Tuesday, May 27, 2008

In Fall TV, You Are Either In... Or You Are Out

The networks have finally made their decisions and rolled out the new schedules for fall 2008. There are plenty of new shows (a couple of which I've already discussed), plenty of returning shows, and as usual, the inevitable cancellations to make way for said shows. However, the writer's strike has caused fewer cancellations than normal, simply because the networks didn't get as many pilots as usual, and most of the new fall 2007 shows weren't given a chance. So this year we add a new category: The second chance one.

Aliens in America. I LOVED this show... I didn't write about it nearly as much as I should have, but it never failed to make me howl out loud at least once an episode. This show had that daring, very uncomfortable political incorrectness where a character would make a racial slur (often unbeknownst to them) in the vein of Archie Bunker, and yet somehow the show made it funny. There was plenty of teenage self-discovery, for better or for worse, and Justin's voiceover always had that perfect sarcasm that added humour to every scene. Recently there was an episode where Justin was assigned to read Madame Bovary, and he intends to read the Cliff's Notes until one parent protests by saying it contains too much sexual content... whereupon Justin reads the entire book (and concludes it TOTALLY lived up to its billing). After he reads it, he begins drawing pictures of naked women, an obvious metaphor for something else. When his mother discovers his notepad full of the pictures, she shows the father, who confronts Justin. He says it's okay if sometimes you feel like going to your room and doing something like this, and Justin confesses that he's been doing it for a long time, and begins tossing one notebook after another on the bed. His father (Luke from Gilmore Girls), runs bewildered back to his wife, and says, "He's been drawing so much I'm surprised he's still able to hold a pen!" I was howling with laughter. The show was so wonderful and clever, but I don't know a soul besides myself who actually watched it. I'm really sad to see this one go. Then again, it was axed by Dawn Ostroff, who brought down the axe on Veronica Mars and Everwood, so... not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. She should go work for Fox. They'd LOVE her.

Moonlight: Not sad to see this one go. However, I've heard that maybe the Sci-Fi Channel will pick it up, because the show does have its diehard fans. Maybe the execs could go away and come up with an original idea and not hand us Forever Angel next time. I didn't last beyond episode 3 on this one.

Shark (never saw this one)

Scrubs: Ok, not really... NBC cancelled it, ABC picked it up.

Back to You: While this one wasn't one I actually watched, I envisioned it as that can't-lose comedy that would pull in the millions of viewers who loved Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond. I was shocked to see it go. But then again, it's Fox. If there were ever a place where a show goes to die, it's there.

New Amsterdam: This had a lot of promise. I PVR'd every episode and then started watching, imagining a marathon. I lasted a few minutes into the second episode and was bored. Did anyone else continue? I'm interested in hearing from others who stuck it out, even if the show is now over.

Second Chances:
Several new series showed promise in fall 2007, but weren't given a fighting chance, simply because the writer's strike came along, pushed them off the schedule, and then they were never able to claw their way back on, simply because some reality show or other had squatted in their time slot in the meantime. But thankfully, the best ones are being given a second chance, even though they didn't return after the strike.

Dirty Sexy Money: This show was great -- an adult version of Gossip Girl. I loved the intrigue, the sleaze, and the soap operyness of it all. That said, here's hoping they have a recap to remind us all what happened.

Pushing Daisies: I love love love this show. I've never used the word "sublime" to discuss a television show before (though I probably should more often... it's a great word), but I did when it came to this one. The colours, the oddities, the breaking into song, the 1950s dresses... this show was kooky as hell, and amazing. And few people can make me laugh like Chi McBride does.

Chuck: How much do I love Chuck?? No recap needed for this one; I remember everything on it. He's adorable, the theme music rocks (great, I'm thinking of it now, and it'll be in my head for the next two days), the stories are really funny, and the ensemble cast is great. I can't wait for its return.

Returning Shows:
If they aren't listed in the cancellation section, or didn't have their series finale, they'll be back. I won't waste your time by listing off a bunch of shows that are coming back that are just obvious. Oh wait... I'll mention one... FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS! WOOT WOOT! Okay, I'll mention two of them: Heroes premieres on September 22, with a one-hour recap followed by a two-hour premiere. YEAH!

New Shows:
There are a ton of new shows starting up, as usual, so I won't go into detail on all of them here, but just some of the ones that caught my eye.


90210: A remake of the early 1990s classic, this new show on the CW brings us back to that posh zip code in California. It's on the CW, which means it had Dawn Ostroff standing over it with her hand wavering over the CANCEL button, but it has a lot of potential. That said, I'm pretty hooked on Gossip Girl right now (if 90210 is about the very wealthy, Gossip Girl is about the disgustingly wealthy), and the CW will have two warring "rich kids" shows on their network. Is that network big enough for both? Time will tell... That said, it will have Kelly and Donna on it! Kelly will be a guidance counsellor, and Donna Martin graduates to the owner of a posh Bev Hills store. It's sorta like Degrassi: The Next Generation in that sense.

My Own Worst Enemy: Christian Slater stars in this Jekyll and Hyde type of show, where he's a family man in his one life and a covert operative in his other. We've seen it before, but here's hoping it's good. I do love me some good Christian Slater.

Sit Down, Shut Up: This will be a midseason start, so more likely January 2009. It's a show that uses live action backdrops with animated characters laid over them, and it's by Mitch "Arrested Development" Hurwitz. This is certainly the season where our most beloved creators return. The show is about a bunch of teachers at a high school and their relationships with one another. The voices include Will Arnett, Henry Winkler, Jason Bateman (here's keeping my fingers crossed for Michael Cera, David Cross, and Tony Hale to be added), Cheri Oteri and Will Forte. (Fox)

The Office Spin-off: Still unnamed, still unconfirmed which character will move to this one. In fact, latest word has it the show WON'T actually feature anyone from The Office, and they'll be casting someone new to helm it. So, um... how does that make it a spinoff? Well, they did it with Laverne and Shirley and Mork & Mindy (they show up once on Happy Days and boom, they're a spinoff) so they'll probably have the character show up in the first episode of The Office and then they'll start their show a half-hour later.

Life on Mars: This is a remake of the BBC version of the show. The BBC one was good, but didn't hold my interest beyond the first season. The remake is done by David E. Kelly. No offense to Ally McBeal fans, but this guy has never done it for me. So I'm mentioning it, but I don't intend to watch it.

The Goode Family: The new animated series by Mike Judge will be on ABC as a midseason replacement... I LOVE LOVE LOVE King of the Hill, so I'm excited about this.

In fact, there's surprisingly little that interests me this fall. I'm glad they'll be giving some of the great 2007 shows a second kick at the can, because those are the ones I'll be watching.


KeepingAwake said...

Nikki, The Chuck Theme music is Cake's "Short Skirt, Long Jacket'.

Looking forward to Fringe and still mourning Journeyman.

Anonymous said...

Nikki - I assumed from the Office finale that Toby would get the spinoff. Not true?

synchrobrarian said...

WAIT!!! can you confirm Pushing Daises is a goner, it CAN'T BE, i have been looking forward to it picking back up this Fall even more than the wait during Lost hiatus


synchrobrarian said...

sorry, scratch that last comment, i did not see the 2nd Chances headline, whew!! that really scared me

Nikki Stafford said...

KeepingAwake: Yep, I knew it was Cake... looks like you and I have very similar viewing habits!! I'm still upset about Journeyman. What a fantastic show. I wish they'd let them do a couple of wrap-up hours or something. I was SO invested in it.

Anonymous: I totally thought that, too, but word has it they'll be casting someone new. My thinking is Toby will pop up repeatedly on The Office (or maybe both shows) just to drive Michael into a lather. And, of course, the actor who plays Toby is one of the head writers of the show, so he'll still be around in that capacity.

Synchromystic: Sorry to scare you!! If Pushing Daisies were cancelled, trust me, you'd know it from my blog. I'd have a black armband wrapped around the post and a giant post mourning the stupidity of TV execs. Thankfully, that's not the case. :)

Anonymous said...

I have ideas for shows, but everytime I call or e-mail someone over there in Hollywoodland, they're too busy dreaming up retarded concepts like...oh, I dunno, remaking 90210 or finding some other America's Next Whatever...but before I begin, a moment of silence for Pushing Daisies.



My idea?: Batman meets CSI, but with the younger Robin in the starring role. He goes to school and deals with the regular tween drama during the day, and gets to solve whodunits and maybe even dress up in costume once or twice at night, all while living at Wayne Manor, living the high life of a filthy rich American teenager, with access to the Batcave.

See, this show would kick ass. But TV has no love for good programming anymore, which is why they allow crap like the Knight Rider movie to be made and actually aired much to the horrific dismay and medically induced vomiting I was forced to endure after watching it.

Remaking 90210? Um, hello, the first one wasn't even all that, so why? Isn't there enough shows on TV about spoiled rich white kids "hooking up" and getting drunk and stuff? But what do you expect when Kim Kardashian gets her own series? What? The (lame) porno tape wasn't enough? Do you NOT have enough money? What the hell?

Why can't we have more shows that ooze neatness and creativity like...oh, I dunno, LOST...Battlestar Galactica, the Shield, Psych,Rescue ME, Pushing Daisies, and the 2 Coreys?

OK. I accidentally fell into a diabetic coma and the 2 Coreys slipped out, but I'm saying...what happened to all the GOOD network shows? Pushing Daisies lured me back to ABC as did Eli Stone and they managed to keep me around a bit, looking for something else besides LOST to view. But NBC and CBS I pretty much avoid at all cost. First there was the reboot of the Bionic Woman which you JUST KNEW was gonna suck. And Chuck was OK, but I couldn't get behind an idea that had so blatantly been ripped off from a early 2000s comicbook by Jim Lee (WIldstorm/Image comics)called Divine Right. And why does the Office need a spin off? Don't get me wrong, I love the crazy folks over at Dunder Mifflin, but only for 30 minutes at a time, and once a week. The best thing that show has going for it is Michael's inane childishness and Pam and Jim's thing. I can't see anyone else spinning off unless it's the guys in the warehouse. They're kinda funny, but Toby? Puh-lease, I've experienced more rollicking laughter watching the President look for WMDs.

CBS had Jericho. Yeah, I watched it for a minute. It was OK. But wasn't there a whole TV miniseries done about the nuclear war back in the 80s?? The Day After? Ring any bells? Seriously, I don't think anybody wants to watch these good-hearted townspeople pretend to live in a world after the bomb was dropped, and honestly, they should all be irradiated and glowing in the dark by now, anyway. There was a time when CBS has TV by the balls with shows like....well, I guess I can say Survivor. But unless you time travel to the 80s when they were in their heyday with stuff like Magnum PI, Simon and Simon, Major DAD (go Gerald McRaney!!) and Designing Women, oh, and Murder She Wrote, then you can just go ahead and count CBS out of the game entirely.

The point is, network TV still doesn't GET it. Their oldhat "TV formulas" just don't cut it anymore. With cutting edge characterization and killer storylines from FX, USA, HBO, Showtime, Scifi and some of the others out there, why on Gilligan's Island would I wanna go back to the boring, redundant drivel of the network sitcom or stock cop/medical show anyway?

Word of advice to the networks from a viewer: Take a chance on a show for once with a GREAT story. Nurse it. Let it grow. Listen to your viewers and not your dumb ass stockholders and sponsors who don't actually watch any TV anyway. And TV execs? Don't dream up a show based on current trends or the "hottest" celebutante "star" currently hitting the blog/news circuits. Don't regurgitate old shows with a new cast because, guess what? We do tend to see through things like that, and it makes me want to do one of two things...reach for the remote to perform any ONE of a BILLION possible maneuvers from there...or...

...pop in a DVD of one of those shows from days gone by you actually DID manage to get right.

And holy crap! I ranted.

Emilia said...

I'm hoping Lauren Graham somehow gets the lead on the Office Spin-off. Word is she had an NBC show in the works before the writer's strike, but it ran out of steam before it started. I'd love to have her back on TV again, and I think she'd be suited to Office-y sarcasm.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Don, I get the anger that frequently gets thrown around this site at execs who cancel our favourite shows, but let's be real. It is not due to stupidity or malice that these things happen; it's because of a wierd-ass business model.

Viewers are not the consumers in this market -- we're the product. We are produced by the networks and sold to the ones with the real power: the advertisers. To these guys, a show is a show is a show, and I can't blame them for just trying to sell their stuff without making an emotional connection with all the programs their ads appear on.

Thus, to ad firms, a show with 2m viewers is twice as valuable as one with only 1m, and it doesn't matter how much either group of viewers like their respective shows. If viewers were the ones networks sold their shows to, the program with 1m viewers could be as or more successful than the 2m-viewer show. This is why I cheer every move toward pay-per-view I hear about.

Wawa said...

I LOVED LOVED LOVED Aliens in America. I called it Wonder Years but much dirtier. And a lot of the episodes were directed by Fred Savage. Not sure why this one didn't get more noticed. Probably was the writers strike. I wish someone would give it a second chance.

Also really like Dirty Sexy Money too.

Jonathan said...

Maybe you ought to stop focussing on new shows on US TV, and try to catch up on Peep Show, one of the greatest comedies EVER MADE!!! The show is already four episodes into season 5, and it's still amazing!!!

Nikki Stafford said...

Don: No mourning for Pushing Daisies! It's not cancelled... I'm not sure why so many people got that from my post, but be assured, it's coming back and it's one of the shows I'm anticipating the most. :)

I like your show idea! But to be honest, I would argue that we're currently in a Golden Age of Television, despite all the cancellations. I think most TV these days is better than the movies... in the 90s, I was a total film buff, and was at the theatre 3 times a week or more. I didn't watch TV as much (seriously!) and didn't have many fave shows. Now I barely get to the movies, and I don't miss it. TV, on the other hand, is brilliant if you watch the right shows. And I must respectfully disagree on Chuck: I love that show. :)

emilia: Lauren Graham would be an amazing addition to the cast; she could handle their dialogue style no problem.

Not That JJ: I first want to mention that "this site" is not the only one out there to complain about the constant cancellation of shows, despite my annoyance at Fox being no secret. You said that like I'm the only one out there griping about it. That said, you make an excellent point, and one well taken. I gripe, therefore I am. But while I do it, I am aware that the shows I love -- the quirky, funny, brilliant ones -- aren't typically the ones Middle America tunes into, and sadly, if there are no viewers, there are no sponsors, and therefore no money, and therefore no reason for them to be kept on the air. They can't fund shows for 12 people to watch.

We also live in an age where networks are taking more chances on shows. Ten years ago, we wouldn't see shows like Veronica Mars... hell, we probably wouldn't have seen shows like Lost. Serial dramas were poison, and somehow, Lost has made them work.

My gripe with Dawn Ostroff comes in the wake of the WB being able to get shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer out there. If there was ever a show that was destined to last 4 episodes before cancellation, this should have been it, but the WB knew exactly how to target the market. The CW is lost... if the show doesn't contain Pussycat Dolls or Tyra Banks, it's canned. (That's why I'm thrilled Gossip Girl is doing so well.) The net doesn't seem to know how to push certain shows, and when the critics rave, it just lets it die because a better reality show has come along. You have a behemoth like NBC doing everything it can to save an unwatched show like Friday Night Lights because they've recognized its superiority, going so far as to make a deal that will surely have everyone downloading the episodes after they air on DirectTV and not waiting for NBC... but they still managed to save it. So many shows on the CW just die because it's too much of an effort to save them.

But all that said, I see your point, and agree. Part of the issue the CW is facing is, not everyone gets that channel. In Canada, most of the CW programming is not readily available, so I'm not sure if people were actually able to watch Aliens in America here. I know CTV bought Veronica Mars so they could pretty much keep any other network from having it, and then they buried it, and Gossip Girl will air later in the summer.

Anonymous said...

JJ here again. Sorry if I "sounded" like I was singling your site out as though it was worse than any other (that is really not the case).

Just to reiterate my point, you say "they can't fund shows only twelve people watch." That's it exactly -- the people writing the checks are the ones with all the power. If we depend on "them" to just give us whatever is convenient for "them", what right do we have to complain when network programming isn't our cup of tea?

The solution to this warped market is for viewers to put up. If According to Jim and BSG are both free, more people watch AtJ, AtJ is more valuable to ad firms, it makes more money and is thus "more successful" than BSG. If viewers pay for shows, and the market decides a new ep of AtJ is worth fifty cents, whereas a new ep of BSG is worth $7.50, then even if AtJ brings in ten times more eyeballs than BSG, BSG still makes half again as much money.

Nikki Stafford said...

Not that JJ: Interesting idea! I think what they'd find pretty quickly is the genre shows would bring in the bucks. Most people who watch According to Jim won't actually pay for it -- they watch it because it's entertaining (to some), it asks nothing of you (like Lost does, with the studying and the looking up things, etc...), and after it's over, you turn the channel. There aren't a ton of forums for people to dissect According to Jim. :)

So if people had to pay for it, they'd just turn off the TV and read a magazine or something. Whereas the cult TV shows are the ones with the true diehard fandoms. I know certain shows I'd pay for without question, and others I'd skip out on if I had to pay.

I know I've seen the ppv idea thrown about before... I think the worry is for television overall. Let's say According to Jim brings in 15 million viewers and Lost brings in 12. On a PPV idea, Lost would probably get at least half those people paying to watch it, while AtJ might get 1 or 2 million. What ends up happening is the number of shows being watched decreases drastically, because the cult TV shows are just that -- cult. And the mainstream shows don't have an ardent following that would make people pay for them. I wonder how long it would last? It's an experiment I'd love to see. :)

In a way, HBO might be the example of that. You pay for the channel, you get great programming that never gets cancelled partway through a season. The season is in the can ahead of time, and if it doesn't work out, at least you have one season to watch.

Michelle said...

Hi Nikki,

Very much looking forward to the return of Pushing Daises. I think this show will create quite a following if it sticks around.

Fringe is also interesting to me too. Probably because I'm a Lost nerd.

Season finale in 8 hours!

Brian Douglas said...

I'm looking forward to Dollhouse, Fringe, and Life on Mars in that order.

I wish Pushing Daisies would swap time slots with Eli Stone myself. I'm not crazy about the latter, and there's really nothing on in that time slot.

Anonymous said...

Make that 3 people who watched Aliens in America - I loved it too. I loved the mother's accent - always reminded me of Fargo.

I did watch New Amsterdam. I liked the cop story lines but also liked it when he would have these back stories in different time periods - civil war, 50's etc. But alas, another show bites the dust.

As for Life on Mars, I enjoyed it on BBCAmerica so it will be interesting to see how they do it here when they can make it run in a longer season wise especially knowing how the original version ends - well that's if it isn't canceled.

Miss Journeyman. Worried about Fringe being on Fox.

Got to go, Lost is on - going to watch the previous episode for my build up for the 2 hour finale.