Midseason TV Report: What’s Going On With All the Shows?!

On the heels of FOX cancelling freshmen series Ben and Kate, I thought it would be a good time to check-in on the TV season thus far. The 2012-2013 TV season started promising enough, with a batch of new shows vying for our attention and space on our DVRs. But it seems, to this TV fan anyways, that this was a particularly rough year for a lot of shows, not just the new freshmen series.

TOO MANY COMEDIES = FEW LAUGHS

The biggest issue that came about with the new season was that 3 of the major networks decided to schedule a chunk of their comedies on Tuesdays. Sure, it probably seemed like a good idea early on, but it became clear that with 8 comedies vying for similar audiences in a two-hour block, there were casualties to be made. After making their debuts, Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project got more episode pickups beyond the initial 13, despite middling ratings. FOX put faith in the shows growing in viewers, but for some reason, the numbers just weren’t there for Ben and Kate. Critics approved and enjoyed the show, but seemingly out of nowhere, FOX halted production and pulled the show from the schedule. In its place, FOX is doubling up on Raising Hope, currently in its 3rd season, and putting its season finale at March (which could be taken as a bad sign for the critically adored show).

Over on ABC, the story is just as troubling. After cancelling 666 Park Avenue (more on that later), ABC had decided on putting Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 in that timeslot, on top of its current Tuesday timeslot, so that all their episodes would air before DWTS came back and they introduce some celebrity diving show. However, after two weeks of not so great ratings on Sundays, ABC effectively pulled the plug on Apt. 23, while Happy Endings will double up on episodes on Tuesdays. Again, it seems like Happy Endings is getting burned off, which might be a sign of trouble ahead for the show.

NBC is struggling with their own Tuesday comedies, Go On and The New Normal. Go On, the ensemble comedy starring Matthew Perry, has a solid viewership (some say due to its former Voice results lead-in), but not a lot of people talking about it. The New Normal had a lot of people talking early on, with people either loving or hating it, and now has settled in with those who liked it and not much else.

The new season has certainly been rough on a lot of comedies, and not just for the aforementioned Tuesday shows. CBS’ Partners and NBC’s Animal Practice were pretty much D.O.A. NBC cancelled Dane Cook’s Next Caller before a single episode even aired. FOX’s The Goodwin Games saw its episode order cut from 13 to 7, and no sign of when (or even if) those episodes will see the light of day. Second season show Up All Night took a hit creatively upon its return and are currently in the midst of reformatting to a multi-camera show (think more along the lines of Big Bang Theory; filming in front of an audience). Community was supposed to come back for its fourth season in October, but NBC put it on benchwarmer status, before finally giving it a February premiere date. Yet don’t even get me started on the shows that somehow find a way to survive.

RISKS PAYING OFF?

This is not a knock at the general viewing public (or maybe it is?). With cable networks thriving with their original programming (Homeland, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, etc.), the broadcast networks served up some different offerings for the new season to varying degrees of success. NBC got off easy when it found itself a hit with Revolution, a show that hooked people in with its premise of what happens when all our power/technology goes off?

ABC, on the other hand, continued its rough season when it was 0/2 for new dramas, 666 Park Avenue and Last Resort. 666 Park Avenue struggled to find its footing for the first couple episodes and was quickly deemed as a campy thriller/guilty pleasure. A lot of people shot down Park Ave for its not-so-scary storytelling, to which I can’t help but say that it’s a broadcast network show – American Horror Story, this is not. Alas, some people dropped the show as it was getting good and new viewers were nowhere to be found. When the announcement was made that ABC was cancelling the show, they had initially promised to air all 13 episodes, but then completely pulled the show off the schedule with 4 episodes left (that will supposedly air some time in the summer). Last Resort was an ambitious effort to begin with and paired with its terrible timeslot, it didn’t seem like it was going to last very long. Despite strong writing and a top notch cast, the show seemed to appeal to a more male audience, on a mostly female-oriented network.

Though not as much of a risky show as the other 3, ABC’s Nashville is still quite a wildcard. While it was deemed as another musical series a la Glee, the outcome was a much more drama and character-driven series that happened to be set in the world of country music, thereby allowing music to be organically introduced into the show. The show is certainly not without its flaws, but overall, it is a great show. For some reason however, the ratings are not what was expected of the show, leaving questions as to whether it will be able to earn a second season pickup come Upfronts (or earlier).

WRITING SLUMPS

Not to be rude, but there are some shows that I think have suffered in quality lately. Revenge, coming off of winter break has finally picked up steam and gotten a little bit back to basics. But before break, it was a huge mess with all this Americon Initiative stuff that made absolutely no sense, the stuff with the Ryan brothers and the Stowaway, even the storyline of Emily/Amanda’s mom felt a little underwhelming and unnecessary.

Glee is trying its hardest to balance the McKinley and NYADA storylines, but when I’m not furious with them over musical choices, I can’t quite seem to connect to the new kids. I keep wanting to see Dianna Agron, Naya Rivera, Amber Riley, Harry Shum Jr., and they are nowhere to be found.

What should’ve been a huge creative kick with Elena becoming a vampire on The Vampire Diaries, has instead become an incredible bore with the focus on finding “the cure.” Even the thing of having Damon and Elena finally hooking up got ruined by the idea that Elena was sired to Damon. Now with the writers and the network trying to do an Originals spin-off featuring Klaus and Elijah in New Orleans, I can’t help but not want it to happen.

SHOWS THAT HAVE IMPRESSED

I hate to sound so negative in all these analytical postings, so let me turn around and muse about some shows that have done well so far this season. Who would’ve thought that one of the biggest hits of the fall would end up belonging to The CW? Arrow was far and away one of the biggest winners of the fall TV season, and one of the few new shows this season that seem to be a certainty for renewal.

Scandal premiered late last season with 7 episodes, but came back firing on all cylinders for its second season. Shonda Rhimes created a show that certainly didn’t feel like Grey’s Anatomy or Private Practice, in any shape or form. Its steady ratings increase certainly show that more and more viewers are catching on to this seductive series.

Though it only premiered this past week, I am already very impressed with FOX’s The Following. Lots of people tuned into the premiere, despite all the controversy of whether it was too violent, particularly in the wake of such violent tragedies around the U.S. We’ll have to see if those numbers stick for the next few weeks.

Of course, some of the other new shows that I have enjoyed this season so far have received middling ratings including The Mindy Project, Go On, Nashville, and the now-cancelled Ben and Kate. Of the returning favourites, Nikita continues to not disappoint and impress on so many levels, while How I Met Your Mother is finally guiding us towards the pivotal meeting of the mother in question.

So moral of the story is: no matter how good (or bad) the show is, ratings are everything, and dictate whether or not your favourites survive. There are still a bunch of new shows that will premiere in the coming months, heading into the circle of TV life that is Upfronts. In the meantime, sound off on your thoughts of the TV season thus far!

Hit or Miss?: Which of Fall’s New Shows Are Worth Watching?

The Fall TV season is well underway and that means that we’ve had a bunch of new shows all vying for our attention, amidst our returning favourites. I try to give most of these new shows a chance, particularly the comedies because who doesn’t want more laughter in their lives? So as follows, here’s a rundown of some of the new shows that have premiered thus far. As always, these are simply my opinions on the shows that I took an interest in to watch. Everything is subjective so don’t just take my word for it; if something interests you, check it out and make your own judgment.

PARTNERS: The series stars David Krumholtz and Michael Urie as two lifelong friends, and their respective others played by Sophia Bush and Brandon Routh. I went into this being a fan of both Urie (best known for his work on Ugly Betty) and Bush (none other than B.Davis of OTH!) so I was very much looking forward to it. Not to mention, it comes from the creators of Will & Grace. The pilot showed some promise but very much predictable, in the way that it’s setting up all the characters, relationships, etc. It definitely has the feel of a sitcom from the late 90s/early 00s, and while some critics are calling the style outdated, I personally don’t see why it can’t peacefully coexist with all the other comedies out there. Assuming of course that they don’t write themselves into a corner with outdated/stereotypical jokes and instead stay relevant. It seems to be a nice fit with the rest of the CBS comedy Monday lineup, but the episodes thus far have been so-so.

REVOLUTION [Picked up for full season]: Brought to us from J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke, the series jumps forward to a future where we have lost all electricity and power. The governments as we know it cease to exist and the country is run by a powerful militia, under the rule of a man named Monroe. It is a fascinating concept to say the least in our tech-driven world and what’s been shown so far has been promising. Of course, with such a high concept, it leaves a lot of viewers questioning whether the writers can keep momentum/interest going. Fans of genre fare have been burned one too many times over the years and so many are going in with a “proceed with caution” frame of mind. Because for every Lost or Fringe, there’s been FlashForward, The Event, Alcatraz, and many more failed attempts at highly serialized dramas. Revolution, at least thus far, has shown to be far superior than any of those failed attempts in terms of the writing, but it is certainly the adult characters (particularly Billy Burke’s Miles and Giancarlo Esposito’s Captain Neville) that are carrying the show right now.

BEN AND KATE [Picked up for full season]: When I initially heard about the show during Upfronts, I had my reservations about it. I certainly still think they could’ve at least tried to come up with a better, less-generic title but I’ll let it be for now. That’s because the pilot was actually pretty good. It was cute and had a certain charm to it. It wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it had some awfully amusing elements to it – Ben not liking Kate’s love interest’s inability to high-5 properly; the attempt at a three-point turn in a stationwagon; Ben trying his hardest not to swear in front of his niece Maddie (which anyone with little ones in the family can certainly attest to.) I certainly will keep watching, but it might take a backseat to the whole load of other comedies on Tuesday nights and will probably be watched the day after.

THE MINDY PROJECT [Picked up for full season]: Mindy Kaling breaks out of The Office and into her own show, where she plays an OB/GYN who sort of lives her life like it’s a romantic comedy (though let’s be real, women who watch enough rom-coms kinda do wish real life was like that). What’s great about this show is just how straightforward Kaling makes her character. We’re not talking the Hollywood ideal of what a working single woman should be. Kaling writes her character Mindy as if she was real, and rooted in reality, not Hollywood reality. Love what’s aired so far.

GO ON [Picked up for full season]: Matthew Perry returns to NBC as a sports commentator who is forced to join a support group after the death of his wife. Perry does snark pretty well (he is Chandler Bing after all!), but he’s also got a pretty funny supporting cast, including John Cho, Tyler James Williams, Laura Benanti, and Julie White, among others. Without a doubt, one of the best new comedies of the season.

THE NEW NORMAL [Picked up for full season]: Ryan Murphy’s new project centers around Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha’s couple, Bryan and David, and their want to start a family. Georgia King’s Goldie is their surrogate, who already has a child of her own, Shania. Goldie’s grandmother, Jane (played by Ellen Barkin) is a total left-winger, racist, and bigot. Though it has its funny moments, I’m not entirely sure how much longer I will keep up with the show. Even for Ryan Murphy, who brought us Glee, a lot of what happens in the episodes feel very heavy-handed and almost preachy – talk of gay equality/acceptance, political views. It all feels a little too much.

GUYS WITH KIDS: The sitcom stars Jesse Bradford, Anthony Anderson, and Zach Cregger as…guys with kids (can they BE any more straightforward?). Almost similar to Partners in that it has an old-school sitcom vibe, and yet I was taken aback a little bit when I heard the audience laughter on this show. Maybe because these days, NBC rarely has any sitcoms that tape in front of a live studio audience. I didn’t particularly like what I’ve seen so far. It had its amusing moments (as tends to be the case when you’ve got kids in the mix) but I don’t remember truly laughing at anything. Maybe a few chuckles but that’s about it. I’m willing to give the show a chance, based purely on the fact that Jimmy Fallon created and is executive producing it, but they have to really step up their game with the writing.

ANIMAL PRACTICE: Let it be known that the only reason I checked out this show is because I’m a fan of Joanna Garcia Swisher. Now, I attempted to watch it online but the video just kept on stalling. So I pretty much took it as a sign that I REALLY should not be watching it. From what little I was able to watch, it pretty much reaffirmed my initial thoughts upon hearing it got picked up – terrible. [UPDATE: Cancelled]

LAST RESORT: I can’t even begin to explain the plot of this show, which probably should’ve been a warning sign as to whether or not I’d like it. This is my attempt at explaining it – a nuclear submarine crew receive orders to nuke Pakistan, but something about the order doesn’t seem right to the captain. They disobey the orders, get hit by an American missile, and take refuge on some island, until they are told what exactly is going on in D.C. The cast that creator Shawn Ryan has assembled include Andre Braugher, Scott Speedman, Robert Patrick, and Autumn Reeser; in other words, a great cast. But watching the pilot, I got rather bored and quickly realized that it just was not for me. I did watch to the end, but I can’t help but wonder how they are going to be able to sustain it as a series. It seems better suited as a movie or mini-series. Also, in my opinion, ABC didn’t do it many favours by putting it on Thursdays @ 8. It’s a show that would definitely work better and possibly get a better audience if given the 10 p.m. hour. Just don’t count me in on this one.

ELEMENTARY: A modern take on Sherlock Holmes set in New York, with Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson. Yes, Watson is now female. No, the producers have already adamantly said that there will not be a romance between Holmes and Watson. Besides the inevitable fact that the character details of Holmes and Watson are slightly changed, there really isn’t much else that really sets it apart from any other procedural drama. I certainly applaud the fact that Lucy Liu was cast as one of the leads (we certainly need more visible minorities as leads, instead of just supporting), but it’s not quite enough to make me a regular viewer. Due to the case-of-the-week set-up of the show it’s not exactly something that requires immediate viewing, so I think it is safe to say that I’ll only watch it from time to time.

666 PARK AVENUE: Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable star as Jane and Henry, a young couple who move into the historic Drake Hotel in New York as the new resident managers, which is owned by Gavin and Olivia Doran, played by Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams. As she attempts to restore the Drake to its former glory, Jane slowly uncovers something far more sinister in its history than she could’ve ever imagined. We also follow the lives of the other residents, including Robert Buckley and Mercedes Masohn’s couple, Brian and Louise Leonard; Samantha Logan’s Nona Clark; Helena Mattsson’s Alexis Blume; and Erik Palladino’s doorman, Tony DeMeo. The show is a sexy, seductive thriller, attempting to create a balance between being a soap and a creepy horror mystery drama; it’s a little bit of a hard sell. Now I know people have dismissed it because it’s “not as creepy/scary as American Horror Story“, to which I say it’s a broadcast drama AND it’s on ABC (which is owned by family-friendly Disney) – there’s only so much that they can air. From the get-go, I thought it was a great move by ABC to air this as part of its schedule alongside Once Upon A Time and Revenge, but for some reason, the ratings thus far haven’t been stellar. I’m certainly intrigued by the show and can’t wait to see where they go with the story. Hopefully ABC gives this some time before making any rash decisions regarding its fate in TV land.

ARROW: Based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, this new adaptation follows former billionaire playboy Oliver Queen coming back to Starling City, after being presumed dead for 5 years. Oliver comes back vowing to right the wrongs of his family and restore their city to its former glory. The show comes to us from executive producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg, with Stephen Amell cast as Arrow. A lot of people saw this as a replacement for Smallville, but what the producers have done here is make it an entity of its own, with a look and feel that draws more from the Christopher Nolan Batman movies. The CW have a surefire hit on their hands here, with not only a known entity but with a well-crafted show that goes along well with their Wednesday night partner Supernatural and Nikita (which would’ve worked INCREDIBLY well as a lead-out of Arrow). You certainly don’t have to be a comic book geek to see how great a show this is.

NASHVILLE: Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere stars as two rivals in the country music industry. Britton is Rayna James, a superstar who’s made a name for herself in the country music world, but who’s record sales aren’t so spectacular in the eyes of her label. Panettiere is Juliette Barnes, an up-and-comer with massive crossover and youth appeal. Just like how you don’t have to know the comics to get into Arrow, you don’t need to be a country music fan to be able to enjoy Nashville (though it may help a little when they perform some of the songs). The writing is impeccable, Britton has found herself another great character (following Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story), and Panettiere is coming back rather nicely with a much role than her Heroes character. While the focus is on Britton and Panettiere, the supporting cast certainly holds their own. Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor) and Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott) play a pair of songwriters who might just help Rayna regain success, and almost nearly stole the show with their performance of “If I Didn’t Know Better” at the end of the pilot episode. Charles Esten as Deacon, Rayna’s lead guitar player and ex; Eric Close as Teddy, Rayna’s husband, who is running for mayor; and Jonathan Jackson as Avery, Scarlett’s boyfriend and an aspiring musician, all add much drama to what’s sure to be another hit for ABC, assuming the ratings are good.

EMILY OWENS, M.D.: Mamie Gummer (daughter of legendary actress Meryl Streep) star as the title character, who is fresh out of med school and is quickly learning that life in the hospital is not so different from high school. It’s basically Grey’s Anatomy for the CW crowd. Based on the pilot alone, it’s not great, but it’s also not terrible. Something about the writing and the characterization of these people doesn’t particularly strike me as new and exciting. Certainly between Gummer and her other castmates including Justin Hartley and Michael Rady, you kind of wish they were given better material to work with. I am really hoping that the second episode will show improvement over the pilot, or else I’m afraid it’s not going to make the cut.

So that’s my thoughts on some of this year’s freshman shows. CBS already made the first cancellation of the season, cutting loose the legal drama “Made in Jersey” (Fridays @ 9? It never stood a chance.) But what else will join it? Which of the new shows have you watched? What’s been worth your time (or DVR space)?

Upfronts 2012: NBC Reveals Its Schedule for Next Season

It’s Upfronts time, folks! Over the past week, the major broadcast networks have slowly announced which shows they are renewing or cancelling, and which new pilots have been picked up for next season. Today, NBC was the first of the networks to reveal what its schedule will look like come Fall 2012, and of course it came with some surprises. Below are my thoughts on the new shows NBC has picked up and where they land on the schedule (as always, this is completely based on the description of the show and the cast involved).

  • REVOLUTION [Drama – Mondays @ 8]: A new show from J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke, the show is an adventure thriller featuring a world where all forms of technology have blacked out. Another season, another Abrams show. You’d think after last season, I would give up on Abrams (Alcatraz was a bust, Person of Interest probably deserves a second chance from me) but I still believe in the man who brought us Felicity and Alias. Not to mention he is joined by Kripke as an executive producer, who was responsible for giving us the world of Supernatural. For me, the cast doesn’t even matter on this one – two imaginative producers with an interesting set-up, is more than enough for me to give this show a try.
  • GO ON [Comedy – Tuesdays @ 9]: Matthew Perry returns to NBC in this new show about a recently widowed sportscaster attempting to move on with his life, while forced to attend group therapy sessions. It’s Matthew Perry, on NBC, why wouldn’t I give this show a shot? If Courtney Cox’s Jules Cobb on Cougar Town is like the next level of Monica Gellar, I have a feeling this is going to be the next level of Chandler Bing for Perry.
  • THE NEW NORMAL [Comedy – Tuesdays @ 9:30]: Consider this Modern Family, if it only focused on Cam & Mitch and they had followed through with that surrogacy plot from this past season. That’s what I take from it anyways. The show stars Justin Bartha (from The Hangover movies) and Andrew Rannells (from Broadway’s The Book of Mormon)  and is brought to us by the producers of Glee (seems appropriate that Murphy and Co. are in charge of this show). More than likely that I’ll watch it, but at the very least will give it a shot.
  • ANIMAL PRACTICE [Comedy – Wednesdays @ 8]: Centers on the antics at a veterinarian’s office, with a vet who loves animals, but hates people. This is one of those “you’ll never know” shows, meaning you can’t really tell if it’s going to be good or bad until you watch it. So I guess I’m going to have to await judgment until I watch the show (or at least watch previews for it).
  • GUYS WITH KIDS [Comedy – Wednesdays @ 8:30]: Jimmy Fallon executive produces this show about three thirty-something guys trying to hold on to their youth, while raising their newborn kids. I feel like this could be really funny, especially with Fallon as exec. producer.
  • CHICAGO FIRE [Drama – Wednesdays @ 10]: A show that revolves around the firefighters, rescue squad, and paramedics of Chicago, and stars Taylor Kinney and Jesse Spencer. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t there a show like this some years ago? I think it was called Third Watch? It doesn’t strike me as anything particularly original, so I’m not so sure about it.
  • DO NO HARM [Drama – Midseason]: Sort of a Jekyll/Hyde drama featuring a neurosurgeon. Alter egos are always an interesting thing, which certainly gets me intrigued. Only thing I’m worried about is that they are planning for this to air midseason on Sundays (after football is over) and it will be the only scripted show that night (following Fashion Star and Celebrity Apprentice). It’s one thing to have an established show follow some reality shows, but how does the network expect to launch a new show following two reality shows that aren’t doing that well in the ratings anyways?
  • SAVE ME [Comedy – Midseason]: Stars Anne Heche as a woman, who after having a near-death experience, discovers she has become a prophet…yeah…At the very least, this is a comedy and they’re not making some serious stuff out of it, but I still don’t think this sounds entirely promising.
  • 1600 PENN [Comedy – Midseason]: It’s a family show that is set in the White House. There’s really no other way to describe it, and yet I do think it is worth a look. What surprises me though is that they are not putting this on in the fall, especially with it being election time (or maybe that is especially why they decided against it).
  • NEXT CALLER [Comedy – Midseason]: The show is set at a satellite radio station featuring a foulmouthed DJ (played by Dane Cook) who now has to contend with a young feminist for a co-host. Another we’ll see about this.
  • INFAMOUS [Drama – Midseason]: It was bound to happen. With the success of Revenge over on ABC, NBC is attempting to its own murder mystery drama. This one stars Meagan Good as a detective tasked with uncovering the murder of a wealthy socialite, who was once her best friend when she lived as the daughter of the family housekeeper. Murder, mystery, intrigue…count me in! Not to mention Victor Garber (Jack Bristow!) and Tate Donovan (Jimmy Cooper!)? Sold.
  • HANNIBAL [Drama – Midseason]: Consider this the origins of Hannibal Lecter, before he became the man we knew from The Silence of the Lambs. Should be interesting, but I can’t help but wonder if this might be a better fit for the cable networks.

Other notable points in the schedule:

  • Looks like NBC is going forward with having The Voice on twice a year. Don’t get me wrong, you know I love the show but once a year is MORE than enough. Too much of a good thing is going to be a bad thing; it’s called over-saturation. NBC must be really desperate or don’t have enough faith in their pilots if they are going with this route. Also, does this mean they are going to have different coaches each season? Because there is definitely no way Adam, Blake, Cee-Lo, (maybe) Christina will agree to do this twice a year. Hello, they are successful music artists with careers! They’ve got touring and promo to do!
  • Community is moving to Fridays @ 8:30, following Whitney @ 8 (I still don’t understand how Whitney got renewed). Happy that Community got renewed, not so happy about this timeslot.
  • Rock Center with Brian Williams follows the Thursday night comedy line-up of 30 Rock, Up All Night, The Office + Parks and Recreation. I also don’t understand how Rock Center is still on and it gets that slot @ 10? What a waste! I still contend that they should’ve done a 3 hour comedy night, moving the 2 Friday comedies, move Grimm to 8 on Fridays, and then follow that up with Rock Center.
  • Smash is being held off until midseason, which I must say is probably for the best, giving it more time to develop itself after its uneven first season.
  • Officially Cancelled: Are You There Chelsea, Awake, Bent, Best Friends Forever, Harry’s Law, The Firm

For a complete look at the new shows and how the schedule is going to look, head on over to Deadline.com

Tomorrow morning, it’s Fox’s turn.