Fall TV: Best and worst decisions
Done. The fates of pilots and returning shows are sealed. The new fall schedule has been revealed. And the week of network sales presentations to advertisers is over. Here’s some of the best and worst of the past week and what it means for this fall.
Highest concept (figuratively): Mixology — a sitcom where the entire series takes place during one night in a bar. Cheers only felt like that.
Highest concept (literally): Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. You see that trippy trailer? Might as well call it the Bong Hit Fairy Tale Hour.
Most-deserved cancellation: Where to start? Animal Practice, Guys with Kids, Partners, Do No Harm, The Mob Doctor, Golden Boy, and a bunch of others that are already fading from memory.
Least-deserved cancellation: Probably Happy Endings — not because ratings were good enough to continue (they weren’t), just because of the passion fans feel for the show. Also:Go On? Only because we feel sorry for Matthew Perry.
Luckiest show: Nikita. With only 1.4 million viewers (including DVR), fans are fortunate that The CW continues to give its showrunners a chance to craft an ending (and sister-studio Warner Bros. a chance to make a six-episode order worthwhile). In contrast, CBS wouldn’t even let CSI: NY shoot a one-episode finale for a drama that’s been on for nine seasons and averaged 11.2 million viewers. Have a nice life, Gary Sinise!
Luckiest show runner-up: NBC’s Community.
Luckiest actor: Zooey Deschanel. New Girl may be down in the ratings, but it’s getting Fox’s post-Super Bowl slot.
Smug mother-f—ers: CBS.
Desperate motherf—ers: ABC.
Pouty motherf—-ers: NBC.
Manly motherf—-ers: Fox.
Repetitive motherf—-ers: The CW.
Biggest Trend (industry): Shorter seasons. The nets are finally catching up to what cable nets have done for years by ordering fewer episodes and stacking them in clusters to avoid repeats. Examples include CBS’ decision to air back-to-back runs of the new drama Hostages (pictured above) followed by the Josh Holloway-starrer Intelligence, and ABC clustering serialized shows like Grey’s Anatomy into 12-episode batches.
Biggest Trends (content): CBS-style cop dramas (two with robots!), and comedies about boomerang kids.
Biggest stealth cancellation: The Dancing With the Stars results show, which got merged into the performance show.
Show we’re glad got cancelled but wish one of its stars would stay: The New Normal, and Ellen Barkin.
Pilots the interwebs were most surprised didn’t make it: Beverly Hills Cop, Delirium, Backstrom, The Sixth Gun, Mulaney.
Most offensive trailer: Fox’s Dads, which comes courtesy of Family Guy creator (and professional misogynist) Seth MacFarlane.
Best original show title: Mom. (Shocking that such a simple but effective moniker has never been used before). Also: Intelligence and Almost Human.
Worst new show title: There’s nothing as bad as previous honorees in this category, like It’s Messy (eventually retitled The Mindy Project), The 2-2 (eventually retitled NYC 22) or Golden Boy (which amazingly stayed the same). Andy Samberg’s cop comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine has one of those lame generic cop show titles like, well, NYC 22 or Detroit 1-8-7. Fox’s Rake is a confusing title since the show is not about gardening and that’s not the character’s name (“he’s kind of rakish” is the closest we got to an explanation). Then there’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,a title that’s more annoying than bad. Are we supposed to awkwardly write “ABC’s Marvel’s…” and insert those periods every time? Pain. In. The. A–.
TV stars we’re most excited about: Karl Urban in Almost Human (Star Trek‘s Dr. Bones is a bonafide TV star), Anna Faris in Mom, and James Spader in The Blacklist.
Fall star we’re least excited about: Megan Boone, Spader’s Blacklist co-star.
Best scheduling move: Two hours of comedies on CBS Thursdays. It’s about time CBS confiscated the Must-See TV block.
Worst scheduling move: No terrible moves this year, but ABC’s all-new lineup looks awfully soft after S.H.I.E.L.D. on Tuesday nights. Too bad affiliates would have a meltdown if the network were to move 10 p.m.’s Scandal and actually use the network’s biggest hit to launch a new show instead of to drive viewers to local news.
Biggest time period catfight among new shows: Mondays at 10 p.m.: CBS’ Hostages, which looks really strong and is on the No. 1 network, vs. NBC’s similarly promising The Blacklist, which has a big Voice lead-in.
Most divisive show: ABC’s The Goldbergs. We get it — they scream all the time.
Strongest ad buyer presentation. CBS. A show of enormous confidence, with smart touches (humorously projecting ad sales stats onto one executive’s dress) and heart (a How I Met Your Mother musical video shot for ad buyers). Of course, it’s far easier to have a strong presentation when you’re kicking ass in the ratings (though in this case, “kicking ass” is defined as basically holding steady while the others drop).
Weakest ad buyer presentation: NBC. The Blacklist looks great. And the comedies, well, they look better than Guys With Kids and Whitney. But the executive team came across clunky and unrehearsed compared to rivals (guess those Ambien hangovers can be a bitch to shake off), and NBC is its own worst enemy by refusing to do a press conference. Every network has struggles, but you still need to get out of bed and tell your story.
Most manly ad buyer presentation: Fox. Girly comedies are apparently out: There were headless horsemen (Sleepy Hollow), robot cops (Almost Human), gang violence (Gang Related), Jack Bauer (24 reboot), and immature guys (pretty much all the comedies, plus drama Rake). But Fox’s upfront had grown-up qualities too. The network owned its mistakes (“Part of the upfront is being upfront,” Fox’s entertainment chief said) and presented a strategy for growth, including year-round scheduling and adding limited series. Fox is man, but with a plan.
Most familiar ad buyer presentation: The CW. So much variety! The new shows have alien sex (Star-Crossed), super-hero sex (Tomorrow People), future sex (The 100), historical sex (Reign), and more vampire sex (The Originals).
Least surprising surprise: Seth Meyers named new host of NBC’s Late Night.
Most surprising surprise: David Letterman making an appearance at CBS’ upfront for the first time in 15 years. He gave CBS chief Les Moonves a long awkward hug.
Best Kimmel joke: “Les Moonves told CNBC that jokes about CBS skewing old are over. Sorry Les, but those jokes aren’t over til my grandma throws away her Mentalist hemorrhoid donut.”
Best comeback to a Kimmel joke: From Moonves himself. “I was very flattered when Jimmy Kimmel called us ‘smug motherf–-ers. You don’t call somebody ‘smug motherf–-ers’ unless they’re smug and they’re winning, so we’ll try to be a little less smug and a little more gracious, but that’s hard for me, as you know. But anyway, Jimmy, ABC is still going to finish fourth in 18-49.”