The fall TV season just isn’t what it used to be. That’s partly because network TV is no longer the only game in town and partly because networks (and cable and streaming platforms) premiere shows throughout the year.
And it’s partly because, while the networks used to launch more than 40 new shows in the fall, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW are debuting 22 this year.
Of those 22, seven aren’t actually new. There are two revivals (“Murphy Brown” and “Last Man Standing”), two reboots (“Magnum P.I.” and “Charmed”) and two spinoffs (“Dancing with the Stars Juniors” and “Legacies” — a spinoff of “Vampire Diaries” and “The Originals”). And then there’s “The Conners,” a continuation of “Roseanne” without Roseanne Barr.
She got fired for those racist tweets, you’ll recall.
As for the other 15 shows, not one is an altogether original idea. They're all slightly different takes on genres we've seen umpteen times — a medical drama, a talk show, two cop shows, a sci-fi show, an ensemble drama, a teen drama and six sitcoms.
But let’s not look back at the ghost of TV past with too much nostalgia. When the networks were throwing 40-plus shows against the wall to see what would stick, most of them didn’t. Deservedly so.
If you’re a TV fan, there are always a few things to look forward to. Heck, this is the 29th time I’ve written about a fall premiere, and there are a few things I’m excited about.
• I loved the “All American” pilot. It reminds me of the original “Beverly Hills, 90210” — and that show was surprisingly good in its first few seasons (beginning way back in 1990).
The new show also takes place at a Beverly Hills high school, but these aren’t Midwestern kids moving to town. “All American” centers on an African-American football player from a rough part of L.A. who is recruited by the Beverly Hills coach … and things don’t go smoothly.
I've also seen the second and third episodes, and I remain enthusiastic.
• I'm inordinately excited about the “Murphy Brown” revival, even though we haven't seen it yet. I was a huge fan of the original, and I have high hopes for its return.
• And, until it’s proven otherwise, I think “The Conners” will work post-Roseanne. There’s huge talent there — Laurie Metcalf, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert — so it’s definitely worth checking out.
• “Single Parents” and “The Kids are Alright” produced funny pilots. That’s clearly not an easy thing to do, given the number of unfunny sitcom pilots we’re being subjected to.
A good pilot doesn't always turn into a good series, but it's reason to hope.
• I'm not a big fan of cop shows in general, but I am a big fan of Nathan Fillion. And he's reason enough to watch “The Rookie.”
I'm also willing to bet that one or two other shows that didn't produce great pilots could turn out to be worth watching. Maybe “FBI.” Maybe “Magnum P.I.” Maybe “New Amsterdam.” Maybe even “The Neighborhood” — although I doubt that.
No, there’s nothing revolutionary premiering this fall. But a TV show doesn’t have to break the mold to be good. It’s all about how well you make a familiar format work.