14th May2014

Upfronts with Will – Fox Edition

by Will

fox-network

This is the week that dreams are made of in the world of television. The network “upfronts” take place, where networks present the shows and schedules that will debut in the fall. I’ve been told that folks enjoy when I write about TV, and I actually have a lot of thoughts this season, so I thought I’d do some daily posts analyzing the shows that are announced. For today, we’re going to start with Fox. Fox’s embedded trailers autoplay, and I couldn’t turn it off, so to see the trailers on the Fox site, just click the show title.

Backstrom

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This looks like House as a cop. It could work because House was a big hit for Fox, and they’ve been having a hard time filling the void left when it ended. The question is whether or not the audience is ready to forget Dwight Schrute and accept Rainn Wilson in a new role. I could see this thing running for quite some time. This is a midseason show, so Fox either needs something to fail, or it’ll get the Gracepoint slot once that series ends.

Empire

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This show looks interesting, as it would definitely bring diversity to the network. Plus, outside Scandal, there really aren’t any black-led dramas on broadcast television. It also seems to tackle some pretty hot-button issues, like homosexuality in the hip-hop community. It’s got some great casting, with Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. That said, I just don’t see it catching on. I hope the audience can find it, but I’m not sure if Fox is the network for this show. It’s being held for midseason, so it’s unknown which night it’ll air. As long as it doesn’t end up going against the aforementioned Scandal, it might have a chance.

Gracepoint

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I’m tempted to watch the source material for this, Broadchurch from the UK. That way, I can compare and contrast, as I’ve read that the ending will be different for our version. Anyway, this will do just fine, as it’s got a strong cast with Anna Gunn, David Tennant, and Michael Pena. Plus, the beauty of the show is in its structure: it’s 10 episodes and done. No worry about a second season, no worrying about getting the “back nine” episode order. It’s self-contained, and when it’s done it’s done. That’s somewhat of a new f0rmat for US television, as we tend to want everything to be a multiyear franchise. I think Gracepoint will do well, and even if it doesn’t, Fox doesn’t have much to lose by burning off the episodes. It’s a simple 10-week commitment. The only problem is that it’s going against Scandal. If they share an audience, then maybe it’ll make up the ratings difference through DVR numbers.

Hieroglyph

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This show doesn’t have a chance in Hell. The problem with it is that it’s mired in the desire to deliver something on the level of Spartacus or Game of Thrones, but within the confines of broadcast television standards. It could push more envelopes if they’d shift it to FX, but Fox is not the place for it. Why watch an imitator when you can watch the real, balls to the walls shows on premium cable? If they’d “teen it up”, it might work on The CW, but this is not going to have a second season. It’s another midseason show, but it really won’t matter when they schedule it.

Last Man on Earth

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This looks like a pretty cool premise for a movie – maybe something put out by Fox Searchlight. This does not, however, work as a television series. The American public isn’t patient enough to wait for it to build, and the whole idea of JUST Will Forte for 22 minutes a week doesn’t sound that engaging, even though I’m a big Forte fan. As with most things I’ve discussed so far, this is also a midseason show, so it’s not yet clear on what night it will air. I’m not sure it matters, though, as I don’t really see it taking off.

Mulaney

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I’ve been excited about this show ever since it was slated for NBC. When they passed on it, I was glad to hear that Fox was picking it up, especially since it’s a multicam show. I’ve loved John Mulaney for quite some time, and I’m a big fan of anything that gives Nasim Pedrad a bigger showcase, as she’s been tragically wasted on SNL lately. That said, I hope the writing gets better as the show goes along. The footage we see is probably just from the pilot, and I’m not finding it all that funny. Mulaney’s a hilarious guy, and he seems to have a good cast to support him – especially Martin Short, who’ll probably chew every scene he’s in. I really want this show to succeed, but I’m also not sure of its scheduling. You see, Fox is getting rid of the Animation Domination 2-hour block, and they’re airing Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Mulaney on Sunday nights. I think that block would work were they back-to back, but instead they’re airing B99 after The Simpsons and Mulaney after Family Guy. I’m not quite sure I understand why they’re being split up like that, as it’s kinda jarring to go Animation-Live Action-Animation-Live Action. Plus, I’m not sure if I like the Seinfeldian stand-up bits or not. Part of it is because I’ve heard most of the jokes before, but another part is it just seems kinda dated.

Utopia

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Ah, a good old fashioned Fox reality show. I love how it’s comprised of “15 everyday people”, yet they’re mostly beautiful. Anyway, I’m intrigued by the idea of a 52-week experiment to build the perfect society. I can see myself checking it out, but then getting bored as the show goes along. It’s scheduled to go against The Voice on Tuesday nights, and will serve as a lead-in to New Girl. Another episode will air Fridays, against Grimm and Shark Tank. I don’t know how this is going to do, as 52 weeks is asking a LOT of an audience. I wonder if the contestants are there 52 weeks, but it’ll be truncated into a season’s worth for TV. Reality shows work because the cycles are relatively short, allowing them to run multiple cycles per year. I’m not so sure this is gonna be a hit…

Wayward Pines

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Hey Twin Peaks fans, your show is back! Strange things happen in strange town, and Matt Dillon can’t leave. And it also stars Terrence Howard. That dude must really need work! It’s an M. Night Shyamalan production, so your mileage may vary. I’m intrigued by the trailer, but it seems like a show too mired in its own mythology. I fear those sorts of shows because I’m scared they’ll be cancelled before any of the questions are answered. It’s another midseason show, so we don’t know what it’ll be going up against.

Red Band Society

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It doesn’t have a trailer yet, but it’s described as follows:

What if a hospital was your high school, boarding school and summer camp rolled into one? What if it was the place where you fell in love for the first time and made friendships that lasted a lifetime? And what if it was all weirdly hilarious and the most fun you ever had in your entire life? This is the world of RED BAND SOCIETY. RED BAND SOCIETY is a provocative, unconventional and, at times, comic high school drama told through the eyes of a group of teenagers who meet as patients in the pediatric ward of Ocean Park Hospital in Los Angeles. The series is part comedy, part drama, with a tone that’s unique unto itself.

So, it sounds like Glee amongst sick kids. With Glee on the way out, Fox is trying to find a way to secure that audience and keep some teen viewers away from The CW. I’m intrigued, but I need to see a trailer.

Bordertown

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BORDERTOWN (working title) is a new animated comedy about two families living in a Southwest desert town on the U.S. – Mexico border that takes a satirical look at the cultural shifts occurring in America, where the U.S. Census forecasts that by 2017, Caucasians will be a minority. Set against this increasingly diverse backdrop, the series explores family, politics and everything in between with a cross-cultural wink.

Every season, Fox debuts some animated shows to make people think that Family Guy and The Simpsons will have company on Sunday nights. With the exception of Bob’s Burgers, these shows always fail. Even though Seth MacFarlane is an executive producer of this show, and Family Guy‘s Alex Borstein is doing voicework, I’m not sure this one is going to fare any better than the others. I might change my tune when I see a trailer, but for now, I’m not banking on success. It’s also a midseason show, so we’ll have to wait until January to see.

Weird Loners

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WEIRD LONERS is a new single-camera comedy about four relationship-phobic, quasi-underdog 30-somethings who are unexpectedly thrust into one another’s lives, forming unlikely bonds in a Queens, NY, townhouse.

There’s only one thing about this show that I like: it stars Zachary Knighton from Happy Endings. Otherwise, this sounds like the same single-cam version of Friends that every network has tried and failed at. It’s yet another midseason show, so it’ll be interested to see what it goes up against.

Well, those are my thoughts. What do you guys think? Excited for anything in particular? Also, I didn’t forget Gotham – I already discussed it here.