TV Upfronts 2016: Seven Shows That Caught My Eye

by Matthew Thompson

It is TV Upfront time again which means lots of trailers showing off what new shows will be hitting broadcast networks starting next Fall. In truth, I found myself less enthused than normal about the networks’ latest batch of newcomers. Still, I managed to find seven that range from “I think this will be great!” to “Well, I guess I’ll give this a shot.” And I’m here with a quick rundown about them. Here they are (in alphabetical order)!

Frequency (The CW)

The Premise: Based on the 2000 film of the same name, this drama finds Detective Raimy Sullivan reconnecting via a ham radio with her father who passed away years ago. They work together to solve a murder case while dealing with the butterfly effects of their time-bending relationship.

My Thoughts: The CW has become my favorite broadcast network over the past five years and it did so largely by becoming a haven for quality genre television. Frequency looks to be another good addition to their genre stable while the sci-fi twist helps it stand out a bit from the more superhero and fantasy-focused offerings on the network. I can’t say I’ve seen the movie (I’m not sure if that would help or hurt my enthusiasm for the show), but I liked the picture they painted with the trailer and look forward to giving this a try come Fall.

The Good Place (NBC)

The Premise: This single-camera comedy focuses on Eleanor Shellstrop after a case of mistaken identity lands her in the titular good place of the afterlife.

My Thoughts: I’ll watch pretty much anything with Kristen Bell in it and I’m happy to see she will remain on my TV after the recent cancellation of House of Lies. It helps that The Good Place also looks like such a good time. The idea of having Bell navigate an afterlife that she doesn’t seem to belong in seems promising and the trailer had its fair share of laughs. Ted Danson adds more talent in front of the camera as her mentor in this new environment while creator Michael Schur’s track record (The Office, Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) makes this seem about as close to a sure-thing on the creative side as you could hope for.

Making History (FOX)

The Premise: A comedy about a computer science professor who travels back to colonial times where his knowledge of the future makes him more popular. But he soon realizes his actions may have huge repercussions in the present.

My Thoughts: Time travel was something that popped up often throughout this year’s Upfronts. NBC’s Timeless, ABC’s Time After Time and the previously discussed Frequency all tackle this science-fiction idea in various ways. Making History stood out from this pack of shows with its comedic take on the concept. This seems like a great fit for Adam Pally who was so funny on one of my personal favorite comedies, Happy Endings, a few years back and the trailer contained quite a few good gags. I especially liked him using current-day pop culture references to win people over in the past. The show just looks like a whole lot of fun.

No Tomorrow (The CW)

The Premise: When the risk-averse Evie falls for the free-spirited Xavier, who believes the apocalypse is nigh, they look to tackle their bucket lists in this new hour-long dramedy.

My Thoughts: As I mentioned earlier, The CW has become a great place for genre series to thrive, but the past couple of seasons have seen them try to diversify their lineup with quirky, more comedy-slanting series like Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I’m a huge fan of Jane and while I can’t say the same for CEG, I like what they are aiming for with these types of show. If the trailer is any indication, No Tomorrow looks to be another charming and humorous series in the vein of those others. I’m not sure how they would elongate the premise beyond a couple of seasons, but that is a worry for later. For now, I look forward to seeing what No Tomorrow has in store this coming Fall.

Prison Break (FOX)

The Premise: In this new event series, Michael Schofield somehow finds himself alive and in yet another prison. It will be up to his brother, wife and old prison pals to help him break out once again.

My Thoughts: The first season of Prison Break was surprisingly smart. A little ridiculous? Sure, but there was some intelligence behind the whole thing too. As the show rolled on the level of silliness just increased. To further continue this tale from where the series ended is just absurd. But I am ready to hop on this wild ride once more and see how they could possibly bring all these pieces back together. The trailer already hinted at some lunacy which will at the very least be hilarious. So yeah… I’m in.

Son of Zorn (FOX)

The Premise: A hybrid live-action/animated comedy that follows the animated warrior Zorn after he returns home from war to his live-action family.

My Thoughts: I like seeing new ideas explored in the television medium and Son of Zorn presents a really out-there concept. It might be a disaster, but it definitely seems worth a look, if for nothing else, just to see how it pans out. But the trailer was fairly amusing too (though the cartoon animal slaughter made me a bit sad) and the trio of Jason Sudeikis, Cheryl Hines and Tim Meadows is certainly a great core of players to build a comedy around. I hope they can make this work.

Training Day (CBS)

The Premise: This crime thriller takes place fifteen years after the events of the film and follows a young, idealistic LAPD officer after he is partnered with a seasoned detective who is a little loose with his morals and the rules.

My Thoughts: I mentioned at the top that some of these fall into the “I guess I’ll give it a shot” category and this is one of them. I loved the movie, so feel obligated to check this out. At the same time, a CBS cop show doesn’t seem to be the proper way to try to bring Training Day to the small screen. I can’t imagine it having much of what made that movie cool and Denzel’s role/performance will be a tough act to follow. The cliché-ridden trailer didn’t make me any more optimistic. I hope I’m wrong though and this somehow turns out to be a worthwhile follow-up. At least, Katrina Law is in it. That’s a plus.

A few more Upfront-related things:

  • If I had to pick the show from this list I’m most excited for, I’d go with The Good Place.
  • Nothing from ABC on this list. Their slate of new stuff did nothing for me.
  • The toughest cancellation for me this season was definitely The Grinder. I expected it would be cancelled, but I’ll still miss it. A really clever show with a unique sense of humor. I imagine people will stumble on this one in the coming years and it will be looked at as a high quality one-year wonder.
  • Really happy Life in Pieces was renewed. It was my favorite new series of this past broadcast season. Probably the best family comedy going right now.
  • I will probably check out that Good Wife spinoff at some point, but I grew really apathetic about the series over the last couple years and they are putting it on their paid streaming service. Both of these factors mean I may just get to it when I get to it.
  • I really only considered shows for this list that I got to see trailers for. Not enough to go on for some of the other new show orders. And I may check out more shows than this depending on reviews/impressions I read when they are out.
  • Here are some Youtube playlists for each network’s batch of trailers for anyone who wanted to see what else was on offer: ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, and NBC.

That will do it for my look at the best that broadcast networks had to offer at Upfronts this year. Did any of the new shows catch your eye this year? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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9 comments on “TV Upfronts 2016: Seven Shows That Caught My Eye

  1. Reading the description of The Good Place I was rolling my eyes, but that trailer was so good. That swear gag especially had me laughing every time they brought it up, show looks to capture what made Office/P&R/B99 so good. I’ll definitely check out Making History, No Tomorrow, and especially Son of Zorn (which I’m stunned isn’t on Adult Swim) as well.

    • Part of the fun of writing the premises out for me is knowing how silly they sound. Glad this helped you give The Good Place a look. Looks like it could be a winner. I definitely figured Son of Zorn would be up your alley. It also felt like an Adult Swim kind of show to me. I figure it being on broadcast might help reign it in compared to if it was an Adult Swim show. Hoping it turns out well.

  2. I love Kristen Bell too (since Deadwood). So I will watch whatever she does and she makes good choices. Didn’t know House of Lies got the ax. Bummer. I’ll be checking out most of these. Not Prison Break however. Fox “Event” shows are extremely insulting to the old fans. 24 & X-files came back as offensive caricatures of themselves. Prison Break was good for a while but it got really bad really fast. And I have an aversion to tattoo shows where the ink is a plot device. (Blindspot was hit or miss depending on that episodes tat, so I stopped watching). I also have no desire to watch No Tomorrow. Sadly I don’t expect any of the other shows to last (except No Tomorrow). They are high concept shows. The kind of stuff I like. But the sort of thing that never lasts. I was going to do a post about cancelled shows that I will miss but it made me too sad. Though I’m glad Supergirl is heading over to the CW. You’re right they are turning out to be the best network. Mostly because they give shows the time to develop and grow because they keep costs down by shooting in Vancouver (The way they’ve let Reign evolve is fantastic). Who knows, If Trump gets elected, I may actually be moving to Vancouver. Good post.

    • You are probably smart to skip Prison Break! I have my expectations pretty low at least going into this one. I was really excited for The X-Files and was disappointed (Eps 2 and 3 I really liked though). I haven’t seen much else in the revival category (I loved the Veronica Mars movie and only watched one episode of the new Heroes which was pretty dreadful). I hear you on the high concept stuff. Hopefully some of these can find some footing and stick around. It is always sad to see shows go too soon. Thanks for commenting Mel!

      • OMG Heroes Reborn was so bad. I wanted to do a post about how it was the worst show in television history. I watched every episode. I don’t know why I put myself through that. I liked the first season of Heroes when Kristen Bell and Hayden Panettiere and Zachary Quinto were on it. It got bad fast and came back worse.

        The Veronica Mars movie was really good. I hope they do another.

  3. Some really good trailers you’ve highlighted. The best trailers for me are Frequency and The Good Place. (The trailer for Training Day didn’t work for me.). The lead actress in Frequency looked so familiar but I couldn’t place her name so I had to google it. Great to see Peyton List get a solid lead role. That trailer reveals so many twists but I guess the network has to entice the viewer and explain what it’s all about. I haven’t seen the movie it’s based on. Cool concept.
    But knowing my TV watching habits, the one I may actually watch is Prison Break because I’m familiar with the characters, set up and what kind of show it’s going for. I guess Fox is banking on this familiarity factor and built-in-fan base with these revivals. Nowadays, CW is the main network with shows I actually watch as they air, especially with Supergirl moving over. Loving these posts!

    • Yeah I think these “First Look” trailers in particular are actually made more to show off the series to advertisers and others in the business, so it kind of takes the whole pilot and condenses it into five minutes. Definitely a bit spoilery, though in most cases only for the first episode. Hopefully I will forget all that stuff by next Fall… haha. I noticed that The CW likes to reuse a lot of actors across their shows (I think List was in The Tomorrow People (never watched it) before she was in The Flash for instance). I like her though. Hopefully this works out for her. Thanks for commenting!

  4. I haven’t seen House of Lies, but what I hear is that it’s a waste of amazing talent. If that’s the case, I’m glad Kristen Bell is free, and I’m looking forward to this new show.

    • I was really disappointed with House of Lies when I first started watching it. Like you say, it seemed like a real waste of a talented cast. It kind of grew into something I enjoyed over the years though. Maybe it is Stockholm Syndrome… I don’t know. I love the dialogue and banter between the main group though. Either way, I’d much rather her be in this new show than another season of House of Lies, so it definitely seems like a win.

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