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2011 Upfronts - Foxy, You Make Me Wanna Get Up And Scream

By Seth Freilich | Industry | May 17, 2011 |

By Seth Freilich | Industry | May 17, 2011 |

The theme of the Upfronts this year is that we already know most of the news before the networks take the stage. Fox was a particularly conspicuous culprit on this front, as there were absolutely no shows on the bubble going into the schedule announcements. Shows like “Breaking In” and “The Chicago Code” had (sadly) already been canceled, while the inexplicable ongoing renewal of all things Seth MacFarlane continued. He’ll be running Fox in three years, and running for President in in 2020, mark my words.

Now, before we get into the new Fox schedule and start ripping Fox apart (presumably - I’m writing this before looking at their press release or any clips), I want to step back a moment. We all love ripping Fox to shreds for the travesty of justice that was its treatment of “Firefly.” It’s prematurely yanked quite a few shows (“Drive” and “Lone Star” immediately come to mind) and ultimately treated many shows like shit. And it deserves to get called out of class for all of these things. But — and this is not a new sentiment, nor am I the first to say it — we have to give Fox a little bit of credit for putting some of this stuff on the air in the first place. “Firefly” was not well treated and canceled far too prematurely, but I don’t think any other network ever would’ve aired it. Same is probably true for “The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “Dollhouse,” “Fringe” and many other shows. Love Fox or hate it, it’s at least willing to take a chance, particularly with genre-type shows.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying we should be forgiving for the missteps Fox makes, and lord knows there will always be plenty to bitch about. But we should keep a little perspective that, for all it does wrong, at least it’s trying and, I’d argue, it tries a helluva lot harder, on average, than the other broadcast networks. Even taking into account that it’s about to dump “The X Factor” on us (and, sadly, this X Factor doesn’t have Warren Worthington III spitting blades out of his metal wings).

Onward to the schedule…

Mondays. In the fall, it’ll be the new “Terra Nova” at 8, followed by “House” at 9. In the spring, “House” is slated to move back to 8, to help launch “Alcatraz” at 9.

“Terra Nova” is the much-delayed show from Spielberg and the oft-reviled Brannon Braga about folks traveling back to dinosaur times to try to resettle humanity and make for a better life. As shite as things might be in 2149, can anyone really think going to the Jurassic era is really a good idea? It stars a bunch of people including the old dude from Avatar and Jason O’Mara (who I quite liked on the decent-until-it-missed-the-landing “Life On Mars” remake). Let’s take a look see:

Doesn’t look terrible. Doesn’t look great either but, if done right, could be halfway decent popcorn entertainment. That said, I suspect the show will premiere to strong ratings, which will quickly fade and the cost of the series means we won’t get more than the original 13 episodes (but given the cost, Fox will air them all unless the show tanks beyond belief). But I’ll give it a shot.

As for “Alcatraz,” that’s the show from J.J. Abrams and Elizabeth Sarnoff (“Lost” and “Deadwood”) about the prison island where, 30 years after vanishing, a bunch of guards and prisoners suddenly show up. This line from the press release doesn’t give me much hope: “[Detective] Madsen will be forced to keep her supportive San Francisco cop fiancé … at arm’s length from the highly classified assignment as she sees everything she thought she knew about her family’s past shattered, all while fighting to keep the country safe from history’s most dangerous criminals.”

This preview clip, however, admittedly intrigues me:

I’m a sucker. I know the show has little chance of being allowed to run its course and, even if allowed to run its course, little chance of making satisfying sense of it all. But I’m going to try it anyway. I mean, come on, creepy Sam Neill!

Tuesdays. “Glee” leads off the night, followed by the new “New Girl” and the returning “Raising Hope.” This is slated to stay roughly be the same for the whole season, although “Glee” is going to take a hiatus in March, at which time the lineup will be “Raising Hope,” “I Hate My Teenage Daughter” (which is otherwise going to be airing on Wednesday nights), “New Girl” and a yet-to-be-decided comedy in development (contenders are a Mike O’Malley/Rachel Harris comedy currently called “Family Album” and the one I’m rooting for, a Rob Corddry comedy from Rob Thomas (!) currently called “Little in Common”).

“New Girl” may wind up with a new title, and Fox should probably just call it “The Zooey Deschanel Show,” because that’s probably how we’re all going to refer to it. Zooey plays Jess, “an offbeat and adorable girl” — I know, Zooey, playing offbeat and adorable, shocking! — who moves in with a bunch of single dudes after a bad breakup with her man.

I know Zooey has some detractors, but she really is so quirkalicious. The premise of the show isn’t working for me much and, yet, I’m slightly intrigued by this clip and will almost certainly give the show a chance. (Note that Damon Wayans Jr. is gonna have to be recast as “Happy Endings” has been picked up by ABC).

Wednesdays. And here it is, “The X Factor,” with an hour-and-a-half performance show, leading into the new comedy “I Hate My Teenage Daughter.” In the spring, it’s basically the same thing, with an hour-and-a-half of “American Idol” taking over for “The X Factor,” followed again by “Daughter.”

Wow do I not give a shit about Wednesday nights here. I quit “American Idol’ a while back and have never looked back. Now I know better, and I’m not going to start chasing the dragon again with “The X Factor” — Simon Cowell and his new show can lick it. And as for “I Hate My Teenage Daughter,” well, see for yourself:

Jaime Pressly played redneck comedy so fantastically in “My Name is Earl,” but outside of that setting, she seems awfully limited. And while the title is a working title, meaning it may change, I’m guessing the rest of the “comedy” will stay the same. The moms spoiled their daughters, and now they hate the rich-bitches they’ve become. Parental loathing, oh how the hilarity flows … I must admit I did laugh once watching that clip, but I hated myself for it.

Thursdays. At 8, it’s the results show for “The X Factor” (and then for “American Idol” in the spring) and, yes, it’s an hour. But don’t worry, I have it on good authority that there will be no filler. In the fall and spring, it’ll be “Bones” at 9, but sometime over the winter, it’ll be “The Finder,” which is the “Bones” quasi-spinoff. It’s a procedural about a former army cop who helps folks find things. I don’t watch “Bones,” so I can’t speak to how the backdoor pilot episode was — commenters, any good? Judging from this clip, I’m guessing not so much:

Of all the Fox clips, this is the only one I really had to struggle to make it through, and that’s despite loathing one of the Sunday clips you’re going to get when you scroll down a little further.

Fridays. Same schedule, in theory, for the fall and spring — “Kitchen Nightmares” followed by “Fringe.” Nothing new to see her, move along.

Saturdays. Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do. And probably the biggest news to come out of the Fox announcements is that, while there will be still be lots of “Cops” on Saturday nights, there won’t be much “America’s Most Wanted.” The show has been demoted from a full season run to four two-hour specials. Some people seem shocked by this decision, but my only shock is that it was still even on the air with full seasons before this. Seriously, I had no flipping idea whatsoever.

Sundays. Fucking animiation domination is relentless. Starting at 7:30, it’s “The Cleveland Show,” “The Simpsons,” the new “Allen Gregory,” “Family Guy” and mother fucking fuck you “American Dad.” In the spring, “Napoleon Dynamite” takes over for “Allen Gregory” and “Bob’s Burger” takes over for mother fucking fuck you “American Dad.”

So “Allen Gregory” is the tale of a precocious 7-year-old named Allen Gregory de Longpre, voiced by Jonah Hill, who thinks he’s worldly and sophisticated, etc. But now he’s going from homeschooling to real schooling and well, here you go:

Despite “In the Air Tonight,” which is never a bad thing … meh.

As for “Napoleon Dynamite,” yes, it’s a cartoon based on the film:

Fuck this show in its pretty-good-with-a-bow-staff ear.

Midseason Filler. Fox only has one midseason show waiting in the wings (well, only one that it’s definitely committed itself to at this point), but it’s a doozy. “Touch” comes from the guy behind “Heroes” and “Crossing Jordan,” stars Kiefer Sutherland, and is touted as a “preternatural drama in which science and spirituality intersect with the hopeful premise that we are all interconnected, tied in invisible ways to those whose lives we are destined to alter and impact.” Holy Christ is that pretentious. I generally don’t like to just cut and paste the press release summaries for you, but I can’t help it in this case. Check this mess out:

Through masterful storytelling, the series follows a group of seemingly unrelated characters - beginning with a former firefighter tormented by his inability to save a dying woman, an Iraqi teenager who will go to great risks to help his family, a gifted singer whose actions at a karaoke bar save lives thousands of miles away and a British businessman desperately trying to retrieve a key piece of information from his lost mobile phone - who affect each other in ways seen and unseen. At the center is MARTIN BOHM (Kiefer Sutherland, “24”), a widower and single father, haunted by an inability to connect to his mute, severely autistic 10-year-old son, JAKE. Caring, intelligent and thoughtful, Martin has tried everything to reach his son who shows little emotion and never allows himself to be touched by anyone, including Martin. Jake busies himself with cast-off cell phones, disassembling them and manipulating the parts, allowing him to see the world in his own special way. After multiple failed attempts at keeping Jake in school, Martin is visited by social worker CLEA HOPKINS, who insists on doing an evaluation of the Bohms’ living situation. Although new at her job, Clea sees a man whose life has become dominated by a child he can no longer control. She believes his attempts to communicate with Jake are just wish fulfillment, and determines that it’s time for the state to intervene. But everything changes when Martin discovers that Jake possesses a gift of staggering genius - the ability to see things that no one else can, the patterns that connect everything. Jake is indeed communicating after all. But it’s not with words, it’s with numbers. And now he needs Martin to decipher their meaning and connect these numbers to the cast of seemingly unrelated characters whose lives they affect. Along the way, Martin will be guided by BORIS PODOLSKY, a discredited aging professor who offers Martin a compelling but unorthodox theory about Jake and his rare ability. Whether it be chance, coincidence, timing, synergy or fate, there are events that touch us all, as part of an interconnected, dazzlingly precise universe.

Remember what I said about maybe giving Fox a little respect for taking chances with shows other networks would never bother with? Yeah, well some shows shouldn’t be bothered with, period. I don’t have the ability to see number patterns that others can’t, and yet I see a pattern of numbers now. 1, 3, 24. The rating this show will have, the number of episodes that will make it to air, and the movie Kiefer will force to come to fruition when Fox dumps this show.

And that’s the Fox schedule. Whadda ya say?

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.