Statistics show that the 100 day writer's strike affected television for the long-term this season because though shows have been back on the air with new material as early as the end of March (for some, like Cold Case), viewership is still down. Whether once-fans just turned their loyalties toward other media like Netflix or streaming online videos, or whether they're just keeping their TV off altogether, networks are working overtime to win them back. With the announcements of new shows on the horizon, as well as returning favorites, Fall 2008 is certainly looking up!
The majority of the new fall programs that has me personally excited, I must admit, only are what they are due to the casting choices. Since the WGA strike forced an abbreviated pilot season, little is known about the details of the following shows (at least to me, who hasn't been privy to reading the scripts), but the buzz around the talent attached is enough to get me to tune in. After all, unique plotlines and punchy dialogue is hard to come by; usually a show's quality can be exponentially raised just by who's involved. If someone I admire believes enough in the project, I usually will, too.
First up on the "Must See" (or "Must TiVo," for today's day and age) is Fox' The Inn. Starring Jason Bateman!, Niecy Nash!, Jerry O'Connell, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson!, The Inn focuses on the goings-on for staffers and guests alike in a posh Manhattan hotel. While on paper it sounds a bit like the short-lived (and rightfully so) The Captain, with talent like the aforementioned attached, I have to believe it is destined to be just offbeat and quirky enough for today's sardonic audience-- myself included. After all, it is starring, written by, and produced by an Arrested Development alum.
Though the show went off the air prematurely a few years ago, the talent Arrested Development is well-represented in the upcoming lineup with projects that will undoubtedly garner them their much-deserved widespread exposure and even wider fan base. Jessica Walter will be appearing on The CW's still untitled 90210 reunion/spin-off. Normally that kind of program is not something about which I would normally be gung-ho, but between her, Lori Loughlin, and the recent official signing of Jennie Garth, all the show needs is a few gay pin-up male leads, and I'll be officially in.
And just in case you haven't had your fill of adult cartoons, Fox has also ordered episodes of Sit Down, Shut Up, by Mitch Hurwitz. The show, which is based on a show made popular overseas (though in the live action form there in Australia), is an animated look at high school teachers who are all much more invested in their own problems than helping their students. Following his wife's lead, Will Arnett will voice a character on this show, as will his Arrested co-stars Henry Winkler and Jason Bateman (again). Though Fox may have canceled the show that launched them all as comedic geniuses, they are trying to do right by them now with this new program, it seems, and more power to them for finally realizing the potential in such actors... though it is a bit too little too late. Sit Down, Shut Up will also star SNL favorites Cheri Oteri and Will Forte and sounds a bit like Miss/Guided (which, sadly, ABC is not giving more of a chance!), but that only makes it more appealing to this reviewer.
On NBC's horizon is yet another Americanized version of an Australian favorite: Kath & Kim. Though I've never seen the original, a part of me just hopes for a slightly more mature (but just as rapid-fire) Gilmore Girls. After all, with Molly Shannon playing the mom role, and Selma Blair as the daughter-- and the age difference so close-- you just know this isn't going to be your typical familial sitcom. NBC gave this show an order without even greenlighting a pilot, that's how screwed up the industry is due to the strike, and despite the fact that the summary for the show was only one line, the press release did feature the word "dysfunctional," which intrigued me.
Not premiering until the summer, NBC has a reality food competition all their own with Chopping Block. Designed in a "Last Restaurant Standing" format, eight couples will be split apart and given competing restaurant space, embarking on challenges that range from designing the space to preparing the menu to publicizing it. While the show doesn't sound as food heavy as say Top Chef, The Next Food Network Star, or even Hell's Kitchen, anything dealing with imaginative dishes wins me over on concept alone.
So far not all networks have announced their line-ups-- and those that have don't seem entirely complete anyway; really, ABC; only two news shows? WTF?. I'm hoping once the grid is full, I will some additions to make to my "What To Watch" list, but in all honesty, I don't have the highest hopes. Considering recent years, I'm expecting a lot of copycat programming and returns of shows with which I'm already none-too-thrilled. These are my early picks, but they are subject to change at any time.