The spring upfronts season is one of the most exciting times of the year for those of us who have a near-unhealthy addiction to television. If you’re like me, you’ve probably been Googling obsessively for any and all information leaked prior to the networks’ set upfront schedules. Though some pilot pickups were released early, by the end of last week the new crop of shows had been officially announced. The networks also unveiled trailers to go along with many of the new shows. In addition to writing this blog, I also write television reviews for TV and Film Review and my fellow reviewers help keep me informed on a lot of TV news. One of the team, Liam Kearney, even kept up with all the information released from the networks during this upfront season and compiled it into a comprehensive list of the 2013-2014 pilot pickups with synopses and trailers (when available.)
Now that I’ve gone through and read all the show descriptions and watched all the trailers, I’ve made some definite decisions about next season. I was very underwhelmed by NBC’s pickups, although that doesn’t surprise me because I don’t watch very many of their current shows. It also seemed like a lot of sitcoms were picked up for next year and they really aren’t my cup of tea; give me a half-decent drama over a relatively good sitcom any day. As I mentioned in my final From Print to Screen post, I was hoping Fox would pick up Delirium and The CW would pick up The Selection, however that didn’t happen. Although I’m disappointed, I think both networks made some good choices with their fall lineups. Overall, it seems like a mixed bag of sure-shots, hit-or-misses, and imminent-cancellations across all the networks. So here are my top choices for the best of the 2013-2014 crop of pickups.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
This new comedy stars Andy Samberg as a cop in one of Brooklyn’s precincts, and Andre Braugher as Samberg’s new boss with a by-the-book attitude. Judging by the trailer, it looks like Samberg’s typical antics–well known from his stint on Saturday Night Live–will be back on our television screens. The trailer reminded me of the recent reboot of 21 Jump Street starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as two hapless police officers. Although I’m not sure this is a fair comparison, I really enjoyed 21 Jump Street and the similarities have certainly opened me up to the idea of enjoying Brooklyn Nine-Nine. However, I’m not a huge fan of Andy Samberg; sometimes I find him hilarious and other times it doesn’t work for me. Despite my doubts about Samberg, I’ll definitely check out the pilot and maybe a few episodes to see if Brooklyn Nine-Nine is my kind of thing.
Surviving Jack (Fox)
Although all of Fox’s sitcoms look interesting–and I do like some of the network’s other sitcoms like New Girl—I am most excited for Surviving Jack, starring Christopher Meloni (who most notably portrayed Detective Elliot Stabler on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit for 12 years.) I have to be honest, the reason I’m most excited about this show is Meloni. He stars as a father who must take on a bigger role in his kids’ lives when his wife begins law school. Set in the 90s, the show looks like it might bring back some of the same humor present in sitcoms from that era, in addition to the clothes and the music. Even in the short three-minute trailer, I laughed at some of the similarities between Meloni’s family and my own (specifically the moment when Meloni tells his daughter to stop singing along to her headphones.) So while I’m confident I’ll enjoy this show, I’ll have to wait to see the full pilot to know for sure.
Following the immense popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones, it seems The CW is trying to find some middle ground between the success of medieval dramas and their niche in programming geared toward young adult audiences with their new show, Reign. The drama will follow the early years in the life of Mary, Queen of Scots as she grows up in mid-16th century France. Adelaide Kane stars as Mary who moves to France with her three best-friend (her ladies-in-waiting) to be with her betrothed, King Francis II. Though it is entirely possible this show will end up feeling like a cheap knock-off of HBO’s similar series, who doesn’t love a bit of trashy TV every once in a while? Plus, Kane might be able to pull an AnnaSophia Robb (from The Carrie Diaries) and create a compelling adaptation of a historically established character/figure. From the short clip that’s already been released, it seems entirely possible that Kane will be able to carry the show.
Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz will be heading up this new show as a spinoff of their popular ABC drama, Once Upon A Time. The series will take place in the same universe as OUAT, as well as modern-day Wonderland, and have a similar episodic structure with an integration of flashbacks. Loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the show stars Sophie Lowe as Alice. In the trailer, Alice is in a mental institution about to undergo a treatment for her “delusions” that will wipe out her memories of Wonderland–as well as the genie she fell in love with and lost. The show also stars Michael Socha as the Knave of Hearts, Peter Gadiot as Cyrus, and Emma Rigby as the Red Queen. Since both shows have the same writers, we can expect some crossovers between the two series. According to Entertainment Weekly, the pilot episode even begins in Storybrooke, Maine, the fictional town where OUAT takes place.
The Tomorrow People (CW)
Based on the 1970’s British television series of the same name, Phil Klemmer will be bringing The Tomorrow People to The CW. The show follows a group of teenagers who have special abilities due to the progression of human evolution. Robbie Amell (cousin of fellow CW star, Stephen Amell, who plays Oliver Queen on Arrow) heads up the cast as Stephen Jameson. The show also stars Luke Mitchell, Peyton List, and Aaron Yoo. The clip released from The Tomorrow People shows a good action scene as Stephen escapes some kind of holding room while he is learning how to use his powers. Mark Pellegrino (well-known for portraying Lucifer on Supernatural and Jacob on LOST) rounds out the cast as some kind of villain, so that will be interesting to watch. Following the success of Arrow’s first season, it seems The Tomorrow People–another action series–is suited to The CW and not just because of the familial relations. In all seriousness, the network pulled off a great first season of Arrow and I expect just as good of a premiere from The Tomorrow People.
Super Fun Night (ABC)
Rebel Wilson is having a great couple of years: she was the breakout star of Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids, she stole the show in Pitch Perfect, she hosted the MTV Movie Awards, and now she’s getting her own sitcom on ABC. While the premise of Super Fun Night is a bit weak–three friends have spent every Friday night together for thirteen years, but everything changes when Wilson’s character receives a promotion and a new invitation out–the show comes from the minds of Wilson and Conan O’Brien. Honestly, I was a bit wary until I watched the trailer, which shows Wilson at her best: combining absurd social awkwardness with relatability into a single lovable character. I’m not sure exactly where they’ll take this show. However, The Mindy Project started off with a similar aimlessness and pulled off a fantastic first season. Plus, who doesn’t love a little Rebel Wilson? “No one,” is the answer to that question.
Almost Human (Fox)
Although Fringe, Fox’s recently cancelled sci-fi drama, is over, J.H. Wyman and J.J. Abrams have created a new show that looks amazing. Almost Human stars Karl Urban as Detective John Kennex who works in the Los Angeles Police Department 35 years in the future. After recovering from an injury, John is paired with a life-like android–as all officers are in this futuristic society–though his is a bit different because it is capable of feeling emotions. Michael Ealy co-stars as the android, Dorian. From the trailer it looks like Almost Human might be a new twist on the buddy cop genre, as well as police procedural shows. While the sci-fi and action elements of this show look really cool (like, really really cool,) the partnership between Ealy and Urban is going to make or break this show. It’s a good thing it already looks promising from what little footage has been released.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
Easily the most anticipated show of the 2013-2014 television season is Joss Whedon’s small screen continuation in the Marvel’s The Avengers universe: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The show has what looks to be an amazing cast: Clark Gregg will return as Agent Phil Coulson, Brett Dalton as Agent Grant Ward, Ming-Na Wen as Melinda May, Chloe Bennet as Skye, Iain De Caestecker as Leo Fitz, and Elizabeth Henstridge as Jenna Simmons. Whedon alum, J. August Richards has also been cast in an unspecified role–though from the trailer he appears to have some kind of superpower. As far as the premise, the show will follow the goings on of S.H.I.E.L.D (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) following the events of The Avengers. Since the organization has been mentioned in most (if not all) of the Marvel movies, it will be especially exciting to finally see more of the mysterious S.H.I.E.L.D. Plus, with Joss Whedon heading up the project, it’s not hard to figure out why everyone is so excited for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Of course, out of the slew of shows that will premiere this fall, there are some more I might check out depending on word of mouth and reviews: ABC’s Mixology looks interesting in a romcom-sitcom kind of way but I’m not sure how it will turn out; CBS’s sitcoms Mom and We Are Men both look pretty funny–and the casts are exceptionally strong–but I don’t know if they’ll be compelling enough to keep me coming back each week; The CW’s other dramas Star-Crossed and The Hundred appeal to my love of dystopian futuristic stories but I was burned by Revolution, so I’ll watch the pilots before I get my hopes up. Now, we only have to wait a few more (torturous) months until pilot premiere season.