on places I've seen them before. And it may be the funniest of the three, owing to the setup of a chaotically dysfunctional family belonging to a twice-divorced father. Malin Akerman plays the former party girl who married said father and is willing to take on the insane situations that come from the unkempt children and the clashing ex-wives. At one point, Akerman douses several ounces of vodka to cover the fact that her stepdaughter snuck it to school in a water bottle. What follows is her attempting to keep up with everything else that goes wrong that day whilst completely hammered.
Lucky 7 (Tuesdays 10/9c; Starts 9/24) -- This drama follows the employees at a convenience store in Astoria, Queens who all share the same lottery ticket. (The title also doubles as a reference to famous subway line that passes through Queens.) On a larger scale, it's about the varying different conflicts each of them must deal with in their respective lives. Such a setup was done before in 2006's Six Degrees, and again with My Generation in 2010 to a two-episode run. Last season saw NBC try a drama with a duality theme for the third time (Do No Harm, after My Own Worst Enemy and Awake), which wound up the lowest rated premiere in broadcast history giving way to cancellation after two episodes. I gotta be honest, with a track record like that any substantial degree of success from this show would really surprise me. But who knows? Steven Spielberg is the producer, and he's coming off a real good summer with CBS' Under the Dome.
Back in the Game (Wednesdays 8:30/7:30c; Starts 9/25) -- The third and final family comedy debuting in the fall, and I gotta say this one is the least confident of the three. There were some smiles here and there, but for the most part this show about a single mother trying to get her life back on track despite the distraction of baseball, was pretty unspectacular. Maggie Lawson does have some charm, but she doesn't have anywhere near as clever or kinetic material as Malin Akerman does on Trophy Wife. On the whole, the pilot offers a muddled attempt at domestic comedy, not helped by the fact that the father (James Caan) is kind of an asshole.
Super Fun Night (Wednesdays 9:30/8:30c; Starts 10/2) -- This is a new comedy starring Rebel Wilson, the Australian comic actress best known for Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect. It comes off as the odd-one-out among new ABC comedies, as a workplace comedy about girlfriends and their weekly night out. Wilson also created the show, and with ABC being all too willing to dive in just to be in business with her there is something of a platform for stigma. If critics are harsh enough (and I've seen at least one negative early review), this can trigger a backlash akin to something like Cavemen or The Neighbors. I personally see plenty of charm in Wilson, so I don't want to imagine this being any worse than Back in the Game, or even, heaven forbid Carpoolers. But let's back to those two afore-mentioned shows a minute. Cavemen came on the scene in 2007 like Battleship did, from a source material that fails to lend itself to expansive storytelling unless you really work hard at it. It had more than one pilot made, and no episodes from that point onward really incited any genuine creativity, so it died quickly. The Neighbors was a laughing stock in its first few episodes on the air, both because its high concept and because of its awkward first episodes. However, that show would improve with time, win over even people who hated the earliest episodes, and was since granted a second season. At least for Wilson's sake, I hope this show turns out better than promoting it with a cover of a Queen song would suggest.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Thursdays 8/7c; Starts 10/10) -- Oh, another franchise drama! In this case, we get a spinoff of the Once Upon a Time. The Sunday night drama is one show my brother frequently tunes into, and we have a proposition of another show based in one particular realm of classic fantasy fiction from this universe. Still, the choice of Wonderland is pretty risky.
Betrayal (Sundays 10/9c; Starts 9/29) -- This is the only primetime soap ABC is attempting to launch this year, but it makes sense given the massive success stories all over the rest of the schedule. In this case, this looks far, far spicier than any of the others. In fact, I might even say this has a genuinely artistic edge to it, both in visual aesthetic and in story tone. I can't think of a single show that ABC aired since at least Desperate Housewives that was this intense. It's almost like something from the pre-Disney era of the network. I am almost confused that the promos lack a "Parental Discretion Advised" label. But aside from the potentially powerful tone, we get a fairly basic premise about an affair and the consequences of it. Still, I see so much potential in this it's unbelievable. It's like if the short-lived 666 Park Avenue series that held this same night and time last year did not need the supernatural elements.

On top of everything the shows that comprise ABC's bread-and-butter, family sitcoms and primetime soaps also have formed a niche in their respective nights and times. The power pack of Once Upon a Time and Revenge on Sundays. The Middle and Modern Family pretty much commanding the top of each hour of comedy on Wednesday nights. Scandal settling in happily on Thursdays after fellow Shonda Rhimes creation Grey's Anatomy. So all the established shows are staying put on the fall schedule.

The only exception is The Neighbors, which will air its second season on Friday nights. This is something of a big risk for ABC, and for a show with consistently lofty ambitions. It will follow Last Man Standing, which aired on Fridays for a good portion of last season, often reaching decent ratings for such a low-traffic night. Paul Lee, the current president of ABC has expressed dreams of bringing back the spirit of TGIF, with light, youthful sitcoms to kick off the weekend. The success of Tim Allen's show is probably as close as he will get, but I guess it won't hurt to try.

After all, TGIF made the biggest impressions when they picked up shows as high-concept as The Neighbors.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Glut of New Shows -- FOX

 photo fopbroadcastingcompany.jpg

If CBS is the oldest skewing network, than Fox probably has the best reputation as the youngest-appealing of the big four. And yet, it does not have the same strength that it did about five years ago when 24 and American Idol would give it a substantial push into midseason. Oh sure it does have somewhat successful shows now, but none of them really command that high a viewership. Idol is still on, but has softened in recent years and is prepping a massive relaunch for this season. Meanwhile, Simon Cowell has left Idol for The X Factor, which launched its latest season last night and appears to be getting softer as time goes on, nowhere near the echelons of Cowell's prior TV success.

On the whole, my older sister seems to represent this network's key demographic, excited for wide variety of programs only a few years ago but now only keeping in tune with midseason drama The Following. I can also recall my older brother having watched the Animation Domination lineup in the past, but nowadays he's drifted away from those shows with the only possible exception of The Simpsons.

But on the plus side, at least Fox still has Gordon Ramsey. If having Seth MacFarlane ever gets them down, that detail can always lift their spirits.

Sleepy Hollow (Mondays 9/8c; Starts 9/16) -- As I look at this show, a modern take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow from producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, I can't help but think of Netflix's Hemlock Grove. Of course, I can assure you that a network series will not be anywhere as twisted as a show by Eli Roth made for the internet. (Although, that is healthy competition in the whole medium of live-action series.) But I get the feeling that this may end up as cheesy and awkward.
Almost Human (Mondays 8/7c; Starts 11/4) -- This one is scheduled to start well late into the fall, and is slated to replace the fact that Bones is moving to Friday nights. The show itself has promise, as the standard science fiction drama the Fox network loves, but it would seem only enough to let on for a single season. And I say that considering that Fringe lasted five seasons, another show from producer J.J. Abrams. Here we have something with a touch of procedural to it, supported by the interesting Karl Urban as a policeman akin to Will Smith as Del Spooner.
Dads (Tuesdays 8/7c; Starts 9/17) -- This debacle from executive producer Seth MacFarlane is a traditional-styled sitcom about two grown men whose fathers move in with them. Frankly, I expect this to go the way of I Hate My Teenage Daughter, or that short-lived sitcom from that Gilmore Girls creator.
Brooklyn Nine Nine (Tuesdays 8:30/7:30c; Starts 9/17) -- On the other hand, we have this new comedy starring Andy Samberg as a goofy detective. Between this and The Mindy Project getting a second season, what is with Fox and their insistence on seeking out NBC talent? I understand that New Girl is a big enough hit, but all the star of that show has done is make them all the more hungry for the very comedy stars they would be jealous of. Still when you put that aside this is a real good premise for a new comedy, thanks in no small part to the prominence of the procedural drama on TV and how easy it is to set up such a show. And only helping matters is further mining for NBC talent, in that this show shares its creators with Parks and Recreation.
Enlisted (Fridays 9:30/8:30c; Starts 11/8) -- As one can tell from the launch date, this is Fox's newest attempt to revitalize Friday nights. Now they've augmented Fringe's run by keeping a steady pace and meek but reasonable ratings on this night, but clearly the projected of launch of this show following Bones and Raising Hope represents a bold attempt to follow NBC and ABC managing to get something out of the night (with Grimm and Last Man Standing, respectively). The show itself comes from Cougar Town co-creator Kevin Biegel, and follows three brothers at the same Army base. Geoff Stults of 7th Heaven and The Finder plays the eldest brother wielding the highest authority, with Piz from Veronica Mars and Ryan plucked right out of Suburgatory as his younger siblings. Add Keith David and the experience of the cast convinces me to tune in. Although, there is always a chance that Dads will flop hard enough to bring Raising Hope back to Tuesdays, but in that event what happens to this show. Best case, it finds as reasonable a spot on the schedule as Body of Proof did three years ago on ABC.

Fox's new season is plenty ambitious in their new dramas, although they have their fair share of major comedies as well. And as I said before, this new season will also sport new "Event series" designed to run a limited number of episodes for a single season. Among such new shows are the afore-mentioned 24 revival Live Another Day, and the M Night Shyamalan-produced Wayward Pines.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Glut of New Shows -- CBS, plus The CW

 photo bull.png

All the while CBS remains the most traditionalist network of all, what with their procedural dramas, long-running reality competitions, classic-styled sitcoms, and their ability to renew more than two-thirds of their programming every season. They possess the kind of shows my parents would watch. Still, this owes to great success overall their shows have had, and I must admit CBS is making fairly ambitious strides this year. For example, two of the four new sitcoms premiering in a few weeks are of the single camera variety. We Are Men and The Crazy Ones follow suit from the success of the other three broadcasters with a more film-like design and style. It's a shame, however that neither show looks particularly good.

But on another upbeat note, CBS is also coming off a strong summer. As I said earlier, the Stephen King-adapted drama Under the Dome was a raging success, and my family were among those watching. Such a big gambit of launching a major series in traditionally quiet period seriously paid off, and we are going to get another season next year. The way I managed to pick up on some of CBS' new fall entries was through this show, a logical method given how many were watching through both the peak period in late June through the doldrums of August.

What does the Tiffany network have to offer this fall? Well...

We Are Men (Mondays 8:30/7:30c; Starts 9/30) -- A new comedy about a man who is left at the altar, and moves into an apartment where he bonds with three divorced men. The cast includes Tony Shalhoub (in his first series since Monk), Kal Penn (Kumar, and a former Obama staffer) and Jerry O'Connell (the man Rebecca Romijn left John Stamos for), and I sort of get New Girl vibes from that setup albeit with the same gender as the protagonist. Otherwise, this feels sort of flat and it would really have to take before I notice it.
Mom (Mondays 9:30/8:30c; Starts 9/23) -- Chuck Lorre's newest sitcom, starring Anna Faris as a women embracing sobriety and seeking to get her life raising a child on her own back on track. This is the one new CBS comedy that commands my attention the most, the premise sounds reasonable even though that may be the reputation of the creator of Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory speaking. I should also mention that the great Allison Janney plays Faris' own mother on this show, which could also be a boost for it.
Hostages (Mondays 10/9c; Starts 9/23) -- CBS' ambitious new serialized, tightly compacted, fifteen-episodes-to-a-season drama, one of two planned this season. Toni Collette (In Her Shoes and Little Miss Sunshine) stars as a doctor about to perform crucial surgery on the President. However, an FBI agent gone dark (Dylan McDermott) holds her family hostage demanding that she botch the surgery and kill her valuable patient. This is an interesting premise, ambitious for an ongoing series (as in I recall how Under the Dome may have soared with audiences who thought it was a miniseries). It's more compelling than The Blacklist, but I feel like I'll just fall back on Castle for this night and time.
The Millers (Thursdays 8:30/7:30c; Starts 10/3) -- Another year, another stupid sitcom vehicle for Will Arnett. His Arrested Development co-stars Jason Bateman and Michael Cera can find good movies to star in and there are other actors from there having more difficulty finding work, but poor, poor Gob probably has the most rotten luck of all in the projects he attracts. And now, he teams up with Beau Bridges and award-winning Justified alumnus Margo Martindale for a truly generic setup for a comedy, about moving back in with your parents. Talk about wasted talent all over the map.
The Crazy Ones (Thursdays 9:30/8:30c; Starts 9/26) -- "Robin Williams Returns to Television". Yeah, add lines like "The Stars Align" and cutesy music to the promo, and you feel like he hasn't learned a thing from his Patch Adams, Jack, or Bicentennial Man days. The clips from the show itself just come off as Robin Williams being Robin Williams, artifice antagonizing my personal desire to like this actor and embrace his genuine talent. On this new show, he plays an ad executive (real creative choice, by the way) working with his daughter, played by Sarah Michelle Gellar.

There's not much here in regards to new fall shows, I must say. In fact, I look at these sitcoms and can understand CBS' decision to renew Mike and Molly for a 22-episode fourth season and yet holding it off for midseason. It seems far more likely for at least one of these new shows to bomb hard and get pulled quickly, leaving the returning show eyeing a potential November launch. A method to this madness, not unlike scheduling the now-cancelled Rules of Engagement on Saturday nights a couple of years back.

And while we're on the subject of returning comedies, I must take a beat to compliment The Big Bang Theory. Also, I may have fallen off the 2 Broke Girls bus for a while, but have since come around in regards to it and think the new season holds plenty of potential. But most of all, this is a big year for How I Met Your Mother, for the longest time the most youngest-skewing of CBS' shows. (By the way, here be SPOILERS.) After a surprise renewal last December, series creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas agreed to make this the final season. With that, they've crafted an ambitious story arc about the wedding of Barney Stinson and Robin Scherbatsky, 22 episodes centered around a single weekend. But the real story of the next season comes from the closing shot the most recent season, of a certain woman holding a certain yellow umbrella with her bass guitar. Before all else, this swan song will be about Ted Mosby meeting his future wife.

 photo The-CW-Logo.png

And as an added bonus, I will cover the new shows on CBS' sister network The CW. There isn't much to say, because I typically don't watch the shows on this network. I have also seldom watched the shows airing on the WB or UPN before it, although they had some great shows on both those networks. And even now, we have an even greater dearth of content having developed than you would expect going from two networks to one.

Are they coming around? Well, over the summer the CW rebooted Whose Line is it Anyway?, even bringing back panelists Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie and Wayne Brady for the new version. It's been doing well, and a second season has already been ordered. At least that's something, and it is a real big something.

Hell, my attention has also been brought to one of these three new shows.

The Originals (Tuesdays 9/8c; Special Premiere Event 10/3, 9/8c) -- This "Special Premiere Event" will follow the season premiere of its parent series, The Vampire Diaries. Otherwise, the latter series is the one CW show I've noticed gets the most attention of young people on the network. Closest to the success of Pretty Little Liars, which airs on the cable network ABC Family. I haven't seen much of Vampire Diaries though, beyond the pilot at least, so this new show can't do much for me.
The Tomorrow People (Wednesdays 9/8c; Starts 10/9) -- This is the show that has gotten my attention turned to the CW, an unlikely remake for this network of a 1970's cult science fiction drama about young people who have gained superpowers (chief among them teleportation) as a result of an evolutionary development. I used to watch the 90's version on Nickelodeon, as did my brother and sister, and even people in my extended family too. The Tomorrow People is very special and nostalgic to us. But this new version is paired with a series called Arrow, which comes from the same producer and adds an attempt at grittiness akin to Christopher Nolan's Batman to the DC Comics hero Green Arrow. I don't get quite as much of that attitude from Tomorrow People, but it still looks very different from past incarnations. I would have to acknowledge changes from the last series with that name (not unlike the obvious tonal differences from a 70's British drama and the same kind of show in the 90's), but still I may have to ask my sister about this new show. To see if what she feels about it, or even if it does anything for her.
Reign (Thursdays 9/8c; Starts 10/17) -- Ambitious a series for the CW, a period piece focusing on Mary, Queen of Scots in her youth. Makes you wonder how this network will pull off something as big as history.

If there's anything else that the CW has going for it, that would be this year's sizzle reel. The song that plays in it, "I Love It" by Icona Pop is also being used in the network's on air bumpers. This may not have been the first time they've snagged a hit pop song as their network's theme, but this is an infinitely more memorable song than "California Gurls".

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Glut of New Shows -- NBC

 photo nbc_logo.jpg

If you are as savvy on television history as I am or are even old enough to remember, you may know that this is not the first time that the National Broadcasting Company has found itself in a hole. In fact, they have been besieged before from complete failures of television series, big risky projects and other disastrous situations, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Shows like Supertrain, David Cassidy: Man Undercover (seriously), Pink Lady (and Jeff Altman) and Cinema Snob favorite Manimal (come to think of it, with the rest of the Fall 1983 crop) have all weighed down the network's prospects, even to the point of dooming NBC. On top of that, there was also the boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics (think history will repeat itself?). It wouldn't be until 1984 when The Cosby Show would give the peacock network the hit it desperately needed.

It can be hard to tell if things were worse then when a major broadcaster failing was a big deal, or now when there is vastly more competition surging by giving life to ideas that would have fallen by the wayside in the olden days. But for my money, I will say that the stakes were much higher in the past. After all, with as much competition as there is today from the internet as well as from cable, the only way for a network to fail is if few cared about it to begin with. And even still, you less see a network going off the air and more one changing its format (ie, the Fox Soccer Channel becoming the comedy-orientated FXX).

So, what's NBC's beef nowadays? Basically, you have more new shows failing to take off, even compared with other broadcasters. In particular, this past season has seen every attempt at a new sitcom crash and burn, leaving only two (yes, two) to gain a renewal -- Parks and Recreation and Community. Some shows did not have much a chance to begin with, such as Whitney eeking out a lucky second season or Animal Practice launching its unlikely premise with a preview interuptting the Summer Olympics closing ceremony. And not helping matters was that The Office was always slated to end last season. But still, others of these new shows had so much promise. A comeback vehicle for Matthew Perry with an interesting role for him? The New Normal, from the co-creator of Glee and portraying two gay men diving right into fatherhood?

And among this new slate of comedies, I just do not see as much there. I mean, Michael J. Fox mining his personal struggle with Parkinson's for a sitcom vehicle is okay, I guess. However, all we have now are three family comedies attempting to evoke the afore-mentioned success of The Cosby Show (and one can argue, Family Ties as well). I think I like this sub-genre better on ABC.

Even more remarkably, NBC actually was doing very well last season, at least at first. The two elements that allow them to cling on to dear life are NFL coverage through Sunday Night Football, and the singing competition The Voice. The latter in particular contributed to early successes, for new drama Revolution and the afore-mentioned sitcoms as well. But once the fall cycle ended, you can really tell things have gone downhill, and both the Matthew Perry vehicle Go On and The New Normal cratered, ending their runs well in advance of the end of the season. Sure The Voice performed nicely in its Spring run, but even that couldn't lift things for the network.

The Blacklist (Mondays 10/9c; Starts 9/23) -- Let's start things off with NBC's most hotly anticipated fall drama, starting the week in the cushy post-The Voice slot on Monday nights. Tonally, this new show starring James Spader as a criminal joining forces with the government to nab a bunch of other criminals almost resembles something like Homeland, the much revered Showtime military drama. However, I can't help but get the feel of a procedural from this premise, and from the copious promotion it gets.
Ironside (Wednesdays 10/9c; Starts 10/2) -- A promo that ran during a recent Notre Dame game caught my father's attention, mostly because he can fondly recall the original version of this show. The original Ironside starred Raymond Burr as a detective still maintaining a tough persona and passion for his job in spite of losing the ability to walk. This new show sports Blair Underwood (most recently of the ambitious, but short-lived The Event) in the same role.
Welcome to the Family (Thursdays 8:30/7:30c; Starts 10/3) -- The first of three new family sitcoms launching on this network's iconic Thursday night lineup. This sports a meager premise, with two families forced to live with each other when the son in one impregnates the daughter in the other. (dotdotdot) And looking up that premise without really remembering it before, it occurs to me that this is the fourth time in the last five years I can recall a new sitcom utilized a pregnancy as its main hook. Before, we had Accidentally on Purpose, Better with You, and most recently The New Normal...and none of those shows made it past the first season. Good luck Welcome to the Family. You will need it...
Sean Saves the World (Thursdays 9/8c; Starts 10/3) -- Honestly, the most interesting thing about this new show are two promos running which take the title literally. It's there when I awkwardly realize that those may be the funniest things about this show, and that Sean Hayes may in fact be more interesting as a producer than he is as an actor. After all, he's produces the Friday night genre show Grimm with his partner, Todd Milliner. Another thing Hayes has brought up is the fact that he has a lot of faith in the traditional sitcom style, with a few cold sets and a laughing studio audience. Maybe he doesn't need to star on his own show to save it. Maybe he already has. After all, his and Milliner's Hazy Mills Productions junket have already produced Hot in Cleveland, a sitcom featuring Betty White for TV Land. That show took off fairly easily, and pretty much every successful sitcom on basic cable (let alone TV Land) can be traced back to it.
The Michael J. Fox Show (Thursdays 9:30/8:30c; One-Hour Premiere 9/26, 9/8c) -- C'mon, Marty! This new show sets itself up around Fox, propelled with a 22-episode order as early as Fall 2012 (!) by his success back in the 80s as Alex P. Keaton. On this new show, he plays a famous TV news reporter returning after taking time off to deal with Parkinson's disease, as I mentioned earlier a parallel to the actor's real life struggles. One element that throws me off is a promo for the whole night's lineup, with a clip of Fox shaking as he tries to serve scrambled eggs to his family. This almost goes against the trailer I saw back in May, which attempted a sentimental approach in selling the show (still not as bad as TV spots I've seen for Robin Williams' new CBS comedy).
Dracula (Fridays 10/9c; Starts 10/25) -- Wait, isn't this a death slot? On the other hand, NBC isn't alone in attempting to nurse the whole night, with its precious few people tuning in for TV in general, back to health. One thing that helps this new period piece starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as an eloquent version of the famous movie monster is how late it starts compared to the rest of the lineup. And leading into it is Grimm, which of course has been immensely successful in spite (or even because) of the night it airs on. Still a large margin of error, however.

As for the rest of the lineup, the most notable changes made were sophomore dramas getting new time slots perhaps as a test of durability. Chicago Fire, the Dick Wolf-produced firehouse procedural now follows The Biggest Loser and the results show for The Voice on Tuesday nights. But the first season was solidly successful in both the Fall boom period and the slump later in the season, and has the distinction of spotlighting a certain institution that before was really overlooked on television, the fire department. It shouldn't be a surprise that a spinoff is also planned for midseason, also in the easygoing procedural format. If you really want to talk about loftier stakes, look at survivalist drama Revolution. That show follows a tougher format prone more to diminishing audiences, less likely to regain any momentum it loses. And not helping matters is the new timeslot, 8/7c on Wednesday nights. It would probably be harder to kill off characters in an hour where children are still awake.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Glut of New Shows -- Introduction

Well, it's that time of year again, the fall is upon us. It is a season of cooling conditions, giving way to shorter, more mellow days ahead. Football season is on between college and high school teams, all the way up to the NFL, just one of many details that feel like the whole year was building up to a period like this. And on top of everything, it's time for a new television season and with it a glut of new shows to choose from.

Unlike past years, I am plenty casual to this year's new batch from the five broadcasters. Truth be told, there is nothing I can say I'm really looking forward to. Usually there is one or two new shows that can pique my interest and I can delve into with a great deal of confidence. This year however, I do see some major new shows that look good, but nothing truly special. At best, we have one show on ABC getting all the hype that you would expect given the franchise it is attached to (Marvel's Agents of SHIELD). There are one or two other shows that look like they might be good from the whole spread, including drama Betrayal and comedy Trophy Wife also of ABC. But even then I don't anticipate diving in and getting blown away. At worst, CBS is planning to augment its comedy lineups and their new shows look like gigantic bombs in the making.

As far as returning shows go, I'm not particularly keen on the treatment some of my favorites are getting. The same year it and fellow "Class of 2009" entrants are starting up in syndication, Community is getting scuttled to midseason by NBC after getting a lucky last minute renewal. Only time will tell if this turns out to be the last season (despite the ambitious battle cry of "Six Seasons and a Movie"), but at least the return of Dan Harmon promises a good season. Getting it worse over on ABC is Suburgatory, also left on the midseason backburner. This is a situation not unlike Cougar Town, another quality sitcom having dealt with middling ratings after two seasons commanding the network to engage a cautious renewal. However, Cougar Town can say it lucked out with TBS granting it a fourth season and further. I don't know if Suburgatory is in as good a situation, especially with essential cast members like Alan Tudyk, Rex Lee and Parker Young on the way out and the morose way things ended last season. One can only hope for things to turn around.

This upcoming season will also mark a more ambitious new turn for the networks in presentation, specifically in dramas. Practically all of these notions are inspired by cable television, what with their looser rules on programming and development resulting in big, ambitious, and most of all successful dramas. With the introduction of the "Limited Series" (including a 12-episode revival of 24, one of my family's all-time favorites), we're getting what feels like the return of the miniseries. But these miniseries are bigger and go on longer than before. It's much like FX's American Horror Story brand, which allows a different conceit every fall in the same genre with the same tone. And even dramas designed as ongoing have been developed this way have a real cable-style delivery to them. CBS's Hostages is planned as one of two new dramas to run Monday nights after the comedies, with fifteen episodes planned to a season and a non-stop run throughout the fall until the run is complete. Over on ABC, there are nonstop runs planned for all of their returning prime-time soaps, with half a season's run for Grey's Anatomy, Once Upon a Time, Scandal, and Nashville alike going from September/October to December, and then from February/March to May. After all, if networks like AMC or Showtime can command the attention of viewers for weeks on end and only leave them wanting more when the run is over, why should it be so hard to do the same on free TV?

But anyway, let's take a closer look at the shows themselves. What exactly is new and waiting in the wings, hoping to impress? What of the older programs, like can they help a new series or move around to help themselves? Let's find out...

Tuesday September 10 -- NBC Preview
Wednesday September 11 -- CBS Previews, plus The CW
Thursday September 12 -- FOX Preview
Friday September 13 -- ABC Preview

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

ABC Fall 2013 Schedule

 photo animalbroadcastingcompany.png

Even though they are in nowhere near as deep a ditch as NBC, there a similar air of renewal and fresh starts prevalent at ABC during their upfronts. Akin to NBC's practice of scrapping many a failed show and putting on new ones, ABC is ready to press forward after cutting Happy Endings and Body of Proof (although both are still in contention on cable), with many pilots they've picked up and scheduled for the fall. But what's even more telling is just how much Disney is embracing technology. In fact, ABC is going all-out in regards to internet viewing practices, beginning with the announcement of an app to stream ABC live, a first for a broadcast network and an expansion of similar apps developed for the Disney cable networks. At the upfronts, executives touted the intention to start counting internet viewers in the ratings.

Watch some of the trailers for ABC fall shows, and you may notice some subtle differences. Now I already spoke in the past of how much I admired the editing and presentation style of ABC promos, but you may notice a different font on the text reading "Coming this Fall" at the end of each. And afterwards, the simple and minimalist but eyecatching ABC logo itself has changed, revealing a more downplayed 3-D look.

As far as programming goes, there isn't really anything all that surprising. The highlights as we will see are two major franchise pickups, including one truly awesome entry. Like at NBC, there are a lot of family sitcoms, but in the case of this network it's more their bread-and-butter, adding to a long history of hits that helped define ABC over the years.

This is a network that has left an impression on me in past forms with a style that remains kinetic even as their substance seemed to heavily alter. And it was probably the one network whose upfronts I've been looking forward to the most, so let's not dilly-dally any further!

MONDAY
8:00/7:00c -- Dancing With the Stars (Reality Competition)
10:00/9:00c -- Castle (Drama; 6th Season)

The most static part of the fall schedule, representing a block that has worked out fairy well in the past for the network. Really, the only thing of note here is the fact that it's now the only night of Dancing With the Stars, a good enough indicator of how much this once-hot show has cooled down.

TUESDAY
8:00/7:00c -- Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (New Drama; Spin-off of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, following declassified missions within the agency known as SHIELD)
9:00/8:00c -- The Goldbergs (New Comedy; A family living in the 1980s, as seen through the video camera of the youngest son)
9:30/8:30c -- Trophy Wife (New Comedy; A party girl marries into a dysfunctional family, including two ex-wives)
10:00/9:00c -- Lucky 7 (New Drama; The employees of a Queens, New York gas station strike fantastic luck when their lottery pool gets the winning numbers)

With Dancing off Tuesdays, we now get a completely new Tuesday night schedule. Starting off the night was the first pickup ABC committed to this season, Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. Since Disney bought Marvel Entertainment, they have been committed to developing a TV series meant to go with the massively popular motion pictures produced by Marvel Studios beginning with 2008's Iron Man. In the year since the massively successful film Marvel's The Avengers, ABC has been fast-tracking this show and have managed to get it out while we were still in an opportune time frame. There may not be a single series on TV this year that is more pressured to perform than this. On the other end of the night, Lucky 7 reminds of other shows ABC tried in recent years, such as Six Degrees or My Generation, which worked with a high-concept premise dealing with a large cast of core characters mingling. Given that both those shows tanked hard, I think I understand why this one (with sort of a strange setup of having the people who win the lottery work where they bought the ticket) is launching in what's traditionally been a death slot for the network. In between, we have two new domestic sitcoms, both holding decent potential. In the case of Trophy Wife though, we have a solid cast of actors to work with, including Marcia Gay Harden, Michaela Watkins, Super 8's Ryan Scott Lee and Josh from The West Wing/Eric from Billy Madison himself, Bradley Whitford! On top of the show though, we also have Malin Akerman playing the actual "Trophy Wife", on the heels of acting on Suburgatory as Tessa's estranged mother.

WEDNESDAY
8:00/7:00c -- The Middle (Comedy; 5th Season)
8:30/7:30c -- Back in the Game (New Comedy; A washed-up softball player and her son move in with her father)
9:00/8:00c -- Modern Family (Comedy; 5th Season)
9:30/8:30c -- Super Fun Night (New Comedy; Rebel Wilson stars as a burgeoning lawyer with a tradition of going out with her friends every Friday)
10:00/9:00c -- Nashville (Drama; 2nd Season)

ABC shows how much faith it has in Nashville, among the rest of its primetime soap hits in letting it stay put, not unlike the comedy hits on the same night. We also have two new comedies, including family comedy Back in the Game. But we also have the outlier among the sitcoms airing in the fall, Super Fun Night. This workplace comedy stars burgeoning comedy star Rebel Wilson, who also created the show. And the trailer makes it clear that the actress from Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect is the key selling point for this show, the motivation for ABC to pick it up, and the reason it's going on after Modern Family. With a weak trailer and a thin premise for a series, I honestly hope for Wilson's sake that it does eventually turn out good with or without blacklash.

THURSDAY
8:00/7:00c -- Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (New Drama; Miniseries offshoot of the fairy tale-inspired drama utilizing elements from the Lewis Carroll story)
9:00/8:00c -- Grey's Anatomy (Drama; 9th Season)
10:00/9:00c -- Scandal (Drama; 3rd Season)

Really, the only detail of note on ABC's Thursday night lineup is the 8:00 hour, an even worse death slot than Tuesdays at 10:00. Since the third season of Ugly Betty, ABC has mightily struggled to launch any successful new show in that slot, trying dramas and comedies alike, but only getting anywhere with the popular, outlandish game show Wipeout. As such, I have to wonder about the mentions of this Once Upon a Time spinoff actually meaning to be a miniseries, and the plans for others like it in the future. It really comes off like it's the best they are willing to try.

FRIDAY
8:00/7:00c -- Last Man Standing (Comedy; 3rd Season)
8:30/7:30c -- The Neighbors (Comedy; 2nd Season)
9:00/8:00c -- Shark Tank (Reality Competition)
10:00/9:00c -- 20/20 (Newsmagazine)

To be perfectly honest, I never believed Paul Lee's intent to revive TGIF. Honestly and truly, what's past is past and we've since moved on. At the same time though, nothing is going to stop him from trying. And when a show like Last Man Standing is popular enough to get enough people to follow it to Fridays, that is at least justification for an hour of comedy. Provided, of course that it maintains a substantial and consistent viewership level, as demonstrated by NBC's Grimm. With ABC's decision to renew The Neighbors along with the decision to cancel Malibu Country, it's less surprising to see the former is the one getting the Friday night treatment. (And really, with so many similarly high-concept comedies airing on TGIF back in the day, it fits in on this night most of all.) In theory, another renewed sitcom Suburgatory could have aired in that same slot, being another show driven heavily by its younger characters (though the same could be said of the perennial Wednesday night hits The Middle and Modern Family). But I think I can say it's for the best that if ABC had to trade something off in return for a renewal, that it's just waiting until midseason. It can always return sooner (not that I'm rooting for any sitcom to bomb, of course), as opposed to wither away on such an intense night of the week.

SATURDAY
8:00/7:00c -- Saturday Night College Football

SUNDAY
7:00/6:00c -- America's Funniest Home Videos (Reality Competition)
8:00/7:00c -- Once Upon a Time (Drama; 3rd Season)
9:00/8:00c -- Revenge (Drama; 3rd Season)
10:00/9:00c -- Betrayal (New Drama; A chance encounter between an attorney and a photographer married to an aspiring politician spins their worlds out of control)

No changes to the Sunday lineup, with the sole exception of the tough 10:00 slot. Watching the trailer for the show slated for it, Betrayal I honestly get a vibe comparable most of all to the shows ABC picked up in the 90s. Really, the best way I can describe the feel I get is that it feels not so much like the standard primetime soap airing on ABC in recent years, but like something that would have aired before Capital Cities Communications sold out to Disney. It's hard to understand, but I kind of like it. Now, the show just needs to be good.

Midseason
The Bachelor, Killer Women, Mind Games, Mixology, The QuestResurrection, Suburgatory, The Taste

Cancelled Shows
666 Park Avenue, Body of Proof, Don't Trust the B-- in Apt. 23, Happy Endings, How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life), Last Resort, Malibu Country, Private Practice, Red Widow, Zero Hour

Well, there you have it. There's lots of family comedies coming to ABC (as per usual), along with a fair share of ambitious, very much hypeable shows. This should certainly be interesting.