Drive” (2007, Fox) feels like a “see what sticks” entry from Tim Minear, who co-creates the series with Ben Queen. It boasts good TV actors and movie character actors and one future superstar, and it has the high-concept premise of a secret multi-million-dollar illegal cross-country road race. That phrase could’ve been the centerpiece of a “Drive” drinking game, like “Dark Angel” had with “genetically engineered killing machine.”
Next” (Tuesdays, Fox) was originally scheduled for the 2019-20 midseason but was delayed till now because of the pandemic. That’s only a half-year delay, but it already seems so dated. For one thing, the notion of a dangerous artificial intelligence hasn’t been shocking in at least 50 years; even 30-some years ago, “Terminator’s” Skynet was a plot device. For another, a victim of the titular AI’s engineered car accident, a side character played by John Billingsley, uses a flip phone, making me wonder if “Next” wasn’t repurposed from the 2009-10 TV season.
For roughly the first half of the season, “Dark Angel” Season 2 (2001-02, Fox) is in a sophomore slump to match the inevitable ratings slump that goes with Fox’s Friday-night sci-fi dumping ground. Then it remarkably turns things around and closes even more strongly than in Season 1. Logan (Michael Weatherly) regains his Season 1 hairstyle and glasses, and newcomers Alec (Jensen Ackles) and Joshua (Kevin Durand) finally get episodes that make them fully realized members of the hero team.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc with fall TV scheduling (it’s hard to tell one socially distanced, masked story, let alone fill a slate with them), and also revealed that (no surprise) cable and streaming were better prepared with content in their pipelines than the networks. But while 2020 serves up the thinnest lineup in modern TV history, it’s not a total wash. Here are my thoughts on 13 notable fall premieres, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the series. All times Eastern:
Ihad forgotten – or maybe not even fully realized – how good “Dark Angel” Season 1 (2000-01, Fox) is. When it aired, it was overshadowed by genre rivals like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” that were doing notably special work. “Dark Angel” treads more familiar ground, creating a mythology out of the old sci-fi concept of genetically engineered people – namely titular heroine Max (Jessica Alba) — who want to live normal lives. But boy does it ever create post-Pulse 2019 Seattle in convincing fashion.
Adramedy starring Brittany Snow and produced by Jason Katims should be at the top of my list of must-see fall shows, but the preview for “Almost Family” (Wednesdays, Fox) looked somewhere between weird and bad. The pilot episode of this series based on the Australian show “Sisters” (and probably with less input from Katims than his past shows, like “Friday Night Lights” and “Parenthood”) turns out to be surprisingly not terrible. But it lacks a great hook or winning formula, which explains why the makers of the trailer had a hard time cutting together something that’s easy to define.
Prodigal Son” (Mondays, Fox) does a lot of things right, but they are the same things a lot of other shows have done right. This serial killer procedural/ongoing mystery mix makes nice use of lived-in, almost rundown Big Apple buildings, and the relationships are well defined in the first episode, notably incarcerated serial killer Dr. Martin “The Surgeon” Whitly (Michael Sheen) and his son, profiler Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne, who plays “Jesus” on “The Walking Dead” but who looks way different without the beard and long hair).
Iwatched the trailers of some notable fall TV premieres so you don’t have to (but they are embedded here if you want to). Here are my thoughts on each, along with a “Go Bananas” Level (on a 10-point scale) of how excited I am for the series. All times Eastern:
The 2010s have been the decade of nostalgia, so much so that a genuine feeling of nostalgia doesn’t come up much anymore. The existence of – and the experience of watching – “BH90210” (Wednesdays on Fox) is a case in point. Seeing all seven major living actors from “Beverly Hills, 90210” (1990-2000, Fox) on screen together, as well as Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth watching the original show late in the pilot episode, does indeed kind of make me want to rewatch the original.
Gotham” (2014-19, Fox), which aired its final episode Thursday – and will likely draw more fans on Netflix in this age when shows are perpetually “new,” so I’ll discuss it in present tense — won’t be remembered as a top-shelf superhero franchise in this decade of superheroes. But I have to give it credit for being its own thing. It’s one of very few shows where if I hear someone say it’s horrible, and if I hear someone else say it’s great, I agree with both. Sometimes the quality wavers that much within one episode, and also, a lot depends on your mindset when tuning in.