2013 Fall TV Preview: the New Shows on ABC
September 1st, 2013 10:00am EDT
The critics slammed ABC's president, Paul Lee, after ABC's panel at the 2013 Television Critics Association tour. Critics slammed him for his lack of preparation, for his devotion to the company's buzzwords about four quadrant programming, and for his aloofness. ABC finished fourth in a key demographic last season. The executives at ABC must hope Whedon's box office success will translate to television success because the rest of their lineup of new shows is as bland as a carton of plain yogurt. Besides Whedon's series and a comedy series created by a former Community writer, the crop of new ABC shows should be as forgettable as a carton of plain yogurt. S.H.I.E.L.D. is competing with the most watched series on television in the fall. ABC hopes adultery will keep Revenge fans tuned in, but the network failed to find success with any series after Revenge last season.
AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
Created by Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon & Maurissa Tancharoen
Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 24 at 8PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2013) Clark Gregg reprises his role of Agent Phil Coulson from Marvel's feature films, as he assembles a small, highly select group of Agents from the worldwide law-enforcement organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. Together they investigate the new, the strange and the unknown around the globe, protecting the ordinary from the extraordinary.
Thoughts: ABC's last dip into superhero drama was a disaster, but I'm way more confident in Mr. Whedon's, his brother's, and his brother's wife's ability to pull it off than I was in Jon Feldman and Marc Guggenheim. ABC premiered the series at comic-con to fervent applause. The critics viewed the pilot earlier this month at TCAs. Fans loved it. Critics were hesitant to declare it an instant hit. I am a Joss Whedon fanboy, but I will admit his pilots aren't the best (with the exception of "Serenity.") Audiences should expect a sort of growth period for the series. Marvel's transitioning from a large scale to a small one. I read somewhere that this series would put the focus on the people that clean up and rebuild after the Avengers beat Loki, and on the small stories of the Marvel universe. I don't doubt the series quality, range of stories or depth of emotion. I only hope the many people that watched The Avengers will watch Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. A Joss Whedon series is very special. He and his writers make magic on the small screen.
Created by Adam F. Goldberg
Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 24 at 9PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2013) Before there were parenting blogs, trophies for showing up and peanut allergies, there was a simpler time called the '80s. For geeky 11-year-old Adam (Sean Giambrone) these were his wonder years, and he faced them armed with a video camera to capture all the crazy. The Goldbergs are a loving family like any other, just with a lot more yelling.
Thoughts: Former Community writer Adam F. Goldberg created this autobiographical sitcom, but do not mistake him with the other Adam Goldberg, the villian of Harmontown. I confused the two for twenty seconds one day. The production team has fun with the 80s setting. The mother's entire look is outrageously 80s, from the big hair to the multi-colored wardrobe. The trailer scenes consistently pokes fun at REO Speedwagon. Jeff Garlin stands out in the role of the father. He's lively and energetic. He's great at physical comedy and one-liners--a comedy tour de force. ABC chose to highlight the family as a whole. I felt bummed out while watching the trailer, though. I didn't feel bummed because I didn't respond to the humor. I felt bummed by the network's idea of the American family. I don't know. I'll give the "Pilot" a look.
Created by Emily Halpern & Sarah Haskins
Premiere Date: Thursday, September 24 at 9:30PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2013) They say the third time's the charm, and reformed party girl Kate (Malin Akerman) is hoping that's true when she becomes Pete's (Bradley Whitford) third wife. She fell into his arms (literally) at a karaoke bar, and a year later Kate's got an insta-family, complete with three stepchildren and two ex-wives.
Thoughts: Every August and September, people preview the fall television schedule, and these people have to cover shows like Trophy Wife. I don't remember some of the shows I spent time previewing LAST YEAR. So what's there to potentially like about Trophy Wife? Bradley Whitford plays a rich guy married to Malin Ackerman's Kate. Malin Ackerman's Kate is a beautiful outsider. She doesn't belong in domesticity or in PTA meetings. Pete's children don't respect her. Women criticize her young body. Kate can't relate to teachers. Is ABC trying to appeal to threatened middle age women? Well, that's what ABC tries to do with nearly all of its series.
Created By David Wabel & Jason Richman (Created in U.K. By Kay Mellor)
Premiere Date: Tuesday, September 24 at 10PM
Premise: (from ABC Press Release, May 2013) In Astoria, Queens, a group of seven gas station employees have been chipping into a lottery pool for months, never thinking they'd actually win.
Thoughts: Not much of a premise, is it? The premise continues with what each employee could do with the potential money won, but then it ends. I assume the seven gas station employees win the money they'd never thought they'd win. The trailer's like the premise. The employees are introduced, they win the cash, and then it ends. ABC really wants viewers to watch and learn how winning the lottery works out for these characters. Chances are some won't feel so lucky after all. The show seems targeted for the many Americans struggling to get by in the tough economy. The concept of Lucky 7 appeals to me. I like stories about people united by a certain thing and watching how each person/character responds. Nick Hornby wrote a novel about four characters that met trying to kill themselves. Lucky 7 as a series does not appeal to me, though.
BACK IN THE GAME
Created By Mark Cullen & Robb Cullen
Premiere Date: Wednesday, September 25 at 8:30PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2013) Terry Gannon Jr. (Maggie Lawson) was an All Star softball player until life threw her a few curve balls -- a baby, a lost college scholarship and a loser for a husband. After striking out on her own, Terry and her son, Danny (Griffin Gluck), move in with her estranged father, Terry Sr., aka "The Cannon" (James Caan).
Thoughts: Back in the Game reminds me of FOX's failed Ben & Kate series. Remove a fun-loving but eccentric brother and place him with a harsh, disappointing father figure, as well as some of the quirks of Ben & Kate, and add in baseball and a feel-good story about bringing together the children the actual teams of the town don't want, and it's like Little Giants meets Ben & Kate meets Bad News Bears. Maggie Lawson seems like a charming actress whom I would take out for frozen yogurt if the opportunity presented itself. Her character's trying to overcome many negatives from her life by helping children who remind her of herself. If they have no one, like she did, then she'll be their someone, which is sweet. I'll tune in for an episode or two until Arrow returns.
Created By Kevin Abbot
Premiere Date: Sunday, September 29 at 10PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2013) A chance meeting between photographer Sara Hadley (Hannah Ware) and Attorney Jack McAllister (Stuart Townsend) leads to an instant and undeniable attraction. Sarah's husband, Drew (Chris Johnson), is a successful prosecutor with political aspirations, while Jack is married to Elaine (Wendy Moniz), the daughter of his boss, Thacher Karsten (James Cromwell). When Karsten's brother-in-law Lou is murdered, all evidence points to Karsten's son, T.J. (Henry Thomas). Jack, the company's lead counsel, will have to defend him, but for Sara's prosecutor husband, Drew, this is the kind of high-profile murder case that can secure his political future. Just as Sara and Jack's affair is starting, the lovers find themselves in an impossible situation -- on opposite sides of a murder investigation.
Thoughts: Betrayal will be convoluted. Just read the premise pasted above. The trailer's basically shot after shot of Hannah Ware looking sexy. In some scenes, she's supposed to look sexy. In other scenes, she looks conflicted and troubled, and yet undeniably sexy. I'm not sure where adultery falls in the current pop culture landscape. People like watching anti-hero men enduring a middle age crisis. Betrayal seems like it belongs in the 1990s. I don't expect the series to succeed since nothing succeeds in the post-Revenge timeslot. James Cromwell's character name might be the best thing about the series. Plus, his beard is commendable.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND
Created By Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
Premiere Date: Thursday, October 10 at 8PM
Premise: (from ABC's press release, May 2013) In Victorian England, the young and beautiful Alice (Sophie Lowe) tells a tale of a strange new land that exists on the other side of a rabbit hole. An invisible cat, a hookah smoking caterpillar and playing-cards that talk are just some of the fantastic things she's seen during this impossible adventure. Surely this troubled girl must be insane, and her doctors aim to cure her with a treatment that will make her forget everything.
Thoughts: I think Once Upon A Time is an ambitious failure. Kitsis, Horowitz and their writers re-invent and re-imagine fairy tales for modern audiences weekly. A bloated cast, uneven storytelling, and horrible special effects made OUAT unwatchable for me. ABC decided to Eddie and Adam the opportunity to do more of that. A few things concern me about the spinoff. Amnesia storylines are always a bad idea, and the series hook is that Alice forgets everything and must find her way to Wonderland and True Love again. I'd love for the series to explore the state of mental health care in Victorian England, but I have a better chance of time-traveling to Victorian England than viewers do of seeing any exploration of the mental health care in Victorian England. Sophie Lowe seems well-suited to the main role, but the surrounding talent seem bland and generic. Kitsis and Horowitz hired handsome guys on OUAT to deliver lines poorly and they've done the same in Wonderland. The CGI looks bad. I just wonder why ABC needed an OUAT spinoff. The industry is immersed in the trend of bringing stories people grew up with back to the theater or the small screen and as these epic pieces of storytelling. Alice in Wonderland's not an epic. A girl falls asleep, dreams about wonderland, and wakes up. I don't think 22 hours of Alice's trip to Wonderland is what anyone wants or needs.
TOMORROW: The preview continues with a look at the new shows on Cable & Premium Channels
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Photo Credits: ABC