The Upfronts 2014: ABC

ABC network logoABC, home of Shonda Rhimes, Modern Family and really not much else. They cancelled 10 out of 13 new shows this year and seem to be attempting to remedy that with a pretty diverse array of new shows which range from intriguing to outright offensive with a diversion into something that looks like Monty Python crossed with Glee.

What’s Dead
2013/14 was a really bad year for new shows on ABC. Lucky 7 was the thing about the lottery winners which sounded like a great idea but for some reason fell flat on its face, cancelled after just its second episode. The Assets tanked even worse and was pulled after just one episode, mind you, I’ve never heard of it, so it wasn’t exactly over-promoted. Killer Women lasted a whopping 7 episodes. Betrayal and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland actually managed to see out their full (short) seasons, but neither delivered enough ratings to earn second seasons.

New comedies didn’t fare any better, Back in the Game managed 10 episodes, Mind Games 5, and Mixology and Super Fun Night had full seasons before cancellation (although who on earth watched the horrific Super Fun Night is anyone’s guess). I’m a bit frustrated by the cancellation of Trophy Wife – I actually caught a couple of episodes of this, despite there being no sign of it on schedules over here and I really like it! Bradley Whitford is his usual charming self, and the rest of the cast was also funny. I suspect if it had been scheduled alongside Modern Family it would not be on this list. A real shame. Surely someone out there can make a show for Whitford that stays on the air!
For those keeping track that 10 out of 13 new shows not making it to a second season.

Two slightly more established shows got cancelled, Suburgatory was cancelled after three seasons and, Neighbors, which is apparently a science fiction comedy about a human family living in a neighbourhood full of aliens was cancelled after two.

What’s Survived?
castleCastle (7), Nashville (3), Revenge (4), Grey’s Anatomy (11) and Scandal (4) continue on in all their varying levels of ridiculous glory (next season number in brackets). Power-house sitcom combo The Middle and Modern Family are both renewed for season 6. Motive and Mistresses are both returning for second seasons this summer and Canadian series Rookie Blue is back for a 5th.

Three freshmen series have been renewed, including the one I care most about, Marvel’s Agents of Shield. The show is all over the place, at its best it’s entertaining, funny, exciting and colourful, at its worst it’s horribly amateur. Everyone involved can and must do better and the end of the season has been getting more interesting. Resurrection is a new drama that sounds a bit like the French Les Revenants series, dunno what it’s like ‘cos it hasn’t appeared over here yet. The Goldbergs is a random sitcom that I’ve not heard of.

What’s new this summer?
Black Box (trailer): A cutting edge neurosurgeon who is secretly bipolar. This made me feel rather uncomfortable to be honest, I get nervous about any show using mental illness as a narrative device, it’s far far too easy to skim over the medical reality just to make the plot work. Not to mention that it looks like a made for TV movie full of inspiration and meaningful connections.

What’s New?
How to Get Away With Murder (trailer): Professor Annalise Keating hires four law students and then there’s sex, crime, suspense, tension and, because this is a Shonda Rhimes show (c.f. Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy), probably a fair amount of ridiculousness and completely compelling television. Also it stars Viola Davis who is generally incredible.

American Crime (trailer, midseason): A couple are attacked in their home, he is dead and she is in a coma. Their parents and the police want to find out who did it, but that’s not simple particularly when race comes into it. The trailer is pretty compelling, but I’d wonder how the story is going to be stretched and contracted. It would be interesting to do this in the same way as American Horror Story, with different characters and plots each season, otherwise an audience will likely get frustrated at the lack of clarity about when the answers will arrive. The cast (Felicity Huffman, Timothy Dutton and Benito Martinez) is impressive though.

Forever (trailer): Henry Morgan is a New York Medical Examiner, working with the police to solve murders. He’s also 200 years old because every time he dies he just comes back to life. The tone of the trailer reminds me of either Elementary (smug = bad) or Castle (knowing = good) and I’m not quite sure which way it will fall. Ioan Gruffudd is watchable though and the legendary Judd Hirsch is in it too, so it might be worth a look.

Marvel’s Agent Carter (clip from the Iron Man 3 blu ray, midseason): Agent Peggy Carter (Captain America’s nearly-girlfriend from the forties) is working for both SHIELD (or what will become SHIELD) and Howard Stark (Iron Man’s dad), I presume it will be a mix of spy hijinks and period stuff, the press release makes reference to her being “marginalized when the men return home”, which could actually be very interesting. It’s a pretty unashamed attempt for Marvel to completely flood everything for Avengers 2, and it’s a shame Whedon isn’t involved (Joss writing a female 1940s spy? Yes please!) but it could be fun and interesting.

Secrets and Lies (trailer, midseason): A jogger finds the body of a little boy and he becomes the prime suspect. It’s not a massively original story for a film, but I can’t think of a television series has ever really been told from that point of view. I’m not sure whether we’re genuinely supposed to think that he might have done it (not if when the story is effectively from his point of view as the trailer implies, and as with American Crime (which surely it’s in direct competition with?) I don’t really see how the series is sustainable. However Ryan Phillippe and Juliette Lewis are pretty big names, so it should be pretty compelling.

The Whispers (trailer, midseason): Children are doing horrible things and blaming their imaginary friends. Except their invisible manipulators are actually aliens planning to take over the world. It sounds ridiculous, but the trailer is actually extremely creepy and pretty compelling.

The Astronaut Wives Club (no trailer, midseason): Based on a book of the same name based on the lives of the wives of the Mercury Seven astronauts. No idea whether this is going to be Mad Men with astronauts, or Desperate Housewives with astronauts. It was originally scheduled for this summer, but has apparently been put off to next year, which could be a good or bad sign.

Galavant (trailer, midseason): It’s a fairy tale, heroes and evil kings and everything. It looked awful, then amusing, then there was singing!, then weird, then there was more singing… I don’t know whether this is demented genius or just genius.

Black-ish (trailer): Three generations of a black family try to work out how assimilated they want to be. I really don’t think this was targeted at me. What happened to Lawrence Fishburne that means he’s ended up in this?

Cristela (trailer): Cristela balances her internship at a big law firm with her working class Mexican-American family. Yup, seriously. If that’s not bad enough the best clip they found doesn’t even seem to be trying to be funny.

Fresh off the Boat (trailer, midseason): A Taiwanese family chases the American dream from Washington DC and its Taiwanese community to suburban Orlando. It’s set in the 90s and may as well be made in the 50s for all the horrific racial stereotyping going on. Can’t believe this actually got made.

Manhattan Love Story (trailer): It’s a romance between people who you probably wouldn’t want to spend time with, and they narrate everything they’re thinking. Oh I hate myself, but I smiled and even chuckled a couple of times.

Selfie (trailer): Self-obsessed social networker sees the that her ‘friends’ aren’t actually friends at all and hires a marketing expert to rebrand her. It’s a “modern My Fair Lady”. It’s hateful. Karen Gillan and John Cho deserve far far better.


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