This is Upfront week, a time when the big five networks (ABC, NBC, Fox, The CW, CBS) and sometimes their larger satellite networks (Freeform, Univision, ESPN, etc) show off their schedule for the fall TV season. Since most people are already familiar with returning series, the focus for most is on new series.
Today NBC and Fox had their presentations. NBC featured three new programs, while Fox showed six. Check out the description for each series below, as well as my thoughts after watching the trailers, which you can view for yourself with the link.
NBC - The network’s lineup is staying pretty steady next fall as they only cancelled four series (“Taken,” “Great News,” “The Brave” and “Rise”). Two dramas join the lineup on Monday and Tuesday, with a new comedy jumping into Thursday. You’ll notice “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which NBC picked up after it was cancelled by Fox, is not listed here. That’s likely because it’ll be a mid-season show that will air after NBC is done with their NFL coverage.
“Manifest” (Drama, Mondays, Fall)
Synopsis: When Montego Air Flight 828 landed safely after a turbulent but routine flight, the crew and passengers were relieved. Yet in the span of those few hours, the world had aged five years and their friends, families and colleagues, after mourning their loss, had given up hope and moved on. Now, faced with the impossible, they’re all given a second chance. But as their new realities become clear, a deeper mystery unfolds and some of the returned passengers soon realize they may be meant for something greater than they ever thought possible. From Robert Zemeckis and Jack Rapke comes an emotionally rich, unexpected journey into a world grounded in hope, heart and destiny.
Outlook: After viewing the trailer, I’m certainly intrigued. This series has a bit of a “Lost” vibe to it, and it certainly has a fine pedigree with Robert Zemeckis attached. That and I’m a sucker for anything that has a plane heavily involved in the plot. View the trailer here.
“New Amsterdam” (Drama, Tuesdays, Fall)
Synopsis: Inspired by Bellevue, the oldest public hospital in America, this unique medical drama follows the brilliant and charming Dr. Max Goodwin (Ryan Eggold), the institution’s newest medical director who sets out to tear up the bureaucracy and provide exceptional care. How can he help? Well, the doctors and staff have heard this before. Not taking “no” for an answer, Dr. Goodwin must disrupt the status quo and prove he will stop at nothing to breathe new life into this understaffed, underfunded and under appreciated hospital — the only one in the world capable of treating Ebola patients, prisoners from Rikers and the President of the United States under one roof — and return it to the glory that put it on the map.
Outlook: I’m not sure about this one. The cast is strong and after watching the trailer, I like the premise. After all, who doesn’t want a hospital to care more about patients than the bottom line? That said, there seems to be some emotionally manipulation going on in the trailer. Not that I necessarily have a problem with that, it can make a viewer feel invested. But this series will air after “This is Us.” Will viewers have any tears left to watch this show if it turns into a Kleenex series? View the trailer here.
“I Feel Bad” (Comedy, Thursdays, Fall)
Synopsis: Emet is the perfect mom, boss, wife, friend and daughter. OK, she’s not perfect. In fact, she’s just figuring it out like the rest of us. Sure, she feels bad when she has a sexy dream about someone other than her husband, or when she pretends not to know her kids when they misbehave in public, or when she uses her staff to help solve personal problems. But that’s OK, right? Nobody can have it all and do it perfectly. From executive producer Amy Poehler comes a modern comedy about being perfectly OK with being imperfect.
Outlook: I’m quite interested in this series. The humor hits the right notes, I like the use of a multi-generational, multi-cultural cast, and I like the lead character’s perspective. I have high hopes for this one. View the trailer here.
Fox - Fox only cancelled five series (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Last Man on Earth,” “The Mick,” “The Exorcist” and “Lucifer”), but when you only have two hours of prime time programming, it seems like a lot more. It also doesn’t help that some of the cancelled programs were extremely popular. Here’s what those popular shows were replaced with.
“The Cool Kids” (Comedy, Fridays, Fall)
Synopsis - From executive producer Charlie Day (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”), “The Cool Kids” is a multi-camera comedy about a rag-tag group of friends living in a retirement community who are willing to break every rule in order to have fun – because, at their age, what do they really have to lose? The series stars four comedy veterans: Tony Award nominee David Alan Grier (“The Carmichael Show,” “In Living Color”), Emmy Award nominee Martin Mull (“Veep,” “Roseanne”), Emmy Award winner Leslie Jordan (“Will and Grace,” “American Horror Story”) and Emmy Award winner Vicki Lawrence (“Mama’s Family,” “The Carol Burnett Show”).
Outlook - I like Charlie Day, I like Martin Mull, I love Vicki Lawrence, and Leslie Jordan is great. That said, this combination doesn’t seem like a good fit. It might find an audience with older viewers but the trailer doesn’t click. View the trailer here.
“Last Man Standing” (Comedy, Fridays, Fall)
Synopsis - A fan-favorite for six seasons, the series stars Tim Allen as Mike Baxter, a married father of three girls, who tries to maintain his manliness, despite being surrounded by women. The series also stars Nancy Travis, Jonathan Adams, Amanda Fuller, Christoph Sanders and Jordan Masterson.
Outlook - For some reason I can’t comprehend, Fox cut “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “Last Man on Earth,” yet somehow decided to pick up “Last Man Standing,” which ABC had let go. That’s a major downgrade. I like Tim Allen, I even got to interview him and visit the set of this show a couple years ago during TCA summer tour. That said, I’m not a fan of this sitcom, which should have been allowed to die quietly. View the trailer here.
“Rel” (Comedy, Fall)
Synopsis - Inspired by the life of Lil Rel Howery (“Get Out,” “Insecure,” “The Carmichael Show”), “Rel” is a multi-camera comedy starring Howery as a loving husband and father living in Chicago, who finds out his wife is having an affair, and must rebuild his life as a single father, following his divorce. The comedy also stars Sinbad (“A Different World,” “The Sinbad Show,” “Jingle All The Way”), Jess “Hilarious” Moore (“Wild ’N Out”) and Jordan L. Jones (“NCIS: Los Angeles,” “Wisdom of the Crowd”).
Outlook - I’m a fan of Sinbad, and I swear its not just because we’re both University of Denver alums. I swear! But the jokes in the trailer can be seen coming from a mile away. By stacking their multi-cam comedies on Friday, Fox looks to be copying from the ABC “TGIF” playbook. Whether that works or not is yet to be determined. View the trailer here.
“The Passage” (Drama, Mid-Season)
Synopsis - Based on author Justin Cronin’s best-selling trilogy of the same name, “The Passage” is a character-driven thriller written by Liz Heldens (“Friday Night Lights”). Executive-produced by Heldens, Emmy Award winner and Academy Award and Golden Globe nominee Ridley Scott (“The Martian,” “Gladiator”) and writer/director Matt Reeves (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Cloverfield”), “The Passage” focuses on Project Noah, a secret medical facility where scientists are experimenting with a dangerous virus that could lead to the cure for all disease, but also carries the potential to wipe out the human race. When a young girl (Saniyya Sidney, “Fences,” “Hidden Figures”) is chosen to be a test subject, a federal agent (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, “Pitch”) is tasked with bringing her in, but ultimately, becomes her surrogate father, determined to protect her at any cost – even as Project Noah’s work threatens to unleash an unimaginable apocalypse.
Outlook: Probably the most promising trailer I watched today. Mark-Paul Gosselaar is gem, I like the father/daughter angle, and there’s the possibility of what looks like zombies. An odd mix to be sure, but I’m certainly curious. Check out the trailer below.
“Proven Innocent” (Drama, Mid-Season)
Synopsis - Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner and EMPIRE co-creator Danny Strong partners with David Elliot (“Four Brothers”) to tell the emotional story of one woman’s fight for the innocence of others, as well as her own. “Proven Innocent” follows an underdog criminal defense firm led by a fierce and uncompromising lawyer, who was wrongfully convicted in a sensational murder case that made her an infamous media obsession, a household name and a national cause célèbre. The drama stars Rachelle Lefevre (“Under the Dome,” “A Gifted Man”), Vincent Kartheiser (“Mad Men”), Russell Hornsby (“Seven Seconds,” “Grimm”), Brian d’Arcy James (“13 Reasons Why,” “Spotlight”) and Tony Award winner Nikki M. James (“BrainDead,” “The Good Wife,” “The Book of Mormon”).
Outlook - I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a fan of legal dramas but I’m intrigued by this one. There’s something appealing about people fighting against a legal system that can stick it to those without means. That and I’ve been a fan of Rachelle Lefevre for a while. Check out the trailer here.
“Cosmos: Possible Worlds” (Limited Series, Spring 2019)
Synopsis - Airing as a global event on Fox and National Geographic in 180 countries and 43 languages, the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning “Cosmos” will return for its third season in Spring 2019. It will once again be executive-produced, written and directed by Ann Druyan (NASA’s Voyager Record, “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage,” “Contact”); executive-produced by Seth MacFarlane, Brannon Braga and Jason Clark; and hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, the famed pop-culture icon and astrophysicist. Continuing the legacy of its predecessors, “Cosmos: Possible Worlds” will translate the revelations of science into a lavishly transporting experience, taking audiences on a series of spiritual voyages of exploration. The new season will reveal previously uncharted realms, including lost worlds and worlds to come, and those that we may one day inhabit in a thrilling future we can still have.
Outlook - I’m incredibly excited this series will return! I still rewatch old episodes all the time. I can’t wait for the new season. Watch the trailer here.
Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones.