The new TV season grows closer and so I’m continuing to check out the new network lineups. We’ve already done ABC and CBS, and now it’s time for FOX. What’s the newest member of the Disney family up to this year? Well, let’s find out together!
9-1-1: Lone Star – There’s no trailer for this midseason premiere and it doesn’t even warrant its own Wikipedia page yet. What we know is that it’s a spinoff of 9-1-1 and, per the title, is set in Texas. I assume it’s more of what you expect from the parent show, only with more cowboy hats. We do know that Rob Lowe is starring as a firefighter, which maybe indicates this will be more focused on a single character than an ensemble of first responders, but that’s about it. It was a lot easier to like Rob Lowe before he got on Twitter and yet this knowledge is not retroactive so it’s still fine and recommended to watch Parks and Recreation or The Grinder.
Also, I thought Lowe was hosting Mental Samurai, which is not on the new schedule and also is not officially canceled. It’s out there waiting for you to drop your guard. It’s very patient. It can wait forever.
Anyway, my assumption based on no footage and almost no information, is that if you like 9-1-1 but wish there was twice as much of it, this is for you. If you don’t watch 9-1-1, you’re probably not going to start now.
Almost Family – Previously titled Sisters, then Not Just Me, I can only assume it’ll be My Sister, My Sister & Me before it goes to air. This is a show about a fertility doctor who used his own sperm to inseminate patients and the three young women from different mothers who learn that they’re half-sisters. It stars Brittany Snow (who looks like a different person every time I see her), Emily Osment, and Megalyn Echikunwoke.
So here’s a personal story before I get started. Apparently, my father has multiple illegitimate children. I found this out maybe two years ago from my mother (who knew for much longer). She brought it up casually, and wrapped up the reveal with “Be careful who you date”. And I’m not sure how I’m supposed to test for that? But the trailer here has the women acknowledging their shared genetic heritage because they tap their teeth and can roll their tongues. Apparently I should ask leading questions like “How quickly do you get winded? Is it immediately? Because if so, we have to talk.”
Anyway, for me it’s such a big jump to assume that you’re suddenly going to befriend and apparently live with people just because they have the same sperm in their genetic makeup. Maybe it’s because of my own situation, but that premise just seems dumb to me right off the bat. At one point, the commercials made it look like Snow was documenting her attempts to meet all of the people her father might have, well, fathered, which would make for a more interesting idea, but the trailer is a little more clear and thus less interesting. Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights, Parenthood) is a pretty reliable producer, but this left me absolutely cold.
I’ve gone on for too long already, but I also want to mention that the first scene in the trailer has a surprising amount of cleavage on display and doesn’t connect to the rest of the trailer. The marketing people are all “BOOBS! And now that we have your attention…. exposition!” (Turns out, there’s a shorter version of the trailer that skips this scene altogether but is otherwise the same. Curious.)
Bless the Harts – This animated sitcom was created by Emily Spivey (Up All Night), is produced by Lord and Miller (Last Man on Earth, LEGO Movie, Into the Spiderverse, everything good) and stars Kristin Wiig, Ike Barinoltz, Maya Rudolph, Jillian Bell, Mary Steenburgen, and Drew Tarver. AND it’s set in the same universe as King of the Hill. This has to be awesome, right?
Well, here’s the thing. It looks bad. The animation is ugly, the trailer is mostly FOX reminding you how much you like their other animated shows and the actual Harts scene is not funny except for one joke at the end, and it seems kind of mean-spirited. That said, I think I’m on board. Not that long ago, the promos for Bob’s Burgers were pretty underwhelming and emphasized the weird character design that took some getting used to. Early King of the Hill ads seemed like the show was making fun of the characters. And both of those shows are absolutely wonderful. Yes, I still talk about King of the Hill in the present tense. So I’m going with my gut – everybody involved has a solid track record and I’ll put that up against FOX’s ability to promote an upcoming animated show any day of the week. I may be a fool, but I’m in.
Deputy – Boy, when the first thing that happens in a trailer is a white guy spitting out “gangstas” as a pejorative and then the name “David Ayer” comes up, you know you’re in for some rough sledding. (Let’s be honest. Training Day was a long time ago and modern David Ayer is locked in as the Suicide Squad / Bright guy.)
Stephen Dorff, fresh off some good work on Season 3 of True Detective, plays a cowboy-hat sporting cop who becomes the Los Angeles County Sheriff when his predecessor dies. And you know he’s unconventional because he wears a t-shirt and denim jacket and keeps telling you that he’s unconventional. I’ll say that the scenes in the trailer are well shot and there are some great moments of action. But also? It looks very dumb. I loathe cowboy hats as fashion items for everybody except Raylan Givens, for one. And in 2019 “unconventional lawman” is kind of a tough sell. There’s something about the whole thing that seems very gross that I can’t put my finger on. The trailer’s not even that long, and in less than three minutes, I was aggravated and tired but also kind of bored.
I think there’s an audience for it, but FOX is in a rebuilding year after last season’s anemic line-up. This looks like it could be another one of those shows with middling ratings and no buzz. With the network hurting for any kind of rating hits that doesn’t involve masked singing, I don’t think this is the kind of thing that’s going to turn them around.
I’m happy to see Yara Martinez (The Tick) and Brian Van Holt (John from Cincinnati), but I hope that they understand I can’t take this journey with them.
Duncanville – There’s no trailer or even official art available for this animated series about “an average 15-year-old boy”. Oh, cool! You want to sell me on a show, make sure the protagonist is as average as possible. I hate shows with hooks!
All we really know is that it’s created by Amy Poehler, who will also voice the average boy. She’s a producer alongside Mike & Julia Scully (Mike is a controversial figure in Simpsons history and I don’t want to get into it) and noted Louis C.K. enabler, Dave Becky. There’s literally nothing for me to go on here. I like the idea of Amy Poehler doing a show, but all we know about Duncanville is that it will one day exist. Maybe. It’s not like we haven’t seen shows announced and then never come to fruition. Point is, I can only grade this an incomplete. If I were assigning grades, which I’m not.
Filthy Rich – I hadn’t seen any promos for this show, so the trailer came as a fun surprise. It’s about a wealthy televangelist who dies in a plane and when it’s time to read his will, it turns out he has three illegitimate kids who are set to inherit part of the empire. Kim Cattrall plays his wife, who wants to buy those three out on the cheap and hijinks ensue.
It’s weird that suddenly we have two televangelist satires on the air after decades of, well, not. But this looks to be soapier than The Righteous Gemstones. It looks fun – most of what we see in the trailer isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel in terms of prime-time drama, but it actually has this vibe where it feels a little like Dallas or Dynasty. Just these wealthy trash people sniping back and forth and looking amazing. Kim Cattrall seems to be leaning into that mode, and it looks like something that could be fun to watch.
That said, it looks like something I personally will get bored with quickly. It could very well be good, but it’s not my thing. I’ll probably start watching it because it seems reasonably good and then I’ll drift and the first time it takes more than a couple of weeks off, they’ll just lose me. I know myself. But it seems like it could catch on if they market it correctly and maybe get FOX back on the map a little bit.
The Great North – Another animated series with no trailer and no officially released art. We know that it’s about a single dad in Alaska trying to hold his family together. On the plus side, it’s produced by Bob’s Burgers creator Loren Bouchard and it’s created by Bob writers Wendy Molyneux and Lizzie Molyneux. The Molyneux Sisters, as nobody calls them, are behind some of the best of Bob.
Also in this mystery show’s plus column:. Nick Offerman voices the main character, who’s named Beef Tobin. The rest of the cast includes very funny people (and many Bob veterans) like Jenny Slate, Megan Mullally, Paul Rust, Will Forte, and Aparna Nancharla. That all sounds very good. My guess is that we won’t see this until Summer, or maybe it’ll be pushed back and we’ll talk about it again next year. But it seems like something I’ll eventually be excited about.
NeXt – The trailer calls this an “event series”, which is what they call short-run single season shows now. But most of the press releases an coverage omit this fact even though it does seem to be one-season premise. It’s about a cybersecurity team trying to stop Alexa from taking over the world. And by “Alexa”, I mean “Iliza”, the ersatz home assistant inspired by Alexa and Google Home.
They do their best to make this look exciting, but it also seems like they’re giving Google Home infinite power to access every computer anywhere in the world and, say, shut down an airplane in flight. And the fact is, stories where an AI is the villain tend to be boring because there’s no face or physical presence. Your protagonists are fighting something that only exists in the abstract, which isn’t that gripping. There’s a reason X-Files covered this in on episode and even then threw in a bunch of robots.
More and more, these “event series” tend to be ignored. Every year there are several announced and they come and go without making much of a wave. The fact that it’s about killer computers rather than a court case might make it a little more memorable, but it looks like an uphill battle. At least they’ve got Mad Man‘s John Slattery in a prominent role, and who’s turning down that silver fox? Certainly not me!
Outmatched – Here was my initial reaction to the opening seconds of this sitcom trailer. “Hell, yeah! Maggie Lawson!” I was even willing to get past the whole Jason Biggs situation. Nothing against Biggs, but I pretty much only know him from the American Pie movies, and those are, let’s be honest, terrible. They weren’t funny twenty years ago and they’ve aged like fresh bananas since then. So Biggs is not exactly a harbinger of hilarity in this household.
Then we got to the laugh track, which is never a good sign. It’s 2019. Only CBS is still using laugh tracks. And after that it just kept going downhill. We’ve got a couple of blue collar parents raising four kids, three of whom are geniuses. They seem terrified and confused by the smart children and they seem to think “My kids are so smart that I have to hide from them” is a relatable idea.
There could be something to this if they tried – the idea of trying to meet the kids on their own level is funny and made for some great Homer and Lisa episodes of The Simpsons. But that doesn’t seem to be what they’re doing. And maybe that is something they’ll explore and it’s hard to get across in three minutes, but the real problem is that the jokes aren’t funny. You can see every punchline coming from a mile away, a problem only exacerbated by the raucous mechanical laughter. This is going to be FOX’s only live action sitcom, and it looks fifteen years old.
Prodigal Son – So here’s a thing about me. I don’t like murder shows. And I mean something very specific by that. My favorite show of all time is Deadwood. Another is Homicide, and that’s got it right in the title. I love Breaking Bad, Oz, Happy! and a bunch of others that would just bore you if I went on. I’m not opposed to violence, and you can even sell me on dark, dark comedy. But it’s those murder of the week shows that I really don’t like. I find that more desensitizing than even, say, Oz which at least tried to make most of the deaths matter. It’s the way that every episode opens with a dead body of a person that we’ll never get to know that really turns me off. Shows about bodies instead of characters.
And something like Homicide, which still mostly had a case of the week structure was sometimes about who that person was or sometimes about what was left for their loved ones or even about how sometimes violence is random and senseless and we all have to live with that. It’s the shows that are more about how clever or brutal the murderer was and how can we possibly catch them that really just make me feel bad inside when I watch them. And Prodigal Son looks like one of those murder shows.
The cast is amazing. Your lead is Jesus from Walking Dad. Freaking Michael Sheen plays his serial killer father. Bellamy Young, Lou Diamond Phillips — even Aurora Perrineau, who is Harold’s daughter. That’s got to make you feel old, right? Michael from LOST has an adult daughter! That must mean I’m…. ninety years old. And the premise here is that Malcolm is an expert on serial killers because his father was one. Makes sense. My father was a tax cheat so H&R Block is always bringing me in to help with audits. They tease the idea that father and son could work together in the future, and as much as I love Michael Sheen, this is the kind of show that makes me feel gross and I know I’m better off not watching it.
With all that said, I did love that the main character pointedly calls himself a “prodigal son” in the trailer. It’s like Will Smith saying “So this is some sort of… Suicide Squad”, and that’s always funny to me. (That’s right, two Suicide Squad references this week.)
What I’m Watching – I’ll definitely watch The Great North and Bless the Hearts and Duncanville is a possibility. I might see NeXt if they run it during a lighter time of year – like if that show runs in January, I’m watching the heck out of it because that’s what there will be to watch. That’s about it. Not great, but definitely better than their new lineup last year. And speaking of…
2018 Follow Up – Last year’s lineup was shockingly bad. At the time, I was convinced that FOX was getting out of original programming with the Disney acquisition. This year, at least it looks like they’re trying to be a TV network again. It doesn’t look great, but it’s a step up. Last year, they announced seven new shows for the fall season. Spin the Wheel and Mental Samurai are not officially cancelled, nor are they renewed. The Cool Kids, Rel, Proven Innocent, and The Passage won’t be back next year and only The Masked Singer survived. It was not a great year for FOX, especially when so many of their established shows also ended. There are a couple shows I can see succeeding this year that may get them back on their feet, but right now they’re in some rough shape.
Next week, I’ll be looking at NBC. And here’s a teaser – they have one show with an amazing title, but the premise is not at all what the title suggests and I am crestfallen.