When it comes to prime-time network television, late summer and early fall aren’t what they used to be.
It used to be easier to find a missing airplane than it was to find every new prime-time show before December.
It won’t be that difficult to find all the new shows this fall because there are “only” about 20 of them from the five networks at season’s start.
Depending on how you look at it, football either deserves the blame or the credit.
CBS’ new early schedule of “Thursday Night Football” games helped its schedule-makers play it more conservatively than usual. It premieres only four new shows before Oct. 30. CBS’ competitors are trying to take advantage of the early football schedule by premiering four new shows on Thursday in hopes of attracting females not interested in the Manning brothers or Tom Brady.
The number of series that feature strong women is one of the most obvious trends. Prime-time series are watched by a larger percentage of women, as many men opt for the NFL on Sunday, Monday and Thursdays or other sports on cable.
I’ve seen clips of only some of the new shows so I can’t speak to the quality yet. The quality of the pilots before last season was pretty obvious. The Top Five shows in my September, 2013 preview – “Sleepy Hollow,” ”The Blacklist,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Goldbergs” and “Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D” – all earned a second season.
The networks certainly need new hits after losing “How I Met Your Mother” last season and knowing it will be the end for “Two and a Half Men,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Glee” and “Parenthood” next season.
The success of “S.H.I.E.L.D” seems to have inspired more fantasy series with superheroes and comic book characters. Spy series also seem to be in vogue. But the bread and butter remain series about lawyers, doctors and law enforcement.
Last season’s failure of series from veteran TV stars Michael J. Fox, Sean Hayes, Robin Williams and Dylan McDermott doesn’t seem to have deterred the networks from hiring veterans such Katherine Heigl, Scott Bakula, Tea Leoni, Kate Walsh and McDermott (again) to headline new series.
Let’s take a quick look at some notable things concerning the 2014-15 season:
“Parenthood” survives: NBC’s renewal of the family drama apparently was tied to the cast’s willingness to take pay cuts. It also didn’t hurt that the 10 p.m. Thursday series is ideal counterprogramming against CBS’ “Thursday Night Football” schedule. The Bravermans will get 13 episodes to find happiness.
Women Leaders: We have series featuring a female secretary of state (Leoni in CBS’ “Madam Secretary”) whose chief of state is a female (Bebe Neuwirth); a strong female legal professor (Viola Davis in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder”); a brilliant homicide detective (Debra Messing in NBC’s “The Mysteries of Laura”); a top CIA analyst (Katherine Heigl in NBC’s “State of Affairs”) who is close friends with an African-American female U.S. president (Alfre Woodard); and a partying judge (Walsh in NBC’s “Bad Judge”).
The Waiting Game: Fans of “The Mentalist,” “Mike & Molly,” “Glee” and “Parks and Recreation” will have to wait to see them because they don’t start in the fall.
Diversity is on Display: This is especially true at ABC. Besides the drama featuring Davis, “Black-ish” is a comedy starring Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Roth and Laurence Fishburne; “Cristela” is a comedy that stars Cristela Alonzo as a legal intern from a Mexican-American family; and the comedy “Selfie” co-stars Asian-American John Cho. Octavia Spencer stars in Fox’s hospital series, “Red Band Society.” And Terrence Howard stars in Fox’s spring series, “Empire,” as the head of a musical label.
Reality Bites: The only new fall reality series is Fox’s “Utopia,” which has been likened to “Survivor.” Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” doesn’t have a fall air date, which suggests we may know if he will own the Buffalo Bills before it airs in 2015 after NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” ends.
Romance is Alive: ABC’s “Selfie,” “Manhattan Love Story” and NBC’s “Marry Me” and “A to Z” all have romantic elements. “A to Z” features Cristin Milioti (the mother in “How I Met Your Mother” who died in the finale) and Ben Feldman (whose “Mad Men” character had a mental breakdown on last week’s episode).
The Old is New Again: Especially on CBS. It is trying a third version of “NCIS” set in New Orleans, a new “CSI” (“Cyber”, featuring another strong female character played by Patricia Arquette) and “The Odd Couple” featuring Matthew Perry as Oscar Madison. The CW is trying a new version of the superhero series, “Flash,” which failed on CBS in 1990.
DVR Battles: The big one will be at 9 p.m. Thursday starting in February when Olivia Pope and ABC’s “Scandal’ are scheduled to battle Raymond “Red” Reddington of “The Blacklist” as both shows move to new time periods. Other notable moves include CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” to 8 p.m. Monday early in the season before returning to 8 p.m. Thursdays on Oct. 30 when it will compete directly with ABC’s relocated “Grey’s Anatomy”; CBS’ “Amazing Race” to 8 p.m. Friday; Fox’s Golden Globe-winning but little-watched “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” to 8:30 p.m. Sunday; CBS’ “NCIS: Los Angeles” to 10 p.m. Mondays, where it will no longer get the lead-in from the original. Finally, “CSI,” which began its run on Fridays before moving to Thursdays and Wednesday, is airing at 10 p.m. Sunday.
Cable Beware: Cable no longer can rely on the broadcast networks to air repeats as several limited series are planned by all the networks to keep original programming airing throughout the season.
Midseason rocks: From the clips shown to advertisers, the best or most unusual series arrive at midseason. That is especially true at ABC. Its most interesting series include “American Crime” with Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton; “Galavant,” a musical-comedy fairy tale; “Secrets and Lies” in which Ryan Phillippe plays a murder suspect pursued by a detective played by Juliette Lewis; And finally, “Marvel’s Agent Carter,” another series featuring a strong female lead. It is from Buffalo-born screenwriter Christopher Markus and Steve McFeely. Western New Yorker Michele Fazekas (“Reaper”) is an executive producer. It is set in 1946, when baseball – and not football – captured America.