A soccer mom, a witch, and an alien walk into a bar… That’s kind of how ABC’s new shows are shaping up – an odd mix of middle America, middle-aged women, and mysterious outsiders. I feel inclined to watch at least the first episode of a few of these shows, but others I couldn’t care less about. Let’s take a look.
- Cougar Town – Description from ABC.com: “In a small Florida town, the center of high society is the Cougars high school football team… which is wildly appropriate since this town is the natural habitat for over-tanned, under-dressed divorcées prowling for younger men.” Um, count me out. First of all, since when is Courtney Cox old enough to be considered a cougar, and second of all, I think that Richard Fish’s girlfriend Whipper was all the cougar I ever needed to see on tv. I didn’t mind a small dose of Dyan Cannon, but a whole show about these women? I’ll pass.
- The Forgotten – Description from ABC.com: “In the United States, the remains of 40,000 people haven’t been identified. When police investigations reach a dead end, civilian volunteers across the country work to name the forgotten.” Oooohhhh… sounds spooky. Not really. Poor Christian Slater. How does he keep ending up with these dead end shows? At least My Own Worst Enemy had an interesting premise, but we really don’t need another “unsolved crime of the week” show. At first I thought maybe there was some strange event that resulted in the simultaneous deaths of all 40,000, but no, that would be too complicated. Instead, this is just another spin on Cold Case, which is just another spin on Without a Trace, which is just… I get all the crime drama I need from the original CSI, thank you very much. I peg this to be one of the first shows canceled this fall.
- The Middle – Description from ABC.com: “Forget about athletes, movie stars and politicians. Parents are the real heroes — but Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton), well she’s some kind of superhero. A loving wife and mother of three, she’s middle class in the middle of the country and is rapidly approaching middle age.” This seems like a feeble attempt to combine the success of Everybody Loves Raymond with the irreverent tone of Malcolm in the Middle. And sadly, it will probably be the most successful of ABC’s new comedies. But just so that there will be a little healthy competition…
- Hank – Description from ABC.com: “Sometimes scaling back is the best way to get ahead. Wall Street legend Hank Pryor (Kelsey Grammer) and his wife Tilly have been living the high life in New York City. That is until Hank is forced out of his CEO job and has to move his family back home to the small town of River Bend.” Since Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton couldn’t find success on the same show, they are going the divide and conquer route. Both shows seem to be aiming for the middle America crowd, but neither looks particularly interesting. Grammer’s show seems to rely on “fish out of water” schtick. I’m not sure viewers are ready to see Grammer in the role of a family man. I know he’ll always be Frasier to me.
- Shark Tank – Description from ABC.com: “From Mark Burnett, executive producer of Survivor and The Apprentice, and Sony Pictures Television, comes Shark Tank, an exciting, new reality show that gives budding entrepreneurs the chance to make their dreams come true and become successful — and possibly wealthy — business people.” So this show actually already premiered, and I saw a few minutes of it. That was enough for me to know it’s not for me. I simply don’t care about these people and their desire to get rich or richer. Plus, it has the same sort of awkward production “values” as America’s Got Talent. Lots of awkward pauses, overdramatic music, spastic camera work. I would be more interested if it were a show about sharks on the Discovery Channel. Then they’d have something.
- The Deep End – Description from ABC.com: “Sterling Law is one of L.A.’s most prestigious law firms. Each year it recruits four new young lawyers from the finest law schools worldwide. It will nurture, guide and shape these recruits into the best damned lawyers they can possibly be — or else.” Even Billy Zane isn’t enough to get me interested in yet another lawyer show.
- Eastwick – Description from ABC.com: “Single-handedly, housewives accomplish astonishing things… and together, watch out. In the seaside village of Eastwick, this might just be evidence of their inner-witch rising to the surface.” Based on the preview, this looks like a supernatural version of Desperate Housewives, which could be interesting. The three leading ladies – Rebecca Romijn, Lindsay Price, and Jamie Ray Newman – seem like good casting choices. But the main reason I’m interested in this show is that it is filmed on the same external set as Gilmore Girls at Warner Bros. Studio. It makes sense, since both shows are set in small east coast towns. I toured the studio for the second time in June, and saw what was formerly the town of Stars Hollow looking only slightly different in its new role as Eastwick. Gone was the trademark gazebo, and I can only assume that its empty spot was reserved for the fountain and statue of three women that I noticed in the Eastwick preview. This show may not have enough oomph to keep me tuning in, but I’ll at least watch the pilot.
- Modern Family – Description from ABC.com: “When the Pritchett, Delgado and Dunphy families agree to be interviewed by a documentary crew, they have no idea just how much they’re about to reveal about themselves. This engaging new comedy offers a ‘mockumentary’ view into the complicated, messy, loving life of three unique families.” Now this show has the potential to be very funny, but I wouldn’t say I was super excited after watching the preview – more like intrigued. Julie Bowen’s character, a mom who has a wild past, reminds me of Catherine O’Hara’s hilarious character from Best in Show, Cookie, who was married to a very mild mannered man, but had quite a colorful past that always seemed to come up in conversations. Ed O’Neill, of Married with Children fame, has aged a lot, and seems to be playing a much more low key character than Al Bundy. More like Robert DeNiro in Meet the Parents, perhaps? I’ll give this one a shot. I haven’t had a decent family sitcom to watch since Arrested Development got canceled.
- Happy Town – Description from ABC.com: “For the past seven years Haplin, Minnesota’s lived up to its nickname, Happy Town. Even the air is sweet with the smell of bread from the industrial bakery. Unfortunately, everything is about to change.” This one doesn’t have a premiere date set, which probably means it’s waiting in the wings until one of its predecessors (perhaps The Forgotten?) fails. The preview began with what was supposed to be an impressive statement: “From the network that brought you Twin Peaks…” Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean much since it’s also from the network that brought us Cavemen. Obviously, they are trying to sell us on the idea that this is a network willing to take a risk on a strange show, but based on the preview, this doesn’t look anything like Twin Peaks – unless it’s a dumbed down, squeaky clean version. I am mildly intrigued since the cast includes Amy Acker, Steven Weber, and Sam Neill. This isn’t the type of show that lasts very long, though. I’ll watch the pilot, if it ever airs, but I will have to be very impressed to keep tuning in.
- Flash Forward – Description from ABC.com: “A mysterious global event causes everyone to black out simultaneously for two minutes and seventeen seconds, and each person sees a glimpse of their lives six months from now. When they wake up, everyone is left wondering if what they saw will actually happen.” This sounds like an awfully vague premise to base an entire show on, but it is an intriguing one. Something about it reminds me of the opening moments of the ’90s remake of Village of the Damned, starring Kirstie Alley and Christopher Reeve, when everyone in their small town lost consciousness at the same time. In their case, it was so that the women could be impregnated by aliens or something, so the similarities stop there. The two stars I most recognize are Joseph Fiennes (perhaps best known for Shakespeare in Love) and Sonya Walger, who I’ve loved as Penny on Lost. Flash Forward is written and produced by David S. Goyer, who worked on Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and the short-lived but good tv show Threshold. The production values are slick, the story is mysterious, and the cast looks top notch. These are all ingredients for a winning show, but not necessarily for successful ratings. This may be the show that struggles to find an audience, but if the story stays interesting after that 2 minute and 17 second blackout, then I will stick around.
- V – Description from ABC.com: “Today, the world woke up to find spaceships over every major city. The Visitors claim to have come in peace, bringing gifts of medical miracles and technological breakthroughs. They promise to do no harm. They’re lying.” Ah, I have such fond memories of watching the various forms of V back in the 80s. Ok, so I was slightly scarred by the images of a lizard-tongued baby and mice-eating aliens, but that miniseries is probably what started my interest in sci-fi. That being said, I am sure that if I watched the 80s version now, it would seem very dated, so I am okay with a remake. And based on the preview, it looks like someone is doing it right. It has an impressive cast, including Elizabeth Mitchell (the beloved Juliet on Lost), Joel Gretsch (it will be interesting to see him as a priest since he was an FBI agent on the similarly scifi-themed 4400), and Scott Wolf (who needs a breakout role since The Nine didn’t work out for him). I must say, I am pretty excited about this one. Too bad it doesn’t premiere until November 3.
So there you have it. Out of 11 shows, I am excited about two, mildly intrigued by three, and completely indifferent about six. Check back in the coming days and weeks to see what I think about the other networks’ new shows. And once the new season officially begins, look for my reviews of many of these shows’ pilots. Which of these shows are you interested in, and why? Which ones do you think have a chance for a full season pick up? And which one do you predict will be canceled first?
- Fall 2009 Preview: NBC’s New Shows
- Fall 2009 Preview: CBS’s New Shows
- Fall 2009 Preview: Fox’s New Shows
- Fall 2009 Preview: The CW’s New Shows