Last month the various broadcast networks introduced their new prime time shows to advertisers and the media at events that are called “upfronts” in the trade. Here is a look at what CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and the CW have in store for us this fall.
CBS remains the most watched television network in the world, and therefore has fewer slots for new programs. Its chief executive officer, Leslie Moonves, is hoping new shows slated for this September will do better than the quickly canceled “Made in Jersey” and “Partners” did last fall.
Robin Williams is returning to television after a very successful film career, playing an advertising executive in the “The Crazy Ones.” Anna Faris, a sexy comedy actress whose film career never caught fire — though she’s great in the “Scary Movie” series — makes her first attempt at a TV series as a single mother who is also a recovering alcoholic in “Mom.”
Will Arnett is a very funny guy who is respected by his comedy peers but for some reason has never found a TV show that has struck a chord with the masses. The legendary “Arrested Development,” which has been revived on Netflix, is his biggest claim to fame. CBS is hoping that Arnett’s bad luck with the Nielsen ratings will change with “The Millers,” in which he replays a recently divorced man.
CBS is banking on a tense drama, “Hostages,” starring Dylan McDermott and Toni Collette. The trailer is meant to make you bite your nails, but “Hostages” seems better as a mini-series than a weekly show.
The decline of “American Idol” was a key reason for Fox garnering less than stellar ratings last season. Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly can’t count on his network’s old standby to save the day any longer and is investing in a number of new shows.
Seth MacFarlane has been responsible for a number of Fox’s successful animated shows over the years, including “Family Guy,” and he is trying his hand at his first live-action comedy with a project called “Dads,” which stars Seth Green, Peter Riegert and Martin Mull. From the laugh-free segment I saw, it seems as if Fox picked up the series as a favor to MacFarlane.
Two other comedies, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” starring former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Andy Samberg, and “Enlisted,” an army comedy in the “Stripes” mold, don’t look like winners either.
On a more upbeat note for Fox, “Rake,” starring Greg Kinnear as a reprobate lawyer, and “Sleepy Hollow,” which transports some of the characters of the Washington Irving classic novel to the 21st century, appear promising.
Things have gotten so bad for the Peacock Network that it lagged behind Univision in terms of eyeballs during the February ratings sweeps. It’s no wonder that NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt received tepid applause when he was introduced at the NBC Upfront, held at Radio City Music Hall.
Greenblatt was able to coax Michael J. Fox to return to his network in an eponymous show, in which he stars as a WNBC anchorman who has Parkinson’s disease, something Fox has valiantly battled in real life. The five-minute preview was warmly received, as was the snippet of “The Blacklist,” starring James Spader in what appears to be a knock-off of “Silence of the Lambs.” A reboot of “Ironside” with Blair Underwood taking over the role made famous by Raymond Burr, also created buzz.
On the other hand, how can NBC greenlight “Welcome to the Family,” a comedy about teen pregnancy with ugly ethnic stereotypes to boot?
The Alphabet Network, to use Variety Magazine lingo, is in the same ratings-challenged boat as NBC. ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee is throwing a lot of things at the wall in the hopes that something will stick. The best of the lot seem to be “The Goldbergs,” an ’80s version of “The Wonder Years”; “Super Fun Night,” starring Australian comedy actress Rebel Wilson; and an action series, “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.”
For a network few have watched since “Gossip Girl” departed, the CW is sticking with most of its programs that have been ignored over the years, such as “America’s Next Top Model” and “Nikita.” One new offering will be “Reign,” a drama about a young Mary, Queen of Scots.