The fall TV season is back! Or is it really?
The sucker from the Covid-19 pandemic hit broadcast networks last year, wiping out the traditional introduction of new high profile shows in September. This year, the first week of autumn returns, starting on Monday. But ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC are only launching six scripted series this week; in the same period in 2019, the last time there was a fall season, they debuted 13.
They may have survived the pandemic, but the continued blows they are receiving from video streaming, especially as they increasingly have to share resources internally, with sister streaming services do just that. to get worse.
And the programming of new shows is like the product of a besieged band. Networks may never be prone to experimentation, but they can usually be relied on for one or two bizarre or just plain confusing choices. Not this time. Were reviewing a few franchise expansions from CBS, a reboot of a beloved ABC sitcom, and shows with echoes of proven properties like Glee at Fox and This Is Us at NBC. (If you’re looking for something that’ll make you say, huh ?, next week NBC will feature La Brea, in which a sinkhole swallows up much of Los Angeles.)
Here’s a look at this week’s premieres, based on one to three episodes each, in order of quality from top to bottom. It does not include CBSs FBI: International, which was not available for review.
The good years
Set this remake of the hit 1988–1993 ABC sitcom in the same period of the late 1960s that the original keeps intact the simple but fruitful premise of watching a 12-year-old boy and a country of not quite 200 years old. come major at the same time.
Making the 12-year-old and his family black deeply complicates this premise, but series creator Saladin K. Patterson doesn’t appear to be intending to demolish anything. The pilot (directed by star of the first show, Fred Savage) is true to the mellow tone and clever whimsy of the original, and sightings of racism creep up on you; they are disconcerting but quickly overwhelmed, in keeping with the shredding spirit, you can’t just get along with the young protagonist, Dean (Elisha Williams).
He’s an assimilationist, whose mission in the pilot is to organize a baseball game between his Little League team and the white team in which one of his best friends plays; it is black adults, including his musician father (Dul Hill) and his trainer (Allen Maldonado), who oppose it. Patterson and Savage navigate the delicate material with finesse and not too much sentimentality, and they mostly pull off an ambitious and dangerously heavy ending. Adult Dean’s storytelling is delivered by Don Cheadle with the ease and liveliness you’d expect. (ABC, Wednesday)
The big jump
Since being a screenwriter and producer on Friday Night Lights, Liz Heldens has created a series of shows, like Mercy and The Passage, which were standard network rates but also a little better and more alive than they needed to be. being. The Big Leap matches this model, and it’s fun and easy to watch. But it also feels encircled by its premise, a little too overdetermined, it’s a comedy-drama about directing a reality TV show (inspired, oddly enough, by an actual British reality TV show) in which Detroiters grieved with the usual varieties of Rust Belt distress test to change their lives by putting on Swan Lake.
Unemployed auto worker (Jon Rudnitsky), former cheerleader squad star (Simone Recasner), blogger mom (Teri Polo) and canceled soccer player (SerDarius Blain) are among the ballet hopes of bad news from this Americanized heir to Billy. Elliot and The Full Monty. But the only consistent reason to watch is Scott Foleys’ nimble and compelling performance as a reality TV producer, a master manipulator whose deception is so sincere you can’t help but root it. (Fox, Mondays)
House writing partners Garrett Lerner and Russel Friend created this exercise out of choreographed, multi-faceted nostalgia, and it has some of the emotional coldness and sentimentality processed from that previous show. James Wolk plays Joe, first seen at his graduation ceremony in Syracuse, where he meets a cute classmate, Amy (Natalie Martinez), and must decide whether to take the opportunity to talk to her.
This choice is the sliding door that opens on the balance of the series, in which we see Joes three possible futures: with Amy, in which he is a rock star; with his college girlfriend (Elizabeth Lail), in which he is a struggling nurse; and with neither, in which he followed the family tradition by becoming a New York cop.
The show presents all three scenarios with sufficient clarity and moves between them in a fluid manner, and there is puzzle fun sorting out the different relationships and the unfolding of events. (Joe the nurse has to treat a gunshot victim because Joe the cop was not there to stop the shooting.)
Once you get the storylines, however, you see that these are all of the generic dramatic comedy setups (at this point, anyway), and the triple plotting doesn’t give the actors time to build. real characters. (NBC, Mondays)
Our kind of people
Based on Lawrence Otis Grahams’ documentary book Our Kind of People: Inside Americas Black Upper Class, this series created by Karin Gist picks up snaps from the prime-time soap opera of the beach-rich, a genre she has known since the work on Revenge and apply them to the Black Enclave of Oak Bluffs, on Marthas Vineyard.
This provides intrigue points that, just because they’re unfamiliar, will resonate with audiences. The upstart (Yaya DaCosta) trying to break into the local scene (and solve a mystery involving her parentage) is an entrepreneur specializing in black women’s hair care; the only significant white character in the first few episodes is a porter threatening to bring down a black-owned business. And within this framework, oppression occurs intraracially, along class lines; when a character recites And Still I Rise, she is talking about rising up among her wealthy black neighbors. (It’s also interesting how the characters use the story of racial oppression as an excuse for the kind of selfish, seeing behavior that the characters in this type of show are meant to display.)
What’s missing, however, is the fun you’d expect melodrama to lack a lot of juice for, and the performances (even by Joe Morton as the ruthless Patriarch) don’t go beyond pedestrian writing. (Fox, Tuesdays)
Exactly what you expected, but less. CBS is scratching its itch in Hawaii with this fourth show in the NCIS franchise, which pays homage to the late Hawaii Five-0 with a scene set at the Hilton Hawaiian Village (a ubiquitous location in this series) and pious references to ohana (family) . It also opens up possibilities of crossing with the current CBS Magnum PI series
Vanessa Lachey, herself an Air Force brat, is the first woman to appear on an NCIS show; his Naval Criminal Investigative Service team includes the usual suspects, like the Chip-on-Shoulder Action Figure (Yasmine Al-Bustami) and the Goofy Back-to-Office Guy (Jason Antoon). There’s no indication yet of the squeaky jokes and slightly eccentric personalities that make the original NCIS a guilty pleasure, but these things take time. (CBS, Mondays)
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