New Series Of Interest: NBC's 'The Blacklist,' ABC's 'S.H.I.E.L.D.,' CBS' 'Crazy Ones,' Fox's 'Sleepy Hollow'
Tellingly, only two of the new series mentioned above are self-starters, unless one considers several years of successful superhero movies and many decades of popular comic books as factors that give “S.H.I.E.L.D.” an unfair advantage over the rest of the 2013-14 freshmen class. Regardless, “S.H.I.E.L.D.” had the chops to open ABC's Tuesday night and support the programming that came after it, and these days those are remarkable accomplishments for a brand new show -- especially one without big stars in its core cast.
All praise aside, there are problems here. The
pilot episode, while rich with exciting references to the Marvel universe, was oddly low-key. The second episode brought much more energy to the franchise, but had certain inane elements in its story.
(For example, if the side of an airplane in flight is suddenly blown open, the catastrophic depressurization that follows only lasts a short time. The full force of the event is not continuous. And
it's highly unlikely that a flimsy rubber raft would sufficiently block a hole of that kind, especially at the peak of its suction. Enough said.)
Wisely, the episode concluded with a surprise appearance by Samuel L. Jackson in his role as S.H.I.E.L.D. chief Nick Fury from the Marvel movies. If executive producer Joss Whedon keeps such cameos coming (and adds a couple of genuinely interesting new characters to the largely bland group on the current canvas) “S.H.I.E.L.D.” should do just fine for the foreseeable future. The Marvel audience wants to be knocked over by this show, but won’t wait around forever to be happily flattened.
The real self-starter of the season to date is Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” arguably one of the least likely new successes among all current fall freshmen, and also one of the most interesting surprises. “Hollow,” which debuted one week before the official start of the season, has experienced only minor week-to-week ratings declines as the competition from other networks has intensified. Also, “Hollow” builds from its durable but perhaps tiring lead-in, “Bones.” Tom Mison, as time-displaced Revolutionary War soldier Ichabod Crane, and Nicole Beharie, as the sheriff Crane teams up with to protect residents of the title town from a host of harrowing baddies (including a fearsome sand demon and the dreaded Headless Horseman) have an appealing tentative chemistry that is rare to see.
Meanwhile, with more than 15 million viewers, CBS’ “The Crazy Ones” emerged as the highest-rated new series of premiere week. It had the good fortune to follow two new episodes of the hottest comedy on television today, “The Big Bang Theory,” which drew more than 20 million viewers, the best yet for this seven-year-old show. It also marked the return to series television of Robin Williams after an absence of thirty years. Of course, it also had the potential misfortune of making its debut opposite the premiere of the highly touted “Michael J. Fox Show” on NBC (which didn’t do half bad, considering that it had the very tired “Parks and Recreation” as its lead-in) and the season premiere of the still-strong “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC, but that challenge doesn’t seem to have compromised it. All things considered, this is a very impressive and promising debut. Now if only the show was even remotely funny.
Last, but certainly not least, NBC looks to have a big-ticket winner in “The Blacklist,” a grand showcase for the talents of its star, the endlessly compelling James Spader. It’s beginning to look as if NBC is going to enjoy the same kind of success this fall as it did last year, when its regularly scheduled programming pumped it to No. 1 in the 18-49 demographic, even without ratings for “Sunday Night Football” in the mix. That’s the power of “The Voice,” coupled with new shows that are custom designed to the talents of proven television stars (“The Blacklist,” “The Michael J. Fox Show”) and renewed creative energies brought to an aging franchise, as was the case with the nerve-frying Season Fifteen premiere of “Law & Order: SVU,” and a still-growing sophomore, “Chicago Fire.”
Of course, NBC last season had “Voice”-powered instant success with the post-apocalyptic adventure “Revolution,” which proved increasingly difficult to watch as the season progressed, and which suffered from a prolonged midseason break. One year later it isn’t faring as well in its new 8 p.m. time period on Wednesdays, where it must open the night for the network. “The Blacklist” has been a much more satisfying show at the start, but it could weaken like “Revolution” if the network doesn’t take proper care of it. Nothing should be taken for granted in the high-stakes drama of broadcast television, especially during the early weeks of a fragile new season.