TV Upfronts 2017: Underwhelmed

by Matthew Thompson

I look forward to the TV Upfronts every year. Even with so much of the best television being found on cable and a growing number of streaming options, there are usually still some gems to be found on the broadcast networks. This time last year we saw the first trailer for what is arguably the best comedy on TV after its devilishly funny freshman season in The Good Place. And eight of my top 20 series from last year (check out those lists here and here) hailed from the five major broadcast networks (and Kimmy Schmidt started as an NBC show too). Having said all that… I’m so underwhelmed by the crop of new shows that broadcast had to offer up this year. Still, I picked through what was there for the highlights and I’m going to run them down right now.

ABC’s Splitting Up Together is the comedy I am looking forward to the most from this group. Based off of a Danish sitcom, it will show the evolving relationship of a couple who lives together raising their children after getting a divorce. While that premise certainly has some promise on its own, it is creator Emily Kapnek that has me most optimistic about the series. If I have learned anything over the years, the talent involved is often more important than what a show is about. Kapnek was the mind behind two underrated comedy gems of the last decade in Suburgatory and Selfie. They both have a unique, absurd style of humor that really appealed to me. Based on this previous work, I was a bit surprised by the tone of Splitting Up Together’s trailer. While I could see a bit of the quirkiness that I was expecting come through, I hope it comes up more in the series itself.

Life Sentence

Lying somewhere between comedy and drama is the new CW series Life Sentence. This is the fourth year in a row that the network has picked up an hour-long comedy-skewing series like this. It is a trend I support. While all these series have been low-rated even by CW standards, they bring some diversity to the channel’s otherwise genre-skewing line-up along with some award recognition in the process. In truth, I only really love Jane the Virgin of the previous three, but I liked No Tomorrow even if it was a bit inconsistent and I can appreciate Crazy Ex-Girlfriend even if it isn’t quite for me. Circling back to Life Sentence, it’s about a young woman who had lived the previous eight years of her life expecting to die of cancer and the turn her life, along with those of her friends and family, takes when she is cured. The trailer showed a light-hearted charm and sense of humor reminiscent of those aforementioned series and I look forward to checking it out.

Shifting to the drama side of things, the only one that really caught my eye was Star Trek: Discovery. The trailer was probably the best from this year’s Upfronts. It looked nice visually with perhaps a bigger budget appearance than I expected. I’m not exactly a big Trek fan, but I will certainly give this a shot. It won’t technically be airing on a broadcast network instead heading for CBS’s streaming service All Access. On the one hand, I’m not really looking to sign up for another streaming service. On the other, you can’t deny that this is the kind of exclusive series that will get people to do so, if not a huge audience, a small dedicated one that usually comes with a sci-fi show like this. For me, I will probably wait until the whole season is done and catch up during a one-month sub (something I am doing with The Good Fight right now and have done with various Hulu series in the past).

STAR TREK: DISCOVERY

These three all seem promising and there are a few more I think I will try (I mention them in the bullets below). But usually there’s at least one trailer from Upfronts that has me more enthusiastic and I’m just not seeing it this year. Hopefully the new shows surprise me come next season though as there is usually at least one show I fall for that I don’t see coming every year too.

A few more things:

  • Other Comedies I Might Try: Me, Myself & I (I like the idea of the three time periods in his life being shown), The Mayor (the concept has potential), and Ghosted (I like the leads especially Adam Scott).
  • Other Dramas I Might Try: I don’t see me watching any of the ones that got trailers. Jason Katims has a new show called Rise coming to NBC midseason that seems like it might scratch a similar itch as his previous series Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. So maybe that.
  • Worst Trailer: 9JKL looked truly horrific.
  • Most Surprising Renewal: Timeless because it was renewed by NBC after NBC cancelled it. Not the first time I’ve seen it happen, but still a rarity.
  • Most Painful Cancellation: Nothing I loved got axed this year. American Crime was probably the best show I watched that was cancelled, but I really only loved Season 2. Relatively painless season for me in terms of broadcast losses.
  • Much like time travel shows last year, there were quite a few military-themed shows this year. Unlike the time travel shows, I will pass on the whole lot of them this year.
  • If any of the new trailers caught your eye, let me know which in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
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3 comments on “TV Upfronts 2017: Underwhelmed

  1. I’m a fan of Star Trek TNG , DS9, and I’ve watched some of the other Star Trek series, so I hope Discovery is good. I have to say I lost some excitement when Bryan Fuller left the show (but good for American Gods 🙂 ). I’ll def. give the trailer a watch later.

    • Yeah, it is kind of disappointing Bryan Fuller left the show, but I’m hopeful things will still turn out well. There seems to be a good amount of talent involved still and I really liked the trailer. Thanks for commenting Eddie!

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