Once upon a time, the summer was the designated dumping ground for all of the crap that the networks had lying around that they didn’t deem good enough to put on during the regular season, but now…well, actually, there’s still a bit of that going on, but viewers are also starting to get some unexpectedly strong material as well. I’ve been bombarded with screeners over the past few weeks, so many that I haven’t been able to keep up with them all, but I’ve managed to pull together a list of 10 shows that I have seen and found at least worth giving a try, if only for one episode to see if the first taste is enough to keep you coming back for more.
Wizards vs. Aliens
As a rule, any series which features Russell T. Davies, the man who finally succeeded in selling “Doctor Who” to Americans, as part of its creative team is a series that’s at least worth giving a shot, even if it is on The Hub. In fact, let’s back up a second: The Hub actually has a quite a lot of fun programming for the hipper young-adult set, so no one should be dismissing the network out of hand as being merely a channel for kids. Plus, hello, the show’s called “Wizards vs. Aliens.” How is that not going to be awesome? Granted, it’s still intended for a younger demographic, a la Davie’s “Who” spin-off, “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” so you shouldn’t go in expecting “Torchwood” levels of darkness, but if you go in with the right mindset, you’ll find it’s a lot of fun for the whole family.
If you’re a regular reader of Bullz-Eye, then you’re well familiar with a recurring feature that we like to call our TV Power Rankings. Back in the day, we used to offer up a list of our top 25 TV series every six months, but those who caught our most recent Rankings – we posted it back in February – know that we’re only doing it once a year now. As this is the first fall season to come around since we’ve scaled back, however, we thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the new programs that are slowly but surely making their debuts on the broadcast networks and give your our thoughts on which ones seem to have the potential to make their way onto the next Power Rankings…but with that said, you will please note the way we’ve made a point of clarifying above that this is in no way a formal declaration that they will end up on there. As we all know, shows can start strong, turn on a dime, and become craptacular within the span of only a few episodes. In short, it’s all very wait-and-see at this stage of the game, but if a show is on this list, that means that we at least think that it’s worthy of giving it a shot
At first glance, “Revolution” may seem to be a little bit like “Terra Nova” without the dinosaurs, given that it’s more or less about humanity trying to recover from a nasty situation (in this case, a sudden and seemingly total absence of electricity), but the pilot – directed by Jon Favreau – sets up the premise nicely, establishes the new power-free world, and gives stars Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito a chance to shine as the good guy and bad guy, respectively. The truth of the matter is that I’ll give anything with J.J. Abrams’ name on it a shot, but after the debacle that was “Undercovers,” I’m still going to enter with hesitation until “Revolution” proves itself.
As I’ve said elsewhere on Bullz-Eye, I didn’t even know I had a three-strike rule until I tried and failed on three separate occasions to get a decent interview out of Hayden Panitierre, so it’s a testament to how much I enjoyed the pilot for the country-music drama “Nashville” that I included it in this list. (Admittedly, it doesn’t hurt that she’s playing a complete bitch in the series.) There’s a very real possibility that the show could leave music-industry reality behind so quickly that I bail out well before mid-season, but with Connie Britton and Powers Boothe in the cast, it’s going to have to get pretty ridiculous for me to give up the ghost.
I’m a sucker for a good-looking period piece, so “Vegas” has already got me in its clutches by premise alone, focusing as it does on the growth of Las Vegas in the early 1960s, but it certainly doesn’t hurt that the show is headlined by Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis, then rounded out by Carrie Ann Moss and Jason O’Mara. I’m as excited about the possibilities of this series as I am just about anything premiering this fall…so don’t let me down, CBS!
A hallmark of attending the Television Critics Association press tour and the various panels and events surrounding it is that you really never know who you’re going to end up chatting with. On one evening this time around, I went to the Paley Center and found myself chatting with Joe Regalbuto (known to most for “Murphy Brown”, though I’ll always remember him best as Rex Smith’s scientific sidekick on “Streethawk”) and “Waltons” creator Earl Hamner, Jr., then had a chance to say “hello” to one of my past interview subjects for both Bullz-Eye and the Onion AV Club, Ed Asner. But that was a special Warner Brothers event celebrating the history of the studio’s TV series, so I wasn’t entirely blindsided by their appearances there…unlike the gorgeous blonde in a traffic-stopping dress who strolled into the CBS all-star event even though, I felt quite certain, she wasn’t actually on a CBS show.
I mean, you wouldn’t forget someone who looks like this, would you?
And I was right, as it turns out.
Well, sort of, anyway: Iliza Shlesinger isn’t on CBS, per se, but she hosts the syndicated dating show “Excused, “which – provided it appears in your market – appears in on your TV screen courtesy of CBS Television Distribution. Funnily enough, I’d worked with her publicist on several past projects, which is why the publicist came up to me and asked, “Would you like to talk to Iliza?” Like I’d turn down an offer like that…
(Plus, as I told Ms. Shlesinger a few minutes later, I also immediately thought, “Hey, I’ve actually watched that show, so I won’t have to sit there bluffing my way through the next several minutes!”)
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.
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”).