May 16, 2007

Fall TV Preview: NBC, ABC and CBS

The new shows and renewals for next fall have been announced by 3 of the major networks - CBS, ABC and NBC. I take a look at what looks promising and what doesn't (links are to DarkHorizons' descriptions of the shows and the complete fall lineups):

NBC was the first to announce their lineup, taking a cue from their uber-popular comic book fantasy "Heroes" by producing several new series with sci-fi or supernatural undercurrents. Including...a "Heroes" spinoff! Except not really a spinoff - it's a 6 episode show called "Heroes: Origins," which will introduce audiences to never-before-seen heroes, one of whom viewers will vote to keep as a regular character on the show. To a reluctant "Heroes" fan, this premise sounds promising, although it threatens to destabilize the character cohesion that really formed only recently.
Another new show-but not is "The Bionic Woman," an updated version of the 70s classic. I can't think of "The Bionic Woman" without recalling the Halloween episode of "Freaks & Geeks," when Bill Haverchuck went as Jamie Sommers (her Bionic-ness' alter ego). Remember how freaking hilarious that was? Anyone? *Sigh*
Anyway, we've also got a spy thriller, time-travel drama, and cop show - with some twists, but nothing too imaginative. Oh, but don't forget "Lipstick Jungle," in the running to replace "Sex and the City" as the hip show about "modern" New York women. Of course, they're smart, sexy and powerful - but they still have problems. Oh man, I totally relate to this show. I'm a modern woman! I'm smart! I have issues! I live near New York! I'm a high-powered career girl with money to burn on the latest fashions...oh wait, that last part's not true. Never mind then.
All dramas, you'll note, except a mid-season sitcom called "The I.T. Guys," about, um, I.T. guys and the new (female, of course) office manager whose gonna make them cool. I.T.'s just hilarious on its own, and this series is especially auspicious since it stars Joel McHale (from E!'s "Talk Soup" and a brief appearance on "Thank God You're Here!") and Jessica St. Clair (regular on VH1's "Best Week Ever"), both of whom are pretty funny.

On to ABC's fall lineup. Unlike NBC, they're not limiting themselves to high-powered women with issues - no no, let's bring the men along too. So we've got male CEOs AND male suburbanites dealing with life's problems. But don't worry gals, ABC cares about you too - just look at "Cashmere Mafia," a series about strong, sexy female executives who live in New York and struggle to balance life and career issues. Nothing like "Lipstick Jungle" at all. Wait, what? You're a woman who DOESN'T work at a New York corporate job? Then you must be a member of "Women's Murder Club," a bunch of women who solve crimes because the men don't know what they're doing. Silly boys.
Let's see, what else is up - a soap opera about rich, pretty people behaving badly. "Pushing Daisies," about a guy who can bring murder victims back to life just long enough so they can tell the cops who did them in - except when he revives his girl, she stays alive, but only as long as he NEVER TOUCHES HER AGAIN! Why does she get to stick around but no one else he touches does? Could it be - gasp - a ploy to ensure an unending supply of romantic tension? No, there must be a TOTALLY LOGICAL explanation...
I'm not even going to mention the "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off, except to say that I've never seen the original show and think the spin-off looks even worse.
The one show that COULD be really clever is "Cavemen," the sitcom based on those Geico commercials. Yeah, yeah, I too thought it was a dumb concept when I first heard about it - but those ads are pretty ingenious. So maybe, just maybe, with the right writers and a good cast, the show will actually be a funny, insightful commentary on prejudice in modern society. Or it'll just prove that trying to spin an episodic series out of 30-second ads is one of the dumbest ideas to ever occur to network execs.

Surprisingly, CBS has the most shows that I'm excited about - although I'll be surprised if any of them actually succeed in making their premise work. The network stays away from the "successful people with issues" genre so popular with ABC, as well as the sci-fi gimmickry of NBC, opting instead for what sound like more nuanced shows.
Striking a blow for television diversity is "Cane," a drama about a successful Cuban-American family involved in the rum and sugar business. The prospect of Latinos portrayed not as subjects of broad comedy but as genuinely complex characters is intriguing, and it stars two of today's most successful Hispanic actors - Hector Elizondo and Jimmy Smits. If it manages to avoid stereotyping and sensationalism, it could be well worth looking into.
Another exciting premise is "Moonlight," about a vampire cop. Okay, I admit it, I think vampires are cool. Especially the sweet, sensitive, tormented kind the hero seems to be (aw, he has to decide between leaving a lonely, loveless life or turning his crush into a vampire!) . So that's why I'm hoping this one doesn't bite...except in the literal sense.
In the category of "shows about important social issues" we have "Swingtown," which focuses on the swinging 70s - a time of women's lib, experimentation and open marriages. In other words, sex. Will this show be a genuine exploration of an interesting time in our social history, or just an exploitation of the decade's tawdrier elements? Probably the latter, but you never know.
And the most amazing genre ever: Mystery Musical Drama. Currently describes only one American show - "Viva Laughlin," based on a BBC series (why are all the cool shows British knock-offs?). Seems to revolve around the owner of a Vegas nightclub - really all I got. But it's a Mystery Musical Drama, starring and executive produced by Hugh Jackman. You might know him as Wolverine, but his roots are actually in musical theatre - he has a Tony for his starring role in "The Boy From Oz". As a musical theatre fangirl, I'm predisposed to like this show.

Stay tuned for commentary of the new shows from the CW and Fox.

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