Monday, October 08, 2018

The new TV season so far

Now that the broadcast networks have premiered their glittering Fall schedules it’s becoming more and more evident that they’re old horses taking the long walk to the glue factory.

Not since THIS IS US, which is already a few years ago, has there been a legitimate breakout “hit.” ROSEANNE was a sensation for the first few weeks but those numbers were going steadily down after the initial sampling.

The reboots aren’t really working. MAGNUM P.I. has been disappointing and no one came to see MURPHY BROWN.

All of the new sitcoms look like tired versions of all the old sitcoms, just more diverse. Dramas are faring a little better.

And yet, if you have a show in development or on the air at one of these networks it’s as if they ruled the world. The notes and interference at every level continues to be excessive. And it really begs the question: why GO to the networks with your project? At one time the answer was millions more people would see it. But now that’s not true. And if the Netlix of the world offer more creative freedom, why run to NBC?

Oh, and another thing – the networks are completely in flux. CBS is in turmoil now that Les Moonves is gone, the head of NBC just quit, the Fox network may not exist once 20th goes over to Disney, and ABC will likely change once they have 20th’s inventory.

The point is you’d think the networks would try to make themselves MORE inviting to A-list talent instead of pushing them away. It’s like a restaurant that’s struggling decides to make the service worse.

It’s not a coincidence that the most interesting shows, the most talked about shows, the most awarded shows are not on network television. And every year network numbers continue to drop even more. Their last note might be “lock the door on your way out.”


Janet Ybarra said...

Just based on their various respective ads, none of the new network comedies appear to be the least bit funny.

I tried to watch the new medical series NEW AMSTERDAM. The acting was good enough, but the pilot seemed to take soap opera to an absurd level.

In one hour, the lead--the new boss doctor--comes close to losing his estranged wife's unborn child AND finds out he has cancer. (Cue the scary music.)

I mean, I almost wanted to laugh in how melodramatic it all was... especially since we know the new boss dude will turn out fine since the series would be stupid to kill off the focal character of the show.

Chris said...

Murphy Brown sucks. Why can't old stars say no to revival?

McAlvie said...

I'm actually okay with the lack of "break out" hits. I just want to dependable viewing that isn't painfully trendy or edgy or whatever the latest thing is. In that respect, I'm cautiously optimistic about the new season.

The new Magnum, I will agree with you about. They were very careful in casting the supporting characters, but Magnum himself is just another pretty face. It reminds me very much of MacGyver, where I liked the supporting cast and wished the titular character would just go away. The new Magnum may get better, but as is there isn't any there, there.

Murphy Brown - I'm probably in the minority in liking it. I do think it needs ramped up a bit, as Murphy seems to have lost her edge. I hope Candace Bergen can find it again. But where in the past the show spearheaded the outrage, it's come in rather late now. It's going to have to work at being more current. And there's no lack of material. My problem is not with them hitting Trump right out of the gate - it would have been ingenuous if they hadn't, like ignoring the elephant in the room. Trump asks for it, so he should get it. And I did like that they took on Sarah the huckster Sanders, who ought to be sued by the owners of YouTube star Grumpy Cat.

If the can find the edge again, and give the rest of the cast a lot more to do, I think it stands a chance.

Janet Ybarra said...

You know, if networks want to "reboot" or remake series, instead of offering warmed over versions of hits that probably won't compare well to the originals, why not bring back series that were cancelled quickly and didn't stick the first time around?

It sounds ridiculous, but it's not. We all know--Ken in particular--that series have been yanked for many reasons other than quality.

Bring back quality series that didn't quite make it the first time but could be reintroduced today.

Exactly like BIG WAVE DAVE'S.

Another one that comes to mind which is not in the Levine/Isaacs stable would be SALVAGE ONE.

It was a brief series from the late '70s starring Andy Griffith as a junk dealer who builds a rocket to go to the Moon to collect all the junk left there.

For some reason that show from my childhood stuck with me other than maybe six other people left on Earth today, no one remembers it.

Another series I actually would like seeing remade if done well would be ADAM 12. (Yes I know there was already one attempted remake in the '90s, but I want a GOOD remake.

Why do I want that remade?

Because the original showed officers who were fair-minded, dedicated, public service oriented cops.

It's been said that series inspired a generation of people becoming good cops because they had Reed and Malloy as role models.

Given all the controversy around police and policing the last number of years, I think we would be well served by having those role models again.

DARON72 said...

The new sitcoms are especially terrible. "The Neighborhood" is a poor update on "The Jeffersons" and I can't even figure out why I'm even supposed to care about "Happy Together" other than the fact that British pop star Harry Styles is one of about sixty executive producers.
The one show that looks promising is "Rel". It comes from the same team that did the excellent "Carmichael Show" and it's fun watching Lil Rel Howery pop up as an extra character in every episode. Last night's show was a little too mean spirited for some reason but the first two offerings were very well written.
The big disappointment for me is the return of "Murphy Brown". Candice Bergen seems to be on autopilot, Frank and Corky have nothing to do but react to everything Murphy does and the Trump jokes get old really quick. Plots about windbag pundits and having the hosts be more 'emotive' while talking about subjects like natural disasters or refugee stories are begging to be written. Poor Scott Pelley got canned from the CBS Evening news because he didn't add his own two cents worth after every story and now Jeff Glor has to say something supposedly witty or 'caring' after each segment. Why do we need someone's forced editorial comments? As the wise Joe Friday would say: 'Just the facts ma'am.'

Eric J said...

"And it really begs the question: why GO to the networks with your project? ... And if the Netflix of the world offer more creative freedom, why run to NBC?"

That's exactly the question VIEWERS ask themselves, and for millions of us, we've made the decision to stop. I made it 15 years ago. I miss a very few really good shows, but there are so many interesting alternatives, it's been worth it. I don't miss it at all.

If the original MASH was cut to the current lengths, and loaded with distracting, irritating and fatiguing chyrons and pop-ups along the bottom, it never would have been something I watch 35 years after the last episode.

Covarr said...

This show itself hasn't launched yet, but the trailer for THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT gives the impression that it has little ambition beyond "THE GOLDBERGS except in the '70s, and with worse jokes."

There was a "phony news" joke in there that really struck me as particularly lazy. Not only did it fail to go any deeper than that (in the trailer, at least; the actual episode may do better but I certainly don't expect it), but that's a joke that's been made so many times already and in far more appropriate contexts, where such timely jokes are expected. In a family sitcom set in the '70s, it just feels intensely out of place.

Heck, even in something like MURPHY BROWN or SNL, a "fake news" joke is already more than a year past its prime. Here? It's not just too late for this joke. It wouldn't have worked when it was fresh.

Cowboy Surfer said...

Giving A MILLION LITTLE THINGS a shot. Bailed on MANIFEST 20 minutes in.

BETTER CALL SAUL stays on fire.

Janet Ybarra said...

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I'm not that fond of the series on Netflix or cable either.

Maybe it's because their target audience is Millennials. I don't really understand Millennials, speaking as one of Generation X.

Millennials just seem to be somehow different than those who came before. Maybe it's they are the first Internet/cell phone generation.

I just can't imagine Millennials producing a great series like MASH or MAUDE or BARNEY MILLER.

Or is it just me?

Laura said...

Ken, can you please give your opinion on what Steven Spielberg said regarding Netflix movies, that they don't deserve Oscars.


Link :

Michael said...

I know the streaming services throw lots of money at established producers and writers to get them to jump to them from the networks, but how does the pay compare for producers and writers without strong track records? For example, I saw today that Facebook Live ordered a series with Jessica Biel as Executive Producer and star - do they really think she is a big enough star to draw viewers to their service and generate enough advertising revenue to pay for the show?

VP81955 said...

I'm not fully enamored with "Murphy Brown" 2.0 -- having Hillary Clinton on the opening ep showed it was a tool for the neoliberal power structure, not a way to lure millennials, and Diane English should've known better -- but I still have hope for the series, especially since it should develop some synergy with the always-solid "Mom."

Glad to see "Last Man Standing" back and doing well. It's a well-made domestic sitcom with Ken's beloved Nancy Travis, and while I have little in common politically with Tim Allen, his character's political comments have an over-the-top quality to them. People who think "LMS" is a Trumpfest merely because it's now on Fox likely have never have watched the show.

To me, the big surprise this season is the new series that follows "LMS," "The Cool Kids." It's borrowed the formula used by "The Golden Girls" and "Hot In Cleveland" -- get a core of veteran comic actors (e.g., Martin Mull, Vicki Lawrence, David Alan Grier), then give them reasonably funny scripts to let them do their thing. Ratings have made this a surprise hit so far, a rarity for the Friday network TV ghetto.

VP81955 said...

Is "Rel" your typical broadly funny black sitcom? Many of them simply aren't humorous to non-black audiences.

VP81955 said...

Is "New Amsterdam" a poor man's clone of "The Good Doctor"?

Tom said...

As a non-creative viewer, the difference is especially pronounced. Network TV used to give the impression of rolling perfectly formed from a slick production machine; now it feels like reheated leftovers. There's no obvious creative ambition on display.

Wm. Adams said...

The Cool Kids, despite a talented cast, should be the first thing canceled.
I Feel Bad should feel bad. Zero laughs.
Murphy Brown is simply not funny,despite what the overactive laugh track tries to convince me.
My belief is that Magnum will be shagging Mr. Higgins by the end of the season. Too bad the lack of humor and whimsy from the original will have lost me already.
FBI is just OK.
Manifest won't be able to maintain the mystery beyond a season.

Buttermilk Sky said...

The only curiosity I have about the fall season is where Hillary Clinton will turn up next. She was Murphy Brown's latest secretary (a running gag that should probably be retired and on Social Security by now), and she played herself on MADAM SECRETARY (along with Madeline Albright and Colin Powell -- I guess John Kerry was busy promoting his book). Maybe a super villain on THE BLACKLIST? A new AA member on MOM talking about her struggles with Chardonnay? Whatever, she looks like she's having fun.

Before all the re-boots, the networks were adapting British comedies. Maybe time to go back to that.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I've said this before, but I'll say it again. Maybe its time to turn off the T.V. and read a book instead.

Terrence Moss said...

what sucks about it?

Terrence Moss said...

the stuff with her and Avery is great. if they shift some focus there and away from the old gang, it will work better because it will be mining new material.

Terrence Moss said...

i don't see streaming to be any better. as long as money is involved, the same rules will ultimately apply.

Terrence Moss said...

Murphy will find its way.

And The Neighborhood has promise if the writing focuses on the situation itself as opposed to just white people this and black people that.

thirteen said...

I dropped Murphy Brown not far into the second episode. The performances were coming off like a table read, and none of the jokes landed. I dropped A Million Little Things about five minutes in, when the guy from Psych didn't beat the doctor to death for talking to his wife (?) about balsamic vinegar instead of giving him the diagnosis immediately. I dropped Single Parents at the first commercial break because it just wasn't funny.

My DVR has an on-screen button for deleting a season pass: Cancel Series. Oh, if only.

And to Daron72, who said: "Jeff Glor has to say something supposedly witty or 'caring' after each segment. Why do we need someone's forced editorial comments? As the wise Joe Friday would say: 'Just the facts ma'am.'" You are exactly right about this. I am sick and tired of being told how to feel about a story. I am also tired of stories that start out with piecemeal reactions to what happened instead of first hearing about what actually happened.

Anonymous said...

Watched both Murphy Brown episodes. Seemed totally contrived. Candice didn't age well either.

MikeKPa. said...

I was rooting for MURPHY BROWN, but it really seems tired. Only been two episodes, however, so will give it a couple more to see if it gets its footing.

Rob Spahr said...

I don't remember hearing you talk about THE GOOD PLACE, but I have found it to be one of the most consistently creative and laugh-out-loud funny comedies in a long, long time. Ted Danson is remarkable and the whole cast is perfect. I've bought the DVD set of the first season to give to friends to introduce them to it because it seems to fly under the radar a bit, possibly because of the shorter seasons, which may be why they are able to maintain such high quality. And, again, funny!

Kevin from VA said...

This kind of ties in with Ken Levine's post yesterday but you know what really worries me about the networks going away as the streaming services take away more and more viewers? The ("fake" according to whiny D.J.T.) news divisions at ABC, CBS, and NBC.

As print journalism continues to wither away and the TV network's profit margins shrivel, how much longer does network broadcast jounalism have? In ten years will print and broadcast journalism all be gone? Lets hope not for as it now stands, close to half the country already gets its "alternative facts" from sources such as Fox, Breitbart, Drudge and of course the POTUS's tweeter feed.

For those of us who prefer getting our "fake news" from actual news sources the possible loss of the network news divisions will only lead to what? The Donald Network, TDN? Not jazzy enough. Trump News Now, TNN? Already taken. Trump Undoes Reality Division, TURD? Perfect!

VP81955 said...

The Max Greenfield "Hi, neighbor!" character looks annoying.

ReticentRabbit said...

A Friday question for you that's more connected to yesterday's post...

Is it harder to write comedy when you feel sad or angry? Or does the ridiculousness of some situations first make you angry and then give way to humor? Likewise, does sadness find solace in humor? Or is it easier to be funny when you already feel like laughing?

I realize this is a relatively individualized question--do you have a sense of whether your experience is true for you only, or if most comedy writers share in it?

Tom said...

Anyone who posts a comment about how someone "didn't age well" should be required to post a picture of him- or herself 25 years ago, and one from today, to show your qualifications to pass judgment.
We were all better looking 25 years ago.

Myles said...

For what it's worth Murphy Brown is shot in front of a live studio audience as are 99% of multicams today. No "laugh track" unless you mean the actual track of real audience laughter.

Myles said...

Agreed. If your bold enough to say it don't do it anonymously. Really... Just don't do it at all.

DARON72 said...

I agree with Mr. Moss about his "Murphy Brown" comment regarding the scenes between Murphy and Avery. They are the only ones that are working so far.

Douglas Trapasso said...

Haven't checked out the new incarnation of Murphy Brown yet, but when the reboot was announced, my initial thought was to promote her kicking and screaming into management, and have one of her new anchors be a kid fresh out of Journo-School who idolizes everything about the 90's era Murphy but maybe doesn't want to put in the legwork that character did.

scottmc said...

A Rant:I saw a record,for me, nine coming attractions when I saw the latest version of A Star is Born. By the end I'd almost forgotten what movie I was waiting to see. There were trailers for biopics, one for Queen and one for Elton John. The Fantastic Beast sequel and the new Clint Eastwood movie. Another version of Robin Hood and a movie about Dick Chaney. There was a trailer for a Kevin Hart/Bryan Cranston movie to be released in January, a bad sign. None of them looked all that impressive. When they ONLY showed four or five I could,on occasion, find one that might have potential. But 9! And A Star is Born came in at a Judd Apatow-like length of two hours plus.

SK said...

Ken -

Are traditional syndication deals something that production companies (or showrunners) aspire towards anymore? As shows reach 100 episodes, there is usually some press about that magic number to achieve syndication. But in this age of Netflix, network on-demand services, and other options, syndication doesn't seem as important. (The Good Place is an example of a show that doesn't seem to care about syndication--episodes are sequential, and seasons are only 13 it will take forever to get to 100, and its unlikely someone will randomly tune-in and watch "Chapter 17" after the 11:00 news.)



Michael Hagerty said...

Myles: Come on. A show shot in front of a live studio audience has a laugh track, too. Ken's written about it more than once. It's done in post production to punch up the audience response. Ken (to his credit) used it sparingly. Today, where every joke has to have the appearance of having been hysterical, it's used a lot.

---Mike Hagerty

MikeN said...

Murphy Brown would get better if they brought in William Shatner.

Ken, you should have said 'raises the question'. 'Begs the question' means 'assumes what you are trying to prove'.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Kevin: 10 years from now, you will probably be watching the BBC, Al-Jazeera, and Russia Today, plus direct feeds from various things.

Todd Everett said...

Ken, you should have said 'raises the question'. 'Begs the question' means 'assumes what you are trying to prove'.

God bless you. everybody gets "begs the question wrong.

Once that's cleared up, we can start explaining why it's "trouper" and not "trooper."

Then someone can explain to me whether it should be "free reign" or "free rein." Both mean pretty much the same thing; it's a matter of scale.

Mike Doran said...

Todd (second try):

When you're riding a horse, and you want him to go faster, you loosen your hold on the reins - you give the horsefree rein.
When you want the horse to slow down, you pull up the reins - you rein in the horse.

Reign refers to rule by royal personages.

Free reign is a spelling error, made by people who want to seem "fancy".

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