My Take On… #208: Is Great Network Television Back?

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For the last few years, it seemed like network television had been seen as the forgotten child as original cable scripted television and television for streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have become the new norm for quality television.

However, in the last few years, whether you know it or not, network television has surprisingly been making a comeback for quality television in the last few years.

After so many years of these lame poorly made television shows and ripoffs of other successful properties, is it safe to assume that great network television has returned?

Let’s look at the examples by looking at the networks’ recent lineup of these great shows that have aired over the last few years.

Starting with Fox, of all the network with new shows this year, Fox had the most impressive lineup of new shows this year than any other network. This year, we have the very funny live-action/animated hybrid comedy Son Of Zorn, which is a perfect fit into the Fox Sunday comedy lineup and hopefully will continue on, even though high concept shows like this will have very limited runs of at least 13 episodes a season unless you get started on the next season’s production very early on to allow more episodes, which could happen.

You also had Pitch, about the first female major league baseball player, which, I think, is one of the best new shows of the year, maybe even the best, because you’ve got a great starmaking performance from Kylie Binbury who is amazing on this show and also, you have a great plot and this show has the potential to be a great female empowerment series. Considering the acclaim it’s got, there’s a potential for this to be a Friday Night Lights style cult hit where it doesn’t get great ratings but has enough of a buzz and fanbase to keep it going for a couple of years.

The biggest shocker of this year is that not only was there one good TV series adaptation of a movie from Fox but there was two. Lethal Weapon, while it’s no classic by any means, is certainly a lot more enjoyable and a lot funnier than CBS’ Rush Hour series ever was, that show sucked but Lethal Weapon does not.

But the biggest surprise of Fox’s lineup this year is The Exorcist, not only is the show good but it’s really good, there are legitimately scary sequences that take place in this series, the writing is really good, the cast does a great job working with the material given to them. This is a great show that I know a lot of people are skipping out because it’s on Friday nights and I hope Fox lets this show stick around because they’ve got something great here if they let it stick around.

If the rest of Fox’s lineup of new shows for the year can hold up like these shows do, Fox will be in for a very good year this year.

The other network that has been really good with the new shows this year is ABC. ABC has already build up a reputation for really great shows over the last few years with comedies Modern Family, The Middle, Black-ish, The Goldbergs, Fresh Off The Boat, and Last Man Standing and dramas Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, Quantico and Agents Of SHIELD, but this year, they launched a new comedy and drama that I hope stick around because they are so enjoyable to watch.

One is the comedy Speechless with Minnie Driver in it, the series follows the DiMeo family, and their own unique personality: a take-charge mother with an outlandish but no-holds-barred attitude, a husband who seems to be smarter than he thinks, a no-nonsense athletic daughter, a middle child who’s the “brains” in the family, and their oldest teenage son with cerebral palsy. The DiMeos are about to bring all that from a middle-class neighborhood they despised because of the location itself to a more upscale town in an effort to improve their way of life, with imperfect results.

Now this is a risky idea for a TV show, especially a comedy. You’re tackling a sensitive subject involving a kid with cerebral palsy, a serious disease, there’s potential for this to be an absolute disaster if the writing isn’t good. But the most clever thing this show does is that it doesn’t let the kid be the main focus of the show but the family itself. The first episode is centered on how the mother, Minnie Driver, is trying to make things good for her family while also making sure her son with cerebral palsy everything he requires, creating conflict with her other two kids, mainly her other son. And the way the show is written, it doesn’t go into those cheap clichés most of these shows do, there’s a lot of heart in the writing and there’s a lot of charm to the show itself, it’s a perfect addition to the ABC comedy lineup.

The other new show is the drama, Designated Survivor with Kiefer Sutherland as the President of the United States. On the night of the State of the Union address, an explosion claims the lives of the President and all members of the Cabinet except for U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman (Sutherland), who has been named the designated survivor. Kirkman is immediately sworn in as President unaware that the attack is just the beginning of what is to come.

This is a really good idea for a dramatic series, we don’t usually see what happens when we have an outsider become the president under unusual circumstances…okay, we might still but let’s be perfectly honest, folks, Trump ain’t getting elected after this latest controversy…but back to Designated Survivor, the idea of a guy who has no idea what he’s gotten himself into trying to run the country has the potential to create interesting storylines and the show does work because of that.

Sutherland gives yet another really great performance and commands the series and the writing is so good on this, there’s a good mix of action and drama and the political aspect of the series is written so well that you are so invested into what’s going on over the course of the series and what twists and turns they will take going forward for the rest of the season.

Unlike Fox, ABC has had some blunders this year, Conviction, the show that ABC gave Hayley Atwell after they axed Agent Carter, has been a massive disappointment so far, as has Notorious, a complete misstep in trying to replace Scandal, and American Housewife doesn’t look too promising either.

But still, Speechless and Designated Survivor are two shows that are well worth your time and thankfully, they are both on Wednesday night, on the same night as The Goldbergs, Modern Family, and Black-ish so you’ve got a really good night of television on Wednesdays.

Even The CW, a network that five years ago had nothing good or interesting, has turned into quite the entertaining network with their DC shows, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane The Virgin, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and they’ve got a new comedy series, No Tomorrow, this fall that definitely was a lot better than I was expecting.

But unfortunately, not every network this year has had bonafide new great TV shows to watch. NBC, the network that five years ago had one of the best lineups on TV, has really taken a downward spiral in the last few years. Of the shows they still have that are enjoyable, The Blacklist still works solely on James Spader’s great performance as Ray Reddington and The Carmichael Show, which is that one comedy series that has the potential to be NBC’s next big comedy hit because it’s a funny, well written, well acted, and very topical sitcom like Black-ish is.

The new crop of shows this year have been mediocre to say the least. The Good Place is the only show from NBC this year that I like in some form, I don’t think it’s perfect but there’s definitely elements to admire about it, the chemistry between Kristen Bell & Ted Danson and the comedy by creator Michael Schur gets some decent laughs but the whole show doesn’t quite come together as well as it should.

Timeless has an interesting concept to it but the overall presentation of it just doesn’t come together, the three main actors don’t have any chemistry together at all, the interesting plot doesn’t deliver, and the corniness of some of the attempts at humor don’t work. This is a Shawn Ryan series and I know that Shawn Ryan has written better than this, hell, Eric Kripke, the co-writer has written better than this, this is Revolution levels of bad.

But by far, the biggest most overrated show of this year and I know there are people who are going to disagree with me on this, This Is Us, I really do not like this show at all. I tried to give the first two episodes a chance and there was just nothing there, the whole show is nothing but trying to get you to get an emotional impact out of this, it’s the most manipulative TV show I have ever seen.

And there are too many comparisons I’m hearing from a lot of people who like it to Parenthood. But here’s the thing, Parenthood wasn’t around to get a simple emotional impact out of you, it wanted to tell a good story about these people with real life situations that the TV audience can relate to and it worked, it never tricked you with cliché storylines, many of the storylines they took are real life situations and weren’t manipulative like in This Is Us.

Everything in This Is Us is completely manipulative with a lack of interesting characters or even good performances or well written stories to make the show work. It pains me to believe that people are falling for this show’s tricks, it’s not entertaining at all, it’s a bore and it’s a cliché riddle manipulative bore.

But by far the worst network for new shows this year has got to be CBS, I mean, my god, it’s no wonder why CBS appeals to the oldest audience out there because their new shows are like something written out of the past…and not in a good way.

Every single one of their new shows this year have been terrible, Bull, a show that’s “based on the life of Dr. Phil McGraw”, yeah, the only reason this show exists is so that Michael Weatherly can have his own show even if it sucks. MacGyver, my god, talk about taking a stupid but fun concept from the 80s and just making it even stupider. It says something when Kevin Can Wait, the new Kevin James comedy series is the best new show CBS has to offer this year and even then, it’s a mixed bag, not great but certainly not as bad as it could’ve been considering how bad Kevin James’ film career has been recently.

And once Thursday Night Football wraps up, the horrendous lineup of new fall shows gets even worse, you have Man With A Plan, the new Matt LeBlanc comedy series, that looks terrible, Pure Genius, about a billionaire in Silicon Valley who decides to build a hospital….yeah, that looks bad and easily, the most offensively bad looking show of the year, The Great Indoors with Joel McHale and Christopher Mintz-Plasse and the whole show is nothing but making millennials look pathetic, it’s The Internship: The Series something that nobody fucking asked for in the first damn place.

So, yeah, we got a little negative towards the end but I will end it by saying that there’s definitely a lot of great network television shows nowadays, much more than in previous years and we didn’t even mention the returning shows that are still enjoyable such as The Simpsons, The Last Man On Earth, Brookyln Nine Nine, New Girl, Bones, Sleepy Hollow, Gotham, Lucifer, Rosewood, 2 Broke Girls, Hawaii Five-O, and many more.

Bottom line, as great as it is that cable television and streaming services have upped the ante for great television, network television is slowly but surely making a big comeback in terms of quality entertainment. There’s so much to watch and love out there but network TV is the one that has made the most impressive comeback in recent years. So, check back with ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, and The CW and you might be surprised at what you may find.

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3 comments on “My Take On… #208: Is Great Network Television Back?
  1. […] years. For many, that’s where their TV attention spans were at. Not to mention the return of great network television again, as we talked about earlier this […]

  2. […] about the best movies of 2016 yesterday and the best TV shows of 2016 on Friday, network television came back in a big way this year with great stuff from Fox’s The Exorcist to ABC’s Speechless. We […]

  3. […] earlier in the year when I was talking about how network television was back, I said some pretty negative stuff about This Is Us. Why I remember it like it was […]

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