Saturday, May 22, 2010

What I'll Be Watching This Fall

I was surprised by alot of what went down at the upfronts this year. First of all, there were all the early announcements of renewals, cancellations and pick-ups. There were few surprises in that sense; the real surprises were in what shows got the axe and what pilots were ordered to series. There were a lot of missed opportunities this year, particularly from The CW. They had a lot of promising pilots with a lot of buzz (the scripts for Nomads and The Damn Thorpes both had rave reviews from unbiased insiders online); and why would they not capitalize on the popularity of supernatural shows by putting Betwixt after their huge new hit The Vampire Diaries? Clearly there is a market for these shows, and the CW realized it by renewing Supernatural beyond its original five-year intended run. But they dropped the ball with Betwixt. Even if the pilot wasn't great, there is time to reshoot and rework the series into something different and better... and even if it sucked, the CW's target audience would probably still watch it and fall in love with it. Instead they only picked up 2 pilots: Hellcats and Nikita. A cheerleading show (which has promise if it's anything like Bring It On) and yet another remake of an old TV show. Did they learn nothing from the failure of Melrose Place and the decline in second-season ratings for 90210? And without any midseason replacements, what will they do if either series fails? They clearly learned nothing this year when The Beautiful Life and Melrose each failed, but there was nothing but reruns to replace them with... or even-worse rated reality shows. Bad, bad move.

I'm also shocked by the number of veteran series canceled this year, especially by NBC. They took a risk and picked up eleven (!!) new series this year, trying to shake the bad taste leftover from The Jay Leno Show. But the bottom line is that NBC has fallen mightily; they are the lowest rated broadcast network
other than the fledgling CW. To try and fix that, they are banking on a lot of new shows to carry them through next season. Is it a smart move? Who knows. But there were some pretty crazy casualties along the way: Law & Order and Heroes especially. Then you have CBS sticking a fork in Friday-dominator Ghost Whisperer and The New Adventures of Old Christine; audience favorite Ugly Betty, veteran comedy Scrubs (which should have gone last year), and the started-strong-but-faded, once-hopeful-Lost-replacement FlashForward disappearing from ABC; and ratings giant 24 finishing up at Fox, along with the interminable sitcom 'Til Death (thankfully it was finally put down).

Having said all that, here's what I'll be watching in the fall, in some form or another:

Monday

The Event (NBC, 9:00 - NEW)
Gossip Girl (CW, 9:00)
Castle (ABC, 10:00)

Tuesday

Glee (FOX, 8:00)
No Ordinary Family (ABC, 8:00 - NEW)
Life Unexpected (CW, 9:00)
Running Wilde (FOX, 9:30 - NEW, formerly Wilde Kingdom)

Wednesday

Undercovers (NBC, 8:00 - NEW)
Survivor: Nicaragua (CBS, 8:00)
Hellcats (CW, 9:00 - NEW)

Thursday

The Vampire Diaries (CW, 8:00)
My Generation (ABC, 8:00 - NEW, formerly Generation Y)
The Big Bang Theory (CBS, 8:00)
Shit My Dad Says (CBS, 8:30 - NEW)

Friday

Human Target (FOX, 8:00)
Blue Bloods (CBS, 10:00 - NEW)

I'm much more excited about the midseason prospects for these networks. We'll get The Cape and Harry's Law from NBC; new series Mr. Sunshine and the return of V at ABC; and the new animated comedy Bob's Burgers and the epic Terra Nova on FOX.

While I will be watching many of these new shows, I'm not expecting much out of them. A lot of them seem rather formulaic, but have casts or creative members whom interest me (Blue Bloods, My Generation, Running Wilde). We'll see how it all turns out.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The 2010-2011 Broadcast Season: Early Surprises

Word has come out in the past day or so about early renewals, cancelations, and series pick-ups from NBC, FOX and ABC. You can scroll down a couple posts to where I mentioned a few of the pilots I was hoping would be picked up; some have already made the cut, and hope is waning for others.

So far NBC has been leading the early announcements. Perhaps because their network is floundering (and to avoid a backlash similar to last year when they announced that Jay Leno would be taking up five primetime hours), or perhaps because it's just extra publicity to make individual announcements across several days, NBC has (formally) announced series pick-ups for six new shows, four hour-longs and two half-hour comedies:

Chase
The Event
Love Bites
Undercovers
Outsourced
Perfect Couples

These particular pick-ups mostly surprise me. NBC seems to be banking on the need for Americans to fill the void to be left by the end of ABC's Lost by offering a new series from that show's creator (Undercovers) as well as a similarly-plotted show full of conspiracies and mysteries (The Event). Love Bites seems similar to Sex and the City, still popular years after ending its HBO run with two blockbuster films. But the orders for Chase, Outsourced, and Perfect Couples surprise me. Jerry Bruckheimer (executive producer of Chase) created a very successful television franchise with CSI, but he has not been so lucky lately: The Forgotten, E-Ring, Miami Medical, Justice, Eleventh Hour, and others have failed on each of their respective networks. Chase follows the same old Bruckheimer procedural, which is clearly getting tired: Cold Case has not performed well this season and CSI has falled behind NCIS as the top police franchise. So the choice to pick up Chase is strange to me. Then Outsourced may fit well with NBC's Thursday night lineup, but it doesn't sound particularly interesting and doesn't feature any "names." Perfect Couples is generic as well. But these two pick-ups mean that less generic pilots will probably be left behind: Nathan vs. Nurture and Beach Lane, specifically.

Then Fox announced that it will renew two of its dramas, Lie to Me and Human Target, in addition to picking up five new series, two dramas and three comedies:

Ride Along
Lone Star (formerly Midland)
Wilde Kingdom
Traffic Light
Keep Hope Alive

I had hoped that Wilde Kingdom would be picked up (although it would probably be better suited to NBC, where the show's star, Will Arnett, originated on SNL and whose wife's show will be playing its third season, Parks and Recreation). It will probably end up being the only comedy pilot I wanted to see picked up actually ordered to series, since NBC's Outsourced is eerily similar to Fox's Nevermind Nirvana. Though there is still hope for Security, since Fox would probably need a fourth comedy to pair its shows off evenly; and this year's experiment of dropping a live-action pilot in the middle of Animation Domination Sundays was a huge failure. I don't remember reading much about Traffic Light or Keep Hope Alive, so their premises and casts probably were not too interesting to me upon first inspection. And I was absolutely not thrilled with any of Fox's drama pilots, and apparently neither were they: renewing both Lie to Me and Human Target is telling, considering neither is a strong performer (though Human Target routinely won its timeslot, it was never with high numbers). Fox's schedule is the one I'm most looking forward to seeing next week though, if only to know whether they attempt another fall season of So You Think You Can Dance or fill those three hours with new programming. At this point, it could go either way (all renewals and pick-ups were for 13 episodes, so any could be pushed to midseason).

But perhaps the most exciting news, to me anyway, was yesterday's announcement that ABC had ordered No Ordinary Family to series. This is the cast I was most excited to see and one of the more interesting premises this pilot season. There are many different directions in which to take the material about a family who discovers they have superpowers: will it go the comedy route, a la The Incredibles? Or more like a family-style Justice League? I'm intrigued.

Full season schedules will be announced next week, but as of now there won't be much news. But we'll know more soon.