This fall, Fox has followed the success of fantasy-based programming on other networks with two such series (both of which contain graphic violence), along with several new comedies of varying quality.
Recently, the first episodes of new fall series on each broadcast network were shown at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles. This post examines the new fall 2013 shows on Fox.
Mondays, 9:00 p.m. ET
Premieres: September 16
During the Revolutionary War, British scholar-turned-American-soldier Ichabod Crane was recruited by General Washington for a mission of supernatural import: to stop the arising of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the end of the world. Crane battled the “pale rider,” Death, and beheaded him, but was mortally wounded himself. Cast into a healing trance, Crane awakes 200+ years later in the modern-day city of Sleepy Hollow, only to discover that the “headless horseman,” Death, has also revived. Allied with police lieutenant Abbie Mills – who has had strange supernatural experiences of her own – Crane seeks to discover the “headless horseman’s” plan…and defeat him before he can bring about the Apocalypse.
A supernatural drama with a mildly intriguing plot, Sleepy Hollow is also horrifically violent. Beheadings are frequent (the “Headless Horseman” carries an axe), with the severed heads and bodies shown in close-up and blood spurting in all directions. Flashbacks to the Revolutionary War, complete with explosions, stabbings, mutilations, and so forth, are intercut with modern-day violence, including gun battles and graphic murders. Those with a stomach for gore may find the show interesting; but it is definitely not recommended for children or teens.
Tuesdays, 8:00 p.m. ET
Premieres: September 17
Dads isn’t as bad as TV critics have said.
The first foray into live-action TV by Seth MacFarlane, king of Fox’s Sunday night “Animation Domination” block of cartoon atrocities (Family Guy, American Dad, The Cleveland Show) is a raunchy, racist “comedy” completely lacking in humor, sympathetic characters, or any reason to watch.
The show’s premise is that neither of a pair of two hip young advertising executives can get along with their fathers, because both fathers are pushy, interfering, and ignorant. There’s no point in mentioning the characters’ names, because they don’t matter; to call the show’s characters “one-dimensional” is to exaggerate by at least three dimensions. MacFarlane is incapable of creating believable characters, since everything he’s done in his career thus far has involved cartoons and similar caricatures. The people on Dads are just cardboard cut-outs, excuses to spew as much racist bile as possible. Here are just a few examples of the show’s “comedy”:
- A dad speaks of his son’s Latina wife: “It was nice of your maid to make these tasty snacks.”
- A dad says his son should name a new boxing video game “Punch the Puerto Rican.”
- A dad visits his son’s workplace: “Where’s your gay guy? Show me your gay guy.”
- A Hispanic maid picks up a photo and asks a dad, “Dees jew?” (“This you”?)
- The two sons exploit their female Asian co-worker by ordering her to dress up in a revealing Japanese anime costume, to lure Chinese investors. Later, each of the men leers at her and makes sexist remarks.
- Demonstrating a video game titled “Kill Hitler 2,” one of the sons states that “you can impale Hitler with a menorah.”
- A dad watches a documentary about anti-Semitism while casually eating potato chips, as though he were watching an action movie. There’s not even a joke associated with this; it’s obvious the scene is there simply so that MacFarlane can have one of his characters show utter indifference for the Holocaust and various other anti-Jewish atrocities throughout history.
Of course, it’s no surprise that the alleged “comedy” in Dads consists entirely of racist put-downs, considering MacFarlane’s history of anti-Semitism; nor can genuine comedy be expected from someone whose idea of “humor” consists of a man masturbating a horse.
If one were to judge by the show’s laugh track, which shrieks hysterically throughout, Dads is the funniest show ever made. Yet during this writer’s viewing of the pilot, not one person in the sizeable theater venue laughed once during the entire episode. Audiences can expect to have a similar reaction in their own homes. If viewers are lucky, Fox will cancel this show as quickly as possible; but then, if viewers were lucky, Fox would never have made it in the first place.
8:30 p.m. ET
Premieres: September 17
Essentially The Office set in a police precinct, Brooklyn Nine-Nine features a talented cast performing similar offbeat, wonky, straight-faced humor. Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) is the precinct’s top detective, but is relentlessly immature and refuses to conform to rules – a fact which causes him to clash with the precinct’s serious new captain, Ray Holt (Andre Braugher). Others on the team are Peralta’s rival detective, Amy Santiago; nasty, negative Rosa; bumbling Charles; administrative assistant Gina; and second-in-command Sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), a former “top cop” who now is afraid of violence and seeks the safest office job possible.
Like The Office, the show contains a fair number of sexually-themed one-liners, and dialogue and behavior that would constitute sexual harassment in a real workplace. Police action sequences have a slapstick component to them – a bandit in a grocery shoves Charles’ face into a pile of hamburger and evades Jake by pelting him with buns, for example. If the content on the series remains similar to that in the pilot, Brooklyn Nine-Nine may make for relatively innocuous viewing for adults, though problematic for children.
Mondays, 8:00 p.m. ET
Premieres: November 4
In the grimy, crime-ridden world of 2050, criminal syndicates run loose, while a beleaguered police force – in which human officers are paired with androids — tries to keep order. Detective John Kennex was shot down in a conflict; after two years in a coma, he has revived with robot legs and damaged memories which may hold the key to unraveling a vast criminal conspiracy. Kennex is paired with Dorian, who unlike the force’s other logical, robotic androids, possesses emotions, intuition, and a human personality. Together, the two seek to overcome their mutual prejudices about one another and stop the criminal syndicate from taking over the city.
Created by TV and movie impresario J.J. Abrams, like Sleepy Hollow Almost Human has a an interesting premise filled with intriguing concepts; but also like Sleepy Hollow, it contains huge amounts of violence, with severed limbs shown in close-up, people’s faces melting off into puddles of bloody goo (the victims of a futuristic gas attack), and massive, war-like gun battles and explosions galore. The premise and top-notch acting by fantasy franchise favorite Karl Urban may attract fans of science-fiction; but parents are warned that the series’ violence is unsuitable for younger viewers.
Friday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Premieres: November 8
From the early days of television through the 1970s, the “service comedy” was a staple of prime-time programming. Shows with a military setting, in which a group of low-ranking soldier scheme, loaf, foul up, and thumb their noses at higher-ranking authority figures, were once commonplace: You’ll Never Get Rich (Sergeant Bilko), McHale’s Navy, F Troop, Hogan’s Heroes, and Gomer Pyle USMC, are just the best-known examples of the form, which attained perhaps its highest expression with the award-winning 1970s series M*A*S*H.
But the popularity of “service comedies” was to a large extent an unusual phenomenon: the common cultural experience of military service in World War II, Korea, and the peacetime draft which followed meant that many, perhaps even most, American men could relate to life in the service. But with the end of the compulsory draft in 1973, military experience among the populace at large became a much rarer experience – with the result that the “service comedy” has been little seen in recent decades…until now.
Enlisted follows in the tradition of the “service comedy,” as well as relatively more recent examples like the 1980s Bill Murray movie Stripes. The show’s protagonists are three brothers, who followed their father into military life. Pete Hill was a gung-ho “supersoldier” in Afghanistan, until in frustration he punches his commanding officer and is transferred to a “Rear Detatchment” unit in Florida, where duties consist of mowing lawns, sorting mail, washing tanks, and finding lost dogs. There, he joins his brothers, sarcastic troublemaker Derrick and hyperactive goofball Randy, and it put in charge of a unit of overweight, elderly, and maladjusted slackers, under the watchful eye of Command Sergeant-Major Cody. Pete also draws the romantic attention of the serious Sergeant Jill Perez.
The first episode contained a large amount of knockabout, slapstick comedy, with the losers of Pete’s unit sent to participate in war games against an elite Italian unit. Unusually for Fox’s comedies, judging by the first episode the program will contain little offensive sexual content; but given current feelings about war and government, it remains to be seen how long Enlisted will stay on the air.
Not available for preview: Junior MasterChef