By Jordan Walker
As upfront week for the broadcast networks comes to a close, viewers are getting a sense of what shows are going to be offered this upcoming season. Sample clips of a majority of new shows premiering this fall and next spring are available for free at www.thefutoncritic.com.
As the TV Controller, it is my obligation to deliver my thoughts on next season’s best and worst shows so you watch only the biggest hits and not waste your time watching shows that will be dead on arrival.
I am torn between the shows ABC is offering next season. Of the ten new series, only four are making it onto my must-see list. The dramas “Detroit 1-8-7” and “No Ordinary Family” and the midseason comedies “Mr. Sunshine” and “Happy Endings” will be the standouts next year. “Detroit 1-8-7” made my list because of its gritty, documentary-style take on the Detroit Police Department, and “No Ordinary Family” made the cut because of its mix of family conflict, comedic and dramatic elements, and sudden superpowers instilled in each family-member. “Happy Endings” will be one of the best relationship comedies of the new season because of its premise (two best friends almost get married, but vow that their tough breakup wont break up their group of friends) and the great young actors attached to the project (Elisha Cuthbert, Eliza Coupe, Casey Wilson and Damon Wayans, Jr). Matthew Perry is attempting his TV comeback in “Mr. Sunshine.” Emmy winner Alison Janney plays Perry’s co-star in a surprisingly funny and delightful role for this actress known for her dramatic roles.
I’m not saying the other shows won’t be successful – they just aren’t special. The two shows I advise you to stay away from are “Better Together” and “My Generation.” The relationship sitcom “Better Together,” airing on ABC’s successful “Comedy Wednesday,” stars two actors (Josh Cooke and Jennifer Finnigan) who have already starred in NBC’s failed 2005 relationship-comedy “Committed.” The second time around for this duo will end in the same fate: a quick cancellation. “My Generation” revolves around a group of peers who were followed by a camera crew during their senior year of high school ten years ago. The students watch the footage and evaluate how their lives unfolded over the past decade. This is an interesting concept, and I belief the show will have a modest following, but I don’t see this show lasting more than one or two seasons.
Each season, CBS is the network with the least to worry about because it always launches successful shows, with only one or two new series’ cancellations a season. Next season will be the same. CBS’ comedies and dramas should have no problem finding an audience with the massive lead-ins they already have. Comedies “Mike &Molly” and “$#*! My Dad Says” both have great potential. I believe the new drama “Hawaii Five-0”will be one of the most successful dramas of any network this year.
The CW will premier only two new series this fall – “Hellcats” and “Nikita” – and both shows look promising. They won’t set the world on fire, but the network hopes “Nikita’s” sexy star, Maggie Q, and her kick-ass martial arts moves and killer sex appeal, will lure in men to raise the show’s, and the network’s, ratings and diversify the network’s demographics. If you’re into sexy girls fighting crime, a la “Charlie’s Angels,” I suggest you sample the first couple of episodes of this show because it won’t be a waste of an hour!
Fox is interested in expanding its offerings in the live-action comedy department by launching a new night of comedy following its smash-hit “Glee.” I don’t have confidence in the new relationship comedy “Running Wilde” starring Will Arnett and Keri Russell. Both are great actors, but Arnett’s character – a rich playboy who is trying to win the heart of his childhood sweetheart – just doesn’t seem like something worth watching. The show won’t be bad, but Arnett’s character is.
The only new family comedy this year to try and knock “Modern Family” off its throne is “Raising Hope.” This comedy has potential, as it is starring two great actresses: Martha Plimpton nd Cloris Leachmen. The women star as members of the Chance family, who try as a team to raise a new baby that unexpectedly joins the crew.
Next season looks like it will be NBC’s best season, from a quality standpoint. The first show officially picked up for the 2010-2011 was J.J Abrams’ relationship and spy drama, “Undercovers.” NBC took a big chance with this show by allowing Abrams to cast two African Americans in the roles of crime-fighting husband and wife. This can be a risk, possibly alienating certain audiences, but the show’s combination of sex, love, action, and espionage will prove to please (almost) everyone.
NBC’s big-ticket drama next year will be the Monday night conspiracy thriller “The Event.” NBC hopes viewers will flock to this drama as TV’s two biggest thrillers – “Lost” and “24” – air their series finales this May. Although “The Event” stars Jason Ritter and Blair Underwood, NBC hasn’t told us what this show is all about. Ritter apparently tries to rescue his girlfriend who suddenly vanished. His search for her slowly exposes one of the U.S. government’s biggest cover-ups in history, which puts the newly-elected president’s (Underwood) job in jeopardy.
On the NBC comedy side, the network is trying its hardest to develop its next signature comedy as “The Office,” its Thursday night leader, plans to loose Steve Carell in the near future. While new comedies “Outsourced,” “Friends With Benefits,” and “The Paul Reiser Show” look promising, they won’t be the next “The Office,” at least not next season (“The Office” took at least two seasons to become the hit it is now). The big comedy to watch out for is the hour-long romantic anthology “Love Bites.” “Ugly Betty” star Becki Newton finally gets her much-deserved leading role in this comedy about love, sex, and dating. It is bound to be a hit. The love lives of Annie (Newton) and Frannie (Jordana Spiro) will be the main storyline, while other couples will come and go each week in a vignette styled show. This show has the potential to become a Thursday 9 p.m. show (a competitive timeslot) if NBC decides to leave half-hour comedies behind.
The bad thing about next season is that the networks aren’t giving the audience anything that hasn’t been seen on television before. Of the thirteen comedies debuting next season, nine are about couples and their relationships. Lawyer shows abound, with NBC airing three new ones (“Law & Order: Los Angeles”, “Outlaw,” and “Harry’s Law”), and ABC and CBS also each have a new one to add to the mix (“Defenders” and “The Whole Truth” respectively). In addition, shows about crime, cops, spies, or conspiracies, which have all been done before, will be done again next season. But overall, there are some good shows to watch out for. Follow these suggestions, and you’ll have an enjoyable fall, at least television wise!
Next Blog: New and returning shows to watch this summer!