The New Television Season All Comes Down to Execution
This has been one of those weeks where I’ve been afraid to read the news. Beginning with the Navy Yard shooting on Monday, it’s just been an unrelenting stream of one sad news story after another. Thank goodness we’re at the start of a new television season. I need escapist entertainment just to stay sane.
That’s why I joined my fellow TV junkie friends Elise Crane Derby and Anne Louise Bannon in creating the Agents of Zeitgeist podcast, which we do on Thursdays (one day after I host the MOMocrats political podcast). I just like having an hour where all I need to care about is what happened last night on Modern Family.
The last couple of weeks, we’ve been previewing the new television season, which I described as my own version of Christmas. Each new show is like a brightly wrapped gift which has to be experienced before I can decide whether to keep it… or return it for a replacement series. A couple of new shows debuted on Fox this week: Dads (RETURN IT NOW!) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (give it some time to see if it meets its potential).
I haven’t yet seen Sleepy Hollow, but this snarky description makes me want to find it on demand right now (they had me at Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer).
But the real action begins next week, following Sunday’s telecast of the Emmys.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of visiting the set of the new CBS comedy, MOM, where about 30 other mom bloggers and I got to chat with stars Anna Faris, Allison Janney and Sadie Calvano and show runner Gemma Baker. I will be posting something about that meeting next week, after I’ve had a chance to transcribe the conversation. I’m actually pretty excited about this show. Despite the AP review, I have a feeling it will be a keeper.
A couple of days ago, BlogHer contributor Jane Collins wrote a piece on the upcoming season proclaiming that everything old is new again. She cited new shows starring Robin Williams and Michael J. Fox (both of which are on my list), as well as tried and true premises like cops, lawyers and this year — robots.
The thing is: There are never any truly new premises for TV dramas and comedies. Not ever. It all comes down to execution. And casting. A visitor from another planet could be My Favorite Martian in the 1960s — or Mork and Mindy in the 1970s… or Alien Nation in the 1980s. (See what I mean by execution?)
You can have a robotic child in the 1980s with Small Wonder or android cops in 2013 in Almost Human. Over the last few years here have been a zillion vampire shows, so no wonder someone’s gone to the source at NBC with Dracula.
Back in the 1980s, when I worked for producer Mort Lachman (Gimme a Break, Kate & Allie), one of my tasks would be to transcribe the pitch meetings he would have with prospective writers. The one pitch I heard over and over again was the one about the older guy and his new, young second wife. Because after all, you write what you know and Mort was taking meetings with a lot of middle-aged TV writers who were perplexed by their much younger new spouses. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.
It was done well in the 70’s with a sitcom called All’s Fair (with Richard Crenna and Bernadette Peters). And this year, we get Bradley Whitford and Malin Ackerman in Trophy Wife — the 21st century twist being the fact that she’s the guy’s THIRD wife. And the first two (plus kids) are still in the picture. All’s Fair only lasted one season. I’m hoping Trophy Wife is good enough to do better.
When I first saw billboards advertising The Goldbergs, I thought ABC had gone way, way back in history to remake one of television’s original hit comedies which had the same name. As it turns out, nobody remembers the 1950’s Goldbergs (it actually started out in 1929 on radio, which is before even my time). The new ABC series is based on producer Adam Goldberg’s family in the 1980s, which makes this Goldberg sound more like The Wonder Years — with big hair and Cosby sweaters.
I am also anticipating The Blacklist, which sounds a lot like Silence of the Lambs (except NBC already has an SoL spinoff in Hannibal). There’s no mention of fava beans or chianti in this one, so I think it might be safe for me to watch. At any rate, James Spader usually turns in a fun performance (the exception was his time at The Office. I guess there’s a reason nobody remembers any killer James Spader comedies).
Another new network show I want to see is Lucky 7, based on a British series called The Syndicate, which follows seven co-workers who win a big lottery jackpot. This also reminds me of my days working for Mort Lachman in 1985, where I spent several months typing revisions to a pilot script called “Just Plain Rich Folks” – about a family who wins the lottery. To my knowledge, that show never got made. But it does go to show you: there really is nothing new under the sun.
What new shows are YOU looking forward to? Answer in comments below.