With every new television season comes a lot of excitement and fear not only for those involved in the production of each series, but also for the viewers themselves. Typically, a very small percentage of new TV shows manage to translate into enduring hits, often lasting just a few episodes before the respective networks pull the plug and sweep the embarrassment under the rug. That means that every autumn we’re at risk of falling head over heels in love with a new series that might not last for very long, even though some shows currently on the air actually deserve to be next on the chopping block.
Fall 2016 will be no exception. Many shows from the previous season will be back in action, and networks across the dial will be trumping up their latest programs as the “next [insert hit show here].” In an effort to save our readers from the unnecessary heartache, we’ve identified some of the upcoming shows set to debut this fall that we feel are least likely to become established hits once they air. For the record, we’re focusing only on shows coming to the major networks this fall. Let’s take a look.
1. Designated Survivor (ABC)
Kiefer Sutherland stars in this drama series as the U.S. secretary of housing and urban development who finds himself next in line to be president when a deadly bomb kills the current commander-in-chief and every other member of the Cabinet. Despite an intriguing premise, the chances that this ABC drama will become a hit are slim, especially since most viewers still equate Sutherland with his 24 character Jack Bauer. This takes an ironic twist when you consider that Fox is re-launching 24 as 24: Legacy with Straight Outta Compton actor Corey Hawkins as the new lead.
2. Frequency (The CW)
The CW has proven itself as a go-to destination for supernatural drama, including four series based on DC Comics characters. The 2000 sci-fi drama Frequency — which stars Jim Caviezel as a man who is able to communicate with his dead father via a ham radio — seems like a strange choice for a television adaptation. Actress Peyton List leads the TV version, playing a character who alters the future when she makes contact with her dead father. While the 2000 film is underrated and this show could become a breakout hit, shows based on movies don’t have a strong track record.
3. The Good Place (NBC)
Kristen Bell stars as a young woman who dies and mistakenly ends up in “the good place,” while Ted Danson plays the authority figure who informs Bell’s character of her death. Now she must figure out how to be good and what to do with her afterlife. Though both stars are charismatic and deserving of new gigs, The Good Place seems like a high-concept comedy that may win over critics but fail to gain attention from viewers, despite the pedigree of creator Mike Schur (Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine).
4. Lethal Weapon (Fox)
Remember how we said that television shows based on films don’t usually perform well? That actually proves truer the more popular and beloved the film version is. So based on that criteria, a spinoff of one of the most popular buddy cop film series of all time doesn’t have much of a chance. The roles of Riggs and Murtaugh were so indelibly played by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover across all four films that we can’t imagine this new version becoming a breakout hit. The Rush Hour show took a similar approach and lasted all of eight episodes before it was canceled.
5. Man with a Plan (CBS)
Following the conclusion of Friends, the show’s stars often struggled to find subsequent roles that could match their iconic characters. Matt LeBlanc found success with Episodes on Showtime, but now that the series is wrapping up with one final season, he aims for major network sitcom success with this CBS comedy series that follows a stay-at-home father who struggles to adjust when his wife goes back to work. The Mr. Mom premise is nothing new, and considering the low success rate of comedies in general — and LeBlanc’s uphill battle as a former Friend — Man with a Plan probably won’t last.
6. Son of Zorn (Fox)
Fox aims to create an offbeat hit with this partially animated, partially live-action comedy that features the voice of Jason Sudeikis. Sudeikis’s character is an animated warrior who starts a new life with an office job to reconnect with his non-animated son. The show comes from producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (The Lego Movie) and features accomplished comedy stars like Cheryl Hines and Tim Meadows in its supporting cast. Still, Son of Zorn might not work as a major network series, as it feels like a better fit for a cable channel like Comedy Central or Cartoon Network.
7. Notorious (ABC)
Loosely based on the real life relationship between criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos and Larry King Live producer Wendy Walker, this legal drama purports to show us the behind-the-scene machinations that go on in the courts and the media. And although the show has only been around for a few weeks, it has already earned the scorn of multiple TV critics for its lack of substance. Variety TV critic Sonia Saraiya called Notorious “a nearly wall-to-wall mess” that is “hard to get invested in,” while The New York Times’s Mike Hale argued that the show isn’t a legal drama so much as it is “a show about cheekbones.”
8. MacGyver (CBS)
Lethal Weapon wasn’t the only memorable ’80s franchise to get a television reboot this fall. CBS revived this much-spoofed TV show (see MacGruber) about a secret government operative with a knack for improvisational gadget building. Unfortunately , the reboot fails to recapture the campy charm of the original series and it looks like MacGyver will join the legion of other terrible TV show reboots of classic shows that failed to bring anything new to the table. USA Today’s Robert Bianco notes, “[If] you’re looking for something approaching the original’s simple DIY charms — or, for that matter, something even marginally original — look elsewhere. What you’re getting here is a factory-made retread that is less MacGyver than MacGyver: Impossible, with the title character now just one member of an impossible mission team.” Don’t expect this one to stick around for long.
9. Kevin Can Wait (CBS)
Kevin James, the star of the long-running CBS sitcom The King of Queens returned to television this fall with a show that feels like it’s from another era. As noted by Variety’s Sonia Saraiya “‘Kevin Can Wait’ is like ‘The Honeymooners’ collided with a few subplots of ‘Father of the Bride’.” Whether this show’s retro sensibilities will bring it success in the golden era of television remains to be seen. As The New York Times’s Neil Genzlinger observed, “At a time when the best television comedies are taking on race, politics, disability and more, this one hopes that there’s still an appetite for Mr. James’s macaroni and cheese.” With so many other more interesting comedy show options on the menu today, we are predicting that viewers will soon tired of Kevin Can Wait.
10. Bull (CBS)
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Bull is that we learned daytime TV talk show host Dr. Phil had a previous life as a trial analyst. Unfortunately, this legal drama about a trial consulting firm that helps clients influence juries is otherwise a tired retread of dozens of other better courtroom dramas. On the bright side, the critics had fun with the show’s ill-chosen name. “There’s probably an interesting show to be made about this line of work, but Bull quickly lapses into the standard prime-time bull,” writes Washington Post’s Hank Stuever. “When thrown the bull, the best idea is to throw it back,” quips USA Today’s Robert Bianco. The New York Times’s Neil Genzlinger avoids the temptation to make a pun and simply notes that Bull is a “terrible name for a character and a show.”
Some additional writing by Nathanael Arnold
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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