Jul 5, 2011


The 2011 Fall TV Preview – Primetime Line-Up… Or: How to pass your time during the Mad Men hiatus. Perhaps the networks learned a valuable lesson on over-hyped shows that only lasted one season, because I am noticing a quieter summer marketing blitz this session.

For instance, it seems that the failure of NBC’s The Event to capture that Lost feel (something ABC tried unsuccessfully with Flash Forward) or The Cape to capture any coherent feel at all has the networks fearfully sneaking in a Whitney scene to the audience. It’s as if they’re the smoke monster and wondering, “Will they kill and devour this just like Law and Order: Los Angeles?” Are they hoping that folks will actually know who Whitney Cummings is before they have them deciding between her and Grey’s Anatomy on Thursdays? Good luck with that.

Here’s an interesting fact: Each of the major networks including ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox (sorry CW, you lost your only viable option with me when you ended Smallville) all cancelled seven shows. A coincidence I’m sure.

CBS seems the most pleased with their incumbent line-up as they are only brining in six new shows this fall with Person of Interest worthy of the most attention. Jim Caviezel stars as an ex-covert operative given a second chance by a magnanimous billionaire who possesses the resources and technology to right wrongs before they occur. Caviezel carries himself with a quiet yet severe dignity that is enticing, but even with pedigree producer J.J. Abrams, the Thursday night slot is a tough nut to crack.

ABC, like NBC, has unseated their prior year’s tent poles with V and Detroit 1-8-7 being the most notable pink slips. Unlike CBS, however, ABC is bringing in thirteen new shows (four at mid-season), including a Charlie’s Angels reboot starring three beautiful women who look just different enough to bring in the widest possible audience. Whatever, at least you know exactly what you are getting with that show unlike Pan Am, which in beautiful HD looks like Catch Me if You Can but is definitely trying more for the pseudo-sleazy-sexy-charming allure of Mad Men. Creator Jack Orman had previously written for Jag and was a co-creator of the failed Dr. Vegas; neither bodes well until you consider Matthew Weiner used to write for Andy Richter Controls the Universe. If Orman can make 60’s sheik work as Weiner did with ‘Mad Men’, it should do well with a broader network audience.

Fox also seems to like what they have as they are only premiering seven new shows (two at midseason), which does not include the latest two-night two and a half hour Simon Cowell juggernaut each week. Dinosaurs are the other big story at Fox as Terra Nova is set for Monday nights. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg (who has had some success with dino vehicles in the past) and with a budget that essentially promises lots and lots of dinosaur action, sci-fi fans and budding paleontologists alike should be satiated.

Interesting fact number two: Each major network cancelled or ended a police procedural style drama. Now we are only left with about seventy-five cop shows.

Back to NBC, who along with its reluctant promotion of Whitney (and the aforementioned excision of last year’s most promising) is also premiering Prime Suspect starring Maria Bello, based on the fantastic British series starring Helen Mirren. If producer/writer/director Peter Berg can just stick to the script, and not try to model AMC’s The Killing, then they should be fine. Otherwise they’d better hope to siphon some of the Pan Am crowd with their own 1960’s homage The Playboy Club, with Eddie Cibrian as Don Drap…er, Nick Dalton.

Bottom line, it depends on what you are looking for. The networks are bowing shows of all shapes and sizes, from the foreboding Grimm on NBC to comedy New Girl starring indie darling Zooey Deschanel on Fox. ABC is even delving back into the surreal with Once Upon a Time from Lost producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. There seems to be something for everybody… if you believe the hype.