'Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris': Will NBC's variety show succeed?
Harris's new live show is one of many fall programs heading to network TV. 'Best' could be the riskiest program coming on the air this autumn.
If there's a dominant trend in TV today, it's this: There's too much TV, even too much good TV, for any viewer to absorb, much less support.
Even so, as the five major broadcast networks usher in their new fall 2015 offerings against the scores of rival broadcast, cable, and streaming video outlets, some things never change.
Like medical shows. This fall will see the arrival of three more: "Code Black" (CBS, premiering Sept. 30), a latter-day "ER" that's even busier and bloodier; "Chicago Med" (NBC, Nov. 20), the third dose of producer Dick Wolf's latest trilogy that also includes "Chicago Fire" and "Chicago PD"; and "Rosewood" (Fox, Sept. 23), which, starring Morris Chestnut as a beefcake Miami pathologist, doubles as a crime drama with Dr. Rosewood using his medical wiles to bust bad guys while charming every lady in his path.
Also: comedies still arrive in force, with "autobio-coms" – a subset reaching back to the based-on-real-life "I Love Lucy" at the dawn of TV – duly (but drearily) represented.
"Dr. Ken" (ABC, Oct. 2) stars South Korean doctor-comedian Ken Jeong ("Community") as a doctor flustered by the challenges of his practice and his home life. This show's absence of laughs could expose him to malpractice suits.
Little better is "Truth Be Told" (NBC, Oct. 16), whose creator, D.J. Nash, decided that his life wed to a Korean woman and with an African-American couple as their best friends would, when packaged as a sitcom, fuel witty observational banter and spark "a national conversation," as Nash recently told reporters with inflated self-regard. Nash may find viewers' conversation about "Truth" is limited to "Could we change the channel?"
Other upcoming comedies are more promising.
"Angel From Hell" (CBS, Nov. 5) finds the delightful Jane Lynch as a riotously unguarded guardian angel.
"Life in Pieces" (CBS, Sept. 21) is an ambitious comedy with a sprawling ensemble whose half-hour episodes are splintered into four related mini-stories.
And Fox's back-to-back comedies "Grandfathered" and "The Grinder" (both premiering Sept. 29) star, respectively, 50-ish dreamboats John Stamos and Rob Lowe as 50-ish guys whose dreamboat status remains undiminished, along with the comic chops of the actors who play them.
More unconventional humor-based shows are also on deck.
"The Muppets" (ABC, Sept. 22) goes behind the scenes in mockumentary fashion for a "real-life" group portrait of these show-biz veterans, up close and personal.
"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" (CW, Oct. 12) stars rising actress-writer-comedian Rachel Bloom in a simply magical comedy-with-music about a quirky young woman seeking romance a little too hard.
Maybe the fall's riskiest new show, with TV's bravest star presiding: "Best Time Ever," NBC's live comedy-variety hour (premiering Sept. 15), hosted by the incomparable Neil Patrick Harris.
And horror blended with comedy is the recipe for "Scream Queens" (Fox, Sept. 22), an anthology co-created by Ryan Murphy centered on homicide and hijinks at a college sorority house.
"Blood & Oil" (ABC, Sept. 27) is a brawny melodrama set in the North Dakota oil boom, with Don Johnson as its reigning oil baron.
As usual in recent years, superheroes will be summoned in an effort to conquer viewers.
"Supergirl" (CBS, Oct. 26) is a good bet to soar thanks to winsome Melissa Benoist as Superman's cousin who works as an assistant to a media mogul while she comes to terms with her super-humanness.
And "Heroes Reborn" (NBC, Sept. 24) revives "Heroes" from a decade ago as a 13-episode limited series whose heroes are ordinary people who possess extraordinary powers – and now are going public with them.
On television, as elsewhere throughout the arts, one enduring genre surpasses them all: mystery-and-crime. This fall, the networks are plotting a range of mayhem and intrigue:
–"Quantico" (ABC, Sept. 27) is a lavish, twisted, and deliciously outrageous look at domestic terrorism and the select group of CIA recruits who are tasked with preventing it – even as one of them is actually a terrorist infiltrating the team.
–"Wicked City" (ABC, Oct. 27) gets moody and violent with a murder case in the circa-1980s party-and-druggy world of L.A.'s Sunset Strip.
–"The Player" (NBC, Sept. 24) plays a hyperactive, high-stakes game with a swashbuckling security expert who must try to prevent major crimes from happening while a band of high-rollers gambles on whether or not he can pull it off.
–"Limitless" (CBS, Sept. 22), based on the 2011 film, focuses on a chronic slacker who discovers the brain-boosting power of a miracle drug but then is coerced by the FBI into using his mind-blowing abilities to solve cases for them.
–"Minority Report" (Fox, Sept. 21), based on the Tom Cruise hit, is set in 2065 as a man who can see the future, including crime, forms an alliance with a cop to stop the murders he predicts.
–And, finally, "Blindspot" (NBC, Sept. 21), a tatty tattoo whodunit. Judging from the pilot, it's a mashup between two dramas from years ago: "John Doe" (which began with a mysterious man found naked, with no memory of who he is) and the tattooed hero of "Prison Break," self-inked with the info he needs to gain escape.
In "Blindspot," an attractive young woman is discovered in Times Square with no memory but with unexplained tattoos covering her body. The FBI discovers that each tattoo contains a clue to a crime they will have to solve.