There’s new TV a-coming!
While I often complain about finding the time to watch the great bounty that the current golden age of TV is lavishing upon us, the truth is I love finding and discovering new shows to lose myself in.
Will this be the next Fringe? The next Frasier or Revolution? Will it delight and excite me, compel to watch every last episode till death us do part or my PVR explodes?
This Fall TV season in the USA is no different with a welter of great TV shows in the offing, many of which I have already reviewed on the blog here, here, here, and yes, even here.
But as well as the shows themselves, there are 5 things that are particularly exciting me about the upcoming season and naturally being the caring, sharing guy that I am, I just had to write them up in a post.
Supernatural/fantasy/sci-fi themes are everywhere
That is hardly a new trend I will grant you but what is exciting is that many of the shows that have jumped on the supernatural fantasy bandwagon this coming season are reasonably original takes on the genre.
Standout among the new entrants is of course Sleepy Hollow which offers a potently original take on the 1820 tale by Washington Irving which sees Icarod Crane (Tom Mison) roused from the eternal sleep of death by modern days forces seeking to defeat a great evil who have co-opted his old enemy The Headless Horseman aka The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse (Richard Cetrone) to their side.
Paired up with an initially bewildered sheriff’s deputy, it is up to him and the team that coalesces around him to save the world.
Yes again … but in a wholly interesting post-modern storytelling way.
Jostling in the pack too is Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the original vampire in Dracula who appears in 19th century London purporting to be an American industrialist wanting to add some modernity to Victorian society.
Naturally of course his agenda is a little less virtuous than that with revenge on those who wronged him centuries before – and they say elephants have long memories – uppermost on his mind.
A rather straight down the line agenda gets more than a little complicated when he finds himself falling unexpectedly in love with a woman who is the spitting image of his dead wife.
Also worth remarking upon is J. J. Abrams’ Almost Human, which offers a fresh, insightful take on the mismatched buddy genre, and Believe, also from Abrams’ Bad Robot group which puts a wrongly-accused ex-con together with a supernaturally-gifted child who could well be the one who stands between humanity and oblivion.
And oh yes Once Upon a Time has a spinoff, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, which imagines what happens after Alice returns from her adventures and finds herself consigned to a mental hospital until her old friends arrive to break her out to help her find her one true love.
All these shows have a real creative edge, and signal that the mainstreaming of once sidelined genres like fantasy and sci-fi are here to stay in a big way.
Old network dogs, semi-new technology tricks
Just when you thought ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox (and to a lesser extent CW) were wedded to the old way of doing things in direct defiance of the endless rush of new technologies that allow people to watch TV how they like when they like, along come some surprising tactics that remind you there is hope for the old TV networks yet.
For instance, ABC has decided to get a head start on the fall TV season – itself an anachronism of sorts in a rapidly changing entertainment landscape – by offering a number of the pilots of its new shows on streaming service Hulu.
The Goldbergs, Trophy Wife and Back in the Game (all sitcoms) are all being offered now on Hulu well ahead of their late September premier dates on good old fashioned television.
This means that ABC will be able to generate some water cooler / social media buzz ahead of the shows’ airing for the first time, hopefully giving them a running head start in the crowded field of new shows.
While not quite as revolutionary in execution since its preview will take place on television (although they will offer it on their digital channels and on demand too), AND they’ve been doing since 2004, CBS is trying to get some interest in its new shows ahead of time by previewing five of them in a primetime special.
Hosted by Tony Shalhoub, Jerry O’Connell, Kal Penn and Chris Smith, who starred in one of the new offerings We Are Men (which I am sad to say is not one of my star picks for the season), it will showcase Mom (love the look of this – Allison Janney everyone!), Crazy Ones (predictable premise but Robin Williams! yes!), The Millers (love this too), Hostages (looks like gripping stuff) and the aforementioned We Are Men.
The special airs on Thursday 12 September.
Granted the networks are still playing catch up to the cable giants and streaming services like Hulu and Netflix – the latter scored its first Emmy nominations this year – but at least they’re now in the game somewhat and making an effort.
It will be interesting how this approach evolves in the years ahead.
Stars are shining brightly again … or for the first time
Shows comes and go with frightening frequency , either via cancellation or reaching the end of their anointed run, and so many of the stars that you saw in shows last season will pop up in totally different shows this season.
One star who is making a most welcome return to the small screen after a short absence is James Spader (Boston Legal) who is anchoring NBC’s new show The Blacklist.
He plays Raymond “Red” Reddington, one of the FBI’s most wanted, who calmly wanders into their Washington DC HQ, surrenders without a murmur before offering incredulous agents a hitherto unknown list of terrorists and criminals.
He offers to part with this list on one condition – that rookie profiler Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone) be assigned to this most unusual of manhunts with him.
It’s a promising premise, a clever mix of case-of-the-week and overarching conspiracy that will doubtless owe much of its success to James Spader’s superlative acting ability.
Two other stars who have been away from the small screen for quite a bit longer than James Spader, albeit for vastly different reasons, are Michael J Fox who is starring in NBC’s The Michael J. Fox Show, and Robin Williams in CBS’ The Crazy Ones.
While The Michael J. Fox Show looks to have the stronger of the premises, with the sitcom mirroring Michael J. Fox’s initial withdrawal from acting due to his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease to his tentative return in shows like The Good Wife, Robin Williams is a multi-talented who likely will make a side-splittingly funny mountain out of The Crazy Ones mole-sized premise.
The main thing is they’re all back and TV watching will be all the richer for their renewed presence on our screens.
We’re being given to draw breath
The first two weeks or so of Fall TV can be exhausting.
Both for you and your PVR which is left groaning under the weight of more shows than there is time and terrabytes to record them.
Thankfully the networks have chosen, for reasons that have nothing to do with your mental, emotional and physical health to stagger their program releases so that not everything falls into that crowded initial fortnight.
This means that promising shows like The Millers, starring Will Arnett who has to deal with his parents behaving like children after they separate and move in with their children, and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, the spinoff of ABC’s hit show Once Upon a Time, which focuses on Alice’s life after her trip down the rabbit hole, will have time to make their presence felt, free from the crush and jostle of the last two weeks of September.
Whether this will make much difference to how accepted they are by the viewing public remains to be seen but it does mean that both you and your PVR can breathe a little easier once the rush is over.
The sitcom is not dead
There was a clarion cry not that many years ago during the lean times that followed the end of Friends, Frasier and Seinfeld that sitcoms were dead, their corpses soon to be trod into the ground by the ceaseless march to low cost non-scripted reality TV.
But then an amazing thing happened.
The sitcoms didn’t die and the alarmists were proved to have more than a touch of the Chicken Littles about them.
If ever there was evidence that the sitcom sky hasn’t fallen in, it’s this year’s bumper of good and not-so-good sitcoms.
Shows like The Millers (see above), Mom, starring the comedy dream of Allison Janney and Anna Faris as mother and daughter figuring out their post-rehab relationship, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Andre Braugher and Andy Samberg) and Us and Them (Alexi Bledel, Gilmore Girls, returns – hooray!) put paid to the idea that there isn’t a market for sitcoms anymore.
Even less promising but still possibly good shows like Sean Saves The World and Surviving Jack underline the fact that not only are there are still ideas aplenty out there but that the networks are prepared to green light the pilots based on them.
Not all the sitcoms will survive of course and some like Enlisted Men and We Are Men will die quicker than others, or will at least deserve to, but enough will make past the post to ensure that sitcoms will live to fight quite a few more seasons yet.