It’s that time of the year again!
Last year’s TV season is dead and buried, but not of course, forgotten, and a jostling crop of hopefuls is waiting in the wings ready to take their place.
The shows were revealed a couple of months back during what is known as the “Upfronts” where all five of the networks reveal their new shows, and programming schedules for the new season, to advertisers and the media.
This post it’s time to turn our attention to five more of the dramas that I think have enough appeal to be worth your time checking out when they premiere.
So grab your favourite TV snacks, prepare to dig your nails deep into your lounge chairs as dramatic tension seizes you and enjoy five more very promising dramas coming your way this fall …
ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND (ABC)
In Victorian England, the young and beautiful Alice (Sophie Lowe) tells a tale of a strange new land that exists on the other side of a rabbit hole. An invisible cat, a hookah smoking caterpillar and playing cards that talk are just some of the fantastic things she’s seen during this impossible adventure. Surely this troubled girl must be insane and her doctors aim to cure her with a treatment that will make her forget everything. Alice seems ready to put it all behind her, especially the painful memory of the genie she fell in love with and lost forever — the handsome and mysterious Cyrus (Peter Gadiot). But deep down Alice knows this world is real and just in the nick of time, the sardonic Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha) and the irrepressible White Rabbit (John Lithgow) arrive to save her from a doomed fate. Together, the trio will take a tumble down the rabbit hole to this Wonderland where nothing is impossible. (source: spoilertv.com)
The first thing that crossed my mind when I heard that ABC, quite understandably, were contemplating a spinoff from Once Upon a Time, a show which has performed very nicely for them over its first two seasons, was whether the new show, whatever it turned out to be, would have any real identity of its own.
It can be a real challenge for any show to successfully find its own identity and voice, and that’s when it is its own stand alone entity, with no real reference points but its own limited history.
It usually takes much of the first season to determine how best to bring the founding premise of the show to life as you originally envisioned it, and to make the tweaks necessary to achieve that vision.
Fringe and Stargate SG1 are a case in point. (There are some lucky shows that seem to be wholly formed straight out of the pilot such as Lost and The Big Bang Theory but they are very few and far between.)
How much more of a challenge is it when the new show is trying to simultaneously find its won unique voice and move out from under the shadow of its parent show?
Of course, it has the undeniable advantage of being given a visibility denied to many other new shows courtesy of the recognition factor accorded the parent show, and an almost guaranteed instant audience, at least for the pilot.
But these eyeballs can depart just as quickly as they arrived if they smell even a whiff of coasting of the creative momentum of the original show, or a simple derivative re-interpretation of the narrative, characters, or premise they love.
It’s a touch juggling act and that’s why spinoffs are not the sure thing that many people assume them to be. (After M*A*S*H anyone?)
Thankfully Once Upon a Time in Wonderland looks to be very much its own breathtakingly imaginative creature, with a trailer that impressed me with its cinematic nous, its well-wrought characters and dramatic potential.
It’s a wholly different premise to the original focussing on Alice’s search for her lost love and as such allows the show’s producers to be far more episodic in their storytelling.
I found it engaging and exciting and as bold and original a premise for any spinoff I have seen.
GANG RELATED (Fox)
A rising star in L.A.’s elite Gang Task Force (Ramon Rodriguez) is teamed with longtime member Cassius Green (RZA) to take on three of the city’s most dangerous gangs — including one he has ties to.
Ah the dramatic richness inherent in the idea of a man balancing between two worlds!
What seems like a fairly simply idea – pretending to be someone else while maintaining who you really are in the background – soon becomes insanely complicated as your new fake life begins to impinge on the real you in ways you never saw coming when first you agreed to masquerade as a fraud.
Though we all compartmentalise to some degree, having a certain persona at work that isn’t necessarily reflected at home or in our interactions with close friends, the barriers between these separate “lives” are permeable, and prone to allowing leaks between the various parts of ourselves.
That’s looks to be what Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez) discovers when he agrees to infiltrate the LA police force of behalf of the gang he belongs to, a gang which by virtue of his adoption by its patriarch is essentially his family.
It doesn’t occur to him at first that his loyalties will be challenged.
After all, the gang took him in when he had no one, gave him a place to belong, an identity and now it is asking him to serve the greater good of his “family” by undertaking an undercover role.
A slam dunk Ryan thinks – “I know who I am”.
But living two lives is corrosive, especially when you come into contact with a world, and its people and ideals, that you haven’t encountered before, leading you to wonder if maybe there isn’t more to this life than you previously thought.
Reconciling the two is a major existential nightmare, not to mention the stress of remaining keenly aware of what is said where and when so you can keep your stories straight and your two lives humming along, more or less, usually less, in sync.
So much could go wrong, so much drama could result.
And that’s why I think Gang Related, while looking a little formulaic around the edges, could be a winner.
Handled properly, and alas there is a chance it may not fully realise its dramatic potential with creator Chris Morgan’s previous work including three of the Fast and Furious movies, hardly bastions of searing intensely nuanced storytelling, it could give an interesting insight into one man’s struggle to be two people at once.
All against the backdrop of a life and death fight to the finish.
Let’s hope they dig deeper than the glitzy premise.
Rake centres on Keegan Deane (Greg Kinnear), one of life’s great addicts, a brilliant and frustratingly charming criminal defense attorney, whose chaotic and self-destructive personal life often gets in the way of his professional one. He takes on the cases that nobody else will touch, ruled by a resolute optimism, belief in justice and dogged determination to defend those who seem beyond redemption — much like himself. (source: indiewire.com)
Based on the much-acclaimed, and commercially successful Australian show of the same name starring Richard Roxburgh (that show’s creator, Peter Duncan is a producer on the US version), Rake should be a delight.
If Greg Kinnear doesn’t have fun playing an acerbic lawyer whose personal life is a shambles with all manner of personal problems besetting him – an ex-wife with very little patience for his shenanigans, the IRS hot on his trail, and a gambling problem, a BIG gambling problem – then he’s simply not trying very hard.
The good news is he seems to be having a ball, if the trailer is any guide.
Equal parts devilish charm, emotional train wreck, and brilliant legal mind, Rake is the sort of character that charms one minute, exasperates the next, but attracts a great deal of loyalty from viewers who can identity with this larger than life flawed individual stumbling his rather messy way through life.
The trick though of course is not to make him too exasperating.
While plenty of viewers lap up difficult, contrary characters who seem to be hellbent on taking every reasonable social nicety and twisting it into unrecognisable pretzel shapes before snapping them in half – House is an example of a show with a real anti-hero who managed to charm and beguile viewers for eight highly successful seasons – too much curmudgeonly behaviour and people simply switch off.
After all, charmingly, whimsical grumpiness is one thing but anti-social bah-humbugging on an industrial scale is not pleasant to be around.
I have a feeling though that with the sure and steady hand of the creator of the original Australian version of Rake, Peter Duncan, on the tiller – well partly at least – a man who kept the protagonist eminently likeable and engaging at all times despite his many flaws, that the US reiteration will do just fine.
Allowing Greg Kinnear to keep having an insane amount of fun for quite a few seasons if he so desires.
THE TOMORROW PEOPLE (CW)
The story of several young people from around the world who represent the next stage in human evolution, possessing special powers, including the ability to teleport and communicate with each other telepathically. Together they work to defeat the forces of evil. Written by CW (source: imdb.com)
I am approaching this re-imagining/re-interpreting/re-hashing/whatever the hell they’re calling them these days of The Tomorrow People with more than a little nervousness.
It’s always hard to see a show you loved as a child – the original The Tomorrow People ran for 6 years through the ’70s; yes I am that old – taken and given new shape and form by someone else.
Not because I am averse to re-makings of movies, TV shows and songs.
On the contrary I love seeing what can be done with a fresh pair of storytelling eyes, new technology, modern sensibilities.
Rather what makes it hard is if all that potential is wasted and doesn’t amount to much.
Fortunately with Greg Berlanti (Everwood, Brothers and Sisters, Arrow) in charge of the show, I have a reasonable amount of confidence this could actually be a worthy successor to the original.
Especially given the fact that the 1970s version of The Tomorrow People, while possessing robust storytelling and great acting, did suffer from certain same cheap, cheesy production values, common to other shows of the time such as Dr Who (which has benefited from its own recent re-invention), and seeing it re-done with whiz-bang modern CGI would be a treat unto itself.
That’s assuming of course that the brilliant storytelling and characterisation of the original is upheld since as we all know special effects alone do not a show with great longevity make.
For now I am going to place my trust in Greg Berlanti to execute an exciting re-imagining of the show, keeping in mind of course it will be pitched at CW’s demographic, of which I am most assuredly no longer a member.
Even so it will be fun to watch the first episode or two of the show to see if you really can go back.
Or forward … or both at once.
Wait, I’ll need special powers for that.
Itelligence is a dramatic thriller starring Josh Holloway as a high-tech intelligence operative enhanced with a super-computer microchip in his brain. With this implant, Gabriel is the first human ever to be connected directly into the worldwide information grid and have complete access to Internet, WiFi, telephone and satellite data. He can hack into any data center and access key intel in the fight to protect the United States from its enemies. Leading the elite government cyber-security agency created to support him is Director Lillian Strand, a straightforward and efficient boss who oversees the unit’s missions. Strand assigns Riley Neal, a Secret Service agent, to protect Gabriel from outside threats, as well as from his appetite for reckless, unpredictable behavior and disregard for protocol. Other skilled members of the Cybercom team include Chris Jameso and Gonzalo “Gonzo” Rodriguez, two resourceful federal investigators. The brains behind the design of the chip is Dr. Shenendoah Cassidy, whose son, Nelson, is jealous of Gabriel’s prominent place in his father’s life. As the first supercomputer with a beating heart, Gabriel is the most valuable piece of technology the country has ever created and is the U.S.’s secret weapon. (Source: CBS via tvrage.com)
Intelligence does scream formulaic, it’s true.
For a start, look at it s home channel, CBS.
Its schedule is full to the brim with TV shows that tick all the standard boxes, and rarely stray from their central premise in any really wildly creative ways. (Although Person of Interest and particularly Elementary having shown a welcome flair for bucking this trend.)
This is not to say they’re bad shows, not at all.
They’re just not particularly imaginative or cutting edge, and certainly don’t give HBO or AMC a run for their out-of-the-box money.
Add to that the idea of an ex-secret ops military guy with secrets and thanks to a chip in his head, access to all the information in the world, and you have a protagonist who sounds like a thousand other characters that have graced our screens, both large and small, before him.
And yet … and yet … I can help feeling that the presence of the talented Josh Holloway, last seen in a major role as loveable rogue Sawyer in Lost, which ended its run in 2010, could make all the difference.
While it is obviously going to run to a fairly unremarkable bad-guy-of-the-week formula, the combination of Holloway’s talent, dazzling smile and winning way with a snappy oneliner, could take a reasonably safe, cardboard character and invest him with the sort of likeable charm that you need in a show where the plots don’t stray too far from the narrative equivalent of comfort food.
*Anything grabbed you yet? Bueller? Bueller?