Every new TV show is a gamble. That’s especially true in the crowded fall season, when the networks roll out an array of new shows. Many of them won’t make it to a second season – and even if they do, it takes years for a TV show to turn a profit. There are ways to mitigate the risk, of course. You cast a recognizable actor. You work with a successful producer – look, there’s Ryan Murphy doing his Ryan Murphy thing with The New Normal! And even in the modern era of DVR and downloading, a good timeslot is still essential. A solid concept also helps – especially if you’re a procedural on CBS, or a female-skewing soap on ABC.
Risk is hardly a bad thing. Some of the biggest crowd pleasers in network history were shows that were eccentric, unique, and overly complicated. Lost was an expensive sci-fi show with an unknown cast headlined by the guy from Party of Five, produced by J.J. Abrams in the days when his brand of serialization was critically acclaimed but commercially unproven. CSI was a crime thriller focused on the geeks in the lab created by then-newcomer Anthony Zuiker, slotted halfheartedly into the schedule on Friday at 9:00. And Glee was a prime-time musical, a genre that was widely considered ratings kryptonite. Notice how nobody ever mentions Cop Rock anymore? (Just for fun, we ran a retroactive Risk Factor on those previous risks-turned-megahit shows. Click here to check it out.)
To kick off this fall TV seasion, we’ve determined the Risk Factor of all 21 new network offerings. We assessed each project by five criteria — The Pitch (how it fits in within the network’s typical framework), The Stars (who leads the cast), The Team (the creators and showrunners behind the project), The Time (where it falls on the schedule) and Ken’s Risk Rating (EW critic Ken Tucker’s assessment of the quality of each show’s pilot — a determination of high quality translates to a low risk factor rating and vice versa). We assigned a rating of 1 to 5 in each category — with 1 being the least risky and 5 being the most risky. (Click here for an expanded explanation of our terms.) Check out how each new show rates on our scale, below!
The Neighbors Risk Factor: 21
The Pitch: 4
The network says:Centers on a family (Lenny Venito, Jami Gertz, Isabella Camp, Clara Mamet, Max Charles) that moves into a coveted New Jersey gated community only to discover that the entire neighborhood is comprised of aliens disguised as humans.
We say: The Neighbors‘ premise and broad jokes (one character is named after Dick Butkus; there is much conversation about an alien device apparently named the “poo-pod”) make the show seem more suited to The Disney Channel than its grown-up corporate sibling. The series is also nothing like its timeslot companions, realistic family shows that employ absurd humor judiciously.
The Stars: 5
There isn’t a single marquee name in The Neighbors’ ensemble, unless you count ‘80s ingénue Jami Gertz. Gertz’s costar Simon Templeman is best known as a voice actor for video games. Nigerian-born Toks Olagundoye, who plays Templeman’s alien bride, has a brief IMDB bio that includes a stint as “Sales Girl” on Ugly Betty. Gertz’s onscreen husband Lenny Venito has starred in a few TV series (Knights of Prosperity, 1998’s Living in Captivity), but never one that lasted more than 13 episodes. Girls fans may be pleased to know that Zosia Mamet’s 17-year-old half-sister Clara costars in The Neighbors as well; then again, Girls doesn’t exactly have an enormous audience, either.
The Team: 4
Creator Dan Fogelman also wrote Crazy, Stupid, Love, as well as several box office hits for Disney and Pixar– including both Cars films, Bolt, and Tangled. In the world of TV, though, he’s untested: The Neighbors is his first series. Co-executive producer Jeffrey Morton has a few seasons of Modern Family (and two Emmys) under his belt, but the rest of his resume – along with those of fellow EPs Aaron Kaplan and Chris Koch – is littered with one-season wonders like Miss Guided, Kitchen Confidential, and Traffic Light.
The Time: 5
ABC’s alien sitcom is snug in the middle of the network’s family-skewing Wednesday primetime block – but it’s also up against a still strong Survivor, a Britney-enhanced X Factor, and NBC’s Guys with Kids, another gentle comedy that’s presumably trying to garner the same audience as Neighbors. At least The CW’s Arrow is aiming for an entirely different demographic.
Ken’s Risk Rating: 3
NEXT: Animal Practice and Ben & Kate