New in ‘14

With the dominance of streaming and cable, the networks are desperate to yank your eyeballs back to them. Premiering well over 20 new series over the next few months, with even more planned for winter and spring 2015, now is the time when they show you their best and brightest. Here are some thoughts on the new shows based on trailers and press releases.

ABC

black-ish (September 24): One of 2 potentially inflammatory series (the other being next year’s Fresh off the boat) disguised as happy funny family sitcoms. Here, Anthony Anderson stars as a father who’s son seems to be denying his heritage in a bid to assimilate more into his suburban environment. Ideally this show will spur conversations about race and identity and what it all means, but after viewing the trailer I think it comes off as too stereotypical and not reflective of the reality of America (NOTE: I am speaking only from experiences I have observed, I have none of these experiences). That said, it has gotten wonderful reviews, and Laurence Fishburne is in it so what do I know?

Cristela (October 10): A Mexican-American family sitcom starring stand up comic Cristela Alonzo. I was the most nervous about this show. ABC never released an actual trailer for the series and footage has been sparse in my searches. But, now that I have seen more I don’t see a need to worry. This show appears to be ABC’s standard family sitcom in the vein of the old TGIF line up. Thoroughly inoffensive and bland. In fact, the network seems to have so little faith this one I would have expected it to be shuttled to ABC Family where it would likely thrive.

How to get away with murder (September 25): Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal) brings us another series, this one set in the classroom of a criminal justice teacher (Viola Davis, The Help) and following the lives of her and her students. With sexy results. Seriously sexy from what I’ve been reading. Sex in any and all configurations. Because of the Rhimes connection and Davis, this is one of the most anticipated series coming out this season (seconded only by FOX’s Batman procedural Gotham). If it follows Rhimes’ standard pattern the first season will be stellar and it will precipitously drop in quality thereafter.

Manhattan Love Story (September 30): a rom com, told in voice over, from both parties’ perspectives, co-starring a former America’s Next Top Model contestant (Analeigh Tipton). I would be surprised to see this last long enough for anyone to have an opinion on it.

Also: Selfie, Forever

NBC

Bad Judge (October 2): What was Kate Walsh thinking signing on for this trainwreck? A sitcom that tells the story of a judge who drinks, smokes, swears, and has sex to excess in an irresponsible-considering-her-job-but-that’s-the-joke series that is basically a judicial version of the flop film and flop CBS series Bad Teacher is hardly the followup series anyone would expect from her after the success of Private Practice. There is honestly one joke in the entire mess (based on footage I’ve seen) and it’s barely funny. I also expect more from Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars) but at least he has that CW Seed digital series (Play it again, Dick) going so he can at least maintain some dignity.

Constantine (October 24): Based on the Keanu Reeves movie of the same name as well as the DC comic “Hellblazer”, Constantine is basically the spiritual godfather (no puns intended) of Supernatural. Expect demons, mythology, Biblical allusions- you know, the usual for this type of genre. I will not be watching this.

Marry Me (October 14): Loosely based on writer David Caspé’s engagement to his now wife (and series star) Casey Wilson (Happy Endings also written by Caspé), this is the romantic comedy for the rest of us. From the trailer, nothing works for this couple as the comedy of errors that is their relationship. I’m actually looking forward to this one as I like everyone involved immensely.

The Mysteries of Laura (September 17): I’ll admit, this is on my DVR right now and I haven’t watched it yet. I honestly didn’t even plan on watching it until I read an article that touted it’s badness. Every trailer I had seen so far assured me that it was going to be terrible but now I’m interested in seeing it for myself. Debra Messing plays a harried mother and NYPD homicide detective who, in Internet parlance, no longer has any fucks to give. I’m sorry, when I think bad ass, take no shit cops I do not think Messing and from what I can tell that is just the first of dozens of errors in judgement made by all involved in this. Poor Debra, we all want you to succeed after Smash, just not like this.

State of Affairs (November 17): Katherine Heigel’s long-awaited (?) return to TV is one of E!’s few favorable reviews this season (E! TV reporter Kristen Dos Santos called this the worst pilot season ever so take that as you will). There is just so much happening in the description of this series I don’t know where to start. So, here is the TV Guide brief on the show:

[…]In this political drama, she plays a top CIA attache who’s tasked with one heck of a job: put together a briefing for the president (Alfre Woodard) to assess the greatest threats to national security. And just in case that doesn’t sound stressful enough, she spends what little free time she has hunting down the terrorists who killed her fiancé, who happened to be the president’s son.”

Now, reading that, is this a broadcast version of Homeland (with an even blander title)? No part of this sounds intriguing, and Heigl is hardly the draw they need her to be.

Also : A to Z

CBS

Madam Secretary (September 21): Téa Leoni returnes to TV as Secretary of State. she is also “an outsider,” “unconventional,” and other words that have been beaten to death as character traits. Per the trailer, she is brash enough to be interesting, but not in the long term.

The McCarthy’s (October 30): I already hate this show. The father of a “sports obsessed Boston family” asks his sports hating gay son to be his assistant basketball coach. I know in this more enlightened age I shouldn’t instantly expect sophomoric or offensive humor, but I also know CBS so I have zero expectations of class.

NCIS: New Orleans (September 23): Scott Bakula fakes a Louisiana accent to be in the bayou version of that Mark Harmon show.

Scorpion (September 22): Katherine McPhee plays the only non-super genius in the series about a group of super geniuses who solve crimes. I don’t know what else to say. It is (loosely) based on a true story so that may hook some, but ultimately it’s another procedural albeit this time it’s a little more “off the grid”

Stalker (October 1): “So Hostages didn’t work” thought Dylan McDermott. “So, I think I’ll go ahead and do basically the same show, but I’ll be a good guy this time.” The previews make this look very creepy in a The Following kind of way, but it’s CBS’ bread and butter: cops vs bad guys

FOX

Gotham (September 22): crime drama about Batman without Batman (David Mazouz who is 13). This is the story of how Gotham city becomes the cesspool of crime and corruption that we know from Batman lore — how it got to the point that Batman was needed. This story follows Detective (future Commissioner) Gordon (Ben Mckenzie) as he fights the ultimately losing battle against crime. It also promises to show the extended origins of some iconic villains including The Penguin (Robin Lord Taylor), Catwoman (Camren Bicondova), and The Riddler (Cory Michael Smith). I can’t imagine how this show will sustain itself, especially long enough to allow for Batman to actually appear. It’s an exciting concept, but it’s also an extremely risky high-concept.

Gracepoint (October 2): Based on the British series Broadchurch, also starring David Tennant, this is a crime drama follows on single crime within a small town. This series is not my style, but it has a fantastic pedigree so if it’s up your alley I would check it out.

Mulaney (October 5): In the vein of Seinfeld, John Mulaney stars as a TV comedy writer (which, was his actual job on SNL) and stand up comic (also his real job). The show has been heavily anticipated as Mulaney is one of the most respected standups/writers working right now. Also he’s painfully hilarious.

Also: Red Band Society

The CW

The Flash (October 7): Spinning off from Arrow this new super hero series follows the fastest man alive, Barry Allen (Grant Gustin, Glee) as he stops super powered bad guys. The CW learned a lot of super lessons from Smallville and even more with Arrow so hopes are high for this one. Already they’re paying homage to the last televised iteration of The Flash by casting John Wesley Shipp as Barry’s father. It’s surprising that a CW series is one of the most anticipated shows of the Fall and it has a lot to live up to.

Jane the Virgin (October 13): This sounds so dumb. A virgin (Gina Rodriguez) is accidentally inseminated by her gynecologist during an exam, with the the sperm of her former crush/new boss. I can’t even imagine how this got picked up, besides it being based on a successful Spanish- language series. I doubt that this will be the new Ugly Betty though.

Several other shows, particularly on ABC and FOX, were picked up and have now been shunted to either the fledgling “winter season” December to late January or mideseason, February- May. Cable also has a lot of options (Happyland on MTV, Houdini on History, Intruders on BBCAmerica, Suvivor’s Remorse on Starz, and Z Nation on Syfy) not to mention DirectTV exclusive Kingdom who’s entire ad campaign seems to be shirtless Nick Jonas, which I’ll admit has been effective. Not to mention new reality offerings like FOX’s Utopia.

Is it any wonder Fall is my favorite season? I can almost smell the burning DVR now…

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