For a network that didn't appear to be doing very well during the last year, ABC next fall will begin the 2014-15 season with surprising stability. The network will return three nights intact (including Saturday, which no longer counts) and three with only one new series nestled amid established successes.
How will Fox fare this fall -- its first in several years without "The X Factor?" The network is also coming off a season that wasn't particularly kind to most of its veteran series. On the upside, it looks like Fox will have several of the most talked-about new series of the fall, including "Gotham," the high-risk reality effort "Utopia," the equally risky scripted drama series "Red Band Society" and the limited series "Gracepoint."
No new shows that NBC previewed at its event on Monday excited the crowd as much as the news of a significant bit of smart scheduling that will maximize the outsize appeal of the only new smash hit of 2013-14 on NBC or any broadcast network, "The Blacklist." It's the boldest effort made by NBC in many years to reclaim its long-time and long-lost identity as the home of Must-See Thursday night TV.
Upfront week officially begins this morning with NBC's deluxe presentation of its 2014-15 schedule at New York City's Javits Center. What is the point of the traditional upfront week, with its presentations and parties and press conferences? Once upon a time it was a thrilling and informative experience, largely because attendees really didn't know what the networks were planning to do until the presentations played out. But now the grand exposition plays out via digital means. The upfront is now in every way as much a social media event as a physical experience.
When it comes to consuming media, there is nothing quite as inviting as a rock-solid broadcaster that remains true to its stated goals and delivers on them with reassuring consistency. That's one of the reasons why I remain so fond of CBS, and why it should come as no surprise to anyone that the Tiffany Network is once again in the strongest position of any broadcaster heading into the annual media circus known as Upfront Week. It's great to see a broadcaster remain true to itself and reap ongoing rewards despite the turbulence swirling all about it.
As far as new series are concerned, this has been a rather downbeat year for Fox and ABC. With so much room for improvement at both, I can't wait to see the new shows they unveil during their upfront presentations next week.
In this era of media super-saturation it is almost impossible not to hear something potentially combustible about someone or something. But I have to admit I was struck by the venomous attack Daniel Tosh launched against Walmart and Target in the episode of his riotously funny Comedy Central series "Tosh.0" that was telecast last night. I can't recall the last time I heard anyone rip into giant corporations in such specific ways and with such unrelenting gusto on an entertainment program.
As we head into upfront week, NBC remains in the opening slot of the week -- Monday morning -- which on the upside means its audience will be relatively fresh and attentive, and on the downside means it must contend with last-minute changes at competing networks, made in response to whatever it has chosen to do. For the first time in years, I don't think that will be much of a problem for NBC, which has been the boldest broadcaster of the 2013-14 season and is approaching the coming year from a position of uncommon strength and renewed industry respect.
It's been a tough season for Fox, and the only bright spot until now was the short-order drama "Sleepy Hollow," which ran for only 13 episodes. If "Hollow" started the season off with a bang, the return tonight of "24" is going to close it with a boom. This action-thriller, returning in an economical 12-episode arc, should instantly provide Fox with a jolt of much-needed energy and a nice boost in its audience numbers too. "24" was one of those turn-of-the-millennium dramas that changed age-old perceptions of what television drama could be.
When it comes to incorporating real life drama into its story lines and putting a message across without interrupting the scripted drama at hand, no soap opera comes close to CBS' "The Bold and the Beautiful." Four years ago this show made history by immersing its lead character, Stephanie Forrester, into the lives of dozens of homeless people in Los Angeles. This week, "B&B" has been doing something very similar, and with equal emotional impact: Addressing problems of animal abuse and the overpopulation of cats and dogs, particularly in major cities and urban areas.