A year ago, when I previewed the new shows that debuted last fall (gosh! has a year passed already?) I separated the previews into sci-fi and non-sci-fi. This fall, I’m sad to report that there will be so little in that first category that it doesn’t warrant a category. Last year saw the last show with a spaceship (Stargate Universe and V, I guess) end and so there were no more of those. This year, there may not be much even by way of realistic sci-fi (shows where the world is mostly normal and contemporary, but with a touch of the extraordinary). Thankfully, shows like Fringe and Supernatural will be returning, but their presence on the fall schedule is diminishing due to half-season orders or lags in popularity or creativity. So, get ready for a pretty “down to earth” fall TV season. Here’s what I found interesting on the schedule:
666 Park Avenue does bring back something supernatural to TV. In this case, it seems like something wicked. The Drake is a posh building in Manhattan where the residents have all made Faustian deals with someone in order to live there in the lap of luxury. I’m excited that Terry O’Quinn (Locke from Lost) is back with his mysterious self. Since it’s based on a book series, I hope it goes the way of The Vampire Diaries or True Blood rather than now-cancelled The Secret Circle.
Other notables include Zero Hour, a show that seems like a Da Vinci Code knockoff. While Anthony Edwards is no Tom Hanks, there was another oft-unwatched series called Veritas: The Quest which I kind of enjoyed, so maybe there’s potential there. Another intriguing series that’s more “What if” than true sci-fi is Last Resort, about a nuclear sub that goes rogue and forms its own island nation. This seems (like many of the fall pilots do) more like the premise of a movie than a TV series, but I guess we’ll see. Andre Braugher and Scott Speedman return to TV to star (for the geeks, Dichen Lachman of Dollhouse is also part of the cast). Lastly, a series (that is actually sci-fi) which surprised me when watching the preview was The Neighbours. Going where 3rd Rock From the Sun already went, the premise is that a family/crew of aliens (actual space ones, not just foreigners) moves into a New Jersey neighbourhood. Laughter and culturally-inappropriate jokes ensue. Of the new comedies that I previewed, this is the only one which gave me repeated laugh-out-loud moments. We’ll see if the laughter holds.
The big show over here is, surprisingly, Elementary, which not only takes the Sherlock Holmes story and recasts it with an Asian, female Watson (played by the possibly-miscast Lucy Liu), but also uproots the story in time and space by placing it in modern-day New York. Jonny Lee Miller takes the lead as Holmes — which is ironic to me since I watched a staged version of Frankenstein where he and Benedict Cumberbatch alternated playing the roles of Dr. Frankenstein and the monster. Cumberbatch, as any Holmes-watchers worth their salt would know, stars as the consulting detective in the amazing BBC series Sherlock, which is also a reinvention of the Holmes stories set in the modern day. I don’t know how CBS hope to rival the quality of the BBC show (which only airs three double-size episodes per season), but maybe they’ll be content with filling the schedule with quantity. Is a lot of a mediocre Holmes good enough to keep us satisfied while waiting for the superlative Holmes?
Other shows include Made In Jersey, which stars Janet Montgomery (remember her from Human Target, season 2) as a New York lawyer who is essentially Marisa Tomei’s Oscar-winning character from My Cousin Vinnie writ to series. Partners is a new series from the creators of Will and Grace, about a pair of male best friends (one straight and one gay) who are closer than most couples — how will that play out with their personal lives?
Normally the network where sci-fi shows get a chance (to die), this fall there are surprisingly no new series whose predictable cancellation will lead fanboys to burn Fox execs in effigy come Comic-Con 2013. The one that looks the most promising to me is sadly a midseason show, so I’ll be waiting a while. The Goodwin Games is a comedy pitting three estranged siblings against each other in ridiculous competitions in order to win their inheritance from their dead father. The sibs are played by three actors that I have really enjoyed: Scott Foley (from Felicity and Scrubs), Becky Newton (recently Quinn from How I Met Your Mother) and Jake Lacy (from the unwatched sitcom Better With You). While the stars and the premise look funny, I don’t know how this premise can be sustained for the long haul.
Others include The Following, which follows a manhunt for a serial killer. It stars Kevin Bacon (new to TV, no?) and James Purefoy (worst guest star on Revenge, no?) and Maggie Grace (most gleefully anticipated Lost death. Yes!). With the same title format and dark tone as The Killing, I don’t expect that I’ll be too into this series, despite it possibly being good. The Mindy Project casts Mindy Kaling, one of my least fave actors from The Office, as a kind of loser-protagonist doctor. The whole pedigree tells me to stay away, but it actually looks well-written, so who knows? Finally, another show which offers me another paradox is The Mob Doctor, starring Jordana Spiro. I don’t like mob shows and I don’t like doctor shows, but this combo package actually looks kind of good. (What is happening to me? Maybe it’s spaceship withdrawal…)
The network’s only presence in my life is through sitcoms, so maybe there’s some potential in some new ones. Go On stars Matthew Perry (who is great!) as a sportscaster going through some issues in group therapy. I don’t know why show creators always think that Perry can be the lead in a show (he was much better as part of the Friends ensemble) but here they go again. At least John Cho (also great!) is there to help him along. The New Normal is a coin-toss. Premise is that a midwestern single mom wants to reinvent her life by agreeing to become a surrogate for a gay couple in Beverly Hills. This is really taking the “blended family” theme to the max, but maybe we can pretend its the 80s when these kinds of shows abounded. Animal Practice looks like Scrubs with animals. I don’t know if this will be full of cheap humour, but animals can only go so far as actors/characters (How many feces jokes or “monkey” puns can we expect?). Finally, Guys with Kids seems exactly like the movie What To Expect When You’re Expecting which is in theatres now. As much as I am excited to see former Cosby kid Tempestt Bledsoe (aka Vanessa) back on TV, I don’t think this is a series that’s for me.
I almost forgot to mention Revolution. Another JJ Abrams produced series, this time it’s a post-apocalyptic jaunt to a world where all the electrical power has disappeared. This seems a lot like Jericho to me. I am not a fan of survivalist sci-fi, so I doubt this will be high on my list.
Finally, there is very little on the new CW slate that looks appealing. The new take on the Green Arrow superhero story (which seemed played out even on Smallville) doesn’t seem too interesting. I will probably give Arrow only a couple of episodes to prove itself to me. Also, I loved the 80s series Beauty and the Beast starring Linda Hamilton, but this new reinvention staring Kristin Kreuk seems nothing like the original (in a bad way). Good thing we’ve still got TVD and Supernatural.
So that’s what I can say so far about this coming fall. I can’t say I approach it with much anticipation based on the new shows (much the same tone as I approached last fall) but there are still some good returning shows, and hopefully some of the new ones will be even more surprisingly good.