You don’t judge books by their covers, you don’t judge movies by their trailers, and you don’t judge new TV shows by their upfront presentations. But if teasers are supposed to pique our curiosity, surely we can rate our excitement, yes? Here’s my take on the first looks at ABC’s new shows for next season, ranked in order of interest.
Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET between Black-ish and The Gospel of Kevin
Premise: A comedy about a struggling young rapper (Brandon Micheal Hall) who runs for mayor of his California town. He doesn’t want to win, he just wants to generate publicity for himself and his music. Guess what happens?
What intrigues me: Everything. First thought that came to mind: “A new Parks and Recreation?” (That’s a good thing for me.) Exec producers Daveed Diggs and Jeremy Bronson appear to have a clear, smart POV and also seem capable of having inspired fun with their premise. Newcomer Hall makes a great impression in this trailer and it looks he’ll be getting some great support from a fame, dialed-in supporting cast that includes Community’s Yvette Nicole Brown and Glee’s Lea Michele. ABC – so skilled at developing sitcoms these days – might have another winner here.
Why I’m skeptical: I’m not. Can’t wait to watch the whole pilot.
The Gospel of Kevin
Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET following The Mayor
Premise: A profoundly selfish young man (Parenthood’s Jason Ritter) finds a profound reason to turn his life around when an otherworldly entity charges him with the responsibility of saving the world. No pressure, young millennial, but we’re all counting on you.
What intrigues me: Ritter, some strong visual comedy (the shot of Ritter getting catapulted out of the crater made me giggle), and what seems to be an appealing splice of many shows I’ve liked in the past, including Joan of Arcadia and My Name Is Earl. The show comes from Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, who created Reaper for The CW a few years back. They’re also comic book writers, and I get the sense they’re doing a sly, spiritual Superman story here, about a less-than-super bro trying to get good.
Why I’m skeptical: It could also end up being just a scruffy-yet-sappy Touched by an Angel, too.
Premise: Jack Cutmore-Scott is a disgraced superstar magician who finds a new career after washing out of entertainment – solving crimes for the FBI. Oh, Now You See Me, what have you wrought?
What intrigues me: I rolled my eyes when I first read about the show, but I must admit this trailer suggests some magic can be made here. Cutmore-Scott sells the part and director David Nutter whips up some stunning spectacle. The Mentalist with an illusionist instead of a mind-reader, nifty stunts, and zero murdered family baggage,? I’ll give it a try.
Why I’m skeptical: My fatigue with the whole special-consultant-to-the-FBI-who-plays-by-his-own-rules thing and all of its clichés. My biggest worry, though, is the show won’t be able to sustain the pricy-looking visual panache of the pilot, something which, for me, subverted another recent show in this general category, CBS’ Limitless.
Splitting Up Together
Premise: An Americanized version of a Danish show about a married couple with kids (The Office’s Jenna Fischer, Scream Queens’ Oliver Hudson) who decide to divorce, only to discover that breaking up and starting over gets them hot for each other all over again. A gentler version of HBO’s no-fun dramedy Divorce.
What intrigues me: Fischer and Hudson blast the charm and have enough chemistry that I’m wondering, How come their characters couldn’t make it work? The high concept aspect – that a divorced couple would continue to share a home for the sake of the kids – is based on a real phenomenon that’s fraught with complications; I’m interested in seeing how they make comedy out of it.
Why I’m skeptical: Yeah, Divorce doesn’t work, but it does aspire to a hardness and complexity in its treatment of the subject. Does Splitting Up Together dare go there? The premise demands that we want two things at once: for Fisher and Hudson to stay apart and get back together. That’s a tough tension to sustain.
For The People
Premise: A new Shondaland-brand legal drama, focusing on newbie prosecutors and public defenders arguing timely, high-stakes federal cases. Also focuses on “how their lives intersect in and out of the courtroom,” which is to say, they have sex with each other.
What intrigues me: The bid to tap sociopolitical zeitgeist and present it in the form of a sexy, edgy, Shondaland soap. I’m most interested in parsing its perspective on culture.
Why I’m skeptical: If the show has characters that will pop, I’m not seeing them in here. Young Lawyers In Love: 21st Century Edition doesn’t excite me in theory, but Shonda Rhimes and her crew know how to make compelling entertainments for the people. In her, I’ll trust.
Premise: In a small coastal town in Washington state, dozens of refugees fleeing a war-torn country wash ashore. Twist? The refugees are from 150 years in the future, and the war-torn country is – will be – our own. Oh, and the refugees might have superpowers, too. The cast includes Steve Zahn and Natalie Martinez, and the behind-the-camera talent includes director Rob Bowman (longtime helmer of The X-Files) and writers Dan Dworkin and Jay Beattie (Criminal Minds).
What intrigues me: Trying to flick at topical themes (global refugee crisis; otherness; culture war) in a genre show and marketing that name drops Lost as if trying to promise me something. And Zahn always interests me.
Why I’m skeptical: This is the network that also gave us Flashforward, so who knows. Actually, it reminds of The Event. No, wait: The 4400. Maybe a little bit of The Returned, too? Genre saturation has raised the bar for me. It needs to bring something new and it needs to be excellent or I won’t stick around.
Ten Days in the Valley
Sunday at 10 p.m. ET after Shark Tank
Premise: The Closer’s Kyra Sedgwick returns to TV playing the producer of a popular, provocative cop show who gets embroiled in a real-life thriller when her daughter goes mysteriously missing.
What intrigues me: Sedgwick and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost) as the detective investigating the case are capable of holding the center, driving and elevating a smart, twisty, meta-pop potboiler.
Why I’m skeptical: But will it be smart? Will it be twisty? And can the writing successfully juggle and blend two separate interests: a creepy whodunit and winky Hollywood satire?
The Good Doctor
Monday at 10 p.m. ET after Dancing with the Stars
Premise: Freddie Highmore, no longer residing at Bates Motel, stars as a surgeon with autism and savant syndrome who quits the quiet country life to find purpose and new fulfillment at a prestigious hospital in San Jose. The show’s co-creator is actor Daniel Dae Kim of Lost and Hawaii Five-0, making a bold move into producing.
What intrigues me: The other co-creator is David Shore, the mastermind behind House, and it looks like he’s back doing what he does best — twisty, science-driven medical mysteries — but with a kinder, younger protagonist with similar-yet-different relational issues.
Why I’m skeptical: Highmore looks great, but will his anti-House character be interesting enough to hold interest over time?
Premise: Zach Braff directs and stars in this comedy inspired by the podcast StartUp. It chronicles the misadventures of a family man and radio journalist who decides to quit his old media job and start a podcast company. Hijinks ensue. Stupid journalists.
What intrigues me: A Braff attack is a promising thing for those who enjoyed him in Scrubs as well as his film directing debut, Garden State. I’m one of those people. And I’m liking Michael Imperioli as a rumpled, vaguely scuzzy angel investor who’s no angel and actually has nothing to invest.
Why I’m skeptical: Some clever moments aside, that is not a good trailer. The only reason why I understand what the show is about is the press release, and now that I do understand the premise, I don’t find it all that compelling. Hopefully Braff can make something special with it.
ABC also screened a teaser for Marvel’s Inhumans at its upfront presentation, but they haven’t yet put the clip online. Here’s EW’s Natalie Abrams with a reaction:
Friday at 9 p.m. ET between Once Upon a Time and 20/20
Premise: The latest TV series from the House of Ideas. Somewhere in the world, a race of super-powered extraterrestrial beings lives secretly in a high-tech metropolis. Their king is Black Bolt (Anson Mount), whose voice is so sonically powerful that he can blow stuff up with a word. After a coup, Black Bolt and the royal family escape to Hawaii where they have to learn to survive among humans. Can’t be so bad. It’s Hawaii!
What intrigued me: After a lackluster first look that some fans compared to cosplay, the trailer brought the Inhumans to life in a fascinating and totally grounded way. Following comics lore, Black Bolt’s brother Maximus (Iwan Rheon) seems to betray Black Bolt, usurping his power and landing the rest of the royal family on the run on Earth, leading to what looks like a fish out of water take as they navigate the real world — not easy with their unique set of powers, let alone with a one-ton teleporting dog. (Lockjaw’s first appearance brought on a squeal of delight.)
Why I’m skeptical: That first look photo really was lacking imagination, which was not a great first impression.