I’m happy to say I survived yet another network upfront presentation week.
Before I give you the highlights and my observations, I want you to keep in mind that only nine of the 21 series launched last fall (or 43 percent) will return next season. And that’s an above average rate of success. Network hype aside, every season more new shows fail than succeed, but I’m optimistically hoping (but still doubtful, unfortunately) that next season will be different.
In total, the five nets will be adding 25 new series: 16 dramas, seven comedies and two non-scripted series (including former Fox hour Secret Millionaire, which moves to ABC on Friday). NBC leads the pack, with eight new shows, followed by ABC (seven), CBS (five), Fox (three) and The CW (two).
Surprisingly, there is only one new sitcom with a family theme (Fox’s Raising Hope) and very little science fiction. The revival of CBS’ Hawaii Five-O, NBC’s upcoming Law & Order: Los Angeles and a glut of other dramas like ABC’s Detroit 1-8-7 and NBC’s The Event and Chase means the most common genre, once again, is crime. While I’m not usually one to endorse revivals, I actually think Hawaii Five-O will buck the negative trend.
I was most blown away by CBS’ schedule, which includes moving Thursday mainstay Survivor into the Wednesday 8 p.m. anchor spot and Monday breakout The Big Bang Theory to Thursday at 8 p.m. (into new William Shatner comedy $#*! My Dad Says). How’s this for a factoid: The last time CBS aired comedies in the Thursday 8 p.m. hour was Gilligan’s Island and My Three Sons in the 1965-66 season. That’s right, 45 years ago. CBS was also wise to move deteriorating CSI: Miami to Sunday and CSI: NY to Friday. But leaving the parent series smack in the middle of Thursday will only make it lose more steam and not benefit the evening. My guess is CSI and The Mentalist will flip time periods by midseason.
While I give NBC credit, the lack of lead-in support from hit series could take a toll. Modest returnees like Chuck and Community shouldn’t be anchoring their respective evenings. The familiarity of upcoming Law & Order: L.A. could be beneficial, but new J.J. Abrams drama
Undercovers is reminiscent of Alias, and that was never a big hit. Thursday 10 p.m. anthology Love Bites will probably bite it once the rating results come in. And new comedy Outsourced focuses on a subject matter most of us face in our daily work lives and do not want to revisit at home.
ABC’s overall schedule feels both aggressive and consistent. But mainstays like Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy are not what they used to be, and there’s nothing new that feels like an immediate hit like Modern Family last season. Although I personally like Tuesday 8 p.m. occupant No Ordinary Family, the story of a family of four who suddenly realize they have extraordinary powers, could tire quickly.
Wednesday at 10 p.m. is of particular interest because three new dramas face off: ABC’s The Whole Truth, CBS’ The Defenders and NBC’s aforementioned Law & Order: L.A. If familiarity means anything—and it should—place your bets on the new Law & Order, already dubbed LOLA.
Fox is always a different network come January when American Idol returns. But the departure of Simon Cowell could mark the beginning of the end. With only three new fall series (Monday drama Lonestar and Tuesday 9-10 p.m. sitcoms Raising Hope and Running Wilde), the network is foolishly putting its faith in marginally rated returnees Lie to Me and Human Target.