Looking at the New TV Schedule
No sooner did the five major networks complete their upfront presentations than the promos began hitting during prime time. I noticed this trend a year or two back, as they rushed to show viewers in May a glimpse of two of their new series, to start making impressions of the titles to make it easier to recall when the actual promotional machine kicks into high gear around mid-August.
The various media critics have all had a chance to watch screeners and study the complete schedule so the handicapping has begun. Now, I consider myself a media observer (and fan) but don’t get invited to the presentations, get sent screeners or other nifty things. I’m like you, a television fan with an opinion and a remote control device.
Once more there is the cry that sitcoms are dying as their total number dwindle. To which I say, well of course. Most are ham-fisted, lame excuses at comedy that goes for the cheap, easy laugh over anything nuanced or character-based. Shows with a point of view like 30 Rock or The Office are too few and far between. In fact, the sitcom with the most promise looks to be Fox’s Back to You and only because it boasts the pairing of Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton. The premise, former anchor partners forced back together, sounds old school and therefore it will come down to the writing. Will it be smart and witty? Fox, and Grammer, seem to have a lot riding on this one.
Variations on the supernatural & SF, which have been prime time staples for years now, has gained strength as Supernatural, Smallville, Medium, and Ghost Whisperer get joined by Chuck, Reaper, Pushing Daises, Bionic Woman, Life, Moonlight, and New Amsterdam. You ask me, that’s a few series too many and I suspect only one or two will make it to next May. There’s a lot of buzz on Daises and a lot of derision directed towards Moonlight so the odds makers have already begun their work.
NBC largely kept to its promise of filling the 8-9 p.m. slot with lower cost sitcoms and reality shows so we’ll see if that gambit works since it also limits their abilities to construct nightly schedules that smoothly lead viewers from one show to the next.
Personally, the cast behind Cane (Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo), Big Shots (Dylan McDermott, Michael Vartan and Josh Malina) , and Dirty Sexy Money (Peter Krause, William Baldwin, Donald Sutherland, and Jill Clayburgh) have me intrigued enough to sample them come fall. Will they be good, strong dramas? I can only hope.
Two shows that approach the same theme from differing approaches are going to be interesting to observe although neither appeal enough to me to commit the time to watch. Looking at life in our society we have the CW’s cleverly titled Aliens in America and the show most likely to be canceled first, Cavemen. Both promise to take fresh looks at stereotypes and assimilation with the latter series claiming it will be quirky and largely improvisational. Better ABC gave a series commitment to the Gecko.
Fortunately, a quick scan of the schedule indicates no more than two shows opposite one another at any given time, which will mean it can all go on the DVR. (Of course, when PBS launches the multi-night WW II documentary from Ken Burns, all bets will be off.)
There’s some stuff to like, some stuff to try, some returning favorites but nothing that looks as fresh as Lost or Desperate Housewives did three years back. The big five feel like their playing it safe this time around and given the changes in viewing habits among all generations of watchers, that may not have been the wisest course to take.
Each network would benefit from a break out series that would build a loyal community that would watch it, devour the minutiae, form communities around it and protest the network when they ultimately cancel it because not enough love it (yes, I’m talking the Jericho nut jobs). To me, none appear to have that strong a shot at being the watercooler show of the new season – then again Heroes succeeded beyond NBC’s wildest dreams where the heavier hyped shows like The Nine never made it to mid-season. So, as the saying goes, no one really knows.