Amid all the clamor of cable and streaming and more, it's easy to forget this: A new TV season is coming soon for the broadcast networks, officially starting Sept. 21. As usual, it has a pile of new shows, most of them proclaimed as fresh and exciting and such; as usual, a few of them really are. I'll be listing and ranking them over the next few days; first, here's the overview I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
In ancient times –
or maybe it was a few years ago – four networks would be seizing
our attention now.
They'd launch the
new TV season, with 20-some new shows, heavy on cops and comedies.
Many of the shows would be awful, but some would be “Friends” and
“Frasier” and “CSI” and “West Wing.”
And now? NBC
programming chief Robert Greenblatt summed things up succinctly: “Too
many shows. Not enough monetization, Fractured audiences.”:
Too many? John
Landgraf, head of the FX cable networks, said last year that there
were 352 original, scripted TV shows; in January, he upped that to
371. A half-year later, he revised it again: “We believe 2015 will
easily blow through the 400-series mark .... This is simply too much
HBO was once the new
guy, launching distinctive shows (starting with “Sopranos”) that
nipped at the big networks. Now it's being nipped by newer guys.
there's another network or platform announcing that they're (doing
original shows),” said Michael Lombardo, the HBO programming
president. “It's exciting; it's overwhelming.”
For the first time,
new scripted shows have popped up on E, UP, Pop, El Rey, Sundance,
WGN America and more. Those cable channels nudge in cautiously, but
some streaming services – Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, – are leaping in
big. Then there's DirecTV ... and the expanding Sunday dramas on PBS
... and even CW – with “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Jane the
Virgin” and “iZombie” -- stirs new interest.
Facing all of this,
the big networks launch a season that officially starts Sept. 21. It
-- Fewer comedies.
CBS and NBC are each down to one night ... and NBC's night (Friday)
-- A quirkier feel
to the comedies, shifting from multi-camera (before a studio
audience) to single-camera (movie-style). ABC's Paul Lee points to
last year's success of “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat,”
on the “Modern Family” network. “We've really honed our
position as the home of single-camera, sophisticated family
comedies.” Even CBS – home of multi-camera success with “Big
Bang Theory” and “Mom” – is doing both of its new comedies
-- A fresh interest
in live shows, most of them on NBC. That includes “Saturday Night
Live,” much of “The Voice,” an annual musical (this year, “The
Wiz”) and the eight-episode “Best Time Ever,” with Neil Patrick
Harris doing “a lot of on-the-fly and very spontaneous” things,
Greenblatt said. And the NBC comedy “Undateable” plans to do
every episode live. “That energy really feels palpable when you
watch it and are around the show,” said Jennifer Salke, president
of NBC Entertainment.
-- Lots of fantasy.
We expect that from CW, which is returning six fantasy hours (60
percent of its schedule), with three more waiting their turns. In
addition, NBC adds “Heroes Reborn,” Fox adds “Minority Report”
and the oft-traditional CBS has both “Limitless” and “Supergirl.”
The latter even gets a prime slot on Mondays. “We thought this is a
genre and this is a franchise that would certainly open up and bring
in new viewers,” CBS' Nina Tasler said.
-- Even non-fantasy
shows cranking things up a notch. ABC's “Blood and Oil” has the
same soapy feeling that works for its Thursday shows; NBC's
“Blindspot” and “The Player” have the heightened approach
that helped “The Blacklist” catch on.
-- Less insistance
on shows trying to run endlessly, 22 episodes a year. Harris will
have only eight episodes this season; the acclaimed “Fargo” and
“American Crime” are bringing new stories to FX and ABC. “I
used say, 'Well, can it go five years?'” Lombardo said. “I don't
ask that question anymore.”
-- A surge of music.
That's in reality shows (including the final “American Idol”
season) ... “The Wiz” ... the dream scenes of “Crazy
Ex-Girlfriend” ... a pilot film (“Star”) from “Empire”
producer Lee Daniels ... and, of course, the aftershocks of “Empire”
becoming an instant ratings hit.
most-talked-about and biggest show of the past season was launched on
a traditional broadcast network,” Fox's Dana Newman said. In the
middle of a 400-show overload, that can be impressive.