Snap Judgments: Fox Upfronts

17 May

We’re ranking each network’s upfronts.  NBC was first, with a longer intro, because it was first, and CBS came next.  Now it’s Fox’s turn.  There are the most yet here, nine shows, to rank, and I would say, on the whole, the quality is better than NBC and CBS.  There might even be one show here I’ll end up watching.  Not to worry though, there’s plenty of bad and even more mediocre to look forward to. Let’s get on with it.

9.  Dads

Oof.  Seth MacFarlane has his issues, but he has to be better than this.  My friend and I are almost convinced this must be some sort of brilliant anti-comedy, because, I mean, come on.  Family Guy may be many things, but it’s at least occasionally funny even in the lesser episodes.  The racism in this trailer is pretty bad.  Real bad.  But beyond that it’s just mind-blowingly unfunny and cringeworthy.  The scene where the two dads go back and forth over the bill at the restaurant may be the worst, or where the Chinese businessmen snap photos of Brenda Song dressed like a Japanese schoolgirl.  There’s so many to choose from.  Yikes!

8. Us & Them

I don’t know enough about British TV series Gavin & Stacey to know that this was a remake, but it is, so there’s that (I keep wanting to type Ned and Stacy, the old Debra Messing show).  Jason Ritter and Alexis Bledel are apparently online contacts forming a long-distance romance who finally meet in person in New York, hoping to find love and happiness and all that, but with the drag of their craaaazy friends and family.  Yet, even through all the obstacles, love seems to prevail.  These obstacles, in the form of their friends and family, are supposed to be hilarious but are really more hard to watch in the trailer.  A boy and girl, each with crazy families, falling in love, is not exactly the most original idea, and it can be funny but it’s certainly not looking great here.  Jane Kaczmarek is RItter’s mom, and character actor Kurt Fuller portrays his dad.

7. Surviving Jack

Surviving Jack is yet  another sign of the coming of the long-awaited ’90s revival.  Taking place in 1991, Christopher Meloni plays a man who, when his wife returns to law school, is placed in the role of full time parent to his teenage son and daughter for the first time.  Hijinks ensue.  He doesn’t really know how to deal with kids, resulting in some awkward moments, such as putting a box of condoms in his son’s bag on the first day of high school.  Oops. He loves his kids but he just doesn’t know how to relate. I love Chris Meloni, don’t get me wrong, and I’m sure he’ll do his best, but hopefully it’s better than this.  Period music can only take a show so far.

6. Almost Human

Amazing.  Kind of.  A human cop with a robot partner.  Of course, he doesn’t trust robots, because in his personal past, a robot, making a Spock-like logical decision, chose to save others with a better chance of surviving rather than save the cop’s partner.  In order to get back on the force, because he’s a crazy and depressed and special cop, he must take a robot partner, which are mandatory now.  However, when he sabotages the current model, he gets one of the past discontinued robot cops that were taught to think and feel like humans instead of robots.  Can their partnership work?  Can they both learn a little bit from each other? Can they save the city of the future?  Only time will tell.

5. Enlisted

Geoff Stults (of starring in the cancelled Finder, and appearing in a few Ben and Kates fame) stars as a military officer who returns from Afghanistan to a military base where he’s in charge of a group of losers and misfits, two of his are his brothers.  The trailer is a little disjointed – the main topic of the first half of the trailer is the family aspect of three misfit brothers surviving in the military, but the familial aspect is seemingly forgotten about in the second half in favor of Stults leading his group, as if the show changed premises mid-trailer. It reminds me of the premise of Go On, someone a little less misfit-y leads a band of misfits he has to relate to. The jokes are a little bit obvious and not particularly well-crafted, but I kind of like Stults, and I can imagine a world in which, if the jokes were better, this show could be not entirely awful.  To be fair, when you lead with, if the jokes were better, you can say that about almost any show.

4. Gang Related

Gang shows always seem to take place in Los Angeles (or at least California), and there’s always different ethnicities and races battling and beefing for turf.  I think the premise, though this is not explicitly spelled out, but based on the trailer and the title, is that some members of this elite gang task force have familial relationships with members of the city’s gangs, and that these relationships pose both a challenge and potential benefit for the task force members.  The trailer notes it’s from someone behind The Fast and the Furious and that makes a lot of sense based on the quick look, as it’s all style, cops tough guy interviewing gang members, talking about cocaine shipments and getting ready to do action-y things. It probably won’t be great, but may at least be watchable.

3. Sleepy Hollow

A modern day Sleepy Hollow.  Ichabod Crane goes to sleep and wakes up in the present day, and is shocked by things like cars, the end of slavery, and Starbucks.  Unfortunately, it looks like his great nemesis, the headless horsemen has returned to Westchester as well, and is wreaking havoc, committing murders all over the neighborhood.  The stakes get raised halfway through the trailer when we learn that the headless horseman is in fact, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (pestilence, maybe?), and his resurrection could have dangerous consequences for not just Dobbs Ferry, but for the entire world.    This conspiracy dates back to none other than George Washington, and the show has a little Da Vinci code in it, finding secret symbols and signs all over old documents.  I don’t see how you can keep this up for a whole season, or multiple seasons, and it seems too over the top, but the trailer was mostly watchable.

2. Rake

Rake, or Lawyer House as I call him, doesn’t do things that way you’re supposed to.  His personal life, the trailer quickly lets us know, is a mess, between gambling debt, alimony payments, and an ex-girlfriend who tried to stab him (and may be out to stab him again).  The one thing he does have, is that, House-like, he’s better at his job than anybody else.  This job is being a defense lawyer, and the big case that will save him in this instance is defending a cannibal (Denis O’Hare) who doesn’t deny having eaten someone.  I’m not sure if this is just an example of the type of case he’ll be taking every episode, or whether this will be a big multiple episode case, but either way, he’ll take the cases no one else wants, because he can and because he has to, and trying to use his professional success to get a handle on his personal misery.  It’s cliche all the way, but Kinner is good, and House was pretty good for some time even though it was largely cliche.

1.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine

I wanted to in general laud Fox for better trailers than CBS, in terms of getting less cute with the format, and this one is a particularly classic trailer, without any voice overs whatsoever, no interviews with cast members talking about how innovative the show is, or how every cast member cracks every other cast member ups.  After watching a ton of these trailers, I really appreciate that.  It’s from Michael Schur, Parks and Recreation creator, and stars Andy Samberg as a cop who, as described in probably the worst line of the trailer, is great at everything except growing up.  Still, it’s got pedigree. The trailer is hit or miss, but occasionally funny, which is already more than most, and it stars, in addition to Samberg, Andre Braugher as his new hard-nosed captain, as well as Terry Crews, Chelsea Peretti, and Joe Lo Truglio.   No one is more suited to turn Samberg into a network star than the people who did it for Amy Poehler.  I’m actually minorly excited about the show!

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