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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The new US that might be worth a look


Not only does the month of May bring flowers but also The Upfronts.  During The Upfronts, American Broadcasting Networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and The CW) present their new shows and schedules to television critics and advertisers.  Many of the broadcasters introduced shows that have a built-in brand or audience.  Clearly the networks had me in mind when they greenlit many of their shows, because I was unable to completely avoid this trap.  Several of the shows that I mention in the piece are spin-offs of existing properties or re-launches.  Though there are lot of series that I plan on sampling, none of the trailers I watched were able to connect with me on the same emotional level as the trailers for Empire (U.K. broadcaster – E4) and How to Get Away with Murder (U.K. broadcaster  - Universal Channel) last year.

Blindspot
Premise: A woman without any memories and covered in tattoos is found in New York City.  The FBI discovers that each tattoo provides information about crimes that must be solved.  The Blindspot combines police procedurals with a serialized conspiracy at its center.

Thoughts:  NBC’s newest attempt to reverse engineer The Blacklist lands on my list because of the show’s gimmicks.  Jamie Alexander (Jane Doe) emerging from a piece of luggage covered in tattoos is destined to be one of the watercolor moments of the 2015-2016 American television season.  Personally, I wish the show’s creators could have found another way to introduce Alexander’s character in the trailer.  Fortunately for NBC the public has the summer to forget about the Blindspot’s trailer.  Hopefully there are more twists in the first episode to keep individuals such as myself coming back for subsequent episodes.   Having Marianne Jean-Baptiste (ITV’s Broadchurch Series 2) and Sullivan Stapleton (Sky’s Strikeback) will help Blindspot hold my attention.  Hopefully there are enough tattoos to solve on Jane Doe’s body to keep Jean-Baptiste from appearing in Broadchurch Series 3.  Hopefully NBC will provide The Blindspot with a hefty firearms allowance for Stapleton.  Jamie Alexander is primarily known for her portrayal of Lady Sif in the Thor films and episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This telly watcher will be curious to see how fans of Lady Sif will feel about Alexander portraying a less confident character.



The Catch

Premise: Fraud investigator Alice Martin (The Killing (U.S. version) and Big Love’s Mireille Enos) has been conned by her fianc√© and must uncover the truth before her career is destroyed.

Thoughts: The Catch’s trailer is very slick and feels like it was produced from ShondaLand, the production company behind Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder.  The trailer had the right amount of pacing and a nice dramatic ending.  The strands of Olivia Pope’s (Scandal) DNA were easy to pick out.  Though The Catch’s trailer kept its hand hidden, I suspect this show will get twisty/turny really quick.  I am only casually acquainted with Mireille Enos’ body of work; I followed Big Love but I did not watch The Killing.  One of the refreshing things about The Catch is how it is a known yet unknown quantity.  ShondaLand has an incredible track record of producing shows that hold my interest for several series.  I have a very similar track record with Kudos, the production company behind Spooks, The Hour, and Broadchurch.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

Premise: Time traveler Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) gathers a team of heroes and villains to take on the immortal Vandal Savage.

Thoughts: My initial thought after watching the trailer was does the BBC know that Arthur Darvill stole some of The Doctor’s trench coats when he left Doctor Who.  If Sky is not working on a deal to acquire Legends of Tomorrow, then it will probably have one in place soon.  The style and tone of this series fits perfectly in line with its sibling shows Arrow and The Flash.  Based on the trailer this show will probably not appeal to fans of the other shows.  Unless they are still mourning the loss of Prison Break and need a regular fix of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell.  If DC Entertainment wants a team-up show but is unable to do the Justice League due to the films, a show in the vain of the dirty dozen is a good alternative.  If the show does well enough to earn a second series I would be concerned about the number of episodes ordered.  Also, I wish Executive Producer Greg Berlanti and company could have come up with a better name than Legends of Tomorrow.

Heroes Reborn

Premise: The return of NBC’s serialized superhero series from the mid-2000s returns in a thirteen part mini-series featuring a mix of new and old characters.

Thoughts: Borrowing a page from Doctor Who’s playbook, NBC is bringing back its Heroes franchise after a five year break.  Clearly Heroes Reborn is banking on viewers such as me who fondly remember series one and two of the show.  The promotional videos for the series have been very brief, though promotional images have been released depicting some of the characters.  Tom Kring, the creator of Heroes, returns to executive produce the event mini-series.  Hopefully time away from the franchise has enabled Kring to develop some new ideas and study other genre shows on both sides of the Atlantic.  Thirteen episodes should keep the show from derailing, but fans of Doctor Who can think of at least one series that did not work.  One of the issues that plagued the original show was the network ordering additional episodes midway through a series (side note: American broadcast networks have not learned their lesson.  This exact same issue plagued Gotham Series 1).  Heroes Reborn boasts a number of fan favorites from the original series including Noah Bennet/H.R.G. (Scandal’s Jack Coleman), The Haitian (actor Jimmy Jean-Louis), and Hiro Nakamura (Hawaii 5-0’s Masi Oka).  Zachary Levi the star of NBC’s spy dramedy Chuck will play a new character called Luke Collins. Nostalgia will only earn Heroes Reborn a few episodes of goodwill.  Hopefully the show’s creators have a solid plan though could potential open the door to future series.

The Muppets

Premise: Jim Henson’s internationally known puppet characters return to television in a Modern Family mockumentary-style television series that delves into their lives.

Thoughts: The Muppets have several factors in their favor that should help make this show a success.  First, the Muppets’ brand has existed for decades and has spawned numerous television series and films. Though the most recent Muppet film, Muppets Most Wanted, did not perform as expected the characters are iconic.  Second, the show is being co-executive produced by Bill Prady from The Big Bang Theory. Prady has experience creating a successful show that has broad humor and is able to inject nerd and pop culture references into an episode.  It will be interesting to see how the show handles ‘adult themes’ on an ongoing basis.  The trailer provided a few samples of adult situations such as Fozzy Bear in an inter-species relationship.  I hope the show limits the use of CGI versions of the characters.  I was not a fan of the CGI used for the characters in Muppets Most Wanted.  I am a firm believer that ‘childhood’ properties can mature as long as the property remembers its core values.  I will be definitely tuning in to see if The Muppets is elastic enough to make that stretch.




Supergirl

Premise: Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El attempts to juggle her personal and professional lives while forging her own super hero identity.

Thoughts: Based on the trailer or rather mini-episode, Supergirl is definitely not Smallville: Superman the Early Years.   The audience does not have to wait ten years for the character to fully embrace their superhero identity, fly, and wear a cape.  This show is produced by Greg Berlanti, the same individual behind Arrow, The Flash, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.  Unfortunately Supergirl will not be broadcast on the same network as Berlanti’s three other DC properties.  Based on various interviews I have read Supergirl may or may not exist in the same universe as Arrow and Flash.  Though Supergirl oozes the same superhero pride worn by the other shows, parts of the mini-episode may cause people to assume the show is more Ally McBeal or The Devil Wears Prada instead of a traditional superhero series.  Casting Ally McBeal’s Calista Flockhart as Kara’s tyrannical boss Cat Grant does not help fight off this misconception, even though she was great in the trailer. Former Glee star Melissa Benoist is the perfect Kara Zor-El, especially one that is not confident and dealing with identity issues.

Contributed by Mo Walker 

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