Welp. It’s been a week and a half, hasn’t it? So … the final installment of this year’s upfronts posts will be, in a word, dated. But hey — better late than never, right? Plus, we here at TV Without A TV absolutely hate not finishing something we start, and we can all agree that the suits at FOX would be breathing down our necks for ignoring them this year if we opted for exclusion of The Rupert-meister’s favorite network. Because yes, it is widely accepted that every important executive at FOX reads this thing religiously, you know.
OK. That’s a lie.
Anyway, welcome to the fourth and final post regarding the 2013 upfronts extravaganza. Yes, we still need to get to “Arrested Development” and yes, we need to discuss how some networks have decided to offer up their new shows online this summer, but we are nothing if we are not consistent. And we refuse to be nothing, gosh darn-it. So, behold the land of “event series,” Greg Kinnear, singing competitions and yes, as is upfronts tradition, more J.J. Abrams. It was FOX’s turn in the box a few weeks ago, and now it’s time to talk about it.
Love is all you need, friends. Love is all you need.
1. Too big to fail
After watching the network’s ratings take a 20 percent hit, Kevin Reilly, FOX’s Leader O’ TV, did all he could to remind the critics and fat cats alike that The Big F will spend more on this year’s new series than it has ever spent on any new crop of series ever. As in, the history of the world. As in, forever. As in … you get it. This, as Lacey Rose and Marisa Guthrie pointed out at The Hollywood Reporter, is somewhat of an admission of defeat in other areas. “Fox will cede its 18-to-49 crown this season to CBS for the first time in several years,” they wrote on May 13. “But to hear him (Reilly) and ad sales president Toby Byrne tell it, Fox is excelling in plenty of other metrics. For instance, the network has spent 11 seasons as No. 1 among the 18-to-34 set, and its shows overindex in delayed viewing. A recent episode of ‘The Following,’ for instance, gained 81 percent once seven days of delayed viewing were factored in. Reilly does use the upfront platform to assure his deep-pocketed audience that Fox will return to its No. 1 status among the coveted 18-to-49 demo next season, a statement he is confident making given both his lineup as well as the inclusion of the Super Bowl.” Far be it from us, then, that we ask the following (even though we will, indeed, ask the following): How confident is he? Twenty percent is big. As in, super big. As in, huge. As in … you get it (again). Color me blue with ignorance, but that seems like quite the hefty number to make up in a matter of one season, especially if it comes at the (possible) expense of leadership among one of the most coveted demographics the small screen sees. Think about it — every franchise series the network has is in some type of disarray. “Glee” cooled nearly as quick as its explosion sizzled. “The X Factor” … well, yikes. “American Idol” is looking to earn itself one last breath of air before drowning a slow and perhaps embarrassing death. “The Following” seemed to do well enough, but it still can’t take on something like “The Walking Dead” with any amount of success. “Family Guy” is what, 59 seasons into its run? “New Girl” currently suffers from a case of Severe Zooey Fatigue. And I still have no idea what “Bones” is. The point? FOX is going to need one of its billion new shows to be a hit. As in, a smash. As in, a zeitgeist-dominating flash of lightning. As in … yep. You still get it.
2. Though if they fail …
… It shouldn’t be all that surprising, based on some of the descriptions these new programs offer. Oh, Lisa, Lisa, Lisa. “’Sleepy Hollow’ (which Reilly called a ‘wildly inventive show’), in which the coward made famous by Washington Irving two centuries ago, returns — only re-envisioned by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, of ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Transformers,’ and ‘Fringe’ fame,” Ms. De Moraes wrote not too long ago. “Ichabod is now a hero, resurrected two and a half centuries later to find the world on the brink of destruction. Rather than roll over in his grave, like you’d think, he instead rises to the occasion, and teams with a contemporary cop to unravel a mystery that dates back to the founding fathers, which is before even his time.” God, I’m going to miss her. Joining Mr. Crane will be something called “Almost Human” from Golden Guy J.J. Abrams (which is what I imagine his professional wrestling name would be, should the Trekkie ever decide to get his Macho Man on). That will feature a cop who is half machine and a robot who is part dude. Yep. Moving on, resident Funny Guy Seth MacFarlane is going to offer up more than just drawings for the first time on TV when he sits at the head of “Dads” which throws three cups of Seth Green into a blender with a teaspoon or two of Giovanni Ribisi to see if they could combine for something worth tasting. The plot — two successful entrepreneurs who allow their dads to move in with them seemingly for the sole purpose of hoping laughter eventually will ensue — appears to smell more like spoiled milk than a fresh glass of orange juice. Gordon Ramsay will then dip into the “Teen Mom” pool with “Junior Masterchef,” and without a shred of irony, “Surviving Jack,” about a guy and his kid, will attempt to make “Raising Hope” fans laugh. The buzziest of them all? That award goes to “Rake,” a show starring the Oscar-nominated (no, honestly, it’s true) Greg Kinnear as an angry, smart and troubled lawyer. Working title: “Scmhouse.” Hey — we all knew those “Flash Of Genius” residual checks would stop coming in at some point. Who knew it would be this soon?
3. Event. Series.
Take a look at that friends, because those two words have officially replaced the term “miniseries.” And falling under that category this fall will be two programs — something from M. Night Shyamalan that we won’t even give a second or sixth thought, and a reboot of “24” in the single most expensive attempt to keep Kiefer Sutherland in one place after firing him (yep, goodbye, “Touch”). The episode count will wither from 24 to 12 in a move that is either supposed to be an existential comment on the productivity of human existence, or a clear sign that two dozen hours of a show doesn’t quite constitute it as an “event.” It is likely that the thing will make its triumphant return in May of next year. Unfortunately for Mr. Sutherland’s friends in “Ben & Kate,” “Fringe” or “The Mob Doctor,” the autumn colors might be tougher to stomach as all those shows will not be returning in September. When reached for comment, Ben blamed Kate and Twitter rambled about how “Fringe” is the only show as brilliant as NBC’s “Community.”