Wednesday, August 26, 2015

2015 Fall TV Preview: the New Shows on Cable & Premium

You may have read tweets or posts about Peak TV. It’s a hashtag; it’s important. FX’s president John Landgraf thinks TV will hit a saturation point and decrease. Well, yes, it happens. Critics wrote about it after press tour because it’s an easy talking point during the summer months. I only preview scripted shows. I found sixteen cable/premium scripted shows premiering this fall. A entertainment news site released a fall TV calendar for over 110 new and returning shows. Putting together new and returning shows posts for cable/premium takes the most time. Critics and executives rightly declare people can’t watch every show a network produces. The overwhelming number concerns only those in the business. One could complain libraries have too many books, DVDs, newspapers, old magazines, and that one will never read everything in a library.

Discussion of Peak TV ignores a basic truth about humans: everyone tastes differ. John Landgraf worried that people would miss the great show because of the good shows. He’s invested in people finding great shows—his FX shows—because it’s his job. Critics consider him the mayor of television. His opinion about Peak TV inspired a multi-part exploration of TV’s future, as well as multiple blog posts about the issue. People determine what’s great or good. It differs. It varies. Some literary folk consider Henry James The Master of Anglo-American books and short stories, but many revered writers did not like him. Mark Twain, for example, commented, ““Once you've put one of his [Henry James] books down, you simply can't pick it up again.”

There’s something for everyone these days. Scratch the ‘these days’ part. There’s always been something for everyone. Cable and premium have a wide variety of programming premiering this fall.



Created By Ben Watkins

Premiere Date: Friday, September 4 at 3:01AM

Premise: (from Amazon's press release, October 2014) Created and written by Ben Watkins, and marking the television debut of renowned filmmaker Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, World War Z), Hand of God stars Golden Globe winner Ron Perlman in his first lead television role since Sons of Anarchy as the honorable justice Pernell Harris. The show centers on Judge Harris, a hard-living, law-bending married man with a high-end call girl on the side, who suffers a mental breakdown and goes on a vigilante quest to find the rapist who tore his family apart. With no real evidence to go on, Pernell begins to rely on "visions" and "messages" he believes are being sent by God through Pernell's ventilator-bound son.

Thoughts: Remember the Oscar YouTube trailer? Joss Whedon linked it on Whedonesque prior to the 2013 or 2014 Oscars. The filmmakers made a trailer full of Oscar moments. Hand of God’s the serious streaming TV series. The main character is of dubious moral character, but he’s sympathetic, vengeful, trying to bring his life back together after a criminal tore it apart, plus one can’t ignore the spiritual element. Hand of God’s the stuff of House of Cards, The Leftovers, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, meaning that it depicts another man enduring a mid-age crisis. I don’t have more than a broad sense of the series, though.


Created by Greg Jacobs & Joe Gangemi

Premiere Date: Friday, October 9 at 3:01AM

Premise: (from Amazon's press release, October 2014) Directed by Sundance award-winner David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Eastbound and Down) and executive produced by Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh (Behind the Candelabra, Traffic, Ocean's Eleven), Red Oaks stars Craig Roberts (Submarine) as David Myers, an assistant tennis pro at the Red Oaks Country Club in suburban New Jersey in 1985. David is both reeling from his father's heart attack and conflicted about what college major to declare in the fall; his father Sam Myers is played by Richard Kind (Luck). While there, David meets a colorful cast of misfit co-workers and wealthy club members including an alluring art student named Skye, played by Alexandra Socha, and her corporate raider father Getty played by Paul Reiser (Mad About You) and Ennis Esmer as Nash. A coming-of-age comedy set in the "go-go" 80s that is equal parts hijinks and heartfelt, Red Oaks is about enjoying a last hurrah before summer comes to an end - and the future begins.

Thoughts: The Red Oaks YouTube page uploaded the first episode. I watched the Behind the Scenes video. I think the series will draw comparisons to Freaks & Geeks and Dazed and Confused. The 80s country club setting could lend itself to parodies of those 1980s sex comedies. I think of Private School. Obviously, Private School’s set at a Private School, but the ‘colorful’ characters I briefly glanced seemed similar to Private School’s colorful cast of sex-starved teens, aloof adults, and myopic businessmen.


Created By Frank Spotnitz

Premiere Date: Friday, November 20 at 3:01AM

Premise: (from Amazon's press release, January 2015) Based on Philip K. Dick's Hugo Award-winning 1962 alternative history, The Man in the High Castle considers the question of what would have happened if the Allied Powers had lost World War II. Almost 20 years after that loss, the United States and much of the world has now been split between Japan and Germany, the major hegemonic states. But the tension between these two powers is mounting, and this stress is playing out in the western U.S. Through a collection of characters in various states of posing (spies, sellers of falsified goods, others with secret identities), The Man in the High Castle provides an intriguing tale about life and history as it relates to authentic and manufactured reality.

Thoughts: I’ll watch anything starring Alexa Davalos. The trailer’s bare. I didn’t watch the “Pilot” during Amazon’s Vote for Pilots season. Frank Spotnitz wrote a decent amount of X File episodes and, lately, wrote for critically acclaimed Strike Back. Hollywood loves adapting Philip K. Dick. Linklater adapted him. Total Recall is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick. I’m sure more exist. Video games already imagined if the Nazis and Japanese ran the world after the war, but my friend still needs to push more for video games to receive the same credibility as an art form as TV and cinema. The premiere is more than eight weeks away. If interested, look out for more meaty trailers than what’s presently available.



Created By Al Gough & Miles Millar

Premiere Date: Sunday, November 15 at 10PM

Premise: (from AMC's press release, July 2015) AMC announced today from the Television Critics Association (TCA) Press Tour that its new martial arts drama series "Into the Badlands" will premiere Sunday, November 15th at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT. In a land controlled by feudal barons, "Into the Badlands" tells the story of a ruthless, well-trained warrior named Sunny (Daniel Wu) and a young boy named M.K. (Aramis Knight) who embark on a spiritual journey across a dangerous land.

Thoughts: The series premieres in mid-November. It’s loosely based on the classic Chinese tale, Journey to the West. The trailer released during Comic Con shows terrific fight choreography and excellent cinematography. The forest of one of the battles Sunny fights looks similar to Pylea, the home of Lorne in TheWB’s ANGEL. Into The Badlands’ central characters search for enlightenment, which represents a strict departure from the popular AMC series involving mentally unstable men leading agencies, drug empires, and zombie apocalypse survivors. The series looks solid.



Created By Stephen Butchard

Premiere Date: Saturday, October 10 at 10PM

Premise: (from BBC America's press release, July 2015) Today, BBC AMERICA revealed the key art for its new original series, The Last Kingdom, and announced that the drama is set for premiere on Saturday, October 10, 10:00pm ET. The Last Kingdom is a contemporary story of redemption, vengeance and self-discovery set against the birth of England. The eight part drama series follows young warrior and outsider, Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon, American Horror Story), on a fierce mission to reclaim his birthright.

Thoughts: The BBC knows how to produce epic battles about England at war. I couldn’t tell the difference between The Last Kingdom and the battles in The Hollow Crown. Men will fight for land, men will sleep with women, and, yeah, that’s about all one can gather from the short footage available online.



Created By Scott Graidner

Premiere Date: Wednesday, September 16 at 10:30PM

Premise: (from Comedy Central's press release, July 2015) "Moonbeam City" is an absurdist, retro-futuristic 80s cop extravaganza. Comedy Central's new animated series follows Dazzle Novak (voiced by Rob Lowe), a handsome, idiotic detective who commits more crimes than most criminals. His sexy, tyrannical chief Pizzaz Miller (Elizabeth Banks) won't get off his back. His obnoxious rival Rad Cunningham (Will Forte) will stop at nothing to destroy him. Dazzle must team up with the city's only competent police officer, Chrysalis Tate (Kate Mara), to protect their beloved, neon-soaked metropolis.

Thoughts: I bow in respect and reverence for the character names. Dazzle Novak. Rad Cunningham. Pizzaz Miller. Chrysalis Tate. Excellent. The animation style resembles Archer. It’s distinctly 80s in tone, color (neon), akin to the original Miami Vice (or Vice City), but also subversive (even though the idiot cop as the protagonist of a series is nothing new), and a tad surreal. Comedy Central has continually debuted great shows.



Created By Kurt Sutter

Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 15 at 10PM

Premise: (from FX's press release, August 2015) The 10-episode first season of The Bastard Executioner from Kurt Sutter, the Creator/Showrunner of the hit FX series Sons of Anarchy, debuts on FX on September 15th with a two-hour premiere. The Bastard Executioner is a blood-soaked, medieval epic that tells the story of Wilkin Brattle (Lee Jones), a 14th century warrior, whose life is forever changed when a divine messenger beseeches him to lay down his sword and lead the life of another man: a journeyman executioner. Set in northern Wales during a time rife with rebellion and political upheaval, Wilkin must walk a tight rope between protecting his true identity while also serving a mysterious destiny. Guided by Annora (Katey Sagal), a mystical healer whose seeming omniscience keeps Wilkin under her sway; manipulated by Milus Corbett (Stephen Moyer), a devious Chamberlain with grand political aspirations; and driven by a deepening connection with the Baroness Lady Love Ventris (Flora Spencer-Longhurst), Wilkin struggles to navigate political, emotional and supernal pitfalls in his quest to understand his greater purpose.

Thoughts: I read that Kurt Sutter heavy-handedly paralleled Hamlet’s themes and Sons of Anarchy themes. The SOA finale features a heavy-handed Christ martyr image that one could connect with Hamlet. The Bastard Executioner combines mysticism with medieval Christianity, the time in history when God chose kings. When God spoke through others, as He does to Wilkin, Wilkin will listen. Contemporary TV criticism and commentary doesn’t like overt themes, heavy-handed symbolism, which Kurt Sutter loves. Stories stagnant and die when characters exist to embody a theme, an idea, or to be a symbol, Kurt Sutter’s characters seem more than symbols or the personification of an idea. The Bastard Executioner looks similar in spirit, tone, and execution to The Last Kingdom and Vikings.



Created By Jim Serpico & Tom Sellitti

Premiere Date: Thursday, October 1 at 10PM

Premise: (from IFC's press release, June 2015) Benders follows a team of friends bonded by an irrational obsession with their men's ice hockey team, The Chubbys. Paul Rosenberg (Schulz) is the insecure leader whose involvement with the team causes daily havoc for him and his wife Karen (Broad). Along for the ride are Paul's best friends Anthony (Distefano), the charmer who schemes his way through life; Dicky (Gessner), the wealthy hedge fund manager whose answer to everything is in his wallet; and Sebalos (Iskandar) the slacker on a misguided search for his purpose in life. While their hockey skills may be limited, their passion is not, as evidenced by the chaos their devotion to the game creates in their everyday lives.

Thoughts: Finally, a hockey sitcom. I played for an extended stretch of time in a dek hockey league filled with mostly men that had an inflated sense of their skill as hockey players. Benders tell the stories of such men: delusional, off-color, but enthusiastic. I hope Serpico and Sellitti included scenes of opposing players illegally holding sticks because their defense lacks a whole lot or overly aggressive males that take runs at the Chubbys players. My interest in a hockey sitcom pales in comparison to my interest in watching hockey games. I watched a scene from Benders that did not engage me, and the trailer, which I disliked.



Created By Alan Yang & Aziz Ansari

Premiere Date: Friday, November 6 at 3:01AM

Premise: (from Netflix's press release, July 2015) Based on the comedic viewpoints of Aziz Ansari, the show follows the personal and professional lives of Dev (Aziz Ansari), a 30-year-old actor in New York who has trouble deciding what he wants to eat, much less the pathway for the rest of his life. Ambitious, funny, cinematic, and both sweeping in scope and intensely personal, Dev's story takes him through subjects as diverse as the plight of the elderly, the immigrant experience, and how to find the most delicious pasta for dinner.

Thoughts: Per The Hollywood Reporter, Aziz Ansari said, “This isn’t a relationship show.” The show’s driven by Dev’s perspective, Ansari’s character, and like Louie, characters will come and go, return or disappear, because Dev’s the Louie of Masters of None. Aziz Ansari wants the series to tell broad stories, though bits of his recent book, Modern Romance, will pop up in the series.



Created By

Premiere Date: Sunday, September 6 at 8PM

Premise: (from PBS's press release, June 2015) ARTHUR & GEORGE ON MASTERPIECE -- Martin Clunes ("Doc Martin") stars as world-famous author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in this three-part adaptation of Julian Barnes' acclaimed novel that follows the separate but intersecting lives of two men: a half-Indian son of a vicar who is framed for a crime he may not have committed; and Doyle, who investigates the case.

Thoughts: The Victorians had extraordinary work ethic. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle solved crimes when he didn’t write about the crime-solving sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Julian Barnes’ novel is based on true events, but the novelization of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must have taken liberties with the truth. The production of a three episode Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Masterpiece Theater fits well with Masterpiece Theater’s Sherlock. I might indeed watch the series. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fascinated me as a young lad, in my pre-Tolstoy days before I savagely turned against Victorian literature. The work habits of writers fascinate me. I doubt Arthur & George shows much about Doyle balancing detective work and the composition of his stories. British critics poorly reviewed the series earlier this year.


Created By

Premiere Date: Sunday, September 27 at 9PM

Premise: (from PBS's press release, June 2015) MASTERPIECE "Indian Summers" -- Julie Walters plays the glamorous doyenne of an English social club in the twilight of British rule in India. The lavish 9-part series explores the collision of the English ruling class and local people agitating for Indian independence. The two sides alternately clash and merge in intricate games of power, politics and passion.

Thoughts: Indian Summers has the post-colonial British thing to it. India wants independence from British rule. An old woman drunkenly babbles about the slaves of empire. A woman tells an Indian man, “You’re British propaganda.” I used to write many sentences about post-colonial British culture in college. The BBC seems likely to produce tales of the British Empire, the fading British Empire, England after the Empire fell and scores of migrants came to the country from all over, because it’s their thing. Indian Summers won’t become a social media sensation, but the British press favorably reviewed it—more so than Arthur & George.


Created By Phil Rosenthal

Premiere Date: Monday, September 28 at 10PM

Premise: (from PBS's press release, June 2015) I'LL HAVE WHAT PHIL'S HAVING -- Journey with Phil Rosenthal, creator of the TV hit "Everybody Loves Raymond," as he learns from the chefs, vendors, culinary leaders and style-setters who keep their communities' traditions alive and create new ones. Rosenthal visits kitchens on and off the well-worn gastronomic path, leading viewers from one of the least expensive Michelin-starred restaurants in Asia to a Los Angeles bakery training former gang members.

Thoughts: Phil Rosenthal explained the series during a panel recorded by The Nerdist Writers’ Panel: he traveled to nine different cities to explore the dining, the culture, etc. Rosenthal chose Los Angeles for an episode because he thinks many Los Angelenos can discover more about where they live. The show’s Anthony Bourdain for PBS.


Premiere Date: Sunday, October 4 at 10PM

Premise: (from PBS's press release, June 2015) THE WIDOWER - This drama is the true story of Malcolm Webster, a nurse by profession and, on the surface, a perfect gentleman: well-spoken, personable and charming. He's also a spendthrift and killer. He marries, and attempts to kill, a succession of women to cash in their life insurance policies.

Thoughts: The British press wrote lukewarmly about the series. PBS didn’t release a trailer yet, though ITV broadcast it a year and a half ago.


Created By David Eagleman

Premiere Date: Wednesday, October 14 at 10PM

Premise: from PBS's press release, June 2015) THE BRAIN WITH DAVID EAGLEMAN -- Neuroscientist David Eagleman explores the human brain in an epic series that reveals the ultimate story of us, why we feel and think the things we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories, and addresses some big questions. By understanding the human brain, we can come close to understanding humanity.

Thoughts: An exploration of the human brain. Cool. If anyone wants to read a different kind of exploration of the depths, capabilities, mysteries of the human brain, borrow or buy James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.



Created By Ivan Raimi & Sam Raimi

Premiere Date: Saturday, October 31 at 9PM

Premise: (from Starz's press release, July 2015) STARZ today announced the highly anticipated premiere of original series "Ash vs Evil Dead" on Saturday, October 31 at 9 PM ET/PT and released the first live action trailer during the series' Comic Con panel in San Diego. The 10-episode first season of the half-hour series is executive produced by Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell, the original filmmakers of the franchise, and Craig DiGregorio who serves as executive producer and showrunner. "Ash vs Evil Dead," which is currently in production in New Zealand, is the long-awaited follow-up to the classic horror film franchise The Evil Dead. Campbell reprises his role as Ash, the stock boy, aging lothario and chainsaw-handed monster hunter who has spent the last 30 years avoiding responsibility, maturity and the terrors of the Evil Dead. When a Deadite plague threatens to destroy all of mankind, Ash is finally forced to face his demons -personal and literal. Destiny, it turns out, has no plans to release the unlikely hero from its "Evil" grip.

Thoughts: The Evil Dead jawn found Ash, and Ash needs to improve his cardio before he battles the undead. The trailer showed great zombie kill shots, Ash battling the undead, teaching disenchanted millenials how to battle evil forces as well as the finer points of the boom stick; and the violence is messy, gory, brutal—perfect for Starz. Did I spot Lucy Lawless? I sure as hell did. I ignore every Starz show. I tried watching Spartacus because of my boy, Steven S. DeKnight, but I didn’t like it. I spend Saturday nights partying with my bros (I do not do that). I won’t have the time to watch Ash Vs. Evil Dead, because I’m broing out (nope).


Created By Moira Walley-Beckett

Premiere Date: Sunday, November 8 at 9PM

Premise: from Starz's press release, April 2015) Starz today announced that "Flesh and Bone," the eight-hour limited series created by Emmy(R) award-winning "Breaking Bad" Writer and Executive Producer Moira Walley-Beckett, will premiere on Sunday November 8, 2015. "Flesh and Bone" follows a young dancer with a distinctly troubled past as she joins a prestigious ballet company in New York. The dark, gritty, complex series unflinchingly explores New York City through the eyes of Claire, played by Sarah Hay ("Black Swan"), an emotionally wounded but transcendent ballerina navigating the dysfunction and glamour of the ballet world. Claire's self-destructive tendencies amid her vaulting ambitions drive her in compelling, unforeseeable ways, especially when she is confronted with the machinations of the company's mercurial Artistic Director, played by Ben Daniels ("House of Cards," "Law & Order UK") and an unwelcome visitor from her past.

Thoughts: Sarah Hay appeared in Black Swan. Flesh And Bone is Black Swan for TV. Moira Walley-Beckett wrote Breaking Bad’s most devastating episode, “Ozymandias.” I want Flesh And Bone to devastate viewers. Leave the viewers pale at the end of season one like a reader looks after reading “In The Gully.” The series seems by-the-books as far as psychological ballet thrillers go. The director’s insane. The central ballerina comes from a haunted, tragic past. I expect to see the bad side of NYC depicted because the setting character dramas such as these project around them, and the press release used “dark, gritty” to describe the series. Claire won’t walk the sunny streets of Greenwich Village. No, she’ll experience Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.



Created By Hawk Ostby & Mark Fergus

Premiere Date: Saturday, November 15 at 9PM

Premise: (from Syfy's press release, October 2014) Syfy and Alcon TV today announced the start of production for The Expanse, the new 10-episode epic space drama based on the international best-selling book series of the same name. Currently shooting in Toronto, Canada, The Expanse will premiere on Syfy in 2015. The Expanse is a thriller set two hundred years in the future, after mankind has colonized the solar system. A hardened detective (Thomas Jane, Hung) and a rogue ship's captain (Steven Strait, Magic City) come together for what starts as the case of a missing young woman and evolves into a race across the solar system to expose the greatest conspiracy in human history.

Thoughts: Writer could stand to stop writing conspiracies into genre shows. Conspiracies don’t work, because they’re open-ended and, thus, difficult to resolve. Like Starz shows, I ignore every Syfy show, not for a specific reason but because I forget. The Expanse premieres mid-November. I will re-read my thoughts about the show next year and faintly remember it.



From Executive Producers Banks Tarver & Ken Druckerman

Premiere Date: Tuesday, November 10 at 10:30PM

Premise: (from USA press release) semi-scripted comedy described as a satirical look at the media, wealth and modern romance with Donny Deutsch starring as a fictionalized version of himself: a famed ad man, single dad and TV personality

Thoughts: I assume the fictionalized version of himself differs from current fictionalized version of himself the MSNBC viewer sees while watching his talk show. Whatever persona one sees on television is not the ‘real’ persona of the person. USA’s Donny could shatter the metafictional boundaries of cable comedies, or I’m over-thinking it because Donny looks bland. He gives his child comically bad advice from Forrest Gump; his muscle shirts don’t have the desired affect on women; and other stuff. These self-indulgent TV vanity projects never self-deprecate. Donny Deutsch will look better for having done this. I don’t know.

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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.