It isn’t often that I get really excited about the new fall television season, for one reason or another. Whether it’s because I’m not really interested in a lot of the new pilots that are airing, or because I have the distinct feeling that even if I am interested in one or two of them, they won’t be around long, or just because I have my lineup solidified from old favorites that are returning for another season, there have been years where the fall premieres just haven’t caught my fancy. But this season is pretty much loaded with things I can’t wait to try, and it makes me really happy. One, because I have two spots to fill, thanks to the departures of Law & Order and 24 from my life, and two, because there are some old favorites as far as actors returning to the small screen after an all-too-long absence. I’ve picked out the top five new series that have caught my attention, and am fervently hoping that my interest hasn’t been totally misplaced. Which, of course, has happened on occasion – this summer’s Persons Unknown on NBC, for instance – and which has been absolutely distressing. I have to admit though…this season, I’ve got a really good feeling.
Number one on the list is Law & Order: Los Angeles, but it is also the one about which I’m really kind of nervous. After all, as far as I’m concerned – and as far as I’ve been concerned for fifteen years – the Law & Order franchise just is New York. From the gritty look to the early seasons to the incomparable Jerry Orbach and his portrayal of Detective Lennie Briscoe, there was just always something distinctly Big Apple about the show. Transplanting it to Los Angeles, and possibly suffering the same kind of fate as NCIS did when it spun itself out to the West Coast, is something that makes me really uneasy. I’ve seen another L&O spinoff – the shortlived Trial By Jury, starring Bebe Neuwirth – tank miserably, and that one wasn’t all that different from its three predecessors. LOLA is bound to have a different look, a different feel, and obviously a different city and different headlines to inspire it, and as glad as I am to welcome any incarnation of the show that has defined so much of popular culture over the last two decades coming into my house every week, I’m just nervous. There’s no other way to describe it. But with names like Terrence Howard and Alfred Molina headlining the cast, I at least know that no matter what, there are capable hands ripping out headlines and bringing them to life. Therefore, bring on LOLA. But please make sure it’s worthy of bearing the mothership’s name.
The second new series is Blue Bloods, starring Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Amy Carlson, and Will Estes. Why is this exciting to me? Because I don’t think the cast assembled could be any more stellar. Selleck is always charming, regardless of the role he’s playing, and I’m glad to see him working on a series again after the cancellation of Las Vegas a few seasons back. I think that the premise – that of a family whose legacy is the New York City Police Department and public service – is familiar and comfortable enough to generate an audience, but also opens up any number of interesting and dramatic plot points. How does one balance the pressures of being a police officer with the pressures of family life – even when that family consists of three grown children, all of whom know what it’s like to be responsible for protecting and serving in one way or another? Does that blurring of the lines make things easier, because you don’t always have to censor yourself when the topic of work comes up? Or does it make things even more difficult, because you wish you did have to censor yourself? Admittedly, the cast is what drives my excitement about this show, but the premise is a very, very close second. I love family dramas. I love cop dramas. I especially love when they are turned into a mash-up, and the mash-up works. I’m hoping this is one of those cases…and that Donnie Wahlberg’s unfortunate luck as far as the survival of his television series takes a turn for the better.
When a show even remotely reminds me of something else I love, I get happy. When a show even remotely reminds me of something else I love and boasts an incredible cast, I get deliriously excited. NBC’s The Event looks like The X-Files meets 24, in that conspiracy theories seem to be abundant, and in that it’s going to be extremely important not to miss an episode. Plus, when Zeljko Ivanek is involved, chances are, it’s going to be worth at least one viewing. Add in the likes of Laura Innes – missing since her Dr. Kerry Weaver left County General on ER -, Blair Underwood, Lisa Vidal, and Jason Ritter, for whom I’ve had a soft spot since Joan of Arcadia, and I think there’s something good brewing here. The commercials and previews freak me out every time I see them, but in a good way. I’m a sucker for the bizarre and the mysterious, and the fact that the titular “Event” is so masked in shadow is enough for me. I must know what it is. And therefore, I’ll be watching.
Comedies really aren’t usually my thing. Mostly because my sense of humor is apparently not the same kind of sense of humor as the rest of America. I don’t think Two and a Half Men is funny, and I didn’t watch Friends. Things that rely on stupid humor and crude jokes don’t interest me. But bring in an element of the humor that comes from daily interactions between clashing personality types, that layer of heart, and some kind of underlying sweetness along with some good old-fashioned foolishness, and you’ve got me. It also doesn’t hurt to cast people who seem like they’ll be a delight to watch together. And that’s what I hope to find in Running Wilde, the latest from the creator of Arrested Development. The show places Will Arnett (Blades of Glory, Arrested Development) with Keri Russell (Felicity, August Rush), and that in and of itself is enough to make me want to watch. It’s a pair that seems oddly mismatched, but at the same time perfect – which seems to mirror the show’s premise, from what I’ve gathered. Arnett is comedic gold, and Russell is a joy to see on-screen, and with much of the team from Arrested Development reassembled, here’s to what, on paper, looks like a slam dunk.
Last is Jimmy Smits’ Outlaw. The premise looks sort of ridiculous, the dialogue I’ve heard in the previews is trite and tacky, but it’s Jimmy Smits. It’s shallow, yes. But everyone needs that shallow choice.
The best part of the season? Almost nothing conflicts with each other, or with returning favorites. Which is a minor miracle in and of itself.