As one network TV season winds down and the schedules for next year’s are announced, the prevailing thought in my mind is: “Where do we go from here?”
Each year, it seems harder and harder for networks to find something that sticks.
Knowing that Desperate Housewives would end this season, ABC tried putting out shows like Pan Am and GCB to reach the same female demographic. Neither lasted. In the end, ABC will move one of this year’s surprise hits, Revenge, to that DH timeslot instead. Now, instead of having a virtually guaranteed win on Wednesday, the network is gambling on two nights of the week.
That’s not to single out ABC, however. Each of the networks has had a devil of a time trying to find shows that stick. Who knew that two series based on fairy tales of all things—ABC’s Once Upon A Time and NBC’s Grimm—would be two of those networks’ most successful shows this season?
Female-oriented sitcoms fronted by big names—Whitney Cummings and Chelsea Handler—did not perform as well as similar sitcoms without an A-list name, namely Two Broke Girls and Don’t Trust the B– in Apt. 23.
Though still the ratings’ champ in the coveted 18-49 demo, Fox has to be worried. Established shows like Glee, House, and American Idol saw significant audience dropoff, while highly buzzed shows like Alcatraz, Terra Nova, and X-Factor severely under-performed—the first two were canceled while the latter will be retooled with new judges Britney Spears and Demi Lovato next year.
And, while most networks would love the numbers generated by a new show like Unforgettable on CBS, it’s an also-ran, so it’s gone.
In Hollywood, nobody knows anything, and it seems that’s twice as true for network TV execs.
For example, one of the most critically divided new shows this year was Prime Suspect. While many critics found it to be a compelling cop drama, I and many other critics found it to be a very-watered down remake of the original British masterpiece. While some argued that a comparison is unfair—after all, virtually anything with Dame Helen Mirren will be brilliant, almost by definition—I would argue that by doing a remake of anything, you invite comparison no matter what.
CBS apparently hasn’t learned that, because it’s rolling out Elementary next season with Jonny Lee Miller as a modern Sherlock Holmes with Lucy Liu as his Watson. That might be OK, but it follows on the heels of PBS’ brilliant Sherlock, with a mesmerizing Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role and a wonderful supporting cast, and created by the always-terrific Steven Moffat. With Sherlock also being set in modern times, Elementary has an unusually tough standard to live up to.
I try not to judge any of next year’s crop of shows, at least until I see the DVD screeners for them. While I’m skeptical of Elementary’s chances, it’s hard to judge it by itself without a viewing.
So I won’t put the whammy on any of the announced shows for next season, but I will point out a few that I’m looking forward to, based on either the talent involved or the show’s central premise.
ABC: Last Resort has Andre Braugher as the captain of a nuclear sub who decides to go rogue with his crew and declare itself a new nation; Nashville has Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) in a family soap set in the backdrop of the city’s country music scene.
CBS: I feel almost compelled to give Elementary a chance, even though I share the same feelings about it as I did Prime Suspect. Vegas, set in the 1960s, has a great cast with Dennis Quaid, Michael Chiklis, Carrie Anne Moss and Jason O’Mara.
NBC: Maybe the most buzz-worthy show of next fall will be the JJ Abrams-produced Revolution, set in a future in which the world has run out of power. It’s got a great pedigree, with Eric Kripke (Supernatural) writing the pilot and Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directing it. Interestingly, the struggling network passed on sitcoms starring the likes of Roseanne Barr, Martin Lawrence, Sarah Silverman and Zachary Levi.
Fox: Because I think she’s brilliant, I’m definitely looking forward to Mindy Kaling’s (The Office) new sitcom in which she plays an OB/GYN, called The Mindy Project (for now). On the drama side, The Following has Kevin Bacon as an FBI agent trying to track down a cult of killers that a Hannibal Lecter-style monster (James Purefoy, Rome). (It’s scheduled for mid-season, currently).
CW: Arrow, much like Smallville, examines the origins of the DC Comics hero, Green Arrow. Viewers should note that it’s a new series, and not a spinoff of Smallville. Also of note is The Cult, featuring Prison Break’s Rob Knepper as the leader of a weird religious cult.
What show are you most looking forward to this fall?
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