There is a blissful period of the year that fills the hearts of certain geeks with glee. It starts around mid May and continues right up until September the following year, and is the period when the television networks of the United States announce what shows will be airing over the coming year. Some are proposed but never make it before the cameras; some, like the ill fated Wonder Woman in 2011, Aquaman in 2006 and Global Frequency in 2005 have pilots filmed but are never picked up as series and most often are never even aired, Ronald D Moore‘s Virtuality being a rare exception to this trend.
Information on proposed series is drip fed to eager followers: a brief outline of the premise, the name of a creator or producer known for quality, the casting of a prominent actor, leaked photos or even a copy of the pilot that ‘somehow’ makes it into the public forum. It’s a great time for speculation on which show will fall first, because that’s the thing: most shows don’t make it through gestation, let alone birth. They can (and frequently are) cancelled within their first few episodes. The reboot of Charlie’s Angels from 2011 was unceremoniously taken behind the barn and put out of its misery after a measly four episodes, reflecting the concensus that it was utterly appalling. Quality, however, does not mean longevity, which is where the obligatory reference to Firefly can be dropped in.
Considering the eagerness for the American public to soak up geek friendly films it’s been a poor year for new shows aimed towards us. Despite the fact that the top ten movies of 2012 consisted entirely of genre releases (apart from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2; nobody wants to take ownership of that one) the pickings on the small screen have been quite pitiful.
666 Park Avenue came from ABC and sounded great, mainly because it had Terry O’Quinn (Millennium, Lost) in it, but is not going to continue beyond the first season, and in fact the people that actually liked the show are going to have to wait until the summer to see the final four episodes. Unfortunately it was hard not to compare the series (unfairly, in many regards) to the much more brutal and adult American Horror Story airing on FX, now completing its very successful second season.
Also from ABC was Last Resort, about a submarine whose crew defies orders which they believe to have come from outwith the chain of command, and turns the quaint little island where they shelter into the latest nuclear power on the planet. It was all about drama and conspiracy and will not be returning next year, though fortunately the producers had sufficient notice to tweak the final episode to give some resolution which probably means that, like Pushing Daisies, they are going to shoe-horn in as much as they possibly can. The only time advance notice of cancellation served a series well was when Dollhouse, until then the most variable of Joss Whedon’s shows, managed to cram highlights of a planned five year arc into half a dozen episodes.
The modern day Sherlock Holmes from CBS, Elementary, is the first apparent success of the year, not only given a full season, but blessed with an extra two episodes in the first. The series has consistently pulled in over ten million viewers each week, and whilst some critics compared it unfavourably to the British Sherlock due to the singular similarity that it takes place in the 21st Century, CBS have attempted two previous Holmes tales in modern day America, The Return of Sherlock Holmes in 1987 and 1994 Baker Street in 1993. There were also a few raised eyebrows and knee jerk reactions regarding Lucy Liu being cast as Watson (she had the wrong reproductive organs, apparently), but this was nothing groundbreaking either as it was done sixteen years ago in, again, The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
There have been many attempts in recent years to make a successful super hero television series (No Ordinary Family, The Cape) and it looks like The CW may finally have got it right. From the network behind Smallville and The Vampire Diaries comes Arrow, the tale of Oliver Queen. Rather than continue the adventures of the character introduced in Smallville, the creators instead chose to follow many aspects of the comic book version, most notably the recent Andy Diggle Year One origin story, with the creators throwing in plenty of characters from and references to the comics, which keeps the fans happy – Speedy, the Huntress, Deathstroke, Deadshot and the Royal Flush gang amongst others. If they keep going at this rate they’re actually going to have to come up with original characters should it be confirmed for a second season.
Also from The CW and picking up a full season is Beauty and the Beast, which recently started in the UK. It is very loosely based on the fantastic 1987 series of the same name, only this time Catherine is played by Kristin Kreuk (also known as the woman who cried a lot over Clark Kent and starred in a Street Fighter movie that no one wants to remember) instead of Linda Hamilton (also known as the woman who terminated three cyborg killing machines from the future and was the mother of Chuck Bartowski). Vincent is played by Jay Ryan (who hasn’t really done much other than Neighbours) instead of Ron Perlman (who has been in everything from Star Trek to Hellboy to Sons of Anarchy). Apart from that it’s exactly the same. Except for Vincent no longer looking like a lion. And he’s part of some super-soldier program, not a sewer dwelling monster.
There is, however, hope for the rest of the year, as we also have the mid season replacements to look forward to. Sticking with The CW there is Cult, which premieres mid-February, a ‘show within a show’ affair, about a fictional television series of the same name where the fans may be re-enacting crimes seen on the show.
Back to ABC and there is Zero Hour, which takes the timeslot vacated by Last Resort, those wacky schedulers choosing to replace a conspiracy series with a conspiracy series, though judging from the synopsis it may be a little more popular. Starring Anthony Edwards (Top Gun, ER) as a conspiracy cracker and debunker of myths, he “gets pulled into one of the most compelling mysteries in human history, stretching around the world and back centuries” according to the official website. It sounds very much like National Treasure and could be jolly good fun.
From Kevin Williamson, the man who brought us Dawson’s Creek, comes The Following, perhaps the most intriguing of the mid season replacements. It stars Kevin Bacon as Ryan Hardy, the FBI agent who brou
ght down serial killer Dr. Joseph Carroll, who since incarceration has built a social network of copycat serial killers, and when Carroll escapes Hardy is brought in to consult on the case. Part of the formula for the series is 24 in general and Jack Bauer in particular, promising to be just as edge of the seat and as gory as it can be and still slip past the censors. The premise of an FBI agent and their genius nemesis does bring to mind a particular scenario from author Thomas Harris, though…
And peaking of which, Hannibal is due to air at some undisclosed point this year. It’s basically the early years of Will Graham and Dr Hannibal Lecter. Developed by Bryan Fuller (Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me) it will take place before Red Dragon and delve into the relationship between Graham and the man that will eventually become the charming psychopath with a taste for Chianti. This could well be the great hope for the 2012/13 season, and will hopefully fare better than Fuller‘s Mockingbird Lane. Much is known from the films about what Lecter becomes, but exploring how he gets there could be addictive viewing.
In Dracula the eponymous character arrives in Victorian London masquerading as an American entrepreneur who claims to want to bring technology to the city but actually wishes to wreak revenge on the people who wronged him centuries earlier, until he falls in love with a woman that may be the reincarnation of his dead wife. Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) is playing the lead character and is, so far, the only cast member revealed. This bold re-imagining of the classic novel isn’t going to air until the autumn, so there’s still plenty to be revealed beyond having an Irish actor pretending to be an American in an American show pretending to be set in England.
Finally there is Do No Harm, which commences on January 31st on NBC. Continuing the trend of Elementary and Dracula this is another adaptation / re-imagining of a classic late 19th Century character by an British author, this time The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Steven Pasquale stars as both Dr. Jason Cole and Ian Price. Each night, at exactly 8:25 Cole turns into Price, who loves nothing more than causing problems for his alternate self. This bears an uncanny resemblance to Christian Slater’s My Own Worst Enemy which aired on NBC in 2008 and survived for only nine episodes, though whether this will be a case of repeating the same mistakes or getting it right the second time around is as yet undetermined.
It has not been the best year for new geek friendly shows, with a few already having fallen, a couple of success stories and the interesting hopefuls still to air. Though still a long way off, here’s hoping the 2013/14 season will be a little more genre friendly.