Fall TV 2005: Everything New is Blah Again

Kids go back to school, leaves start to change colour, and the networks roll out their new shows—fall is an exciting time for TV geeks (or at least it should be). After last year’s success of several hot new shows, this year seems less promising.

They still walk (or float or swim) among us

You thought the invasion had ended. You thought they had been defeated by Will Smith’s clever wit in ID4, or Tom Cruise’s allergies in War of the Worlds; and Mulder and Scully did their part to rid us of alien-human hybrids, black oil, and all manner of big-eyed things, but those extraterrestrial critters just never say die. This fall, with three new shows devoted to their cause, they’ve decided to overwhelm us by sheer airplay volume (in which case, they probably should have abducted a desperate housewife, or sent a squid-headed diva to compete for American Idol).
Surface – The oddly named NBC series will feature brand new types of sea creatures who may have good or bad intentions towards us land-dwellers. The show promises some complex mythologies (which we geeks love) and Lake Bell (a Boston Legal evictee) in the lead.
Invasion – ABC offers its succinctly-named entry, in which Eddie Cibrian faces off against all kinds of weird lights and odd behaviour in a Florida town. The show is produced by 80s locker pinup Shaun Cassidy, who also brought us the eerie show American Gothic back in 2001.
Threshold – This CBS show seems to be getting most of the alien buzz. Featuring Carla Gugino and geek-friendly Brent Spiner (Lt. Commander Data to the pseudo-geeks out there), Threshold claims not to be a sci-fi show, but when glowing orbs decide to rewrite human DNA and secret government think tanks convene to stop them, sci-fi fans salivate anyway. (It’s a learned response.)

Do we need another procedural?

Crime/medical/legal procedural shows continue to be fruitful and multiply (there are more than 20 on the dial this fall). Nevertheless, there are a few new dramas that are trying to play against convention.
Prison Break – A younger brother gets himself sent to prison to break his brother out of death row. I’ve already seen the first two episodes (because of its early debut) and I was definitely underwhelmed. The prison dramatics don’t compare to a series like Oz, and much better twisting, suspense-driven storylines can be found in other returning shows.
Reunion – Probably pitched as the anti-24, each episode of this show traces a year in the lives of six friends from graduation to the murder of one of them. The concept sounds intriguing, but I’m dreading the age make-up as we get near the end of the season. Plus, the real-time gimmick of 24 is only part of its success. The cast and stories really do most of the heavy lifting to make it a great show. We’ll have to see if Reunion has the muscles to do the same.

They see dead people

Finally, from the world of the paranormal, a number of new shows are going to try to follow the model of Lost and Medium by mixing supernatural elements into the stories of normal human beings.
Ghost Whisperer – With some of the cheesiest advertising for this season, it seems like a cheap knockoff of last season’s sleeper hit Medium. Jennifer Love Hewitt also sees dead people but she doesn’t help them solve crimes, only their own somewhat petty problems. This seems like a show for those who thought The Sixth Sense had too much emotional depth.
Supernatural – From the commercials, a lot of skeletal/zombie faces flash across the screen, so it looks pretty scary when two brothers trek across country searching for answers to their mother’s death and meet all manner of creep and creature along the way. How soon before a reference is made to Route “666”, eh?
Night Stalker – A show based on the show that originally inspired the X-Files, from one of the producers of the X-Files. (At least we know they’re recycling in Hollywood!) Buzz on this show has not been good.

From my tepid response to some of this year’s new shows, you can see that I am much more excited about new seasons from recent returning faves: Lost, Alias, Desperate Housewives, Medium, Battlestar Galactica and Veronica Mars. In this age of Hollywood sequels, let’s just call it Fall TV season 2004, part two.

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