Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to get back to what really matters: talking about television. In the past, this column would have been rather boring. It would have focused mainly on the return of our favorite network dramas and comedies. However, with the rise of cable and the network’s embrace of a shortened, cable-like schedule for some of their shows, there is a lot more to discuss this January.
There are plenty of intriguing television shows making their debuts in the second half of the television season. With an already saturated television schedule, how can we possibly sift through the madness? The only way to do it is with the return of one of my personal favorite gimmicks: Completely random categories! Let’s jump right in:
The CW is threatening to appear relevant. Granted, their shows are never going to approach the levels of the prestige dramas on cable, but the network is finding more competent ways to produce their particular brand of television. Arrow has been successful for the network on both a critical and commercial level (relatively speaking). Of course, they also trotted out maybe the worst scripted show on television this year (I’m looking at you, Beauty and the Beast). The ups and downs certainly continue, but the network appears to be heading in the right direction.
In the second half of the season, the network will premiere two shows that have the possibility of further enhancing their brand. The Carrie Diaries is getting lots of positive buzz from some of the more prominent interweb types, and The Cult is showcasing a darker, twistier side to a network mostly devoid of such things. Frankly, I don’t know how I feel about the CW becoming a real network. Making jokes at their expense has been way too much fun over the years. I suppose we should all be grateful for the continued expansion of watchable television, but I don’t know if I can handle an increasingly competent, and amusingly self-aware, CW network.
The intriguing Canadian series, Continuum will be making its US television debut this month. No stranger to bringing in Canadian telvision, the Syfy network will provide the American home for the buzzed about series. If you are a fan of science fiction, this show seems to check off all of the markers (including fantastically ridiculous future clothes!). Obviously, it remains to be seen how competently the show checks off the markers. Still, the show has all the makings of a hit for Syfy.
At this point, every show is derivative of some other show. Given all that we have seen, it’s nearly impossible to create something that won’t harken back to something that has already been done. However, a couple of NBC shows aren’t derivatives, they are seemingly blatant copies.
In Do No Harm, Steven Pasquale plays a neurosurgeon who has issues controlling an alter ego that can no longer be repressed by the sedative he has been taking for years. Think Angel on Buffy, Travis Marshall on Dexter, or any other of the thousand different times the Jekyll/Hyde trope has been done. I’m not saying that it can’t be done well, but it’s going to take a strong effort to get anyone to pay attention to this show.
For a bit more modern ripoff, consider Deception. Here’s the plot synopsis of the pilot:
The series premiere of a drama about a detective named Joanna Locasto, who, in the opener, keeps her job under wraps as she reenters the lives of the wealthy Bowers clan to investigate the mysterious death of her childhood friend, the troubled Vivian Bowers.
All of the ladies of Revenge just got their drinks ready to throw at Meghan Good. Granted, ABC did not trademark the revenge plot centered around a young woman keeping her true identity hidden while navigating the lives of suspicious people of wealth and privilege. That being said, it will be interesting to see if the target demographic is catty women-ed out after spending their Sunday nights watching Madeline Stowe chew up scenery while Emily Van Camp makes beady eyes behind her back. Only time will tell.
(Insert deity of your choice here) bless ABC. They keep shooting big with dramas only to watch the vast majority of them crash on the island with the Last Resort submarine (too soon?). This winter, they’re going to try again. On Red Widow, Radha Mitchell plays a woman who gets swept up in the family business after her gangster husband’s murder. You have some elements of Missing, Weeds, and any number of bad ass, female-centric dramas. The show will take the Sunday night at 10 PM time slot that has been notoriously troublesome for ABC. It’s hard to imagine a different outcome for Red Widow.
Taking on ABC’s other Time Slot of Death (Thursdays at 8) is the networks latest attempt at global conspiracy drama, Zero Hour. It’s a virtual cast of unknowns surrounding Anthony Edwards as his character attempts to solve a massive conspiracy in an attempt to rescue his kidnapped wife. Given the network’s track record with shows of this magnitude (FlashForward, anyone?), and the questionable look of this show, this one may not last very long.
Plenty of 2013 shows have a great deal of intrigue that will make them at least worth a glance. Chief among those is probably FX’s spy drama, The Americans. The series tracks two undercover KGB agents posing as a normal American family during the Cold War period. Given Keri Russell’s level of competency and the involvement of Justified producer Graham Yost, this show at least has a pedigree at its base. Throw in the FX brand, and this show has the makings of something worth an extended look.
While FX’s brand is not in question, Cinemax is continuing to build their original programming brand with the new thriller, Banshee. It seems to be right in line with the shows first two forays into the genre with Strike Back and Hunted. Certainly, the network is hoping for the results of the former instead of the latter, but the early returns on the show’s quality doesn’t seem to indicate that it’s on the level with Stonebridge and Scott.
Without taking in a handful of episodes, it’s impossible to know the quality of The Following. We know it has pedigree (Kevin Bacon, James Purefoy, Kevin Williamson), and it’s being lauded as the network’s answer to the stylish cable drama. The show could turn out to be hot garbage, but it will be fascinating to watch. If nothing else, it makes watching television this January all the more exciting. It’s hard to imagine this show not becoming one of the most discussed shows on the interwebs. If it’s a massive success, than other networks will likely attempt to follow suit. If it bombs miserably, the network drama will further retreat to their safe confines of cop procedurals and medical dramas. The stakes are not astronomical, but there are some legit stakes with this one.
In a fairly disappointing season for new shows, there are a few in the midseason batch that could at least be intriguing. In a heavily saturated market filled with “safe” shows, sometimes a little intrigue is worth sampling. Here’s hoping you find something you can sink your teeth into.