NEW YORK – Here’s a fearless prediction for the new fall season: Animal Practice will be either a hit or a big-time miss, either a comedy game-changer for NBC or a punch line for its ratings desperation.
This sitcom about a veterinarian and his monkey sidekick is already commanding the attention of viewers. NBC has heavily hyped it, most notably by interrupting the Olympics closing ceremony to air a preview of the show and enraging viewers waiting for the Who.
But who cares if they’re angry? For any new show, just getting noticed is half the battle. Between now and Thanksgiving, Animal Practice is among nearly two dozen series getting launched by the five broadcast networks, which for weeks have been feverishly hyping the new crop with everything from bus ads to Twitter feeds, plus multi-platform previews of some shows, like Animal Practice, thrown in.
All of this is done with the certain knowledge that at least two-thirds of the new fare, no matter how relentlessly promoted, will have fallen by the wayside by this time next year.
Remember these duds from last fall: Charlie’s Angels? Free Agents? How to be a Gentleman? Does a similar fate await Animal Practice, which stars Justin Kirk as a misanthropic veterinarian and Crystal, a scene-stealing capuchin monkey, as his oddly human second banana?
Or what about Go On, an NBC comedy that casts Matthew Perry as a sports-talk radio host forced to attend grief counseling after the death of his wife? Can sadness trigger hilarity?
Or what about Chicago Fire, an action drama about firefighters from Law & Order maestro Dick Wolf?
Chicago Fire could be pigeonholed as a show about public safety, but bona fide cop dramas – one of TV’s most enduring genres – are represented by three fanciful variations.
On Vegas, CBS’ robust new drama set in the early 1960s, Dennis Quaid plays a rancher-turned-sheriff of the budding gambling mecca, with Michael Chiklis a mobster casino boss with whom he regularly clashes.
I am the law, sums up the rawhide-tough sheriff. And I’ll decide who’s breaking it.
NBC’s Elementary stars Jonny Lee Miller as a modern-day detective with the name and quirkiness of legendary Sherlock Holmes, and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson. They assist the New York Police Department with solving crimes.
And the CW’s Beauty and the Beast features a lovely young homicide detective (Kristin Kreuk) who reconnects with a handsome young doctor who saved her life when a teenager. She also discovers his terrible secret: Thanks to a military experiment gone awry, when he is enraged, he becomes a terrifying beast with uncontrollable strength. Fortunately, he has a soft side: He’s her protector while he searches for his own antidote.
Meanwhile, there’s just one new lawyer show on tap: CBS’ Made in Jersey, which stars British actress Janet Montgomery as a young working-class Jerseyite from a long line of self-taught beauticians, a gal who bought her attache case not on Madison Avenue but down the shore. She lands a job across the river at a prestigious Manhattan law firm where her style raises eyebrows but wins cases.
Autumn will bring three new doctor dramas, each of which – like Made in Jersey – is headlined by a woman.
Jordana Spiro stars in Fox’s The Mob Doctor as a Chicago surgeon whose obligations to the mafia require her to give medical treatment to a gang of hoods in between her regular medical duties.
On the CW’s Emily Owens M.D., Mamie Gummer plays a young med-school grad who’s beginning a hospital internship full of hope, misgivings and romantic stumblings.
And on the Fox comedy The Mindy Project, creator-star Mindy Kaling plays a thriving OBGYN whose personal life is a succession of pratfalls.
It’s no surprise women are riding high this season. The biggest hits from last fall – Revenge, 2 Broke Girls, The New Girl and Once Upon a Time – all have women as their leads.
Among other female-dominated series ahead is ABC’s highly anticipated drama Nashville. Connie Britton plays an almost-over-the-hill country music queen who’s battling to hold her own against an upstart superstar played by Hayden Panettiere.
My mama was one of your biggest fans, Panettiere’s character tells Britton’s, cattily. She said she’d listen to you while I was still in her belly.
Also focused on the music scene, ABC sitcom Malibu Country finds country music star Reba ditching her Nashville home, packing up her family and heading for California for a fresh start after she discovers that her husband was two-timing her.
Malibu Country –where Reba has two kids and a wisecracking mother – is a reminder that issues between parents and children are always fuel for a laugh. No wonder another five new sitcoms also dwell heavily on parenting.
On NBC’s Guys With Kids, three 30-something dads bond over their common overwhelming challenge of fatherhood.
On Fox’s Ben and Kate, a happy-go-lucky big brother moves back to town to help his single-mother sister raise her daughter.
On ABC’s How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life), single mom Sarah Chalke is a boomerang offspring, returning with her daughter after her divorce to live with her freewheeling parents (Elizabeth Perkins and Brad Garrett).
On the same network’s Family Tools, lifelong bumbler Kyle Bornheimer is mounting his latest effort to win paternal approval by taking over the Mr. Jiffy Fix repair business run by Dad (J.K. Simmons).
Maybe I do try too hard and screw up sometimes, the dutiful son acknowledges, but no more. I want to make you proud. Don’t hold your breath.
NBC’s edgy The New Normal finds gay couple Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha concluding there’s only one thing missing from their happy home: a child. They line up a surrogate mom (Georgia King) to carry it for them, and she and her daughter become part of their not-so-normal family.
Also trading on the gay theme is Partners, with David Krumholtz as Joe and Michael Urie as Louis, partnered architects and best friends since high school. Louis is gay and Joe is straight, which isn’t a problem until Joe decides to marry his girlfriend and Louis feels the sharp pangs of jealousy at this intruder.
Besides the hybrid Beauty and the Beast, the networks have scheduled five other series with a supernatural, sci-fi or fantasy twist.
At the start of NBC’s epic new drama Revolution, the lights abruptly go out, around the world. This unexplained power outage deprives everyone of every piece of electrical technology, stranding humanity in a modern-day Dark Age with no end in sight.
On ABC’s Last Resort, the crew of a military submarine seeks refuge on a lost island after news that the U.S. may have been attacked. Not only are they cut off from the rest of the world, they’re considered rogue enemies being pursued by their own government. Andre Braugher stars in this suspenseful, paranoia-steeped drama.
Based on a series of graphic novels, CW’s Arrow features a dashing vigilante who aims to clean up his crime-ridden city as his alter ego Arrow in an effort to atone for misspent years as a millionaire playboy.
And on ABC’s macabre thriller 666 Park Avenue, devilish Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams lord over their stately Manhattan apartment building, whose residents come seeking the fulfillment of their dreams, but pay for them with their souls.
Serious, even hair-raising stuff! But fantasy in farcical form is also in store.
Consider ABC’s The Neighbors, where the ordinary middle-class Weaver family takes a step up the social ladder by moving to a gated New Jersey community, only to find out the rest of the homes are occupied by aliens.
Soon the Weavers learn the astonishing truth.
I think once we get past the initial shock of things, it’s going to be OK, says Marty (Lenny Venito) to wife Debbie (Jami Gertz), feigning hope. They are PEACE-LOVING aliens. So there’s THAT!
Borrowing riffs from 3rd Rock from the Sun and the Coneheads (and coining the silly catchphrase recharge the pupar), this high-concept sitcom proposes that contemporary life in America is no less perplexing for humans than it is for immigrants from the planet Zabvron. Everyone feels alienated at times, and all anyone wants to do is fit in.
Now will The Neighbors fit into Earthlings’ TV-watching schedule?
Or will it be a casualty of this strange tradition practiced by humans for decades called the fall TV season?