The Future of Television

Some more pilot reviews and info on bubble shows!

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Upfronts Week

With all the pilot pickups known, and all but the CW’s fall schedule announced, it’s time to say what could work for each network, and what I kind of hate about their plans.

First, it seems like there are a lot of projects being held back for midseason, thought maybe I just don’t remember how many show are typically reserved for later launch dates. And in theory this seems to make sense.  Why not wait to launch a show till you can place it in the perfect spot on the schedule and not have it get lost amongst all the other shows premiering at the same time?  But in practice, how often does a midseason show become a big success?

Anyway, right now ABC needs some consistent performers. After seeing Quantico and other show drop drastically from their first year, the network needs some stability.  To that end they’ve picked up a couple procedurals in Deception and The Good Doctor, as well as rebooting American Idol.  While some may scoff at this, arguing that the era of idol and procedurals has passed, there are still a lot of casual viewers out there who could be interested in shows they could watch each week and then not think much about until the next episode rolls around.

That said, I really hate that Idol is back again! We finally got rid of it, and a year later it rises from the grave?  And on the topic of procedurals, I think ABC should have found a spot for the lighthearted spy show Unit Zero.  Maybe in place of Once Upon a Time, especially given that they apparently want to try to keep Hook around even with all the people he care about being gone.  I could have gotten behind a new season focusing on the reformed villains Rumple, Regina and Zelena trying to find their way in the new world, but I don’t have high hopes for the next season.

Speaking of low expectations, I feel like The Gospel of Kevin could be DOA. Maybe I’m wrong, and I don’t want to criticize a network for trying something new, but I’ll be surprised if it works out for ABC.

The new ABC show I’m most looking forward to is The Crossing. I had my doubts about it working as a long-term series, and I can’t say those are completely allayed, but I’ll definitely be tuning in when the show makes its debut.

Moving on to CBS… it’s CBS. It picked up exactly what you would expect CBS to pick up. The good news is that after a year where the network was criticized for a lack of diversity, the new show include one a black actor in the starring role of one, and a bisexual actor playing a gay character in the lead of another.  The network also passed on Missions Control, which would have been a unique choice for the network, but also would have opened the door to some more controversy given that the two lead characters were cast with white actors in spite of being intended to be minorities in the concept stage.

As for the bad moves, I feel like Wisdom of the Crowd could challenge The Gospel of Kevin to be the first show cancelled, while a show like The Get could have at least had a chance. I’m also a bit surprised that the net is going with both military shows in the fall, when it seems like they could be fighting for the same audience.

Fox has one of the more buzzed about projects this year with the Marvel Comics show Gifted. Interestingly enough, they will be trying to use the DC Comics show Lucifer to launch it.  I do expect the pairing to work well enough, though a case could be made for using Gifted to lead off a night at 8.

Fox’s other new Fall “drama” is The Orville, the tongue-in-cheek space exploration show from Seth MacFarlane. It has been placed Thursday at 8.  I have my doubts about how well the show will work, but it shouldn’t have much audience overlap with the other shows in that time slot.  There’s not a lot I really dislike about the Fox schedule, and I’ll definitely be watching Gifted this fall.

NBC basically has two goals this fall, launch Brave on Mondays, and try to take over Thursday night. So for the second year in a row, NBC is trying to use The Voice to premiere a new show which is part of the fall’s biggest trend.  Hopefully for the network, military shows will go over better than the time travel shows did this past year.

As for Thursday, NBC is putting freshman star This is Us in the middle of the night, which seems like a good, aggressive move. But of all the show to follow up their new hit with, they choose the true crime series about the Menendez brothers.  Because what better to watch after a heartfelt family drama than a show about brothers who murdered their parents?  I also think putting Will & Grace opposite The Big Bang Theory is expecting a bit much from the reboot.

CW has yet to release their schedule, but we know they will be picking up Valor, Dynasty, Life Sentence and Black Lightning, while passing on Searchers and Insatiable. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I’m disappointed Searchers didn’t make the cut.  And honestly, I’m more than a little confused.  A few years ago the CW seemed determined to use Supernatural to launch a new show or two, even trying to put together a spinoff for the long-running fantasy show.  But since then they just keep passing on all the potential shows they could have used to appeal to the Supernatural audience Searchers, Transylvania, Tales From the Darkside, maybe the Mars project.  Has there rally not been even one of these shows that could have found an audience.

As for the shows the network did pick up, CW head Mark Pedowitz has apparently always wanted a military show, though I’m really not sure why. It just doesn’t seem to me like a good fit for The CW audience.  Life Sentence is another dramedy, which I expect to do about the same in the ratings as the ones that came before.  I’ve seen some people suggesting that having Lucy Hale as the star could bring in a bigger audience, but I’m skeptical.  Nothing against her, but I just don’t think she’s got that kind of drawing power.

Black Lighting will probably get good numbers to start with. Much as I don’t think the network needed another superhero show, these shows are still their best performers.  And Black Lighting should be a different take on the genre, with an older hero who has a grown family to care for. Then there is Dynasty.  I’ve seen some people saying it will flop because the CW audience won’t watch a show with old people.  I can’t agree with that, as the people behind the show has good track record of meshing stories about older characters with younger ones.  My concern is that it seems like the creators of the show and the people at the network expect the show to sell itself, with people tuning in just because it’s Dynasty.  But does the CW audience really care about the original Dynasty, let alone a reboot?  And what in the recent history of reboots makes anyone think that any reboot is a guaranteed success?  Ultimately I think it will do okay, but be a big disappointment for the network if they really are expecting it to be a massive success.

The Latest on Pilots

Reports of the pilots likely to be picked up is coming from various sources now, as upfronts are rapidly approaching.

All of these reports should be taken with a grain of salt. As I noted in my previous post, it seems like there is always a show that comes out of nowhere to get picked up, and a show that seemed sure to hit the airwaves ends up missing the cut.  But for now, I’m sticking with my predictions of the shows that will hit the small screen next season, for better or worse.

The report from Variety casts some doubt on my predictions with the report that Unit Zero, the tale of unlikely spies, is getting mixed reviews as best. I still think it’s a likely pickup, especially with Variety noting that ABC is looking for some lighter shows this year.

The report also suggest that my CBS predictions may be way off, saying that the network will likely pick up one of its two military pilots, with Wisdom of the Crowd and Perfect Citizen also likely to make the cut. On the other hand, my NBC picks are looking good, with Rise, and For God and Country looking like sure things, while Reverie and Good Girls also have a chance.

Fox is said to be likely to go with the Marvel project and The Resident, as I predicted, as well as perhaps the college sexual assault show Controversy. Meanwhile, the report lines up with my predictions for the CW, saying the Black Lightning, Dynasty and Life Sentence are pretty much locks to get picked up.  The report also says that Valor and Insatiable have a real chance to go to series, but that Searchers is looking dead in the water at this point.  If this comes to pass it would probably be my biggest disappointment of the pilot season, and a pretty bad decision for the network in my opinion.  The CW really should be focused on getting shows that will appeal to the Supernatural fanbase while the show continues to chug along, but they keep passing on the shows.

The latest report from Deadline is more encouraging, saying that all six CW pilot are in contention, and the network could pick up five of them. I would hope that Valor would be the one to get passed over in that case, as this seems like a strange network for a military show, but apparently big boss Mark Pedowitz really wants such a show to hit the airwaves.

The Deadline report is pretty much in agreement with Variety in Fox and NBC while noting that Deception and The Good Doctor, shows I predicted would get the green light, are getting good feedback at ABC. On the other hand, it also says that my other predicted ABC pick up, Unit Zero, seems to be fading from contention.

The Hollywood Reporter’s list of ten pilots that are sure to be picked up includes some of the usual suspects such as Rise, Dynasty, Black Lightning and Fox’s Marvel project, while picking S.W.A.T. as CBS’ military show over their Navy Seal project. It also predicts a green light for Marc Cherry’s ABC project.

Of course, the broadcast networks aren’t the only place to check out new shows. Spoiler TV reports that Hulu will be making a pilot for an adaptation of the comic from Joe Hill, Locke and Key.  Fox previously made a pilot for an adaptation of the series but passed on it, though the pilot got screened at comic con to positive reviews.  Hopefully this time the series makes it to the air, and hopefully it will air somewhere I can see it.  The same goes for The Runaways, Hulu’s other comic adaptation.