May 18, 2007

Fall TV Preview: the CW and Fox

Following up on last week's post regarding new fall shows for CBS, ABC and NBC, we bring you the creative endeavors of the last two major broadcast networks - the CW (the hybrid of UPN and WB) and Fox. Want to know what to get excited for and what to skip? Just read on.

The CW doesn't stray too far from its roots in the networks that brought us the supernatural "Buffy: the Vampire Slayer" and teen soaps like "One Tree Hill" and "Everwood". First up is "Gossip Girl," a drama about kids at a private high school in Manhattan - okay, seriously, stop setting shows in NYC. This goes for everyone.'s your typical "bratty, spoiled teenagers who bitch and whine about each other and have dark secrets" plot, except, oh look, it's got a 21st century twist! The "gossip girl" of the title is the unknown author of an up to the minute, inside-dirt blog. This show will TOTALLY speak to the Internet-savvy youth of today.

A show whose otherworldly themes hearken back, if ever so slightly, to the "Buffy" days is "Reaper," about a guy whose parents SOLD HIS SOUL TO THE DEVIL BEFORE HE WAS EVEN BORN. Kinda puts your issues with your mom and dad in perspective. As a result of this deal, the kid has to go around collecting souls for the devil - which, since the devil's basically a fair guy, means getting the bad guys. And I am down with that shit.

Then the CW decides to try out some new avenues. In the running for show most likely to either offend people or really make them think is "Aliens in America," about an American family that unwittingly takes in a Pakistani Muslim exchange student. Let's hope it actually explores prejudice and stereotype in a funny, honest, possibly satirical way - rather than exploiting cultural differences for a laugh. The other new show is "Life is Wild," about a vet who moves his family out to a South African game reserve - the same one where his first, dead wife grew up. I can't see how that would be weird for the second wife at all... Setting a show not on the itty bitty island we stole from the Native Americans but instead in a country we stole from the native Africans is an unusual way to shake things up - but will the change of venue actually revive the tired family drama?

Last and not quite least was Fox - the network known for taking chances on quirky shows like "Firefly," "Arrested Development," "Family Guy," and "Undeclared," only to drop them when audience numbers don't pan out. So this year, the network's playing it safe by sticking with fairly conventional sitcoms and dramas. For example, we have "Back to You," starring Kelsey Grammar and Patricia Heaton as two Pittsburgh news anchors who hate each other. Both stars are pros at the traditional sitcom format, which this series seeks to follow in the footsteps of - including quirky supporting characters and an almost sorta love interest. Whoop-dee-doo.

Fox rolls out another uninspired sitcom in "The Rules for Starting Over," about divorced 30-somethings lookin' for loooooove. They've got all your stereotypes covered - the diehard romantic, the multiple-divorce, and the hopeless-with-women. Oh, and don't forget their ONE pretty female friend who just happens to live next door to contestant number 3. Right. Any show which compares dating to a farmer's market - with the assumption that anyone who's still single in their 30s is like picked-over, squeezed, bad fruit - can't possibly be good.

There's also "Canterbury's Law," featuring your assorted misfit lawyers taking on unpopular cases. Of course there's a dramatic backstory involving the missing son of the firm's head, played by Julianna Margulies, but still - another law show? Really? Is the law THAT interesting?

Another tried-and-true category is, of course, the cop show, so Fox goes for broke by premiering 2 new series in this area. "K-ville" has promise, set as it is in post-Katrina New Orleans - in case you missed it's topical themes, one of the cops is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. New Orleans is very much a tragic mess in the wake of Katrina, and I can't decide if I'm looking forward to this show exploring this sensitive subject in a manner which the press and administration has done little of, or if the reality of the situation is just too heartbreaking to stomach a fictional version of it. Maybe it's a little of both. The other cop drama, "Amsterdam," has a supernatural twist (otherworldly police seems to be all the rage these days), in the form of an immortal New York detective. Eh - it's a cute twist, since he was given immortality way back in the 17th century when he first came over with the Dutch, but since there's also a whole subplot involving his ability to become mortal only when he finds his one true love, it's kind of cheesy.

Having exhausted the usual TV formulas, Fox turns to the silver screen for inspiration and comes up with "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," set after "Terminator 2: Judgment Day". Never having seen any Terminator flicks, I don't feel I can safely judge this one's potential - but it does star Summer Glau, the ass-kicking psychic chick from "Firefly"/"Serenity," which is enough encouragement to check this one out.

There's a whole raft of reality shows coming up, but since that's the lowest form of entertainment available, it doesn't deserve comment.