In an ever-changing world there is still one constant; namely that when school is back in session the broadcast networks unveil their new shows. Here is a look at what they have in store for us:
As has long been the case, CBS was America’s most watched network last year and they have what would appear the most foolproof new show of the fall, “Young Sheldon,” which is a spinoff from the wildly popular “Big Bang Theory.” The show will focus on the awkward childhood years of the show’s lead high-IQ character, Sheldon (Jim Parsons who serves as an executive producer here). Iain Armitage plays Sheldon as a pre-adolescent. Whetstone native Steven Molaro serves as an executive producer
Another sure thing should be the reboot of a ‘70s classic “SWAT,” with former “Criminals Mind” co-star Shemar Moore in the old Steve Forrest role as the leader of an elite LA police tactical unit. At the recent Television Critics Association (TCA) conference held in Beverly Hills, Moore said that he wants to tell Los Angeles law enforcement stories from a minority viewpoint something which never happened with legendary Jack Webb series as “Dragnet” and “Adam-12.”
It seems to be de rigeur that every television network have a military drama this fall and the Tiffany Network’s entry is “SEAL Team” starring “Bones” co-star David Boreanaz and Jessica Pare. Boreanaz told the TCA conference that there will be more time spent learning about his squad’s personal lives than on the mission of the week.
Jeremy Piven, who will always best be known, as Ari Gold on the HBO showbiz sendup, “Entourage,” switches to drama in “Wisdom of the Crowd” as he plays a Silicon Valley billionaire who quits his company after his daughter murdered and dedicates himself to using technology to track down criminals who have evaded justice. The show is inspired by a former CBS tech procedural, “Person of Interest.” Let’s hope that it has some of POI’s dry humor or this will be a very turgid hour.
While CBS appears to be on firm ground with the aforementioned “Young Sheldon,” it’s gambling with another pair of comedies, “Me, Myself, and I” and “9JKL.”
“Me, Myself, and I” tells the tale of Alex when he was 14 back in 1991; at age 40 today; and looks ahead to when he’s 65 in 2042. Jack Dylan Grazer (nephew of film producer Brian Grazer) plays Alex at 14 while sitcom vet John Larroquette plays the elder version. Most of the heavy lifting though will fall to Bobby Moynihan who just left “Saturday Night Live” after nine seasons. The concept is clever but it remains to see if it will find enough of an audience to satisfy CBS execs.
‘9JKL” star and executive producer Mark Feuerstein claims that the inspiration for this show came from his own life when he returned to his native Upper East Side to film the USA Network hit “Royal Pains.” He had previously moved to the West Coast where he was enjoying a successful acting career. Mark wound up returning to his old apartment building and living in the same apartment building as his brother and his parents.
Apparently the lack of privacy was an issue for Feuerstein as that was the central joke of the pilot which also contained a number of unfortunate Jewish stereotypes. Feuerstein is a very personable actor and is also a Princeton University alum so he’s clearly a sharp guy. He has a solid supporting cast that includes Elliott Gould, Linda Lavin, and up and coming actress and Long Island City native Liza Lapira. My sincere hope is that things will improve dramatically for this show.
It wasn’t that long ago that NBC’s primetime lineup was a FEMA-type disaster area. Things have improved markedly for the Peacock Network, thanks primarily to last year’s big rookie weepy drama hit, “This Is Us.”
NBC has the broadcast rights to two big February sports extravaganzas, the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics from PyeongChang, South Korea. It will use those highly-watched platforms to promote mid-season shows so NBC will debuting few new shows this fall.
“Everything Old Is New Again” was a witty and perceptive song composed by the late Peter Allen and it certainly is apropos for NBC as it will be reviving “Will & Grace” nearly 20 years after it first debuted and enjoyed a nine-season run.
Last year the original cast of Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullally got together and played their old characters for a video that supported Hillary Clinton in her unsuccessful presidential campaign. It garnered a lot of attention including that of NBC programming executives who wondered if the cast would consider reprising their roles in a weekly series again. The answer was a resounding yes.
NBC’s other new fall show, “The Brave,” concerns a special operations military force that undertakes what seem to be impossible missions. Anne Heche is the best known cast member. With so many other shows and movies dealing with the same plot device combined with the fact that this is not the kind of program one associates with NBC, the odds of good ratings would seem to be as daunting as their mission of the week.
NBC’s big fall event will be a “Law & Order” miniseries dramatizing the Menendez bothers, Erik and Lyle, who were convicted of killing their parents in Beverly Hills in 1989. Producer Dick Wolf is promising a sympathetic portrayal of the siblings who claim that they were driven to kill because of parental physical and sexual abuse. It is scheduled to end towards the end of September.
One of the surprising facts about the television industry is that while primetime gets most of the attention, daytime has always been where the profits are for the networks. Therefore it wasn’t surprising that NBC officials had comedian Steve Harvey talk about his new 3 PM daily talk show with television journalists a few weeks ago.
Harvey’s show, “Steve,” will serve as the lead-in for Ellen DeGeneres”s similarly first-named 4 PM talk show, “Ellen.” Steve claims that his goal is to create a show that feels more like the kind that you see at 11:30 PM. While that sounds like a smart idea, Harvey admitted that it’s easier said than done when I pointed out that David Letterman tried to do the same thing in 1980 on NBC. Letterman’s sophisticated humor went over the heads of morning viewers and the show was cancelled after a few months.
NBC Entertainment CEO Bob Greenblatt crowed that “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon is dominating the 18-49 demographic in the late night talk show wars but was a bit defensive when I pointed out that historically the “Tonight Show” dominated the solar system when it came to ratings. While the Trump administration has been great for “Saturday Night Live,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers,” (and of especially MSNBC which has come out of nowhere to become the most watched cable network in the country), it has particularly benefitted CBS “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert, whose anti-Trump monologs have become a nightly must-watch event, at Fallon’s expense.
Bob Greenblatt said at the TCA confab that Colbert’s success was the result of the news cycle. “I guarantee you that Jimmy Fallon will have his job a lot longer that Donald Trump has his current one!” he told me in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton.
The past few years have not been stellar for what the entertainment trade magazine, Variety, has long referred to as the Alphabet Network. The good news is that ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey has greenlit some promising programs.
My pick for the breakout star of the new season is someone who reminds me of a young Will Smith, comedic actor Brandon Micheal Hall (yes, he inverts the “e” and “a” in his middle name) who has attracted critical attention in the TBS comedy “Search Party.”
Hall has the title role in “The Mayor.” His character is an aspiring hip-hop performer who comes up with the idea of running for mayor of his small city as a publicity stunt to promote his music. Of course the joke is on him as he wins the election and has to face this responsibility.
The showrunner behind “The Mayor” is former MSNBC producer Jeremy Bronson who is trying to mesh witty comedy with a touch of much needed civics. Bronson told me that the inspiration for the show came not from Donald Trump but rather that of wrestler Jesse Ventura who served as governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003.
One show that will certainly catch attention is “The Good Doctor,” whose premise is whether a top-flight surgeon has a place in medicine if he happens to be autistic. British actor Freddy Highmore, who has played more than his share of offbeat characters, is Dr. Sean Murphy, a technical wiz in the operating room but whose interpersonal skills do not fall into the category of traditional bedside manner. The executive producer of “The Good Doctor” is David Shore who was the creative force behind the old Hugh Laurie series on Fox, “House.”
Also looking promising is “Ten Days In The Valley,” in which Kyra Sedgwick plays a writer of a weekly TV network police procedural. Art tragically imitates life when her daughter is kidnaped from her San Fernando Valley home.
The one clunker to avoid is “Kevin Probably Saves The World” starring Jason Ritter as an ordinary Joe who is forced to change his ways when he encounters a guardian angel. We’ve seen variations of this theme for years on TV and it has been done better previously based on the clip that I saw.
Although it won’t be airing until mid-season, “American Idol,” with Ryan Seacrest hosting and Katy Perry making $25 million as one of the judges, jumps to ABC two years after Fox ended its run.
While things aren’t as rosy for Fox as when “American Idol” was in its Simon Cowell heyday, or when “Glee” was an obsession for many, the fourth network has more than held its own.
Although its ratings sagged a bit last year, “Empire” is the Fox’s flagship show outside of “The Simpsons” which looks as if it will run forever. Not surprisingly, “Empire” is launching a spinoff, “STAR,” about a female vocal group looking to make it big in the music biz. Based on what I saw, you can think of it as “Dreamgirls” meets Bob Fosse because of the singing and elaborate choreography. Benjamin Bratt and Queen Latifah are the big names in the cast. Expect the relatively unknown singers to be anything but anonymous by December.
Seth MacFarlane has long had a working relationship with Fox so it’s not surprising that they would indulge him with an hour-long series in which he is the titular star. “The Orville” appeared based on its two-minute promotional clip to be a comedic spoof of “Star Trek” in the vein of the very likable 1999 Tim Allen-Sigourney Weaver film, “Galaxy Quest.” Certainly that is the impression that Fox executives want to understandably create.
At the TCA panel for his show, MacFarlane surprised most by saying that he wants “The Orville” to be a serious tribute to “Star Trek” and tackling some of the social issues that the original did 50 years ago. He claimed that he wasn’t inspired at all by “Galaxy Quest” and even seemed dismissive of the film.
What many forget is that “Star Trek” was far from a big hit when it first aired. It was questionable every year during its first run as to whether NBC would renew it. The popularity of “Star Trek” conventions over the years has created a bit of a revisionist history. Don’t be surprised if Fox executives talk to MacFarlane about trimming the show to 30 minutes and playing it for laughs if the ratings mirror the Mets’ season and tank early.
Thankfully, sitcom stalwarts Craig Robinson and Adam Scott have no qualms going for laughs in “Ghosted.” As the name indicates, it’s a weekly half-hour homage to “Ghostbusters” as all things relating to the supernatural are ripe for satire.
CW president Mark Pedowitz has made it his mission to make his network less dependent on pre-teen girls and appeal instead to a wider audience.
Last year, he rolled the dice with a clever comedy, “No Tomorrow,” about living out your bucket list, but unfortunately the dice came up snake eyes for him.
Comedy may not be totally dead on the CW however. It is relaunching that 1980s ABC soap opera, “Dynasty” that back in the day starred Linda Evans, Joan Collins, and John Forsythe. CW is bringing all of the backstabbing back and more with this update. I never watched the original but I might check out this remake since there were a lot of humorous one-liners being uttered by the cast. I am not the sure how they were able to keep a straight face reciting their lines. In many ways, the campy comedy reminded me of the great 1960s “Batman” series that starred the late, great Adam West. “Dynasty” producer Josh Schwartz told me that while there are laughs, he doesn’t want the tone to be that campy.
Yes, even the CW has a military show this fall. “Valor” is a soap opera in which conspiracies will be unveiled along with tales of romance in the armed forces.
Other TV News
FX has long been the basic cable network that has most resembled premium services as HBO, Showtime, and EPIX. In January FX will examine the life and death of Gianni Versace as part of its “American Crime Story” series. Talented Venezuelan-born actor Edgar Ramirez, who portrayed the boxer Roberto Duran in the film “Hands of Stone,” stars as Versace.
Bobby Moynihan isn’t the only “Saturday Night Live” alum to be getting his own series this fall. Jay Pharaoh will star in “White Famous” for Showtime. Think of this show as “Entourage” with a more culturally diverse cast.
Showtime will also debut “Smilf” with comic actress Frankie Shaw playing a twenty-something single mom who lives in South Boston. Rosie O’Donnell plays her character’s mom.
Tru TV is promising that Forest Hills native Billy Eichner will return for another season of guerrilla New York street comedy accosting people with bizarre questions with the cult favorite “Billy On The Street.” Eichner is currently starring in “Difficult People” on the streaming service Hulu.
Speaking of streaming services, CBS is working hard to take some of the market share from Hulu, Amazon, and Neftlix with its CBS All Access. CBS All Access has an endless library of CBS shows from years past and it made its first foray into original programming last year with the spinoff of “The Good Wife” titled “The Good Fight.” Next up for All Access, is the latest incarnation of “Star Trek” called “Discovery” with Jeremy Isaacs sitting in William Shatner’s chair.