Monday, May 18, 2009

FOX’s 2009 Upfronts

Here's what FOX is planning for the coming season. As usual with FOX there are some planned changes coming in January, although it should be noted that this year's schedule seems to be more stable for the full year than in previous years. The planned changes are marked with a (J).

Cancelled: Prison Break, King of the Hill, Do Not Disturb, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Hole In The Wall, Osbornes Reloaded, Secret Millionaire, Sit Down, Shut Up

Renewed: 24, American Dad, American Idol, Family Guy, The Simpsons, Fringe, Dollhouse, So You Think You Can Dance, Bones, House

Lie to Me, Fringe, 'Til Death

New Shows:
Brothers, The Cleveland Show, Human Target, Past Life, Sons Of Tuscon, Glee

Not Yet Scheduled: Kitchen Nightmares, Hell's Kitchen, Someone's Gotta Go

Complete Schedule (Changes in January as noted) Times are Eastern, adjust accordingly.

8:00-9:00 p.m. House

9:00-10:00 p.m. Lie To Me, 24 (J)

8:00-10:00 p.m. So You Think You Can Dance

8:00-9:00 p.m. American Idol (J)
9:00-10:00 p.m. PAST LIFE (J)

8:00-9:00 p.m. So You Think You Can Dance Results, American Idol Results (J)

9:00-10:00 p.m. GLEE, HUMAN TARGET (J), GLEE (in the spring)

8:00-9:00 p.m. Bones
9:00-10:00 p.m. Fringe

8:00-8:30 p.m. BROTHERS
8:30-9:00 p.m. 'Til Death
9:00-10:00 p.m. Dollhouse

8:00-8:30 p.m. Cops

8:30-9:00 p.m. Cops
9:00-10:00 p.m. America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back
11:00-12:00 p.m. THE WANDA SYKES SHOW

7:00-8:00 p.m. The OT (NFL post-game)
7:00-7:30 p.m. Animation Domination Encores (J)
7:30-8:00 p.m. American Dad (J)
8:00-8:30 p.m. The Simpsons
9:00-9:30 p.m. Family Guy
9:30-10:00 p.m. American Dad, THE CLEVELAND SHOW (J)

Glee is described as "an uplifting comedy musical series with biting humor that features a soundtrack of hit music from past to present." The McKinley High School Glee club used to be at the top of the world of school choirs, but over the years it has become a haven for geeks and outcasts. New teacher Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) actually volunteers to take on the task of restoring the Glee Club to the top ranks but to do it he has to recruit the only two real talents in the school, the perfectionist Rachel, and the high school quarterback Finn, Will is going to face opposition from his tough as nails wife, and the schools cheerleading coach, but he has a secret past that drives him to succeed. Stars Dianna Agron, Chris Colfert, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jane Lynch, Jayma Mays, Kevin McHale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley, Mark Salling and Jenna Ushkowitz. Please note: The show will have a special preview on Tuesday March 18th following American Idol.

Brothers is a comedy about Mike, a former NFL player (Michael Strahan in a true acting stretch) who is forced to move back home to help run his brother's restaurant because his mother (CCH Pounder) orders him to – she knows that his manager his business manager has taken off with all of his money. Mike's brother "Chill" (Darryl "Chill" Mitchell – they're really reaching for these names aren't they) was an NFL prospect until a car accident left him a paraplegic. That hasn't changed the brother's relationship – they've always bickered. Rounding out the family is the father "Coach" (Carl Weathers) the conservative local football coach who runs the family – he thinks.

The Cleveland Show takes the character of Cleveland Brown from The Family Guy and has him move back to his old home town of Stoolbend, Virginia with his teenage son to start a new life with his high school sweetheart and her family. This series was announced last year to debut in January, but then was held back to this year (and has already been renewed for a second season). Produced by Seth MacFarland, so you know the Parents Television Council will love it (note: the needle on the sarcasm meter has bent after that statement).

Past Life is about a pair of investigators with an unusual specialty; they look at how past life (as in reincarnation) issues influence current life problems. Kelli Gadish plays Dr. Kate McGuinn, a psychologist who – after undergoing past-life regression in her 20s – is a firm believer in reincarnation who uses regression therapy to help solve the mysteries that her clients face in their current lives. She is partnered with Price Whatley (Nicholas Bishop) a former NYPD homicide detective who (naturally) thinks she's at the very least on the fringes of science. He's a "damaged soul" who battles grief and guilt over the death of his wife. Rounding out the regular cast are Ravi Patel as Dr. Rishi Karna, "a baby-faced therapist from Calcutta who loves bad American TV, Cuban jazz and driving everyone crazy," and Richard Schiff as Kate's boss and mentor Dr. Malachi Talmage, a recognised figure in the field of cognitive research. Written by David Hudgins who was co-executive producer on Friday Night Lights – both the movie and the TV series.

Human Target is based on the DC Comics character of the same name. Mark Valley (Fringe) plays Christopher Chance, a security expert who specializes in imminent and deadly threats that can't be handled with "normal" means. He integrates himself into his client's lives and "become" the target. Each mission also helps to unravel Chance's own dark history. Working with Chance are his business partner Winston (Chi McBride) and hired gun Guerrero (Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley).

Sons Of Tuscon when their father goes to prison what are three kids – ranging in age from 13 to 8 – to do to stay together? Why hire a "charming wayward schemer" as a stand in of course. The Gunderson brothers are 8 year-old Robbie (Davis Cleveland), who doesn't respond well to authority, 13 year-old Brandon (Troy Gentile) a gentle free-spirit who goes along for the ride, and 11 year-old Gary (Frank Dolce) the brains of the operation and as big a con-man as their father. Their "replacement" father, Ron Snuffkin (Tyler Labine) is going to have to be on his toes to match wits with these kids.

What can I say about this line-up? At first blush I'm not overly impressed. Right now I think that Monday and Thursday are FOX's best nights. The combination of House and Lie To Me seems to have a natural flow to it. I'm just not convinced that they shouldn't spread the wealth around a bit. Thursday's combination of Bones and Fringe also works although I'm not absolutely convinced that Fringe will be strong enough against Gray's Anatomy, and CSI (presumably, though there are some rumours that CBS might move The Mentalist to the 9 p.m. Thursday slot). For Tuesday, I'm not a So You Think You Can Dance fan but it seems reasonably solid placeholder for American Idol. I just wonder if having a summer cycle followed immediately by a fall cycle of the show will really work.

The Sunday shows are where I start having a few problems. I'm sure the PTC will love Seth McFarlane's The Cleveland Show about as much as they're going to love the decision to move his American Dad to the 7:30-8:00 time slot. Love of course being expressed by outraged robo-letters to advertisers, networks and the FCC, not to mention railing against anyone who has even a halfway sympathetic critique of the show. Where I really have a problem is with Sons Of Tuscon. The concept seems just plain stupid – although probably not as bad as a previous Sunday show, The War At Home and they don't seem to be expressing much faith in it by sticking it between The Simpsons and Family Guy as if it needs all the help it can get – though it probably does.

Things start getting rockier on Wednesday night. Depending on how good it is – we'll see that sooner than with any of the other shows – it should work really well coming out of either the So You Think You Can Dance or American Idol results shows. So why interrupt the show's run to insert The Human Target? At the same time, why treat The Human Target like this given that it seems like the one new show on the FOX line-up that is close to being conventional (or is that just me being a DC fanboy). Even Past Life – which sounds like Booth and Bones crossed with Medium looks to be getting better treatment from the network.

Ah, but its Friday night where FOX seems determined to create a disaster. Dollhouse (which I have on my PVR, as yet unwatched) get's renewed but has as its lead-in a series that the network knows doesn't work ('Til Death) and a second one built around an ex-football player with no known acting experience. While I can't say that Dollhouse appeals
to everyone this seems like far worse programming than just about anything they else could have done.

In summation, on the whole nothing here – at least based on the descriptions – excites me as much as Fringe did last year. Human Target interests my inner fanboy (I remember The Human Target from when it was the back-up strip in The Brave And The Bold) but I have a bad memory of the dismal Rick Springfield version. Past Life doesn't do anything for me; I'm a very science-oriented reincarnation doubting sort of guy for whom this sort of show holds absolutely no attraction. They're going ot have to make this really involving to get me to watch, and I'm speaking as someone who really likes most of what Richard Schiff does. Inevitably the two new comedies do nothing for me but then most comedies don't. Glee just doesn't sound like something that would hold any attraction for me. In other words FOX has put together a season that doesn't do too much for me.

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