New Fall Television Overview

Each new fall season of television brings new patterns and trends to the forefront. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon continue to assert their new power in the television arena, offering more programming than ever before and eating away at the prominence of both premium cable channels and traditional networks alike. Viewers can stream programming from many more sources, and the overwhelming number of choices can make it hard for the average viewer to find anything at all. Here’s a smattering of what you might find on the TV, laptop, tablet, or phone nearest you.

Recycled Programming

Never let it be said that television networks aren’t into reusing and recycling. Old shows and ideas are getting new life every week. For instance, there will be a new incarnation of the Muppets, called—you guessed it—The Muppets (ABC, 9/22). It is made for an adult audience, in a documentary format that borrows from shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation. Word on the street is that it’s actually pretty funny. Next to be reborn is a show that is only 10 years old, Heroes.Heroes Reborn (NBC, 9/24) will be a 13-episode miniseries with a few of the original characters.

Longmire, a popular crime drama set in Wyoming that was dropped from A&E Network, has been picked up and carried on by Netflix (9/10). The creators of Chicago P.D. and Chicago Fire felt that you haven’t had quite enough of the Windy City, so they are now offeringChicago Med (NBC, 11/17). And for those who miss the soapy, sinister dealings of J.R. Ewing and his kin on Dallas, there is now an updated version set in North Dakota’s boomfields,Blood & Oil(ABC, 9/27).

Spurred on by the success of the small-screen reboot of Fargo, there will be a new show based on the Tom Cruise feature filmMinority Report (Fox, 9/21), as well as a show from the more recent Bradley Cooper movieLimitless (CBS, 9/22).

New Reality

One could argue that reality programming has become the ultimate recycling vehicle, but there are lots of new shows out there for every interest. I’m not sure who has been waiting expectantly for a show likeLabor Games (TLC, 9/15), a game show that quizzes mothers who are currently in labor on trivia, giving them the opportunity to win prizes for their incoming baby. A completely different kind of birth show isNatural Born Monsters (The Weather Channel, 9/21), in which adventurer Sean Duggan investigates strange reports of frightening creatures that have adapted to their climate or environment.

Football Town (NFL Network, 9/22) follows a remote Alaskan high school’s football team through their season. At another school, the Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine, students make their way through a variety of animals and situations onVet School (National Geographic Wild, 9/19).

Special Editions

Networks are also bringing more single servings or short-run offerings to the plate.Belief (OWN, 10/18) is a 7-night special that is sure to get people talking, from none other than Oprah Winfrey. The website says it explores “humankind's ongoing search to connect with something greater than ourselves.” PBS tackles another big personality inAmerican Experience: Walt Disney (PBS, 9/14). And HBO teams up with still another big name when they present an as-yet-unnameddocumentary about U2’s current concert tour (11/7).

Keeping Canada Alive (CBC, 10/4) is a special six-part series delving into the Canadian health care system, with crews filming around the country during the same 24-hour period.

Beasts of No Nation (Netflix, 10/16) is a movie, a grim, horrific fictionalized tale of life as an African child soldier, based on the popular book of the same name.

Worth Watching?

It’s always hard to know what shows might be worth your while. Here are a few that might be worth a try.

Remember variety shows? Candid Camera? Punk’d? It seems as though the showBest Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris (NBC, 9/15) is a combination of all of the above.

Life in Pieces seems to be chasing the Modern Family audience, giving four short stories from the same extended family in each episode. The trailer shows an affinity for off-color or edgy humor, but the list of stars involved make me hope that it will rise above it (CBS, 9/21).

Rosewood (FOX, 9/23) channels Miami Vice via Quincy. Rosewood is a private pathologist in Miami who partners with the police as a medical examiner. He’s smooth, he’s rich, he drives a cool car. The female detective he is paired with is having none of it. But apparently there is more to him than meets the eye.

Indian Summers (PBS, 9/27) is PBS doing its costume-drama best to hold on to Downton Abbey viewers. It revolves around the summer social scene of the colonial British living in India near the end of the British Empire.

Grandfathered (Fox, 9/29) is centered on an iffy premise. John Stamos is a suave, womanizing restaurateur who finds out he has a son, and that his son has a daughter. While there is plenty of room for crass humor here, the preview also shows a sweet side as he begins to embrace his inner family man.

The Grinder (Fox, 9/29) presents Rob Lowe as a man who has been starring on a TV drama as the charming, unbeatable lawyer called the Grinder. The show is finishing its run and he is back home with his father and brother, who happen to be real lawyers. And he thinks maybe he should be one too. It could be silly, but Rob Lowe could just make this work.

Code Black (CBS, 9/30) is a fictional TV show based on a documentary of the same name about the Los Angeles County Hospital emergency room, where emergency medicine was pioneered. This one may be a bit more realistic, and graphic, than the previously mentioned Chicago Med.

This Life (CBC, 10/5) is a Canadian show (sorry, U.S.) about a single mother, Natalie, who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. She sets about preparing her teenaged children for life without her.

The Last Kingdom (BBC America, 10/10) is aiming for the Game of Thrones crowd with a sweeping historical drama. The show is set in the ninth century and explores the origins of England.

Supergirl(CBS, 10/26) brings us a superhero show that sounds less gritty than a lot of them and appears to be part romantic comedy. Could be good, could be bad, or it could be super.

The Man in the High Castle (Amazon, 11/20) is a high-concept series set in an alternate history: 1962, after the Allies lose World War II. The former United States has been split—the west half of the country is ruled by Japan, the east half by Nazi Germany. The pilot for this show has been available on Amazon for a while; it has great production values and an interesting storyline, but so far the violence and language are pretty heavy duty. It’s hard to know what direction it will go.

That is a sentiment that sums up any attempt to predict the possible quality of all new TV shows—it’s hard to know what direction they will go. What shows make it to your must-see list? We’d love to hear from you.

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