It’s an exciting new fall season ahead on broadcast TV. We await the charming rom-com “Manhattan Love Story” … the heart-tugging youth drama, “Red Band Society” … and don’t forget “Mulaney,” an autobiographical sitcom about a promising young standup.
Hold on! All that was LAST fall! Those now-forgotten flare-outs (along with other quick flops like “A to Z” and “Selfie”) are long dead and buried.
Now it’s time to welcome the latest round to the five major broadcast networks. And if 60 years of TV history is any hint, it will again repeat itself with a fair number of these two dozen rookies gone by Christmas and many more canceled by Memorial Day.
But what’s different — very different — in the current TV universe: Broadcast TV’s fall crop is only a portion of the seamless 12-month harvest of programming that vies for the viewer’s attention and approval. Once upon a time, the fall season was a cage match between just three content providers — ABC, CBS and NBC. Today, those legacy networks not only do battle with Fox and CW, but also with scores of cable and streaming outlets. And they do it year-round.
If there’s an overriding trend in TV today, it’s this: There’s simply too much TV, even too much good TV, for any viewer to take stock of, much less support. That’s quite a change from the lament by an FCC boss a half-century ago that TV is “a vast wasteland.” Today, only the “vast” part holds true.
Even so, some things never change.
Like the reliance on medical shows. This fall will see the arrival of three more: “Code Black” (CBS, premiering Sept. 30), a latter-day “ER” that’s even busier and bloodier; “Chicago Med” (NBC, Nov. 20), the third dose of producer Dick Wolf’s latest trilogy that includes “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago P.D.”; and “Rosewood” (Fox, Sept. 23), which, starring Morris Chestnut as a beefcake Miami pathologist, doubles as a crime drama with Dr. Rosewood using his medical wiles to bust bad guys while charming every woman in his path.
New crop of comedies
Comedies again will be arriving in force, with “selfie-coms” — an autobiographical subset reaching back to the based-on-real-life “I Love Lucy” at the dawn of TV — duly (but drearily) represented.
“Dr. Ken” (ABC, Oct. 2) stars South Korean doctor-comedian Ken Jeong (”Community”) as a doctor flustered by the challenges of his practice and his home life. This show’s absence of laughs could expose him to viewers’ malpractice suits.
Little better is “Truth Be Told” (NBC, Oct. 16), whose creator, D.J. Nash, decided that, when packaged as a sitcom, his life wed to a Korean woman and with an African-American couple as their best friends would fuel witty observational banter and spark “a national conversation,” as Nash recently told reporters with inflated self-regard. Nash may find viewers’ conversation about “Truth” is limited to “this isn’t funny” and “let’s change the channel.”
Other upcoming comedies are more promising:
“Angel From Hell” (CBS, Nov. 5) finds the delightful Jane Lynch as a riotously unguarded guardian angel.
“Life in Pieces” (CBS, Sept. 21) is an ambitious comedy with a sprawling ensemble whose half-hour episodes are splintered into four related mini-stories.
And Fox’s back-to-back comedies “Grandfathered” and “The Grinder” (both premiering Sept. 29) star, respectively, 50-ish dreamboats John Stamos and Rob Lowe as 50-ish fellows whose dreamboat status remains undiminished, as do the comic chops of the actors who play them.
More unconventional humor-based shows also are on deck:
“The Muppets” (ABC, Sept. 22) goes behind the scenes in mockumentary fashion for a “real-life” group portrait of these show-biz veterans as they produce a TV series.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (CW, Oct. 12) stars rising actress-writer-comedian Rachel Bloom in a magical comedy-with-music about a quirky young woman seeking romance a little too hard.
Maybe the fall’s riskiest new show, with TV’s bravest star presiding: “Best Time Ever,” NBC’s live comedy-variety hour (premiering Sept. 15), hosted by the incomparable Neil Patrick Harris.
And horror blended with comedy is the formula for “Scream Queens” (Fox, Sept. 22), an anthology co-created by Ryan Murphy centered on homicide and hijinks at a college sorority house.
“Blood & Oil” (ABC, Sept. 27) is a brawny melodrama set in the North Dakota oil boom, with Don Johnson as its reigning oil baron.
Crime and superheroes
As usual in recent years, superheroes will be summoned in an effort to win viewers.
“Supergirl” (CBS, Oct. 26) is a good bet to soar, thanks to winsome Melissa Benoist as Superman’s cousin, who works as an assistant to a media mogul while she comes to terms with her super-humanness.
And “Heroes Reborn” (NBC, Sept. 24) revives “Heroes” from a decade ago as a 13-episode limited series whose heroes are ordinary people who possess extraordinary powers — and now are going public with them.
On television, as elsewhere throughout the arts, one enduring genre surpasses them all: mystery-and-crime. This fall, the networks are plotting a range of mayhem and intrigue:
“Quantico” (ABC, Sept. 27) is a lavish, twisted and deliciously outrageous look at domestic terrorism and the select group of CIA recruits (sexy and skilled) who are tasked with preventing it — even as one of them is secretly a terrorist infiltrating the team.
“Wicked City” (ABC, Oct. 27) gets moody and violent with a murder case in the 1980s party-and-druggy world of L.A.’s Sunset Strip.
“The Player” (NBC, Sept. 24) plays a hyperactive, high-stakes game with a swashbuckling security expert who must try to prevent major crimes from happening while a band of high-rollers gambles on whether or not he can pull it off.
“Limitless” (CBS, Sept. 22), based on the 2011 film, focuses on a chronic slacker who discovers the brain-boosting power of a miracle drug, but then is coerced by the FBI into using his mind-blowing abilities to solve cases for them.
“Minority Report” (Fox, Sept. 21), based on the Tom Cruise hit, is set in 2065 where a man who can see the future, including crime, forms an alliance with a cop to stop the murders he predicts.
And, finally, there’s “Blindspot” (NBC, Sept. 21), a tatty tattoo whodunit that dwells somewhere between soft-core porn and a cruelty joke.
Judging from the pilot, it’s a mashup between two dramas from years ago: “John Doe” (which began with a mysterious man found naked, with no memory of who he is) and the tattooed hero of “Prison Break,” self-inked with the info he needs to gain escape.
In “Blindspot,” an attractive young woman is found in Times Square with no memory, but with unexplained tattoos covering her well-toned body. The FBI finds that each tattoo contains a clue to a crime they, with her help, will have to solve.
What a sexy memo pad! But it remains to be seen how many clues are on this human things-to-do list. Maybe none will be needed past the show’s initial 13 weeks.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.