Wednesday, January 17, 2018
TV and Media

Upfronts: Networks revealing plans for the fall TV season

It's tough to overstate the crisis on the horizon for the network TV business.

Viewership is falling for most every show except football. Ratings show the audience increasingly refuses to distinguish between cable TV and the network, amid success for AMC's The Walking Dead, A&E's Duck Dynasty and History's The Bible.

Online platforms such as Netflix and Amazon are creating shows of equal or greater quality. And in this past season, only CBS's Sherlock Holmes remake Elementary emerged as a freshman hit.

So this week, as the networks unveil their plans for the fall season in a New York-based ritual known as the upfronts, there is no greater need for a bold reinvention of a business increasingly disconnected from how we all actually watch television.

Unfortunately, that's probably not gonna happen.

"The whole season is still a relic from 50-plus years ago," said Brad Adgate, an analyst for the New York firm Horizon Media. "So far, the loss of viewers has not been detrimental to (TV networks) financially. But you've got to wonder when is this whole upfront kind of ritual is going to go the way of other things that have passed, like the Brooklyn Dodgers and the WB (network)?"

In the era of binge-viewing, when Netflix dumps all 13 episodes of a series online in one day, it seems almost quaint that broadcasters gather advertisers and industry types in New York to watch 15-minute clips of new shows that won't debut on their networks for four more months.

But that's on tap this week, as NBC and Fox reveal their fall schedules at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. today, respectively. ABC follows at 4 p.m. Tuesday, CBS at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and the CW at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Here's a sample of what's coming, divided by network:


It saved Amy Poehler's Parks and Recreation and Community, but "bubble" shows such as Matthew Perry's Go On, Ryan Murphy's The New Normal, Broadway drama Smash, Deception and the newsmagazine Rock Center were all canceled.

New shows: Remake of the Hugh Grant film About a Boy with Minnie Driver; new Sean Hayes comedy, Sean Saves the World; Michael J. Fox references his own health struggles by playing a man with Parkinson's in The Michael J. Fox Show; X-Files alum Gillian Anderson in a kidnapped kids drama, Crisis; Jonathan Rhys Myers in a new Dracula; Blair Underwood remaking the classic series about a police commissioner in a wheelchair, Ironside.

Analysis: With 14 new scripted shows planned, NBC is trying a complete overhaul; like replacing car tires at 60 mph. And it also announced Saturday Night Live veteran Seth Myers will take over the 12:35 p.m. Late Night show as host Jimmy Fallon moves to take over the Tonight Show from Jay Leno. That's a lot to attempt in one season.


The X-Factor, Glee and freshman series The Following made the cut; Kiefer Sutherland's Touch did not.

New shows: Star Trek reboot genius J.J. Abrams' drama on a human cop paired with an android, Almost Human; Greg Kinnear as addict and defense attorney in Rake; Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher in a police comedy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; and a retelling of the Ichabod Crane legend in Sleepy Hollow.

Analysis: Fox is swinging for the fences with bold sci-fi, police drama, and supernatural series (but Kinnear's Rake feels like a smart House retread). We'll know how serious they are about reinventing network TV material when we see the actual pilots.


Malibu Country, Happy Endings and Last Resort sit in cancellationville. Scandal, Revenge, Once Upon a Time and Nashville survived.

New shows: At least eight series, including Joss Whedon's Avengers spinoff Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; spinoff Once Upon a Time in Wonderland; Pitch Perfect star Rebel Wilson as a party-hearty attorney on Super Fun Night.

Analysis: ABC needs male viewers. Whedon's show helps, if they don't anger the fanboys. And when TV needs more diversity among starring roles, sad to see they passed — again — on a highly anticipated John Leguizamo comedy.


Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis' Vegas hit the bricks, along with Golden Boy, Rules of Engagement and CSI: NY.

New shows: Six series, including Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre's comedy on a newly sober single mother, Mom; Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar as a father/daughter business team in Crazy Ones. Remakes of Beverly Hills Cop and Bad Teacher, along with NCIS spinoff Red got rejected.

Analysis: With Two and a Half Men and How I Met Your Mother likely done after next season, they must develop a new comedy voice this coming season.


They surprised with next season pickups for spy drama Nikita and Sex and the City prequel The Carrie Diaries; cancellation of Cult, 90210 and Gossip Girl, not so much.

New shows: Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals; young people with special powers in The Tomorrow People; juvenile delinquents repopulating a post-apocalyptic Earth in The 100; a teenage Mary Queen of Scots in Reign; eight alien kids mix with humans in Star-Crossed.

Analysis: With 90210 and Gossip Girl gone, the era of youth-oriented nighttime soap is gone, too. Instead, thinly veiled Twilight and Hunger Games knockoffs are in the wind, with a dash of sci-fi flavored Romeo and Juliet.


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