More of the same – only worse.
Last week in New York, the broadcast networks held their annual “upfronts” –presentations during which they show advertising agencies and clients the new programs set to debut next fall, in the hopes of convincing them to buy commercial time. The upfronts also serve as a preview of the programs coming next fall. And what will the networks be pushing over the publicly-owned airwaves? The answer is: not very much for a family audience.
Actually, many of the “new” programs debuting next fall are anything but. Viewers will be deluged by sequels, spin-offs, reboots, or rip-offs of previous movies and TV shows. Previous TV shows the networks will be re-doing include Chicago Justice, Blacklist: Redemption, 24: Legacy, Empire spin-off Star, Prison Break, and MacGyver (with a hipster hero, and explosions and murder in place of the original’s inventiveness, intelligence, and family-friendly tone). Movie rip-offs will include Taken, Time After Time, Training Day, Emerald City, Lethal Weapon, and The Exorcist — and won’t that last make perfect viewing for a Family Hour audience of little children?
But by all means, don’t do anything that might preserve the tone of the original, or make something that parents might actually be able to watch with their children! Doing so would mark a writer as terminally uncool and insufficiently “edgy” – the greatest sin imaginable in Hollywood.
In addition to the TV and movie rip-offs, the entertainment industry is offering “family comedies” about, among other things, a child with cerebral palsy, a talking dog, and an overweight housewife — tactfully, ABC changed the name of the last from The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport to American Housewife; guess the original title didn’t test well with actual stay-at-home moms. (And when did the word “housewife” become OK again? Isn’t that a derogatory term which disrespects women’s career choices?) Also, there are TWO “comedies” that mix animation and live-action, one about a woman’s imaginary friend, and the other about a Conan-style barbarian working in an office.
The worst of the “family comedy” ilk looks to be Fox’s The Mick. (No, it’s not a bigoted term for someone Irish; the lead character’s name is Mickey.) The network’s own publicity says the show is about “a hard-living, foul-mouthed woman [who] moves to an affluent suburb to raise the spoiled kids of her wealthy sister.” Every character seen in the show’s trailer is repellent, and the program features bratty, entitled kids and a deranged, drunken, sex-obsessed aunt straight out of Bad Teacher.
The other shows premiering are the typical political dramas, crime procedurals with an unusually-abled detective, and, weirdly, a number of shows about time travel. Definitely the most dangerous of these will be Time After Time, in which author H.G. Wells (who, in this telling, has actually invented a time machine) pursues Jack the Ripper into the modern day. Of greatest concern is the fact that the producer of this program is Kevin Williamson, who previously brought audiences Stalker and The Following – both horrifically graphic and gory shows. With Williamson running a show in which Jack the Ripper is a character, viewers can expect a surfeit of explicit bloodshed and violence.
Most of the other comedies look to be lame imitations of dozens of similar shows from the past (Kevin James as a blue-collar bonehead; Matt LeBlanc as a stay-at-home dad; and Joel McHale doing a virtual imitation of Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, down to the lead character being the only “real man” working in an office full of hipster-ish wimps at a wilderness-themed business).
By and large, broadcast TV next fall will be “business as usual.” But in some instances, the business will be WORSE than usual…and families should be aware of that fact.