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The New Fall TV Season – Trends and Overviews

September 19, 2010

It’s always interesting to examine just what new programs the networks are trotting out, what statements they are attempting to make and what trends seem to be occurring with the collection of shows they collectively are offering. Here’s a quick overview of what is headed your way for the Fall 2010 Television Season…

One of the most noticeable trends is a focus on the nation’s midsection, most especially Texas. Fox’s “Lone Star,” ABC’s “My Generation” and NBC’s “Chase” all have Texas settings. CBS’ “Mike & Molly” is in Chicago. The CW’s “Hellcats” is in Tennessee. Ultimately, where any show is set will not make or break it. “Mary Tyler Moore” did just fine in Minneapolis; “WKRP” was great “in Cincinnati.” Yes we have a couple of new shows in NYC, a couple in Southern California, one notable reboot in the nation’s 50th State (that we’ve talked about plenty!) and a few others that will cover the globe, but the thought is we’re getting back to what many people call “The Real America.” Personally, I don’t buy into that kind of thinking, because to me, every bit of the United States is just as United Statesy as every other bit. But, when you’re a network trying to capture the market and get more mileage from your advertisers, a new angle here, a new setting there, might just do it. I’m fine with seeing stories that are set somewhere other than New York or Los Angeles, and I hope you are too.

Ancillary to the Texas setting, there seems to be a lot of Oil discussion going on as well. Obviously “Lone Star” is about an Oil Family, but so is Fox’s comedy “Running Wilde.” The CW’s “Nikita” had an oil related storyline in its pilot episode, and it seems like we’ll likely run into more plots along these lines throughout the year, certainly on our Texas based new programs, and possibly on more established shows.

The next noticeable thing is that many of the shows have large ensemble casts. That means we’ll be meeting a lot of new characters this autumn!  I have to think this is a result of programs like “Lost,” and “24” that concluded their successful runs last season, and is a shorthand way for show runners to figure out what members of the cast the audience will respond to most, to turn the show on that. Occasionally, we get a program that’s supposed to be about something, but then because of the popularity of a particular character, becomes something very different. It happened with “Lost in Space” in the 1960s. It happened with “Good Times” in the 1970s. “Family Matters” in the 1980s, “Melrose Place” in the 1990s, and on and on. The point is if you aren’t fully sure about what storylines will work, just toss in a bunch of characters and have the audience sort it out for you. This will likely occur with ABC’s “My Generation” and NBC’s “The Event” (if either of them lasts that long). “Chase,” “Lone Star,” “Outsourced,” even “Better With You” all have pretty big main casts. Very few shows are relying on just a couple of people to carry them. I suspect we’ll be seeing characters departing and others arriving on many programs as the Nielsen points suggest.

Another trend seems to be lowbrow humor. This is found on nearly all of the new comedies that every network has introduced, most especially the CBS entries, “Mike & Molly” and “$#*! My Dad Says,” but you’ll see some obvious silly stuff from “Outsourced,” “Raising Hope” and “Running Wilde” as well. The need to just turn off your brain and relax is a trend that most of the networks have scooped up and are running with now. Perhaps this is the 2010 answer to the 1960s style magical sitcoms like “I Dream of Jeannie” and “Bewitched?” After all, we do have the superhuman “No Ordinary Family,” as well!

Finally, spies seem to be turning up more and more: espionage is coming back to the fore and with “Undercovers,” and “Nikita,” and if either one or both of those programs do well, you can only expect more of the same next year.

I hope you want your comedy collected, because the networks have planned their various nights out for you. Monday the laughs are on CBS as they pitch “How I met Your Mother,” “Rules of Engagement,” “Two and a Half Men” and the new “Mike & Molly.” Tuesday you’ll want to check out Fox for the funny as they’ll have their returning smash “Glee” followed by the new sitcoms “Raising Hope” and “Running Wilde.” On Thursday, NBC takes its comedy cue with “Community,” “30 Rock” moving up an hour, “The Office” and the debut of “Outsourced,” While CBS counters that evening with “The Big Bang Theory,” and Shatner’s new “$#*!  My Dad Says.”

Other notable shows this season include NBC’s “Outlaw,” where Jimmy Smits steps down from the Supreme Court to handle whatever interesting cases he likes with his team of good looking and good thinking associates. There’s ABC’s “The Whole Truth which tells the tale of a crime from both Defense and Prosecution POVs, and stars Maura Tierney and Rob Morrow. And to keep with the Midwestern trend, there’s also ABC’s “Detroit 187” which follows a team of cops dealing with homicide in the city that leads the nation in murder. Michael Imperioli runs point on that.

Also worth mentioning is CBS’ “Blue Bloods,” where Tom Selleck trades his Hawaiian shirt for a NYPD captain’s uniform, and deals with other family members who are also on patrol. Donnie Wahlberg also stars.

This is it! The Fall season begins in earnest this week. Now it’s your turn to judge the new crop of shows and pick your favorites or decide which won’t last. So, last guesses… what will the biggest hit shows be, and what programs are going to flop?

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. September 19, 2010 9:31 pm

    The cast for Detroit 187 looks like NYPD Blue: The Next Generation. With Imperioli standing in for Nicholas Turturro.

  2. September 20, 2010 12:13 am

    Good call Snarky! I was actually surprised at how downplayed “Detroit 187” seems to be. I mean, the only time I’ve been seeing Imperioli on television lately was him pitching Cuervo.

    I am a little concerned about “Mike & Molly” though. I fear it might actually be a hit. Some critics are giving it great reviews! On one hand, Mike and Molly are characters that are likable for certain, and the way they put up with the abuse makes you like them even more, but it’s still abusive! Maybe I’m being hypersensitive? But personally, I didn’t find it as funny as the rest of the audience…

  3. September 21, 2010 11:53 am

    I caught about 30 seconds of “Mike and Molly” last night. They fit a gay and fat joke into the same joke! Let’s hope this crap fest doesn’t last long enough to trend.

  4. evmaroon permalink
    September 22, 2010 8:05 pm

    Remember when all the shows were about Florida or Las Vegas? Weren’t we supposed to have an Ohio TV fetish for a while? That didn’t last too long, although Glee and that new Betty White sitcom are current shows.

    Do you think the new lowbrow humor is better or worse than the stuff we’ve seen before, like Married with Children?

    I really need to sit down with Outlaw because Dexter didn’t give me enough Smits time.

  5. September 22, 2010 10:52 pm

    Based on my extensive viewing of the season’s new pilots –

    Canceled:
    The Event
    Outlaw
    Lone Star
    Running Wilde

    On the Fence:
    Raisng Hope
    Hellcats
    Hawaii Five-0

    Breakouts:
    Detroit 187
    Boardwalk Empire
    Undercovers

  6. evmaroon permalink
    September 22, 2010 11:47 pm

    So sorry to hear that about Outlaw! I really liked the pilot. It’s nice to see Smits as a politician again. He does it so well.

  7. September 23, 2010 12:55 am

    Running Wilde has so much potential, but Will Arnett’s character is like every other character he’s played, though not nearly as endearing – I loved GOB!!! – and I do not understand why Keri Russell, who’s usually pleasant enough, was cast here. She has no comedic abilities at all and very awkward. I can’t see how this can go beyond a handful of episodes, particularly since the best laughs came from fellow Arrested Development alum David Cross who probably isn’t going to be a recurring character.

  8. September 23, 2010 12:59 am

    Outlaw is salvageable, as I stated in my review, but it’s unlikely – based on its time slot: Friday at 10pm – the network thinks it’s worth salvaging. It’s a shame, because it was smart to put Jimmy Smits back in familiar legal territory on the network that made him famous.

    Also what’s up with the networks turning all these failed USA and TNT pilots into shows on their networks? Pretty much all the hour long dramas – including Undercovers – looked like they would have been easily at home on TNT.

  9. September 23, 2010 2:53 am

    I found “Detroit 187” almost laughable, so I really don’t see it lasting too long. In fact, I thought “Hawaii Five-O” was more believable!

    “Mike & Molly” had good numbers, but the question is will they continue, or will people tune out? Based on reviews of some of the high profile mags and websites, and comments from viewers that seemed to find it a laugh riot, this could be the breakout hit of the season.

    “Running Wilde” has a lot of good stuff going for it, and I have to defend it! I laughed at the pilot just as much as I did the first time I saw it, which is a sure sign that it was funny (at least funny to me). Was it smooth and finished? No. But it was definitely entertaining enough to merit more! Russell is the straight man in this comedy team! Yeah, I wouldn’t have necessarily cast her here, either. But she is capable enough to keep this going and I know she’ll get better as the season progresses and the scripts get more insane!

    HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” has already been picked up for a full season and people are calling it the new “Sopranos.” I guess that says it all.

  10. September 23, 2010 3:03 am

    @evmaroon speaking to the lowbrow issue, there is a rule in television that if a show’s premise works, you can take the opposite of the premise and it will also work. The example that fits the lowbrow question is “Married: With Children,” which took the premise of the very successful “The Cosby Show,” and reversed it: average family with dumb kids dealing with life in a city suburb. But in that case, there was that top rated template available.

    With this new batch of programs, I’m not really sure where the insults are coming from. It’s almost like the old “Norman Lear” days, when people would call close relatives “Meathead” or “Dummy!” and it was perfectly acceptable.

    I can’t say how much better or worse these new shows are compared to the previous. Really, the eras of history were different so that somewhat rules out a proper comparison. But it sure feels like an equivalent!

  11. evmaroon permalink
    September 23, 2010 8:49 am

    I suppose I give credence to the idea that in a bad economy, some folks (read: producers) think viewers will engage with or seek out shows that make them feel better in their time of struggle, and insulting someone else is one, albeit crappy, way to do that. And then there are the humor theorists who say all comedy comes down to getting the viewer/reader/audience to see themselves as better than the object of the laugh. Somewhere in the midst of this we get shows that overuse insults as a way of getting through an episode, I suspect! And though 2010 is certainly different than the era which brought us “All in the Family,” I do recall that then we also had problems with finding oil for US energy needs, were embroiled in an unwinnable war, faced a string of recessions, and talked openly about making English the official language out of a xenophobic fear of newer Hispanic immigrants. Sometimes crap comes back around.

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