Though it’s becoming less and less important and more and more flexible with each coming year, the fall television season is just about to get going.
It IS getting less important every year, and here’s why. Non-broadcast television networks (we used to call them cable, but now it’s just anyone not named NBC, CBS, ABC, CW and Fox) don’t adhere to the same schedule, and for some reason, feel the need to roll out shows all times of the year. Apparently people watch television between May and September. Who knew?
But the primary difference between the broadcasters and everyone else are their episode counts. Broadcasters do 22 episodes a television season. That’s a LOT of show – you have to have top characters, and a lot of different places to take them. That’s why the most successful broadcasts shows generally come from the following genres: medical, crime, law, soap operas and broad comedies featuring laugh tracks. There’s plenty of great television programs that have come out of these categories over the years – respectively, ER, Hill Street Blues, Law and Order, Dallas and Cheers. (They also do reality, but I like to pretend they don’t).
If you look over the new shows coming online in the next couple of weeks, the vast majority of them fall into these categories. Why is this? Because the other guys are getting high-end talent for limited run programming – both on camera and off. For example: though True Detective suffered a sophomore slump, it wasn’t for lack of talent. They featured Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Taylor Kitsch, and Rachel McAdams, who stole every scene she was in. Justin Lin directed the first two episodes – his project between two small feature films called Fast and Furious 6 and Star Trek Beyond.
The non-broadcasters have upped their game, and the over-the-air guys are struggling to hold on to their hemorrhaging viewership. They’re taking less chances on their shows with more episodes – sticking with what works, while trying to push the boundaries within the well-tread dramas.
All of this is to say: despite the fact that I’m sure many of these programs are high quality, I prefer a broader range of stories, and I prefer programs that are essentially long movies broken up into small pieces, kind of like House of Cards and Homeland. I’ve never seen an episode of the following programs: CSI, NCIS, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, The Blacklist, The Voice or American Idol. I watch more shows on Showtime than I do on the all of the broadcast networks combined.
If you’re like me, and hunting for some interesting television programming this fall, here’s a list of what I’m checking out, and what I like that’s coming back. If not – well, I’m sure there’s a new season of Survivor or another NCIS spinoff starting up soon.
Project Greenlight – HBO (Sept. 13)
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s movie making reality series (yeah, it’s reality, but it’s really good and I like movies, so back off). This is technically Season 4, but since it’s been off for a decade I’m counting it as a new show.
The Bastard Executioner – FX (Sept. 15)
Bastard Executioner tells the story of a warrior knight in King Edward The Thirds charge who is broken by the ravages of war and vows to lay down his sword. But when that violence finds him again, he is forced to pick up the bloodiest sword of all.
Limitless – CBS (Sept. 22)
A man gains the ability to use the full extent of his brain’s capabilities. A television adaptation of the 2011 film, ‘Limitless’ (and Bradley Cooper’s in a bunch of episodes).
Indian Summers – PBS (Sept. 27)
Drama set in 1932 following the final years of British colonial rule in India. Supposedly kinda like Downton Abbey set in India.
The Grinder – FOX (Sept. 29)
Television lawyer Dean Sanderson moves back to his small home town after a stint in Hollywood thinking his time on TV qualifies him to run his family’s law firm. I’m watching it because I’m a big fan of Rob Lowe and Fred Savage from previous shows – Sam Seaborn (The West Wing) and Kevin Arnold (The Wonder Years), respectively.
The Man in High Castle – Amazon (Nov. 20)
A glimpse into an alternate history of North America. What life after WWII may have been like if the Nazis had won the war.
Doll and Em – HBO (Sept. 13)
I got just into this one, but really enjoy it. The leads have some terrific chemistry.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – ABC (Sept. 22)
I’m on the fence. When it’s good, it’s great, but there’s a huge problem developing with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s a future blog post though.
The Middle – ABC (Sept. 23)
Modern Family’s kid sister has aged better than the more popular program – it’s as fresh and funny as it was six years ago. It’ll be interesting to see how it works with 2 kids gone though.
Nashville – ABC (Sept. 23)
Phenomenal music; you could watch just for that. But it has well-drawn characters and presents some interesting issues with fame and such. Sudsy for sure, but still fun.
Homeland – Showtime (Oct. 4)
Carrie was back with a vengeance in season four, and the show experienced a full creative rebirth. Brody was a great character, but stayed around one season (maybe even two?) too long.
The Affair – Showtime (Oct. 4)
The entertainment world was shocked last year at the Golden Globes when a drama people had never heard of won for Best Television Series (Drama) and also took home Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series (Ruth Wilson). They’re shaking up the formula a bit this year – double the perspectives, double the drama?
Fargo – FX (Oct. 12)
The first season was great – the right mix of dark ad humor, with some fun, flawed characters and compelling drama in between.