Our look at the new fall schedules continues, and this time, thanks to some fudging of the alphabet, we’re getting into FOX. Look, I hold firm that the name of the fifth network is The CW. And also FOX is showing a special preview episode of Rel this coming Sunday and I feel like I have to post these before any of the shows air. This should be good, right? FOX usually has some interesting new shows on the schedule. I’m excited about this one!The Cool Kids – Now, you need to understand that FOX cancelled its entire live action comedy lineup this year, including the beloved Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which was saved by NBC) and Last Man on Earth (which was not). So every new FOX show is going to be viewed through that lens. It’s like in ’99 when NBC cancelled Homicide and NewsRadio and I reacted to their lineup with…. some hostility.
Anyway, this retirement home sitcom stars Vicki Lawrence, Martin Mull, David Alan Grier, and Leslie Jordan and it just looks so, so bad. Old jokes, horny old people jokes, gay jokes… it looks like a retrograde mess straight out of 1994. Interesting cast aside, this looks so bad that I assumed Seth MacFarlane was the Executive Producer. But no, it’s Charlie Day. And that floors me. This looks like the kind of thing Always Sunny would have parodied in the past. Right down to the shrieking laugh track and the cremains joke everybody can see coming from a mile away. Unless this is a meta parody of bad sitcoms, this really just looks like a bad sitcom.
The Masked Singer – Holy smokes, does this look insane. This is based on a South Korean show and the premise is bonkers. It’s a singing competition where the participants are all famous people – maybe famous for singing, maybe not. There are TV actors and at least one football player in the mix. But they’re performing in full body costumes that hide their identities. One is eliminated every week and a panel of judges tries to figure out who they are.
That actually sounds really fun. And check out the panel! As judges, we have Ken Jeong, Nicole Scherzinger, Robin Thicke and…. anti-vaxxer / celebrity spokesperson for junk science, Jenny McCarthy. Well, looks like I can’t watch after all. Never mind.
Mental Samurai – There’s no trailer for this upcoming game show, and there’s so little information that I almost didn’t include it. It combines an obstacle course with trivia, and it’s hosted by Rob Lowe, who should still be grinding to this day. I’m only listing it because the title is ridiculous and I really want to see a scripted series with that title because just imagine what that would be. I’m picturing a modern day paraplegic Samurai with telepathy and possibly the ability to project his consciousness into the bodies of others. Now that’s a show I’d watch!
The Passage – The trailer is a little confusing and the wiki page wants me to read about the novel on which it’s based, but people are already complaining about the changes so that probably won’t help. What it looks like is: There’s a plague threatening humanity, and scientists believe they can cure it by making a child “Patient Zero” for the antivirus. So they send a couple of CDC agents to bring in a kid with no family, but the main guy (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) goes rogue and runs away with the kid rather than risk her life. I think. It has a very The Last of Us feel, frankly.
And, well, it definitely paints the people trying to cure a plague as the bad guys, so that’s cool. Given Jenny McCarthy’s role in Masked Singer, FOX is really leaning into the idea that wiping out dangerous diseases is a bad thing to do. And honestly, there’s a layer of cheese to the whole thing that makes it look like it was designed to be picked up by Syfy once it’s cancelled after one season. I promise I’m not cranky, FOX just has a really uninspiring lineup.
Proven Innocent – Well, finally something that at least looks like a real TV show. This follows a law firm that works to overturn wrongful convictions. You know, just like ABC’s one-and-done Conviction. The lead is a divisive tabloid figure, just like in Conviction. It’s basically Conviction but without Hayley Atwell and that is not the way to make something better.
In all fairness, I think the trailer does a better job of selling the rah-rah justice aspect than Conviction ever did. The creative team has a solid record of hits, but it doesn’t seem like something FOX can market. Earnest dramas don’t do well over there (Remember how Pitch was actually pretty good and FOX couldn’t figure out how to tell people that?), and I don’t see this doing any better than Conviction did. Worth noting though – the cast includes Mad Men‘s Vincent Kartheiser with a truly gross beard, and one of the key characters in the trailer has already been replaced by Kelsey Garammer.
Rel – The second of FOX’s two new comedies also has a distinctly nineties vibe in the way it seems to plug a stand-up comedian into kind of a generic premise and you cross your fingers that it’s the next Seinfeld. Lil Rel Howery, who most people know from Get Out, stars and, well, here’s the thing. Everything we see in the trailer is Rel being a sad sack. He was really funny in Get Out, but what he wasn’t doing is moping. I’m not familiar with his standup, but if you want to sell us a show starring the guy who was funny in a movie, maybe we should see some trace of that in the trailer. Instead, it’s mostly generic divorce jokes.
That said, I actually thought the running joke about loose boots was pretty funny, and it’s nice to see Sinbad as Rel’s dad. That’s not enough to get me interested, necessarily, but like Proven Innocent, at least it looks like a real TV show with cameras and everything. FOX’s bar is very low this year.
Spin the Wheel – It’s another game show and this one involves spinning a wheel with prizes on it. How has nobody come up with that before? Other than, like, Wheel of Fortune and also most county fairs and a million other things. This one has a cumulative winnings, potential for loss aspect clearly meant to mimic The Wall, but that’s also how Wheel of Fortune works if I’m being honest.
I like host Dax Shepard but as it is, I don’t see anything unique about this. I mean, the wheel is really big, so maybe that counts for something. What is going on, FOX?
What I’m Watching – Not a thing. This is a bad lineup. And it’s going to get worse – I think this is a harbinger of what we can expect when the Disney buyout is complete and this becomes the second of two networks Disney owns. FOX is going to become the home of retrograde sitcoms, game shows, and middle-of-the-road dramas. I feel like we’re watching FOX’s last days of relevance play out. The fact that they wiped out a really good comedy lineup in favor of this plus the return of Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, which is about as nothing as a show can be and still exist, does not bode well for their future.
2017 Follow Up – FOX had six new shows on last year’s list. Ghosted and LA to Vegas were both good and were both cancelled. 9-1-1 was a surprise hit, while The Gifted, The Resident, and The Orville performed well enough to stick around. But one of those shows is based on their X-Men license and one is a Seth MacFarlane vanity project, so they’d have to flop pretty hard before they’d be cancelled. Four for six is actually pretty good, even if most of the returnees aren’t exactly smashes and they cancelled the two best ones. This is FOX’s future.
Well, my hopes were dashed. Let’s home NBC does better next week!