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New to view! A Fall 2020 TV preview

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So … seen anything good lately?

For so many of us, the circumstances surrounding the pandemic have left us seeking entertainment from home, so the influx of new content from the various networks and streaming services this fall is of particular importance this year.

It’s an uneven slate, to be sure, with so many of the networks thrown off their production schedules due to the coronavirus-caused shutdown. That being said, there’s still a ton of new stuff out there; no matter what your interest, odds are that you’ll be able to find something that you like. We’ve got comedies and dramas and genre fare, animation and game shows – something for everyone.

Will all of it be good? Heaven’s no. But it never is. There will be some shows that look promising that turn out to be terrible and some that look terrible and turn out to be promising. Such is the joy of new TV.

Rather than break it down by date or by service or by some other randomly-chosen criteria, I figured this year, I’d just keep it simple. We’re going in alphabetical order by title and including the network or streamer on which the program airs. No fuss, no muss.

Check out this selection.

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Animaniacs (Hulu)

Oh HELL yes. As someone who was watching a LOT of afternoon animation in the mid-90s, I am abundantly familiar with the Warner Brothers (and the Warner sister). I’ll admit to not being entirely sure whether the anarchic and oddly dated weirdness of the original “Animaniacs” will translate to present-day audiences, but I am thrilled that we’re going to get a chance to find out. What we’ve seen so far certainly seems to indicate that the spirit will be the same. With the original characters and the original vocal talent returning, I am cautiously optimistic. Young kids, collegiate stoners and middle-aged folks should all be eagerly anticipating this one.

B Positive (CBS)

I would be remiss if I didn’t include at least one classic multi-cam sitcom on this list. You’ll be shocked to learn that it is executive produced by Chuck Lorre and will be broadcast on CBS. This time around, we have Thomas Middleditch starring as a divorced therapist who needs a kidney transplant, but his rare B-positive blood type (get it?) means that finding a donor will be difficult. Difficult, that is, until a woman from his past turns out to be a match. Now, I can’t say for certain, but I’m guessing that hijinks will ensue? Look, Lorre’s stuff generally isn’t for me, but plenty of people love it – don’t be surprised if “B Positive” winds up as one of broadcast TV’s new breakout hits this fall.

Big Sky (ABC)

Can we all admit that the television landscape is just a little bit better if there’s a David E. Kelley-created procedural on a broadcast network? This one follows a pair of private detectives as they search for two sisters who have been kidnapped in Montana. However, it soon becomes clear that these are not the first girls to disappear from the area, and if these detectives don’t hurry, they won’t be the last. Maybe not conducive to the quirkiness that we often see from Kelley, but the dude knows how to make compelling TV. We’ll see if this reaches the bar set by recent DEK-led shows like “Big Little Lies” and “Mr. Mercedes.” (Note: Kelley is also at the helm of this fall’s new HBO show “The Undoing.”)

Connecting… (NBC) & Social Distance (Netflix)

These are different shows, obviously, but they’re built on the same basic premise, utilizing our new normal of Zoom interactions and the like to mine TV storylines, so it just makes sense to lump them together. From the early look of things, it seems that “Connecting…” is more of a serial sitcom – it’s being billed as being like “Friends,” only, you know … on Zoom. Meanwhile, word is that “Social Distance” is going to be more episodic and self-contained, with episodes focusing on specific characters and situations. Will any of this work? Are people who have spent all day dealing with work/school/whatever via remote conferencing going to want to do more of the same with their leisure time? Time will tell. Just don’t forget to mute your mic.

Eater’s Guide to the World (Hulu)

I tend to avoid reality-type shows in these previews on general principles, but this one looks really intriguing. Maya Rudolph narrates this seven-episode offering, a celebration of some top-tier culinary destinations. It’s perhaps not quite as global as the title implies, with a lot of the stops being right here in the good old USA. That said, Hulu did a phenomenal job with Padma Lakshmi’s “Taste the Nation” food show, so there’s no reason to expect that the streamer would fail to bring that same high level of energy and production value to this new show. In a time when restaurants are struggling, anything that gives them some attention is welcome – and it’s nice for viewers to have places to add to their culinary bucket lists as well.

Helstrom (Hulu)

So you might think it’s weird that “Helstrom,” a show based on characters from the Marvel Universe, is airing on Hulu. I also think it’s weird, particularly since Disney+ seems ready to roll with MCU-adjacent TV content. But here we are, with a show featuring a standalone story that is indeed connected to the MCU. The title refers to the last name of main characters Daimon and Ana, children of a notorious and powerful serial killer; the pair have devoted their lives to combatting the forces of evil. It’s a 10-episode season that appears to be intended as a one-and-done, but really, who knows what’ll happen in this world of IP-driven entertainment. Still, as an old-school comics fan, I dig the characters on the fringes – this one could be fun.

Moonbase 8 (Showtime)

We’ve seen an interesting run of space-based comedy over the past year or so, between HBO’s “Avenue 5” and Netflix’s “Space Force.” Well, we’re getting another one – and I’m betting it’s gonna get WEIRD. “Moonbase 8” is the story of three so-so astronauts whose stuff isn’t quite right living in a moon base simulator in the Nevada desert. It stars Fred Armisen, John C. Reilly and Tim Heidecker; those three – along with Jonathan Krisel – are also the listed writers on the project. Anyone familiar with the comic sensibilities of that particular trio knows that we are in for one bizarre and likely absurd ride. It’s the latest space comedy to hit the airwaves … and I won’t be the least bit surprised if it’s also the greatest.

Next (Fox)

One could argue that perhaps we don’t really need another story about malevolent artificial intelligence and the potential ramifications on our world, but hey – here we are. John Slattery stars as a former tech company CEO/current anti-tech reliance crusader who is leading a cybersecurity team combatting a rogue AI that apparently has the ability to constantly improve upon itself. Look, I love serial sci-fi television – always have – but the reality is that it rarely succeeds. Whether “Next” is one of the exceptions remains to be seen – we’ve seen a couple of episodes already and the jury is still out. The fact that it was initially planned as a midseason replacement isn’t super promising.

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

I’ve been very curious about this one since I first heard about it. It’s about a young girl abandoned at an orphanage in Kentucky in the late 1950s. Said girl turns out to be a chess prodigy, a massive talent that takes that male-dominated world by storm. Played as an adult by the incredible Anya Taylor-Joy, the show explores the girl’s conquests at the chessboard even as she struggles to deal with the underlying addiction issues generated by the tranquilizers used to sedate wards of the state in her youth. This one promises to be challenging and compelling stuff, and hey – we’re long past due to get a prestige drama revolving around chess. I have high hopes for this one.

The Right Stuff (Disney+)

It’s a series about the early days of the U.S. space program, featuring the brave test pilots who would go on to become the Mercury Seven, our first astronauts. The book – written in 1979 by Tom Wolfe – is great. So is the 1983 movie. No reason not to expect more excellence from this series – early returns are extremely promising. It’s got a spectacular cast, and for those familiar with our area’s theatrical scene, you might spot a familiar face – Rachel Burttram, who starred in Penobscot Theatre Company’s production of Lindsey Ferrentino’s “Ugly Lies the Bone” back in 2018 (alongside yours truly, nbd), plays Betty Grissom, wife to astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom, played by Michael Trotter. It’s the beginning of the space race in eight easy episodes – what’s not to love?

Saved By The Bell (Peacock)

Confession time: I watched a lot of “Saved by the Bell” back in the day. And sure, I was a college student watching ironically, but it doesn’t change the fact that even today, despite not watching the show for two decades, I could tell you an entire plotline from the first minute of an episode. Does the world need a reboot that features new kids under the auspices of former Baysiders all grown up? Absolutely not. But if you tell me that this show is built on the premise that Zack Morris is now the governor of California and he’s mandating a new class of kids attend Bayside High and that Slater and Jessie are both here, then fine. You got me.

The Stand (CBS All Access)

I’ll confess that I don’t actually have a subscription to CBS All Access. The reality is that, with the exception of their “Star Trek” programming, I haven’t been all that interested in what they’ve brought to the table thus far. That all changes thanks to this show, a limited series that returns to the world of what many (including myself) would argue is Stephen King’s singular literary achievement. This apocalyptic epic received the miniseries treatment once before back in the early 1990s, a flawed but undeniably compelling television event. Judging from the talent both behind and in front of the camera – not to mention the prominent involvement of Mr. King himself – this new version should outstrip the previous one. December 17 can’t come soon enough.

Supermarket Sweep (ABC)

Ordinarily, I try to focus on scripted shows when I do these sorts of previews. However, there was no way that I was going to miss the chance to celebrate the return of this one, an absolute classic from back in the day. Hosted by “SNL” alum Leslie Jones, this marks the return of one of the most entertaining game shows in the history of basic cable – only this time, there’s a network budget behind it. I’m not going to tell you what “Supermarket Sweep” is, because if you don’t know, well – all I can say is that you are in for a treat. Cross your fingers that they bring the sweaters back, because that’s some iconic stuff.

Truth Seekers (Amazon Prime)

What’s that you say? Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are back at it with a new show? OK, I’m in. Wait – it’s about a team of part-time paranormal investigators who post their amateur adventures online? Yeah – extra in. Oh man, and you mean to tell me that their experiences become more and more frequent and intense and perhaps are leading them to uncover a conspiracy that could mean the end of humanity as we know it? Good God, just shut up and put it directly into my veins! Seriously – this show looks like a hell of a lot of fun. Considering the track record of Team Frost-Pegg, how can this show be anything other than fantastic? Comedy horror from two of the comedic genre masters – I can’t wait.

The Walking Dead: World Beyond (AMC)

Yeah – AMC is still riding “The Walking Dead” train. I imagine we will continue to get increasingly tangential zombie content from the network until the Earth stops spinning and the sun explodes. Apparently, this one is set in Nebraska a decade after the initial zombie apocalypse, following the young people who are the first generation to come of age in a world where the dead are, you know … walking. As someone who never really got into “TWD,” this show doesn’t have much appeal to me. However, there’s no doubt that there is a built-in audience for this content. People adore the show and the world it has created, so you do you AMC – give the people what they want.

WandaVision (Disney+)

Would I have guessed that the Disney/Marvel content machine would be willing to get weird? Not really, but here we are. I honestly have no idea what to expect from this series. Elizabeth Olson and Paul Bettany are reprising their roles as Scarlet Witch and Vision from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this series will be part of the MCU’s greater continuity, taking place after the events of “Avengers: Endgame.” We’ll also be seeing supporting turns from a number of tertiary MCU characters, as well as number of new characters. The general vibe appears to be slightly askew, which is a nice fit for the off-kilter relationship at the center of the show. This is the first time Marvel’s streaming series offerings have aligned with the film franchise – it’ll be fun to see where that leads.

Last modified on Wednesday, 14 October 2020 08:05

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