Television’s New Crop of Shows Doesn’t Look Too Great So Far

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Autumn is when everything outside just seems to … well, die. Crops are harvested. Leaves fall from the trees. Grass turns a bit brown. Cold sets in. It’s a depressing time of year for many (obviously not football fans). Hey, even the sun doesn’t seem to want to stick around as long anymore.

So there’s a certain irony that, in the bizarre world of television, fall is traditionally a time of new life and growth—when a host of fresh, green programs sprout for the first time.

No wonder so many of ’em keel over and die so quickly.

The five broadcast television networks—ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW—are tending a crop of 20 new shows this fall. If history’s any guide, many won’t live to see the spring, and only about a third of them will still be kicking by this time next year. The New York Times served up a fascinating look yesterday at the fate of new shows over the last five years: From 2010 to 2014, the five big broadcast networks planted 121 pilots for the public to nurture. Of those, 74 were cancelled after just one season. Just 34 of them are still on the air.

It’s pretty funny, looking back on these lists. In 2010, $#*! My Dad Says and Law & Order: LA were considered surefire hits. They were gone by 2011, when critics were eagerly awaiting the Charlie’s Angels reboot, the retro show Pan Am and the ambitious sci-fi serial Terra Nova. Remember any of those? I barely do … and I reviewed most of them.

1001blogmiddle1When you plant stuff in the real world, you have a pretty good idea of whether it’s going to come up or not. Try to grow some columbines in Colorado, there’s a good chance they’ll take. Heat-loving, moisture-loving magnolia bushes? Well, that’s a different story.

But all the leading experts in the television world have, really, no idea what’s actually going to grow. So what do they do? They plant a lot of variations of what’s worked in the past—amping up whatever someone thinks made it successful in the first place.

But for families concerned about the amount of content that flows through their TV screens, each new crop of shows seems to get a little bit worse every year.

I’ve barely begun to comb through this year’s television field. But even so, the results aren’t so promising yet.

Fox’s Scream Queens is one of the few shows that offers a truly different premise: Sorority sisters are killed off one by one for laughs. But, as you might be able to tell from that little descriptor, it’s pretty gross. In fact, it may have the most problematic content I’ve ever seen on any network show. Even a few seasons back, it seems advertisers would’ve been wary of a show that kills people by running over their heads with a lawn mower. But in 2015—and coming as it does from the makers of critical darlings Glee and American Horror Story—that equates to one of the year’s most anticipated new offerings.

1001blogmiddle2Elsewhere, the new shows seem to stick closely to what’s worked well before. NBC’s Blindspot and Fox’s Minority Report again give us a twist on a familiar subgenre: episodic crime-fighting show with a flawed-yet-gifted “advisor”. Minority Report has its psychic but socially-stunted adjunct, Blindspot has a tattooed, amnesic lethal weapon.

There’s Blood & Oil, on ABC, which The Atlantic characterizes as a Dallas ripoff. Code Black, which aired last night on CBS, is ER in Los Angeles. NBC is trying to re-ignite an old fave with Heroes Reborn, while ABC wanted to merge the intrinsic charm of the old Muppet Show with the sly humor of The Office in The Muppets. (It didn’t work all that well.)

Same old stuff, really, only slightly worse—at least as far as families are concerned. Blindspot featured perhaps a network television first when it showed a full-frontal breast shot of its star, Jaimie Alexander (though her chest was largely obscured with tattoos). The Muppets, while not as horrific as some have suggested, is a bit more crude than the original.

There’ll surely be some gems in the mix, though. The Parents Television Council has some nice things to say about Supergirl, which doesn’t air on CBS until Oct. 26. And we’ll keep checking in with this season’s crop of new shows and let you know our take on all of them.

Or at least, all of them we can get to. Some may wither and die before we have a chance to review them. Such is the way of the fall television growing season.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Briana More than 1 year ago
The new series of Doctor Who with the promise of a Sherlock Christmas special is all I need. :D

Speaking of which, will the site be reviewing the new season of Doctor Who this year? Plugged In has the last four years, and it seems a shame to miss out on a review of this year's two-part opener and its "value of mercy" theme.
Rocketshipper More than 1 year ago
I'll mainly be watching Agents of Shield season 3, Agent Carter season 2, and Ash vs the Evil Dead this year.  Jessica Jones on netflix, and Girl Meets World as well.  And I'm looking forward to maybe catching Clarissa Explains it All reruns on Nickelodeons new 90's nostalgia block that starts October 10th.   
Kal El More than 1 year ago
There are duds every year, but I actually think there are more shows I want to follow or am following right now than I can remember there ever being.

Reading about "Scream Queens" has definitely lowered my enthusiasm (I may watch a few on Netflix when it hits streaming and decide whether to drop it or not based on how those first few eps go for me). I'm also only mildly curious about "The Muppets" (they usually feel like squandered potential to me). But we've got plenty of promising options this Fall, between syndication and streaming:
Jessica Jones, Gotham, The Flash, Arrow, Legends Of Tomorrow, Agents Of SHIELD, iZombie, The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul, Scream: The Series, Blindspot, Minority Report, Supernatural, Limitless, and probably a few more I'm forgetting. Some of these are newcomers, others returning shows, but all have either proved themselves or appear to have potential on one level or another.

Now if we could just get a Smallville sequel series...
Kal El More than 1 year ago
I should note: I am talking about shows that have potential for older viewers, not families with 3 year olds. That would be a much different (and probably shorter) list. ;-)