When I was searching for a topic for this column, friend and former WEEKEND editor Cory Barker suggested I write a preview of all the new shows premiering this September. It was a solid suggestion. But when I sat down to write this, I realized how terribly ambivalent I’m feeling about this upcoming fall season.
It’s not as though there aren’t things to be excited about. By all accounts, HBO’s lavish new Prohibition-era drama “Boardwalk Empire” is going to be an epic tour-de-force for the network and for star Steve Buscemi, and AMC’s “The Walking Dead”appears to be one of the most stunningly directed and filmed TV series currently on the air, if its trailer is any indication.
Another show I’m dying to watch is FOX’s “Lone Star,” about a Texas con man leading a double life, only to decide he doesn’t want to be a con man any longer. Critics are high on the pilot, shot by Marc Webb, who directed “(500) Days of Summer.” The trailer seems epic and sexy, and newcomer Josh Wolk inhabits the con man protagonist with such effortless charm and charisma that I defy you not to be beguiled into watching the show based on the three-minute trailer alone.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been all that moved by anything else on the docket. CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0” looks as though it could be “NCIS: Hawaii,” which is probably a great thing for the network, but is far less interesting to viewers looking for something original. NBC is trying, bless them, with twisty-seeming “The Event,” which appears to have learned nothing from the post-“Lost” backlash against twisty-seeming shows such as “FlashForward,” “The Nine,” et al.
“Undercovers,” from super-producer J.J. Abrams, is the other bright hope of NBC this fall, as a comedic drama about married spies who get back into the game after a long absence. As a huge fan of Abrams’ other work, especially his previous spy drama “Alias,” I had high hopes for this one. Those hopes were quickly dashed when I learned that this series plans to eschew an over-arching mythology almost entirely in favor of episodes which introduce a new mission each week. Which, fine, but also: yawn.
ABC seems to be taking the same tack with “No Ordinary Family,” which didn’t need Michael Chiklis to draw comparisons to the “Fantastic Four.” It’s intended for family viewing, which is admirable, but when one critic claims it has less edge than Disney/Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” you’ve got a problem.
FOX has a slate of comedies I wish were as entertaining as they should be. “Raising Hope” features the excellent Martha Plimpton and always amusing Cloris Leachman, but seems to fall flat on its face. “Running Wilde,” from the creators of “Arrested Development,” should be so much better than early reviews and an awkward trailer suggest it is.
The less said about CBS’ dead-in-the-water “$h*! My Dad Says,” the better.
All this is not to say that there’s nothing good on TV this fall — it’s just that the good stuff is mostly coming to us from returning shows. Last year seemed a bit more original than other recent years (or maybe the meteoric rise of “Glee” has obliterated other stories from my memory), but this year seems to be a more conservative play from the networks.
Unfortunately for them, I doubt it will result in high ratings. Unfortunately for us, it means we have to hope the inevitable mid-season replacement series are better than this lot.