Critics were nicer to Paul Lee this year at Press Tour, despite losing 2.2% of its demo audience. Who really cares about that besides ABC and critics? The network will launch nothing especially exciting this fall. 10 years after LOST premiered, ABC’s most supernatural new series is Forever. ABC held Agent Carter for January 2015, where it’ll premiere during Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s winter break. Shonda Rhimes continues creating night soaps. Read on for what ABC will offer in a few weeks.
Created By Matthew Miller
Premiere Date: Monday, September 22 at 10PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2014) Doctor Henry Morgan (Ioan Gruffudd), New York City's star medical examiner, has a secret. He doesn't just study the dead to solve criminal cases, he does it to solve the mystery that has eluded him for 200 years - the answer to his own inexplicable immortality. This long life has given Henry remarkable observation skills, which impresses his new partner, Detective Jo Martinez (Alana De La Garza). Each week, a new case and their budding friendship will reveal layers of Henry's long and colorful past. Only his best friend and confidant, Abe (Judd Hirsch) knows Henry's secret.
Thoughts: “You might not be able to die, but you haven’t lived in a long time.” Ugh. Geez louise. So it’s that type of series. The two minute forty five second preview lays out the essential beats of the “Pilot,” which is very ordinary. Ioan Grufford plays a Sherlock Holmes-type medical examiner, blessed and cursed with immortality. His colleague remarks that he can solve any cause of death by merely looking at the body. Henry Morgan’s ability stems from personal experience dying and a helpful friend who will kill him in the manner of his current victim. Somewhere along the way Henry begins working with Detective Jo Martinez, who seems annoyed by him but who will later reveal she chose Henry. One scene shows her rampant suspicion about Henry’s presence on a crashed subway car, but editing tossed that aside for the sake of scenes demonstrating growing closeness and love between Detective and star Medical Examiner.
The series seems like a mash of Castle and Elementary, with a dash of Victorian science fiction intrigue in the vein of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous short story. Ion Grufford possesses a certain classical handsomeness that should appeal to the ladies watching Monday nights at 10PM. I’m most interested in the relationship between Henry and Abe, because of the lawless science happening in the basement. One hopes it leads to a trippy episode 10, right around the holidays. I doubt I’ll ever tune in for one second of Forever.
Created By Kenya Barris
Premiere Date: Wednesday, September 24 at 9:30PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2014) Andre 'Dre' Johnson (Anthony Anderson) has a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), four kids, and a colonial home in the 'burbs. But has success brought too much assimilation for this black family? With a little help from his dad (Laurence Fishburne), Dre sets out to establish a sense of cultural identity for his family that honors their past while embracing the future.
Thoughts: Anthony Anderson will star in a series that lasts more than thirteen episodes one day. Perhaps Black-ish is the lucky series for him. Paul Lee likes to order series about cultural or gender crises in America. The Neighbors dealt with the idea of separateness in a culture. No Ordinary Family focused on a superhero family that strove to appear ordinary. Last Man Standing dealt with the man crisis of 2012 (or something). Black-ish follows that mediocre trend. Anthony Anderson’s Dre worries about sacrificing his family’s cultural and ancestral roots. I assume he spends the “Pilot” trying to find it before settling for a mode of living that’ll suit a weekly sitcom structure. The first ten seconds of the preview showcase, through Dre’s perspective, the signifiers of his successful happy life, which are a good career, an abundant family, a great home, and that’s it. Writers need to explore happiness as more than an accumulation of material items, one’s status in corporate America. I’ve digressed.
HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER
Created By Peter Nowalk
Premiere Date: Thursday, September 25 at 10PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2014) The brilliant, charismatic and seductive Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) gets entangled with four law students from her class, "How to Get Away with Murder." Little do they know that they will have to apply what they learned to real life, in this masterful, sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller from Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers, executive producers of "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal.
Thoughts: Paul Lee compared Shonda Rhimes to Charles Dickens during the Upfronts in May. Shonda’s possibly more productive than Dickens and possesses a seemingly inexhaustible amount of stories in her head. How To Get Away with Murder seems addictive, sexy, and soapy. Viola Davis has great presence on screen. The preview shows off the various ways her students will use to ‘get away with murder.’ Coercion, sex, smarts, details over generalities, etc. Very pretty people populate the cast. Among my favorite characters is the bearded professor who sleeps with any female student that comes his way, especially that wry, devilish smile only seen in soaps.
Created By Emily Kapnek
Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 30 at 8PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2014) "Instafamous" Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan) has 263,000 followers who hang on to her every post, tweet and selfie. But one lonely day, she has a revelation: being friended is not the same as having actual friends. She asks marketing guru Henry (John Cho) to 'rebrand' her self-obsessed reputation and teach her how to connect with people in the real world. Loosely based on "My Fair Lady," "Selfie" explores the modern struggles of Eliza and Henry, as he tries to teach her how to live life offline - whether she 'likes' it or not.
Thoughts: John Cho may do the impossible: transform Henry Higgins from repugnant villain to sympathetic hero. Emily Kapnek may do the impossible: transform the Eliza Doolittle archetype from great heroine to insufferable main character, Eliza Dooley. ABC’s marketing department seems unaware My Fair Lady came from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Kapnek aims to attack the social media landscape dominated by hashtags and selfies. Something about Selfie seems specifically Los Angeles. I spent less than 24 hours total in LA between 2013 and 2014 and thus cannot elaborate on what that something is, but vague pronouns carry paid critics and bloggers through reviews and analysis. The 3 minutes of Karen Gillan’s Eliza Dooley was unpleasant. Her nasally, affected line delivery fits the superficiality of the character. I think Natasha Leggero’s been doing that bit for awhile (or DID the bit and has since moved on). 3 minutes grated. 22 minutes will improve that grating vibe.
MANHATTAN LOVE STORY
Created By Jeff Lowell
Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 30 at 8:30PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2014) Have you ever wondered what your date was thinking? This romantic comedy exposes the differences between men and women through the unfiltered thoughts, and often contradictory actions, of a new couple who have just begun dating.
Thoughts: Manhattan Love Story’s premise seems better for a 90 minute movie, not a possible 22 episode run. The thoughts of the two main characters don’t include any revelatory things about the sexes. The male wanders down the street, considering which girls he’d like to have sex with, while the female wanders down the same street, considering which purses she’d like to take home with her. The male can’t cry without the female thinking he’s gay. The male cannot enjoy conversation over dinner with her without looking at her chest instead of into her eyes, because men. While the female immediately cries when he learns she made a list of things to see in New York City. What? David Foster Wallace wrote a good short story that went into the heads of a male and a female post-breakup, which I enjoyed. He didn’t lean on established stereotypes and gender roles to filter the story through. Jeff Lowell’s script seems to lack originality. Lowell offers little insight into the intricacies of the male-female dynamic, and the male and female mind.
Created By Cristela Alonzo & Kevin Hench
Premiere Date: Friday, October 10 at 8:30PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2014) In her sixth year of law school, Cristela (Cristela Alonzo) is finally on the brink of landing her first big (unpaid) internship at a prestigious law firm. The only problem is that her pursuit of success is more ambitious than her traditional Mexican-American family thinks is appropriate. She's stuck straddling the old culture she's trying to modernize at home with her working-class family and the modern world she's trying to embrace in her professional career. Breakout comedian Cristela Alonzo stars in this hilarious comedy about laughing your way down the path to the new American dream.
Thoughts: Cristela’s lively and fun. The preview packs in a minute and a half of jokes before the traditional moment of heart that shows its potential audience, “Hey, you’ll laugh, but you’ll also feel emotions, and relate to this woman and her situation and her family and how her family feels about her.” It is formulaic, but what ABC Friday night sitcom isn’t?