Every year the broadcast networks try and every year their offerings seem increasingly bizarre. In this era of “peak TV” when cable has the cream of the crop prestige content with interesting stories and strong characters and streaming has off the beaten path edgy bingeable shows with stories and characters that increasingly defy genre conventions the broadcast networks have yet to find a way to redefine themselves. And so it goes that we have a fall TV season filled with the same old same old (procedurals, military dramas, reality shows, and the odd spin off/reboot) as well as some stand out (for good or bad) glimpses of… if not innovation then the glimmer of trying to try something new. With that in mind, here’s a look at the stand outs of what is coming.
You know that the procedural genre has swelled to the breaking point when you get this plot (per Wikipedia): ”After his career as a magician is ruined by scandal, Las Vegas illusionist Cameron Black becomes the world’s first “consulting illusionist” as he works with the FBI to solve odd crimes” I don’t know who in the Now You See Me thought that this was a sustainable idea for a series but they were mistaken. And with a barely recognizable cast (Amaury Nolesco, Lenora Critchlow, and Vinnie Jones are the only ones I didn’t have to look up) I see this being a fast disappearing act (I could not resist)
Marvel’s The Inhumans
This will premiere in IMAX before premiering on network.
Now that the positive is out of the way, this looks aggressively terrible. Critics who have seen the pilot (or a version of it) have savaged it, the trailer looks somewhere between a fan film and a joke and the source material (which is related to but different from the inhumans introduced on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD) is needlessly complicated and odd. There is a character that is a teleporting dog. Which, in comics is fine (and in fairness he is the character that looks the best per the trailer) but in live action is almost off-puttingly weird. Add to that the woman with living hair and the man who will never speak for the duration of the series (and he’s the top-billed actor!) This is likely to be Marvel TV’s first outright failure which I think is a good reality check that they don’t need to try to adapt all of their properties to the MCU. Marvel has some weird stuff! In Secret Wars II Spiderman had to teach a cosmic being to poop. This in canon. I’m just saying.
Somehow the most hyped series on ABC’s line up is this odd-looking show that I keep describing in my head as what people thought Trump was: publicity stunt the series. A struggling rapper runs for mayor to gain press for his music and oops, he wins. If nothing else, this show looks like it might be cute and if it’s a slightly more idealized version of the political outsider story it might be fun for a bit. But, I don’t think we’re talking about a show with longevity.
Star Trek: Discovery
The 1st live action Trek series since Star Trek: Enterprise ended in 2005, Discovery has had a rough road to the screen. Besides the fact that it will be “airing” on CBS’ paid All-Access platform (after the pilot airs on the network) deterring a lot of people from wanting to watch, it also has had enough behind the scenes upheaval to give people pause. That said, the trailer looks gorgeous. The production value on this show is insane. Discovery is also aiming to be more diverse than any previous series having Trek’s first openly gay character in Paul Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and his partner Hugh Culber (Wilson Cruz), a brand new species in the Kelpien Science Officer Saru (Doug Jones), and the series will follow not only a First officer, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) but also (apparently) 2 different ships the in the Discovery and the Shenzhou. And, all that sounds great and exciting, but the fact that the show will be locked behind a pay wall and that it takes place around 10 years prior to Star Trek is sure to deter all but the most extreme Trekkers.
Me, Myself, & I
This show, starring Bobby Moynihan, John Larroquette, and Jack Dylan Grazer as the same person at different stages in his life, seems like it could either be fascinating or a hot mess. I love Moynihan and Larroquette and I can see them having similar comic sensibilities. I question though how they will find enough themes to resonate in 3 different time periods often enough to give all 3 actors something to do episode to episode. But, it’s just high concept enough that it might be worth a look
Wisdom of the Crowd
Jeremy Piven-starring procedural about crowd sourcing crime solving. Seriously, crimes are solved with Facebook and Twitter. I get that this is possible in the age where all things are filmed and posted about, but the idea of watching an entire series about reading people’s timelines sounds deathly boring. To make it more exciting with they be zooming in and out of social networks with the CSI-type TMI cam effect? I am already so bored by this concept.
A spin-off of The Big Bang Theory focusing on the preteen version of Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage). I know that sounds terrible.
What? I have nothing more to say. It sounds awful. It’s taken 9 seasons of Theory for that character to grow beyond one-note, why regress him to a child? Were people clamoring to see some bullying? On the sparse plus side, the show will be narrated (and executive produced) by Sheldon originator Jim Parsons and Sheldon’s mom Mary will be played by Zoe Perry who is the daughter of Laurie Metcalf who plays the older version of Mary on the original series which is a nice bit of business.
The latest entry into The CW’s DC Comics stable — but not part of the existing “Arrowverse” for a lot of reasons that no one has adequately explained — will be different than the others is so many ways. Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is a retired hero who comes back to crime fighting, people in his life already know about his abilities and his past, and he is a father. Just that level of potential short handing of the “inciting action” is exciting in a superhero show so if nothing else I am excited for that. But, this show will also be shot in Atlanta which should add a different visual element to the proceedings that will further set itself apart. It’s just the lack of connection to the existing series that irks me because there is no reason for it to be that way. It shoots in Atlanta versus Vancouver, fine but planes exist. I’m not saying it should be part of the yearly crossover all the time but clearly this lack of connection will be rectified at some point and it will be part of the multiverse. It will eventually be folded into the existing mythology and to pretend otherwise from the producers (of which Greg Berlanti is one, hello?) is silly. Don’t want to do it right off the bat to allow it to grow its own identity, fine, but The CW is basically DCTV and Supernatural at this point so…
I love reboots. In theory. I have always longed-for epilogues for my favorite shows, and I eat up where are they now specials. It seems 2017 will be the year of the reboot with Roseanne and American Idol coming back to ABC and Will & Grace coming back to NBC (for 2 seasons!) The CW did not want to be left behind so here comes Dynasty? The continuing story of the Carringtons will be lavish and luxe and likely cheesy as hell. I’ll admit to watching every night time soap reboot in the past few years, from 90210 to Dallas and I have loved them all to varying degrees (although that Melrose Place redux was a mess) so I am already so in on this show. And with the production team behind The O.C. and Gossip Girl, and starring Grant Show (ex-Jake Original Ray’s Melrose Place) I can see this being appointment viewing.
Another crime drama focusing on police, fire, and paramedics. That’s all well and good. However. If you’re going to call your show 9–1–1 and you’re not focusing at least partially on dispatchers WHO ANSWER THE 911 CALLS, you’re doing it wrong. #dispatchersarefirstresponderstoo
Adam Scott and Craig Robinson star in this Ghostbusters meets The X-Files series that looks hilarious.
Another Marvel show, this one airing on FOX so they’re able to use X-Men characters. And it looks rad. We’ve got mutants (known X-Men characters are currently Polaris, Blink, and Thundrebird), Struckers (google it) and a mutant hunting group with the word Sentinel in the name. Yay! But, to sidestep the movies and established characters, the X-Men are ”missing” in some unspecified manner. I’m 100% ok with that as the movies have a complicated enough continuity without trying to hammer this show into it. Plus? This show stars Stephen Moyer and Amy Acker so it already has established genre cred. They haven’t even given a hard no to Rogue (Anna Paquin) appearing on the show in the future (Somehow) as the actress is married to Moyer. Between this and Hulu’s Runaways I’m glad I have a comic show to really get excited for coming soon.
Seth MacFarlane in a live-action Star Trek rip-off comedy shouldn’t work but every trailer, preview, and clip I have seen works perfectly. I cannot wait for this show. That it is premiering in the same season as a new Star Trek and I am more into this should show you the power of not making me pay for extra services that will give me Star Trek and the Big Brother live feeds and nothing else.
Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Someone at NBC watched the truckloads of awards that The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story pulled in and decided that they needed a piece of that. And, if they were to brand it in their venerable Law & Order banner all the better. And? It looks really good. I still think that these types of stories are better told on cable where there is less…um…oversight? But from broadcast TV this looks pretty strong.
Meet Glee but for a Drama Club. It’s based on a true story and an inspirational book about a drama club that saves a blue-collar town and I just expect star Josh Radnor to spew endless monologues about the importance of art and the power of performance and the gay panic story that I am sure is to come (because I gather it’s in the book) is already making me itchy.
*As NBC is perpetually struggling, their offerings this year are pretty straightforward and not insane. That said they’re also somewhere between earnest and awards-bait and it all seems exhausting. And I am including the Will & Grace comeback is that assessment.