The Upfronts 2016: Fox

Fox network logoI watch precisely zero shows on Fox. I have vague intentions to watch Empire and Lucifer, but haven’t got round to it and that’s as close as it got. Just looking at the line-up it really looks like they’ve got problems, all the cancellations were from their new shows, two dramas, three comedies and an animation. Which might make you think that they’ve got a solid backbone of returning shows, but most of the rest of the schedule is only two or three seasons old and really nothing to write home about. The new shows actually had a few possibilities in there, but did rather annoy me that I had to re-label “new” to “new or resurrected”. I’m tempted to expand it further and call it “movie spin offs you never expected or wanted to see”

All of Fox’s cancellations were new shows this year. Minority Report got pretty bad reviews and was cut down to 10 episodes almost immediately before being officially cancelled. Grandfathered and Grinder both got pretty good reviews and made it through the full seasons before being cancelled, with some grumbling about Grinder in particular. Second Life had an 11 episode first season but was not picked up, which given that I’ve seen ABSOLUTELY no mention of it in any coverage is not hugely surprising. Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life also didn’t get renewed, personally I’d lost interest before even reaching the end of the title. Animation Bordertown was also cancelled.

BonesBones will be back for a 12 episode 12th and final season. I gave up a few years ago when it started going round in circles and am somewhat amazed its managed to find enough gimmicky deaths to keep going so long. The critically acclaimed Empire is renewed for the third season. The rest of the drama line up is all relatively new, and not particularly high profile. Sleepy Hollow will be back, and trying to navigate its fourth season without its leading lady who was written out this year. Gotham continues into its third season continuing to confound me with people’s liking for the Batman universe.

New shows that did manage to get renewals were Rosewood (an utterly unremarkable looking standard medical/criminal procedural) and Lucifer (which I’ve heard some good things about and is sitting in my Amazon Instant Video queue). Scream Queens is renewed, although I would have thought the point of a slasher story is that most characters are either dead or guilty or both, so I can’t see how that gives a second season. Also I thought it was “unholy mess of un-watchable awfulness”

Fox has a pretty solid backbone of comedies with Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Last Man on Earth, and The New Girl. As are the animation block with Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, and the seemingly immortal Simpsons, which with its upcoming 28th season will surpass 600 episodes.

The status of The X-Files following it’s revival/10th season seems to be a bit up in the air.

24: Legacy – I guess the Legacy in question is “ratings that were the envy of the other networks” so why not give it a try. I never got into 24 (it was all just too over the top, I found it funny), but it unquestionably worked for a lot of people.


Prison Break – of all the shows ever described as ‘cancelled too soon’ or ‘gone but not forgotten’ Prison Break never even broke the top 50! Yet here it is, back for a “limited event” which I guess means a one off series. I think it continues the original storyline with the original cast, but I never actually watched it so have no idea


The Exorcist – did anyone ever watch The Exorcist and think “wow, there’s a great subject for an ongoing prime-time drama”? The trailer looked like it could be an ok film, but I just don’t see how you make this an ongoing 15-22 episode a year series.


Lethal Weapon – ok, this one actually makes sense as a film to tv conversion! Casting will be key, but the trailer looks pretty good.


Making History – so a nerd time travels back to the American Revolution and accidentally stops it happening, so he and his historian friend try to fix it. I barely made it through the trailer, the idea of watching more than 2 minutes is just horrific.


The Mick – slacker Aunt gets left in charge of 3 rich kids. The title isn’t doing the show any favours at all, but there’s not that much to go on.


A.P.B. – imagine if Bruce Wayne, rather than deciding to don a dumb costume, invests his money, genius and technology into actually making the police better. Instinctively I like this idea, because fundamentally it just makes sense! I’m not sure the cast quite ‘pops’ and it could fall into a boring pattern with gadget of the week, but it has some potential.


Pitch – The first woman playing major league baseball. It looks like a fantastic movie, but I don’t see it working as an ongoing series.


Shots Fired – The fallout and investigation of a police shooting in North Carolina. It feels a little like it’s trying too hard to be controversial and driven from the headlines. It’s described as ‘an event series’ which I think means that it’s a one-off season.


Son of Zorn – the contender for dumbest name of the year is also the most insane concept. Animated Zorn (basically He-Man) returns to Earth to try to reconnect with his (normal) teenage son and has to deal with ex-wife, suburbia and office work. It’s just about amusing as a trailer, I doubt it can be stretched to a full half hour, let alone a series.


Star – Star’s a “troubled kid” and wants to be a music star. I shouldn’t have liked this, but the trailer actually worked for me. It’ll depend a lot on how annoying the kids are.


Scream Queens: Pilot Review

As the final dregs of steam ran out for Glee last year, presumably Fox was hunting around for something that could reignite that teen energy for its network, energy that is pretty much lacking in the rest of its line-up of procedurals and action conspiracies. So they turned back to Ryan Murphy’s team and they seem to have pitched something exactly in the middle of their two biggest successes – Glee and American Horror Story. But instead of a perfect blend of the two, we’ve ended up with an unholy mess of un-watchable awfulness.

We start in 1995 at a sorority house party, where a new applicant gives birth, much to everyone’s surprise including her own. Her ‘sisters’ are horrified that she would do something so awful to them, particularly given that TLC’s Waterfalls is next up on the playlist and they can’t possibly miss that. They embrace the 90’s awfulness while she bleeds to death in the tub, leaving the one supportive sister holding the sobbing baby.

Jump forward to the present and you’d think that people couldn’t get any worse, but they really do. The current president of the sorority is the unbelievably hateful Chanel and her brain-dead minions, dubbed Chanel #1, #2 and #5. The new dean (Jamie Lee Curtis) is trying to shut the sorority down because of their hatefulness and also the fact the previous president met a very grizzly fate. The dean is foiled in her attempts by a ditzy lawyer sent from the national sorority council (or whatever) and instead punishes them by forcing them to accept all pledges, not just the ones that conform to their mean criteria. So in stagger a bunch of miss-fits who would have been improbable even for the Glee club. The only ‘normal’ person in the whole thing is Grace, who’s obsessed with joining the sorority that her dead mother had been a member of.

Things rapidly turn sour with bodies dropping at a remarkable and icky rate. Everyone has secrets, everyone’s lying and fundamentally everyone is utterly awful. Even the ones who I guess we’re supposed to feel some connection with are actually horrific, never acting anything like ‘real’ human beings would. These people aren’t unpleasant like the Sue Sylvester or the Cheerleaders in Glee, they are hateful in a way that had me actually reaching for the remote control so I wouldn’t have to listen to their awfulness any longer. I stuck it out for journalistic integrity (ha!) but between the mediocre acting, terrible script and horrendous character profiles, it was really very hard work.

I can see where Ryan Murphy was aiming with this, but where Glee hit the sweet spot of cheese combined with bite (at least in the early seasons) he’s missed it here, and with this kind of target a miss is as good as a mile. Jamie Lee Curtis is a great example, she’s perfect casting given her horror movie cult status, and they’re obviously trying to re-create the Jane Lynch magic from Glee, but she’s not outrageous enough to follow in those tracksuits. Nor is she real enough though to give a grounding point for the show. And she’s also neither evil or funny enough for that matter.

I was rather looking forward to this, I was hoping for Scream, or Cabin in the Woods, or even American Horror Story: The Teenage Years, and instead I got something that was, just like Curtis’ character – not outrageous enough, not real enough, not evil enough and not funny enough.

The Upfronts 2015: Fox

Fox network logoAm I growing cynical or are upfronts rolling round faster and with less actually interesting television happening in between? Oh well, here we are again!
First up are Fox. They only had two new shows out of seven that were renewed one comedy and one actually pretty critically acclaimed drama. With another three shows cancelled that means almost a full half of their shows have gone and frankly the remaining ones aren’t really setting the world alight. With American Idol going into its final season as well, it doesn’t look good over at Fox.

Finished or Cancelled
gleeI used to absolutely adore Glee, it was stupid but it made me happy. Gradually the happiness just got drowned out by the stupid and I gave up in the middle of season 4. The show committed my cardinal sin, it sacrificed coherent characters to drive short term plots. I also just never fell in love with the new characters as much as the original cast. Ratings dwindled, critical response plummeted and it was given a sixth and final season to wind things up.

The FollowingI was watching The Following, but frankly I lost enthusiasm somewhere in the middle of season 2 and it’s been on a death spiral for me for a while. I’ve watched the first few episodes of season 3 and it just wasn’t doing anything for me. It was still brutal but the relentlessness of that just disconnected me from any emotional level and hence there didn’t really seem much of a reason to watch.
New series Gracepoint made it through the whole season, but the American remake of Broadchurch seemed pretty pointless from the get go, particularly with David Tennant re-doing his performance.
Also cancelled: Utopia, Backstrom, Mulaney, Weird Loners, Red Band Society (all new shows).

Returning Series
BonesI apparently don’t watch any of the series on Fox! I used to watch Bones which will return for season 11, I gave up on it at a couple of years ago because I was frustrated with Brennan’s groundhog day character and just bored by the plots. I enjoyed the episodes of Sleepy Hollow that I saw, but didn’t really get into it enough to stick with it but it’s renewed for a 3rd season.
I have Empire sat on my Sky box to try, so that might make the cut. I tried Gotham but found it cliché, forced and disappointing.
Also returning: Comedies Brooklyn Nine-Nine (3), The New Girl (4); new series The Last Man on Earth (2) and animations The Simpsons (renewed for seasons 27 AND 28), Family Guy (13) and Bob’s Burgers (7)
Wayward Pines (the M Night Shyamalan series) has only just stated so no word on whether it will be renewed.
Breaking news – just had to move The Mindy Project out of the cancelled list as it’s been renewed at Hulu.

New this Autumn

Minority Report:Based on the film, or at least on the idea of pre-crime and whizzy computer interfaces. I rather liked the trailer, with younger characters and less creepy military overtones it had a more energetic feel to it.


A restaurant owner who is desperate to deny he’s aging finds that not only does he have a son he never knew about, but there’s a granddaughter as well. There were a couple of laughs in the trailer (largely thanks to the supporting cast), but it all looks pretty predictable.

The Grinder: After 8 years playing a lawyer on television a popular actor decides to ‘go straight’ and join the family law firm. His brother is less than thrilled. Nice idea, but even Rob Lowe and Fred Savage couldn’t make the characters anything other than irritating.

Rosewood: A “private medical examiner” (private? What?) who runs and looks good with his shirt off works with a new, young, female detective who is trying to prove herself. He’s cocky, but has a medical condition that could kill him at any time; she kicks ass and is resistant to his charms… sort of. Yeesh. It’s like someone set out to write a parody and accidentally took themselves seriously.

Scream Queens: An exclusive sorority is forced to open its doors to all comers, then people start dying. It’s billed as a horror/comedy and I think it’s probably the second half of that combo which stopped it from being just another season of American Horror Story as it’s done by the same team. I loved Scream so this might be a lot of fun, or it might show that it’s not an idea that’s sustainable over multiple hours.

Coming January

Lucifer: The devil has quit and moved to Los Angeles where he uses his powers of manipulation to charm women and have a good time. Then he seems to decide he wants to fight crime. And some of his old colleagues come looking for him. The character’s charm carries through to the trailer and I rather enjoyed it, although suspect the novelty might ware off very quickly leaving you with something that feels a lot like several failed series before it. It’s based on Neil Gaiman’s work though, so it might have enough to keep it going.

The Guide to Surviving Life: Group of guys, share a flat, screw up in various ways. Explain what they’ve learnt to the audience. Blah blah blah.

The Frankenstein Code: Rogue scientists take a 75 year old murdered guy and turn him into a much younger, stronger, faster, smarter guy who’s pretty peeved about being murdered and not that thrilled about being brought back it seems. Frankly the trailer looked rubbish.

The X-Files: Thirteen years later, Mulder and Scully are back for 6 episodes. I have no earthly idea how the series ended as I only made it through the first few seasons getting fed up of the ever more complicated conspiracies. Hopefully it won’t require too much background, and I’ll certainly give it a try for nostalgia’s sake.

Bordertown: Animation set in a town on the US/Mexico border taking a “satirical look at cultural shifts taking place in America”. This could go badly wrong.