The Return of TV, Fall 2012 Network Previews: ABC
Welcome to the the Return of TV, 2012 Fall Network Previews. This time we look at the new and returning shows on ABC.
What It’s About: A family moves into a gated New Jersey community and discovers that all of their neighbors (who are named after famous athletes) are actually aliens from outer space who have been stranded on Earth for ten years awaiting instructions from home. At first the protagonist family wants to bail, but they eventually decided that the house is too nice, and they set about integrating in with the aliens.
What It Could Be: The production team comes from a comedy background (Workaholics, Modern Family) so if approached right this show could flesh out the aliens-among-us world hinted at in the Men in Black movies. There’s also a lot of opportunity to be smart funny with this premise, from the aliens discomfort with the human world standing in for immigration issues while the humans trying to fit in with the aliens could touch on integration topics.
What It Will Be: ABC’s recent record doesn’t make me worried that this will be turned into something loud and dumb, but neither do I think it will be the sort of sit-com Star Trek I outlined above. I imagine this show will end up looking like Suburgatory, with aliens standing in for Suburb People.
What It’s About: Nashville is a country music soap opera. The mom from Friday Night Lights is the fading star and the little chick from Heroes is the up and comer with a dark secret If you’re still interested after that there are probably episodes of New Dallas you should be watching anyway.
What It Could Be: A thoughtful meditation on age and the collision of creativity and commerce.
What It Will Be: A county music soap opera.
What Its About: One of the higher concept ideas this fall Last Resort starts with a Crimson Tide conundrum of whether to fire nuclear missiles from a submarine with only partial orders. After refusing to do so the sub is fired upon and forced to flee to a tropical island where the crew hides out while they try to clear their name.
What It Could Be: In a perfect world Last Resort would be Mutiny on the Bounty meets The Fugative. It would be a ripping thriller that meditated on themes of identity and duty and patriotism and the law. The ideal Last Resort would ask hard questions about the things we ask our service men to do and about the line between duty and humanity.
What It Will Be: Lost meets Prison Break. For every episode full of hot people having thrilling adventures in tropical locations there will be one full of soapy love triangles, implausible plot developments, and shifting character motivations. You will want to like it, heck you might even like it, but you will be unable to defend its bouts of utter silliness.
666 Park Avenue
What It’s About: A bunch of stock character types live in a haunted hotel/boarding house. The perpetually awesome Terry O’Quinn may or may not be the devil or the anti-christ.
What It Could Be: A bat shit crazy romp full of spookiness and scenery chewing. O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams could be delightfully oily antagonists to the Midwestern main characters, who are also on Broadway and “the Mayor’s staff.” ABC decription was a little confused.
What It Will Be: My guess is this looks like a toned down version of what I described above. The question will be whether it’s tuned down so much that it becomes dull or if it adopts a tone of high camp. Either way I suspect it will have a hard time finding an audinece because who wants to tell people they’re a fan of show with a title as cheesy as 666 Park Avenue?
Rather than digging in to every show coming back to ABC this fall, we’ll just look at a couple I’m interested in. After all, what can I say about Dancing with the Stars or Wipeout that hasn’t already been said?
Where It’s at: Once a whip crack fast show that piled physical, verbal, and relationship humor atop one another, often leading to comic crescendos, Modern Family was looking a little flabby and lazy last season. Dwarf mistaken identity and Cam roaming the streets shouting “Stella!” just don’t hold a candle to the comedic brilliance of Fizbo the Clown.
Should you watch? I think it’s worth it to keep watching Modern Family. While it is true that it’s not quite the show it used to be, it still manages to turn out reliably funny episodes that still occasionally reach its initial hilarity. And that’s the thing about Modern Family, it has an extremely talented cast, if the writing comes up to the cast’s talent there’s no reason this show couldn’t be great again.
Where It’s At: Entering its third season Happy Endings is in a precarious place at ABC. Despite being one the fastest, most laugh out loud shows on tv, Happy Endings hasn’t had spectacular ratings and wasn’t a guaranteed renewal for this season. Now it’s in the dreaded Well Liked but Not Well Watched category.
Should you watch? Emphatically yes. This show makes me laugh harder than anything on TV with the exception of Archer. In a lot of ways this show accoplishes what Modern Family used to accomplish, it has rapid fire verbal jokes, physical comedy, and humor that stems from the characters themselves and their relationships.