This Will Be Televised: Fall TV Preview Part One – The Big Five

So 2016 might be the strangest fall season for me yet. With several shows either ending their run, or freshman shows I enjoyed being cut short, I have virtually nothing I’m excited about on the four major networks. Interestingly enough, The CW has the best lineup on broadcast television, in my opinion. After saving Supergirl from a premature death alongside her brethren Limitless, Grandfathered and The Grinder, she came over to where she belonged in the first place – The CW, alongside other Greg Berlanti-created programs Arrow and The Flash. It just makes sense, unlike most of the programming this fall.

 

Luckily, there’s plenty of quality to go around on the cable channels. Unfortunately for us, I’m going through the broadcast networks first. Despite not being interested in much, there are a few gems that could be grown into interesting shows…again, despite their networks. Let’s dive into the new shows coming to the big four (and one better network):

 

CBS

 

Man with a Plan (October 24)

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First on our lauded list is the major network return of one of the Friends, Matt LeBlanc. Following his former roommate Matthew Perry to the ‘Eye’ Network, he’s also following in Perry’s footsteps in signing up for a tired, cliched effortless sitcom with no real comedic backbone. Sure, LeBlanc looks decent enough in his role as a father who finds out that children can be a handful, but haven’t we known that children can be a handful for decades? Give Joey something funnier to do, he proved his worth for five seasons of the underrated Episodes over on Showtime. Even his recent season of Top Gear is probably funnier.

 

Kevin Can Wait (September 19)

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On the other hand, despite virtually the same idea behind this as Man with a Plan, the other white-bread comedy at CBS looks like it has more potential. Sure, it has the same cliched plot – recently retired cop finds that his kids and wife are quite a handful. With Kevin James though? He’s Paul Blart: Mall Cop, he’s absolutely more apt for this setting and channel. I’m looking forward to seeing if Kevin James can make lemons out of lemonade, so I’m hoping for a sleeper hit. Plus it has a pal, Lenny Venito, playing his buddy from the force, so I’m a tiny bit biased.

 

The Great Indoors (October 27)

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Sadly, the third of our whitewashed CBS comedies looks to be the worst. Joel McHale, so glib and sardonic on NBC’s constantly mishandled Community, finds himself playing a sardonic and glib adventure photographer that lands back in New York City well after the millennials have taken over his magazine. Yet another fish out of water, McHale not only isn’t actually related to the kids he has to take care of, but we have to sit and watch him teach them, rather than see the adventures that would be far more interesting. There’s somehow a premise hiding here, while McHale hibernates in the money he makes.

 

Bull (September 20)

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Michael Weatherly left his very comfortable job on NCIS to settle immediately into his own production, ripped from the headlines drama based around the life of that daytime television delight, Dr. Phil McGraw. Taken from Phil’s younger days, as the head of a prolific trial consulting service. While I hesitate to be intrigued by the premise (it sounds like it’ll use elements of The Mentalist and every USA procedural) – the cast is still something – besides Weatherly (who really had gotten too comfortable on NCIS) there’s Freddy Rodriguez (Six Feet Under, Grindhouse), Jamie Lee Kirchner (Mercy, Necessary Roughness) and Geneva Carr (Hand to God). I’d say that elevates this procedural slightly, but if it doesn’t have a spark, it’s kind of just bull for Weatherly have leapt straight to this.

 

MacGyver (September 23)

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Next up in unnecessary remakes is this action-packed adventure starring Lucas Till as the titular hoarding mastermind that can take anything and fashion a weapon or lockpick from it. Starring Richard Dean Anderson in the cheesy ‘80s original, ABC had a classic on their hands, but as soon as it ended, there were constant talks of sequels, reboots or film adaptations. In fact, there were two TV films with Anderson, an SNL parody film/series of sketches MacGruber that failed miserably, as well as a failed pilot for “Young MacGyver” back in 2003. Finally, CBS was able to transform the franchise and simply reboot it with Lucas Till. He’s joined by George Eads, another CBS mainstay over the past two decades (CSI) and a lot riding on its success. From the trailer, I think it has potential, but I’ve always been against a reboot. Luckily, despite itself, it actually looks like it could be fun.

 

Pure Genius (October 27)

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Last, and probably least, we have yet another hospital procedural – this one with a billionaire genius who insists on foisting his millions at the cutting edge technology that can help the hospital’s patients, which will ultimately include himself. It’s like a miniature House! Dermot Mulroney mentors Augustus Prew (the titular Genius) and shares his dark secret of the disease that will ravage his body in….just a few years, perfect for a full series! I’ve already checked myself out.

 

Notable Returning Shows:

 

NCIS: New Orleans(9/20) – I don’t know, I’m more in love with the cast and the locale here. Best of the franchise, to be honest. Still a basic procedural.



NBC

 

The Good Place (September 19, but usually Thursdays)

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One of the few remarkable shows on network television this fall, The Good Place focuses on Eleanor (Kristen Bell), a recently deceased woman who longs to get back to her life on Earth when she discovers from her guardian angel (Ted Danson) that she got there for committing good deeds. Turns out she may not have been as good as the angel believes, so there’s room for comedy that riffs on current views on religion, socio-economic and political venues. Either way, the two stars are usually great, so I’m interested for their next show – as Danson is coming off a great season over on Fargo and Bell just wrapped her time for the past five years on House of Lies. The series also comes from Mike Schur, co-creator of Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

 

Timeless (October 3)

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Of the numerous time-travel shows premiering this season, Timeless is really the only traditional one airing in the fall. For that reason, I actually believe it will be a bit successful, beating the others to the punch. In addition, I also think this has the most potential, despite the trailer highlighting some very generic dialogue and plotlines. With charismatic leads in Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter and Malcolm Barrett, the drama has assembled a decent ensemble, capped by my favorite foreign doctor from ER, Goran Visnijc. Here he plays the villain Garcia Flynn, who steals a time machine and plots to change history, throwing the whole plot in motion. Watch the trailer for yourself and decide, but this may be one of the few shows I like this season.

 

This Is Us (September 20)

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The most popular television trailer this summer was for This Is Us, starring Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia and several newcomers that all share the same birthday. Of course, that’s it. That’s all there is to this, and it’s a saccharine lovefest of the human spirit, so I’m definitely not interested. I’m not saying we don’t need this, because most viewers will absolutely love this. I’m almost guaranteeing this is going to perform the best this fall ratings-wise, but I will be one sitting this one out.

 

Notable Returning Shows:

 

The Carmichael Show (TBA) – Unless The Good Place is a huge hit, this will remain the funniest show on NBC. It’s still not slated, but at least definitely picked up, so it’s in a weird place because NBC doesn’t know how to handle its gems. Network television is in a sad state, but luckily Jerrod Carmichael has attempted to save the traditional sitcom from oblivion.



FOX

 

Lethal Weapon (September 21)

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Let’s see – within the past year, network and cable channels have put out eight different shows that are adaptations or sequels from films – CBS failed to revive Limitless and Rush Hour, while ABC and Fox whiffed with ridiculous interpretations of Minority Report and Uncle Buck. Starz actually scored well with a humorous continuation of Ash vs. the Evil Dead as well as an energized version of The Girlfriend Experience. TNT dumbed down the premise but kept the style of Animal Kingdom, and a new generation was inspired by a new teacher in Nickelodeon’s School of Rock. I was prepared to say that it’s not a wise idea to adapt an existing property, but I’d say it’s actually 50/50 on that venture – plus Limitless was minutes from sticking around. FOX is betting on newcomers to the idea of Riggs (newcomer Clayne Crawford) and Murtaugh (Damon Wayans!), and I’d love to see more crazy outings from the duo myself. I’m still apprehensive that this even needed to be made, though. Remember when CBS was developing a Beverly Hills Cop reboot with Alex Foley’s son? I hesitate to warn readers that a reboot would ruin their childhoods, lest I sound like all those Ghostbusters naysayers, but what about coming up with a smart, original action-buddy comedy? Clearly this is one of the reasons The Nice Guys failed at the box office, and that was virtually a Lethal Weapon reboot itself. At least Kevin Rahm (Mad Men) is getting work, playing their exhausted captain.

 

The Exorcist (September 23)

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So surprisingly, despite the year being chock full of reboot adaptations, there are only three on the fall slate. Lethal Weapon has potential, HBO’s Westworld has the luck of being able to be on HBO, but this new version of The Exorcist has the largest likelihood of failure. Geena Davis (A League of Their Own, Thelma & Louise) and Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Spin City) star as the bedeviled parents who seek refuge from their demonized daughter (Brianne Howey) by calling upon exorcism specialist priest Father Marcus (Ben Daniels, House of Cards) – who has some demons of his own! WhoOoOoo…no thanks. This will fall faster than Constantine.

 

Pitch (September 22)

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Shows that choose a hot-button issue to focus on are a dime a dozen. This program, which looks to capitalize on the immense popularity of Mo’ne Davis highlights the first female player in the MLB. In this world, she’s a starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres (who funny enough, might as well pick up the actress – who’s probably better than players they have now). This could play schmaltzy or it could play like a well-intended drama that happens to fit into the world of real-life baseball. It looks like there’s going to be a ton of advertising synergy happening with MLB, and the attempt to appeal to women is perhaps to be lauded – but the fact remains – sports don’t tend to play well on television.

 

Son of Zorn (September 11)

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This oddity is brought to us by Wilfred co-creators Reed Agnew and Eli Jorne (who both left the project in the pilot stage). Honestly, this looks like a mess. It’s supposed to be a comedy in the vein of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? that sees an Alf-like alien Zorn (Jason Sudeikis, SNL) return to the human world and deal with his estranged wife Edie (Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and teenage son. It looks haphazardly created and dreadfully engineered.

 

Notable Returning Shows:

 

Bob’s Burgers (Sept 25) – The funniest animated family on FOX returns for a surprising seventh season. It’s also already been renewed for an eighth season, ensuring hilarity through 2019.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Sept 20) – Andy Samberg has never been the best part of the show, but he quarterbacks a show full of superb ensemble actors including Andre Braugher, Joe Lo Truglio, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Fumero, Chelsea Peretti and Terry Crews.

Gotham (Sept 19) – I wrote a whole article about how Mr. Robot is a better show than Gotham, but it was markedly improved over a villain-centric second season. As ratings fell, quality spiked, perhaps because people had faded past the first (convoluted) season. Here’s hoping it keeps up the good work, though we’ll at least have a few good episodes to watch, won’t we?

The Simpsons (Sept 25) – This is really only in here because of the records it keeps on breaking. The 600th episode of the show also happens to be the 23rd Treehouse of Horror. That’s insane.



ABC

 

American Housewife (October 11)

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This reminds me very much of recent ABC sitcom Suburgatory, a show the House of the Mouse didn’t seem to know what to do with. It had great chemistry with the father/daughter pair of Jeremy Sisto and Jane Levy, but the show wanted to be edgy and was never truly allowed that. American Housewife seems to fall into that category, as its title was already changed from “The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport”. That title was a mouthful on its own, but the fear of offending someone over the clearly tongue-in-cheek name must have been too much for the network to bear. As it is, the show looks terribly inoffensive, and at first a clone of Suburgatory and Fresh Off the Boat but from a white woman’s perspective. That’s just my first take, but ABC comedies have had a fun, guilty pleasure feel to them in recent years, so I’d hazard this would rank in the middle for me.

 

Conviction (October 3)

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The first drama on ABC highlights an immediate return to the channel for Hayley Atwell after her Marvel-infused period piece Agent Carter was cancelled after two seasons. While I think it would have been nice to have one more season to tell that story, it’s nice to see her get immediate work. In this, Atwell plays former First Daughter and lawyer Hayes Morrison, who gets pulled into a secret division Conviction Integrity Unit – a team that hopes to overturn wrongfully judged cases. It’s a bit of a stretch, but we’ve gone through every possible angle in formulaic procedural shows, right? Why not have a secret society looking to fix all of the legal system woes in America? Besides the flimsy plot, there’s a least a handful of decent character actors here to assist Atwell: Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead), Shawn Ashmore (Animorphs, X-Men, The Following) and Eddie Cahill (CSI: NY). I’ll give it a chance after the pilot if I hear good things.

 

Designated Survivor (September 21)

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The second drama bringing a famous face back to television finds Kiefer Sutherland as the presumptive President of the United States after tragedy strikes during that worst of possible scenarios – an explosion during the State of the Union. Sutherland plays Tom Kirkman, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Amazing that no one has thought of this as a film or a TV show before (unless I am, someone fact check me in the comments) – I’m excited to see where this one goes. I’d like to think this is the most intriguing of the new dramas on basic cable, so that leaves us with about one. Kiefer is joined by Natascha McElhone, Maggie Q, Kal Penn and Italia Ricci as well.

 

Notorious (September 22)

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Don’t know too much on this, but it’s starring Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs) and Daniel Sunjata (Rescue Me) – so it has decent leads. They’ll be playing players in the legal world inspired by criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos and Larry King Live producer Wendy Walker. Sounds to me like one of the middling USA dramas, but it still has a tinge of potential.

 

Speechless (September 21)

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Another show I know nothing about, this one stars Minnie Driver as the no-nonsense matriarch of a middle-class family about to head into an upper-class situation. Sound like a Suburgatory clone mixed with The Middle, honestly. ABC is taking a fairly bland formula and injecting some color into it once in awhile, but it’s getting stale seven years into that formula.

 

Notable Returning Shows:

 

I stopped or never started many of ABC’s comedies, but I hear they’re all top notch: Fresh Off the Boat (Oct 11), starring the inimitable Constance Wu, Black-ish (Sept 21), finally getting its awards due, The Goldbergs (Sept 21) and The Real O’Neals (Oct 11), taking advantage of that ‘80s nostalgia, and of course Modern Family (Sept 21) and The Middle (Oct 11), stalwarts over the past half a decade. On the drama side, Shonda Rhimes still dominates with How to Get Away with Murder (Sept 22), The Catch (TBA), Scandal (mid-season) and Grey’s Anatomy (Sept 22), which will surpass NYPD Blue as longest ABC drama.



The CW

 

No Tomorrow (October 4)

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The CW has the brightest looking lineup of the basic networks – albeit some with an existential outlook. In fact, No Tomorrow contains a character who believes the world is ending soon. Given that his outlook on life is bleak, he has instead turned to making the most of the time that is left for mankind. Joshua Sasse, the best part of a stellar ensemble on ABC’s Galavant musical is the free spirit that enlists our heroine Evie (Tori Anderson, The Last Kingdom) who is stuck in her mundane mid-20s lifestyle. I think this has potential for cult classic, which doesn’t bode well for its lasting power, but CW has had a good record of sticking with projects despite their ratings, so perhaps I’ll have more to look forward to on the sixth basic cable channel after all.

 

Frequency (October 5)

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What film adaptations have I gone over so far? I’ve seriously lost track. Well, at least this looks like one of the better ones. Frequency was a fairly decent thriller that involved a detective (Jim Caviezel) discovering that he can communicate with his deceased fireman father (Dennis Quaid) through a ham radio the two played with in Caviezel’s youth. The fantasy aspect strangely worked, and Caviezel helps save Quaid from a deadly fire, but it then results in a serial killer surviving as well. Sure, as I type it sounds ridiculous, but trust me – it worked in the end. Anyway, this version has detective Raimy Sullivan (Peyton List, FlashForward) communicating with her deceased father Frank (Riley Smith) and I’m sure similar aspects of the film will show up. The trailer looks decent and it has two supporting actors I loved from early-2000s shows – Mykelti Williamson (Boomtown) and Anthony Ruivivar (Third Watch).

 

Notable Returning Shows:

 

I’ve never seen any of the Greg Berlanti created shows, but his steady hand has created a ton of quality DC shows, from Arrow (Oct 5) to The Flash (Oct 4) to Legends of Tomorrow (Oct 13) to Supergirl (Oct 10), now under CW’s fold over from CBS (who balked at the price tag, which will actually limit the show’s resources this season). I’ve also never watched any other show recently on the CW, but  there are several I’d be interested in starting, as the quality has notched up considerably over the past few years over there: Jane the Virgin (Oct 17), iZombie (mid-season), Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Oct 21) and Reign (mid). I’m honestly considering picking up on some of these and becoming devoted to the channel, sort of like Kevin Smith. What’s happened to basic television?


Okay, now that we’ve gotten that over with, tune in tomorrow for our coverage of shows coming within the next few months to HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX and other cable channels, as well as that juggernaut of a game-changer, Netflix.

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