Thursday, Jul 19, 2018
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Networks prepare an all-too-familiar fall lineup

  • TV-Orville-Seth-MacFarlane

    This image released by Fox shows, from left, Seth MacFarlane, Penny Johnson Jerald, Adrianne Palicki, Halston Sage and guest star Brian George in "The Orville."


  • TV-Fall-Preview-27

    This image released by The CW shows Christina Ochoa in a scene from "Valor," premiering Oct. 9 on The CW.



This image released by Fox shows, from left, Seth MacFarlane, Penny Johnson Jerald, Adrianne Palicki, Halston Sage and guest star Brian George in "The Orville."


Fall 2017 will be the season of regressive TV dramas.

As cable and streaming services become more experimental, broadcast networks retreat into the familiar with no fewer than four military and/or law enforcement series that mostly feel achingly banal.

It’s as though CBS’s long-time drama programming style won the day on almost all the networks, a meat-and-potatoes lineup of rancid meat and mealy potatoes.

Broadcasters offer more signs of creative success on the comedy front. Nothing revolutionary, but at least a few of the new comedies seem semi-worthwhile. CBS, in particular, has a change of fortune from last fall when its comedies were universally awful. And that’s looking on the bright side.

Here’s what to expect and their projected premiere dates:


Wisdom of the Crowd (8 p.m., CBS): A watered-down Person of Interest crossed with Fox’s failed APB, this time-waster stars Jeremy Piven as a Silicon Valley mogul touched by tragedy when his daughter is murdered, leading him to quit his company and create a crowd-sourced, crime-solving app. Naturally, other crimes get in the way of solving the murder of his daughter, which will be an ongoing, serialized element in what is otherwise a dull procedural. And to think CBS’s Sunday night was once home to a prestige drama like The Good Wife, and now it’s a parking spot for this disappointment. (Oct. 1)

Ghosted (8:30 p.m., Fox): Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation) and Craig Robinson (The Office) star as odd couple agents recruited by a secret government agency to investigate the paranormal. Sort of a comedic X-Files — but only mildly amusing — Ghosted needs to be funnier and less predictable if it hopes to win over TV viewers with thousands of options. (TBS’s People of Earth is a better bet.) (Oct. 1)


This image released by The CW shows Christina Ochoa in a scene from "Valor," premiering Oct. 9 on The CW.


10 Days in the Valley (10 p.m., ABC): Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) returns to TV as an unsympathetic, drug-addicted TV drama producer whose daughter disappears one night while the scribe is working/blacked out in a cottage behind her main house. Why ABC thinks American viewers will care about what happens to a TV scriptwriter who brings turmoil and heartbreak upon herself is beyond me. Maybe it’s the Kyra Sedgwick of it? Even Closer fans may have a hard time cozying up to this character. (Oct. 1)


9JKL (8:30 p.m. CBS): The worst of CBS’s new fall comedies, 9JKL features an actor, Josh (Mark Feuerstein, inspired by his own life when co-creating this comedy), who moves back to New York after his TV show is canceled and his wife divorces him. Josh moves into an apartment where he has his parents (Linda Lavin, Elliott Gould) living on one side of him and his brother (David Walton) on the other. The show’s one-joke premise — parents can be such buttinskis! — wears thin fast despite the likability of Lavin and Gould. A few jokes manage to land, but mostly it’s predictable dialogue about what a smothering mother Lavin’s character is. There’s also way too much information about the state of Gould’s testicles. (Oct. 2)

Me, Myself & I (9:30 p.m. CBS): This one could have been titled Life in Pieces too, but it’s funnier than that CBS comedy and more creative than Young Sheldon. Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live) stars as one of three versions of Alex. Moynihan plays Alex in 2017, while young Jack Dylan Grazer plays him as a 14 year old in 1991, and John Larroquette (Night Court) plays Alex at 65 in 2042. Created by Dan Kopelman, it’s an interesting conceit to follow one character at three points in his life every week and see how things that happen in one era influence another. It also seems like quite a juggling act for the show’s writers. Time will tell how they manage to maintain it on a weekly basis. (Sept. 25)

The Gifted (9 p.m, Fox): Not sure there’s really a need for yet another X-Men story, but at least this TV iteration offers a propulsive pilot with a cast of genre favorites — Stephen Moyer (True Blood) and Amy Acker (Angel) — in the story of a family with mutant kids who go on the run from authorities. Throw in some timely metaphorical elements — the mutants have always been stand-ins for any who feel outcast, from gays to immigrants — and decent special effects, and The Gifted proves to be entirely watchable in its first hour. (Oct. 2)

Valor (9 p.m., The CW): If you like to watch helicopters zoom through the air and predictable couplings, this youthful military drama is for you. Young, attractive soldiers go on a mission in Somalia when they come under fire. Some are lost. Some are captured. Two return home. Warrant officer Nora Mandani (Christina Ochoa) and Capt. Leland Gallo (Matt Barr, Hatfields and McCoys) make it back to America, but they have the physical and emotional scars to prove it. Naturally, they don’t make it through the pilot episode without almost sleeping together, something you’d think producers might want to build to over a few episodes. But, no, Valor has all the restraint of the horny soldiers it depicts. (Oct. 9)

The Brave (10 p.m., NBC): Military drama about intelligence analysts (led by Anne Heche) and special forces troops (led by Matt Vogel) who work to protect Americans globally. The pilot offers the story of an American doctor kidnapped by terrorists in Syria and efforts to get her back. Not much character development, but at least The Brave premiere ends on a surprising, outta-nowhere cliffhanger. (Sept. 25)

The Good Doctor (10 p.m., ABC): It always seemed like Freddie Highmore’s Norman Bates on Bates Motel might be on the autism spectrum and now Highmore plays a character who definitely is in this Grey’s Anatomy meets House medical drama. Highmore plays Dr. Shaun Murphy, a surgical resident with a trauma-filled background who unnerves the doctors around him when they aren’t sleeping with one another in the workplace. Whenever Highmore is on screen, The Good Doctor compels, but he’s surrounded by standard-issue medical show characters and plots. (Sept. 25)


The Mayor (9:30 p.m., ABC): A wannabe rap star (Brandon Micheal Hall) runs for mayor of his hometown as a publicity stunt — and unexpectedly wins. It’s a cute premise. But the pilot is not believable or funny, which isn’t to say it couldn’t have been either of those things, but the details don’t ring true and the humor is sort of amusing but rarely elicits a laugh. Lea Michele plays a very Lea Michele political operative (uptight, Type-A control freak), and Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) is entertaining, as always, as the rapper’s mom, but the pilot doesn’t encourage viewers to return for episode two. (Oct. 3)

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World (10 p.m., ABC): The logline for this light drama — Kevin (Jason Ritter), whose life is off the rails after a suicide attempt, touches a meteorite and learns from an angel he stands for all the righteous souls on the planet — suggests an offbeat show with potential, but it does not work well in execution. The rules explained by the angel (Kimberly Hebert Gregory, replacing Cristela Alonso from the pilot) are both complicated and nebulous, and it’s not clear what Kevin is supposed to do beyond being a do-gooder. Maybe Touched by a Guy Touched by an Angel is what this show is going for? (Oct. 3)

Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders (10 p.m., NBC): Edie Falco (The Sopranos) plays the defense attorney to brothers accused of murdering their parents in 1989. Not available for review at press time. (Sept. 26)


Seal Team (9 p.m., CBS): David Boreanaz segues from Bones to this rote military drama about Navy Seals. It’s similar to History’s Six, which aired earlier this year, as well as CBS’s own 2006-09 show The Unit. In the premiere, Hayes (Boreanaz) sees a shrink over the loss of a colleague in a past mission and leads the team on another mission with newbie Spencer (Max Thieriot, Bates Motel) while making goo-goo eyes at sure-to-be-a-potential love interest CIA operative Mandy (Jessica Pare, aka Megan Draper on Mad Men). (Sept. 27)

Dynasty (9 p.m., The CW): For a pilot that makes a point of mocking the ’80s original, this reboot sure cribs a lot from the show that spawned it, including a catfight, interrupted wedding and threats aplenty. Grant Show (Melrose Place) stars as Blake Carrington, patriarch of an Atlanta-based global energy empire. Daughter Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies) clashes with Blake’s fiancee, Cristal (Nathalie Kelley), who bonds with Blake’s gay son, Steven (James Mackay). Blake’s first wife, Alexis, is MIA in the pilot, an hour that is occasionally fun but too often ho-hum. (Oct. 11)


Young Sheldon (8:30 p.m., CBS): A prequel to CBS hit The Big Bang Theory narrated by adult Sheldon (Jim Parsons), this single-camera spinoff begins with Sheldon (Iain Armitage, Big Little Lies) entering high school at age 9 with many of his annoying habits — correcting others, rules stickler, etc. — already intact. But he’s 9, so they’re cuter and less annoying. In many ways this show plays like a cross between The Wonder Years and last fall’s Speechless only in this one the mother character is likable. Zoe Perry, daughter of Laurie Metcalf (who plays Sheldon’s mom on BBT), is a standout in a pilot episode that’s warm and embraceable but not yet essential viewing. But it may get there. (Previews 8:30 p.m. Sept. 25, returns in regular time slot Nov. 2.)

The Orville (9 p.m., Fox): Even though this is a Seth MacFarlane show, it’s not much of a comedy. It mostly comes off as an earnest, 1992 Star Trek spinoff that’s been sitting in a vault for 25 years. Mr. MacFarlane stars as captain of a Starfleet-like vessel with his ex-wife (Adrianne Palicki) as first officer and a host of aliens in his crew. There are occasional bouts of sophomoric humor but mostly it’s a straight-ahead sci-fi show. (previews at 8 p.m. today and Sept. 17 before moving to its regular time slot on Sept. 21)

S.W.A.T. (10 p.m. CBS): Surprisingly, given all the CBS-style rip-offs this fall (see: Valor on The CW, Brave on NBC and CBS’s own Seal Team), CBS’s own remake of the 1975-76 S.W.A.T. may be the best of the bunch. Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds) stars as the team leader. While the show is not particularly deep or innovative and occasionally carries the whiff of CBS-style team procedurals, the pilot also leans into current events with an accidental police shooting of an unarmed black teen at the top of the show’s first episode and the ensuing political fallout, which gives S.W.A.T. more credibility than expected. (Nov. 2)


Marvel’s Inhumans (9 p.m., ABC): Coupled with a Friday night time slot, the boring, exposition-heavy first hour of the show’s two-hour pilot does not bode well for this comic book-inspired series about a royal family of super-powered beings who relocate from their secret moon base to Earth. (Previews at 8 p.m. Sept. 29 before moving to its later time slot the next week.)

The Block News Alliance is comprised of the Toledo Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owen covers television for the Post-Gazette.

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