Sure, the kick-off of the 2011-2012 TV season is still about four months away, give or take, but it’s never too soon to start getting excited about the new shows that will be gracing the broadcast networks come the fall…or to start placing bets on which ones will be the first to be cancelled. I’m keeping my mouth shut on both topics for the time being, but I have no doubt that most folks who check out these network-provided plot synopses and trailers won’t hesitate for a moment to offer up their opinions, so I look forward to reading what ya’ll have to say about what’s coming up…
666 Park Avenue (Sun., 10–11PM): At the ominous address of 666 Park Avenue, anything you desire can be yours. Everyone has needs, desires and ambition. For the residents of The Drake, these will all be met, courtesy of the building’s mysterious owner, Gavin Doran (Terry O’Quinn). But every Faustian contract comes with a price. When Jane Van Veen (Rachael Taylor) and Henry Martin (Dave Annable), an idealistic young couple from the Midwest, are offered the opportunity to manage the historic building, they not only fall prey to the machinations of Doran and his mysterious wife, Olivia (Vanessa Williams), but unwittingly begin to experience the shadowy, supernatural forces within the building that imprison and endanger the lives of the residents inside. Sexy, seductive and inviting, The Drake maintains a dark hold over all of its residents, tempting them through their ambitions and desires, in this chilling new drama that’s home to an epic struggle of good versus evil.
With “House” coming to its conclusion on Monday after an eight-year run, it’s fair to say that quite a few regular cast members have seen their way in and out of the doors of Princeton Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, but their number can’t hold a candle to how many guest stars – we’re talking people who were on the show for a single-digit number of times – have turned up over the years. This isn’t all of them, but it’s a start…
Robin Tunney (Ep. 1.1, “Pilot”) Character: a kindergarten teacher who becomes dysphasic and starts having seizures. Turns out she’s invested with tapeworms.
Sam Trammell (Ep. 1.4, “Maternity”) Character: the father of a baby girl that’s not even out of the maternity ward and already on death’s door from a virus.
Elizabeth Mitchell (Ep. 1.5, “Damned If you Don’t”) Character: a nun who looks like she’s suffering from stigmata but is later discovered to be suffering an allergic reaction to a copper cross IUD left over from her, uh, wilder days.
Dominic Purcell (Ep. 1.6, “Fidelity”) Character: a husband whose wife – the Patient of the Week – turns out to have been unfaithful.
Amanda Seyfried (Ep. 1.11, “Detox”) Character: girlfriend to the Patient of the Week.
Scott Foley (Ep. 1.12, “Sports Medicine”) Character: a baseball player suffering cadmium poisoning from all the pot he’s been smoking.
Joe Morton (Ep. 1.17, “Role Model”) Character: a senator suffering the after-effects of an epilepsy treatment from childhood
John Cho (Ep. 1.20, “Love Hurts”) Character: a guy who, after spilling apple juice on House’s clothes, ends up being diagnosed by him as having had a stroke. Upon further investigation, it’s determined that he has a trauma-induced aneurysm as a result of a preference for sadomasochism.
Carmen Electra (Ep. 1.21, “Three Stories”) Character: While begrudgingly lecturing a classroom of medical students about a past patient who is depicted as looking like Carmen Electra playing miniature golf. In reality, the patient was actually a male golfer…and he played regular golf, by the way. (Who knew miniature golf could be so sexy?)
It’s a sure sign that spring is on the verge of emerging when the networks start to let slip the names, premises, and attached actors for all of the pilots under consideration for the next TV season. Most of these pilots go nowhere, which is the way the cookie has always crumbled, but a few lucky programs end up getting the go-ahead for a series commitment. I don’t claim to have any real idea how the networks think – as a critic, it’s pretty much a given that I never know what the networks are thinking (and, in turn, they don’t care what I’m thinking) – but that doesn’t mean I’m afraid to give my thoughts on 15 of the pilots that I’d like to see come to fruition and join the fall schedules of their respective networks. You can check out a much fuller list from The Hollywood Reporter by clicking here, but in the meantime, here’s the stuff that I’m hoping to be TiVo’ing in a few months’ time….
1. Gilded Lilys (ABC)
It’s been quite awhile since a broadcast network has managed to sell viewers on a period piece set prior to the 20th century, so the fact that ABC is even considering this series, which takes place in 1895 and revolves around the first luxury hotel in New York, is proof of how much pull executive producer Shonda Rhimes has with the American Broadcasting Company. In truth, the big selling point for me is John Barrowman. This doesn’t exactly bode well for another season of “Torchwood,” but the dude deserves a big U.S. break. You never know: this could be it.
2. Untitled Louis C.K. / Spike Feresten Comedy (CBS)
Go on, admit it: you were sold the moment you saw the name “Louis C.K.,” weren’t you? And Spike Feresten isn’t bad, either. Seeing these two guys attached to this project is the only reason why it stands out, since the only real description available is that it’s an an ensemble comedy about a bunch of twentysomethings trying to make their dreams come true despite today’s crappy financial climate. But, damn, after two seasons of “Louie,” the idea of Louis C.K. putting his spin on anything makes it something that’ll surely be worth seeing. With that said, however, I hope Dan Byrd ends up not being available to do the show, as that will mean that “Cougar Town” has been renewed.
3. Animal Kingdom (NBC)
Two words: Tyler Labine. I mean, come on, America, what more does this loveable teddy bear of a comedy actor have to do to get a show to stay on the air for more than a season or two? NBC is, if memory serves, the last of the broadcast networks that has yet to cancel a series out from under Mr. Labine – “Invasion” was on ABC, “Reaper” was on The CW, “Sons of Tucson” was on Fox, and “Mad Love” was on CBS – and, frankly, this could be his last stop before the autograph-show circuit. Doesn’t Tyler Labine deserve a better fate than that? You’re damned right he does.
4. Untitled Kevin Williamson serial killer drama (Fox)
The man behind “The Vampire Diaries” brings Kevin Bacon to the small screen to play Ryan Hardy, a former FBI agent on the hunt for serial killer Joe Carroll (James Purefoy), who’s busy building himself a whole cult full of serial killers. If that isn’t enough to sell you, the cast also features Natalie Zea (“Justified”).
As 2011 rapidly winds to a close, it’s easy to fall back on lists as a way to fill columns – indeed, as a TV critic, it’s my God-given right – but HBO’s announcement this week that it was cleaning house and cancelling “Hung,” “Bored to Death,” and “How to Make It in America” served to convince me that I needed to discuss a number of now-defunct series that lost their bid for continued existence during the course of this year. I’m not talking about shows like “Friday Night Lights,” which had an end-game in sight and wrapped on their own terms. I’m talking about series that effectively had the rug ripped out from under their feet. Believe me, there were a bunch…and I’m still kind of pissed about quite a few of them.
11. Medium (CBS)
After seven seasons on the air and surviving a switch between networks (from NBC to CBS), it’s hard to say that “Medium” didn’t live a good, long life. With that said, however, the show had continued to find new ways to keep things interesting, and with the trio of DuBois daughters growing up and getting their own storylines almost as often as their mom. As such, Allison, Joe, and the gang could’ve easily kept going for another few seasons without any complaints from me.
10. Outsourced (NBC)
Am I going to try to defend my enjoyment of this show? No, I am not, because there’s no point in wasting your time or mine. You may not have thought it was very funny, and if you didn’t, that would be your right. I, however, did. And I still miss it.
9. Law & Order: Los Angeles (NBC)
There’s nothing I dislike more than a series that doesn’t know when to leave good enough alone, and for my part, I don’t know why they felt the need to change the formula and kick Skeet Ulrich‘s character to the curb. Sorry, did I say “curb”? I meant “grave,” of course. Not that there’s anything wrong with giving an actor of Alfred Molina’s caliber a more substantial role, but to do so in midseason can’t have pleased the existing viewership very much. Truth be told, I’d rather they’d just kept the original “Law & Order” around, but in its absence, this was a nice substitute, and it sucks that it never had a chance to really spread its wings.
8. The Event (NBC) / V (ABC)
When it comes to casualties in the alien-invasion field, I can accept the cancellation of “V” a bit more than that of “The Event,” if only because it was a minor surprise that it made it to a second season in the first place. And if I’m to be honest, I’m not really surprised that NBC couldn’t be bothered to give “The Event” a shot at a sophomore year, since they probably figured it’d only let them down the way “Heroes” did. But whereas “Heroes” really dropped the ball in its second year, I felt like “The Event” had a better chance of upping the ante. Guess I’ll never know for sure.
Is it me, or does it feel inherently wrong that there’s only one “Law & Order” series on the air at the moment?
I’m not saying that it hasn’t been completely and totally warranted to make fun of how many members of the franchise there have been over the years. In addition to the so-called mothership, “Law & Order,” you’ve had “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” and “Law & Order: Los Angeles.” Oh, and lest we forget, there was also “Conviction,” which – although it didn’t feature the words “Law & Order” in front of its title, was a spin-off featuring the character of Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) as a Bureau Chief Executive ADA supervising the newest crop of ADAs.
I admit it: that’s a hell of a lot of “Law & Order.” But, dammit, I like “Law & Order.” Even if I’ve never liked the various spin-offs quite as much as the mothership, all of the series still served as TV comfort food, each just different enough from the other to make me happy. All things being equal, I can’t complain that the one “L&O” series left is “SVU,” as that’s the one that’s often been on the verge of overtaking the original series as my favorite, but now that there’s no Stabler, even “SVU” feels…dare I say it?…a little unstable.
Thank heavens, then, that the series has decided to delve into its universe of characters and bring back one from the mothership: Michael Cutter, played by Linus Roache. The relationship between Roache and Sam Waterson on the original series was great, but in his return to the franchise, we’re now going to see Cutter standing on his own, getting to be the big shot this time around. Also turning up on the series is another actor who recently his full-time gig go under: Andre Braugher, late of “Men of a Certain Age.” If you’re a real diehard “L&O” fan, you may remember that Braugher once turned up on the original series, but…well, I’ll let him remind you about it.