Well, the network upfronts have come and gone and I really need some sleep. I must say, I am really excited about next year’s crop of new shows. Much more excited than I was for the season that just ended. Upfronts are a funny thing. We completely judge and decide if we want to watch a show or not based on a very early cut of a trailer, or more often just a show synopsis that is only a few paragraphs long. These descriptions are often riddled with buzz words and snappy one liners, and 90% of the time they sound ridiculous. There are several instances where a trailer and a few paragraphs make a show sound awful and we write it off, only to find that when the show airs we really like it (see Mixology). Even more often, the opposite of that is true (When I read the description of Once Upon a Time several years ago I thought it sounded awesome. It is not.). But why learn from our mistakes?!? We already know exactly how these shows are going to turn out! Right?? We present to you, the awards for the best and worst of the 2014 upfronts!
**Note** We aren’t even counting TBS. It was a joke. Just three new comedies that will be terrible. TBS: Not Funny. We will just be counting the five major networks plus TNT because it puts out several quality dramas every year.
Best Network For New Shows
Without a doubt it’s FOX, although NBC made a surprisingly strong push. Gotham is clearly the headliner for the FOX lineup and I would almost guarantee that it does well in the ratings despite being in an EXTREMELY competitive time slot. Gracepoint, Hieroglyph, and Wayward Pines all look amazing for the dramas. They are solid in the comedy department as well as Mulaney looks really funny and Last Man on Earth is extremely interesting. Well done FOX.
I also have to go with FOX here. Each of the other networks, including CW and TNT, have something to offer this year that interests me, but FOX has a more consistent lineup for me by far. The best FOX had the most exciting trailer for me, in Last Man on Earth, along with my most anticipated comedy, in Mulaney. Add to that Gracepoint with the amazingly talented David Tennant, Watward Pines and its creepy Twin Peaks vibe, the amazing looking Gotham, and Blackstrom, a show that could not be more up my alley, and you have the makings of the best year FOX has seen in awhile.
The only thing putting FOX over the top of The CW for me, here is the sheer breadth of content. The CW programs so few television shows per season that having even a single clunker puts it at a severe disadvantage. For the upcoming season, that clunker appears to be JANE THE VIRGIN, which has no appeal to me whatsoever. FOX, meanwhile, is giving me a half-hour sitcom starring and written by one of my all-time favorite stand up comedians in Mulaney, a unique and rare unknown quantity in The Last Man on Earth, a new show that looks to capitalize on the immense success of last years hit Sleepy Hollow and, of course, the origins of Batman in Gotham. It’s hard to argue with that.
Worst Network For New Shows
It’s CBS and it’s not close. CBS is an unstoppable procedural and Chuck Lorre monster. I have ZERO desire to see yet another version of both CSI and NCIS. Madam Secretary sounds like hot garbage. Battle Creek sounds like a boring procedural with a recycled premise. Stalker could be cool but will probably be bogged down to much by the CBS formula to hold my attention. Scorpion is the single show that holds my interest at the moment but I won’t hold my breath. The Odd Couple has a great cast and I’m sure I will like it, but it’s not enough to save CBS with me. And yet, I’m sure they will win the ratings war yet again next year.
Well, we can’t pick TBS I’m being told, so looks like CBS will get the crown here. CSI: Cyber brings back wartime-like flashbacks of watching the atrocious Intelligence, NCIS: New Orleans wouldn’t be worth talking about if it weren’t for my hero Scott Bakula, and Battle Creek even sounds boring to this procedural-loving fanatic. While The Odd Couple looks somewhat hopeful, and we admittedly haven’t even seen trailers for these shows yet, I am easily the least excited to turn to CBS this fall.
I get to be different, here! There is no denying that CBS looks to have an absolutely terrible lineup this upcoming season, it’s simply fact. However, for me, NBC seems to have just as poor a showing. When I look over the new proposals, I see almost nothing of value at NBC next year, save for a DC comics adaptation of one of my favorite characters with Constantine and a revival of a series that I once loved, but lost interest in halfway through in Heroes Reborn. Other than those two potential shiners, everything else looks like a mess. Tina Fey’s new comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt sounds ghastly, One Big Happy seems like it’s just going to be a male fantasy turned to life in the most pandering way with pretty Lesbians in an awkward setting and it’s a toss-up between The Mysteries of Laura and Bad Judge as for which show looks the worst overall from ANY network this year. NBC hasn’t fared well for me in recent years and it’s a miracle I even want to watch TWO of there shows, a real-life biblical miracle.
Best Moment of the Upfronts
It looks like i’m just stealing my picks from Evan, but trust me when I say that this pick is 100% from me. I can’t stop laughing at the insanely over-the-top and extremely succinct TNT tag line — BOOM!
The Flash is back on TV! I tried to be different here and pick Fresh off the Boat for it’s surprisingly funny trailer, but that’d be lying to myself. Arrow’s creators look to have another great comic book adaptation on it’s hands, and a 5 minute trailer proved to me that the tone will be decidedly different, while still fitting into Arrow’s established universe. Gustin looks great as the Flash, and the pilot cannot come soon enough.
Worst Moment of the Upfronts
Finding out that Debra Messing still has a career
Bad Judge. This show looks horrible in almost every way. Shallow, generic, and not funny in the least.
Learning that FOX really cannot ever let go of House M.D. Backstrom certainly could be good, but after the horribly failed experiment of Rake, I think it’s time to move on. House had a wonderful 8 year run and you don’t need to try and emulate it with every new season of television. Also, once Dwight Shrute has been seen, he cannot be unseen, no matter how five-o-clock his shadow may be.
Top 5 Comic Book/ Superhero Shows
(They get their own category because otherwise they would dominate most of our regular lists)
5. Heroes Reborn (NBC) – I am one of the few people that genuinely enjoyed all four of the seasons of the original show. I don’t know if they will be able to recapture the same magic as before, but I am thrilled that they are going to try.
4. Marvel’s Agent Carter (ABC) – This one would probably be much higher if I had any idea what direction this show was going to take. It will be interesting to see who the bad guys are and if it will tell stories that are talked about in the present day Marvel Universe. If so, this show will skyrocket up my list.
3. Flash (The CW) – Coming into the upfronts, this was easily my number one. I don’t love the costume and I hated the special effects for his running at times, but this is from the people that do Arrow, so I would’t be surprised if it ends up being my number one again.
2. Gotham (FOX) – Man this trailer got me excited. I have always been a sucker for origin stories and this looks like a great one. I love the young Penguin and Riddler and if they keep the focus on Gordon and resist the urge to focus to much on a young Bruce Wayne, this show will be amazing.
1. Constantine (NBC) – I was NOT ready for how awesome this show looks. Easily my favorite preview out of all the shows. I am not a reader of Hellblazer, but I actually enjoyed the Keeanu Reeves movie of the same name. This already looks better.
5. iZombie (CW) – The premise is perfect for a “freak of the week style drama, and I can’t wait to see how CW handles this kind of show.
4. Gotham (FOX) – This show being so low on the list really only speaks to the quality and volume of comic and superhero-related content on TV this fall. Batman has always been over-rated for me (send your hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org!), but I enjoyed most of the Nolan trilogy and am looking forward to the upcoming Superman/Batman flick, so here’s hoping I can add Gotham to the list!
3. The Flash (CW) – This is easily the biggest turn around on the list for me. I was not excited for this show, despite my love of Arrow. Both the one minute teaser and the five minute trailer have now sold me though. I am stoked to see exactly what CW has to offer with this one.
2. Constantine (NBC) – This looks like the kind of show I can really get behind. It’s feels like indie comics meets Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I feel like that’s really all that needs to be said.
1. Marvel’s Agent Carter (ABC) – We haven’t even seen a trailer for this one yet, but I am a sucker for the insane world building that Marvel has done over the last several years, and this is just another piece to that puzzle. Add to that the fact that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has gotten better almost every week, and the new and interesting setting in which this show will take place, and you have a sure winner in my eyes.
5. Marvel’s Agent Carter (ABC) – Man, this one barely beat out iZombie for me, and it’s thanks to my insane love for Captain America and the awesome turnaround of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the second half of the season. Both shows went without trailers during the upfronts, so we’re going based solely off of premise, here. However, Agent Carter is a more known quantity, we’ve already seen Haley Atwell succeed in the role of Peggy Carter and the potential for them to spin this show off into a dual-timeline show with Agent Sharon Carter in modern times during future seasons is a very enticing probability. iZombie could be great, but it could fall down the procedural well, and only Trey would like it, then.
4. Heroes Reborn (NBC) – Alright, Heroes, you have one shot at making me forget Season 3 ever happened. Make the best of it. Season 1 was amazing, so let’s try and recapture that magic, and leave Sylar in the past, please.
3. Gotham (FOX) – Gotham is a unique take on the Batman mythos, choosing to focus on James Gordon instead of Bruce Wayne in the early years of his orphaning. The world building that seems to be going on within Gotham looks great, my only concern is how they can continue to sell the audience on all of this foreshadowing while maintaining headstrong against the cries to put Batman in the show already. They have to remain vigilant and stick to the idea that this is a Jim Gordon story first, and if the series goes long enough, we may eventually see the beginnings of that Batman tale, but don’t force it and this show can end up being great.
2. Constantine (NBC) – I loved the Constantine movie, even if I wasn’t supposed to. It is great, however, to see the character being done more justice on television. The only issue is that NBC will not allow for smoking on their network, and that is a huge crux of the character. However, a dark and brooding horror show that stars a DC comics character is just what the doctor ordered for me, and I cannot wait to see it all play out.
1. The Flash (The CW) – Like it was ever even a contest. I look forward to no show on television more each week than Arrow, and The Flash is the perfect character for television. The comedy looks to be a nice change of pace from Arrow, and the tie-ins to that universe look to be spot on. If this show can prove to be even marginally as successful for The CW, there’s no telling what other shows could join the lineup, and that’s a world I really want to live in. We may never get a cohesive world between these shows and the movie universe, but we can certainly have our own version of the Justice League done by the Berlanti crew, and that would be awesome.
Top 5 Best Individual Dramas
5. The Messengers (The CW) – I am wary of this one since I am picking a CW show over Hieroglyph (FOX) and Allegiance (NBC) (my sneaky 6 and 7th picks for you podcast listeners), but I am a sucker for apocalyptic thriller featuring spiritual forces. This sounds awesome.
4. The Whispers (ABC) – That kid flat out creeped me out. I love the premise of this show (aliens using kids to takeover the Earth) but I do worry a little if they show the aliens on screen. That never tends to go well on TV.
3. Public Morals (TNT) – Basically this is Mob City 2.0. I adored Mob City last year and I love Ed Burns. Can’t wait for this one.
2. Wayward Pines (FOX) – This show was made for me. A psychological mystery thriller that will string me on from week to week. Plus Matt Dillon?? Sold.
1. Gracepoint (FOX) – I’m actually shocked this is my number one but I loved that trailer. David Tennant and Anna Gunn look amazing and I love a classic murder mystery.
5. Emerald City (NBC) – May change my mind on this when we actually see something, but Sleepy Hollow turned me around on this genre and I’m hoping that this show is everything I want it to be.
4. Public Morals (TNT) – Go watch Ed Burns in that fantastic trailer. ‘Nuff said.
3. The Whispers (ABC) – Still crazy to me that ABC has me the most excited behind FOX, and The Whispers is one of the major reasons for that. A great trailer and an intriguing premise, I only wish we didn’t know it was an alien invasion up front. That could have been a wonderful mystery (i.e. – The Leftovers).
2. Wayward Pines (FOX) – Twin Peaks in 2014 is the way to get my attention. I love the idea of a creepy town with a lot to hide. Matt Dillion also makes me happy, especially in this type of show. While M. Night Shyamalan scares the crap outta me, in the worst way, I still can’t help but be extremely excited for this show.
1. Backstrom (FOX) – Procedurals, as anyone who listens to out podcast will know, are my jam. More truthfully, they are my television comfort food. Add to that a cast featuring some of my favorites like Rainn Wilson, Genevieve Angelson, and Dennis Haysbert (or Mr. President, as I still call him), and you have a that tops my list without a question.
5. Hieroglyph (FOX) – Sleepy Hollow ended up being a huge hit for me, and this show looks like Sleepy Hollow crossed with something like Game of Thrones or Vikings. A historical drama with a decidedly sci-fi edge, sounds good to me. Side note: if I had a sneaky 6 for this one, against all odds it would be The Librarians. Most people haven’t seen the made-for-TNT (Boom!) movies that this show is based off of, but I’m a sucker for Noah Wyle after Falling Skies, and those movies are basically Uncharted adaptations. Getting an Uncharted/National Treasure show every week for 10-13 weeks out of the year sounds alright by me.
4. Wayward Pines (FOX) – Twin Peaks 2.0 sells me on this, alone. It certainly has all the makings of a great show, and I love Matt Dillon, so count me in.
3. Gracepoint (FOX) – Starting to see why we all chose FOX for the best week overall? This is yet another solid drama in the making with what appears to be an amazing performance from David Tennant.
2. The Messengers (The CW) – I’m giving the CW the benefit of the doubt here with what could be some seriously weighty material. It’s entirely possible that they handle it in spectacularly bad fashion as they do with many shows, but the premise sounds great. I like Tomorrow People enough, as well as parts of The 100 to give this show a chance, but it’s hard to not have a sliver of doubt when it comes to this network.
1. The Whispers (ABC) – Creepy children talking to imaginary friends that trick them into murdering their parents? This trailer has me completely sold on this sci-fi thriller that appears to have some sort of secret alien invasion at the core of these murders. If the child acting is at all up to snuff this show could be great. If we have to suffer through terrible performance after terrible performance, then I’m going to be nervous.
Top 5 Worst Individual Dramas
5. CSI: Cyber (CBS) – Look, I get that once upon a time CSI was groundbreaking and really good. It’s not anymore. Please stop. The only reason NCIS: New Orleans isn’t on this list is because they had the good sense to hire Scott Bakula.
4. Empire (Fox) – I will be the first to admit that there is a slight possibility that this show is good. It would have to do the music aspect of the story very well though. Other than that it’s a recycled story that I don’t care to watch again. Also, Lee Daniels is the worst.
3. Backstrom (Fox) – I admit it. I am a bit biased. I DESPISE Rain Wilson. That dude just isn’t funny. Despite that, this show doesn’t look very good. FOX is still trying to create the next House character. Let it go. This looks like Rake 2.0 with a worse actor.
2. Madam Secretary (CBS) – A political foreign affairs drama starring Tea Leoni. Do I need to keep going??
1. The Mysteries of Laura (NBC) – KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!! Why does Debra Messing keep getting work???
5. Empire (FOX) – I am hoping that the music in this show hits, and if it does, then it may be better than I expect. But for now I have extremely low expectations for this show.
4. The Club (ABC) – I feel bad for Betsy Brandt. She was a great part of AMC’s Breaking Bad, and surprised me as one of the better parts of The Michael J. Fox Show. Sadly though, The MJF Show didn’t even make it to the end of it’s first season, and The Club looks just awful. While ABC seems to be breaking a lot of tradition with it’s Marvel shows and shows like The Whispers, The Club still feels like it’s hanging onto the same rope that Grey’s Anatomy and Revenge.
3. Madam Secretary (CBS) – Tea Leoni hasn’t made something worth watching since… well, since she started acting. Then throw in a generic and boring sounding story and you have a recipe for a show I don’t even want to bother with. Here’s hoping I don’t get the short straw on this one when we are planning out or review calendar!
2. CSI: Cyber – Again, after sitting through and reviewing Intelligence this year, this show gives me nightmares…
1. The Mysteries of Laura (NBC) – Debra Messing, the Jar Jar Binks of network television.
5. Madam Secretary (CBS) – Please, PLEASE stop giving Tea Leoni work. She doesn’t deserve it, and neither do we.
4. Generic new CSI/NCIS shows (CBS) – I get to cheat here, I couldn’t care less about either of these franchises, and the fact that they each continue to spawn of bastard children each and every year just angers me, let them go, let them die, please CBS, just let them die.
3. Backstrom (FOX) – This show could actually end up being good, it’s boom or bust for me. However, I have huge reservations about any show trying to emulate House so closely, and Rain Wilson ended up winning me over on the Office but inevitably might lack the dramatic depth needed to pull off this serious a role.
2. Emerald City (NBC) – Tell me one person who doesn’t think this show sounds ignorant in every way. Dorothy Gale is a headstrong woman who attempts to break into a top secret Kansas Facility and ends up with a stolen “toto” in the form of a K9 police dog, and falls victim to a magical tornado that brings her to Oz to become a warrior woman? What? Please, stop taking your shots at the legacy of The Wizard of Oz, we don’t need this, we don’t need a medical procedural that is based on Oz, we don’t need a reboot that tells the whimsical story of the Wizard, we have a classic, let’s leave it at that, please.
1. The Mysteries of Laura (NBC) – Who the hell would buy DEBRA MESSING as a tough-as-nails NYPD detective? No one, that’s who. No one.
Top 5 Best Individual Comedies
5. Black-ish (ABC) – I love Anthony Anderson and I think he can carry this show despite a premise that will quickly get old.
4. The Odd Couple (CBS) – What a great cast! Matthew Perry and Tom Lennon? You can’t go wrong. At the very least, maybe Matthew Perry is finally on a show that lasts more than a year in his post Friends career.
3. Last Man on Earth (FOX) – I think Will Forte is amazing, and he will have to be to pull off what is easily the most creative and ambitious show of the year. A half hour comedy that follows one man that never has any human interaction? If anyone can pull it off its Forte.
2. Fresh Off the Boat (ABC) – I’m still not sure if this show is racist or not, but I do know that I laughed my ass off at the trailer. It looks like an Asian Goldbergs. And that is a good thing.
1. Mulaney (FOX) – John Mulaney is one of my favorite stand up comedians on Earth and that trailer is hilarious. Throw in Martin Short, and I’m in 100% on this show.
5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, who are responsible for one of the best sitcoms of the last 10 years, 30 Rock, are behind this one. Add to that the adorably quirky Ellie Kemper and I am hopeful this show will be for me.
4. The Odd Couple (CBS) – Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon together in a sitcom. I’ll take two please.
3. Fresh Off the Boat (ABC) – ABC had two of my favorite sitcoms this year with The Goldbergs and Trophy Wife, and Fresh Off the Baot looks to stand with them on my favorites list. It’s decidedly racist, but let’s face it, some of the best comedy is, and while I love Randall Park, Constance Wu steals the show in the trailer we’ve seen. Can’t wait to see if this one lives up to the hype!
2. Last Man on Earth (FOX) – Easily the most intriguing trailer I have even seen for a television show, Last Man on Earth has a wonderfully original premise and stars the often hilarious Will Forte. I’m really looking forward to seeing exactly where FOX takes us with this one.
1. Mulaney (FOX) – Hey, another FOX show! Despite John Mulaney being known for making jokes about my one true love, Law & Order, this show looks wonderful. Stand-up mixed in à la Seinfeld or Louie, plus a hilarious cast including the beautiful Nasim Pedrad, makes for what is easily my most anticipated new comedy of the fall!
5. Galavant (ABC) – Zero chance to succeed. That’s what I give this show, but it has Timothy Omundson in it, and it’s a musical from the brilliant musical mind of Alan Menken, who is responsible for nearly every Disney song you’ve ever loved. I’m giving it a chance.
4. Last Man on Earth (FOX) – I worry that this show will have a hard time selling us on it’s premise for a full season if they don’t eventually add other people to the cast, and then it would violate the premise. However, the trailer was stellar, Will Forte is hilarious, and the idea behind the show is wonderful. Hopefully they can develop a narrative that keeps Forte as the only man alive for a full season at least, and perhaps utilize a sort of flash-back mechanic to allow for some sort of development and exposition, or this show could turn south, which would be truly unfortunate.
3. The Odd Couple (CBS) – I’m praying this one makes it. For the sake of Matthew Perry, let this show make it. I don’t particularly see the need for a new Odd Couple, but if it’s got Matthew Perry, I’m going to be watching. So don’t screw this up and maybe I get to see one of my favorite actors ever on a show that lasts more than a single season.
2. Fresh Off The Boat (ABC) – Are we doing an award for biggest surprise? If so, spoilers, this one wins it for me. I didn’t think I’d like this show at all based on premise, but goodness me, it’s funny as hell! Unlike another ABC sitcom that debuted this year, The Goldbergs, this show looks like it’s strongest cast member is the mother, who absolutely shines in her purely racist portrayal of a fish out of water mom trying to make her crazy life work. “If you get lost, try to join a white family, you’ll be safe there.”
1. Mulaney (FOX) – I love John Mulaney. He’s one of the best comedians working Stand-up today, and while the format has been done a million times before, such as Louie or Seinfeld, you cannot deny how successful it is, as well. Add in Martin Short and this one is a winner for me all around.
Top 5 Worst Individual Comedies
5. The McCarthys (CBS) – Another comedy that tries to be taboo with the whole stereotypical family with a gay member trying to fit in. It’s a common thing in our society now. It’s not funny, it’s just normal.
4. The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (NBC) – A rescued cult hostage trying to re-assimilate into society? What?? I know I want original premises but that is just ridiculous.
3. Jane the Virgin (The CW) – A nice girl with good morals that has been saving herself gets accidentally artificially inseminated. Sigh…..
2. Cristella (ABC) – This looks like every George Lopez comedy ever. None of them have ever been funny. Neither will this.
1. Bad Judge (NBC) – This year’s Killer Women award winner. Given to the show that makes you say “Who the F#@*k thought this was a good idea?!?!?” Easily the worst trailer overall, this show looks horrific.
5. Selfie – The name says pretty much every thing. (PS – I do love Karen Gillan though)
4. Manhattan Love Story – Give me Mixology back!!!
3. Cristella (ABC) – This show looks like something George Lopez would back in his spare time.
2. Jane the Virgin – “After a series of surprising events, a hard-working, religious young Latina woman is accidentally artificially inseminated.” What the WHAT?!?! Oh, and it’s written and executive produced by the woman behind the 90210 remake…
1. Bad Judge (NBC) – Stop it NBC. Just . Stop. It.
5. Manhattan Love Story (ABC) – This one just looks bad. The narrative style doesn’t work for me at all, the trailer was painfully unfunny, a dud all around.
4. Jane the Virgin (The CW) – This premise is just so off the charts dumb it hurts. I don’t have much more to say about it than that, honestly.
3. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (NBC) – Maybe I’m the only one who takes offense to it, but the premise for this show certainly sounds to me like it’s going to be taking fish-out-of-water shots at rescued cult followers, which doesn’t sound appealing or in good taste at all. Remember that time we all laughed at those girls who were all tricked into marrying one man when they didn’t know what an iPhone was? Yeah, I don’t either.
2. Cristella (ABC) – The laugh box, the exaggerated whoops and the insulting comedy of the trailer…why wasn’t this show sent to die on CBS instead? At least they have the decency to can every show that doesn’t explode in the ratings, which this one will fail to do as well.
1. Bad Judge (NBC) – Terrible, just terrible. I have no other words for it, and I don’t want to dedicate any more brain space to this show. She Blindsides it at the end of this trailer. That’s all.
Well that’s going to wrap up the 2014 Network Upfronts for us! I’m sure all of our early predictions and judgments are 100% accuarate! For a show by show breakdown on each individual network, check out our upfronts coverage for The CW, CBS, TNT/TBS, ABC, FOX, and NBC!