Friday, May 18, 2012

5 upcoming TV shows to get your hopes up (then dashed)

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 2:40 PM

It’s that time of year again, the time when networks announce their shows for next season, plead with you to love them, and then cancel them a year later.

We went through all the upcoming shows, even CBS comedies, and picked out some of the more exciting. And then proceeded to get all cynical and pessimistic.

1. Last Resort (ABC)

An American submarine is ordered to fire nuclear missiles upon Pakistan. They refuse, and go rogue.

Why you should get your hopes up

It comes from Shawn Ryan, the guy who brought us Chicago Code, Terriers, the Unit, and The Shield. The Shield, the seven-season loose-cannon-cop-subversion still ended with the best series finale television has ever done.

Last Resort stars a whole host of incredible character actors (Andre Braugher, Robert Patrick, Dichen Lachman) that can raise the premise from the dangerous blandity so many other high concept TV shows have.

The writers are good. The actors are good. Done right, it could be The-Unit-Without-The-Wife-Subplots-Show we’ve all hoped for.

Why your hopes will be dashed

There are hints of Governmental Conspiracy in the trailer. There has, basically, never been a good conspiracy plotline on television. It just isn’t something long-running serialized television knows how to do.

The bigger danger, of course, is that while critics love Shawn Ryan, his last two shows – Terriers and Chicago Code – never got enough viewers to get a second season.

The Mindy Project (FOX)

Mindy Kaling (writer and actor on The Office) plays a woman who is shallow and self-destructive. Disastrous in real-life, funny on television.

Why you should get your hopes up

Typically, comedy trailers for upcoming television shows are, well, cringeworthy. And not The Office sort of Cringeworthy. shown at the upfront.

Why your hopes may be dashed

Already, the network’s changed the title from the slightly-generic“It’s Messy” to the painful “The Mindy Project" (ABC, of CougarTown, hasn’t always been the best at naming things.)

More than that, while Kaling’s a brilliant writer, there’s the question of whether she can carry an entire show. She’s worked as a secondary character on the Office, but there, she was never required to show the sort of range that a lead is asked for.

3. Vegas (CBS)

“Based” on the “true story” of rancher-turned sheriff Ralph Lamb, Vegas – not to be confused with NBC's Las Vegas – dives into the swanky criminal underbelly of 1960’s Las Vegas.

Why you should get your hopes up

Put a Mad Men, Magic City, and Justified in a blender, and that’s the slurry they’re trying to mix up here. It’s appears to be a moment of genuine ambition of CBS, a network that has boiled down “formulaic” to a “formula.” It’s got Michael Chiklis in a “villainous badass role” 

Why your hopes will be dashed

Other shows have tried to caption that mid-century swagger of Mad Men: shows like Playboy Club and Pan Am. They didn’t get the essence of what made Mad Men work – the intricate character work. That could be the problem here.

Worse, basing your story on a true story automatically puts constraints on the plot and character arcs. The best TV shows are nimble, evolving as the pace and plot and narrative problems demand it. That’s a major problem.

4. Political Animals (USA)

A former first lady – ambitious as all hell – balances political scheming and showmanship with familial scheming and showmanship.

Why you should get your hopes up

USA shows are famously breezy, with death-defying premises and promises of intrigue usually just an excuse for another quip and moment of “cool.”

This, however, looks like an entirely different genre and tone, the political soap opera. (Most politics, after all, is soap opera.) Revenge on ABC reminded us this season that soap opera is a genre that, like any other, can be done very, very well.

The actors are well cast, ready to make it entertaining. The trailer feels like it has control of its tone.

Why your hopes will be dashed

There are people who really know how to create interesting truly political dramatic scenes. Unfortunately, Aaron Sorkin is not writing for this show. If it stumbles too deeply into the political policy arena, the fun of the soap opera could be lost.

666 Park Avenue (ABC)

Folks living to the complex 999 Park Avenue think they’ve got an amazing deal a low price. What they don’t realize is that 999 Park Avenue is just 666 Park Avenue upside down. Also, it just may be owned by Satan.

Why you should get your hopes up

Though no TV devil can really top Ray Wise, nobody does enigmatic evil like Terry O’Quinn, of Lost fame, and Park Avenue looks coated in just the right amount of cheese. Ideally, it will be the haunted house story that American Horror Story should have been. Hopefully, it will have some important things to say about the overall macroeconomic consequences of rent control.

Why your hopes will be dashed

The Devil makes a fun villain for a monologue or fiddle contest or two, but there’s an inherent problem: You can’t really kill the devil. Oh, you can try for a while, but he’ll always be back, eventually (just ask Diablo III).

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