Tuesday, August 19, 2014

2014 Fall TV Preview: the New Shows on The CW & CBS

The CW’s president, Mark Pedowitz, emphasizes the social media appeal of his network. The CW still gets poor ratings, but its social media scores are not poor. During the upfront presentation, Mr. Pedowitz boasted about The Original’s social media performance, and later added the network’s grown 43% since 2010. Ratings matter less each season. Networks and advertisers like the numbers because they have nothing else to use to gauge the success or lack of success for a series. I think The CW is in a good place. One thing I did not preview was the Veronica Mars web-series starring Ryan Hansen trying to get a spinoff made for his character, Dick Casablancas.

CBS is CBS. The network ordered more procedurals.

The CW

THE FLASH

Created By Andrew Kreisburg, Geoff Johns, and Greg Berlanti

Premise: (from The CW's press release, May 2014) Barry Allen was just 11 years old when his mother was killed in a bizarre and terrifying incident and his father was falsely convicted of the murder. With his life changed forever by the tragedy, Barry was taken in and raised by Detective Joe West, the father of Barry's best friend, Iris. Now, Barry has become a brilliant, driven and endearingly geeky CSI investigator, whose determination to uncover the truth about his mother's strange death leads him to follow up on every unexplained urban legend and scientific advancement that comes along. Barry's latest obsession is a cutting edge particle accelerator, created by visionary physicist Harrison Wells and his S.T.A.R. Labs team, who claim that this invention will bring about unimaginable advancements in power and medicine. However, something goes horribly wrong during the public unveiling, and when the devastating explosion causes a freak storm, many lives are lost and Barry is struck by lightning. After nine months in a coma, Barry awakens to find his life has changed once again - the accident has given him the power of super speed, granting him the ability to move through Central City like an unseen guardian angel. Though initially excited by his newfound powers, Barry is shocked to discover he is not the only "meta-human" who was created in the wake of the accelerator explosion - and not everyone is using their new powers for good. In the months since the accident, the city has seen a sharp increase in missing people, unexplained deaths and other strange phenomena. Barry now has a renewed purpose - using his gift of speed to protect the innocent, while never giving up on his quest to solve his mother's murder and clear his father's name. For now, only a few close friends and associates know that Barry is literally the fastest man alive, but it won't be long before the world learns what Barry Allen has become... The Flash.

Thoughts: Kreisburg, Johns, and Berlanti (along with Marc Guggenheim) have made tremendous television with Arrow. Arrow’s the best super hero series on television. The Flash seems likely to follow the structure, tone, and action-adventure of Arrow. Arrow introduced Barry Allen last season (along with his two friends), but he hasn’t been since the lightning strike. Suffice to say, he survived the lightning strike. Marvel currently dominates movie adaptations of comic books. People wonder how DC can compete with titanic Marvel Comics. Of the two companies, DC has more forward momentum in television. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. slugged along for most of the season until Captain America. Arrow’s production team was not limited by movies. Superman vs. Batman won’t affect The Flash. The Flash won’t need to sacrifice storytelling because of an upcoming movie.

The CW would love for 16 million people to watch weekly. 16 million watched the extended trailer that’s available to watch on YouTube.

JANE THE VIRGIN

Created By Jennie Snyder Urman & Perla Farias

Premiere Date: Monday, October 13 at 9PM

Premise: (from The CW's press release, May 2014) When Jane Villanueva was a young girl, her grandmother, Alba, convinced her of two things: telenovelas are the highest form of entertainment, and women must protect their virginity at all costs. Now age 23, Jane is a driven young woman studying to become a teacher, nursing a dream to be a writer, and supporting herself with a job at a hot new Miami hotel. All the years of watching telenovelas with the two women who raised her - her sexy, young-at-heart mother, Xiomara, and her still-devout grandmother, Alba - have given Jane a slightly unrealistic view of romance. Still, she is determined not to make the same mistake her mother made - becoming an unwed mother at 16. Jane has managed to find a wonderful fiancé: a handsome, hard-working detective named Michael, who loves her enough to accept her detailed timeline for their future together and even her insistence on "saving herself" until they're married. All of Jane's meticulous life plans are turned upside down, however, when she sees her doctor for a routine check-up and is accidentally artificially inseminated with a specimen meant for the patient in the next room. Unbeknownst to her, the specimen belongs to Rafael, a reformed playboy and cancer survivor, who is not only the new owner of the hotel where Jane works but also a former summer crush of hers. A few weeks later, the unsuspecting Jane is faced with the most important decisions of her life. Will she continue with the pregnancy? How can she explain the situation to her fiancé and family? And what should she do about the wishes of the biological father, Rafael, and his scheming wife Petra? Though she has always tried to be the good girl who does the right thing, Jane's life has suddenly become as dramatic and complicated as the telenovelas she has always loved.

Thoughts: Jane the Virgin stood out to me because it marks the triumphant return of Justin Baldoni, formerly of Everwood, in the role of Rafael, the cancer survivor and former crush of the titular Jane Villanueva. The CW develops these warm-hearted dramas that usually last multiple seasons—at least two, if not more. The preview centers on the close bond between the three generations of Villanuevas, and the importance of love. The antithesis of love in the series is represented by the ‘scheming’ Petra, blonde and immaculate. Petra’s similar to the blonde schemer on Hart of Dixie. There’s always a blond schemer. Jane The Virgin certainly has potential.

CBS

MADAM SECRETARY

Created By Barbara Hall

Premise: (from CBS's press release, May 2014) MADAM SECRETARY stars Téa Leoni as Elizabeth McCord, the shrewd, determined, newly appointed Secretary of State who drives international diplomacy, battles office politics and circumvents protocol as she negotiates global and domestic issues, both at the White House and at home. A college professor and a brilliant former CIA analyst who left for ethical reasons, Elizabeth returns to public life at the request of the President following the suspicious death of her predecessor. The President values her apolitical leanings, her deep knowledge of the Middle East, her flair for languages and her ability to not just think outside the box, but to not even acknowledge there is a box. McCord's team includes her Chief of Staff Nadine Tolliver (Emmy Award winner Bebe Neuwirth), speechwriter Matt Mahoney (Geoffrey Arend), press coordinator Daisy Grant (Patina Miller) and her charming assistant, Blake Moran (Erich Bergen). As McCord debates third world problems and finesses foreign dignitaries at work, that's just a warm-up for when she goes home to her supportive husband Henry (Tim Daly) and their two bright children (Katherine Herzer and Evan Roe), where "politics" and "compromise" take on new meaning.

Premiere Date: Sunday, September 21 at 8PM

Thoughts: What ‘new meaning’ do politics and compromise take on at home? Oh, CBS. That’s a bad hook. The only worse hook would’ve been “But Elizabeth McCord’s public life is nothing compared to her home life!” Of course, that would make it an ABC sitcom. CBS’ First Look video essentially shrinks the “Pilot” into a five-minute preview. Madam Secretary saves two kids from execution in Syria while managing the home front and making allies and enemies in Washington; plus, she maintains her principles, her sense of self, her independent spirit, which we see displayed in two scenes: her exchange with a student, and her resistance to the personal appearance assistant assigned to her by the president. Madam Secretary is similar to USA’s Sigourney Weaver-led political drama broadcast two summers ago. CBS hints Tea Leoni’s Madam Secretary will eventually ascend to the presidency. Immediately, she will address international and domestic issues, episode-by-episode, and investigate how the previous secretary died. I’ll predict Zeljko Ivanek’s character planned the previous secretary’s death. He made two light-hearted threats about respecting him in the first episode. Madam Secretary seems like a solid series.

SCORPION

Created By Nick Santora

Premise: (from CBS's press release, May 2014) SCORPION, inspired by a true story, is a high-octane drama about eccentric genius Walter O'Brien (Elyes Gabel) and his team of brilliant misfits who comprise the last line of defense against complex, high-tech threats of the modern age.

Premiere Date: Monday, September 22 at 9PM

Thoughts: The best procedurals involve action and adventure. Some of the better ones involve an eccentric lead played by a recognizable lead. What if a procedural involves action-adventure, an eccentric lead, played by a non-recognizable actor, and his eccentric playmates? Well, it’s still a procedure. CBS profits from procedurals because the audience devours procedurals. Procedurals are the heart of the television industry machine. Scorpion comes from the Fast and the Furious producers. Scorpion follows a genius and his team. Each episode, they’ll figure out a defense that’ll work against high-tech threats. I’m not sure about the Walter O’Brien/Katherine McPhee/genius kid storyline. Some it smacks of Rian Johnson’s Looper, except the genius kid isn’t the massive threat. Walter, for Katherine McPhee’s homely waitress character, represents a connective line to her son. We all know where that storyline will go. The secondary characters in Scorpion may not be more than devices/props/toys. I don’t think one can build episodes around Finch from American Pie or the socially lost mathematical genius character without it being derivative nothing. At best, Scorpion should provide a decent distraction after a Monday’s day of work. At worst, it’s still a procedural.

NCIS: NEW ORLEANS

Created By Gary Glasberg

Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 23 at 9PM

Premise: (from CBS's press release, May 2014) NCIS: NEW ORLEANS is a drama about the local field office that investigates criminal cases affecting military personnel in the Big Easy, a city known for its music, entertainment and decadence.

Thoughts: NCIS: New Orleans will follow its older siblings in tone, structure, format, etc. NCIS joins The Originals, TV’s other New Orleans drama. Neither show will match the quality of David Simon’s and Eric Overmyer’s Treme.

STALKER

Created By Kevin Williamson

Premiere Date: Wednesday, October 1 at 10PM

Premise: (from CBS's press release, May 2014) STALKER stars Maggie Q and Golden Globe Award winner Dylan McDermott in a psychological thriller about detectives who investigate stalking incidents - including voyeurism, cyber harassment and romantic fixation - for the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD.

Thoughts: Kevin Williamson battled critics at the CBS day during TCAs over Stalker. I assume bad feelings lingered after The Following, which seemed to glorify violence without condemning it. Williamson took to Twitter afterwards to make fun of former AV Club TV Editor, Todd Vanderwerff, because Todd and others weren’t nice to him about his shows. Kevin Williamson’s a hit-or-miss writer. Scream and Scream 2 will always remain iconic horror movies. Scream launched his career. Without Scream, there’s no Dawson’s Creek. Williamson’s last great series was The Vampire Diaries, which he left a few seasons ago. Before that he had a run of poor projects. I expect Stalker to match the quality of Cursed rather than Scream or even The Faculty. Kevin Williamson inspired me to write my first script at age 11 or 12 after I saw Scream for the first time. Before the many writers I love and admire now, only Kevin Williamson inspired me. I’d like Williamson to move away from psychological thrillers, horror series, adaptations of poorly written young adult novels, and try another series similar to Dawson’s Creek, Young Americans, or even Wasteland (maybe not Wasteland).

THE MCCARTHYS

Created By Brian Gallivan

Premiere Date: Thursday, October 30 at 9:30pm

Premise: (from CBS's press release, May 2014) THE McCARTHYS is a multi-camera comedy about a loud, sports-crazed Boston family whose somewhat athletically challenged son, Ronny (Tyler Ritter), is chosen by his father to be his assistant high school basketball coach, much to the surprise of his more qualified siblings. Ronny wants nothing more than to move away, join the singles scene and find a partner. His distraught mother, Marjorie (Laurie Metcalf), is not upset that her favorite son is gay, but that he wants to leave Boston and his family. Ronny's plans change, however, when his politically incorrect and outspoken father, Arthur (Jack McGee), stuns everyone with his choice for an assistant. Touched by his father's offer, Ronny embarks on a completely different future - and he can be sure that his loving, tight-knit family is going to have a very vocal opinion about it.

Thoughts: A show about a “loud, sports-crazed Boston family” seems atrocious. I grew weary of Boston set stories in 2005. I might tolerate The McCarthys if I thought the series would expand beyond the same tropes and stereotypes seen in shows about Boston folk. The family is loud, traditional, confused by same-sex couplings, unable to keep secrets, and nearly incapable of understanding characters like Ronny. CBS scheduled it after Two & a Half Men, which means the network will quickly cancel it if it doesn’t retain the Two & A Half Men audience, or it’ll, you know, succeed.

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About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.