In an ever-changing world, the fall has always been the time when school begins, the weather cools off, and the various television networks debut new programming. Here is a look to see what the television industry has in store for us.
CBS executives faced a barrage of tough questions and criticism over their perceived lack of diversity in their shows at last year’s Television Critics Association Summer Tour in Beverly Hills. That must now seem like the good old days in light of the charges of sexual harassment allegations that were leveled against the company’s CEO Leslie Moonves last month. No one is sure of what Moonves’ s future will be but the Tiffany Network has certainly improved in the area of reflecting today’s population in its prime time schedule.
Brandon Micheal Hall, who I predicted would be the breakout star of 2017 when he starred in ABC’s “The Mayor,” will get a second shot as he stars as agnostic cynic who is bitter about losing his mom to cancer in “God Friended Me.” The show touches on the same themes as “Touched By An Angel” and the 2000 Kevin Spacey film, “Pay It Forward.” A mysterious force sends him to interact and save the lives of random strangers who become part of his circle, of you guessed it, friends.
Cedric The Entertainer stars in “The Neighborhood,” which looks at the gentrification of a South Central LA neighborhood. Like a lot of baby boomers, Cedric grew up idolizing those great ‘70s Norman Lear sitcoms and freely admits that his character here draws from iconic Lear creations as Archie Bunker and George Jefferson.
There have been countless shows about doctors and lawyers but very few where the lead character is an accountant. Damon Wayans, Jr. plays an entertainment industry CPA whose rock star client, a Harry Styles lookalike (Felix Mallard), moves in with him and his wife because he needs to be around normal people.
Both “The Neighborhood” and “Happy Together” have engaging casts but it’s questionable as to whether there is enough substance to keep an audience once the initial premises have been exhausted.
CBS’s safest bet for fall hit lies in reboots.
Jay Hernandez takes over the title role that made Tom Selleck an ‘80s cultural icon in the relaunch of “Magnum PI.”
CBS programmers and actress Candice Bergen both noticed the huge success NBC had last year bringing back “Will & Grace.” The election of Donald Trump helped spur that cast to reunite and that is the case with “Murphy Brown,” a fictitious network news show that was attacked by then Vice President Dan Quayle for allegedly thumbing its nose at family values. One change is that the new “Murphy Brown” will be taping at the Kaufman Studios in Astoria where the original was shot on a CBS soundstage in Los Angeles.
It wouldn’t be a new TV season without CBS introducing a procedural and this year’s is “FBI” (not to be confused with the old Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. ABC series). “Law & Order” creator Dick Wolf serves as executive producer and Missy Peregrym and Jeremy Sisto star. The show also will make its home in Kaufman Studios. Expect a lot of filming to be done on Queens streets.
The alphabet network, to use Variety Magazine lingo, will try to recover from having the “Roseanne” brouhaha last spring. The show was a ratings smash but ABC Entertainment CEO Channing Dungey had to cancel it after title star Roseanne Barr unleashed a vulgar tweet directed at former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett.
ABC’s biggest bet is on a one-hour dramedy, “A Million Little Things,” from executive producer DJ Nash, that involves how a group of friends react to the suicide of the person they considered to be the leader of their coterie who is played by Ron Livingston. Think “This Is Us” meets “The Big Chill.”
Another drama, “The Rookie” stars perennial ABC series star Nathan Fillion (he must be Disney CEO Bob Iger’s favorite actor) as a 40 year-old male whose wife is divorcing him and decides to join the LAPD in what seems to be a way of dealing with a mid-life crisis.
One the comedy front, ABC has two intriguing series, “Single Parents” and “The Kids Are Alright.”
Former longtime “Saturday Night Live” cast member Taran Killam stars as an overly exuberant single dad in a suburban California elementary school PTA. Trying hard to counterbalance his cloying enthusiasm is the rest of the supporting cast led by the always welcome Brad Garrett and newcomer Jake Choi who grew up in Jackson Heights and graduated from Newtown High School
“The Kids Are Alright,” derives its title from a Who song and it is set in the 1970s. Michael Cudlitz and Mary McCormack play Mike and Peggy Cleary who are parents to eight boys. The show is based on the childhood remembrances of its creator, Tim Doyle, and it will surely remind many of “The Wonder Years.” Based on the pilot episode, it promises to have the same kind of great soundtrack that helped popularize its predecessor. It may be coincidental but Mary McCormack looks like the spitting image of Alley Mills who played the mom on “The Wonder Years” some thirty years ago.
The biggest news from NBC is that they picked up the Andy Samberg-Andre Braugher comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” after Fox decided to cancel it. Although it has never been a ratings juggernaut, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has won critical acclaim and numerous awards over the years. NBC is hoping that the show hasn’t run its course.
“I Feel Bad” is a comedy about suburban life where most of the lead actors (Sarayu Blue, Brian George, and Sarayu Blue) are of South Asian descent. While Piryanka Chopra did star in the recently canceled ABC FBI series, “Quantico,” Indian-Americans have been underrepresented on television. I feel bad that “I Feel Bad” isn’t funnier or memorable based on what I have seen of it. Amy Poehler is the executive producer of the show and that appears to be the reason that it founds its way onto the NBC primetime schedule. How long it will it stay there is another question.
It’s not a TV season without a new hospital drama and NBC’s entry this season is “New Amsterdam.” Ryan Eggold stars as Dr. Max Goodwin who takes over as a CEO of an aging New York medical facility and only cares about providing the best care to all patients regardless of the economics. This is far-fetched even for a television series where a large degree of disbelief often has to be suspended.
NBC isn’t the only network to pick up a comedy series off of another network’s scrap heap. Fox is reviving “Last Man Standing” starring Tim Allen a full year after ABC cancelled the long-running series.
FOX never fails to surprise. For a network that takes pride in attracting a younger demographic than ABC, NBC, and certainly CBS, they are putting a show about retirees in an assisted living facility that stars Martin Mull, David Alan Grier, Leslie Jordan, and Vicki Lawrence and is ironically titled “The Cool Kids.” Comedic actor Charlie Day is executive producer and he makes no bones about this being an homage to “The Golden Girls.” The clips that I saw certainly hit the funny bone.
Comedian Milton “Lil Rel” Howery’s career reminds me in many ways of that of Kevin Hart. After building buzz as a standup comic, Howery landed a role on NBC’s summer “Carmichael Show” which led to Jordan Peele hiring him for the hit film, “Get Out.” This summer he starred in the surprisingly good film, “Uncle Drew.” FOX officials are hoping that his success will carry over to his new Sunday night sitcom, “Rel.”
FOX’s biggest fall programming change is that it will be the hone of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package.
Looking ahead to mid-season, FOX will be airing an hour-long sci-fi drama about a pandemic called “The Passage,” which will star Mark-Paul Gosselaar of “Saved By The Bell” fame and Maspeth native and Archbishop Molloy High School alum Vincent Piazza.
The CW revived “Dynasty” last year and this year it’s resuscitating the old ABC comedy about witches, “Charmed,” with an ethnically diverse cast of newcomers. Unlike “Dynasty,” this show is more of a seamless fit with their young-skewing audience.
“Riverdale” has been a successful albeit somewhat dark television adaptation of Archie Comics for the network. This fall the CW is investing heavily promoting the parents of Archie, Reggie, Jughead, Veronica, Betty and the rest of the gang with a cast that includes Luke Perry, Skeet Ulrich, Mark Consuelos, and Robin Givens. While “Riverdale: Meet The Parents” is not yet a spinoff, expect it to become one if it scores in the Nielsens.
“All American” tells the real life story of former NFL linebacker Spencer Paysinger who grew up in Crenshaw but was recruited to play high school football in Beverly Hills. British actor Daniel Ezra plays Paysinger’s character in this show which is hybridization of “Friday Night Lights” and good old “90210.”
Cable and Streaming
FX has long been basic cable’s answer to premium cable’s HBO and Showtime and to streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu when it comes to quality and industry awards. They are not resting on their laurels as in September they will be launching the latest installment in their “American Horror Story” franchise, “Apocalypse;” a prequel to “Sons Of Anarchy” called “Mayans M.C.” which concentrates on a Latino motorcycle club that stars JD Pardo and Edward James Olmos: and finally, “Mr. Inbetween” which looks at the life of a criminal for hire who is actually a good guy at heart.
TBS will be reviving “TV Nation” as gadfly Michael Moore and a team of young journalists will be doing offbeat news stories. An example that I remember from his ‘90s NBC show was a correspondent asking the governor of North Dakota why his state is the least visited in the USA. Sasha Baron Cohen was heavily influenced by Moore.
In December CNBC will be bringing back an old NBC favorite game show, “Deal Or No Deal.” Howie Mandel once again hosts this high-low game in which a contestant can win anywhere from a penny to a million dollars.
Jim Carrey will be starring in his first TV series in nearly 25 years as he’ll play an overly earnest children’s TV show host in “Kidding” which will air on Showtime. Ben Stiller is directing an eight-episode miniseries for Showtime,“Escape At Dannemora.” The drama examines how an unhappy female prison employee aided two convicted murderers to exit from the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York in 2015 and it stars Benicio del Toro, Paul Dano, and Patricia Arquette.
CBS All Access has quietly become a player in the streaming industry with original programming such as “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Strange Angel,” and “The Good Fight.” This fall producer Kevin Williamson of “Scream” film franchise fame will be creating “Tell Me A Story.” The premise is that well-known Mother Goose stories and other fairy tales will be brought to life as dark psychological thrillers set in–you guessed it—New York City.