September still marks the start of a new TV season and the rollout of new shows. What are some of the 2015 TV trends you’ll be seeing play out on a variety of screens over the next several months? Based on what the broadcast networks and a few key other outlets have on tap, here are some things to watch for.
2015 TV Trends: The Shonda Effect
Shonda Rhimes has had a pretty amazing run at ABC, both as a creator/writer and as an executive producer. Rhimes and company have done well by spinning a high concept with some edgy production choices and a seamlessly diverse cast. The Rhimes stable will get its own new shot at mid-season with The Catch, about a fraud investigator who becomes the target of a long con herself. But the sensibility that defines a Rhimes show can be seen in other new offerings. Quantico, a thriller about an FBI training class, one of whom is a secret terrorist, features time-bending storytelling and a large, diverse ensemble. Blindspot is another stylish mystery/thriller that opens with a naked woman tumbling out of a suitcase on an NYC street with writing all over her body. The Family explores the effects of the return of a presumed-dead son on his prominent, secret-laden clan. Imitation is the sincerest form of mining what’s working in hopes of scoring a hit.
2015 TV Trends: Revival
The trend of reviving old favorites for news runs is alive and well. ABC is taking a new spin with The Muppets, while NBC is betting on both Heroes Reborn and an update of old sitcom Coach. FOX is dusting off signature hits The X-Files and Prison Break for new limited runs (if they do well, expect to see them again). Showtime is resurrecting early ‘90s cultural flashpoint Twin Peaks, while Netflix hopes the same nostalgia that made Girl Meets World a hit will do the same for Fuller House. With an increasingly competitive and fragmented TV universe, that networks are drawn to pre-sold properties with established brands isn’t shocking. Whether there’s a creative reason for these new chapters is a separate issue. A revival might draw eyes because of nostalgia, but it must creatively stand on its own if hopes to keep viewers watching. If these retreads turn out to be nothing more than crass exercises in retro-baiting, don’t expect long reunions.
2015 TV Trends: Comic Book Adaptations
Comic book-based series are everywhere and more are flooding to a TV near you. The CW already has a heavy load of DC and Vertigo adaptations on its schedule, but come mid-season will make room for the ambitious Legends of Tomorrow. Featuring a mix of DC’s second tier characters, it looks to be a good complement to hits Arrow and The Flash. After passing on it for the fall, ABC has ordered a pilot for an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off starring Mockingbird, while a secret project from Oscar Winner John Ridley based on a Marvel property remains a mystery. On Netflix, Marvel hopes to build on the success of this Spring’s Daredevil, with Jessica Jones, possibly one of the grittiest comic book concepts to make the small screen. FOX has another Vertigo adaptation, Lucifer, on tap for mid-season (and controversy over its premise has already kicked in). CBS is joining the party with Supergirl, one of the Fall’s most anticipated debuts. If it goes well, it could give CBS a foothold in the young female audience that so often eludes it. Still to be scheduled is a high-profile Teen Titans adaptation for TNT, still in the earliest stages of production. A spate of recent deals and moves in the creator-owned arena indicate viewers will be seeing a lot more comic book TV.
2015 TV Trends: Familiar Faces
Revivals and comic books aren’t the only ways to tap into pre-sold audiences. Several shows will hope the presence of a favorite star will lure in viewers (sometimes in spite of highly questionable premises). Don Johnson headlines oil industry soap Blood & Oil, while Joan Allen headlines The Family and Mireilles Enos is the focal point of The Catch. CBS is banking on Emmy winner Jane Lynch for Angel from Hell, Oscar winner Marcia Gay Harden for Code Black and Oscar nominees Gary Sinise for Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders and Bradley Cooper (in a recurring role) for Limitless. NBC will try to translate Neil Patrick Harris’s entertaining persona into the variety experiment Best Time Ever and will hope that Wesley Snipes retains enough cred from his action movie star days to anchor The Player. FOX will try to shore up iffy concepts by hoping that fans love Rob Lowe and John Stamos enough to check out hard sell comedies The Grinder and Grandfathered. Conversely, FOX is going with A-list producers Seth McFarlane and Ryan Murphy for two of its more promising rookies, animated comedy Bordertown and stylish horror romp Scream Queens. FX is also going with a famous creator, making Kurt Sutter’s The Bastard Executioner the cable outlet’s high profile Fall debut. One of the odder Fall entries is Donny!, with TV business guru Donny Deutsch playing a fictionalized version of himself. Showtime is spotlighting acclaimed actors Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis in Billions, about the battle between a powerful DA and a sleek hedge fund manager. Familiar faces and names don’t guarantee a hit and star vehicles fail as often as they succeed. But pivoting a series on a familiar face works often enough that the networks keep on trying.
2015 TV Trends: Re-Makes and Spin-Offs
If an outright revival isn’t quite the thing or something worked in another medium (or didn’t quite work but has potential), then a re-make is the way to go. Several shows based on familiar movies are making the jump: Limitless (guy gets super-smart by taking a pill); Minority Report (precognitives try to stop crime); Uncle Buck (irresponsible guy babysits his brother’s family); and Westworld (sci-fi/western about a killer theme park). Movie-to-TV transfers have a spotty track record, but that never seems to stop them from getting a shot. Supergirl had a movie version that’s not fondly remembered, but has appeared more successfully in a number of animated series. The Muppets have a variety of movie and TV projects in the rear view mirror. The CW’s disease drama Containment is an Americanized take on a successful Belgian series. And if a re-make isn’t an option, go for cloning. The CW hopes Legends of Tomorrow will build on its stable of successful DC Comics shows. CBS will try yet again to pull a successful brand extension out of Criminal Minds with Beyond Borders. NBC has had some success with its Chicago-based fire and cop shows, so it will go back to that well for Chicago Med. Networks live by the mantra of “Everything old is new again.” If viewers are willing to watch a different take on something they’ve seen before, the networks see no reason not to give it to them.
2015 TV Trends: The Bandwagon
Some new series don’t represent big trends in their own right, but are jumping onto bandwagons that are already rolling. Wicked City and Scream Queens are joining the slowly expanding ranks of anthology series, with a re-set of some kind planned after each season. Many of the shows add to the existing stables of favorite settings: medical dramas (Code Black, Chicago Med, Heartbreaker); procedurals (Limitless, Rosewood, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Lookinglass); legal shows (Billions, The Grinder); and family sitcoms (Dr. Ken, The Real O’Neals, Life in Pieces, Truth Be Told, Fuller House). There are attempts to mine retro-cool with period-set dramas (Wicked City, The Bastard Executioner, Vinyl, Of Prophets & Kings) or to explore a possible future (Minority Report, Westworld, Colony). Many of these are no more than variations on a theme; they might not seem especially exciting when looking at previews, but good execution could make some worth watching. And a couple, despite falling into a broader category, look far more interesting than the average new show. Which brings us to the final category…
2015 TV Trends: The Wild Cards
A few of the shows that will pop up over the next few months seem genuinely different. Even some shows that are grounded in a concept that viewers have seen before twist things enough to make them feel different. Angel from Hell is a “mismatched buddy” comedy. But its premise is intriguing: a young woman picks up a new companion who seems to know a lot about her and claims to be her guardian angel. But the boozy, inappropriate guardian angel might also be just a disturbed stalker. It’s an edgy hook for a network comedy that could work well, if Jane Lynch is given the room to do her thing. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the CW’s sole new entry on the Fall schedule, a screwball dramedy about a successful career woman who upends her life to pursue the guy who dumped her in high school. Preview scenes have an offbeat, absurdist comedic sense and feature spontaneous musical productions. Some have carped about the title and the portrayal of a man-crazy woman, but if the show leans into its premise, it could really stand out in a good way. One of the more anticipated series of the next few months is HBO’s Vinyl, a drama that delves into the glitter and grime of the 1970s music industry. The Bastard Executioner puts a dark spin on medieval adventure by focusing on the man tasked with carrying out the king’s death sentences. These shows might flame out on entry or could be nice surprises that take viewers on an unexpected journey. Time will tell.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on August 31, 2015.