News Column

Fall TV: Networks woo viewers lost to cable, online

May 20, 2013

YellowBrix

May 20--The fall TV season for the five networks is still months away, but the battle already has started to win back some of the viewers who have shifted to cable and online programming.

Advertisements for the 29 new shows that will fill out the network lineups for the 2013-14 season are airing. Look for stars of those new shows to start making guest appearances on talk shows.

As network ratings continue to sag, each new season proves more and more important. All it takes is one or two shows to click and the viewing numbers could take a more positive direction. The big question is whether the efforts for the upcoming season will produce any big winners.

Last week, the networks shared their plans for next season. Here's a closer look at what you can expect from the new lineups:

Odds aren't good: If the trend continues, most of the series launching this fall will fail. Of the 21 new shows added for the 2012-13 season, only eight earned a second season.

Of the four shows CBS launched last year, only "Elementary" is back.

"The Mindy Project" is the lone survivor of three new FOX programs.

NBC had the least success with four of six new shows last year getting axed.

The previous season wasn't as bad, with 15 of the 27 new shows getting canceled after the first year. But it is still the kind of track record no one wants.

Comedy is killing NBC: Once the home for some of the best TV comedies -- "Seinfeld," "Cheers," "The Cosby Show" -- NBC is struggling to find good shows to make viewers laugh. Heading into the new season, NBC returns only two comedies -- "Parks & Recreation" and "Community."

Gone are the comedies "The Office," "Whitney," "Up All Night," "Animal Practice," "Are You There, Chelsea?," "The New Normal," "Go On"," "Guys With Kids" and "1600 Penn."

NBC is adding three new comedies -- "Welcome to the Family," "Sean Saves the World" and "The Michael J. Fox Show" -- in hopes of returning the network to a funnier time.

The stars are brighter: CBS is only launching five new shows, but they all come with huge star power.

Starring in the network's four new comedies and one drama are: Robin Williams, Anna Faris, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Will Arnett, Toni Collette, Tony Shalhoub, Allison Janney and Dylan McDermott.

But big names don't always guarantee success. The big series for CBS last year was "Vegas," starring Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis, and it was canceled after one year.

Why so serious: The CW Network is launching three new dramas -- "The Reign," "The Outsiders" and "The Tomorrow People" -- but no comedies.

Those new dramas also show the network's tendency toward fantasy and supernatural programming. "The Outsiders" deals with vampires, while "The Tomorrow People" is about special mental abilities. They go along with the networks ghosts and ghouls bonanza "Supernatural," the comic book-inspired "Arrow" and the blood-drinking tales of "The Vampire Diaries."

Welcome home: It might just be a reflection of the weak economy, but three of the new fall shows -- ABC's "Back in the Game," FOX's "Dads" and the CBS comedy "The Millers" -- deal with parents and their children living under the same roof.

In "Back in the Game," Maggie Lawson plays an All-Star softball player who moves in with her estranged father (James Caan). "Dads" has Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi playing successful gaming entrepreneurs who must deal with it when their fathers (Martin Mull, Peter Riegert) move in with them. Will Arnett plays a man whose mother moves in with him in "The Millers."

No one must have noticed that "How To Live with Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)," a show with a similar plot, didn't make it past a first season.

Real comic: Disney's purchase of Marvel Comics hasn't only given the company a presence in the comic book film genre -- it's now taking on TV, too.

ABC, owned by Disney, is adding the Marvel-based "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." to the fall lineup. If it hits, ABC could become the new home for the Hulk, Daredevil and The Scarlet Witch.

It's about time: Several new fall shows will be set in different eras, including the CW drama "The Reign," which follows the 16th-century days of Mary, Queen of Scots. NBC's "Dracula" and ABC's "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland" will be set in the 19th century.

ABC's "The Goldbergs" won't be time-trekking as far, but the comedy is set in the 1980s.

The shows will need to be immediate hits because period programming costs more to produce.

Really?: For the second straight year, no new reality shows were launched. This doesn't mean the reality show trend is falling from grace. The format continues to be cheap to produce and that's a serious concern with the networks as ratings lag.

Can't wait: Many of the new shows are interesting, but nothing tops the news that Kiefer Sutherland will reprise his role of Jack Bauer for the FOX summer series in 2014 with "24: Live Another Day."

Tick, tick, tick.

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TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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(c)2013 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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