The Upfronts – Fox

Fox network logoUpfront week has rolled around surprisingly quickly this year. Over the span of just four days the five major US network channels will introduce their schedules for the 2013-14 season, delivering last rights to those that have failed to bring in the ratings, offering another year to the select few and introducing those that are lucky enough to win a coveted new slot.

First up, Fox. Much of their schedule is dominated by reality shows (American Idol and X-Factor mostly) which I don’t even mention, so they have less stuff than CBS, NBC and ABC.

What’s out
fringeJust four comedy/drama cancellations from Fox this year, which is joint lowest with CW. Fringe held out longer than anyone expected and came to a very well managed end, so I can’t say I’m that sad to see it go, particularly as the last season was not its strongest. Keifer Sutherland’s Touch made it to a second season, but never seemed to get much attention either from the ratings or critics. The Mob Doctor and Ben and Kate were freshman series that never really got off the ground, and while the latter received some critical praise, it doesn’t look like anyone will really miss either of them.

What’s returning
bonesMost of Fox’s renewals are comedies (New Girl, The Mindy Project, Raising Hope and Glee) or animations (The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy and American Dad). The only drama renewals are Bones and new show The Following (all be it mid-season). It would seem in a slightly desperate attempt to add some established drama to its schedules they’ve taken the rather bizarre route in renewing 24 for some sort of special run. I never liked the original, so am not particularly fussed, but it certainly drew the attention of the media.

What’s new
Almost Human – Set in 2048, police officers are partnered with ‘synthetics’. Detective Kennex (Karl Urban, Star Trek) is about as unstable a human as you get and Dorian (Michael Ealy, Sleeper Cell) is about as unstable an android as you get. The sci-fi elements look interesting and impressive and the unlikely buddy cop motif is generally a pretty reliable way to drive story. The cast is full of familiar names (Lili Taylor of Six Feet Under, Mackenzie Crook of Pirates of the Caribbean, Minka Kelly of Friday Night Lights and Michael Irby of The Unit and has JJ. Abrams (Star Trek, Fringe, Lost) as creator and Exec Producer, so expectations are high, but the trailer left me intrigued.

Sleepy Hollow – Ichabod Crane comes back from a couple of hundred years ago, comes back from the dead to continue his search for the headless horseman. Part supernatural DaVinci Code thriller and part buddy cop action comedy this could be both fun and interesting, although it’s best to ignore the ridiculous voice over on the trailer.

Dads – I’m not sure I’ve ever really found anything by Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, Ted) funny, and this trailer is no different. Seth Green (Oz from Buffy, And other stuff) and Giovanni Ribisi (Phoebe’s brother from Friends, and other stuff) are best friends both of who’s fathers decide to come live with them. Chaos ensues. It wasn’t intolerable, I just didn’t find it funny enough.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – This however was intolerable. A comedy about a dysfunctional New York detective squad. Andre Braugher used to be in Homicide: Life on the Street and now he’s in this?!

Enlisted – Geoff Stults (The Finder), returns home from war and is put in charge of turning a bunch of incompetent soldiers, including his two brothers, into something less embarrassing. I hated this from the second the music started.

Us & Them – Gavin and Stacey (yes, like the UK series) seem a nice enough couple who come from New York and Pennsylvania respectively, it’s just that they’re surrounded by well meaning but slightly horrific friends and family. Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls!) and Jason Ritter (Parenthood) are both charismatic and sort of lovely in the trailer, but the others may be unbearable. I didn’t hate it though.

Surviving Jack – based on Justin Halpern’s book I Suck at Girls, a comedy set in 90s California about a no-nonsense semi-absent father (Christopher Meloni, Law and Order: SVU) who’s suddenly forced to be the full time parent to a pair of teenagers. I chuckled a couple of times at the trailer, but also rolled my eyes a couple of times, so it averages out to a ‘meh’. Starts midseason.

Rake – a fairly standard set up, the central character is a complete disaster in his personal life but a pretty good lawyer. It’s the kind of show that lives and dies with its star, and in Greg Kinnear they have someone who is instantly likeable and left me feeling optimistic for the show. Starts midseason.

Gang Related – Ryan Lopez (Ramon Rodriguez, The Wire) is on the LA Gang Task Force but also has ties to a local gang and is torn back and forth between the two. The trailer looks very impressive, but I can’t help feeling that I’ve seen this film several times before and at best have come away impressed, but not that interested.

Wayward Pines – Wayward Pines is an idyllically perfect American town, but you can never leave. Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) is a Secret Service Agent sent to the town to investigate the disappearance of two of his colleagues. But he soon finds himself trapped as well. The idea sounds intriguing, but with the Press Release laying the similarity to Twin Peaks on a little too much, and the dubious talents of M. Night Shyamalan attached, there’s the potential for this to go very wrong. Starts midseason, no trailer yet.

Murder Police – animated comedy about a group of inept, corrupt and lazy police officers. Sounds like the animated equivalent of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and I’m even less enthusiastic about this than I am about that. Midseason

Links
Trailers collated by The TV Addict and TV Line and schedule summaries from The Futon Critic.

Touch: Pilot Review

Jake Baum doesn’t speak, hates to be touched, obsesses over numbers and patterns and doesn’t communicate at all. His dad is struggling to take care of him. But then Jake predicts some winning lottery numbers and from there all sorts of weird stuff follows.

It’s all a bit much to be honest. The direction and writing aren’t doing it any favours, it has that of over the top tone to the whole thing. It’s like reading something where every other sentence has been highlighted because it’s REALLY IMPORTANT. There’s endless waffle about destiny and patterns, and making connections and it just made me feel rather tired. It’s structured like a procedural, but each step is built around leaps of faith rather than science or detection.

Alongside the main father-son plot is a weird sub-plot type thing following a lost mobile phone as it gets ‘skipped’ around the world, hijacked by people trying to create viral videos and eventually reaching a pretty dramatic ending. There was a brief connection to the main characters at the start, but it never came back full circle again, so I’m not sure whether that is just a trick they’ll use in the pilot, or if it’s going to be a recurring theme. But again each connection just felt very forced and artificial. Also maybe I’m missing the magic, but my key thoughts during the whole plot were – “How are they charging the battery?” and “Wow – those roaming charges are going to horrific!”

I can’t say that it was a complete failure, Kiefer Sutherland is charming enough, going out of his way to not be Jack Bauer by being afraid of heights, getting himself beaten up and shutting his finger in a door all within the first 10 minutes. He has to carry the show pretty much by himself, emoting for both him and his son and he chews his way through the terrible dialogue quite admirably. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the way things came together at the end didn’t give me a satisfying sense of completion, but overall it all just felt very manufactured and artificial. Maybe later episodes will settle down a bit but fundamentally ‘incredible connections’ aren’t so incredible when you can’t forget you’re watching a television show.

Touch starts on Sky 1 “in March”.

Other reviews
CliqueClack – And I’ll be sappy for a moment and admit that as TV shows can sometimes get dark, violent, depressing, or all of the above, it’s neat to have a show that makes me think about the positive, and come away with a hopeful feeling inside.

TV Fanatic – I’m not sure where this series will lead. Jake’s special sight could take us to the future, the past or simply another view of our connection to one another – but I’m intrigued by the spirituality as much as the science and I look forward to watching episode two.