In addition to several highly-anticipated new dramas, ABC is also introducing a number of comedies which are not particularly family-friendly this fall.
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 ABC.
Tuesdays, 9:00 p.m. ET
Premieres: September 24
The Goldbergs is yet another sitcom about yet another of TV’s sex-obsessed, semi-dysfunctional families; the show’s “hook” is that it is set in the 1980s, complete with references to big hair, jazzercise, and REO Speedwagon. Pushy “ball-breaker” mom Beverly tries to run everybody’s life; husband Murray is a fat, incompetent oaf; oldest girl Erica is snotty and sarcastic; 16-year-old “middle kid” Barry is hypersensitive and constantly complaining; grandfather Albert thinks of himself as a “swinger”; and sixth-grader Adam catches it all on the family’s brand-new video camera.
Continuing TV’s trend of sexualizing ever-younger children (also see Back in the Game below), The Goldbergs shows 11-year-old Adam talking with his grandfather about a buxom waitress:
Grandpa: “It’s all about the cuppage.”
Adam: “I just want to bury my face in those puppies.”
Grandpa: “We all do.”
Adam: “I’m a man with needs, and I need those sweet, delicate boobs.”
Grandpa later boasts of his date, “She’s got 12 kids, so you know she puts out.” The episode ends with Grandpa taking his young grandson to Hooters. Meanwhile, father Murray constantly calls his children “assbags,” “little bastards,” “jack-offs,” and the like. The show also continues a trend established on ABC shows like Suburgatory of having characters utter explicit profanities, but blurring the lips and adding a loud “bleep” for allegedly comic effect. How “comic” any of this is depends on the individual viewers’ tolerance for non-stop sleazy innuendo and children talking about sex.
Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET
Premieres: September 24
Kate always wanted a husband and a family, but she didn’t plan on getting them all at once – or on the “family” including her husband’s two ex-wives. Now, Kate finds herself wife to middle-aged lawyer Pete; step-mom to two teens, sarcastic Hillary and horny Warren, and precocious adopted little kid Bert; and unwilling opponent and rival to the exes, rigid, perfectionist surgeon Diane and hippie-ish scatterbrain Jackie. Together, they must learn how to coexist – without killing each other or going insane.
While primarily centered on predictable domestic difficulties, the first episode did contain some seamy content, such as Kate inadvertently suggesting Hillary smuggle liquor into a concert in a water bottle, then being forced to guzzle the vodka herself to save Hillary from “dragon mom” Diane’s wrath; the scene ends with Kate drunk in the back seat of Diane’s car. Another plot involves Warren writing lurid, semi-pornographic fantasies about women and submitting them as essays in English class. When Kate and Diane meet with the teacher, they engage in a discussion about Kate’s breasts and Warren’s erection. There are also some bizarrely sexual throw-away lines, such as a random teenager passing Kate and smirking, “What’s up, MILF?” While the show’s underlying premise of a large chaotic blended family has comic promise, it would be nice if Hollywood could do more with it than make more tired sex jokes.
Tuesdays, 10:00 p.m. ET
Premieres: September 24
The employees of the Gold Star convenience store/service station are typical people with typical problems: Matt and his pregnant girlfriend Mary are desperate to find their own place, but cannot afford it and are forced to live with Matt’s domineering mother; Matt’s brother Nicky is an ex-con, whose former partners in crime believe he still owes them a cut of the money that they stole; Indian Samira has her heart set on going to Julliard and studying violin, but her parents are determined to arrange a marriage for her with doctor Navid; overweight Denise is despondent about her loveless marriage and fears her husband is having an affair; Leanne hides a criminal past of her own from her young daughter; and manager Bob fears that soon, Gold Star’s owners will sell the shop to a bigger chain, thus putting himself and his staff out of work. The staff pools a portion of their pay to buy lottery tickets – a fact which tempts the desperate Matt and Nicky to stage a fake robbery and steal the money which the staff and customers have spent on the tickets. During the robbery, Nicky injures Bob, leaving Matt guilt-stricken and unsure if he should tell the truth…only to discover that the staff has won the lottery. Though the staff believes the sudden influx of cash will solve all their problems, sometimes more money just makes things worse…
A “kitchen sink” drama – one which, atypically for TV, centers on working-class individuals and the mundane problems of daily life – Lucky 7 offers an intriguing premise which confronts everyday people with moral questions and difficult choices. The show also contains flashes of dark humor, which play nicely with the deeper drama. While there were some brief discussions about adult subjects like Denise’s miscarriage and her husband’s affair, the only violence is in Nicky and Matt’s faked robbery. Bob interrupts them in the middle of their attempt, and Nicky hits him on the head with a bottle – thus putting their friend Bob in the hospital with serious injuries. In a TV environment which typically shows gun battles with thousands of rounds fired and no one injured, this is a powerfully realistic departure…as is Matt’s agonized decision not to tell the truth. Lucky 7 is a program which appears to understand that a program can be “adult” without necessarily containing profanity, pornography, or graphic violence.
Back in the Game
Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. ET
Premieres: September 25
Terry Gannon is not happy. Recently divorced, she has had no choice but to move in with her father “The Cannon,” an abusive, baseball-obsessed grouch. “The Cannon” wanted a boy, and forced Terry to practice baseball and miss out on a normal girlhood. But when her son Danny insists he wants to play ball, Terry steps up to the plate and agrees to coach a team of the school’s losers and rejects – a situation which “The Cannon” sees as an opportunity to dominate and control not only Terry’s life, but those of the kids, as well.
This thinly-veiled Bad News Bears rip-off stars James Caan, who makes “The Cannon” a thoroughly nasty and unlikeable father-figure, whose idea of helping his daughter is to smash a man’s car to pieces with a baseball bat, and who insults the members of the kid’s team. (These adorable tykes respond in kind, telling Terry, “I like your boobs!” and “You look like a lesbian.”) The show is also replete with references to genitals, adultery, urination, adultery, racial slurs, and other material thoroughly unsuitable for kids. At a Paley Center panel, creators Robb and Mark Cullen boasted that, “We got characters named ‘Dick’ and ‘Dong’ into a show at 8:30 Wednesday nights. Thank you, Disney!”, and noted that they intended to “constantly push” the boundaries on acceptable content. For those who want to see a put-upon single mother forced to live with an abusive drunk, and elementary-school kids spewing foul language and comments about sex, Back in the Game may be enjoyable. All others should steer clear.
Super Fun Night
Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m. ET
Premieres: October 2
Foul-mouthed Australian comedienne Rebel Wilson (best known for her supporting role in the movie Bridesmaids and for hosting various raunchy MTV Awards shows), attempts her own prime-time sitcom playing Kimmie Boubier, an insecure, inept lawyer who prefers to spend “Friday Fun Nights” with her two friends, paranoid hypochondriac Helen-Alice and dour, mannish Marika, “always together, always inside,” drinking and watching movies, rather than dating or expanding her social circle. But when handsome British lawyer Richard actually seems to find Kimmie attractive, she is faced with a choice: continue hanging with her “besties,” or take a chance on finding love?
Unabashedly targeted at young female stay-at-homes and the mean girls who mock them, the first episode of Super Fun Night contained less raunchy content than might have been expected, though references by the women to their breasts and genitals were frequent; and Wilson is not shy about exhibiting her zaftig physique in lingerie. However, the first episode may be deceptive; the premiere episode of Fox’s New Girl didn’t appear overly raunchy either, but the program has become one of the most sex-slathered shows on that network. Given Wilson’s track record and the broadcast TV’s “sex = comedy” trend, similar caution may be advisable regarding Super Fun Night.
ABC’s most-anticipated fall series – Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and Betrayal – were not available for preview.