Fall TV is essentially the entertainment industry’s equivalent of an Apple product launch: overwrought with sparkle, hype, and way too much money. Glitz, glamour, and highly anticipated public announcements abound! Fall TV is Broadcast Television’s chance to shine. As Cable gets better and better, and new “networks” pop up left and right (What is Crackle? Do I have to have a Yahoo! account to watch Community?), Broadcast networks stubbornly stick to their pilot season model (FOX’s Kevin Reilly was ousted after last year’s attempt to “Bypass” the expensive process of filming dozens of pilots, only to debut a handful of new shows). TBH/IMHO/IRL, the result is mostly crap.
On the drama side, networks fall back on the safety of pre-existing source material and already successful franchises, leading to lame spinoffs and/or pseudo-spinoffs like Constantine, Gotham, and The Flash. Plus a new installment of NCIS (New Orleans), which America needs even less than another season of The Big Bang Theory. On the comedy side, premise-promising rom coms like Manhattan Love Story, A to Z and – perhaps the worst offender – Bad Judge (“Woman who is good at her job but bad at her life!” plot? Vomit in my mouth.) make me sigh and thank god The Mindy Project is still on the air.
Is there a bright side? Well, yes. The Mindy Project IS still on the air, along with a few other Fall staples that should sustain me until December, lest the entire Broadcast network spread prove itself unwatchable. Sons of Anarchy, a show that lacks the critical attention it deserves – as is the case for many a cable show that gets better every season. I’m looking at you, The Americans! – will have its Final Ride, and Homeland will maybe get good and gritty again, now that they killed off that pesky sexytime plot line also known as Damian Lewis. I’m also regularly watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which is amazing and, blessed be the gods of Premium Cable, not seasonal. So there’s that.
But will any of the new shows be good enough to compete with my Fall TV staples? I supposed we’ll find out. Until then, here are the few – the happy few! – that I plan to give a fair shot:
Red Band Society (FOX, Wednesday, Sept. 17 at 9/8c)
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,” says Leo, the smart-sexy, wheelchair bound leader of the Red Band Society, as he hands out hospital bracelets in the pilot of this oh-so-heartwarming coming of age drama. The red bracelets are to be worn only by the Breakfast Club-y group of patients living together in the children’s ward of a Los Angeles hospital. Starring Octavia Spencer as a nurse, mentor, and bossy-ass bitch with a heart of gold, Red Band Society follows the trials, tribulations, and medical challenges of her adolescent patients. I read and watched the pilot – which is available early on hulu as part of its Fall TV Preview – and felt so many feelings. I have extremely high hopes for this show. It was my favorite pilot this year. I hope it succeeds very much. You should watch it.
Marry Me (NBC, Tuesday, Oct. 14 at 9/8c)
Another premise-promise-y comedy, you say? Uh oh. Starring Casey Wilson and Ken Marino, Marry Me is a rom-com about a couple who just can’t get their marriage proposal to work. On the surface, I find this premise to be stupid stupid stupid. But comedies aren’t about premise. They’re just pitched/sold/packaged that way to the network execs who think they are. What comedies are all about, truly, is a combination of a) solid writers who write solid jokes and b) solid performances combined with c) solidly developed characters. And Marry Me has those key ingredients, because David Caspe (who is Casey Wilson’s real-life husband) just happens to be the creator of Happy Endings, which might just be the best comedy of all time, and no, I didn’t forget about Friends.
The Affair (Showtime, Sunday, Oct. 12 at 10/9c)
Bless you, Premium Cable, for this beautiful show about which I am so excited and ready to FULLY COMMIT without even having seen the pilot (in all fairness, I did read it). Even though this post is mostly about network TV, I am so so so so so excited about this show and had to include it in my post. Also, it was written and created by Sarah Treem (a co-executive producer on House of Cards) and Sarah is a lady’s name and you know how I feel about ladies having their own shows. Set in the Hamptons, the show alternates between a male (Dominic West’s) and a female (Ruth Wilson’s) perspective and tells the story of an affair between the two aforementioned hotties, both married (to Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson, respectively). It’s subtle and funny and steamy all at the same time, and the juxtaposition of the female and male perspectives as they recount their versions of the “same” story to an unknown source (therapist? attorney? casual anonymous observer?) is fascinating.
Mulaney (FOX, Sunday, Oct. 5 at 9:30/8:30c)
This show has been in development for like… twenty years. Okay, more like two, but still. Created by, written by, and starring John Mulaney – the sexiest skinny Jewish man ever and also a former SNL writer and very funny stand up comedian – Mulaney centers around a Louie’d, Curb-y, Seinfeld-ish version of John Mulaney and his gal pal Nasim Pedrad. There are stand up bits here and there that, while hilarious, are tired and recycled from Mulaney’s most recent album, New In Town, and there are funny moments at home and at work, where Mulaney writes jokes for a game-show host who is Martin Short. I’m not as sure about this show, but I was quite crushed when it wasn’t picked up last year, and I follow John Mulaney’s dog, Petunia Tendler-Mulaney, on instagram, so, loyalty and stuff.
Jane the Virgin (CW, Monday, Oct. 13 at 9/8c)
Skeptics, begone! Jane The Virgin, created by the powerhouse writer-creator-and-3-year-overall-deal-at-CBS-studios-er, Jennie Snyder Urman, is a charming and lovable take on the Venezuelan telenovela Juana La Virgen. Jane, who is a virgin, becomes artificially inseminated with the sperm of her former crush/new boss, Rafael. Urman described the show as “a love letter to telenovelas,” and plans to feature many tropes of the classic form – evil twin sister, naive everygirl, etc – while remaining unique and standing on its own. As a Devious Maids alum, huge fan of Jennie Urman, and general soap opera enthusiast, I could not be more excited for Jane. I watched the pilot already; it’s funny, it’s sexy, and it has the potential to be a breakout hit for The CW. The tone is perfect. Gina Rodriguez is a breakout star. Watch it. Love it. Tweet with the tweens about it.
While the pickings are slim, I have high hopes for the aforementioned five shows, and will probably be surprised by one or two breakout hits that weren’t even on my radar. Predictions (okay so maybe I mean *barely* on my radar?) include: Cristela, Gracepoint, Houdini, and How to Get Away with Murder. Anything I missed that you’re excited about? Let me know in the comments!