When Fox announced that they were dropping the standard pilot-season model of developing new TV shows; it earned them a great deal of attention from fans and critics. So when they unveiled their Fall 2014-2015 schedule, everyone's focus went straight to the slate of new shows premiering in the next few months — after all, they have to be good if Fox is willing to gamble on a brand new way of doing things. In certain cases, it seems like the gamble might just have paid off — you can't go wrong with Batman or British remakes, right? - but others seem like they'll only rub salt in the wound of recent cancellations.
We've run down all of Fox's upcoming series in order to predict which ones will live up to the hype and be worth your time come fall. Although sadly, none of them seem likely to fill the Enlisted-shaped hole in our hearts.
Gotham What It Is: DramaWhat It's About: Following Det. Jim Gordon and the Gotham City Police Department as they deal with the crime and corruption that plagues the city, and Gordon attempts to find Who's In It: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, Sean Pertwee and Jada Pinkett-SmithWhat It Sounds Like: It's basically Batman, minus Batman himself. How Good Will It Be: Based on the first trailer for the show, it looks like it could be exciting and gritty, although tiny Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle do make us a bit wary. Still, it's got a talented cast on board, so if the show can keep the visuals and story interesting, it could be surprisingly good. How Long It Will Last: At least two seasons. Fox has thrown a lot of support behind Gotham, so they won't let it go easily.
UtopiaWhat It Is: Reality showWhat It's About: 15 people move to an isolated, undeveloped location for a year and attempt to build their own society from scratch. Who's In It: No word yet, but they have to be crazy if they're willing to sign up for this. What It Sounds Like: Big Brother meets Survivor, with a dash of Kid Nation. How Good Will It Be: It depends entirely on the cast, but our best bet is that it will either be outright terrible, or horrifically entertaining. How Long It Will Last: Unfortunately, it will probably run for ten years.
Red Band SocietyWhat It Is: Drama What It's About: A coming-of-age story set in the pediatric ward of a hospital that follows a group of patients as they grow, bond, and battle illnesses. Who's In It: Octavia Spencer, Griffin Gluck, Charlie Rowe, Dave Annable, Brian Bradley aka Astro, Ciara Bravo and Zoe LevinWhat It Sounds Like: One Tree Hill meets Grey's Anatomy, except only one person is in a coma. How Good Will It Be: Spencer is generally the best part of everything she does, but even she might not be enough to make the many elements of this show — comedy, drama, tear-jerking moments of triumph, general teenage drama, hospital administration — blend well together. How Long It Will Last: About a season. Even if it is good, it will probably struggle to find an audience.
GracepointWhat It Is: Drama What It's About: Based on the British series Broadchurch, it centers on a small town and the murder that upends the lives of all of its residents. Who's In It: David Tennant, Anna Gunn, Michael Peña, Jacki Weaver, Kevin Zegers and Jessica LucasWhat It Sounds Like: It's literally just Broadchurch with Tennant doing an American accent. How Good Will It Be: A lot depends on how much they take from the original, but since that was such a good series and they've got a fantastic cast on board, things look good for Gracepoint. How Long It Will Last: At least three seasons, regardless of how closely it hews to the original.
Backstrom What It Is: Drama What It's About: A crime procedural about an obnoxious and offensive, but brilliant detective who is brought back from exile to run the special crimes unit. Who's In It: Rainn Wilson, Dennis Haysbert, Thomas Dekker, Beatrice Rosen and Kristoffer PolahaWhat It Sounds Like: Every other "rogue cop" procedural that's hit the air in the last few year, but with Dwight from The OfficeHow Good Will It Be: It has a pretty decent cast, but the premise is something we've seen before many times, with varying levels of success, so there's a lot against it. A lot is riding on Wilson, although it's his first real foray into drama, which also doesn't bode well. How Long It Will Last: Like almost every other crime procedural premiering this fall, it will probably be canceled within the year.
Mulaney What It Is: SitcomWhat It's About: An aspiring stand-up comic gets a job writing jokes for a narcissistic comedian and game show host, which causes conflict between him and his two best friends and roommates. Who's In It: John Mulaney, Martin Short, Nasim Pedrad, Seaton Smith and Elliott GouldWhat It Sounds Like: Seinfeld meets New Girl, with a touch of 30 Rock How Good Will It Be: The cast is fantastic, but multi-cam sitcoms can be pretty hit or miss, and this one was dropped by NBC and then reworked before FOX picks it up. However, the combination of SNL alums and comic legends means this one will probably be one of your new favorite shows. How Long It Will Last: Sunday night at 9:30 is a tough slot, but we think this one will scrape its way to a second season.
EmpireWhat It Is: Drama What It's About: It follows Lucious Lyon, the head of a major hip hop record label and the ex-wife and family who are competing to take over the family business. Who's In It: Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Gabourey Sidibe, Bryshere Gray, Jussie Smollett, Trai Byers and Kaitlin DoubledayWhat It Sounds Like: Hustle and Flow meets Nashville How Good Will It Be: Empire has a lot of big-name talent behind it - in addition to the Oscar-nominated cast, it was created by Lee Daniels and written by Danny Strong — but it seems like the kind of show that would fare better on cable, so it might end up being a little lackluster. How Long It Will Last: Well, Nashville got three seasons, so we're predicting Empire will get the same.
Hieroglyph What It Is: Drama What It's About: After he gets caught stealing a magic scroll, a thief is brought to work for the Pharaoh, only to discover that court might be more dangerous than prison. Who's In It: Max Brown, Reece Ritchie, Condola Rashad, Caroline Ford and John Rhys-DaviesWhat It Sounds Like: Game of Thrones meets Sleepy Hollow, set in Ancient Egypt. How Good Will It Be: It's written by Travis Beacham, who wrote Pacific Rim, so it could turn out to be entertaining and campy. However, it's completely ridiculous-sounding, so the odds are against it. How Long It Will Last: Unless it manages to pull in a devoted audience like Sleepy Hollow, probably only one season.
Wayward Pines What It Is: Drama What It's About: An idyllic American town... that you can never leave. Who's In It: Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Melissa Leo, Tobey Jones, Juliette Lewis and Terrence HowardWhat It Sounds Like: The Stepford Wives meets The Twilight Zone How Good Will It Be: On the one hand, it's got an impressive A-List cast. On the other, it's executive-produced by M. Night Shamylan, so we're hoping it will be good, but expecting it to be terrible. How Long It Will Last: The Shamylan outrage will bring attention to it, resulting in it just barely earning a second season.
Bordertown What It Is: Animated sitcomWhat It's About: Set on a town that borders the US and Mexico, it follows two families as they navigate life, relationships and politics. Who's In It: Alex Borstein, Nicholas Gonzalez, Judah Friedlander, Missi Pyle and Efren RamirezWhat It Sounds Like: American Dad meets The Cleveland ShowHow Good Will It Be: The last time Seth MacFarlane made a show about racial and family dynamics, we got Dads, so we're not optimistic. How Long It Will Last: 5 years at a minimum
Last Man on Earth What It Is: SitcomWhat It's About: After an apocalypse wipes out all of humanity except one man, he wanders the earth looking for other survivors. Who's In It: Will ForteWhat It Sounds Like: Zombieland, minus the other peopleHow Good Will It Be: Forte is hilarious, and his recent dramatic turn in Nebraska will probably serve him well, but it's hard to see how this concept will last longer than one episode. How Long It Will Last: It's a quirky comedy from an SNL alum that isn't Amy Poehler, Tina Fey or Jimmy Fallon. It'll get a year if we're lucky.
Weird LonersWhat It Is: SitcomWhat It's About: Four relationship-phobic weirdoes find each other living next door to one another in a New York apartment. Who's In It: Becky Newton, Zachary Knighton, Nate Torrence and Meera KhumbhaniWhat It Sounds Like: New Girl meets Happy Endings, minus Damon Wayans Jr. How Good Will It Be: The cast is made up of actors who have primarily played the "best friend" role in comedies, so it could be the showcase they need to establish themselves as leading actors. However, the premise seems like a re-tread of most post-Friends comedies, with some forced "quirk," so we don't see things going well. How Long It Will Last: Three out of four actors were on shows that were cancelled relatively soon, so we'd be surprised if this one made it to a second season.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.