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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ranking The 10 Most Anticipated New Shows of the Fall 2016 Season

1) Atlanta (FX)
Created By: Donald Glover
Starring: Donald Glover, Lakeith Stanfield, & Brian Tyree Henry
Premiere Date: September 6

Brief Description: For the longest time, people have been championing for diversity in Hollywood. Atlanta is what happens when those championing voices get heard. What the people really want is for different voices to be heard; we want to see a different perspective on things. Donald Glover and Atlanta deliver on those expectations. The show, created by a black man, starring almost exclusively black actors, and directed by a newcomer Asian-American, gives us a unique and engaging experience into a world that has not been heavily explored. While the plot of the show is about Earn (Glover) helping his cousin Paper Boi (Henry) make it in the rap game to get them both rich (mainly Glover's character), in its execution, Atlanta is just an excuse to bring character together so we the audience can get a peak into their lives. Donald Glover has always been a gifted storyteller, whether its in his stand-up or in his songs, and he gets to share those gifts with us again in Atlanta.

2) Speechless (ABC)
Created By: Scott Silveri
Starring: Minnie Driver, Cedric Yarbrough, & Micah Fowler
Premiere Date: September 21

Brief Description: As with Atlanta, Speechless proves what joy can come with diversity. For a while, network sitcoms became stale. It was basically a Michael Schur production or GTFO. But thanks to ABC and some different perspectives, sitcoms are back. Thanks to Black-ish and Fresh Off The Boat, traditional sitcoms become both funny and entertaining again. While both shows used tired sitcom tropes, they don't feel tired as we're seeing these tropes through a new lens. The same holds true for Speechless. In the ABC comedy, we have the same comedy family we've seen before- mother, father, and three kids (two boys and one girl). The "hook" in Speechless is that the eldest J.J. (Fowler) is wheelchair bound and needs an aide (Yarbrough) to speak for him. This premise (along with Driver and Yarbrough) turns the traditional sitcom on its head. Plus, it's really funny.

3) Pitch (FOX)
Created By: Dan Fogelman & Rock Singer
Starring: Kylie Bunbury, Mark-Paul Gosselar, & Ali Larter
Premiere Date: September 22

Brief Description: Pitch tells the story of the first female athlete, Ginny Baker (Bunbury), making her professional debut in a men's sport (obviously here its baseball). What makes Pitch so good is that it actually feels like what would happen if a female athlete did get called up from the minors to play for a professional MLB team. It would be a momentous occasion, there would be a shit-load of press about it, every talking head from Colin Cowherd to Katie Nolan (both have shows via a FOX affiliate- what a coincidence!) would be discussing it 24/7, and many of her male teammates and bosses wouldn't be terribly comfortable with her presence. Further, the show doesn't treat Baker as the next Nolan Ryan- it treats her as if what would really happen for a female pitcher to make it to the majors. Baker is the fifth starter on the San Diego Padres with non-electric stuff but with a great, yet outdated pitch (the screwball). Pitch has an interesting premise and elevator pitch (pun intended), but it's as good as it is because it treats this world with almost Breaking Bad-esque precision.

4) The Good Place (NBC)
Created By: Michael Schur
Starring: Kristen Bell & Ted Danson
Premiere Date: September 19

Brief Description: The Good Place is created by Michael Schur who created Parks and Recreation, co-created Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and wrote during the glory years of The Office. He's also the co-creator of one of the greatest websites: The reason I bring all of this up, is because Schur gets a long leash in my book, and I'm willing to extend that leash to Schur for a full season, because The Good Place is more enjoyable than it is hilarious. Its premise, where Kristen Bell's Eleanor Shellstrop mistakenly gets sent to "heaven" or The Good Place and needs to learn to be at least a decent person, and its execution is more clever than funny. I've seen the first two episodes (as of this post the show has currently aired 5) and I don't know if I've even let out a chuckle, But that being said, Schur knows what he's doing, needed time to set up his world, and the first six episodes of both The Office and Parks and Recreation were atrocious, so I'm willing to watch at least two seasons before I'm ready to fully judge this show.

5) Westworld (HBO)
Created By: Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, & Anthony Hopkins
Premiere Date: October 2

Brief Description: At its worst, Westworld is a dope sci-fi thriller that explores the nature of humanity with some incredible special effects but no characters to help you get fully invested into the show and at its best it is a worthy successor to Game of Thrones. I tend to fall into the former category, but still, that's good company to be in when your "worst" is still pretty damn good. HBO has had a difficult time getting a drama post-GOT to stick, and they're hoping Westworld is the answer. The problem with the show, is that it seems to take all of the wrong lessons from Game of Thrones. Sure, Westworld is expensive with an expansive universe and nudity and gratuitous violence galore. But what Game of Thrones has is characters that you can root for and root against. We love Tyrion Lannister and the Stark boys, we enjoy evil anti-heroes like Cersei, and we loathe villains like King Joffrey and Ramsey Bolton. Westworld doesn't have that, and it's going to need to develop those characters if it wants to be Game of Thrones.

6) This Is Us (NBC)
Created By; Dan Fogelman
Starring: Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, & Sterling K. Brown
Premiere Date: September 20

Brief Description: Truthfully, This Is Us should be higher because it's very good; however, it's just not my cup of tea. The show follows around four people (Ventimiglia's Jack, Brown's Randall, and a pair of twins named Kevin and Kate) who all share the same birthday on their 36th birthday. You find out at the end of the pilot how all four stories are connected (if you pay attention you should be able to figure out my the episode's end) ans all four characters are dealing with certain trials and tribulations in their life. The main issue for me is that the show is extremely melodramatic and works hard to push through the drama. It seems very much in the vain of another former NBC show: Parenthood. That melodrama works for many people (it's the #1 newest dram this fall season), but it just doesn't resonate with me.

7) Timeless (NBC)
Created By: Erik Kripke & Shawn Ryan
Starring: Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, & Malcolm Barrett
Premier Date: October 3

Brief Description: I love time travel movies. Outside of the obvious Back to the Future trilogy and Looper, I'll even ride for films like The Butterfly Effect (director's cut only) and Frequency. So when I first saw the trailer for NBC's Timeless, I got excited, Upon seeing the pilot, I have not idea where my excitement came from, and I have no idea why I expected this show to be anything other than a case-of-the-week procedural of where in time to find a Bad Guy that just happens to be more expensive and involve time travel. The one thing the show does do well, to its credit, is that it addresses why a Black man (Barrett) goes back in time with a white historian (Spencer) and a white soldier (Lanter) despite the fact that (I'm paraphrasing Barrett's character), "there is literally no point in American history where it's OK to be Black." But outside of that, there's not a whole lot to get excited about.

8) Luke Cage (Netflix)
Created By: Cheo Hodari Coker
Starring: Mike Colter, Mahershala Ali, & Alfre Woodard
Premiere Date: September 30

Brief Description: Luke Cage is the third superhero show from Netflix following Daredevil and Jessica Jones. Daredevil brought with it a pretty boring superhero, but had incredible action and violence to make the binge worth it. Jessica Jones was pretty light on the action, but had a wonderful, female-centric hero and themes that resonated throughout the entire series and made the show one of the greatest superhero shows of all time. Luke Cage tries to follow in the vein of Jessica Jones, but replace "female" with "Black". Unfortunately, it fails in its execution, and all that's left is a boring superhero with minimal action. I enjoy both Mike Colter (who plays Cage) and Mahershala Ali (who plays the series' Big Bad Cottonmouth) in their previous projects, but neither are strong or charismatic enough to carry so-so and overlong writing.

9) Designated Survivor (ABC)
Created By: David Guggenheim
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Natascha McElhone, & Kal Penn
Premiere Date: September 21

Brief Description: Designated Survivor had the most interesting premise and trailer of any Fall 2016 show. Ever since 8th grade Civics class once we all learned what a Designated Survivor actually was, the imagination was the only limit to what an actual instance of having to use a designated survivor would actually look like. As it turned out, it was an imagination and the confines of basic procedural broadcasting that was the true limit. Considering almost everyone in Hollywood knows what would happen if America was affected by a major terrorist attack having lived through 9/11, having the Capital Building blown up along with essentially all of our political leaders is treated pretty nonchalantly. It's hard not to compare this show to Pitch considering both deal with a momentous occasions of National significance (albeit with much different stakes). Pitch takes this occasion and tries to flesh out its world and the people most affected by it. Designated Survivor uses its occasion to tell a handful of stories and subplots that seem unnecessary and use everything as a vehicle to tell a pretty generic political thriller. Designated Survivor would have been better off as a movie than as a network drama.

10) Easy (Netflix)
Created By: Joe Swanberg
Starring: Jake Johnson, Orlando Bloom, Aya Cash & Dave Franco
Premiere Date: September 22

Brief Description: Films like Drinking Buddies and Happy Christmas must have done gangbusters for Netflix, because director Joe Swanberg was given a handful of money and was told to go do what he does and film his thang. What Swanberg came back with was an anthology show where every episode is different (think The Twilight Zone style) about love in Chicago. Joe Swanberg films tend to be structure-less and almost entirely improvisational. I've never been a huge fan of them, but apparently the critics eat that shit up. Swanberg takes that same approach to Easy, and what we're given is 8 episodes of normal people living normal lives. Not only does this create incredibly droll stories, but there's absolutely no escapism whatsoever. What's worse, there doesn't seem to be any sort of artistic merit to these episodes, leaving me with one huge, burning question: How Did This Shit Get Made?