TV critics' press tour: ABC gets the buzz
Glad you asked. Plenty. Here are four observations:
1. ABC easily has the most buzzable shows. Seriously. Every night of the week -- except Saturday and Monday -- has at least one new show you have to check out. Sunday: "666 Park" (great creepy look, and bonus points for Terry O'Quinn); Tuesday: "Family Tools" (with the always-good Kyle Bornheimer); Wednesday: "The Neighbors" (about neighbors from outer space who, when they cry, ooze green goo from their ears; it's a sitcom); Thursday: "Last Resort" (Andre Braugher saves the world! I think!); Friday: "Malibu Country" (starring insanely talented Reba McEntire, in what critics instantly dubbed "Reba 2.0.") Meanwhile, "Nashville" (Wednesdays at 10, starting in October) stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere as dueling country divas. This ranks as the top must-watch new show of the entire fall season.
2. Big-ticket, big-concept, big-"wow" has entered the big sleep. Not so long ago -- last season! -- the big four networks collectively reasoned that a certain means of attracting and holding audiences was via a time-tested circus tent strategy. Get 'em in with something so brassy, unique and fun that (well) they just can't leave. Last season brought "Pan Am," "Once Upon a Time," "A Gifted Man," "Smash," "Grimm," "Alcatraz," "Touch," "The River," and -- the biggest brassiest of 'em all, "Terra Nova." (Four will be back: "Smash," "Grimm," "Touch" and "Once Upon a Time"). This season, just three ("Revolution," "Last Resort" and "666 Park") qualify. What happened? "Big" equals "expensive," and not always "surefire." As a result, 2012-13 is playing it safe.
3. CBS knows its business . . . but its business is kinda bland. No network has a better grasp of its audience than this one. CBS execs appear to have knocked on the door of every older, more conservative viewer to ask, "What do you want?" and those content viewers said, "Nothing!" Nothing's wrong with nothing, I suppose, if nothing is working, and it is. CBS had a successful 2011-12 season, of course. But a dull bland pallor has spread over the place. The new comedy ("Partners") screams out been-there-seen-that. Even "Vegas" -- great cast and all -- feels a little bit sleepy. Compensating factor: the Sherlock Holmes procedural, "Elementary," looks like a lot of fun.
4. Autobiography is in. If it's "trends" you want, here is your "Most Obvious Trend" of 2012-13. Creators of a generous handful of new comedies cited their own life experiences as inspiration for their show. Here, for instance, is Claudia Lonow talking about her fun newcomer on ABC: "I still live with my parents, and I've been living there for 15 years, and I've been working on the show for about 12, and by the time I got to this point, I decided that a good title would be "How to Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)" because that seems like what is happening to me."