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What’s new to view: A fall 2018 TV preview

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Fall TV premiere season is upon us!

Granted, the whole “new fall lineup” has increasingly become less of a thing with the proliferation of streaming services willing to drop entire seasons in one go and networks becoming more and more flexible with regards to when a series can and should debut, but whether it is by design or simply through inertia, we still see a whole lot of new material hit the airwaves in the autumn.

As per usual, this preview addresses only those shows entering their debut seasons. This isn’t about all the exceptional television that is returning for a second or third or fifth or tenth season – this is about stuff we haven’t seen before. It’s a chance to look ahead at what’s coming and think about what content – if any – we might be willing to invest our limited leisure time into.

(Note: This story hits the streets on Sept. 19. We’re focusing on shows that have yet to make the scene, so for the handful of entries that bowed earlier this month … sorry. Better luck next time.)

It’s a mixed bag. We’ve got broadcast and we’ve got streaming. We’ve got comedy and drama. We’ve got prestige fare and we’ve got mass appeal. We’ve got highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow – all the brows you could ever desire.

Will all of these shows be good? Absolutely not. Should you watch them all? Also – no. But if there’s even one or two gems among the flotsam, that’s a big win. And honestly, it looks like there might be a couple of winners here.

Or maybe it’s all just poorly-conceived adequately-executed entertainment detritus. Who can say?

Let’s have a look at some of 2018’s fall TV premieres.



Manifest (NBC, Sept. 24)

This is the sort of high-concept network sci-fi that I always root for, yet almost always winds up falling flat. “Manifest” unfolds thusly: an airliner lands following a turbulent but otherwise uneventful flight. Only it turns out that their plane – Montego Air Flight 828 – has been missing for over five years, but for the people on the plane, only a few hours have passed. They’re left to reintegrate into a world that has, in ways large and small, moved on without them; in addition, some of them experience other inexplicable phenomena. It looks to be aiming for the sweet spot between science fiction and family drama; if it hits the target, it could make for a fun watch. Or it could spin its wheels. Or it could crash and burn. We’ll have to wait and see.

Magnum P.I. (CBS, Sept. 24)

It’s very difficult for me not to dismiss this show out of hand. Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum is one of the iconic TV figures of my childhood; the notion of someone else being able to fill those shoes seems almost laughable. Yet here we are, with Jay Hernandez attempting to portray the titular character. I mean, come on … he doesn’t even have a mustache, people! Here’s the thing – I will almost certainly be unable to give this show a fair shake. Even if it is somehow good – which I don’t believe it will be – I won’t be able to see it as such. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope that I’m wrong. But I don’t think so. I have a hunch that this “Magnum P.I.” might be one and done.

New Amsterdam (NBC, Sept. 25)

Everything I needed to know about “New Amsterdam” I learned from the first advertisement I saw for it. A new doctor shows up at a hospital; he’s been brought in to serve as the new medical director. He’s here to shake things up; he’s a maverick who believes more in the patients than the bureaucracy and doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it. He threatens to fire those who care more about money than the sanctity of life and inspires those who feel the opposite. He’s there to save lives and whatever. There. That’s “New Amsterdam.” I saved you the hours you’d have wasted on watching for the season-and-a-half that it lasts. Do I know it’s going to be terrible? Of course not. But I like the chances of this being the most accurate prediction in this entire preview.

A Million Little Things (ABC, Sept. 26)

Another tearjerker drama? Sure, why not? “A Million Little Things” is the story of four friends and the way that their lives drastically change after one of them commits suicide. It looks like it’ll go the “This is Us” route and treat us to flashbacks of the old days alongside action from the present day. It sounds a little maudlin, honestly, but it does have a hell of a cast. David Giuntoli, Romany Malco, Ron Livingston, James Roday, Alison Miller, Grace Park, Christina Ochoa and Christina Moses are all big parts of the ensemble. If this show can maintain a level of humor to go along with the real issues being addressed, it might just have legs. They certainly have the cast for it – let’s see how that decide to play it.

Murphy Brown (CBS, Sept. 27)

I have some complicated feelings about this one. I was a little too young to have enjoyed the original “Murphy Brown” as much as I did, but nevertheless, I really dug it. It was smart and funny in a way that I didn’t always fully understand, but it still resonated. A reboot? I’m skeptical. But hey – all the other networks were trotting out new takes on their old stuff, so it was just a matter of time. In this iteration, Murphy Brown is apparently a cable news host, working with her former FYI team, while her son has grown up to be an anchor on a conservative cable network show. Candace Bergen, Faith Ford, Joe Regalbuto and Grant Shaud are all back. I really want this to be good, but I’ll admit to being nervous.

The Cool Kids (Fox, Sept. 28)

I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. This comedy is set in a retirement home, following three guys who are basically the big men on campus – that is, until a new resident shows up and throws the whole social order into turmoil. Despite a cast that includes some serious comedic bona fides – Martin Mull, David Alan Grier, Leslie Jordan and Vicki Lawrence are all legitimately talented performers – the initial glimpses look painfully unfunny. If this show is anything beyond 22 minutes of Viagra puns and adult diaper jokes, I’ll be stunned. Even that could work, though – Charlie Day is a co-creator, so maybe we get some anarchic “It’s Always Sunny” energy here. Everything about “The Cool Kids” screams lowest common denominator, but it might wind up surprising us.

The Neighborhood (CBS, Oct. 1)

There’s a lot to unpack with this one. The basic premise – a Midwest nice guy moves with his family to a tough neighborhood in L.A. and unsettles his neighbors with his niceness – is VERY on-brand for CBS. And it’s the exact sort of multi-cam sitcom that thrives on the network. Those are points in favor of its success and in opposition of its quality. However, the cast – particularly Max Greenfield as the nice guy and Cedric the Entertainer as his primary foil – makes it look that this could actually work. All this assumes, of course, that the show avoids the kind of social tone-deafness that often afflicts efforts like this one. Honestly, it could be funny. Really funny, as opposed to CBS multi-cam funny. Consider me cautiously optimistic on this one.

All American (CW, Oct. 10)

As a sucker for sports-based stories, I’m all in on “All American.” Based on the life of professional football player Spencer Paysinger, it’s basically a drama with football. A young man from Crenshaw is recruited to play for the team at posh Beverly Hills High School. It’s your standard fish out of water tale, only the fish is really good at football. The “Friday Night Lights” comparisons are inevitable, but this one looks to be its own thing. Really, it’s going to boil down to how the actually football being played looks – it doesn’t have to be realistic, but if it doesn’t look good, people will have no problem changing the channel. Sports shows have had mixed results over the years – we’ll see if this one has what it takes to win.

Charmed (CW, Oct. 14)

Look guys! Another reboot! This time, it’s the fondly-remembered CW staple “Charmed,” which ran for eight seasons ending in 2006. A dozen years later – it’s back! This version is set in the present day and features three sisters (shocking, I know) living in a college town who discover that they’re witches (I KNOW) after the death of their mother. Here’s the thing – the original show had its, well … charms. And if this new show – and new cast – can capture some semblance of that spirit, there’s a reasonably good chance that it will develop the same sort of passionate following. If it can’t, it could wind up a milquetoast meh-fest that barely lasts until Christmas. I’m leaning toward the former, but I can’t really rule out the latter.

The Kids are Alright (ABC, Oct. 16)

The sitcom subgenre of “family comedy set sometime in the past” is an odd one – ABC is already currently mining that vein with offerings such as “The Goldbergs” and “Fresh Off the Boat.” But with “The Kids are Alright,” we’re exploring neither the 1980s nor the 1990s, but the 1970s. Basically, it’s a married couple – played by Mary McCormack and Michael Cudlitz – raising eight kids in 1971. One imagines there will be plenty of era-specific Easter eggs and the like, but is the network pushing nostalgia too far? We’ll have to wait and see if this new show’s cast and production team has what it takes – those other two examples benefit from dynamite talent on both sides of the camera. Without that, this new show will almost certainly not be alright.



The Good Cop (Netflix, Sept. 21)

You might be hesitant to embrace yet another cop show. I get it. Just hear me out. This show – based on a popular Israeli show by the same name – is being run by Andy Breckman (of “Monk” fame). It’s a show about a young by-the-book cop forced to partner up with his father, a disgraced ex-cop just out of prison who is looking for redemption as a civilian consultant. Need more convincing? What if I told you that the young cop was being played by Josh Groban? And the dad is being played by Tony Danza? As an added bonus, Danza is keeping alive his increasingly bizarre TV tradition of playing characters named Tony. “The Good Cop” is a weird combination of flavors, but one that could wind up working. If nothing else, it’s nice to see Tony Danza back on TV.

Maniac (Netflix, Sept. 21)

When all is said and done, this might well be the new show I personally am most eagerly anticipating. The pedigree is exceptional – Emma Stone and Jonah Hill star, while Cary Fukunaga directs. The show – adapted by Patrick Somerville from a Norwegian TV series of the same name – follows a group of people who have engaged in a pharmaceutical trial for a drug that can allegedly repair anything involving the mind. Brain damage, schizophrenia, even harmful memories – all can be healed. Stone and Hill star as two of the participants in the trial as they spend three days at the company’s facilities – three days that promise to completely fix all of their problems. Indications are that it will be darkly comic and undeniably weird. It certainly has the horses – aside from Stone and Hill, luminaries such as Justin Theroux and Gabriel Byrne. Oh, and Sally Field. Yeah. This is going to be good.

Into the Dark (Hulu, Oct. 5)

It seems as though the power and utility of the anthology series is being rediscovered; creative types are rediscovering the flexibility that comes with the genre. Hulu has enlisted horror impresario Jason Blum to bring one such anthology (horror, naturally) to their service. Blum executive produces “Into the Dark,” an anthology with an intriguing hook. See, they’re going to release episodes monthly, the theme and content of each episode correlating with the month in which it is released. It’s a clever device that will certainly allow them to hit the ground running … though one wonders just what kind of horror story you’re going to be able to tell with, say, August. But hey – Jason Blum takes $5 million movies and turns them into nine-figure box office behemoths, so he probably knows what he’s doing.

The Romanoffs (Amazon Prime, Oct. 12)

“Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner has written and directed all 10 episodes of an anthology series for Amazon Prime; the series tells the stories of various people around the world who believe themselves to be descended from the titular Russian royal family. Just look at that – it’s like prestige TV Mad Libs. That sentence just won six Emmy Awards. Make no mistake – this show is going to be excellent. Every peek we’ve gotten has indicated that it is going to be phenomenal television. Weiner’s track record speaks for itself, while every episode’s cast list is packed with talent. And again – Weiner wrote and directed literally the entire season. The auteur experience is almost always worthwhile. “The Romanoffs” marks Weiner’s return to television and I have no doubt that the medium will welcome him back with open arms.

Light as a Feather (Hulu, Oct. 12)

In the grand tradition of mining adolescence for any and all possible inspirations for content, Hulu brings us this series. The slumber party tradition of playing “Light as a feather/Stiff as a board” – and the sing-song rhyme that goes with it – is the basis for this 10-episode series. Apparently, a group of teens play the game at a slumber party and unleash some sort of dark supernatural force that starts bumping off the players in a manner that matches the rhyme. The survivors are left in a race against time to try and keep themselves alive before whatever is stalking them can finish the job. Frankly, this whole thing seems kind of stupid, but I’ve been wrong before. This will either be engaging genre fun or staggeringly dumb – let’s find out together.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix, Oct. 26)

You might have thought your need for gritty reboots of Archie Comics character was sated by the CW’s “Riverdale,” but that’s only because you didn’t know that Netflix was bringing you this show. Yes, we all remember “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” – this is NOT that. Based on the comic of the same name from spinoff imprint Archie Horror and created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, this is a much darker take on the character, featuring Sabrina’s struggle with being half-witch and half-mortal and battling against the sinister forces threatening those close to her on both sides. Originally intended as a “Riverdale” companion, it instead moved to Netflix, where it is going to launch just in time for Halloween. I have a hunch that this show is going to be a heck of a lot of fun.

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 September 2018 11:16


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