May 16, 2011

2011 upfronts: fox

Programming Notes:

For the full list of FOX's renewals and cancellations, click here. The network introduced four new comedies, three dramas, and one unscripted series for the 2011-12 season. At first glance, it looks like a conservative schedule for FOX - probably given the flood of cancellations last week. Other interesting notes:
  • America's Most Wanted was cancelled after 23 (!) seasons and converted to a series of specials.
  • House was moved to 9:00 to follow Stephen Spielberg's new dinosaur show Terra Nova.
  • Simon Cowell's new music competition show The X Factor will take a 1.5 hour slot on Wednesday and an hour slot on Thursday in the fall (American Idol will be there in the spring).
  • The Finder, a back door pilot that you may have seen disguised as a Bones episode a few weeks ago, will take over Bones' timeslot in the spring to accommodate for Emily Deschanel's pregnancy.
  • A new Kiefer Sutherland show called Touch is planned for a spring debut, but the pilot hasn't been shot yet, so we'll keep an eye on that one.
  • Steven Tyler is signed on for Idol next year, and FOX is "hopeful" that Jennifer Lopez will be back as well.
TV Line posted a collection of trailers for the news shows. Check them out here and/or read my little descriptions and gut reactions below.

New Dramas:

Terra Nova
Executive producer Steven Spielberg is behind this "family adventure" where a family travels back in time to prehistoric Earth as part of an experiment to save the human race. The family is from the year 2149 when plants and animal life are in danger of distinction. Scientists find a way to send people back in time to rebuild civilization in the past. The Shannon family joins the Tenth Pilgrimage of settlers to Terra Nova, the first colony established in this old/new land. Of course, Terra Nova is not all peanuts and roses. Scary dinosaurs and splinter colonies and internal strife. Oh my. You'll recognize Jason O'Mara (Life on Mars) playing dad, Shelley Conn plays mom/trauma surgeon, and they have three kids. In an interesting twist, mom's training as a surgeon secured them a spot in the pilgrimage, but a secret about the youngest daughter threatens their position in Terra Nova.

My take: The trailer definitely views like a Spielberg - the special effects are pretty amazing. It feels like some combination of Jurassic Park, Lost, and V. I give credit to FOX for finally putting this on the air. It's definitely a bargain, but I'm guessing it will find an audience.

Alcatraz (midseason)
A new drama thriller from executive producer J.J. Abrams. San Francisco Police Department detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones, Sons of Anarchy) takes on a homicide case and a fingerprint leads her to Jack Sylvane, a former Alcatraz inmate who died decades ago. Madsen is particularly interested in the case because both her grandfather and surrogate uncle were guards at the prison. She works the case with the help of Alcatraz expert and comic book enthusiast, Dr. Diego "Doc" Soto (Jorge Garcia of Lost!) and discovers that Sylvane is not only alive and still killing people, but hasn't aged at all! Through their investigation, it quickly becomes clear that Sylvane won't be the last prisoner to reappear from Alcatraz opening up a whole creepy world of possibilities.

My take: Could be great, could be terrible. Good to see another departure from the stale cop drama, and the historic mythology is potentially really cool. But success really depends on the quality of the writing and the performance of the main character, which I can't really judge from the trailer.

The Finder (midseason)
A one-hour procedural (case-of-the-week) about Iraq war veteran Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults, October Road), who gained a reputation for tracking down insurgents, deserters and IEDs. After an unfortunate encounter with an IED, he was left with brain damage that seemed to give him an even stronger gift for finding people and things. He starts taking on cases that regular law enforcement can't crack. He works in Key West, with the beautiful bartender Ike Latulippe (Saffron Burrows, Circle of Friends), a woman with a mysterious past and many hidden skills. She tends bar at The Ends of the Earth, which also serves as a makeshift office and home base for Walter. His other cohort is Leo Knox (Michael Clarke Duncan), once an obese lawyer who, after the deaths of his wife and children, completely reinvented himself into a gentle giant, philosopher and Walter's legal advisor.

My take: FOX inserted an mini-episode of The Finder into a recent episode of Bones. I found Stults and Duncan entertaining, but Burrows' character was awkward and over-acted. The show has potential, and I'll probably watch for a bit since I love Key West, but I don't expect to fall in love with it.

TOUCH (in development for midseason)
How's this for a description? "A preternatural drama in which science and spirituality intersect with the hopeful premise that we are all interconnected, tied in invisible ways to those whose lives we are destined to alter and impact." Yikes. Basically, Kiefer Sutherland and a band misfits - a traumatized firefighter, an Iraqi teenager, a karaoke singer, a British business man - unknowing affect each other in mysterious ways. It all comes together with Sutherland's autistic son who senses a pattern to all of it, which becomes his way of communicating with his father to figure out the meaning of all of it.

My take: Rename it Sutherland's Heroes FlashForward.

New Comedies:

New Girl
A single-camera comedy about Jess Day (Zooey Deschanel), an offbeat girl in her late 20s who, after a bad breakup, moves in with three single guys. Described "goofy, positive, vulnerable and honest to a fault" (basically every character Zooey has ever played), Jess is not used to hanging with the boys – especially at home. The three roommates, smart, sarcastic bartender Nick (Jake Johnson, No Strings Attached), social climbing womanizer, and personal trainer Coach (Damon Wayans Jr. - unless Happy Endings isn't renewed). Rounding out this group is Jess' childhood best friend, Cece (Hannah Simone, Beautiful People), a deadpan, somewhat cynical model. And there's your dysfunctional family.

My take: This show will rely a lot on the charm of Zooey and whether that will sustain or become annoying. If only to reminisce about living with my two favorite boy roommates (mojoreid!), I will watch.

I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Annie (Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl) and Nikki (Katie Finneran, Wonderfalls) are former high school outcasts. Annie, who was raised in an ultra-strict, ├╝ber-religious household, pretty much allows her daughter to do whatever she wants. Nikki, once an unpopular, overweight social pariah, has reinvented herself as a pretty Southern belle whose top priority is providing her daughter with the childhood she never had. They have created two mean girls just like the ones who tortured them years ago. The moms quickly realize that they must, for the first time, dole out some real punishment and fix what is broken.

My take: Ugh. The trailer is as bad as the working title. This format is just stale.

Allen Gregory
A new animated comedy series that tells the story of one of the most pretentious 7-year-old Allen Gregory de Longpre (Jonah Hill). Allen Gregory considers himself intelligent, sophisticated, worldly, artistic and romantic – characteristics he inherited from his doting father, Richard (French Stewart, 3rd Rock from the Sun). The pair share a bond that is sometimes annoyingly interrupted by Richard's life partner, Jeremy (Nat Faxon, The Cleveland Show), for whom Allen Gregory has minimal respect. They live together, along with Julie (Joy Osmanski, Grey's Anatomy), Allen Gregory's adopted Cambodian sister. Allen Gregory's about to embark on his greatest challenge yet: leaving the safety of his father's homeschooling and attending elementary school with children his own age. This is the story of his journey. Other notable voices: Leslie Mann and Will Forte.

My take: I'm not a big fan of animated series, but I do love Jonah Hill and this trailer cracked me up. This may have to be my first animated experience since Daria.

Napoleon Dynamite (midseason)
An animated series based on the film, continuing adventures of an awesome awkward teenager and his quirky family and friends as they struggle to navigate small-town life in rural Idaho. The original cast from the film – Jon Heder, Aaron Ruell, Efren Ramirez, Tina Majorino, Sandy Martin, Jon Gries and Diedrich Bader – will voice their characters in the series, and many new characters will be added along the way.

My take: I love the idea of this cast getting back together. Realistically, I probably won't watch that often, but for big fans of the movie, this is pretty awesome.

New Reality:

The X-Factor
Simon Cowell's British import is finally here. We finally got to see why Simon looked so bored during his last two seasons of Idol. The format is what you expect - a nationwide tour of tryouts, a mentoring round (like The Voice), followed voting rounds with judges' input. The unique points - age range is 12 years old or over – and both solo artists and vocal groups are eligible. Judges are Cowell, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Cheryl Cole and Paula Abdul. Prize is $5 million recording contract with Syco/Sony Music. Hosts are Nicole Scherzinger and Steve Jones.

My take: I'll feel left out if I don't watch, but it will require some effort to carve out time for a singing competition during the busy fall TV schedule.

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