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The Fall 2014 Television Line-Up: Who will make it to Summer?

Posted by Neil Pace on Fri, Sep 26, 2014 @ 16:09 PM

In what we hope will be an annual tradition
here at McCulloch+Company, we're going to give you a few of our picks for winners, losers, and "maybes" from the crop of new television shows. When we did this last year, we did great with our picks of shows that were sure to be canceled--all three are gone--but we were off on what we thought were good bets. Hostages had a great premise, but apparently no one else wanted to pay the ransom. Super Fun Night had a hilarious and up-and-coming lead in Rebel Wilson, but what's funny in a movie turned out to be less funny week after week. Even Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which did manage to make it to a second season, was in real jeopardy for a while. It took a theatrical movie's major plot twist to save it from cancellation.  

So what about this year? Which programs are worthy of your valuable DVR space and which will canceled and make way for (shudder) more reality/filler programming? Let's take a look. Remember, these opinions are based on pilots and previews and not on any ratings estimates:

Winners

NCIS: New Orleans - Let's be honest. If it ain't broke, make as many as you can and hope you duplicate the success. Yet another in the NCIS franchise (after Los Angeles and "classic"), this time set in the Big Easy. Procedurals continue to perform well across the board, and with TV mainstay Scott Bakula as the lead this is sure to be another hit for CBS. Picking this program was easy. The fun comes in trying to pick what city they'll choose next. 

Madam Secretary - Along with police procedurals, political dramas are a usual mainstay that perform well. This is proven by the recent success of House of Cards. CBS is trying to tap into that same vibe of intrigue, scandal, and geo-political current issues with a strong cast led by Tea Leoni (as well as a few HoC actors). The premise, cast, and even Sunday night timeslot all point to this being a hit. The only catch will be in CBS having to tone down the scandal that Netflix can get away with. 

The Flash - We were all surprised that comic book drama Arrow made it to season 2, let alone a season 3. So when they decided to spin off "the Fastest Man Alive" into his own show with the same creative team behind it, we were intrigued. But this won't be more of the same. Where Arrow is a very dark and brooding drama with its lead lurking in the shadows, The Flash looks to be much brighter with our hero operating out in the open. With this change in scenery comes a change in tone that really came through in the pilot. This show is FUN. Plus, this guy has superpowers. And with almost 60 years of stories to draw from and enough super villains to fill three series, this show really has legs. Yes, that was intentional.

Losers

Mysteries of Laura - This is a procedural and a family drama. How do these two go together? Not well. Debra Messing plays a cop who has her job under control but has no control over her family life. We don't see how they can keep both sides of her life compelling for long. Once they drop the family angle (which is the first thing we'd do), then it becomes a cop show without any kind of angle. That's when we turn it off.

Scorpion - Another cast member of failed show Smash, Katherine McPhee is starring in this CBS geniuses-solving-global-problems drama. Beyond Ms McPhee and her weak acting being ratings poison, this show seems doomed with its quirky premise and poor execution of that premise. The pilot did not draw us in - the stereotypical brainiac characters are about as interesting (and unemotional) as you would think - and its attempts at emotional connection through McPhee's character's son fell flat. Plus, it's on the very competitive Monday night. Now, we've been wrong before, and CBS has been known to make hits out of weaker shows (leaving us all scratching our heads - who watches this network!?), but our money's not on it.

Selfie - A romantic comedy starring Sulu from the new Star Trek films and Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy seems like it would be a hit. How bad could it be?

And the "Maybes"

Gotham - This one is tough to call. In the world of comics, there aren't many stories that show what happens in Gotham City between Bruce Wayne's parents' murder and his return years later to fight crime as the Caped Crusader. It's a blank slate. That means there's potential for plenty of great stories showing how Jim Gordon progresses from newbie detective to police commissioner amidst a city that is falling apart, as well as show how some of Batman's greatest enemies become the villains we love to hate. But we suspect viewers will tune out when they realize there won't be a Batman in this show. 

How to Get Away With Murder - This has all the makings of a hit. A hit-making creator (Shonda Rhimes). A hot night with other hits as lead ins (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal). An Oscar-winning lead actress. But we think that the formula may not work this time. It's an interesting premise (not unlike Murder, She Wrote actually) but parts of it seem a little too cliche, and far-fetched as this reviewer explains. We'll have to wait and see if this ABC recipe cooks up another hit or not. 

Gracepoint - FOX bought the rights to Gracepoint from the UK network ITV and planned to just reshoot it with the same plot, then later decided that they needed to change the storyline since people in the States would likely download or stream the original. So it will have it's own compelling plot, and the star power of original series star and former Doctor Who David Tennant along with Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn should bring in audiences. But as AMC's The Killing proved, not everyone is patient when it comes to season-long murder mysteries, especially if FOX decides to extend the mystery into another season. At any rate, watch the original if you can find it. 

So if you're reading this and you're looking to place some TV ads, you know where we'd recommend you appear. If you have any opinions about these or any other new programs, let us know in the comments. And when next year rolls around, we can say "we told you so."

At least we hope we can. 

Scott Christopher also contributed to this post.

Topics: television, ratings, Nielsen, tv

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