Jack’s 2013 Fall Television Preview

This is a companion piece of sorts to last week’s blog post about the Fall Films that are coming out.

In recent years, television (at least the television I’m partial to) has evolved into something that looks a whole lot more like film. 24 really brought the 21st century serial show into our living rooms, and Lost cemented it when it came on the air three years later. Both were, in terms of writing and production values, much closer to being hugely long films than standard television programs.

24 and Lost have given way in recent years to a new generation of programming, led notably by AMC’s trifecta of The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Breaking Bad. The former of those programs returns for its fourth season on October 13, and its eight-figure audience is still giving some NBC executives nightmares (NBC famously passed on the show five years ago), and this has caused a shifting in focus in the five over-the-air networks. Though procedural programs like NCIS and reality shows like American Idol are still popular, the big nets are pushing towards shorter, more focused, re-run free seasons with more programming that requires you to watch weekly.

CBS surprised everyone by breaking from their winning formula this past May. It was widely known that they were developing Under The Dome, a 13 episode show based on the Stephen King book. Each week was another piece of the puzzle, and it’s almost impossible to follow the story without starting at the beginning. But they will continue with the serialized Hostages (Sept 23) and Intelligence (early 2014) in the Monday at 10pm timeslot. For a network that previously only had three types of programming (yes seriously – crime procedurals, laugh-track broad comedies and reality), this was a bit of a revelation.

FOX will be resurrecting the mini-series over the next couple of years. Rebranded “limited run series events” (yeah, that’s awful) the resurrected 24 (now called: 24: Live Another Day) will lead the way. Though each season will cover a day in the life of Jack Bauer, the seasons will be 12 episodes only and sporadic – the first run will be in May 2014, and the next one isn’t expected for a couple of years.

Anyway, enough yapping. Here’s a list of the new shows this fall that I’m planning to check out, and a run-down of the programs I’ll be continuing with.

NEW SHOWS
(click for trailers)

Almost Human (Nov. 4)
Starring Karl Urban and Michael Ealy, this police drama takes place about 35 years in the future when each LAPD officer is paired with an android partner. Ealy’s character will be an “old” edition of these androids – one who can think and feel. I’m a big sci-fi guy, and I think this will be more sci-fi and crime show. At least I hope so.

The Crazy Ones (Sept. 26)
Here’s a formula for a comedy: hire Robin Williams, and basically let him riff for 30 minutes. Give him a veteran television actor to play straight man and daughter (Sarah Michelle Gellar, a.k.a. “Buffy”) and situation that allows for a lot of guest stars (man at an ad agency).

Hostages (Sept. 23)
The second of CBS’ new wave serial programs, Hostages is a high-concept plot surrounding an attempted assassination of the President of the United States by a doctor who is treating him. The doctor’s family is held hostage while this happens to ensure her compliance. This is just the pilot, and sounds more like a movie than a series. I’m intrigued enough to watch, but not sure where this goes.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Sept. 24)
Basically, if you like The Avengers and Iron Man, you’ll probably be down with this show. Developed and overseen by the writer/director of The Avengers (and its upcoming 2015 sequel), Joss Whedon, this show covers the less high-profile cases of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which is really annoying to type, btw). Whedon, as some of you know (but, judging by their track records, most of your don’t), was the mastermind behind shows like Firefly, Dollhouse and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So look for that typical Whedon witty dialogue and humor and Marvel’s action.

The Michael J. Fox Show (Sept. 26)
Michael J. Fox has Parkinson’s; we all pretty much knew that. He had to retire from every day acting 12 years ago because of the affliction. But recent guest stints on other shows have convinced him to return to acting full-time in his new comedy – about a guy with Parkinson’s going back to work full-time. The preview looks like typical Fox: good-hearted humor. Certainly worth supporting.

Sleepy Hollow (Sept. 16)
This show was developed and produced by two of my screenwriting heroes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, Fringe and more), so that alone would get me to watch. But the trailer is intriguing (even if the premise sounds strange). Basically, Ichabod Crane somehow winds up in Sleepy Hollow in the 21st century, and is working with police to solve strange occurrences. Chief among them: the appearance of a headless horseman – who may or may not be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

RETURNING SHOWS

Hawaii Five-0 (Sept. 27)
Yeah, it’s a CBS crime procedural, but the dialogue and chemistry among the leads is terrific. Plus a ton of establishing shots in Hawaii in HD. So, you know…

Homeland (Sept. 29)
One of the best shows on television. Don’t try to jump in though if you’re behind: start at the beginning.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (Sept. 4)
The so-called Seinfeld on crack seems rejuvenated in its 9th season. Even if you haven’t see any, you can start now.

The League (Sept. 4)
The League is the spiritual soulmate of Sunny, same humor surrounding a fantasy football league.

The Middle (Sept. 25)
It’s like Modern Family, except with a traditional nuclear family in Indiana. Frankly: it’s a better show.

Modern Family (Sept. 25)
I enjoy it, but it’s getting old. They need to do something to shake things up.

Nashville (Sept. 25)
Purely a soap opera, but the music is terrific. Got into this thanks to The Wife.

Once Upon a Time (Sept. 29)
Things got weird in season two. Don’t mind weird; I do mind when things spin out of control. Even the writers seemed lost. Hopefully they’ve refocused for season three.

Parenthood (Sept. 26)
The best show on network television, bar none. NBC has done a huge disservice keeping this show away from the Thursday night comedies, but has fixed that this year. Also the best ensemble cast on television – maybe ever.

Parks and Recreation (Sept. 26)
Still funny entering season six, but don’t be surprised if this is it for Parks & Rec. NBC is moving away from niche comedy.

Person of Interest (Sept. 24)
Think of this show as the bridge between the CBS crime procedural and the new CBS serial shows. Techno-thriller I believe is the word, and it’s getting better with every episode.

Revolution (Sept. 25)
Loved the idea behind this post-apocalyptic family show. Didn’t like the execution in the first half of 2012, but the show got better in a hurry following a three-month layoff. The characters are more focused, the writing tighter and even the acting picked up. If this continues, it could become one of the best shows in television in season two.

Sons of Anarchy (Sept. 10)
The penultimate season started with a jaw-dropping shocker. Hamlet on motorcycles on television continues.

The Walking Dead (Oct. 13)
Last season was a bit of a drag. I don’t need all the action like everyone complained the show lacked – but it seemed to develop its themes and characters far too slowly.