|Thanks to PVRs, on-demand, DVDs, cable, Netflix
etc., viewers are no longer network hostages
There’s nothing like a little eye surgery to change one’s approach to these Fall Preview TV roundups. Wasting my vision on the next Animal Practice or 666 Park Avenue is to be avoided at all costs.
So this 2013-14 Fall Television Preview is going to cut to the chase wherever possible. If a show stinks, I’ll say it and move on.
As there are every year, there are a few stinkers this season. Many more shows are just, meh. A handful show promise.
For the third or fourth year overall, I don’t spot any game changers. There was maybe one or two pilots that made me wish I had a second episode.
Judging from the lack of enthusiasm or buzz at this summer’s Television Critics Association press tour, my colleagues weren’t too worked up about this season either.
No wonder Canadian networks are actually starting to make their own TV shows. The U.S. network pickings south of the border seem slimmer every year. Hey, whatever starts that ball rolling.
It is sweet to revisit some old friends such as Michael J. Fox and Robin Williams and while their pilots are both only so-so, both will likely get a full season to find their feet.
Of the dramas, I’ll watch Blacklist again, if just for James Spader at his oily best as a manipulative criminal mastermind who cuts a deal to help the FBI carry out his vengeance.
Other shows had decent pilots. Hostages is a good little movie and boasts a great cast but the ally-oop at the end sets up a dumb delay-of-the-week plot line that seems impossible to sustain.
Other pilots were well made and well cast and you could see why they were chosen. Many, however, feel like long shots to cut through the clutter, like rolls of the dice.
The fall series with the most potential to be a hit is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Being part of a billion-dollar movie franchise will absolutely help. Once episodes get past the odd glimpse of Thor’s hammer, Captain America’s shield and Hulk’s ripped underwear, however, will home viewers warm to what is essentially a B-Team of superhero helpers?
The good news is that the best new comedies are Canadian, with Harland Williams and Dave Foley both in fine form.
Here’s a day-by-day run down of what’s new from the networks for 2013-14, starting with the first day of the week.
Don’t make me watch this. The shot of Seacrest alone makes my eye hurt. I’m guessing it will take somebody a million seconds to win a lot of money, and viewers less than that to change the channel.
We Are Men (8:30 p.m., CBS; 7:30 Sundays on Global. Premieres September 30/29)
A dude who gets jilted at the alter (Chris Smith from Paranormal Activity 3) moves into an apartment complex where he meets and strikes up a close friendship with three other losers (Tony Shaloub from Monk, Jerry O’Connell from The Defenders and Kal Penn from House and the White House).
This years Neighbours in that this is a show so high in concept and lame in title it’s hard to take seriously, yet I’ll check out a second episode just because these actors look like they’re having a hell of a good time.
After years of being a one camera country, somebody in Canada finally bought three more cameras. Suddenly there are four camera comedies shooting all over the land. Well, okay, in two places in Canada.
Package Deal shoots in Vancouver. (The other, CTV’s Spun Out, shot in Toronto.) I sat in on a Package Deal taping last spring and enjoyed every minute of it. The premise finds this sensible young fellow (played by Randal Edwards) hooked up with his lovely young gal pal (Julia Voth). The package deal she has to accept are his nut bar brothers, played by Harland Williams and Jay Malone, who keep dropping by the apartment.
The casting is very good, with Williams bringing his offbeat pace and charm to this sitcom. Malone is equally funny in a whole other gear, and Edwards neatly balances the sweet and funny. Voth may be the real find, both sexy and comic clever. Guest stars include Pamela Anderson and Eugene Levy.
Sleepy Hollow (9 p.m. Global; Fridays at 9 on Fox. Premieres Sept. 16 and 27)
Remember the Legend of Sleepy Hollow? The Headless Horseman? The Disney cartoon at least? There was also a great UB Iwerks cinecolor cartoon in the ’30s, but no sense dragging the Civil War into this. Basically this is a fantasy drama like Once Upon a Time, with a mysterious headless horseman riding around scaring the bejeezus out of this soldier, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison). The story jumps back and forth in time just like viewers back and forth to the fridge. Co-created by pals of J.J. Abrams.
Anna Farris (Scary Movie) plays a newly sober single mom. He mom (Alison Janney) might just drive her back to drink.
Chuck Lorre has made a billion dollars crafting these broad American comedies. This one has a talented cast (including Nate Corddry and a not very recognizable French Stewart from 3rd Rock from the Sun) but the pilot seemed to lack the “Penny” character who might make me care about either of these cartoon moms.
The Blacklist (10 p.m., NBC, Global. Premieres September 23).
The most promising new network drama this fall stars James Spader at his oily best. He plays one bad ass criminal mastermind who willingly surrenders to the FBI yet still manages to set the agenda. His deal–he’s out to get even with other evil geniuses. In one of this series’ many Silence of the Lambs hooks, he’ll only speak directly to one agent, an FBI rookie (Megan Boone). Newly shorn Spader is terrific, although this series could use a guest visit or two from his old Boston Legal pal Bill Shatner.
This is one of those very good pilots that you could get behind if it was a TV-movie or a miniseries. But a series? Always watchable Toni Collette (The United States of Tara) stars as a top surgeon who’s scheduled to operate the next morning on the president of the United States. She’s married (Tate Donovan) and has two teens. Suddenly, her fancy house is swarmed by some bad guys led by scruffy-but-handsome Dylan McDermott (American Horror Story). He demands she botch the operation and kill the president. He means it, as you can tell by his gun and his beard, but he also has a reason for his actions that makes him somewhat sympathetic.
The Project Guatemala (10 p.m., City, OLN. Premiering September 30).
Sounds like something your son had to do for geography, right? This features nine entitled young creeps who get punked–they think they’re going to some luxury vacation spot but instead they’re shipped off to Guatemala. Once there, they have to build a community centre for orphaned children! Hey kids, be thankful they didn’t call it Project Syria! Reality shows thrive on watching other people being humiliated, especially in skimpy bathing suits, so if you’re into this sort of thing, knock yourselves out.