M: Ahhh, Friday: once a TV graveyard, now an odd mix of the “pity-move” where shows get sent before they get cancelled, and steady medium ratings earners. In other words, shows that aren’t going to get great ratings but, without costing too much, keep enough eyeballs (and advertisers) that the networks are willing to keep renewing them, yet aren’t willing to move them to more popular nights.
E: Friday Nights: lower your expectations.
C: I think Fridays have been like that for a while now, actually.
M: Yes, didn’t mean to imply that was brand new, just newer. There was also a trend (started by Grimm a few years back) of spooky shows on Fridays that seems to have come to an end, at least on the broadcast nets. However, this year there are some interesting new offerings.
C: I’d say it started with The X-Files… but maybe that wasn’t a trend so much as a lone beacon of Spooky in the night.
M: X-Files spent most of it’s life on Sundays, though.
C: Now a waning Vampire Diaries is trying to be that beacon…
E: Huh — I hadn’t noticed the lack of spooky programming, but you’re quite right. Is that just happening now?
M: Seems to be.
E: Friday night’s the night I catch up on the TV I watch with my kids, so I’m never watching live, personally.
M: In past years we had combined Friday and Saturday. However, in a development this year, it appears that the nets have given up on Saturdays completely, so we’re just mentioning one BBC America show…
E: And one cartoon, because my family is all about it!
M: …but that’s it for Saturday. So we’re not giving it a whole post, as we didn’t feel the need to tell you that most of the nets are showing news magazines and college football (including the very narcissistic-ally titled “FOX Sports Saturday: FOX College Football“).
C: LOL. What channel is that on, I wonder?
Last Man Standing (September 23rd), ABC
M: This Tim Allen sitcom is a perfect example of the “only on Fridays” series. If this were on a different night, it would have probably been cancelled years ago. As it is, it’s cheap and maintains a steady-if-small ratings number, so there’s no reason for ABC to axe it, so we begin season number six. Yup, SIX!
E: I seriously can’t believe that this show was ever on, let alone that it still is. For the upcoming season, we’ll get to see Tim Allen dress up as Donald Trump for Halloween (and annoy the heck out of his family and friends by staying in character, it sounds like) and Jay Leno make another guest appearance.
M: Well, last year’s two most popular Halloween costumes were “sexy Donald Trump” and “sexy Hillary Clinton,” which are equal parts disturbing and… okay, no, they’re just disturbing.
E: In a more serious vein (because I really, really don’t want to think about that), events will force Tim to consider his mortality. Who knew this was that kind of show.
C: Who cares?
Macgyver (September 23rd), CBS*
M: I don’t know what to make of this remake/re-imagining of one of my favorite shows from my youth.
C: I feel like your reaction really ought to be “oh well, that was inevitable.” We live in the Nostalgia Era after all… or to put it more honestly, the Retread Era.
E: The Proven Commodity Era. Brought to you, in this case, by a Proven Rebooting Expert — Peter Lenkov, showrunner of Hawaii Five-O.
M: Fair point. New lead Lucas Till has been good as Alex Summers in the X-Men reboot movies, and I liked George Eads on CSI:. Making Mac part of a team, thereby allowing them to add female cast members is a good move, too. However, I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right.
E: Of course it doesn’t. It’s MacGyver with swagger, which is entirely the wrong attitude.
M: You’re right. Nothing I’ve seen look bad, per se, but it looks wrong. And Till looks a little too pretty…
E: I think it’s just as much that he knows he’s pretty.
E: Till’s cocky MacGyver tries too hard to show us his prettiness, or at least the camera crew is spending an excess of time focusing on his prettiness. Original Mac didn’t have time for that.
C: All of this is making me realize that I really don’t remember the old show, though I’m sure we watched it as a family when I was little. I remember what he looked like, and that he solved everything with duct tape (at least supposedly), and that’s… yep, about it.
M: Ugh, now that’s just sad. Also, Eads character is FAR afield from Dana Elcar’s in the original. Elcar was there to balance things out, be level headed and keep Mac in check, follow the rules, but also to do the administrative side of the job. Eads looks to be someone who’s going to jump in and break rules or take part in the action, which concerns me.
C: Why? Just because it’s different?
M: No, because it looks worse. And because shows need balance. Overall it also looks, I don’t know, a little too slick. Also, given it’s pedigree I think the Friday night time slot is a bad sign. I’m definitely interested enough to check it out, we’ll see how well it works, and how long I last, I suppose.
E: If you like it, I’ll check it out, but the trailers are pretty discouraging.
The Vampire Diaries (October 21st), the CW
M: This, on the other hand, looks like a perfect example of the pity-move. It’s already been announced that this will be the final season, which at only 8 seasons is short for the CW. Rather than keeping it on its regular night, the interest level in the show has fallen so far (and I might add, the quality of the rest of the CW’s lineup has improved so much) that it gets relegated to Fridays to finish up its run.
C: That does seem like an accurate summation.
M: The big news is that apparently Boone… er, Damon (Ian Somerhalder) will be evil and dark again this season. Woo!
E: Um, wasn’t he always evil?
M: Most of the run, yes, but I think they had a turn where he was the “hero.”
C: He’s always dithered between villain and anti-hero, as far as I know.
E: What really confuses me is this — I keep hearing this is the last chance to pair either Damon or Stefan with Elena to end the show. But I thought the actress who played Elena, Nina Dobrev, had quit?
M: I’d heard that, too. No clue.
C: Well, people still watching it know, I’m sure, so they don’t need us to tell them.
Hell’s Kitchen (September 23rd), FOX
M: Is it just me, or does it seem fitting to have Gordon Ramsey on the airwaves in the fall where Donald Trump could actually become president of the USA?
C: Ugh. Let’s try to avoid saying those words unless we have to.
Caught On Camera With Nick Cannon (September 23rd), NBC
M: So… I thought this was a new show, but apparently it’s entering season three! Nick Cannon continues to gather first-person videos ranging from funny to scary from across the globe, and show them to… um… whoever watches. Seriously, I watched a Friday night show on NBC last year (the since-cancelled Undateable, which was funny), so if I haven’t even heard of this, that’s not good.
Dr. Ken (September 23rd), ABC
E: Talk about stuff you thought was canceled! Talk about a low bar for sitcoms last year!
M: Having never seen even one minute of this, I can’t comment on the low bar, but I will agree, I thought it was cancelled last during season.
C: I like Ken Jeong from Community, so I’m not sad to hear he’s still on the air, though I’ll admit I wasn’t particularly interested in this series.
E: This season apparently involves Dr. Ken’s wife taking a job at his office, and his son getting a stalker (played by Zooey Jeong, Ken’s actual daughter). Whoa.
M: This seems like the kind of show that will play a stalker off for comedy. Which is weird.
E: Also in the works, a Korean folklore/Ghostbusters-inspired Halloween episode, which actually sounds both fascinating and funny.
Shark Tank (September 23rd), ABC
M: I know a lot of people that love to watch this, maybe not religiously in its time slot, but repeatedly. I just can’t. I know there are a lot of people presenting good ideas, and that it really does show an interesting side of the entrepreneurial process that we don’t often see. I’ve heard there have been some good product or businesses that have come out of it. It’s just that every time I’ve watched it I couldn’t help but think two things. First, that the “sharks” are a bunch of narcissistic @$$holes, and second, that they’re looking for opportunities to take advantage of the people appearing before them. Maybe if you show me some success stories, where the people who appeared on the show are now successful and making money for themselves, but until then…
C: Yeah, agreed, I find it a bit unsavory.
E: Huh. M, they’re going to revoke your Republican party membership/neo-con credentials if they hear you talk like that…
M: Ha! Putting aside that wanting people to get the success for their own work/ideas is a VERY Republican thing, I don’t think I was ever in the neo-con wing. And fortunately I revoked my credentials myself, if I ever really had them. It’s Constitutional or Libertarian for me, if anything. But we digress.
C: That’s my brother, slooooowly morphing into Ron Swanson. Not a bad life choice.
E: You won’t catch him trading Mrs. M for Megan Mullally, though…
M: Nor will you catch me growing a mustache.
Hawaii Five-O (September 23rd), CBS
M: Continuing on the list of shows that have found a home on Fridays, this picturesque procedural is returning for its seventh season, and its fourth on Fridays. I stopped watching when it felt stale somewhere around season three, Mrs. M continued on for another year or two, and every once in a while catches some episodes. It’s one of those shows you can pop in and watch and you’ll be okay despite having missed a lot of overarching stuff.
E: I got turned off by the violence in the first season (showing cops shooting and torturing suspects is just not cool, okay Hollywood?) even though I like all the actors.
M: The main cast from the start of the series — Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim — remains intact, and it looks like Chi McBride, Masi Oka and Jorge Garcia will be back, too.
C: Damn, Emerson Cod! I love Chi McBride.
E: I really, really like every single one of those people. BAH.
C: Yeah, seriously, that’s a who’s who of people I’ve adored on previous shows, with the sole exception of Caan. Maybe I should watch an episode some time…
M: Caan is actually quite good on this, to throw a little more wood on that flame.
E: Yes – I started watching it for O’Loughlin, Park and Kim, but you can’t resist Caan. Except C, the promotion of this “do anything in pursuit of a suspect/the truth” mentality is everything that we hate about the justice system glamorized for public consumption. Now, as far as new plotlines, it’s going to be all about family this season. Park’s character thinks about starting one, O’Loughlin might be getting serious about romance, and Kim and Caan will be focusing on their kids.
M: Clearly I stopped watching longer ago than I thought… I didn’t realize Kim’s character had a kid.
E: Me neither.
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (October 21st), the CW
M: A strange little comedy that debuted last year, that doesn’t seem to have caught on with audiences as much as it did with critics and the awards show crowd. This looks like a classic pity-move example, but could be the CW’s attempt to salvage it.
C: This show was the biggest puzzle of last year to me. When we did this preview one year ago, I saw absolutely nothing to like about this, from its anti-feminist title to the premise of a “hilarious” female stalker — yet, several friends who have similar taste to me are watching and thoroughly enjoying this.
E: Though we all three loathed the trailers, critics all across the country love this show. It was nominated for Emmys and won a Golden Globe. Little as I’d like it admit it, something that gets that much positive press? Seems like a good thing that the CW might want to keep going.
M: You know I’m one for networks taking risks, and letting shows find their audience, but this one reeks to me of being something only critics like, or of being the kind of thing that critics like the idea of.
C: Nope, not the case. Of course the people I know may not be like the average Nielsen household, but they’re not TV critics and they like the show.
M: Good to hear!
E: So apparently at the end of last year the titular character confessed to the object of her affections that she loves him — which apparently was a big step, because she’d been lying to herself about her motivations all season? This is how the creators explain it, anyway. They say this season is all about all of the characters being more honest with themselves (and each other?) about what they want. For whatever that’s worth.
M: If she gets back together with the boyfriend, do they need to change the title? Or is the object of her affection a different guy? You know what, don’t answer, I don’t care.
The Exorcist (September 23rd), FOX
M: This is a funny instance of clashing trends. As mentioned in the intro, one of the big trends in past years has been to turn Friday night into fright night, with shows like Grimm having a lot of success, and with attempts to pair it with things like Constantine. This year, not so much. However, one of the biggest trends this season is the remake, and this one is of one of the biggest, most influential movies of all time.
E: Not that I’ve ever seen it, but I can’t disagree with that assessment.
M: As anyone who reads our blog knows, we’re not horror fans. Still, I am a movie buff, so I feel a little embarrassed saying that I’ve never seen it either.
C: Same! But one wonders, to revisit the terminology we’ve been using in all these previews, how this could possibly be anything but a BAM?
M: Actually, where the show is about an exorcist, not an exorcism, I could easily see it stretch out. In the show, a mother (Geena Davis, who looks excellent for 60 years old) believes her house is haunted by a demon, so she seeks out help from a local priest (Mexican actor Alfonso Herrera). He in turn looks for help from an experienced exorcist and fellow priest (Brit actor Ben Daniels). All sorts of skin-crawling scenes ensue. You know, the stuff we love.
E: Wait, Geena Davis is in this show? Damn it. Now I need to watch the trailer. (Hustles to Youtube.)
C: Of course, dear readers, all three of us thoroughly researches each and every show we mention in this preview.
E: Honestly, if the trailer didn’t tell me that Geena Davis was in this show, I wouldn’t even have recognized her, not with the blond hair. I like that they cast her in the mother role here; I would have expected it to go to a 40 year old. It’s much more typical of Hollywood to cast an actresses younger than she should be, rather than on the older range of possible.
M: I know, I didn’t expect that, either.
E: Well, now that I have, I’ll say I like the fact that the trailer, at least, wasn’t gory. But I still think it’s going to turn out to be a BAM. How many people in this guy’s parish can be possessed by demons?
Dateline (September 16th), NBC
M: I will say, C… I didn’t watch the trailer for this. 😉
C: Har har.
M: Anyway, to NBC’s credit, I’m glad this is relegated to Friday nights. Only a handful of years ago it was on as many as four nights a week, and got thrown into the schedule every time a show got cancelled mid-season. Sad days for NBC back then. They have a lot more to offer now, even if half of it has Chicago in the title.
Great Performances (October 21st), PBS**
E: I add this not because I’m addicted to the opera, which was the largest focus of this venerable public television show last season. Nope, it’s because this season starts off with “Hamilton’s America,” what they’re calling an intimate look at the making of the revolutionary musical. Yes — don’t forget it was PBS that was allowed to official film a performance before the original cast left in July. That’s what we call Must See TV at my house. How many episodes will that take up? I have no idea. I can’t wait for it (wait for it) though.
M: I am not throwing away my shot… to see this.
20/20 (September 9th), ABC
M: The venerable news magazine celebrates it’s 287th year…. or something like that. Okay, for real it’s its 40th year. Which is several more years than C has been alive.
Blue Bloods (September 23rd), CBS
M: Tom Selleck’s mustache returns for another season. This is another show that might not have survived on a different night, but really found itself a home on Fridays.
E: You think so? The star power here is pretty decent – Selleck, Donny Wahlburg, Selleck, Bridget Moynahan – and it’s a well made, well acted show. Maybe not amazing, but very solid.
M: A little Selleck-obsessed, sis?
C: This will be the show’s seventh season. Upcoming guest stars include Lori Loughlin (Full House) and Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos).
E: Fun fact about that? The show that made Selleck’s career, Magnum P.I., lasted 8 seasons.
Quarry (September 9th), Cinemax
E: I don’t think I realized Cinemax had original content. Or that they did anything other than soft-core porn.
M: Or at least, original content that isn’t soft-core porn.
C: Most series these days except for those on the major networks qualify as soft-core porn, so I guess Cinemax figured why not get in the game?
M: Good point!
E: Yup, here they are with a new series about a Vietnam vet in 1970s Memphis who’s become contract killer. I’m not sure if that’s different from an assassin or a killer for hire, but it kind of looks like it’s a very specific thing here. This long-haired, mustachioed, sweaty ex-soldier (Logan Marshall-Green) comes home to his loving wife, and a well dressed dude (Peter Mullan) shows up at their house with a huge envelope full of cash as long as he’s willing help take some guy out.
M: Origin story for a contract killer? Definitely not something you see every day.
C: That sounds the same as an assassin to me…
M: Well, assassinations are usually for political reasons, or are of someone of some importance. Maybe the difference is that contract killers will take out a horrible boss or cheating spouse or some other kind of “regular” murder? Or maybe we should drop this line of questioning.
E: I don’t think anyone will rub you out just for asking, M. Now, this attempts artiness, with pretty decent production values, and it looks God-awful. It’s dark (visually as well as morally) and gritty and a mess. I would never ever watch this. So not my thing.
M: You watch Game of Thrones, right?
E: Do you really want to hear that justification? I’ll give it to you quickly; yes, life on GoT is brutish, nasty and short, and yes, the violence is dark and appalling, but there’s a vision behind it. All things fall apart, and various factions fight to rein chaos into order. It’s politically fascinating, even if I have to watch a lot of it behind my hands.
M: Excellent rationalization. 😉
C: Yeah, your high moral vantage point is only looking a bit wobbly.
E: Well, part of GoT asks how you can fight for good and be good when the other sides play so dirty. So it’s not all brutishness. This, on the other hand?
Van Helsing (September 23rd), SyFy
C: Wait, Van Helsing? But not that Van Helsing?
M: Nope! Get a load of this set up. Vanessa Helsing, a distant relative of the “original” Van Helsing, is resurrected to fight off vampires, who have taken over the world. Why does it start with her dead? Because it’s SyFy, and probably for no other reason.
E: Pretty sure she’s supposed to be in a coma.
C: Okay, that sounds pretty fun. Or potentially fun. SyFy doesn’t have the best track record.
M: Sis, that’s like saying Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump aren’t beloved. Now, the show stars Kelly Overton, who’s been in one episode of a gajillion shows. Her two notable, longer roles, are the second (lousy) season of Legends (which I watched, she was so-so), and, fittingly, on True Blood. There’s some beefcake guy that stars with her, and the whole thing looks very wannabe-Walking-Dead-ish.
E: I suppose we can’t blame them for going with the post-apocalyptic vibe. I wonder if SyFy is thinking that since zombies have hit their cultural saturation point (or are close to it), a vampire apocalypse will fuse trends new and old?
M: You put “SyFy” and “thinking” in the same sentence. Was that on purpose?
E: My bad.
High Maintenance (September 16th), HBO
C: Whoa, 11 p.m.? New content at 11 on a Friday? That’s weird.
M: Can’t interfere with their movie schedule, I suppose. Or they just expect people will DVR or watch on HBO Go.
E: Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfield’s (relatively) popular web series graduates to premium cable. Ever heard of it?
M: Nope, never heard of it.
C: Nor have I.
E: Me neither, but here’s the run down. Husband Sinclair — the star as well as half of the writing and directing duo — is an NYC bicycle delivery man with a prodigious hipster beard who delivers only one type of package. That’s right. Pot. Each week, he visits a new client, and we find out about their lives. Why are they lighting up?
M: So, he’s just a drug dealer? But a hipster, bike-riding drug dealer? That’s… umm… different?
E: So it would seem. There are a lot of hipsters. A lot of vacant stares.
C: There seem to be a lot of shows about pot dealers. Or maybe it just seems that way since this is the second one premiering.
M: Moving away from the pot-smoking hipster part of it… I can name at least two other major motion pictures (Premium Rush, Quicksilver) about bike messengers, pretty sure both are set in NYC. Seriously, why on earth does anyone think we need that many fictional stories about NYC bike messengers? It’s not like we get movies or shows about UPS drivers, or, I don’t know, rickshaw operators. It’s not like we get bike messenger films or shows set in Chicago or Miami or anywhere else. What’s the deal?
C: Maybe it’s simply a matter of who NYC-dwelling execs happen to see on a regular basis?
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (October 22nd), BBCAmerica***
C: Whoa, really? A Douglas Adams series??
E: Please be good, please be good!
M: Agreed, we need a good British show to hold us over until Doctor Who returns some time in 2017. Plus, we love the author.
C: Definitely a family favorite — for me, dating back to when I used to sneak M’s omnibus of Hitchhiker’s Guide novels out of his bedroom when he was away.
M: Oh C, you totally didn’t need to “sneak” those!
E: I quite enjoyed the two Adams novels that this series is based on, although to be honest, I don’t remember all that much about them beyond, one, the general conceit (Dirk being a very different, intuitive kind of detective who solves rather peculiar crimes) and, two, the fact that they were clever and funny. Very funny.
M: They’re written by one of the great dry-wit comic authors, of course they were funny.
E: I’m not saying that for your benefit, M! I know YOU know – I gave you the omnibus, after all – but not all the readers might. Penny Dreadful‘s Samuel Barnett stars as the titular detective, and Elijah Wood costars as his involuntary sidekick Todd. (“I’m not your Watson, @$$hole!”)
C: Oh man, that sounds so good. And I think of him as The History Boys’ Samuel Barnett, but okay.
E: Was there a sidekick in the book? I have no clue. But the trailer is modern, goofy and bright, so maybe I won’t obsess, and instead just count the days till I can see it.
Star Wars Rebels (September 24th), DisneyHD*
E: I love this show so much. It’s some of our favorite family viewing.
M: And, oddly, has never taken off with mine. The cartoon of the Clone Wars, firmly in the “George Lucas will put out anything to get your money” phase of Star Wars‘ life cycle, turned me off so much. I have heard (admittedly, mostly from you) that this is very good, though.
C: I watched one episode with E and her kids.
C: It was… cute?
E: I was not a fan of The Clone Wars, particularly, but I like this a lot. There’s that same sort of easy camaraderie of slightly roguish heroes from the classic trilogy. I quite enjoy that it tells one evolving tale (instead of the piecemeal, haphazard storylines of TCW) and I like getting a look at the Rebellion as it builds from individual cells to a galactic revolution; hooking up individual cells, stealing ships, designing them, finding bases big enough for a fleet to hide in, finding fuel. I like the logistics of it, somehow. And this season looks smashing. There are the requisite cameos from beloved characters, of course. Even the Millenium Falcon makes another appearance. Ezra continues to feel the pull of the darkside through the Sith holochron. Asoka is still missing after the climactic battle with Darth Vader, which left Kanan permanently scarred. A certain villain manages to survive again, against all odds. But how do you follow up a season that had Darth Vader as its biggest bad? You draw from the beloved Timothy Zahn novels, and go for precise, thoughtful blue. In other words, you bring in Grand Admiral Thrawn. Ooooh.