Every day this week, the internet has been filled with ripples of buzz for shows that won’t premiere for at least four more months–that’s the fun of network upfronts!
Look, with TV having changed so drastically in the past few years, a lot of people have all but written of network TV. Some days, I feel like one of them. But in an age of streaming and DVR, TV has lost that special experience of joint enjoyment that is most readily facilitated through network television. So, in a sense, I’m still rooting for them because I’m a fan of that type of shared experience.
22 episode seasons seem crazy long in this new TV frontier but there is something still appealing about them. Sure, when they’re bad, 22 episodes can seem awfully arduous, but all those extra hours give shows the chance to craft actual episodes. To take risks here and there. I’m not the first person to make this observation, I’ll admit, but I agree with the chorus of other critics who still see the value of network television, even in a vastly transformed landscape.
And let’s be fair, in the past few years, network TV has brought us The Good Wife, Hannibal, Empire and the Shonda shows, not to mention great comedies like Community, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Parks and Recreation (and The Grinder R.I.P.). And then there’s The CW where both The Flash and Arrow have been great at different points throughout their run and Jane The Virgin is doing something wholly original and thoroughly entertaining. In the midst of seemingly endless procedurals (and, to be fair, a great procedural DOES have its place) there is some true creativity and diversity still to be found on network television.
The model will need to be tweaked–network TV lives and dies on live ratings no matter what anyone tells you and it will always struggle until networks genuinely find a way to satisfy advertisers through alternative methods. As it stands now, we’ll continue to see bloodbaths like we saw at the end of last week if networks don’t find a way to make this new terrain work for its shows. But I’ll let them figure out the hard stuff.
I just wanted to be on record as saying that I am actually rooting for networks….even if they are sometimes their own worst enemy. I’ve had a lot of thoughts watching these trailers throughout the week (as those who follow me on Twitter very well know) and I figured I might as well share some of them. I’m using this post to share all of the new fall network trailers in one simple location (NBC and CW have not made mid-season trailers available yet) and I’ll be sharing my two cents regarding each. Make sure to leave your comments if you want to agree or argue with me. I’ll go down each network in alphabetic order, beginning with a few opening thoughts on how the network is doing.
And keep in mind as we begin, these are just my initial thoughts on the trailers; I’m well aware that the actual shows might be better (or worse) than they look.
[NOTE: If you’re interested in a full grid for the upcoming season, TVLine has put one together that should come in handy]
Opening Thoughts: ABC needs a hit. While Grey’s Anatomy being the network’s number one show heading into its 13th season says a whole lot about Grey’s durability, it doesn’t say a whole lot about ABC’s ability to launch new, reliable hits. They’ve found a lot of success with comedies which explains why they’re doubling down more than ever, but some of their new offerings leave a lot to be desired. On the drama side, I’d be shocked if they didn’t get at least one or two hits out of this bunch (although, to be fair, it’s getting harder and harder to agree on what constitutes a hit these days).
Designated Survivor (Wednesday 10/9c)
My Two Cents: This seems like the most surefire network hit of the fall season. Period. I never watched 24 (I know–gasp–but it’s on my list!) but it’s impossible not to be pulled in to what Kiefer Sutherland is doing in this trailer. Sure, the basic premise is ripped right out of Battlestar Galatica (minus Cylons–at least, that I know of) but this is obviously a very different approach to that scenario and the trailer very effectively sets the tone of the series and leaves me wanting more.
American Housewife (Tuesdays, 8:30/7:30c)
My Two Cents: ABC has done a great job successfully building a solid family comedy brand…this show almost fits in except that it could not be more unappealing. I know it’s dangerous to say this in an age where disliking the new Ghostbusters trailer mars you as a vicious sexist for life, but I hate everything about this show and I feel absolutely zero sympathy for Katie Otto’s character because she seems just as awful as all the awful people she despises in her bougie town. Previously known as The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport, this show is aggressively unfunny, mistaking low hanging fruit for edgy humor.
Conviction (Mondays 10/9c)
My Two Cents: People swear that Agent Carter got great but I was bored after the first few episodes so I checked out. That being said, Haley Atwell seems great here in a vehicle that looks like it was built in an ABC factory down the hall from Shondaland. With Scandal on the bench this fall (and testing my patience with each passing season), I’m due for another fun, soapy guilty pleasure and Conviction seems like it’ll do the trick.
Notorious (Thursday 9/8c)
My Two Cents: Speaking of Scandal, its replacement this fall is a new show called Notorious which boasts one of the most unintentionally comical trailers of the season. This show wants all the sexy moral ambiguity of a show like Scandal but without any of the elements that actually made Scandal smart and fun at the beginning. It looks stupid but, to be fair, the ABC voiceover guy really makes this seem ten times worse than it might have been otherwise.
Speechless (Wednesday 8:30/7:30c)
My Two Cents: A family sitcom featuring a special needs kid is going to need to walk a very fine line. One step too far one way and it’s offensive, the other way and it’s just cloying. I thought there was some potential here, although there are a number of things in the trailer I didn’t love. Minnie Driver was very good in About A Boy and brings a lot of that same heart to this new role. This one will likely need some tweaking but I think it deserves a shot.
Downward Dog (Midseason)
My Two Cents: I’m rooting for Allison Tolman. Heck, part of me even roots for a comedy that features a seemingly depressed dog talking to the audience about how sad he is that his owner is dating. But every bit of this trailer was awful. Maybe they’ll figure out how to make this a good show by the time it premieres but for now….this is an awkward, cringe-worthy mess.
Imaginary Mary (Midseason)
My Two Cents: Maybe worse than Downward Dog because on top of its high concept, it’s nauseatingly cutesy. I’m indifferent on both Jenna Elfman and Rachel Dratch (who voices her imaginary friend) for the most part, but this trailer makes a strong case against both of them. I’ve grown even more sour on this trailer since watching it the first time. I can see value in a Drop Dead Fred like premise as a TV show but, for some reason, it just really annoys me that anyone thought any of this stuff was actually funny.
Still Star-Crossed (Midseason)
My Two Cents: This show sounded really bad on paper. From the trailer, I still don’t know that it’s necessarily for me but I thought this trailer looked surprisingly promising. I don’t know that it’ll work on ABC but I appreciate the effort of something different (and Shonda’s name on it will give it a boost, I’m sure).
Time After Time (Midseason)
My Two Cents: It’s the year of time travel and I’m already sick of it before most these shows have even started (although, to be fair, Legends of Tomorrow did take a big crap on the concept this season) but man, this show just looks fun. I feel like, for the most part, these time travel shows aren’t having enough fun with the concept. Bringing Jack the Ripper to 2016? I’m kind of in. I don’t know if it has any sort of sustainability but I enjoyed the trailer.
Opening Thoughts: CBS doesn’t need me but now, without The Good Wife gone and with the exception of Mom, I surely don’t need CBS. They tried to leave the box a little last year with Supergirl and Limitless (one of which has found a new home, the latter of which is still shopping for one) and it didn’t work out for them. So they’re playing it safe. But can you do something for me, CBS? If you’re gonna continue to launch such boring shows, can you please make your upfront trailers shorter? Much appreciated. Not for nothing, CBS is struggling just like any other network, just less so. I guess boring people tend to watch TV live more than anyone else because I can’t imagine what other type of person would watch some of this crap.
Bull (Tuesday 9/8c)
My Two Cents: Ugh. I hated this trailer so much and I’m almost positive it’ll be a huge hit for CBS. It’s got Michael Weatherly in it they’re putting it right after NCIS so his fans don’t get lost on the way to finding it. Only CBS would launch a Dr. Phil origin story. God help us. Apparently Dr. Phil spent his early days being a tremendous douche, smugly consulting with lawyers using the same type of mystical intuition all CBS protagonists possess. If anything about this trailer looked appealing to you, we just have completely different tastes in TV. Which is okay. If someone’s gonna endure this drivel, better you than me.
The Great Indoors (Thursday 8:30/7:30c)
My Two Cents: Screw you, CBS. You’re trying to make me hate Joel McHale and I’m not gonna let you. I’m just gonna never watch this show so my admiration for him remains untainted. Because this looks terrible. As many others have pointed out, it’s very similar to the Last Man Standing set-up (seriously–who would have thought?) and essentially has McHale playing the smug manly man who does nothing but make tired cracks about millennials all day. Millennial jokes have gotten so lazy, no one should even attempt them unless they actually have something interesting to say. This is an entire show built around the same exhausted jokes we’ve been hearing for years. Hard pass.
Kevin Can Wait (Monday 8:30/7:30c, moves to 8 after football concludes)
My Two Cents: I really liked The King of Queens when I was younger and I honestly don’t hate it when reruns come on now (although it certainly wasn’t anything groundbreaking). After James’s abomination of a film career though, I generally have zero patience for his schtick so I wasn’t amused by anything in this trailer. However, this was one of the few CBS trailers that just had me feeling indifferent rather than violently annoyed, so that does count for something. For those who watched Children’s Hospital, it probably goes without saying that the most horrendous part of this show is knowing someone as funny as Erinn Hayes is gonna be trapped playing Kevin James’s wife for the next several years (that money tho).
Man With A Plan (Mondays 8:30/7:30c after football concludes)
My Two Cents: Someone at CBS thinks the idea of fathers actually raising their children is really freakin hilarious. Along with Kevin Can Wait, this is the second show about the hilarity of stay-at-home days and it looks so lazy and unfunny, I imagine it almost makes Matt Leblanc wish Pucks was a real show he could star in instead. However, if a few seasons of this show results in a new incarnation of Episodes down the line about how much Leblanc hated making this generic crap, it’ll all be worth it.
Pure Genius (Thursday 10/9c)
My Two Cents: If Jason Katims’s name was not attached to this, I wouldn’t give it a second thought. As it stands, I’ll probably watch the pilot at least. But this is not a good trailer. Augustus Prew irritates me and the premise seems ripe for heavy-handed Hallmark moments, but Katims does genuine emotion and human relationships so well that I’m hoping he’s able to make some magic out of this CBS schlock.
Training Day (Midseason)
My Two Cents: Bill Paxton feels annoyingly on-the-nose as the “bad cop” in this trailer so I heavily disliked most of it. Towards the end, it showed a bit of promise. If the show actually digs deep into the themes surrounding the two cops’ differing worldviews, there could be something here. I doubt CBS is interested in digging too deep into anything though so that’s probably unlikely. But…maybe?
My Two Cents: Most of this cast is gonna be replaced (other than Lucas Till and George Eads), the pilot’s gonna be rewritten and reshot so who cares? I thought rebooting MacGyver sounded like a stupid idea and this trailer does nothing to convince me otherwise. And Lucas Till needs a haircut.
Opening Thoughts: The CW operates more like a cable channel than a network, renewing all of its shows from this past season and justifying many of those renewals on things like international deals. The Berlanti-DCverse has probably gotten a little out of hand with The CW picking up CBS’s Supergirl cast off, but there’s still room for vampires, demons and whimsy so CW’s still CWing.
Frequency (Wednesday 9/8c)
My Two Cents: Peyton List was asked to do very little on Mad Men and did just fine; she was asked to do a lot more on The Flash and was kind of terrible. So I’m not sure what to expect here, but she seems to holding her own just fine in this trailer. I loved Frequency when I was younger and although I don’t know that it lends itself to a TV series, I feel like the trailer sets a decent course for what the first season would look like. It doesn’t look amazing but intriguing enough that I’m in. Seems more adult than the average CW show which I thought was interesting, being that it’s one of their only pick-ups this season.
No Tomorrow (Tuesday, 9/8c)
My Two Cents: After viewing both the Jane The Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend trailers, I thought those shows looked pretty dumb and annoying with high concepts that wouldn’t last beyond a few episodes. I feel the same way about No Tomorrow but with the knowledge that Jane The Virgin remains one of my favorite shows after two seasons and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend contains enough genius strokes amongst its missteps to consistently earn my love, so…..maybe No Tomorrow deserves a shot too. It certainly wants me to believe that it’s in the same wheelhouse as those two other shows, but I didn’t like a single thing about this trailer. Except when the pogo stick jumped back out at her when she threw it in the dumpster. I did chuckle at that. So, I mean, obviously I’m not that hard to please.
Opening Thoughts: FOX has the biggest broadcast hit of the moment with Empire, but it doesn’t have a whole lot else. Shows like Gotham and Rosewood perform well enough and it’s a got a couple durable comedies but no major hits outside of the Lyon family. Things are dire enough that they didn’t even cancel and abysmally rated, creative trainwreck that is Sleepy Hollow (oh, how I miss the S1 version of that show…). I mean, they could just keep reviving every hit in their library, but I imagine they’d like to have a few new hits as well. A few thoughts on their first American Idol-less season since 2002…..
The Exorcist (Friday, 9/8c)
My Two Cents: To be honest with you, I didn’t want this to look good because I don’t actually want to watch a show about demon possession every week. FOX made it easy for me, releasing the single most boring horror trailer I’ve ever seen.
Lethal Weapon (Wednesday 8/7c)
My Two Cents: The Lethal Weapon movies were a few years before my time and I never made the effort to watch them so I came into this trailer without a single expectation, just general annoyance at how obsessed everyone is with rebooting things. As far as cop procedurals go, this one looks like it could be a little fun and the two leads both work for me. I don’t know that I’m sold on this being a show I want to watch personally but it doesn’t look as aimless and unnecessary as the Rush Hour trailer did.
Son of Zorn (8:30/7:30c)
My Two Cents: So far, this one looks more weird than funny but I really like the idea and feel of the show. And I really like Jason Sudeikis and trust Lord and Miller so this is a win across the board for me even if it’s got some work to do.
My Two Cents: This looks really dumb but it’s dumb in a way that I can’t even get worked up about. It looks like a show that was specifically designed to be cancelled by FOX.
Making History (Midseason)
My Two Cents: My favorite comedy trailer by a wide margin. Even when it went for some of the easy pop culture references, I was grinning like an idiot from beginning to end. This is the only time travel show this season choosing to use it for comedy purposes and it’s using it well! Adam Pally definitely deserves a starring vehicle and the rest of the cast is knocking it out of the park so I’m in.
The Mick (Midseason)
My Two Cents: As far as “irresponsible adult takes care of children” premises go, this trailer got a few solid laughs out of me. Could wear thin quick but based on this trailer, I’m in for a few episodes at least.
Pitch (Thursday 9/8c, previous scheduled for midseason)
My Two Cents: I’m not a sports guy and especially not a baseball guy so I had zero interest in this show. What a difference a trailer makes! I’d probably say this one is tied with Designated Survivor as the most effective trailer of the upfronts. The trailer gives away the entire pilot and things play out just as you would predict, but the execution is just so flawless, I instantly found myself invested in the story and ready for more.
Shots Fired (Midseason)
My Two Cents: This one is essentially FOX Presents Important Show Talking About Important Things and my immediate response is that it’s a little much and borders on exploitative. Then again, the same could be said for American Crime which only works because it’s able to expertly navigate heavy issues with the respect they deserve. I can appreciate what Shots Fired is going for and I think it looks promising with some solid performances, but I still walked away from this trailer feeling a little uneasy about the whole thing.
My Two Cents: I’m gonna be writing a little bit about my waning patience with Empire next week, but it’s basically running into some of the problems that were almost inevitable from the beginning. Balancing that kind of high drama week to week gets exhausting. Star looks like it’s taking a more grounded approach while still keeping some elements of the Empire DNA and I can definitely roll with that. Gonna give it a shot.
Prison Break (Midseason)
My Two Cents: I stayed with Prison Break through to the bitter end and honestly….I mostly liked it. The back half of season 4 lost me, but up until that point, I was sticking with this thing through all its ups and downs and mostly having a lot of fun. It’s beyond preposterous they’re bringing this thing back–having to resurrect its main character in the process–but yeah, I’ll be watching.
24: Legacy (Midseason, will premiere after the Superbowl)
My Two Cents: As I confessed earlier, I never watched 24. So the brand recognition does nothing for me and it probably doesn’t for most others because this is clearly not 24. It’s another action series about a new character that fans of 24 might enjoy, but it’s not 24. This trailer seemed fine to me but kind of forgettable.
Opening Thoughts: The things that work for NBC really work. Football helps skew their ratings to make the network look more successful overall than it really is but The Voice continues to perform well and people seem to really love those Chicago shows. Blindspot is a modest hit and The Blacklist continues to perform okay, with Superstore and The Carmichael Show showing a bit of life on the comedy front. It’s got its strengths, but it’s still struggling to make noise in this new landscape just like everyone else.
The Good Place (Thursday 8:30/7:30c)
My Two Cents: I’m a huge Veronica Mars fan but I haven’t liked a whole lot that Kristen Bell has done since then. I mean, she’s always good, I just don’t love the projects she chooses (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Frozen notwithstanding). The Good Place seems poised to break the curse with a really fun concept and a writing team I trust. Ted Danson certainly deserves better than being stuck on CSI:Cyber too so this is really a win for them both. The trailer isn’t perfect but has loads of promise. I’m excited to see this thing come to life.
This Is Us (Tuesday 9/8c)
My Two Cents: This season, no trailer tried to tug on our heartstrings quite as shamelessly as this one and it’s clear they’re taking a lot of pride in how “moving” this one is. So I found that a little bit off-putting, but I’m not entirely opposed to what I’m seeing here. There is some promise but, admittedly, there’s a bigger chance that it’s just a cheesy melodramatic snoozefest, so we’ll see how the pilot turns out.
Timeless (Monday 10/9c)
My Two Cents: I want this to be good and I want this to be a hit because Abigail Spencer deserves it. Based on the trailer alone though….ehhh. It looks kind of dull. And with so many time travel shows premiering this year, I’m not sure this trailer does a single thing to stand out. Like, it does nothing to sell me on its purpose. So there’s really not a whole lot to be excited about here but I still hope it ends up being better than it looks.