| The cast of "The Good Wife" at CBS's upfront presentation|
on Wednesday, May 14, 2014. I've already forgotten what
exactly Alan Cumming sang and danced to, but no doubt it
Time for my annual long-winded, overly complicated, and of course very late blog post in which I outline the 2014 upfront presentations, in which all the major television networks (and The CW) present their new fall schedules in front of advertisers in New York City. Below, I'll be breaking down the new network schedules, occasionally including unfair gut reactions to non-representative cutdowns of not-for-air pilots or hypothesizing as to the success or failure of a lineup. And as usual, wherever possible, I'll be hyperlinking to a trailer for new shows whenever they are listed (and when their YouTube trailers are not geofiltered).
Let's do this.
Congratulations, ABC, on becoming the new NBC. By which I mean, congrats to ABC on becoming the fourth place network again. It's been awhile if I recall - not since the brief gap between "Millionaire" and the resurgence with "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives".
The fall schedule for the Alphabet Network is not one that makes me confident they will escape the bottom as quickly as they entered it. It's weird, because ABC does legitimately have some of TV's biggest hits - "Scandal" has been one of TV's best-performing 10 o'clock dramas recently and has rightfully earned a promotion to an earlier hour. Though it dipped near the end of the season, "Resurrection" launched big back in March, drawing in more than 13 million viewers and a 3.6 rating in the demo. It's all the other timeslots, especially the cursed ones that are occupied by literally four or five different shows in a season, that poison every other drop in the well. And for the most part, ABC is doing nothing to alleviate the majority of its most problematic hours.
|"Selfie," Tuesdays at 8pm|
The comedy block on Wednesday once again has old faithfuls "The Middle" and "Modern Family" anchoring the night at 8 and 9 respectively. The second season of "The Goldbergs" slides in at 8:30, finally joining the night it always belonged on, while the new Anthony Anderson/Laurence Fishburne family comedy "Black-ish," about an African American father concerned that he hasn't been passing on enough of his cultural background to his kids, gets the coveted 9:30 slot. Wait, a family sitcom airing after "Modern Family"? But "Black-ish" won't feature any twentysomething singles hanging out in bars or navigating the perilous world of dating! What sorcery is this? About damn time, Paul Lee, but this is still another badly titled ABC comedy and HitFix's Dan Fienberg explains in this article why enough is enough. Oh, and for some reason ABC decided they had nothing to put on at 10pm that would draw more viewers than "Nashville," so congrats to its fans on the third season pickup.
|"How to Get Away with Murder," Thursdays at 10pm|
Friday remains mostly unchanged with "Last Man Standing" opening the night at 8, the oddly popular "Shark Tank" at 9, and "20/20" at 10pm. The new multi-cam comedy "Cristela" will air at 8:30, starring standup comic Cristela Alonzo as a woman trying to balance an unpaid internship at a law firm with her overbearing family. Ya know, credit where credit is due to ABC: they ordered three sitcoms for the new season about non-white families, almost single-handedly righting the racial disparity on the network in combination with Shondanight. But the trailer for this was bleak - and I wish I could actually like "Cristela" rather than wincing at its stereotypical jokes where characters at the law firm assume Cristela is the cleaning woman, putting my fingers in my ears and muttering, "Diversity on TV is a good thing, diversity on TV is a good thing..."
Saturday night is college football, while Sunday night will remain exactly the same as it was this spring: "America's Funniest Home Videos" at 7, "Once Upon a Time" at 8, "Resurrection" at 9, and "Revenge" at 10pm.
| Actual publicity still for a network TV show. |
"The Whispers," premiering at midseason
Returning at midseason: "The Bachelor"
Not returning: "The Assets," "Back in the Game," "Betrayal," "Killer Women," "Lucky 7," "Mind Games," "Mixology," "The Neighbors," "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland," "Suburgatory," "Super Fun Night," "Trophy Wife"
As I mentioned last year, CBS always finds a fun way to shake up their fall schedule - mostly because the stability and cockiness that comes from being America's most watched network allows them to do whatever amusing thing they want to do, even if that means renewing "Rules of Engagement" for a 27th season and airing it on Saturday night, without risking a ratings drop.
So this time around we have a fun new wrinkle that we haven't had to deal with before - back in February, CBS bought the rights to the first half of the NFL's "Thursday Night Football" package that up until now was only broadcast on cable television's NFL Network (and on local affiliates in the markets of the teams playing that week, preempting actual network programming to...I never really thought about it before, but probably the middle of the night just as preseason games do). Starting September 11, CBS Thursday night will be all football all the time, meaning their usual Thursday schedule won't start until October 30 (at which point the Thursday night games will only be seen on NFL Network, and the league will consider an option to renew the contract with CBS next year).
|"Scorpion," Mondays at 9pm|
Closing the night at 10pm is "NCIS: Los Angeles," moving out of the post "NCIS" timeslot on Tuesday it's occupied since it premiered in 2009. Instead, the 9pm Tuesday slot will be filled with the new spinoff "NCIS: New Orleans" starring Scott Bakula and CCH Pounder, followed by "Person of Interest" at 10pm. Wednesday will also remain mostly stable, with "Survivor" and "Criminal Minds" back at 8 and 9 respectively, leading into "Stalker" at 10pm (no trailer link so as to preserve my feeling of cleanliness). The show stars Dylan McDermott (who clearly saw the writing on the wall for "Hostages" and jumped right at a new CBS pilot) as the lead detective of an LAPD division that focuses on stalking incidents. Because if there's one thing CBS Wednesday needed more of, it's misogyny and other forms of abuse towards women.
When football vacates Thursday night, "Big Bang Theory" and "The Millers" will retain the 8pm hour. Why "The Millers," a show retaining less than half its "Big Bang" lead-in (high though it may be), is still getting that prime real estate is baffling, but then again so is CBS's idea of comedy. Speaking of which, hallelujah, praise the lord, "Two and a Half Men" will pollute the airwaves for the last time next year. It's followed at 9:30 by the new Boston-centric family comedy "The McCarthys" starring Laurie Metcalf and Tyler Ritter. The comically bad trailer should immediately earn a place in the Overused Punchline Hall of Fame with dialogue like "Well that took a turn" and "I'm sorry, he backed me into a corner" after randomly blurting out surprising information immediately after telling it to someone in secret. Also, its extremely outdated homophobia would be alarming if I wasn't so sure this show will fail. And yes, "Elementary" is back at 10pm.
Friday sees just one minor shakeup: while "Hawaii Five-0" and "Blue Bloods" hold on to the 9 and 10pm slots respectively, 8 o'clock will welcome veteran reality show "The Amazing Race". Some "Race" fans are concerned their favourite show has been "sent to Fridays to die," but I think they fail to realize that Sunday and Friday are basically both retirement nights on CBS - once you go there, you don't really come back into the middle of the week. If "Race" was able to survive eight years on Sundays, God knows how many it will last on Friday. It will also now avoid the every other week NFL doubleheader delay that always makes its start time in the fall unpredictable.
|"Madam Secretary," Sundays at 8pm|
Premiering at midseason: Vince Gilligan's "Battle Creek" makes its much anticipated debut in 2015. Joining it will be a remake of "The Odd Couple" with TV's Matthew Perry and TV's Thomas Lennon. In addition, "CSI" will vacate its Sunday 10pm timeslot sometime in the new year to make way for the poorly-titled, Patricia Arquette-led spinoff "CSI: Cyber".
Returning at midseason: "The Mentalist," "Mike and Molly," "Undercover Boss"
Not returning: "Bad Teacher," "The Crazy Ones," "Friends with Better Lives," "How I Met Your Mother," "Hostages," "Intelligence," "We Are Men"
The CW - a broadcast television network in its ninth year of operations! Crazy right?
Yeah, still not watching anything on this glorified network version of ABC Family, as I remain not a pre-teen girl. Let's get this over with.
"The Originals" will move to the Mondays at 8 slot to try and anchor what's long been a dead-ish night for The CW (if you ignore the fact that every night on The CW only averages about a million viewers and thus is dead in perpetuity - oh, whatever). This leads in to "Jane the Virgin," a weird new dramedy based on a Spanish telenovela about a young woman who, defying any actual real-world logic, accidentally gets artificially inseminated during a routine checkup. And how crazy is this - the biological father is the successful, playboy businessman douche she had a crush on in high school.
|"The Flash," Tuesdays at 8pm|
Premiering at midseason: The Rob Thomas/Diane Ruggiero show "iZombie" will finally answer the question, "will I actually watch a show on The CW, even for one episode?" (I might watch Gronk on "Whose Line" if I hear it's unintentional comedy galore, but don't hold me to that). There's also something called "The Messengers". Whatever.
Returning at midseason: "Beauty and the Beast" (because ?????)
Not returning: "The Carrie Diaries," "Nikita," "Star Crossed," "The Tomorrow People"
Hooray! The return of craziness to the Fox fall schedule! When "The X Factor" debuted in September 2011, the perennial problem of Fox having to make insane scheduling changes in January to accommodate the return of "American Idol" went away. But Simon Cowell left "The X Factor" a few months back, finally giving Fox an out to cancel the low-rated, critically panned "Idol" imitation. Now that being said, Fox has learned its lesson - it released only one schedule for the fall, without any post-baseball changes or a January follow up to include "Idol". But that will make for fun, wacky press releases in November or December (if that's your idea of fun - it's certainly mine!)
|"Gotham," Mondays at 8pm|
Tuesday remains mostly unchanged, with "New Girl" and "The Mindy Project" retaining the 9pm hour. But at 8 sees the first of two weekly airings for the new reality show "Utopia," some sort of cross between "Survivor" and "Big Brother" where people try to build a new society but weak people are voted out I guess? The people on social media who call it "Kid Nation for Grownups" aren't wrong to do so.
Wednesday begins with the new season of "Hell's Kitchen," followed by the depressing new drama "Red Band Society" following doctors, nurses, and patients in the pediatric ward of a hospital. Even if the show is great, I don't expect this to be a spectacularly high-rated night - much as some people love to cry at "Grey's Anatomy," kids with cancer and such will likely be a bridge to far.
|"Gracepoint," Thursdays at 9pm|
Friday welcomes the return of "Masterchef Junior," a show that was beloved by my Twitter feed last fall and I might need to actually devote some time to in September (maybe - again, don't hold me to that). Another presumably low-rated hour of "Utopia" follows at 9pm. Saturday will be college football, and Sunday sees a slight overhaul to the long-running "Animation Domination" lineup in that it will now only be 60% animation. "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" remain at 8 and 9, while one of the funniest new comedies of last season, "Brooklyn Nine Nine," takes over the 8:30 slot and new multicam comedy "Mulaney," starring and based on the comedy of former "SNL" writer and stand-up John Mulaney slides in at 9:30.
In addition, Fox's NFL Sunday post-show "The OT," which exists basically only because Fox constantly had football interruptions pre-empting episodes of "Futurama" and "King of the Hill" in the 7 o'clock hour in the early 2000s, has been shortened to a half hour to make room for the excellent "Bob's Burgers" at 7:30. And if you're wondering why this plan troubles me, re-read the Fox network history lesson at the beginning of this paragraph.
Sigh. New tagline idea: "Fox - so much never learning from mistakes."
|"Backstrom," premiering at midseason|
Returning at midseason: "American Idol," "The Following," "Glee"
Moving: "American Dad," to TBS
Not returning: "Almost Human," "Dads," "Enlisted," "Raising Hope," "Rake," "Surviving Jack," "The X Factor"
When I wrote my upfronts blog last season, I hypothesized that with returning hits like "The Voice," loud newcomers like "The Blacklist" (ding ding ding) and "The Michael J. Fox Show" (lol), and two weeks of Winter Olympics coverage to alleviate their midseason "Voice"-less slump in 2013, it was entirely possible that maybe - just maybe - NBC would finish the 2013-14 TV season in first place among the advertiser-coveted demographic of adults 18-49. And for the first time since "Friends" went off the air 10 years ago, that's exactly what NBC did. But more importantly, even stripping away the two weeks of Olympics coverage, NBC still ended the season in first place. That's remarkable considering people used to question a few years ago how long it would take before Comcast turned NBC into a cable channel.
And so I go into this season with a similar amount of faith. No, I'm not going to call a "Michael J. Fox Show" success like last year only to be proven completely wrong - but I am predicting this very boring schedule full of very boring shows will once again put NBC on top. And believe me, it makes me sad that the viewer-less but quality driven NBC of the mid 2000s is basically gone, no longer a network capable of leaving "Chuck," "Community," and "Friday Night Lights" on the air for five seasons, or "30 Rock" and "Parks and Recreation" on for seven. It makes me even sadder that in the new year, not a single half hour comedy is scheduled to air on Thursday night, which probably hasn't happened since the early 80s pre-Must See TV schedule with shows like "Fame" and "Buck Rogers".
But those circumstances bring to mind a few thoughts: I begin with a quote from British sitcom "Peep Show" that I think has accurately described the life support era of "Comedy Night Done Right" the last few seasons:
"You're gonna get us killed for the sake of your legacy! Stop it, you're not fucking Blair!"
Again, sad to see NBC Thursday night comedies being dismantled. But CBS has not only successful taken over that night in the ratings (dating back to the early 2000s "Survivor" and "CSI" one-two punch) but has also managed to replace NBC as the destination for Thursday night laughs (also in terms of ratings - still always more laughter on NBC). And what's interesting is that nobody seems to be talking about what I feel might be the new home for comedy on NBC - Sunday nights after the football season. Fox still has their Animation Half-Domination lineup there, and "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy" still do well among younger male viewers. But I don't see "Brooklyn Nine Nine" or "Mulaney" really taking off there, which could, if not fertilize the Sunday comedy turf for NBC, at least not do anything to kill the grass the way "Big Bang Theory" always made it impossible for the peacock to really build audiences on that night (of course, it also didn't help that "Community" was basically impenetrable to new audiences by late in its second season). It seems like a perfectly fine place to run the final season of "Parks and Rec" and maybe something like midseason comedy "Mr. Robinson" that only has a short episode order. Because when the alternative is Donald Trump or "American Dream Builders," the bar to clear is looooowwww.
|"State of Affairs," Mondays at 10pm starting in November|
Another hour of "The Voice" begins Tuesday night at 8pm. Following it is the new comedy "Marry Me" from "Happy Endings" creator David Caspe, where "Endings" star Casey Wilson and Ken Marino as a long-time couple trying to put their relationship back together after Wilson freaks out that she hasn't been proposed to yet - right as Marino is down on one knee ready to surprise her with an engagement in front of all their friends. The second season, a miraculous renewal for a show starring David Walton, of "About a Boy" lands at 9:30 leading into to "Chicago Fire" at 10pm. Seems like a decent night except for that middle hour; see remember when I said I had faith NBC's new shows being boring but competent successes? That was really only the dramas I was talking about - because seriously, when was NBC's last hit comedy? In any case, "Marry Me" will be a middling semi-hit for 22 episodes and then crash and burn the second it's moved away from "The Voice". It's also at this point I express utter bafflement that NBC let go of "Growing Up Fisher" which was averaging a 1.7 in the demo, far exceeding the averages for "Parks and Rec" and not far behind its lead in "About a Boy".
|"A to Z," Thursdays at 9:30pm|
I would also be remiss not to mention that a few days after an airing in the extremely coveted post-Super Bowl timeslot, "The Blacklist" will move to the Thursday 9pm slot in February to become the night's new anchor, booting "Bad Judge" and "A to Z" elsewhere ("why not Sunday?" he asked again). This will pit "Blacklist" against ABC's "Scandal," one of the most watched dramas on TV, but as AV Club television editor Todd VanDerWerff noted on Twitter, the ratings war is usually won by the show with more procedural elements, meaning everything's theoretically coming up Spader.
Friday opens with "Dateline NBC" at 8pm, leading into its genre hours with "Grimm" back at 9 and a new television adaptation of "Constantine" at 10pm. You can bank on that 10pm hour eventually going back to "Hannibal" in 2015, and other midseason genre fare waiting in the wings. Saturday will be reruns, and Sunday will of course be "Sunday Night Football". The Sunday lineup for 2015 has yet to be decided.
Premiering elsewhere at midseason: Land of Oz-centric "Emerald City" will eventually earn a place on Genre Friday. "Office" alum Craig Robinson becomes a cool music teacher in "Mr. Robinson". The B in Apartment 23 plays a 60s era lady astronaut in comedy "Mission Control," which also stars Jonathan Slavin and Malcolm Barrett and thus seems to exist solely to resurrect the Phil and Lem characters from "Better Off Ted". Recently discovered comedic treasure Elisha Cuthbert plays a gay woman adopting a baby with her straight male friend in Ellen DeGeneres-produced, multi-cam comedy "One Big Happy". Ellie Kemper plays a young woman readjusting to life after escaping a cult in Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt". They also presumably still have miniseries "The Slap," a remake of an Australian show about what happens to a community when a parent slaps another's child at a birthday party.
Returning at midseason: "The Celebrity Apprentice" (we'll believe this when we see it), "Hannibal," "Heroes: Reborn" or whatever it's called, "Parks and Recreation"
Not returning: "Believe," "Community," "Crisis," "Dracula," "Growing Up Fisher," "Ironside," "The Michael J. Fox Show," "Revolution," "Sean Saves the World," "Welcome to the Family".
The 2014-15 network television season officially begins Monday, September 22.