With 2014 already fading in our rear view mirrors, it’s time to look ahead, swerve before we hit the lady crossing the street with the baby carriage full of aluminum cans, and focus on my favorite annual tradition – getting our hopes up about new television series. Between the big-name series that we’re all well aware of (and peeing our pants in excitement over) and the standard midseason debuts, there are plenty of new titles to keep an eye on for 2015. However, as we all know too well, the average shelf life of a new show feels like an episode these days, so getting our hopes up too high feels like a tradition unto itself, as we can practically predict the week and even day on which our new favorite shows will be fired into the sun.
Like rats trying to eat the block of cheese attached to an open circuit, we never learn, because I’m sitting here looking at the schedule for 2015 and purposely picking out shows that could break my heart. Obviously, we don’t need to worry about Better Call Saul or Marvel’s Agent Carter, because fans of those titles and genres know what they’re in for and probably won’t be let down. While I unleashed the loudest “Are you f*cking kidding me?!?!” of my life when I learned that CBS was debuting a new version of The Odd Couple, starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon, that series will probably have 19 million viewers by the second episode. And let’s not forget that CBS also has CSI: Cyber, which will probably be a smash hit, because people will tune in to stare in disbelief as Patricia Arquette leads a cyberterrorism division that includes James Van Der Beek and Bow Wow.
Meanwhile, NBC is depending on the star power of Uma Thurman, Zachary Quinto, Melissa George and others to deliver big ratings in an American version of the Australian family drama The Slap. Will it work? Who the hell knows? But my fingers won’t be crossed for any of the aforementioned shows, because I’ll be too busy hoping for the best in the following new titles…
Hindsight (VH1) – Wednesday, January 7 at 10 PM ET
The Cast: Laura Ramsey (Are You Here), Sarah Goldberg, Craig Horner
The Plot: Becca Brady (Ramsey) is about to get married for the second time when she begins to regret every decision she’s ever made, including the man that she married the first time… all the way back in 1995. She basically has a magical stroke in an elevator after her rehearsal dinner and she wakes up on the morning of her first wedding day… in 1995. Now, she gets to go back and make the right decisions for once in her life. (That’s my own version of the synopsis, as the pilot is available now on VH1.com or above.)
The Skinny: When your commercials feature “Two Princes” and the pilot episode prominently uses Elastica’s “Connection,” you have my attention. Throw in some Ace of Base welcoming the main character back to 1995 and you’ve stabbed a honking huge needle of adrenaline into my already hyper 90s nostalgia. The question, though, is how long can that last? Some shows (most recently Surviving Jack) have found a great balance between stroking our love of nostalgia and creating fun stories and characters, while others rely way too heavily on gimmicks, trends, fads and nonsense (That 70s Show, That 80s Show and Meet the Goldbergs).
Ultimately, the biggest question is – why VH1? Few series pilots are great, but I really enjoyed the first episode of Hindsight, which is crazy because I expected to hate it. This has the makings of a great TV series, so why wasn’t it on the radars of any of the main networks? Hopefully VH1 is as dedicated to the growth of an original series as it is to having Q-list celebrities ask us if we remember the 90s.
(Also, I love when a show has a great A-hole character and Becca’s cousin is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a pilot. You’ll pray that she’s hit by a dumptruck filled with slap bracelets.)
Untitled Jack McBrayer/Triumph Sitcom (Adult Swim) – Not Yet Scheduled
The Cast: Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
The Plot: Jack (McBrayer) is a former child star of a popular Lassie-type series that ran in the ‘80s and ‘90s. After it was cancelled, his crude but beloved co-star (Triumph) spiraled into decadence and got Jack in trouble with him. 15 years later, with Jack finally self-sufficient, happy, and away from show business, Triumph finds his way back into Jack’s life. – Deadline
The Skinny: Danger wrote about this series being picked up by Adult Swim last year, and it completely flew under the radar, which is strange because this is the kind of show that I’d geek out over while all the hipsters flip their “critic” scarves. I remembered it because I was watching 30 Rock the other night, which I do every night because I hope lightning strikes me and then I end up in the series so new adventures will begin just for me, and I wondered, “Where the hell has Kenneth been?” This series is what’s next for McBrayer, which will still draw groans from people who thought that Kenneth was the worst character on 30 Rock, and plenty of people (myself included) will think that this duo was better suited for Conan sketches.
Still, allowing Robert Smigel to operate without barriers on Adult Swim could be a blast for all of us, and this untitled series will hardly be held to the same standards and scrutiny that the real networks use. If anything, people hating it might mean bigger and better things.
The Last Man on Earth (Fox) – Sunday, March 1 at 9:30 PM ET
The Cast: Will Forte (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, MacGruber), January Jones
The Plot: Phil Miller (Will Forte) was once just an average guy who loved his family and hated his job at the bank — now he’s humanity’s last hope. Will he ever find another person alive on the planet? Would hoping that she is a female be asking too much?
The Skinny: Fox had enough faith in this series to not only get into a bidding war with other networks over the idea, but also to send it to series without even making it jump through the pilot hoops like the rest of the typical series out there. Maybe it helps that Fox is betting on Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island crew to help establish the new direction of the network’s comedy (including at FX and FXX), but execs already saw something special in this bizarre idea to give it a go. While that’s great news for fans of Forte, it’s still nothing to bet the farm on.
After all, Fox has proven to be incredibly impatient with new comedy series (See: once again Surviving Jack and Enlisted), and if this show isn’t a hit from day one, price could become way more important than progress (I still miss you Almost Human). Forte’s unique brand of comedy has earned him a lot of fans along the way (I’ll write til I’m blue in the face how MacGruber is not only the best SNL movie ever made, but one of the most underrated comedies of the last 20 years), but I doubt that will translate to Big Bang Theory numbers. If we’re crossing fingers, we’ll need to keep them tighter than ever for this presumably-wonderful new series.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix) – March
The Cast: Ellie Kemper (The Office), Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Broadway actor Tituss Burgess
The Plot: A woman (Kemper) escapes from a doomsday cult and starts life over again in New York City.
The Skinny: The series seemed doomed once NBC inexplicably gave it the red light, but then along came the story that Tina Fey wanted it to be on Netflix instead of NBC, which, if true, could be the greatest sign of all. Whether or not that’s true is a moot point now, because Netflix gives us all the freedom to choose without having to worry about how ratings could affect a show. If we love Kimmy Schmidt, we can binge-watch the hell out of it. If not, don’t ever think about it again.
When it comes to the hopes of TV critics, one of the most overused phrases I’ve read regarding the series is “the adorable Ellie Kemper.” Yes, Kemper is a truly adorable woman, but that doesn’t mean she has what it takes to carry a series. This needs to be a total package series, starting with the creative direction of Fey and then anchored by the hilarity of Krakowski, whose character has been described as “Jenna Maroney as a Stepford Wife,” which is awesome because My Baloney is one of the greatest TV characters of all-time. Kemper’s adorability will only get her so far, so let’s hope that when she escapes that cult, she’s ready to let hilarity ensue.
(Also, while I’m excited about the potential of this series, I’d still rather see a 30 Rock spinoff about the young, singing prostitute who got off the bus and was greeted by Liz Lemon.)
Battle Creek (CBS) – Sunday, March 1 at 10 PM ET
The Cast: Josh Duhamel (Safe Haven, the movie about the guy whose wife died and then became the best ghost friend of his new girlfriend… it’s amazing, just watch the ending), Dean Winters (30 Rock, dummy), Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar)
The Plot: In this mis-matched buddy cop dramedy, an amazingly handsome, happy-go-lucky FBI agent is paired with a local, hard scrabble Michigan homicide detective. As they solve crimes together, their polar opposite methods only slightly out weigh their disdain for each other.
The Skinny: For the sake of not arguing against the obvious, let me first tell you why this show will be a smash hit:
A) It’s on CBS, and almost every new CBS series becomes a smash hit (except for that awful Kevin Dillon show, which I’m pretty sure I sold my soul for its failure, and I don’t regret it).
B) It was created by Vince Gilligan and the pilot was directed by Bryan Singer. I’m not saying that guarantees success, because Gilligan could’ve just thrown a sentence together and collected a sack of money, while Singer could be handing off the director’s chair to two toddlers in a trenchcoat, but I’m banking on this being based on a premise that’s better than: “Uh oh, one of these guys ain’t like the other!”
C) Winters is ready to be a star, and even though he’s Timothy Olyphant-lite, Duhamel can be a lot of fun in the right project (Las Vegas was a fun show).
Those three points of information aside – especially the second one – what worried me about this series is that because it’s a CBS “dramedy,” it won’t necessarily embrace all of the talents of the people involved. Basically, I’m worried that this ends up less like Person of Interest and more like NCIS: Wait, Which City Are We In Again? If I’d provided a scale of how tightly we need to cross our fingers, this would probably be the loosest.
The Comedians (FX) – Spring 2015
The Cast: Billy Crystal, Josh Gad, the lovely Dana Delany
The Plot: A veteran comedian (Crystal) is reluctantly paired with a younger, edgier comedian (Gad) for a late-night comedy sketch show.
The Skinny: “He was hilarious in Book of Mormon,” says everyone I know when trying to explain why Josh Gad has been Hollywood’s go-to guy for the “hilarious” Joe Q. Everyschlub. I want to like Gad because I really have nothing against him, but I’ve just never seen the appeal. For example, 1600 Penn was a terrible TV series, so for The Comedians to be successful, he’ll want to stay far, far away from playing “Josh” as a bumbling idiot whose character description basically should have been “Just pretend you’re Chris Farley in Tommy Boy.”
Aside from Anger Management, though, FX has a sparkling track record for creating shows that we love, so despite a premise lacking in originality, we can hope that The Comedians will allow Crystal to play a little dirtier than he has in recent years and Gad to be as “edgy” as his character’s description states. Maybe that’s just what Gad needs to answer my question. Maybe he just needs a character that can be his own, so long as commercials for The Wedding Ringer on DVD and Blu Ray don’t play during commercial breaks and snap us right back to reality.
12 Monkeys (SyFy) – Friday, January 16 at 9 PM ET
The Cast: Aaron Stanford (Pyro in X2 and The Last Stand), Amanda Schull (Pretty Little Liars)
The Plot: Follows the journey of a time traveler from the post-apocalyptic future who appears in present day on a mission to locate and eradicate the source of a deadly plague that will eventually decimate the human race.
The Skinny: Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi thriller starring Bruce Willis and a batshit Brad Pitt was one of my favorite movies from that time in my life when I, like every male in the 90s, wanted to grow up to direct awesome movies. For weeks after I saw it in the theater, I used my middle fingers in all of my hand movements while talking to people, including my family and teachers, and I obviously regret that now. But still, Jeffrey Goines was a wonderfully strange character and one of the best performances of Pitt’s career. Too bad he’s not going to be reprising that role in the new original SyFy series.
The problem with SyFy is that when we think about the network’s original efforts, the first image that pops into our minds is a tornado filled with sharks. Granted, SyFy has some solid original series already, but now we’re dipping into cult films and that gets me typing with my middle fingers all over again. Basically, this is a really ballsy idea that either has the potential to become a Friday night favorite or something that stirs the bubbling cauldron of nerd rage unlike any other new series. Let’s pray for the former.
Backstrom (Fox) – Thursday, January 22 at 9 PM ET
The Cast: Rainn Wilson (The Office), Dennis Haysbert (24)
The Plot: Backstrom, the renowned misanthropic police detective, takes on new and daunting cases.
The Skinny: It looks like someone asked the question, “What if Dwight Schrute acted like House while solving crimes?” That’s hardly a bad thing, but the main obstacle for this show’s success will be whether or not the Toms, Dicks and Janes with Nielsen boxes care to watch Wilson as anyone other than Dunder Mifflin’s beet farm proprietor. The secondary obstacle is whether or not the world needs another show about a dick with his own way of doing (insert oddball profession here), and the third obstacle might be that we just don’t need another series about crime being solved by a weirdo. That might just be my problem, though, because I overdosed on Psych’s whimsical plots after four seasons.
Again, Fox isn’t very patient with new shows, so no matter how much you might love seeing Dwight, I mean Wilson back on your TV, don’t be surprised when the episodes start airing out of order. Look, I’m still really bummed about Almost Human, okay? Not because the show was fantastic or anything, but because Karl Urban should be a star. That’s my resolution for 2015 – to continue my crusade to make Urban a star.
One Big Happy (NBC) – Tuesday, March 17 at 9:30 PM ET
The Cast: Nick Zano (he played Penny’s inexplicably handsome boyfriend on Happy Endings, and he looks kind of like Josh Hartnett’s slightly-less-self-satisfied brother), Elisha Cuthbert (24, Happy Endings, that butt scene in Old School), Kelly Brook (hundreds of thousands of bikini pics on gossip sites)
The Plot: Best friends Lizzy (gay and a bit type-A) and Luke (straight and more laid back) are like family. When they were kids and both of their parents were getting divorces, they stuck together, and they’ve been there for each other ever since. Now, all grown up and still single, they’ve decided to start a family of their own. No, not like that (there are some lines even they won’t cross) – we’re talking the non-romantic, go-to-the-doctor’s-office type of baby-making.
Then one night, after yet another failed attempt at conception, the two head out to a bar to let off some steam. That’s where Luke meets Prudence, a free-spirited British girl who’s slated to go back to England in a matter of days. Lizzy isn’t a huge fan – it might have something to do with Prudence waltzing around their apartment naked – but Luke really hits it off with her… and next thing he knows, they’re spending every last minute of her limited time together. But just as Lizzy discovers that she’s actually pregnant, Luke announces that he and Prudence got married. Ta-da! A different kind of family is born.
The Skinny: I had no clue this series existed until today. I’m a little shocked that it’s a thing, mainly because Kelly Brook isn’t really an actress. I’m getting a total Friends with Better Lives vibe from this show, but I’m also getting ahead of myself. One Big Happy is being executive produced by Ellen DeGeneres, so talking about its cancellation would be foolish. Instead, we can wonder how well a show that was created and is written by Liz Feldman (2 Broke Girls) and directed by Scott Ellis (Guys with Kids, 2 Broke Girls… yikes) will thrive on a network that is desperate to recapture the glory days of Friends, a show that is still loved by millions without actually being good.
Better yet, judging by the plot of this series, NBC hopes that it has found its new Will and Grace. Basically, if DeGeneres promotes this sitcom on her show every day, it could end up being the No. 1 comedy on TV. How long it can last on this premise, though, will be up to Feldman and Ellis. It’s just hard to look at Zano and Cuthbert and not want this show to be run by David Caspe.
The Messengers (The CW) – Spring
The Cast: Shantel VanSanten (The Final Destination), Sofia Black D’Elia (Gossip Girl)
The Plot: A mysterious object crashes on earth and a group of unconnected strangers die from an energy pulse it emits, but then re-awaken to find out that they have been deemed responsible for preventing the impending Apocalypse.
The Skinny: Have you ever wondered what it might look like if the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse stepped right out of an Abercrombie catalog? Between this and iZombie, The CW has me at least considering DVRing one of its series for the first time ever (or at least that I can recall). In the case of The Messengers, I’m a sucker for apocalyptic adventures, even if the people involved barely have Wikipedia pages. I also don’t know a thing about the series’ creator Eoghan O’Donnell, but 2015 is all about trying new things and watching shows on networks that I might not typically… appreciate.