Traditionally, the new television season comes the Monday after the Emmy telecast. But in recent years, networks have begun rolling their new seasons out before the Emmys have even aired. Now this season, it seems that networks have no idea when to debut new shows. This season we are going to witness new shows starting from early August to the middle of February.
What has happened to TV as we know it?
Well in some ways, we are seeing the television landscape transform into a "micro-managed" version of itself. With so many reality series on the airwaves, it is hard to keep a standard TV season. Most reality shows have a finite amount of episodes ranging from 2 to 15. Because they have such a radical number of episodes, networks scramble to fill the gaps left by reality shows. The whole quality of balancing time periods has been lost with such a diverse amount of programming.
Because of this new landscape, the age of the "sitcom" and the highly-stylized "drama" are gone. We are losing what we like the most about television quicker than we can say "jack frost".
In this two part series, I want to try to flesh out some of the highlights left on television. If you find these shows, then maybe they can awaken you from the "reality" nightmare and remember how much you used to treasure your TV viewing time.
In part one, I am going to start off with new shows debuting this season that, if you don't look for when they debut, you will miss them in a blink of an eye:
LOST (premieres September 22 on ABC): This show was created by Alias mastermind J. J. Abrams, who has decided to bring back some of the grandeur and high-adventure we have lost on television. The series chronicles the lives of a group of castaways who have survived an airliner crash. The survivors must band together to survive, but the island they find themselves on holds many secrets. The pilot felt like a major motion picture and the adrenaline, intrigue, and character elements are all vintage Abrams. Matthew Fox of TV's Party of Five plays a doctor who tends to the survivors but also finds himself thrust into a leadership role. There are so many amazing things about this pilot that you will have to witness for yourself. Lost seems to be the lone great show of the 2004-2005 season and needs to find an audience.
Other shows that I saw pilots for that were fun were Hawaii, Eyes, and American Dad.
HAWAII (Wednesdays, NBC) has already debuted and is sort of a cross between Miami Vice and Hawaii Five-O. It is a fun romp of a show, but what makes it a guilty pleasure for me is the cast. Michael Biehn (The Terminator and Aliens) stars as a veteran police detective stationed in Hawaii who has to teach a new rookie (Sharif Atkins of ER) from the mainland the ropes. Biehn's detective is flanked by two flashier and younger fellow detectives (Eric Balfour of Veritas: the Quest and Ivan Sergei of Jack & Jill) who always seem to get themselves way in over their heads. Heed my warning, this show isn't going to win any Emmys, but like Las Vegas it is a lot of fun to watch.
EYES (debuts January on ABC) stars Tim Daly of Wings as Harlan Judd, a slick, top notch risk management firm owner. Judd's firm goes to the edge of law and beyond to help clients in civil and criminal matters. What makes this show stand out is the continual interweaving plots and schemes brewing within the heart of the show. There is so much going on in a single episode that it hardly gives you a chance to breathe. In the pilot, Judd has to thwart a takeover of his company, uncover a company mole, and keep his cool. If the writing stays as top notch as the pilot, this one is sure to be winner and cult favorite. I haven't seen this kind of deliciously despicable people since the brilliance of the long-lost series Profit.
AMERICAN DAD (debuts January on FOX) is the second animated series from Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane. This show centers around Stan Smith, a CIA agent who seems to be fighting off terrorists at every turn. Stan's family consists of his wife Francine, their children Hayley and Steve, a sarcastic alien named Roger who Stan rescued from Area 51, and an obsessed German goldfish named Klaus. The pilot was very zany and is sure to delight all Family Guy fans and hopefully make some new ones.
Shows that should be avoided at all costs this season are Dr. Vegas (CBS), Jonny Zero (NBC), and Medical Investigation (NBC). What do these shows have in common? Great casts and overly lousy writing. Vegas and Medical Investigation are carbon-copy clones of previous shows without an ounce of originality. And Jonny Zero used to be a quick-witted and lethal white British guy in another life.
DR. VEGAS stars Rob Lowe as Dr. Billy Grant, the doctor of a major Las Vegas casino run by Tommy Danko (Joe Pantoliano), the hotel's general manager. The show co-stars Tom Sizemore and Everwood's Sara Lancaster. After witnessing this show's pilot I prayed for more episodes of Lowe's last series, The Lyon's Den, which in my opinion was cut off at the knees way too early. After seeing Sara Lancaster's heart-breaking performance on Everwood, I also really feel sorry for this poor young actress. Pantoliano just seems to walk around the hotel screaming and Lowe is always juggling a handful of jobs. To be honest, I have no idea where it's going, nor do I care.
JONNY ZERO is a modern day version of The Equalizer with an urban/rap edge... well, supposedly. Can you imagine super-producer John Wells rapping? The show feels like it was written by three old white guys locked in a meat locker with a psychotic MTV music video director.
In the pilot of MEDICAL INVESTIGATION, the team investigates a man who has turned blue. The victim looked like he was either a human-sized Smurf or needed to be squeezed by Willy Wonka's blueberry machine. It was so painful to watch and so badly written. It is heart-breaking watching good TV actors like Christopher Gorham (Jake 2.0, Popular, Odyssey 5) and Neal McDonough (Boomtown) saying such awful dialogue. Every series Gorham has been in I have loved, but the actor can't catch a break. Sadly and yet thank goodness, this won't be it.
So there you have it, some gems to look out for and some shows to stay away from. With a sea of reality shows, it is just getting harder to find a show to believe in anymore. But to be honest, I would rather watch all thirteen episodes of Dr. Vegas or Medical Investigation back to back than see another season of The Swan. How about you?
In part two of this series, I will be taking a look at returning shows and the glory of the cable series gem. Great shows can be found if you just know where to look. Stay tuned. So Says the Soothsayer.