Sept. 07--Lend an ear to network executives, actors, producers and writers, and you will hear one refrain:
Everything about television is changing. Where once TV was what you watched on that box in the living room, now TV is content. You can watch it on your laptop, your iPad, your smartphone and, if you insist, even that box in the living room.
Network executives, in particular, are eager to send the message that the traditional model of the television season is becoming antique. As with cable channels before them, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW want us to know that they're moving beyond the old idea of the new Fall TV Season, and the Midseason, which begins in January or February. They want us to know that original programs will be turning up throughout the year, let the calendar leaves fall where they may.
With all this, why are we offering a preview of the new 2013 Fall TV Season? Because it's coming right up, with the usual assortment of brand-spanking-new hopefuls, rolled out by the networks to go up against each other in a survival-of-the-fittest entertainment brawl. The Brave New World may be barging in, but the Old TV World, and its new fall schedule, hasn't gone away.
As usual, the question for viewers is: What should I make room in my DVR for? There's already more quality TV on right now than there are hours to view, not to mention terrific series waiting their turn in the binge-watch list. Taking a chance on a new show sometimes feels like an indulgence, or a gamble. Let's face it, the odds are good that this fall's shiny new series will be next spring's beat-up, left-by-the-side-of-the-road cancellation victim.
With that in mind, I'm here to help you sort out the good from the ghastly, the promising from the worrisome. I've watched early screening versions of the season's new shows, so consider these my first impressions. By the time they reach the air, they'll usually be more polished.
As always, be reminded that the pilot for any TV series is just an indication of what may be in store. The show's creators, writers, directors and cast have to spell out the premise, introduce the characters and give an idea of what the show's tone will be -- all in that first episode. It's a lot to ask of a series to make something magical out of the intensive labor involved in that checklist. And I'm ever-hopeful that even shows with horrendous pilots may be miraculously transformed into worthwhile viewing.
BEST OF THE FALL
"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.": Expectations are sky-high for this spinoff of Marvel superhero movie blockbusters, specifically Joss Whedon's "The Avengers." Clark Gregg is back as Agent Phil Coulson, a character who died in "The Avengers" but who clearly is up and about and busy with the global law-enforcement missions that are the business of the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization. The pilot does a lot of explaining of everything, which slows things down a bit, but Gregg is as dryly appealing as ever. Most promising of all is that this comes from Whedon (as an executive producer), and a team that includes his brother, Jed. As the man behind such classic television series as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Firefly," Whedon is worth following anywhere, and the welcome spritzes of wit in the pilot are reassuring signs that the Whedonesque touch will make the show get better and better. (Debuts Sept. 24, ABC/2)
WORTH CHECKING OUT
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine": It took me a while to warm up to the pilot for this new cop comedy series. Andy Samberg ("Saturday Night Live") plays a cocky detective who acts like an overgrown adolescent, and for much of the episode I wanted him to go take a nap and calm down. But the character gets more likable as the show goes on, Samberg is good-natured, and the ensemble cast is rich in subtle, skilled performers. Topping the list is the gifted Andre Braugher, as the new captain at the Brooklyn precinct, a no-nonsense boss who turns out to have more dimensions than you'd imagine. (Debuts Sept. 17, Fox/12)
"Sleepy Hollow": The premise is ridiculous, but to the show's credit, everyone involved seems to realize that and doesn't take themselves too seriously. Good call, when you're giving us Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), mysteriously transported to modern times to join forces with Sleepy Hollow cops to find the Headless Horseman. Who is, I might add, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Is this necessary viewing? Not really. But it may be Halloween-y fun, what with Mison's amusingly deadpan reaction to modern life (he seems amazingly unfazed to awake in the 21st century), and Nicole Beharie's grounded performance as the cop who finds herself believing Crane's story about coming from the past. (Debuts Sept. 16, Fox/12)
"Mom": Sitcom super-producer Chuck Lorre ("Two and a Half Men," "The Big Bang Theory") isn't known for comedies focusing on female characters. So this is a slightly unexpected effort from him, as it stars Anna Faris as a single mom who's struggling to hold on to her newfound sobriety, rebound from an ill-advised affair, raise her kids and deal with her piece-of-work mother (played with panache by Allison Janney). Much of the humor in the pilot is too broad, but Faris is easy to root for. The good cast includes French Stewart, Nate Corddry and Matt Jones (aka "Badger" on "Breaking Bad"). (Debuts Sept. 23, CBS/6)
"The Michael J. Fox Show": It's a pleasure to welcome Michael J. Fox back to comedy, and this series gets a lot of things right. Drawing inspiration from Fox's experiences after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's is one of them. Fox plays Mike Henry, a news anchor on a New York station who left his job to deal with his health and family. In the pilot, we see him being lured back to work, egged on by his family -- who are eager to get him out of the house again -- and his old boss (Wendell Pierce, of "Treme" and "The Wire"). Fox is expert as ever, and the tone is an interesting blend of comedy and more serious notes. The characters of Mike's kids aren't woven in all that confidently, so we'll see what happens with that. But Betsy Brandt ("Breaking Bad') is a welcome presence on the home front as Mike's loving, savvy wife. (Debuts Sept. 26, NBC/8)
WORST OF THE FALL
"Dads": This live-action sitcom from Seth MacFarlane, who made his name with the animated series, "Family Guy," and Alex Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, who worked with MacFarlane on the movie "Ted," is packed with cliches, forced attempts at humor and an all-around lack of funniness. And that's the best I can say about it. What makes it sink to the bottom of the fall barrel are tired, offensive jokes at the expense of women of color. And then there's the creaky concept: two lifelong buddies (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) run their own video-game company. How cool, right? But no, bro. Both of them get stuck with their crusty old dads moving in with them. Oh, dude. Not cool. Making all this even more maddening is the waste of Martin Mull and Peter Riegert, who play the wacky dads. I'm rooting for them both to make a quick escape to a better show. (Debuts Sept. 17, Fox/12)
I'M WORRIED ...
"The Crazy Ones": Speaking of a talented cast, get a load of this group: Robin Williams as a creative but eccentric head of an advertising agency; Sarah Michelle Gellar as his business partner and daughter; James Wolk (Bob Benson on "Mad Men"); Hamish Linklater ("The Newsroom"); and Amanda Setton ("The Mindy Project"). It's created by David E. Kelley, whose resume includes hits ("Boston Legal") and misses ("Monday Mornings"). So with all these nifty people, why is the pilot so often cringeworthy? Blame it on a queasily shifting tone, veering between over-the-top comedy and sentimentality. And Kelley's weakness for musical numbers (Exhibit A: "Ally McBeal") puts Wolk in the middle of a scene with guest star Kelly Clarkson that made me embarrassed for both of them. If Kelley can restrain his more self-indulgent tendencies, and tap into Williams' ability to actually act -- instead of encouraging the comedian to do shtick -- the show might turn into something worth tuning in for. (Debuts Sept. 26, CBS/6)
"Lucky 7": I'm rooting for this adaptation of a British series -- about working stiffs at a Queens, N.Y., gas station who win the lottery -- to work. It's refreshing to see a show that isn't about cops or lawyers or doctors, and instead focuses on blue-collar people. There's ample potential in the stories of what happens to the seven lottery winners once they hit the jackpot. And the nicely diverse cast is a winning ensemble. However, the pilot is a bit plodding and heavy-handed. I'm willing to lay blame for that on the burden of introducing so many characters, and working in a subplot about a robbery gone wrong. I'll stay tuned -- at least for a while. (Debuts Sept. 24, ABC/2)
"Once Upon a Time in Wonderland": Spinoff of "Once Upon a Time," this magical saga gives us an Alice (Sophie Lowe) who is more action heroine than Victorian young lady, who goes down the rabbit hole to pursue her lost love. John Lithgow is the voice of the White Rabbit. I'm concerned the effects will overwhelm the storyline in this one. (Debuts Oct. 10, ABC/2)
"Ironside": Blair Underwood takes over Raymond Burr's role in this redo of the '60s crime drama about a police detective who uses a wheelchair after being injured on the job. The pilot is OK, and Underwood is magnetic, but this show will have to get an imagination transfusion to transcend the cop show cliches. (Debuts Oct. 2 NBC/8)
"Reign": The good news is that this series on The CW -- the network beloved by young female viewers -- provides a setting that's a bit different. It's the historical tale of the young Mary Stuart, destined to grow up to be Mary, Queen of Scots. But nobody looks to The CW for historical accuracy, and they're sure not going to get it with this once-over-lightly take on Mary arriving at the court of the King of France, and her supposed marriage to young Prince Francis. The cast is all young and CW-ready, with long hair and lush lips on the young ladies, and brooding eyes and scruffy haircuts on the young gentlemen. They generally look like they just stopped in on their way home from a costume party. Oh, and there's some bloody business involving human sacrifices going on out in the woods, just to keep things lively. (Debuts Oct. 17, The CW/3)
"The Tomorrow People": Another group of good-looking young people populate this paranormal thriller about a group of specially gifted hotties. They boast the three T's, the powers of telekinesis, teleportation and telepathic communication. But they're being threatened by a nasty group of suit-wearing creepy scientists, who go by the name of Ultra. You've probably decided by now whether this is your kind of thing. Based on the pilot's stiff dialogue and acting, it isn't mine. (Debuts Oct. 9, The CW/3)
"The Originals": A spinoff from "The Vampire Diaries," this gives us members of "the original" vampire family, who look remarkably spry for their century-old ages. They find themselves in New Orleans, presented here as a seductive, dangerous den of magic, evil, dirty-dancing and unexpected death. Feel free to use that in your tourism materials, City of New Orleans. It's melodramatic silliness, but then, so is "True Blood," and plenty of people seem to enjoy that. (Debuts Oct. 3, The CW)
RETURNING LOCAL HERO
"Grimm": It's probably appropriate that we have to wait until Halloween is almost here for the Season 3 premiere of the set and filmed-in-Portland fantasy/procedural. But considering that Season 2 was a significant step up in storytelling confidence, cast chemistry and expansion of the show's mythology, Season 3 should be worth waiting for. First up: We have to find out what happens to Nick (David Giuntoli), who has apparently been turned into a zombie creature and may be headed out of Portland for good. In a box. (Debuts Oct. 25, NBC/8)
TREND OF THE YEAR
Family Comedies: You can't throw a kernel of popcorn without hitting one of the barrage of new shows apparently hoping to capitalize on the success of hits like "Modern Family." "The Goldbergs" (Sept. 24, ABC/2); "Trophy Wife" (Sept. 24, ABC/2); "Back in the Game" (Sept. 25, ABC/2); "The Millers" (Oct. 3, CBS/6); "Welcome to the Family" (Oct. 3, NBC/8); and "Sean Saves the World" (Oct. 3, NBC/8) all deal with family love, squabbles, bonds, challenges and moments where everybody hugs it out.
ALSO COMING SOON
"Hostages," a competent thriller starring Dylan McDermott as an FBI agent who takes the president's surgeon (Toni Collette) and her family hostage (Sept. 23, CBS/6); "The Blacklist," in which James Spader gets to show his cool menace as a criminal mastermind who surrenders to the FBI on the condition he share his secrets with one agent only, a novice profiler (Sept. 23, NBC/8); "Super Fun Night," starring Rebel Wilson as a young attorney whose best friends are as nerdy as she is (Oct. 2, ABC/2); "We Are Men," a dispiriting comedy about divorced and/or single guys living in an apartment complex with a seemingly endless supply of shapely women to ogle and/or hit on (Sept. 30, CBS/6); "Betrayal," a romantic drama about power, and a provocative attraction, starring Hannah Ware and Stuart Townsend (Sept. 29, ABC/2); and "Dracula," starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the mesmerizing vamp (Oct. 25, NBC/8)
-- Kristi Turnquist
(c)2013 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
Visit The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.) at www.oregonian.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
Most Popular Stories
- NSA Defends Global Cellphone Tracking Legality
- Top Websites for U.S. Hispanics
- Networks Vie for U.S. Hispanic TV Viewers
- Ad Counts Rise in 2013 for Hispanic Magazines
- Apple Wants Samsung to Pay $22M for Patent Dispute Legal Bills
- Starbucks Gets Grinchy; No Gingerbread Lattes for Tampa Customers
- Apple Paid Its Lawyers More Than $60MM to Defeat Samsung in Court
- Jobs Report Brings Cheer As Unemployment Drops to Five-year Low
- Economic Bright Spots Not a Sure Boost for President Obama
- US Consumer Borrowing Rose $18.2B in Oct.