Ah, the promise of a new fall TV season. Having announced the titles in the late spring, the broadcast networks have slowly begun the rollout of promotional material for their new crop of series set to premiere starting in September.
There's anticipation in the air, the hope for a new out-of-the-box sensation - something that will grab on to a wide audience's imagination and attention span, then settle in for a solid five or six seasons, followed by success on home video, sales to a hungry international market and a long life in syndication, providing the kind of ancillary revenue stream that ultimately defines the term itself. (Hey, ten points to me for using "ancillary revenue stream" in a sentence!)
Will that happen? Who knows? It's certainly possible - not bloody likely, but possible. While it is fun to handicap the ratings race (which I admit that I will do from time to time as the season approaches), I usually go into the fall season less interested in seeing what will be a hit and what will be a flop, and more interested in figuring out what shows will be worth my time. Some will become smashes, others will fail miserably, and there will be those few - those sad, tragic few - who will be stuck on the ratings bubble, neither hit nor flop.
With that in mind, I present you a look at a quartet of new shows that will be premiering on the broadcast networks in the coming weeks and months, two that I'm very much looking forward to seeing, as well as a new drama that promises much, but doesn't seem to deliver on any of it, as well as a new comedy that has me completely baffled - and not in a good way.
My pick for most interesting looking new drama is "Person of Interest," coming to CBS' Thursday night at 8 p.m. slot, bumping out long-time hit "CSI." A new J.J. Abrams-produced series is always going to grab my interest. He created a couple of my all-time favorite shows ("Lost" and "Alias"), and while I can't say that I've been able to get into his FOX series "Fringe," I can understand why it has become a genuine cult hit. Combine his talent for bringing cinematic scope to the small screen with the storytelling skills of Jonathan Nolan, who co-wrote "The Dark Knight" and "Inception," and the possibility that "Person of Interest" could be not just a terrific show, but also a breakout hit have increased exponentially. Granted, I've only seen a few clips so far, but what I've seen, I've liked. If there is one pilot I'm itching to see, this is it.
The new comedy that I'm championing is "Suburgatory," airing on ABC Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. starting this September. Two seasons ago, ABC launched an audacious new comedy lineup, then saw it bear fruit - although not in the way that they (or anyone else) might have expected. "Modern Family" is the top sitcom on TV, sure, but both "The Middle" and "Cougar Town" have done well enough to merit their own renewals. While "Cougar Town" is having its return held back for a while, "The Middle" will start its season on time, positioned in the 7 o'clock hour. The new series that ABC has chosen to position between it and "Modern Family," "Suburgatory," is the first comedy that feels like a perfect bridge between the two other comedies' sensibilities. I've seen the full pilot of this one and it's a complete delight. The writing and performances are edgy but honest, and while the show is chock-full of big laughs, there's also a surprising amount of heart.
My choice for least-appealing new drama is NBC's "The Playboy Club," airing Monday nights at 9 p.m. Nothing about this hour-long series holds that much promise. The title wants you to think the show is a powder keg of sex and secrets and danger, but the moments that I've seen from this show don't even come close to fulfilling that. A woefully miscast Eddie Cibrian tries to look as cool as a "Mad Men" character as he presides over the 1960s-era Chicago Playboy Club, but an abundance of clunky, faux hard-boiled dialogue sinks any interest in this show early.
Now I have to talk about "Work It," which isn't yet scheduled, but ABC still insists will actually air sometime. I say "have to talk about" mostly out of a sense of resignation -- this appears to be the kind of TV show that will make my reviewing hobby a chore. "Work It" is the story of two men so desperate for employment that they dress up as women to get jobs at a pharmaceutical company. And then, not only do they get the jobs, the actual women they work with don't suspect for one moment that these are men in drag. Think about that for a second, then pat yourself on the back for considering the absurdity of that premise for exactly one second longer than anyone involved in the making of this insipid program did. The pilot scenes I viewed were, sorry to say, their own individual train wrecks. To say that I am not looking forward to watching the pilot in its entirety would be an understatement.