Monday, November 3, 2014

A Look at the (Relatively) New 2014-15 Network TV Season

So here we are kids, at the start of a brand new Fall TV season, and now that I have finally seen all of the new shows, as well as all those returning shows that have had their season premieres, I can letchya'll in on just what I think of this fresh new TV season. Though, I must admit from the get go, that I am not overly fond of it so far. But anyhoo, let's get on with why we're here, and let's do it by network, starting, appropriately enough I suppose, with the Alphabet Network.

Let's start out with the comedic side of things, and the best new comedy that ABC has to offer this season, the single camera sitcom, Selfie. Not great by any stretch, but still better than most of the new sitcoms debuting this past month or so - not that there is much competition in that category. Based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, or for more modern audiences, the Lerner and Loewe musical, My Fair Lady, Selfie tells the story of the shallow, social media-addicted Eliza Dooley, and Henry Higgs, the marketing genius who attempts to turn this flighty girl into a respectable woman. Like I said, the show isn't great, but Karen Gillan, last seen bald and painted blue, battling the good guys in the Summer blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy, is good enough in the show to keep its shortcomigs (script, script, script) from taking it down. Seriously, Miss Gillan is quite good in the show. Surprisingly good actually. Selfie is one of a slew of new romantic comedy sitcoms that came to television this Fall, and if Selfie is ABC's best new comedy, then fellow romcom sitcom, Manhattan Love Story, is the network's worst. But then again, just as Selfie is only good, but not great, Manhattan Love Story is merely meh, as opposed to downright bad. Still though, after just four episodes, this comedy full of inner monologues made public (a nifty narrative idea that never really works) became the first new show of the Fall to be given its walking papers.

ABC premiered two other new comedies. Black-ish, the story of a well-to-do African American family living in a mostly white-skinned suburbia (smartly following Modern Family on Wednesday nights), is the highest rated of all the new situation comedies, while Cristela, the story of a Mexican-American family living in a mostly white-skinned world, is one of the lowest rated ones. Both are about the same in their rather mediocre, middle brow take on the sitcom trope. The two dramas that debuted on ABC this Fall are Forever, the story of an immortal medical examiner-cum-detective, and the provocatively titled How To Get Away With Murder, about a defense attorney-cum-law school professor, played quite brilliantly and all that, by Oscar nominee Viola Davis, and the trials and tribulations of her best students. I won't delve into the latter show and more than that, for fear of spoiler-esque accusations, but suffice to say, How To Get Away With Murder, is easily the best new show ABC has to offer us this season, as well as one of the (very) few shows this critic would call legitimately good this new TV season. Forever, on the hand, may very well be one of the worst. 'nuff said on that.

As for returning shows, Modern Family is still one of the smartest comedies on television, and their fifth season does nothing to change that. The Middle and The Goldbergs have their moments but are still mere middle-of-the-road fare. I am not sure why Last Man Standing was ever put on the air in the first place, let alone how it has reached its fourth season. I do like how ABC scheduled Cristela, a show about Mexican-Americans, directly after the right wing garbage that is Last Man Standing. Scandal is still one of the better dramas on network television, while Resurrection has a certain flair to it, and Once Upon A Time is fun for what it is. Meanwhile, such mediocrities as Castle, Nashville, and Revenge are not really worth my attention, nor yours. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., even though I am a comic book fan from waaaay back, has never been able to keep me interested, but it is still miles and miles better than the silly Gotham, but more on that show when we get to Fox. Oh, and really, Grey's Anatomy is still on the air? Really? Gotta admit to having never seen even a single episode. Kinda proud of that, actually.

So which of these six new ABC shows will make it to a second season? I'm sure How to Get Away With Murder and Black-ish will both be renewed. Selfie might, but only if it gets a better timeslot than having to go up against both The Voice and NCIS. Otherwise it is dead in the water, just like last year's Trophy Wife, also up against The Voice and NCIS - and that was a better show than Selfie. So basically, unless Selfie moves elsewhere, I don't see it making it to next season. Cristela might get a renewal, but I would say no, at this point. Forever is probably not going to make it to midseason, not because of being a bad show (many worst shows have spent years on the air) but due to some pretty abysmal ratings so far. So there ya have the Alphabet Network.

Since the underlying them here seems to be mediocrity, welcome to the most mediocre, the most pedestrian network of 'em all. The network least willing to take chances with their programming, and that is saying a lot as most network programming is already rather on the staid side when compared to cable and the like. But yeah, this is the network that brings you 24 CSI's and 11 NCIS's, as well as other equally bland and ordinary fare like Criminal Minds, Person of Interest, Blue Bloods, The Mentalist, and the tired retread of Hawaii Five-O. The network also has equally bland sitcoms like The Millers and Mike & Molly, unexplainable hit shows like Two and a Half Men (in its final season, thank God!), and once funny shows that have run their course. You know, like The Big Bang Theory, whose last couple of seasons make it seem like the newly-minted millionaires are merely phoning things in these days. Even my two favourite comedies on the network, the surprisingly sharp Mom and my guilty pleasure (if I actually ever felt guilt), 2 Broke Girls, are not exactly storming the Bastille with comedy. Hell, even their Sherlock Holmes series, though not bad, cannot be counted as the best Sherlock Holmes series on TV these days. And don't even get me started on that Under the Dome nonsense. Seriously, CBS is the blandest of the major networks, and none of its new shows make me believe this season will be any different. Yeah yeah, I know, CBS has The Good Wife, easily the best show the network has right now, and that should count for something. So yeah, they have that one show going for them. Huzzah huzzah!!

Out of CBS' new shows, I suppose you can choose either The McCarthys or Madame Secretary to call the best. Neither show is really all that great, but then again, neither is all that bad either. Madame Secretary has Tea Leoni and The McCarthys has Laurie Metcalf, helping to take their respective shows above the mediocre writing and played-out plot. Then you have both Stalker and Scorpion, the former of which is yet another bland, CBS-quality show, and the latter, which is just about one of the silliest shows on TV this Fall. An inane show full of ridiculous plots and equally ridiculous posing by the blander than bland cast. How this show got picked up for a full season, I'll never kno...well yeah, I do know. Network television goes for the safe ideas, and Scorpion is one of those, just a mish-mash of about fifteen other shows, including NBC's The Blacklist and ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Oh, yeah, I think there is a new CSI and a new NCIS as well, but who could possibly care. Will any of these new shows make it to the 2015-16 season? Probably. As I said, CBS takes the safe route, and all these shows fit that bill. Most likely season two candidates are Madame Secretary, Scorpion, Stalker, The McCarthy's, and all the new CSI/NCIS'. Oh yeah, that's all of them. Way to go CBS. Way to tread the dangerous path that is the middle of the road. Remember the days when CBS had groundbreaking shows like All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Good Times, The Carol, Burnett Show, and Maude. Yeah, those were better days indeed. Anyhoo, let's move onto the Peacock Network.

NBC has a reputation for giving smaller, lower rated shows a chance, when other networks may have pulled such shows. Things like Parks & Rec (beginning their final season later this year) and Community (the best, most innovative comedy on TV, which isn't even going to be on TV technically, having its final season air on Yahoo! Screen in early 2015) are two rather vibrant examples of recent years. But alas, NBC doesn't really have any new shows that are necessarily worth saving, low ratings or not. The best the Peacock Network has to offer in new fare is the DC Comics adaptation, Constantine. This show about the comic book Master of the Dark Arts character is quite fun, made even moreso by the central performance of Matt Ryan. The rest of this quintet of new shows on the network range from okay (Marry Me, whose hilarious pilot has not been matched by its follow-up episodes) to somewhat awful (the mostly universally panned Bad Judge, though Kate Walsh is good inside the dreck) to downright awful (A to Z, a mere third rate version of How I Met Your Mother, even starring the actress who played the titular mother from that show) to godawful (The Mysteries of Laura, with Debra Messing, manages to not be the worst new show of the season thanks to the existence of Mulaney over at Fox - but more on that travesty in a bit). Yeah, not good.

Out of the returning NBC slate, Hannibal, Grimm, and The Blacklist are all worthy of our time. The rest? Well, as I said before, Parks & Rec will be back for one last run on the merry-go-round, and About A Boy, a midseason replacement hit from last season, is a rather surprisingly funny comedy, but there isn't much else there, is there? Law & Order: SVU has pretty much run its course and is existing now on just fumes, probably needing to go the way of its brethren shows. The dreadfully dull Parenthood is finally ending after this season. NBC's slew of reality contest shows are...well, they're reality contest shows. Chicago P.D. and Chicago Fire? Are these even shows? I do admit to having a fondness for Hollywood Game Night, most likely due to a nostalgia for the 1970's and things like Match Game and Battle of the Network Stars. But back to the new shows, will any of these 5 new shows make it to a second season? Due to the public's love for comic book movies and shows, I think Constantine has the best shot, and Marry Me could make it too, if things work out. Hell, even The Mysteries of Laura could eek out a renewal. Yeah, it is bad bad bad, awful bad, but other bad bad bad, awful bad shows have had multi-year runs. Anyone remember Yes Dear or Full House? As for the other two, well both A to Z and Bad Judge were cancelled a few days ago, so I'm gonna say no on those two. So that's that on the big three networks. What about the newer guys on the block. Well, newer than ABC, CBS, and NBC that is.

The fine folks over at the Fox network are responsible for the two biggest disappointments of the new season. Damn you Fox!! My anticipation for the Batman before Batman series, Gotham, and the self-titled John Mulaney comedy, was as freakin' palpable as any anticipation can be. But what did you do to me and that anticipation? You stomped all over it, that's what you did!! Sure, I had some worries about Gotham. I mean, Batman without Batman? But I had hope. A lost hope. But alas, Gotham is easily one of the worst shows on TV right now, new or old. I do enjoy Robin Lord Taylor as Cobblepot, but even he isn't enough to save a show that is just plain awful. Seriously, we get it, the teenage runaway is going to grow up to be Catwoman. Do we really need to mention how much she is like a cat every damn time she's around!? So silly and so so bad. Damn you Fox! And then there is Mulaney. John Mulaney was a writer on SNL, and co-created Bill Hader's Stefan character, so I was really looking forward to this one. But alas, this unfunny Seinfeld rip-off is possibly the worst of all the new shows. Damn you again, Fox!!

Actually, the fine folks over at Fox hav given us not two, but three of then worst new shows on TV. The other one is Red Band Society. The only difference between this one and the two prior ones, is that I was looking forward to the previous ones. Red Band Society I expected to be bad, and damn if it isn't so so bad...and annoying as Hell. I couldn't even make it through the entire pilot episode, it was so godawful bad. So there ya go Fox, three of my four least favourite shows are on your network. I am guessing Utopia might be added to that list, but I don't really do reality TV so much, so I guess we will never ever know. Insert maniacal laughter here. But hey, while Fox has three of the worst, it also has one of the best, Gracepoint, a remake of the UK series Broadchurch, is a 10 part event drama that is one of the best new shows of the season. Thanx (finally) Fox.

Oh, and what about all those returning Fox shows? You have the animation shows, but really, is there anything new that either The Simpsons or Family Guy could even do at this point? Bob's Burgers is fun, I suppose. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the best new show of last season is back, and still quite great. You also have more of the mediocre (Bones, The Following) and some reality nonsense (Idol, Hell's Kitchen), and the annoyances (Glee, finally ending after this season, and New Girl), but you also have fun things like Sleepy Hollow and extra fun things like the highly under-rated The Mindy Project. But that's about it. Will any of these new shows make it? Gotham, though spectacularly bad, will most likely get a second season. It is still Batman, even if there is no Batman, and those who need to be spoonfed there dramas will surely keep watching. Mulaney is already dead in the water, having been all but officially canceled at this point. Red Band Society will probably follow suit soon. Utopia was just canceled yesterday, so that takes care of that. Gracepoint was only ever meant to run 10 episodes, so who knows. Broadchurch has a second season coming across the pond, so maybe Gracepoint will too, though ratings would suggest otherwise. Damn you Fox!! Now onto The CW.

The CW
Who would have ever thought that my two favourite new shows of the season would be on the CW? Not me, but hey, here they are. The network already has Arrow, which is a good show, and now they have The Flash, one of the best and one of the most fun superhero shows of all-time. Great fun, especially for those comic book readers among the crowd, like yours truly here. There is also Jane the Virgin, a show I did not expect to like, but again, here it is. A satire on soap operas this dramedy is as great fun as The Flash. AS for returning shows on the tiny network, I have actually not seen most of them. The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, Reign, The Originals, Beauty and the Beast, and The 100 are all shows I have yet to take the time to watch. Yeah, what kind of TV critic am I, anyway!? But after watching, and thoroughly enjoying, both The Flash and Jane the Virgin, maybe I should go back and check out some of these earlier CW shows. I know I am looking forward to iZombie, another comic book (though not superhero) show, set to debut in early 2015. Hopefully both of these new shows will make it to a second season, and it looks pretty good for them right now.

Of course, anyone who knows me knows damn well that my choice for the best show on right now is The Walking Dead, which had its fifth season premiere just last month, but like other shows of the year, like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Masters of Sex, Veep, Louie, Orphan Black, Game of Thrones, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and the like, these can all be found on non-network arenas - and that is not what we are here to discus today. On a related note, I will be announcing my 25 favourite TV shows of 2014, and not just the new season, a little less than two months from now. So remember to check that out, though there probably won't be many network shows on said list, and most likely none from this new season (even the good shows I list below, are not great, merely good to very good). But check it out for all the non-network shows that will inevitably fill the vast majority of the list. And before I let you go today, why don't we play a little game I like to call The Good, the Meh, the Bad, and the Ugly? So yeah, here are the 24 new network shows, in order of what I thought or them. Well, actually it's a list of 21 of those shows, as I never bothered with the reality thing, Utopia, or those two CSI/NCIS thingees. So awaaaaay we go...

The Good
The Flash, Jane the Virgin, Gracepoint, How To Get Away With Murder, Constantine

The Meh
Selfie, Marry Me, The McCarthys, Black-ish, Cristela, Madame Secretary

The Bad
Scorpion, Bad Judge, Forever, Manhattan Love Story, Stalker, A to Z

The Ugly
Red Band Society, Gotham, The Mysteries of Laura, Mulaney

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. And don't forget to look out for Will Forte in the midseason replacement situation comedy, The Last Man on Earth. This literal one man show is the one for which I am most looking forward. Hopefully it won't be yet another disappointment from those fine folks at Fox.

1 comment:

  1. It's funny-I watch Forever and Castle-hahahaaaaa but i agree with you but I still like it. It is a basic formula and maybe, deep inside, I am 95 yrs old. I used to watch all the old people's favourites lile Diagnosis Murder, Murder She Wrote and Matlock-hahahaaaa. I want to check out Flash. I know How To Get Away With Murder is a big hit but I just don't feel like seeing it. I have watched The Mysteries of Laura...there is no mystery and I am waiting for Will and Jack to pop in. I have tried giving Gotham a chance but just losing interest and i want someone to kill off penguin just too annoying and so is that dirty girl-Jada. I am glad Grimm is finally back as I love that show. What is Gracepoint about?? I should look that up