I suppose I was stricken with World Cup fever as I wrote down my thoughts about the new FOX TV broadcast season. My mind wandered to the USA-Belgium showdown and some of the other games in the knockout round. As a member of the Fall Preview team, we watched 36 pilots, and it’s just too tempting to compare our analyses to the World Cup. Which new shows will make it through the first round and which shows will get knocked out after just a few episodes? Which shows will overachieve and win over our hearts? Which shows will disappoint us the most? Which show will be the overall ratings winner? So here begins my scouting report on the 2014-2015 FOX Season through the contagious spirit of the World Cup.
FOX is entering this new TV season in third place among Adults 18-49. The network desperately needs to gather momentum with a few game-changing programs. The X-Factor was more like a buzzkill and has sucked the energy out of the network for the past few years. American Idol is being held together with smoke and mirrors. Lastly, four days after the FOX upfront, Kevin Reilly, Chairman of Entertainment for FOX Broadcasting, resigned. The network is looking a lot like Spain and is in the rebuilding mode. That being said I think these are the best pilots offered by FOX in the last few years and the rebuilding has begun.
FOX New Shows
GOTHAM, Monday 8-9PM, Drama The week will start off strong with an outstanding rookie show at 8PM. It will precede the popular Sleepy Hollow that gained good traction last season. Gotham traces the rise of the great DC Comics super villains and vigilantes, revealing an entirely new chapter. It will chronicle the birth of Batman. The show will star Ben McKenzie (Southland, The O.C.) as the police detective as well as Jada Pinkett Smith and Seline Klye who will morph into our favorite female villains. COMMENTS: The show is fresh, fun and high energy just like Team USA. And what is more American than comics and superheroes. I believe that it will win!
UTOPIA, Tuesday 8-9PM, Reality FOX breaks out of the box with a social experiment (new phrase for “reality show”) called Utopia. Utopia is based on the hit Dutch television series that follows 15 everyday Americans who are removed from their regular lives and moved to three acres of land to build their own society. With no existing power structures and limited amenities, these pioneers will be challenged to write their own rules. Punish or forgive, fidelity or free love, democracy or dictatorship, futbol or soccer? These are just a few of the important doctrines that will have to be established. More inhabitants will be added as time goes on and cameras will follow their developments 24/7 so viewers can watch online in addition to the weekly hour. COMMENTS: Netherlands is the natural choice since the show was plucked directly from Dutch television. If team Netherlands had won the World Cup, a Dutch Aerospace company promised the players a trip to outer space which is just where Utopia might end up after a few episodes.
RED BAND SOCIETY, Wednesday 9-10PM, Drama This is a high school drama told through the eyes of a group of teenagers who meet as patients in the pediatric ward of Ocean Park Hospital in Los Angeles. The show explores the kinship and bond formed between these young patients as a result of their difficult shared experiences. The show is produced from Stephen Spielberg’s Amblin Television and stars Academy Award-winning actress Octavia Spencer. COMMENTS: The undying spirit of Costa Rica carried them to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. They are the first team from Central America to ever get that far. Just like the Costa Rican team, the Red Band Society is a story about a group of kids with eternal hope and endless spirit. It will be a winner for FOX!
GRACEPOINT, Thursday, 9-10PM, Drama The show is based on a critically acclaimed hit crime drama from the UK. After a young boy is found dead on the beach, a major police investigation gets underway that involves the entire community from this small California seaside town. The show stars Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn as the lead detective on the case as well as the mother of Tom, the murdered boy’s best friend. The show is strong, fast-paced and sure to engage viewers who can’t seem to get enough of the murder mystery genre. COMMENTS: Germany won this year’s World Cup mainly because of Manuel Neuer, the best goalkeeper in the world. This is the best show in the FOX fall lineup and Gracepoint will be a keeper!
MULANEY, Sunday, 9:30-10PM, Comedy From Emmy Award-winning writer and comedian John Mulaney (SNL), this comedy follows a 29-year-old rising stand-up comic trying to take his career to the next level. Enter his friends and mentors that include Martin Short (Father of the Bride), who lift him up, hold him back and sometimes even push him around. COMMENTS: After a 16-year absence, Colombia was back in the World Cup and trying to be relevant among the world soccer powerhouses. Just like Mulaney, Colombia was an underdog and I think they are both long shots to take their shows much further. The good news is they sure are having fun trying!
FOX Mid-Season Replacements
EMPIRE From Academy Award winner Lee Daniels (The Butler, Precious) comes Empire, a sexy and powerful new drama about the head of a music empire whose three sons and ex-wife all battle for his throne. The show boasts an all-star cast that includes Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyon, the king of hip hop and CEO of Empire Entertainment. Lyon learns that he has a life changing disease and he now must choose a successor to his kingdom. The show is set to an original sound track written and produced by hip-hop star Timbaland. As the Lyons family competes for the top spot an emotional chess game begins, which will either cause the family’s demise or redemption. Brazil is a soccer empire and owns 5 World Cup titles, the most among all nations. Not only were they the host nation for this year’s World Cup but they have the sport’s biggest star in Neymar. I don’t think FOX will disappoint their faithful fans the way Brazil did this summer!
BACKSTROM From creative/executive producer Hart Hanson (Bones), Backstrom is comic crime drama about an unhealthy, offensive, quirky and brilliant detective who is brought back from exile to run the Portland Police Bureau’s Special Crimes Unit. Rainn Wilson (The Office) stars as Backstrom, the offensive police detective who has no filter and who was banished for five years for offensive behavior. Through each case his behavior worsens and becomes more self-destructive. Greece has earned the distinctive honor of receiving the most red cards (2) in the World Cup and I am handing one over to Backstrom. It won’t last long on the roster!
WAYWARD PINES – 10-episode thriller from M. Night Shyamalan
LAST MAN ON EARTH – Comedy created by and starring Will Forte
BORDERTOWN – An animated comedy from Seth MacFarlane
WEIRD LONERS – Comedy about 30-something underdogs