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No 'Modern Family' or 'Glee' Among New Fall Shows

by Joel Keller, posted Aug 18th 2010 2:30PM
Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Cann in 'Hawaii Five-O' on CBSLast year was a remarkable one for new shows, which you can see from the list of this year's Emmy nominees. The Academy, a group that's reluctant to recognize any kind of new show, gave significant nominations to 'Glee,' 'Modern Family' and 'The Good Wife.' In addition to those three shows, 'Community,' 'The Middle' and 'Cougar Town' all had strong creative first seasons, with decent-enough ratings to earn them a second go-around.

Does this fall's slate of new network shows have that same potential? Probably not.

Not that there isn't quality among the fall pilots. It's just that none of them have the breakout potential that last year's freshman class had. And there are a few reasons why that might be the case:

1. The networks' promotional machines are in a lower gear this year.
Fox knew what it had in 'Glee;' something that was fresh and would appeal to a wide audience, including lots of the coveted younger crowd. So they took the unheard-of step of airing the first episode in May then building anticipation for when the show came back in the fall. By the time it did come back, the 'Glee' fever that gripped the country was already starting to spread.

ABC also knew it had a potential hit on its hands with 'Modern Family,' as did CBS with 'The Good Wife;' both networks heavily promoted the shows to both summer audiences and the critics. Remember when ABC begged critics not to reveal that the 'Modern Family' couples were one big family... then they revealed it, anyway? Even that little move created buzz around the show.

This year, we're just seeing the normal amount of network promotion for the fall slate. Promos and bumpers, some print advertising, some billboards. Networks aren't taking the extraordinary efforts to promote even the most talked-about new shows, like 'Hawaii Five-O' or '$#*! My Dad Says.' They're either relying on word of mouth from critics and other viewers or they just are being more cautious. Either way, the promotional effort has definitely been more low-key this year.

2. Even this year's buzzworthy shows have major flaws. The two shows I mentioned above, 'Five-O' and '$#*!,' both had problematic pilots. 'Five-O' felt too much like a procedural set in Hawaii than a remake of a classic, and the pilot William Shatner-led '$#*!' was just plain bad. Shatner's co-lead in the comedy has already been recast, which meant that CBS couldn't show many show clips in their promos in order to build anticipation (though now I'm seeing promos with the Ryan Devlin in them, which makes no sense since he was the guy who got recast).

Other talked about shows, like FOX's 'Running Wilde,' NBC's 'Outsourced,' and ABC's 'Detroit 1-8-7' have also had less-than-stellar pilots or pilots that had to be reworked over the summer. Maybe it's a coincidence that last year's most successful freshman shows had strong pilots from the get-go, that didn't have to be reworked or recast from the version that came out after the upfronts; not all successful shows have had good original pilots. But it can't hurt when the first effort is so strong that it leaves an impression.

3. The best pilots are for "smaller" shows. By "smaller," I'm not talking about scale. I'm talking about shows that could break out, but more likely will sail along with small but loyal audiences that will bring in the right advertising dollars. FOX's 'Lone Star' has the feel of a cable show, and it might attract a cable-sized audience. NBC's 'The Event' could become a monster hit like 'Lost' or early 'Heroes,' but the inscrutable promos from NBC and general audience fatigue towards serialized shows may keep the show from getting more than a nice audience. ABC's 'My Generation' feels like it could be another 'Friday Night Lights,' a quality show with a fierce following but one that never got any ratings traction.

Except for 'The Event,' the networks aren't putting a lot of promotional muscle behind these shows, hoping they'll get a surprise hit on their hands.

4. There isn't a lot of innovation this year. Everything's been done on TV, but 'Glee' and 'Modern Family' had fresh-enough takes on the high school drama and the family comedy, respectively, to stand out. This year's fall pilots don't really tread any new ground. You've got lots of procedurals, both single-camera and multi-camera comedies, and one or two serialized conspiracy shows. There are lots of spies, lawyers and cops this fall, and a lot of characters that we've seen in the past.

Maybe the poor economy led the networks to go for sure things instead of risky propositions, but that's also led to a lot of shows that feel like ones we've seen a hundred times already.

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I am also looking forward to Magnum's new show. And the best new show from last year was "the Middle". But critics only like shows about flamboyant families.

August 18 2010 at 3:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to GrumpyOldMan's comment

Not entirely true. Yes, "Modern Family" is a critical darling, but so is "Friday Night Lights."

August 19 2010 at 12:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Han Solo

Only show I am looking forward to is the new NBC cop show "Blue Bloods" with Tom Selleck, it will be good to see the Magnum PI guy on a weekly. The rest are just shows coming back from last season like Community, and V.

August 18 2010 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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