Ahhh, pilot season. It may not have the same ring to it as other seasons, but for the broadcast networks, pilot season can provide the opportunity to reinvent themselves and increase ratings. At the recent Up Fronts, the networks revealed their new TV shows this Fall and their new lineups. I’ve already talked about Fox’s schedule, but there are plenty of other fledgling series that may soar into popularity or plummet into obscurity as the leaves start turning.
And whether you like to watch TV on a 60-inch flat-screen or streaming on your iPad, you’ll want to know what the networks have in plan for you.
ABC‘s New TV Shows This Fall
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The alphabet network offers variety in its new TV shows this Fall, starting with Joss Whedon’s much anticipated Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. From the trailer, it looks a lot like a more sophisticated Heroes, but a Marvel Universe expert friend of mine informs me that S.H.I.E.L.D. is, in fact, a government agency investigating superheroes who may not be using their powers for good. On any other network, the techy production design would drain out the budget pretty quickly, but being Disney-owned, that’s probably not going to be a problem.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
It’s also unlikely to be a problem for the equally effects-laden Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, the network’s spinoff of its own fantasy series Once Upon a Time. It looks to be primarily a romantic search and rescue plot, which may or may not hold up over the long haul.
The Goldbergs takes us back to the pre-Internet, landline phone age of the 1980s when families actually spoke face to face, albeit sometimes loudly. Jeff Garlin is the excitable patriarch, Wendi McClendon-Covey is the passive-aggressive mother, and George Segal the irreverant grandfather, Pops. Though it has been getting a lot of great buzz, I think the premise may be a bit too reliant on the Art Department (wherever did they find a working Apple IIe?) for the show to make it past the gimmick stage.
Super Fun Night
Speaking of gimmicks, I like Rebel Wilson as much as anyone, but I’m not sure her new show Super Fun Night has enough stamina for an entire series, even with Conan O’Brian as showrunner and its “anti-Sex and the City” premise. The trailer looks more like a summer comedy, which was likely deliberate. Still, the success of The Mindy Project proves that you don’t have to be a leggy blonde to have a hit series, so I’d like to see this one do well.
On the other hand, Trophy Wife does star a leggy blonde. Malin Akerman is a party girl who becomes Bradley Whitford’s third bride trying to fit in with his three kids and his two exes, Marcia Gay Harden being perhaps the more formidable.
On the subject of ex-spouses, Betrayal is a melodrama about an extra-complicated, extra-marital relationship. Photog Sara hooks up with Jack, a married defense attorney who ends up across the aisle in court from Sara’s own city prosecutor husband during a widely publicized murder trial. It has the always awesome James Cromwell in a supporting role, but the trailer didn’t show me much else to set this apart; so it may be just as well that ABC is still calling this a “limited series.”
Back in the Game
Back in the Game is a kind of twist on The Bad News Bears, with James Caan as the grumpy old grandpa and Maggie Lawson as the prodigal daughter who coaches the boys nobody wanted. The trailer only made me wonder why soccer gets such a bad rap in this country, but James Caan is always strong, so this could be good. Back in the Game is also one of the plot threads of Mixology, a comedy that follows several people at the same bar over the course of a single night. A very ambitious concept that I doubt will be executed successfully.
NBC‘s New TV Shows This Fall
The Michael J. Fox Show
The Peacock network has taken a very aggressive approach by canceling many existing programs to make room for its new TV shows this Fall. One of the most anticipated is The Michael J. Fox Show, which stars the actor as a news anchor with Parkinson’s who decides to go back to work, to the great relief of his family. The writing looks to be sharp and Fox’s timing is still impeccable. I have to admit this was the only trailer that actually made me laugh.
Sean Saves the World
Other family comedies include Sean Saves the World, in which Sean Hayes is a gay divorcé — literally — whose teenage daughter unexpectedly moves in; and Welcome to the Family, which has a Caucasian family and a Hispanic family brought together by unplanned pregnancy. Since neither is particularly original, I’m taking the “wait and see” approach.
In the drama department, the Peacock is offering Dracula, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the titular count. It looked a little thin on content to me, but the lush production value may find a solid audience. Ironside, a remake of the 1970s detective series, stars a very fit Blair Underwood as the wounded cop confined to the wheelchair, which seems an odd casting decision but maybe not. Cops do need to be fit, so this might work better than the burly Raymond Burr in the title role.
Crisis features an all-star cast whose children have been kidnapped by some sort of über-terrorist who poses the question “How far would you go and what would you become to ensure your child’s safe return?”
Alphonso Cuarón directs J.J. Abrams’ creation, Believe. Bo, an orphan girl born with just about every supernatural power, has been raised by a group of people protecting her from those who would exploit her gifts. At 10, Bo is turned over for guardianship to wrongfully imprisoned Tate, who keeps Bo safe from threat by moving with her from town to town, touching lives as they go.
American Dream Builders
Finally, in the competition reality realm, NBC is adding American Dream Builders, featuring teams of industry experts competing to renovate homes. Viewers vote for their favorite, and two homes are given away at the series end.
While we’ve covered just a couple networks here, it’s evident that the new TV shows this Fall will have something for everyone, whether you watch in your living room, or connected online through your smartphone or tablet.