Fall TV Preview: Revenge of the Dreck

I was trying to make a Star Wars reference but this is a family-friendly site and so I couldn’t exactly call it Revenge of the … (another word that has the same letters as “Sith.”)

It’s time for that annual tradition… Every year the major broadcast networks show us their best, as fall TV ramps up in September and October. Every year, I shrug and say “seriously?” This year I’m sharing the tradition with you. I’m sure you can find several dozen “fall preview” articles with fancy slideshows and deeply-researched opinions. I think you absolutely should read those, after you get done with my shallow and rather sketchy interpretation of the 43 shows that are due to debut this year. I have not seen the pilots, I have not seen anything for some of these shows and for others I’ve only seen commercials. But folks, that puts me in the same boat as you when it comes to deciding what to watch. So here goes:

Cop/doctor/political/detective dramas
I don’t see any difference between any of these shows, and honestly I think that if you really want a good cop show you should watch an old episode of Mannix or L.A. Law. I understand this sort of show attracts viewers and brings built-in tension but I stopped watching them years ago. It’s a great year for lovers of political/criminal/medical tension, with a bunch of shows premiering. The premise of each and every one of them is: “If you liked the stuff we’ve been pushing down your throats for the last 50 years, you’ll love this.” I’m not going to try to explain every one of them individually because really, is there actually a difference? You’ll notice that quite a few of them are even reboots of other crime dramas! For the benefit of those who want to search and learn more, here’s a list.

  1. APB
  2. The Blacklist: Redemption
  3. Bull (this show has my opinion of it in the title!)
  4. Chicago Justice
  5. Conviction
  6. Designated Survivor
  7. Doubt
  8. Frequency (based on the movie of the same name)
  9. Lethal Weapon (based on the movie of the same name)
  10. Macgyver (based on the TV show of the same name)
  11. Notorious
  12. Prison Break (based on the TV show of the same name)
  13. Pure Genius
  14. Shots Fired
  15. Taken (based on the movie of the same name)
  16. Time After Time (based on the movie of the same name)
  17. Timeless
  18. Trial and Error
  19. Training Day (based on the movie of the same name)

So I’m being pretty harsh here, I know. There are some differences because some of these shows incorporate time travel in some way. In fact three of them do which is kind of weird if you think about it. They aren’t the only three time travel shows either, which kind of makes you wonder why everyone is so hyped up about time travel. But seriously, almost half the shows fall into the same basic genres we were watching 50 years ago. Is there nothing else interesting to talk about?

Family sitcoms with a twist
Another category that swallows up a bunch of these shows is, “it’s a basic family sitcom, except for X.” This is another tried-and-true tactic that goes back to My Mother, the Car and Mister Ed. Hey, if it worked in 1961, right? Here’s a list with a quick description of why this isn’t “just another family sitcom” (or is it.)

  1. American Housewife – all the other moms are perfect, she’s not
  2. Downward Dog – the whole show is from the dog’s point of view
  3. Imaginary Mary – her imaginary friend comes to life
  4. Kevin Can Wait – really no twist this is just The King of Queens again
  5. Man With A Plan – he’s a stay-at-home dad
  6. Marlon – he’s a blogger
  7. The Mick – Half the family are criminals who have run away
  8. Son of Zorn – he’s a cartoon like He-Man
  9. Speechless – one of the kids has special needs

Some of these shows have “Canceled” written all over them but when you’re talking about a family sitcom, they’re really character driven so if you like this sort of thing you’ll have to try them to see if they’re for you. Either you like the characters or you don’t, so give them a viewing or two.

Workplace Comedies
We’ve loved workplace comedies since the 1960s, so why rock the boat? Here are some more for you to ignore while you’re watching old Dick van Dyke reruns:

  1. Great News – A TV workplace comedy but one of the characters’ moms is an intern.
  2. Powerless – They’re insurance adjusters for people affected by superhero damage. Yeah you read that right.

“Star” dramas
This is sort of an evolving category, but you’ve seen this show before (Nashville’s a great example) where one person is rising to new career heights and there are complications.

  1. Pitch – She’s the first female player in the MLB. How soon before she falls in love with someone on the other team?
  2. Star – Three singers try to succeed in the music business. Probably really depends if you like the songs.

Shows that are just too weird
So this is as close as you’re going to get to original concepts this year. Most of this stuff is just a retread or reworking of some familiar concept but it’s possible that the producers will do something new here that actually makes these worth watching.

  1. Emerald City – a dark dramatic retelling of The Wizard of Oz. Hasn’t this been tried before?
  2. The Exorcist – based on the movies, I don’t know how they’re going to stretch this out for more than 6 episodes.
  3. The Good Place – it seems like it’s a fairly normal sitcom except, she’s dead. I don’t see how this goes on for very long.
  4. Making History – yes, another time travel show. What else do you need to know?
  5. Midnight, Texas – it’s a drama about a town where a lot of the residents are supernatural creatures. Seems like I’ve seen this and flipped past it before.
  6. No Tomorrow – This guy lives every day like it’s his last. Seems to me after 2-3 episodes, maybe it will actually be his last.
  7. Riverdale – Seriously based on Archie Comics. A lot of people are going to ditch after they realize Veronica and Betty are never going to kiss.
  8. Still Star-Crossed – Drama that takes the Romeo and Juliet story and starts after the two kids kill themselves.
  9. This is Us – One of those dramas that follows a bunch of people who have nothing in common, except in this case they were born on the same day. Think Crash but more happy and friendly.

Look, I’m not going to say there are no new ideas. I mean, if you look past the movie retreads and the family sitcoms and, yes, they overwhelming number of criminal and medical dramas, there are some concepts there. Most of them have to do with time travel, which seems like it’s way too much of a coincidence.

This leaves me with the all-important question of whether or not these shows will find a place on my DVR. I’m up for trying Great News and Powerless because I like the actors. I liked the movie version of Time After Time so maybe I’ll see that. Other than that, uhhhhh….

Good thing I have a TV antenna and the hundreds of other channels on DIRECTV. The broadcast networks aren’t delivering a lot for me this year.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.