Welcome to fall. Aside from football and cooler weather, the onset of the autumn season means the five broadcast networks are preparing to shower us with their latest comedic and dramatic offerings. Rather than go over every single show that’s coming back this season, I’ve focused on the heaping deli platter of new series making their debut either this fall or midseason after the first of the year. There’re definitely a lot to choose from and many won’t be coming back for another round, so kick back, read some summaries and let me tell you what I think will and won’t make the cut for a second season.
First off, my renew/cancel predictions are based on a few unscientific factors:
PRECEDENT: Did a similarly premised shows also getting the axe in the past?
WHAT’S IT UP AGAINST? Putting a show up against a juggernaut like “The Big Bang Theory” might hurt its chances.
NETWORK: ABC might give a show a break and renew it while NBC would take that kind of show and flush it as soon as possible.
MIDSEASON DEBUT: In my mind a show that debuts in January has a better chance of renewal because audiences are starved for new shows coming off Christmas hiatus and fall shows that do break during that hiatus can be forgotten by the viewing public.
GUT FEELING: I can usually look at a show or movie and have a pretty good idea as to whether or not it’s going to be a bomb.
There are some shows that sounds interesting, some that sound bland and some that sound just plain terrible, but one person’s crap is another persons crystal, so I’m sure you’ll find something you might like to watch. OK, here we go. The shows are all arranged by network but, beyond that, they’re in no particular order:
It’s a spinoff of “The Vampire Diaries” and it’s on The CW—of course it’s getting renewed. This is the same network that renewed the ratings-challenged “The Carrie Diaries” last year and “Nikita” every year.
Young Mary, Queen of Scots, The Show! This is basically an admittedly historically inaccurate teen romance wrapped up in political intrigue and an old “Doctor Who” historical setting. It’s going to do well and it’s going to get renewed, the latter if for no other reason than The CW lately seems to be in the business of making sure shows have a chance to find an audience, i.e. the aforementioned “Nikita” and “Carrie.”
The Tomorrow People
The next stage of human evolution, The Tomorrow People can teleport, speak telepathically and use telekinesis. This show is a remake of the 1970s series and I was a fan of the brief 1990s revival that aired on Nickelodeon, so I’ve been looking forward to this new incarnation. It’s going to be paired with the high-performing “Arrow” on Wednesdays and its only real competition is “X Factor,” so those are points in its favor. If it’s ratings are middling, however, look for it to get canned so The CW can pair next year’s “Flash” series with DC sibling “Arrow.”
“Hey, ‘Revolution’ did pretty well on NBC despite their mishandling of its scheduling! Let’s do a show like that one!” Earth is a wasteland and everyone who survives does so by living on a space station. The eponymous “100” are kids sent to Earth to see if the planet’s again safe for human habitation. On its surface, this seems like a premise I could enjoy, but I can’t summon up any excitement for it. Canceled after one season.
Aliens crash land on Earth and the government lets them attend human high school… for some reason. This premise is wanting at best and I won’t be going anywhere near it, so I predict its success and renewal.
The Crazy Ones
Robin Williams is playing a wacky, unpredictable person but it’s not an autobiographical series. He’s an advertising executive who works with his straight-laced daughter played by the always-excellent Sarah Michelle Gellar. This one is up in the air for me; Williams can be an utterly brilliant actor when he’s not going off on crazy tangents disguised as comedy routines, so that’s a crapshoot. Another is that it’s a single-camera sitcom on CBS, known mostly for their popular, but critically lambasted (and, in my opinion, unfunny) multi-camera shows. The downside for “The Crazy Ones,” though, is that CBS has a habit of canceling its lowest-performing show which, because of CBS’ ratings success, means a show with excellent ratings can be axed because they’re not excellent enough. I reluctantly predict cancelation, but not because it won’t be a quality show.
A doctor operating on the president is told to assassinate him during the surgery or her family will be killed. This sounds pretty solid, but I don’t see how it can sustain itself over multiple seasons without the premise getting sweaty. While CBS generally seems to know how to pick ’em, I think “Hostages,” is going to be D.O.A. before the end of the season.
With the cancelation of “Running Wilde” and “Up All Night,” Will Arnett is fast becoming this generation’s Ted McGinley—a wraithlike figure creeping from show to show planting the kiss of death on unsuspecting productions. He should stick to high-concept ensembles like “Arrested Development” because no one is going to be saying “It’s Miller Time” for this show, which, like many of CBS’ shows, seems to exist solely to appeal to the lowest-common denominator. Method of execution: Quietly removed from the schedule with remaining episodes to be burnt off on Saturdays or summer.
Allison Janney as a supportive mother helping her recovering-alcoholic single-mom daughter—kind of trite, but Janney’s a delightful actress who could elevate it to something great. I could care less about Anna Faris. It’s a Chuck Lorre joint, so everyone else on Earth will like it while, unfortunately, I do not. Renewed before the season’s end.
We Are Men
The communal suffering of manhood—guys with ruined lives live together in a short-term apartment complex and, presumably, commiserate. This sounds really blah and I don’t look for it to go the distance this year.
Based on the Cameron Diaz movie. Normally I wouldn’t expect an adaptation to go the distance, but something says this show will be more successful than I think. Plus, it has David Alan Grier in it and any show with him involved should be automatically renewed. If “Bad Teacher” makes it past the first season, which I think it will, it’ll be sticking around for a while.
Friends with Better Lives
Dawson is back again this year with an ensemble couples comedy. Barring some kind of interesting hook not included in its promotional blurb I can’t envision this as anything beyond a bland “Yes, Dear”-style sitcom and Van Der Beek isn’t as much of a draw as the network thinks he is as evidenced by “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23.” Yanked before the full season is over.
Prosecution and defense attorneys on a big case have the hots for each other and I guess it’s causing professional problems for them? We already saw this on a weekly basis 25 years ago with Matlock and his A.D.A girlfriend. “Reckless” is a midseason show, so it’ll limp to May, but after that? Well, I rest my case.
He’s got a chip in his head and he can jack into information systems, so “Intelligence” is basically about a decker from “Shadowrun.” This is going to be like “Chuck,” but less awesome. I predict renewal, but that’s more because of the network than any perceived strengths of this show.
Back in the Game
A family comedy in which a single-mom moves back in with her father. The hook for this one is that she’s a former college softball player and her dad’s ex-MLB. Might have some appeal with the baseball set, but overall it sounds less-than-engaging over the longterm. Swing and a miss!
Advanced Affairs & Attorneys. A photographer has an extra-marital liaison with a high-powered lawyer who, as it happens, faces off against her defense-attorney husband in a big murder case. This sounds like it’s going to reach “Scandal” levels of nonsensical intrigue and will be back for next season because of it.
With a log line that describes the show as a “loving family like any other, just with a lot more yelling,” not even stars Jeff Garlin and mistress of improv Wendi McLendon-Covey can save this show. It’s set in the 1980s, which, to me, is more “no” than “nostalgia.” You can even argue that Garlin and McLendon-Covey are wasted in this banal, scripted fare after their successful turns in semi-improvisational shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Reno 911.” It’s also up against “NCIS: LA,” “The Voice,” “The New Girl” and “Supernatural”—gone before season’s end.
Premised on the familiar office lottery pool, “Lucky 7” presents a group of gas station employees who finally hit the number after numerous failures. This is another one of those shows I think would work fine as a limited series, but I can’t see the premise of this hour-long drama going beyond one season without getting stale. It may do well in the ratings considering its relative lack of competition at 10 p.m. Tuesdays, but it will suffer creatively if it gets a second season.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
A spinoff of its namesake fairytale drama, this iteration mashes up “Alice in Wonderland” and Aladdin.” I’ll watch it if the execution matches the promise of that premise—I love both Lewis Carroll and “1001 Arabian Nights,” and the original “Once…” seems to know how to hold an audience. This one will stick around.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I’m excited for this show, and I’m sure Disney/Marvel is, too. Last season’s “Arrow” reminded us that the superhero genre could be done well and in a way that respected the audience’s intelligence, so this “Avengers Lite” is going to be renewed for next season. It’s not going to be the tremendous success ABC hopes for, though. Knowing their track record with buzzy shows—such as “The Event” and “V”—they’ll probably give it a mid-season hiatus that will, predictably, depress the ratings when it returns. It doesn’t help that the show’s premise is predicated on the absence of the stars of its billion-dollar source material.
Super Fun Night
I can’t stand Rebel Wilson—I’ve just never found her funny. Even if I did, though, I would doubt the success of this show about whiny, childlike adults who are forced for the first time in their late 20s to face the real world. Canceled after the first season (I hope!).
Fish-out-of-water comedy where a former fun girl and a straight-laced guy get married after a lightning-quick courtship. The guy, played by Bradley Whitford, has two ex-wives and three kids of which the woman, Malin Akerman, was unaware. Hilarity ensues? Whitford is a tremendous comedic actor and could carry this premise with one arm and a peg leg, but I confess I don’t know enough of Akerman’s work to know if she’s got the skill to make this interesting. After “The Good Guys,” though, Whitford gets the benefit of my doubt in his comedic projects. Renewed.
Female Texas Ranger fights to prove herself in an extremely patriarchal organization. It’s not my thing, but it does star Tricia Helfer (Number 6 from “Battlestar Galactica). It’s a midseason show, so it’s not getting yanked before May unless it’s a real bomb. Renewed.
Right off the bat this show has something of a black mark on it: Christian Slater. This guy can’t carry a show to save his life. His midseason dramatic outing with Steve Zahn has an interesting idea at its core, though: The two use psychology and street-con skills to help their clients get what they want. Sounds like a cross between “Numb3rs” and “White Collar.” I fear the Slater effect, though. Canceled.
The whole season takes place over the course of one night at a bar focusing on 10 people splitting up, hooking up and throwing up. If the preview is anything by which to judge it, “Mixology” is a fairly vacuous sex comedy. It’s from the writers of “The Hangover,” which probably explains some of my antipathy toward it. I get a “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” vibe from it, which leads me to think people might not connect with it, especially since we have to wait until the end of the season to see the resolution of one night. Canceled.
A town’s dead rise, but they’re not zombies. They look just like the did before they died! Predictably this turns the town on its end. Kurtwood Smith is in it, so I have no doubt he’ll be putting his foot in the ass of anyone who gets in his way. I tend to give midseason shows a little more leeway because they’re not as likely to be subject to long hiatuses that cause people to forget about them, so if “Resurrection” manages to have some plot resolution and not leave the audience hanging on where all these dead folks came from then it probably stands a decent chance at renewal, at least for 13 episodes.
An Asimovian cop show—Karl Urban is human and Michael Ealy is his humaniform android partner. It’s from the “Fringe” team, so expect it on Friday nights where it will have a small-but-loyal audience. This will get at least one more season if it can keep “Fringe”-level ratings. I can’t find it on the schedules anywhere, but presumably it will eventually replace “Sleepy Hollow” repeats Fridays at 9.
What this show has going against it: Live-action Fox sitcom, Andy Samberg without the other two members of his “Lonely Island” triumvirate. What it has going for it: Andre Braugher, who I refuse to believe viewers have rejected despite the cancelation of “Last Resort” and “Men of a Certain Age”. Also, Terry Crews. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is a tossup to me, but my gut says it’s canceled after one season, but it doesn’t get yanked from its time slot during its 13-episode run.
Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi have their lives thrown into disarray when their dads, Martin Mull and Peter Riegert move in with them in this multi-camera laugh desert. It’s going to be terrible. This show has gotten some flak in the media for racism, but it’s from Seth McFarlane so that’s to be expected, I suppose. Once this is canceled McFarlane should start working with Martin Mull on the long-delayed “Fernwood 2 Nite” reboot.
Basically “Scrubs” on an Army base in Florida. Eccentrics. Misfits. Wackiness. I’ve read some initial reviews panning it, but it could find a home if “Dads” is a spectacular failure; it’s not on the fall schedule so it’s either a midseason show of Fox is hanging on to it specifically to replace “Dads.” I can’t say for sure which way this goes.
Gordon Ramsay yells at kids—renewed. Fox needs to watch out, though, because it’s leaning awfully heavily on Ramsay and the ratings-depressed “X-Factor” this year.
The Headless Horseman is resurrected in modern times, but so is Ichabod Crane. With the help of a local sheriff, Crane has to fight the monster and the cult that brought it back. Airing Mondays against “2 Broke Girls,” “The Voice,” “Dancing With the Stars” and “Beauty and the Beast” plus its high-concept premise, I would look for “Sleepy Hollow” to be one and done. Fox is more comfortable yanking a low-performing comedy, but generally lets its one-hour dramas finish out their seasons as long as the ratings aren’t subterranean.
A member of a Los Angeles gang task force has ties to the very gangs he seeks to shut down. John Locke from “Lost” and RZA are part of the cast as police officers. Could actually be good in a “Sons of Anarchy”-real-but-not-really-real-drama kind of way. This one is listed as “Midseason/Spring 2014,” so who knows when it will show up. I’m calling it for renewal.
Standard buddy cop show, except it’s animated. Could be another “Bob’s Burgers” or, alternatively, it could be another awful “Allen Gregory” or “Napoleon Dynamite,” but “Bob’s Burgers” is more the exception than the rule, so “Murder Police” will itself become the victim of a 1-8-7 by season’s end.
“House” except he’s a lawyer, but Greg Kinnear is no Hugh Laurie. Normally I’d say this would go the way of last season’s “Mob Doctor” and flame out within a few months, but it’s a midseason show and people love courtroom dramas, so those are points in its favor. Renewal.
Father-and-son comedy starring Christopher Meloni. Can Stabler do comedy? I don’t know, but it’ll be interesting to compare the ratings drop from the first episode to the third if he can’t. “Surviving Jack” is based on a book called “I Suck at Girls,” so you’ll likely enjoy the show if you enjoyed the book, but I’m not sure the series can stand on its own. It’s set in the 1990s, which was kind of a bland decade culturally and it’s not yet distant enough to engender nostalgia. I don’t see this midseason show surviving to next year.
Us and Them
An American remake of “Gavin & Stacey.” We certainly needed another non-reality British remake because America has done so well with them so far—”Life on Mars,” “Coupling,” “Viva Laughlin!” Based on history alone I have to predict a swift cancelation for this one. Keep calm and cancel on.
This show, bizarrely, has a lot of buzz right now. We all love the original Dr. Daniel Jackson, but I fail to understand why James Spader at the head of a clear “Silence of the Lambs” ripoff is garnering such hype. Spader, after all, didn’t do much to lift the fortunes of “Boston Legal.” It’ll play out its season, but I wouldn’t look for it to kill again next fall.
NBC continues to push offbeat programming on traditionally low-rated Friday nights by adding at 10 p.m. “Dracula,” a modern-day retelling of Bram Stoker’s classic vampire tale. It’s being billed as a 10-episode limited series, so I don’t even know if a renewal is in the cards to begin with, but NBC has shown a slight willingness to let weird shows be weird on Fridays if they can meet a certain threshold. With its low expectations, “Dracula” will rise again next season if it doesn’t suck.
A retread of Raymond Burr’s award-winning 1967-1975 cop show about a paraplegic detective. I see nothing objectionable about this show, but it’s not going to do well for a couple of reasons. First, TV audiences these days don’t seem to have much tolerance for cop shows with out-of-the-ordinary leads or situations, i.e. “Blind Justice” or the U.S. adaptation of “Life on Mars.” Second, it’s up against CSI: The Only One Left. Also, I’ve never found the star, Blair Underwood, to be a particularly compelling actor. Old Ironsides will be sunk by season’s end.
The Michael J Fox Show
The trailer was hilarious and Fox is a fantastic comic actor whose timing and energy don’t seem at all affected by his disease. Provided the overall quality is as strong as the preview, it will be criminal if this show isn’t picked up for next season. The network will have plenty of time to make their decision, though, as “The Michael J. Fox Show” was sent straight to series with a 22-episode order, so there won’t be any nail biting about a back-nine order.
Sean Saves the World
Single-dad comedy starring Sean Hayes; he’s elated when teen daughter moves in with him, but then he ends up having to divide his time between her and work. Some of the initial buzz I read was that it was essentially “The Jack McFarland” show, but since then I’ve seen other things that say the show doesn’t make a big deal of his sexuality, so I’m not sure what to expect. Either way, it will sink or swim based on the quality of the writing, because Hayes’ performance is going to be excellent, but I really hope they don’t try to use homosexuality as a cheap gimmick.
Welcome to the Family
Another ham-fisted attempt at a race-relations comedy about a mixed-ethnicity family! It would seem NBC has learned nothing from CBS’ last-season debacle, “Rob!” I like Mike O’Malley, but I don’t understand why anyone thinks he has the clout to carry a sitcom. Will not be renewed.
About a Boy
Man-child becomes pals with the 11-year-old son of his new single-mom neighbor. This sounds like one of those heartwarming comedies that don’t do much for me, so I’m probably not the target audience here. It’s got some big names on the production side—Jon Favreau and Robert De Niro—so this probably won’t be a half-assed attempt at a sitcom. Plus, the delicious Minnie Driver is the single mom. Renewed.
Let me first admit I had never heard of “Believe” before I sat down to write this, which is probably not a positive indication for the future of this midseason drama. It appears to be about a young girl with special powers who’s been sequestered from society, but now she’s so powerful that she has to go on the run to prevent being captured and exploited. She’s being protected by a man who was broken out of jail specifically to look after her. So it’s “The Fugitive” with a dash of “Heroes”? I’m not feeling the vibe on this one. Canceled.
The Dick Wolf Procedural Machine cranks out another one. “Chicago PD,” clearly, is a spinoff of “Chicago Fire” and will no doubt be your standard police procedural. Wolf’s had some misses on TV but he generally knows what people want and people know just what to expect form his shows. Perhaps 2015 will bring us “Chicago Victims Unit” or “Chicago: Trial By Jury.” Wolf and NBC have well learned the lessons of “Law & Order: Los Angeles,” “Conviction” and “Law & Order: Trial By Jury.” This one will certainly be back next season.
Yes, Gilligan Anderson is in this. No, that will not automatically make it good. While on a field trip, the children of Important People are taken hostage in this midseason drama. Once again we have a premise that can work well as a “24”-style season-long arc, but unless there’s some kind of change toward the end—kids are rescued, but the criminals must be chased down in season 2—I don’t see how it perpetuates itself into season 2. Perhaps love for Gillian Anderson can keep this afloat… I want to believe. Renewed.
Growing Up Fisher
Family comedy starring J.K. Simmons as a blind father who’s idolized by his young son and despite the family situation imploding, they’re somehow brought even closer together. Now, let’s be honest: If it weren’t for the blind hook, then this would be nothing more than another banal family sitcom. Have we learned nothing from “Blind Justice,” people? Canceled.
The Night Shift
I’ve never been a big fan of hospital dramas, but one that takes place during the graveyard shift might prove a little more interesting than all the rest. I don’t see any marquee names, attached, though, so it’ll have to hope that the kind of medical maladies that occur in the wee hours of the morning are enough to bring in viewers. I can’t decide.
Ugh. A ladies man takes it upon himself to turn his awkward, freakish friends into stereotypical players. The message: Don’t be yourself, kids! You can only find love and happiness by conforming to societal norms! Maybe it’s just because I find the show’s premise annoying, but I don’t see this coming back. Canceled.
There you have it. Use the comments to let me know where you think I was on the mark or totally insane, and sorry if I had no nice things to say about a show to which you were very much looking forward.