The Best of the Network Upfronts
The big networks are desperately attempting to stay relevant in the face of unprecedented competition.
Count me among the minority of TV fanatics who really doesn’t mind that most of the shows on network TV are terrible. With Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime bringing out new series and entire catalogs of old series, and a constant stream of solid programming on HBO, AMC, FX, etc., I can barely keep up with the good shows.
The most encouraging sign from this week’s announcements is how few of the trailers — even the ones that didn’t look especially promising — look like lazy retreads of other popular shows.
The networks mostly stayed on brand. FOX is moving deeper into sci-fi and fantasy. NBC greenlit a huge slate of high-concept dramas and single-camera relationship comedies. ABC expanded its female-skewing dramas and family comedies. The CW had only a few slots to fill and stuck with its millennial brand. CBS was the only surprise, adding an off-kilter guardian angel comedy starring Jane Lynch (“Angel from Hell”) and a superhero show (“Supergirl”).
Here’s the best of the bunch based on the trailers:
“Supergirl” (CBS), Mondays at 8 p.m. ET
Even with producer Greg Berlanti (“Arrow,” “The Flash”) behind it, I wasn’t too enthused about the idea of “Supergirl” on CBS, a network geared toward comfy-chair procedurals and least-common-denominator comedies. I’m still not completely convinced, but Melissa Benoist (“Glee”) is well-cast, and Calista Flockhart nails it in the trailer as her nasty boss.
“Blindspot” (NBC), Mondays at 10 p.m. ET
The big talk of upfronts was the hot tattooed lady climbing out of a duffle bag in Times Square. “Blindspot” is a high-concept thriller, and the trailer is reminiscent of NBC’s “The Blacklist” in all the right ways — a mysterious central character (Jaimie Alexander, who plays Thor sidekick Lady Sif in the Marvel Universe), an FBI handler (Sullivan Stapleton, “300: Rise of an Empire”) and crisp cinematography.
“The Muppets” (ABC), Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET
The setup is pure, unadulterated genius: Miss Piggy is the host of a late-night talk show in this behind-the-scenes, “The Office”/“Modern Family”-style docu-series. As in “The Muppets” and “Muppets Most Wanted” films, they live among us. Kermit hates the traffic on the 405. Animal offers to do nudity (“but tasteful”). And Fozzie Bear is dating a realwoman!
“Scream Queen”s (FOX), Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
Producers Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (“Glee,” “American Horror Story”) don’t reveal very much in the trailer for this slasher/comedy starring Emma Roberts, Lea Michele and Ariana Grande, but I was hooked from the opening “Good evening, idiots.” If this turns out to be the “American Horror Story: Sorority House” that it looks like from the trailer, then count me in.
“Rosewood” (FOX), Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET
It’s really nice to see Morris Chestnut have a little fun after gloomy turns in “Nurse Jackie” and “V.” In “Rosewood” — which combines the ‘will-they-or-won’t-they’ vibe of “Castle” with the colorful Miami location shoots of “Dexter” — Chestnut plays a charming, smartypants medical examiner. Newcomer Jaina Lee Ortiz plays the homicide detective. There will be sparks.
“Angie Tribeca” (TBS), Not Yet Scheduled
Steve and Nancy Carell are producing. Rashida Jones (“Parks & Recreation”) and Hayes MacArthur (“Perfect Couples”) are starring. Lisa Kudrow, Gary Cole, Adam Scott, James Franco, and Bill Murray all guest star. And it’s a slapstick cop show in the “Get Smart” mold. That’s all you need to know.
Photos by CBS