The TV Season 2.0 has begun. And yes, we really need it.
The first step came Sunday (Jan. 2), when Fox debuted “Next Level Chef,” which promptly jumps to Wednesdays. On Monday, ABC launches a new “Bachelor” and NBC has the gentle fun of “Kenan.”
But the real burst starts Tuesday (Jan. 4). Two of broadcast TV’s best shows return (“This Is Us” and “Black-ish”) and a terrific new comedy arrives (“Abbott Elementary,” shown here).
All of this is important after two straight fall seasons that were weakened by COVID.
This fall, the big-five networks launched only 13 new shows, barely over half the total during boom times. That included three spin-offs and two reboots; three of the shows had only 10 episodes.
Now comes the re-build. Coming are 18 new series (eight dramas, five comedies, five reality shows), 14 season-openers (five dramas, four comedies, five reality shows), two mini-series and the Winter Olympics. And most of those shows will be packed into this month.
Here’s a round-up of the six main broadcast networks, subject to change and, especially, to late additions. There are also brief comments about the shows we’ve seen in advance:
It was a low-laugh fall, with only 10 situation comedies. CBS had six, ABC had four; NBC – once the “must-see” network of “Friends” and “Seinfeld” – had zero, as did Fox and CW. But now:
— NBC rediscovers laughter. On Mondays (starting 8 p.m. Jan. 3), it has back-to-back episodes of the merely pleasant “Kenan”; on Tuesdays (Jan. 4), it has two new shows – the excellent “American Auto” (from the “Superstore” producer) at 8 p.m. and the so-so “Grand Tour” at 8:30.
– ABC adds two comedies. “Abbott Elementary” – with great work from newcomer Quinta Brunson as the writer/producer/star – is at 9 p.m Tuesday., Jan. 4, with “Black-ish” starting its final season at 9:30.
– Fox has mismatched comedies, debuting after football on Jan. 9 and then going to Thursdays. Mayim Bialik’s “Call Me Kat,” back for its second season, is broad and goofy, but instantly likable, opening the season with two particularly fun episodes. “Pivoting” meets three women at a friend’s funeral, then watches them try to pivot their lives; the result is mixed, but has its moments.
– More are coming. On March 15, NBC’s “Young Rock” and Mister Mayor” take over the Tuesday spots of “American Auto” and “Grand Tour”; on March 31, CBS’ “How We Roll” – based on the true story of an autoworker-turned-pro-bowler – takes the Thursday spot of “B Positive.”
Every network jumps into this, including PBS. We’ll start there:
– “Around the World in 80 Days” is under PBS’ “Masterpiece” banner, but don’t expect a lot of high-toned dinner dialog. David Tennant plays a frazzled Phileas Fogg, who bet he can circumnavigate the globe. By the end of the first hour (a good one), he and two colleagues have collided with robbers, revolutionaries and more. That’s 8 p.m. Sundays, starting Jan. 2. A week later, two season-openers follow: “All Creatures Great and Small” has a funny and warm hour at 9 p.m.; “Vienna Blood” starts a dreary two-parter at 10.
– Fox has a pair of Tuesday dramas. “The Cleaning Lady” (9 p.m. Jan. 3) takes a while to set up its concept : A Cambodian doctor – in the U.S. without a medical license because her son needs a transplant – reluctantly works with the Mob. “Monarch” (Feb. 1, after a post-football start on Jan. 30) has Trace Adkins and Susan Sarandon heading a country-music family. Also, “9-1-1: Lone Star” opens its season at 8 p.m. Jan. 3, with a fierce, multi-week story involving a Texas blizzard.
– CBS has “Good Sam” (10 p.m. Wednesdays, starting Jan. 5). It’s a bright and breezy show (despite an overflow of medical jargon), with a doctor (Sophia Bush) suddenly in charge of a surgery team that includes her father (Jason Isaacs).
– CW adds to its superhero surplus with “Naomi” (9 p.m. Tuesdays, Jan. 11), the instantly likable story of a bright-eyed teen who finds she may have powers. And yes, the network does have youths without superpowers: An “All American” spin-off starts Feb. 21.
– ABC starts “Promised Land” on Jan. 24, with a Latino family fighting for power in California.
– NBC finally launches the final season of “This Is Us,” at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4. And after the Olympics, it has one totally new show – “Endgame,” Feb. 21, with Morena Bacarin engineering bank heists from prison – and one that doesn’t seem new at all. “Law & Order” starts its 20th season Feb. 24 – 11 years after its 19th season ended.
Two are planned, each taking six hours:
– ABC’s “Women in the Movement” is 8-10 p.m. on Thursdays. The opener (Jan. 6) is followed by a documentary about the subject, Mamie Till, whose son, 14, was killed in 1955 Mississippi.
– NBC’s “The Thing About Pam” (March 8) will sprawl across six Tuesdays. Renee Zellweger plays Pam Faria, in a true-crime story. Add that to “Endgame” and “Cleaning Lady” and you have a women-in-crime mini-trend.
The old ones have new editions, alongside a few new ones:
– ABC launches its next “The Bachelor,” from 8-10 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3.
– CBS’ “The Amazing Race” is finally back – with a race that started two years ago, then had a 19-month COVID pause. It returns from 8-10 p.m. Jan. 5, then takes the 9 p.m. Wednesday spot. Also, “Undercover Boss” starts its season at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 7.
– NBC gives its 9 p.m. Monday spot to Jimmy Fallon’s “That’s My Jam,” starting Jan. 3. After the Olympics, the 8 p.m. spot goes to “The American Song Contest,” starting Feb. 21.
– Fox launches “Next Level Chef” – a Gordon Ramsay cooking competition with a clever, three-level approach – after football on Jan. 2. The show then goes to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 5, where it follows the “I Can See Your Voice” opener. The next night, Fox launches “Joe Millionaire: For Richer or Poorer”; women romance two guys – one of them rich and one not.
– CW‘s “March” is an eight-week look at competitive marching bands, focusing on Prairie View A&M. It will be 8 p.m. Mondays, starting Jan. 24, then moves to 9 p..m.Sundays on Feb. 27.
– And here’s a sort of reality collision: CBS will air “Big Brother: Celebrity Edition” several nights a week, from Feb. 2-23, to compete with NBC’s Olympics coverage, Feb. 4-20.