August 29, 2017
NEW YORK — Maybe you're wondering where is THIS fall's "This Is Us"?
As if you could forget, this affectionate, time-shifting family drama landed on NBC's Fall 2016 schedule as an instantly popular and critical sensation. And a potential game changer for network programming.
But that will have to wait.
"It would be this (upcoming 2018-19) development season that would be more impacted," explained Dana Walden, CEO of Fox Television Group. The trends governing the 2017-18 season — chief among them, military dramas — were already taking shape by the time "This Is Us" burst on the scene last fall. "By the third week of September, most dramas have been pitched."
As for the 2018-19 season? "I wouldn't be surprised if there's family shows (and) shows that play with time," Walden said.
But she also noted that "This Is Us" will be a hard act to follow because its creator, Dan Fogelman, has an inimitable voice — "It's not like, 'Oh, a big medical drama hit.'"
NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke agreed that "This Is Us" is "a magical sort of unicorn. You can't really reverse-engineer it."
And even if you could, ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey said she wouldn't: "I don't want to do a cheap imitation of somebody else's show. I want a show that speaks for itself."
Maybe. "Kevin" is a fantasy drama starring Jason Ritter as a self-centered, despairing wretch who is visited by a "celestial" who gives him an assignment: get over himself and save the world. Shades of "Touched By an Angel on a Highway to Heaven"? At least this "Kevin" isn't "Kevin Can Wait." And it's sweet. Your teeth may ache. With that caveat, check it out. It premieres Oct. 3.
The title character of "The Good Doctor" is a brilliant young surgeon whose autism and savant syndrome impair his ability to personally connect with patients and fellow doctors. The show, which comes from "House" creator David Shore as another medical drama led by a brilliant but problematic doctor, is familiar medicine. But star Freddie Highmore is splendid. Premiering Sept. 25, it's worth checking out.
So is ABC's "Ten Days in the Valley," a mystery thriller that boasts Kyra Sedgwick as its star and a 10-episode format that should keep the storytelling brisk. Sedgwick plays a single mother and overworked TV producer whose life begins to overlap with the cop drama she produces when her young daughter disappears. No one, including this frantic mom, is free of suspicion. It premieres Oct. 1.
ABC's "The Mayor" is charming, funny and uplifting. Young rapper Courtney Rose is trying to jump-start his career, so he runs for mayor of his struggling hometown as a publicity stunt. When, to his shock, he wins the election, he decides to face the music and be the best mayor he can. Lea Michele plays his friend (and self-appointed chief aide) and, as Courtney, Brandon Micheal Hall could be the season's breakout star. Premiering Oct. 3.
The Fox network's "Ghosted" is a screwball sci-fi comedy that frolics by playing it straight. A cynical former LAPD detective (Craig Robinson) and a genius true believer in the paranormal (Adam Scott) are recruited by a secret government agency to probe a rash of "unexplained" activity. Sure, it smacks of "Ghostbusters." But the show's earnest tone makes the hijinks feel grounded and the characters not just funny, but relatable. It premieres Oct. 1.
Fall's freshest breath of air transports viewers into airless outer space on "The Orville."
It's the latest brainchild of Seth MacFarlane, who also stars. Thanks to his bad-boy image as the force behind such cheeky projects as "Family Guy" and "Ted," this enterprise (pun intended) is almost certain to initially catch viewers by surprise. Why? It's more drama than comedy. And while adopting the futuristic visual flair of circa-1960s "Star Trek," it's no snarky "Star Trek" spoof, but a sincere homage in the form of a space adventure series in its own right.
Premiering on Fox on Sept. 10, it's a risky voyage for MacFarlane, as the Commanding Officer of the Orville spaceship — and the show he built around it. Will viewers want to sign on for a trip into the heavens with the hopefulness and goodwill that has kept "Star Trek" aloft? In any case, "The Orville" is the season's one true fresh entry, a show daring to be different, boldly going where no other fall show dares to go.
Television Writer Lynn Elber contributed to this report from Los Angeles.