It’s that time of year again. Football has kicked off, classes have started, the homework is beginning to pile up and the broadcast networks are starting to wake up from summer hibernation with new and returning series making their fall debuts in the next few weeks. For a long time, the new fall season was like opening a new pack of presents on Christmas morning. Yet it seems the pile of presents has gone from everything I could ever hope for to one filled with socks and lumps of coal. Maybe it’s because my tastes have gotten stricter or the world of #PeakTV gives me more shows to watch, but I don’t feel that same sense of wonder toward the new network season like I have in the past. There appear to be some gems, but this year’s programming mostly seems to be rehashes of old concepts or just plain unnecessary.
I want to be hopeful about the new network season each year. Each set of new shows brings a huge set of potential. No networks, except for maybe HBO, spend the amount of money to make and market television that the broadcast networks do. They have plentiful resources (such as money and talent) to make television that’s new and exciting. So, when the new network season comes around, I want to have hope that the new crop of shows will bring something exhilarating to the table.
However, that doesn’t seem to be the case this year. The biggest offender of creating generic series is CBS, which will put out a new set of fall shows that feature stars, premises and genres that will be familiar to their viewers. There’s a good reason for this as the network has built its brand on bringing in a relatively older audience to shows with known formats. Its big new drama is Michael Weatherly’s (coming off a long run on “NCIS”) “Bull,” in which he plays a psychiatrist who’s a trial consultant. It looks like a basic law drama with a twist, but not enough of a twist to create separation from the other, better legal dramas on TV.
A part of this is the way I watch TV has completely changed over the past several years. When I was a young teenager in middle school, my parents didn’t necessarily let me watch all of the dramas on basic or premium cable with a few exceptions. (They weren’t exactly going to let a 13-year-old watch “Nip/Tuck” or “The Sopranos”). This meant I was largely left to the broadcast networks to find entertainment. So, each new fall brought me a new group of potential shows to join my regular rotation, and I sometimes spent many weeks waiting for series like the short-lived “V” or “Back to You” to reach their full potential. I would spend hours on Hulu sampling each one in the group, eventually finding some I would stick with for the long haul. The 2007-2008 season was particularly memorable because it brought “Pushing Daisies” and “Chuck” into my life, both of which remain some of my favorites today.
Now, I don’t necessarily have the time to go and sample each show like I used to. I miss the spirit of innovation that brought shows such as “Daisies” and “Chuck” to the air. Only The CW seems to be carrying on that torch, with recent dramas like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and “Jane the Virgin” that push the mantle of what it means to be a broadcast drama. I understand why the broadcast networks remain risk-averse. Their goal is to reach as many people as possible and shows like “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” might not be the best way to do that. Still, there’s so much amazing television out there right now that it’s hard for me to even try shows like “Kevin Can Wait” or “Bull.” They have so many resources to be creative that I can’t help but feel disappointed when I see such overdone and well-trodden premises yet another time.