Opinion-makers are already calling this the worse fall TV season in years. It’s a surprising charge, considering how inventive basic and pay cable have become in recent years. Lately, we’ve had “Fargo,” “Atlanta,” “Veep,” “Westworld,” “Better Call Saul,” “The Night Of” and “Big Little Lies.” Not to mention all the streaming stuff on Netflix and Amazon (“Master of None,” “Stranger Things,” “The Handmaid’s Tale”). But network TV still struggles to either play catch up or to play to its basic strengths.
So which of the over-hyped, underwhelming new fall TV shows will be the first to face the dreaded ax of cancellation? Place your bets.
Early money was on Seth MacFarlane’s “The Orville” over on FOX. The show turned out not to be the humorous sci-fi parody commercials were touting, but a derivative and surprisingly straight-faced “Star Trek” knockoff. Critics (myself included) trashed it. MacFarlane has his fans, however, and some viewers seem to like it. Ratings for the show’s Sunday night premiere were big (7.6 million viewers) but dropped considerably once it warped to its regular Thursday night slot (down to 4 million). Still, the show is building slightly on its lead-in (the fourth season of “Gotham”), which is rare in TV circles, so FOX is likely to see how things play out for at least a while. (Odds: 7 to 1)
Earlier this month, fans worked themselves into a furor when it was speculated that ABC had “pre-cancelled” its newest Marvel superhero show “Inhumans.” Granted, the producers have done some pretty crazy stuff, including putting the pilot in movie theaters for two weeks where people could pay for the privilege of watching it before it aired for free on TV. So far, reviews of the show are decidedly mixed. Plus, ABC is running it in the notorious Friday night “dead zone.” The cancellation rumors came, however, when someone noticed that ABC was advertising the show as “the complete season.” Meaning there won’t be another one? Nope, turns out the network has been advertising it that way for months. Odds are, since ABC is owned by Disney the same as Marvel, and that the show cost a pretty penny to produce, they’ll air the entire season no matter what the ratings. (Odds: 15 to 1)
So what does that leave us? Well, the teen-aimed reboot of “Dynasty” over on The CW seems like a ridiculous idea. Sure, the network had success with its reboot of “Beverly Hills 90210”—but that was always aimed at teenagers. Millennials don’t exactly have nostalgia for a campy, 30-year-old soap filled with big hair and giant shoulder pads. (Odds: 4 to 1) “The Brave” on NBC is one of three new military-based dramas this fall (alongside CBS’ “SEAL Team” and The CW’s “Valor”). One of them has to go. “The Brave” seems like the weakest in terms of story (half of every episode is people staring concernedly at computer monitors and shouting orders into headset microphones) and star power (headliner Anne Heche’s last series was the apocalyptically awful “Aftermath”). (Odds: 3 to 1) CBS’ “9JKL” is a perfectly generic sitcom about a guy who moves in next door to his parents and his brother. I have a hard time even remembering the dull-as-dirt title and so will viewers. (Odds: 2 to 1)