Thursday, May 8, 2014

ABC 2014-15 dramas -- my thoughts

ABC announced a number of renewals and new dramas today. Of particular interest to me were "Once Upon a Time," "Scandal," and "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," all of which were expected renewals.

What about the new dramas? Collectively, they look heavy on serialized mysteries/conspiracy theories. Here are some first impressions based on the brief descriptions:

* "Marvel's Agent Carter": I watched about half of "Captain America" via Amazon Prime and found it kind of boring, so I only caught a glimpse of Peggy Carter, Cap's love interest. This series picks up sometime after the movie (i.e., 1946), and I gather she'll be doing Office of Strategic Services (OSS -- the forerunner to the CIA) type of spy work. (Captain America, of course, fell into suspended animation at the end of the first movie, which is how he ends up being youthful in "The Avengers.") My guess is that this will be similar to "Agents of SHIELD" in terms of production values and feel, though not in setting, of course. I wonder about how well the post-WWII era will fare among viewers. The first season of the Lynda Carter "Wonder Woman" series was set during WWII, but after one season, the show jumped to present day, which might be an indication that modern day works better than the past for action shows. Mildly intriguing; probably not a high ceiling, but not likely to be a debacle either.

* "Forever": A medical examiner who's immortal solves medical mysteries, aided by his long memory of past events. It sounds like what you'd get if you crossed the Adrian Paul series "Highlander" with Jack Klugman's "Quincy M.D." There can only be one! The immortal being who solves mysteries/problems that bear remarkable resemblance to past events ran its course in the 1990s with "Highlander" and "Forever Knight." A recent attempt at the genre failed with "New Amsterdam," which worked out well for star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, since he was free to pick up the role as Jamie Lannister in "Game of Thrones." Pass.

* "American Crime": A horrible crime in the relatively small city of Modesto, California, leaves a husband dead and his wife in a coma after being beaten and raped. The effects of the crime impact various family members, city residents, and others. This is the sort of set-up that could work really well (an entire season devoted to a single crime investigation); just read any Michael Connelly novel for examples. (Or the upcoming Amazon series "Bosch," based on two of those books.) But there are failures, too, like NBC's "Deception" or AMC's "The Killing." This kind of character-driven mystery probably works better on basic cable. Possibly worth checking out but I'm skeptical.

* "How to Get Away With Murder": True story -- about 8 years ago, I was telling one of my law school colleagues that we should pitch a TV show that would be "Beverly Hills 90210" crossed with law school. It would be mostly about the law students, with the eccentric law profs as secondary characters. We never got around to doing anything with the idea, but maybe we should have. Granted, we wouldn't have had Shonda Rhimes' track record with "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal," but the basic idea obviously can be sold to a network. As a general rule, I don't like legal dramas, but I may have to check this out, if nothing else, to critique the law school scenes. I won't be able to stop myself from watching.

* "The Whispers": This sounds just plain weird. Alien invaders are using psychic powers to trick our children into helping them take over the world. Okay, this doesn't just sound weird; it sounds pretty bad. At its worst, it could end up reminding us of one of the worst episodes ever of "Star Trek" (aka  "And the Children Shall Lead," with a special guest appearance by noted litigator Melvin Belli as a space demon). I'll check it out but it's going to be on a VERY short leash.

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