Can you feel it? Football season has started and there’s a crisp chill in the air. While most reach for their pumpkin lagers and autumn sweaters, those of us who toil in the pop cultural industrial complex reach for our helmets and shoulder pads: It’s fall television time. In this special edition of the Hollywood Prospectus podcast, Chris Ryan and I break down all the new network shows you should be watching — and all of the very many more you should be avoiding like the hantavirus. Jumping off from the four preview pieces I wrote last week, we broke down the hit-or-miss offerings from Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC. Listen now to hear about our new favorites (we’re both high on Nashville, The Mindy Project, and Last Resort) and new punching bags. (It’s the MOB and she’s a DOCTOR!) Leave that book on your bedside table, Hayden Panettiere. It’s TV season.
With Labor Day in the rearview mirror, it’s time to focus on the main business of the fall: schoolfootball television! All week, Grantland will be previewing the new TV season, one network at a time, and evaluating the first efforts of each incoming freshman. Today: CBS.
It’s not hard to joke about CBS. With an average audience age a dozen years older than Fox’s, it’s easy shorthand to dismiss the network as safe haven only for the aged, the infirm, and those otherwise incapable of changing the channel. (Remotes are so complicated these days!) Its highly rated, easily digestible shows are shrugged off by tastemakers as laugh-tracked, lame, and out of touch, all aggressive acronyms and simple resolutions. In a youth-obsessed society, it’s never super cool to be the one onstage arguing that “54 is the new 49.” The enduring image of the network suggests an elderly Ouroboros: Andy Rooney crankily lecturing an audience of Andy Rooneys, themselves either nodding in agreement or gently nodding off to sleep.
With Labor Day in the rearview mirror, it’s time to focus on the main business of the fall: schoolfootball television! All week, Grantland will be previewing the new TV season, one network at a time, and evaluating the first efforts of each incoming freshman. Next up: ABC.
Oh, ABC. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. (Or, more accurately, always The Bachelorette.) Over the past few decades, the Alphabet has had good years and bad years, but has rarely risen to the dominant, zeitgeist-defining heights of NBC in the '80s and '90s. Then again, neither has it sunk to the squelchy bottom of, say, NBC not in the '80s and '90s. ABC — which, it must be noted, shares a corporate parent with Grantland (Disney) — often seems generally content, as the cliché goes, to stay in its lane: mixing broad, family-based comedies with a pert and glossy selection of what I prefer to call body washes. You know: like soaps, but classier. So it’s been a steady diet of sarcastic moms rolling their eyes at kids in the 8 p.m. hour and sexy doctors saving them at 10 p.m. It may not always be a world-beating strategy, but it's a dependable one.
With Labor Day in the rearview mirror, it’s time to focus on the main business of the fall: schoolfootball television! All week, Grantland will be previewing the new TV season, one network at a time, and evaluating the first efforts of each incoming freshman. Leading off: Fox.
It’s been 26 years since Fox first burst onto the airwaves with a refreshing blast of salty language and embalming fluid. The network is now old enough to drink in a bar, rent an automobile, and even watch certain shows on CBS, yet it’s still considered some sort of punky upstart — the shorts-eating Bart Simpson of the stultifying and staid broadcast scene. (Never mind the fact that Bart himself could be in graduate school by now; one imagines an entire dissertation written on a chalkboard.) This reputation has stuck even as Fox has gone from striver to champion, winning the much-coveted 18-49 demographic in each of the last eight seasons. Those with nits to pick — or those like CBS with ratings to parse (the former Tiffany Network wins in total eyeballs nearly every year, even if the majority of those retinas are rheumy and cataract-ridden) — like to suggest that Fox’s Poochie-esque success with the kids is a product of its programming strategy: packing the schedule with tweet-friendly fare like American Idol (and, more recently, Idol’s boring replicant cousin, The X Factor) and consistent (and consistently cheap) cartoons like Family Guy and Glee. This may be true — even CBS would agree that hewing to an identity, even an age-specific one, is the first step toward long-term prosperity — but it’s also only part of the story. Fox isn’t on a roll because it chooses to play such a highly specific game. It’s because it’s playing by an entirely different set of rules.