CBS announced its fall television lineup today, and the network seems to be charting very familiar territory. While the other broadcast players scramble for the next big thing, CBS is firmly in cruise control. It would be easy to say that the the channel is just going through the motions, but the folks at CBS know what works and know their audience even better, which is why they're still the reigning champs of broadcast television. This year, the channel that brought you NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles, brings you their next surefire hit, NCIS: Somewhere Else, plus another half dozen police procedurals and two new comedies... one of which is actually a really old comedy. In these hardscrabble times, it may be difficult to decide which NCIS to watch, so we've rounded up all the new shows in CBS's 2014-2015 lineup.
Scorpion What It Is: Drama.What's It About: Eccentric genius and his team of misfits battle against high tech threats of the modern age, but the socially awkward group needs a translator of sorts, to help them communicate to the world around them.Who's In It: Elyes Gabel, Robert Patrick, Katharine McPhee.What It Sounds Like: The Big Bang Theory meets Criminal Minds. How Good Will It Be: It looks like This show looks like it might try to mine the same kinds of humor as The Big Bang Theory, which often nosedives into silly stereotyping of nerd culture without being actually funny or insightful. This one isn’t looking good at all. How Long Will It Last: CBS might be trying to find a bridge between the faux-geeky comedy in Big Bang and the litany of cop procedurals on the network. Perhaps the network’s audience will pick up on that. Airs: Mondays at 10 PM this fall.
NCIS: New Orleans What It Is: Police procedural.What's It About: The local field office investigates criminal cases involving military personnel. Who's In It: Scott Bakula, Lucas Black, Zoe McLellan.What It Sounds Like: It’s going to be NCIS, but everyones going to be talking about gumbo. How Good Will It Be: As good as an NCIS spin-off can be. Scott Bakula is great, but we doubt he's going to flourish in this.How Long Will It Last: Forever.Airs: Tuesdays at 9 PM this fall.
Stalker What It Is: Police procedural. What's It About: Det. Jack Larsen and his new boss, Lt. Beth Davis, investigate dangerous stalker incidents. Who's In It: Maggie Q, Dylan McDermott.What It Sounds Like: The inevitable Catfish episode of Law and Order: SVU. How Good Will It Be: CBS already has about 90 other cop shows, and this one isn’t doing much to stand out. There’s a new wrinkle (hey, we’re only going after stalkers in this on) but that’s no enough to separate it from the herd. How Long Will It Last: McDermott’s last show on CBS, Hostages, was a big misfire for the network. Plus, there are already so many procedurals clogging up the network’s schedule. We’re thinking some cop drama fatigue might be creeping in. Airs: Wednesday at 10 PM this fall.
Madame Secretary What It Is: Political drama.What's It About: Elizabeth Cord, the newly appointed Secretary of State, balances work and family life while trying to serve the President. Who's In It: Téa Leoni, Bebe Neuwirth, Geoffrey Arend, Patina Miller.What It Sounds Like: House of Cards without all the murder by train.How Good Will It Be: It looks a little staid compared to the wilder political action available from other dramas of its ilk. Still, maybe a slower drama depicting Washington is a move in the right direction.How Long Will It Last: House of Cards and Scandal has shown that political shows can survive and thrive on TV as long as they’re soapy and ridiculous. Madame Secretary looks a bit tamer than those two efforts so thrillseekers might not be interested. We’ll give it a season or two. Airs: Sundays at 8 PM this fall.
The McCarthys What It Is: Multi-camera sitcom. What's It About: The gay son of a brash Boston family wants to leave the city, but decides to stay when his outspoken and politically incorrect father gives him a position as an assistant coach on the local basketball team. Who's In It: Laurie Metcalf, Tyler Ritter, Jack McGee. What It Sounds Like: That one episode of All in the Family where meathead comes out to Archie. How Good Will It Be: We’re excited to see Laurie Metcalf return to TV, but the story itself doesn’t sound all that original or exciting. How Long Will It Last: Since Fox’s Dads failed to deliver ratings, it seems that we might be a bit tired of the whole "outspoken fathers annoying their sons thing" on TV. This one might not get a back nine. Airs: Thursdays at 9:30 PM this fall.
CSI: CyberWhat It Is: Police procedural.What's It About: Special Agent Avery Ryan is in charge of the Cyber Crime Division of the FBI, a team that solves crimes centered on the Internet.Who's In It: Patricia Arquette.What It Sounds Like: CSI meets the Internet.How Good Will It Be: It depends which The Who song they chose for the theme song. How Long Will It Last: Forever, or at least a handful of years.Airs: Midseason.
Battle Creek What It Is: Police procedural.What's It About: Two bickering detectives with polar opposite world views work together to clean up the mean streets of Battle Creek, Michigan. Who's In It: Josh Duhmel, Dean Winters.What It Sounds Like: A more straightforward version of True Detective How Good Will It Be: Dean Winters is always great, and television heavyweights Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad) and David Shore (House) are producing. This could be something special.How Long Will It Last: This series seems darker and grittier than the average CBS procedural, which might not click with regular viewers of CBS’ breezier cop dramas. We’ll be surprised if this gets a second year. Airs: Midseason.
The Odd Couple What It Is: Multi-camera sitcom. What's It About: Charming slob Oscar Madison and buttoned-up neat freak Felix Unger become unlikely roommates after the demise of their marriages. Who's In It: Matthew Perry, Thomas Lennon.What It Sounds Like: Well… The Odd Couple.How Good Will It Be: We can’t imagine what new spin this new show could put on the Odd Couple formula since every other sitcom is basically a pastiche of the Odd Couple anyway. Been there, done that. How Long Will It Last: Matthew Perry has been on a serious losing streak so he may be a bad omen for The Odd Couple. we'll give it a season.Airs: Midseason.
When you're in high school it feels like the whole world is against you. In writer/director Stephen Chbosky's high school-set The Perks of Being a Wallflower the whole world may actually be against Charlie (Logan Lerman) whose freshman year of high school should be listed in the dictionary under "Murphy's Law." Plagued by memories of two significant deaths as well as general social anxiety Charlie takes a passive approach to ninth grade. A few days of general bullying later he falls into a friendship with two misfit seniors Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) who teach him how to live life without fear. Perks starts off with a disadvantage: introverts aren't terribly engaging but Chbosky surrounds Charlie with a vivid cast of characters who help him blossom and inject the coming-of-age tale with a necessary energy.
Set in a timeless version of the '90s Charlie's world is full of handwritten journals mixtapes and a just-tolerable amount of tweed. He writes letters to a nameless recipient as a way of venting a preventative measure to keep the teen from repeating a vague incident that previously left him hospitalized. The drab background of Pittsburgh fits perfectly with Charlie's blank existence. And when he finally comes to life as part of Patrick and Sam's off-beat clique so does the city. Like the archaic vinyl records Sam lusters over (The Smiths of course!) Chbosky visualizes Charlie's journey through the underbelly of suburban Pennsylvania with a raw emotion blooming lights and film grit at every turn. Michael Brook's score and an adeptly curated soundtrack accompanies the episodic affair which centers on Charlie's search for a song he hears during the most important moment of his life.
The charm that keeps The Perks of Being a Wallflower from collapsing under its own super seriousness come from Chbosky's perfectly cast ensemble. Lerman has a thankless job playing Charlie; often constrained to a half-smile and shy shrug Lerman is never allowed to grapple with Charlie's greatest fears and problems until (too) late in the film. Watson nails the spunky object-of-everyone's-affection but she's outshined by Mae Whitman as Mary Elizabeth another rebellious friend in the pack who takes a liking to Charlie. The real star turn is Miller riding high from We Need to Talk About Kevin and taking a complete 180 with Patrick a rambunctious wiseass who struggles to have an openly gay relationship with the football captain but covers his pain with humor. A scene of confrontation — at where else the cafeteria — is one of the best scenes of the year.
Chbosky adapted Perks of Being a Wallflower from his own book and the movie feels stifled by a looming structure. But it nails the emotional beats — there is no obvious path to surviving high school. It's messy shocking and occasionally beautiful. That about sums up Perks.
The new fall pilots haven't even premiered yet, but already the networks are looking forward to their next big task: finding the right pilots and scripts to order for the 2013-2014 season. Development season is well underway and has been for the past few weeks — although this season is marked by a declaration from some networks (namely ABC and NBC) that the typically order-happy suits would not be as quick to bulk up their pilot orders this year. In other words, less is more.
Most of the majors have already made their first-round choices for specific projects, and the trends that have emerged seem to be all about big-name attachments (e.g. Vince Vaughn, Jodie Foster, Ryan Reynolds), period dramas (e.g. Aztec empire, Cold War America, 1890s Europe), international transplants (from Israel, England and Scandinavia) and — in an interestingly-revived yet well-worn trend — book adaptations (including Dracula and two Sleepy Hollow reboots).
Here's what ABC, CBS, The CW, FOX, NBC and more have coming down the '13-'14 pipeline so far:
— Dumb F*ck: Single-camera comedy about an average Joe and his brilliant wife who move in with her intelligent yet emotionally stunted family of geniuses; written by Hank Nelken (Saving Silverman), executive produced by Vin Di Bona, Bruce Gersh, Susan Levison and Shaleen Desai.
— Burns & Cooley: Medical procedural about two New York neurosurgeons who compete as they strive to be the top in all aspects of their lives; written by Meredith Philpott (Awkward), exec produced by Matt Gross (Body Of Proof).
— Founding Fathers: Drama about a war veteran whose Texas hometown is in the hands of a militia group led by his older brother; written by Rich D'Ovidio (Thir13en Ghosts), produced by Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Dan McDermott.
— Untitled McG Project: Retelling of Romeo and Juliet, revolving around two rival families fighting for control over Venice, California; written by Byron Balasco (Detroit 1-8-7), produced by McG (The OC, Supernatural, Nikita).
— Untitled Kurtzman/Orci Project: Drama about a mysterious game; written by Noah Hawley (The Unusuals), produced by Heather Kadin, Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci.
— Dracula: 1890s-set period piece about the iconic vampire; written by Cole Haddon, produced by Tony Krantz and Colin Callender; starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors).
— The Blacklist: Drama about an international criminal who surrenders himself and helps the government hunt down his former cohorts; written by Jon Bokenkamp, exec produced by John Davis, John Fox and John Eisendrath.
— Hench: Based on the comic about a man who becomes a temp for super villains; written by Alexandra Cunningham (Desperate Housewives), exec produced by Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey (Prime Suspect).
— Cleopatra: Period drama about the Egyptian queen Cleopatra; written by Michael Seitzman (Americana), exec produced by Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Dan McDermott.
— Pariah: Drama inspired by Freakonomics about a rogue academic who uses economic theory to police San Diego; written by Kevin Fox (The Negotiator), exec produced by Kelsey Grammer, Stella Stolper and Brian Sher.
— After Hours/The Last Stand: Medical drama about Army doctors who work the night shift at a San Antonio hospital; revisited from last season; written by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah.
— Untitled Parkes/MacDonald Project: Drama about an interpreter at the United Nations who works with diplomats and politicians from around the world; written by Tom Brady (Hell on Wheels), produced by Walter Parkes, Laurie MacDonald and Ted Gold.
— Untitled Charmelo/Snyder Project: New Orleans-set drama, described as a "sexy Southern Gothic thriller"; created by Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder (Ringer), exec produced by Peter Traugott and Rachel Kaplan.
— Untitled Rand Ravich Project: Drama-thriller following a secret service agent at the center of an international crisis in Washington, DC; created by Rand Ravich (Life), produced by Far Shariat.
— Island Practice: Based on the book Island Practice: Cobblestone Rash, Underground Tom, and Other Adventures Of A Nantucket Doctor, about an eccentric doctor with a controversial medical practice on an island off the coast of Washington; written by Amy Holden Jones (Mystic Pizza, Beethoven), produced by Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo and Oly Obst.
— The Brady Bunch: Reboot of the series, about a divorced Bobby Brady who re-marries a woman with children of her own; written by Mike Mariano (Raising Hope), co-developed and exec produced by Vince Vaughn (Sullivan & Son).
— A Welcome Grave: Based on the book series about a private investigator who comes under suspicion when a rival turns up dead.
— Backstrom: Based on the book series about a House-like detective who tries to change his self-destructive nature; written by Hart Hanson (Bones), produced by Leif G.W. Persson (novel) and Niclas Salomonsson.
— Ex-Men: Single-camera comedy about a young guy who moves into a short-term rental complex and befriends the other men who live there after being kicked out by their wives; written and directed by Rob Greenberg; starring Chris Smith and Kal Penn.
— Sleepy Hollow: Contemporary reinterpretation of the Sleepy Hollow short story; written by Patrick Macmanus and Grant Scharbo, produced by Scharbo and Gina Matthews.
— Gun Machine: Based on an upcoming novel (of the same name) about a New York detective whose chance discovery of a stash of guns leads back to a variety of unsolved murders; written by Dario Scardapane (Trauma), produced by Warren Ellis (book author), Scardapane, Peter Chernin and Katherine Pope.
— Sleepy Hollow: Modern-day thriller based on the Sleepy Hollow short story, following Ichabod Crane and a female sheriff who solve supernatural mysteries; written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (Fringe, Hawaii Five-0) and Phillip Iscove, produced by Heather Kadin and Len Wiseman.
— The Beach: Based on the 1996 novel and 2000 movie about a group of youths who try to start society over on a remote paradise; written by Andrew Miller (The Secret Circle).
— Hard Up: Single-camera comedy based on Israeli series about four twentysomething guys who are strapped for cash; written by Etan Frankel (Shameless), produced by John Wells.
— Lowe Rollers: Animated comedy about a struggling Titanic-themed casino in Las Vegas; written by Mark Torgove and Paul Kaplan (Outsourced) and Ash Brannon, produced by Ryan Reynolds, Jonathon Komack Martin, Steven Pearl and Allan Loeb.
— Untitled Chris Levinson Project: Cop drama about a detective who puts his life under surveillance when he begins to lose his memory; written by Chris Levinson (Touch), produced by Peter Chernin and Katherine Pope.
— Untitled Friend/Lerner Project: Drama set on an aircraft carrier following young naval officers and a female fighter pilot who tries to solve an onboard murder; written and produced by Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner (House).
— Untitled Ryan Reynolds Project: Half-hour comedy about a disgraced hotelier forced to manage a rundown airport hotel; written by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay (Clash of the Titans), produced by Ryan Reynolds, Allan Loeb, Jonathon Komack Martin and Steven Pearl.
— Untitled Jason Katims Project: Romantic comedy about a single female attorney; written by Jason Katims (Parenthood, Friday Night Lights) and Sarah Watson.
— Getting On: U.S. adaptation of a British comedy about a group of nurses and doctors working in a women's geriatric wing of a run-down hospital; Big Love creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer to exec produce with Jane Tranter, Julie Gardner and Geoff Atkinson.
— Buda Bridge: Belgian-set crime drama about a woman who is found dead on a famous bridge in Brussels; written and directed by Michael R. Roskam (Bullhead), produced by Michael Mann (Luck) and Mark Johnson (Breaking Bad).
— Hello Ladies: Comedy about an oddball Englishman who chases women in Los Angeles; written, directed by and starring Stephen Merchant (The Office), produced by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky (The Office).
— Angie's Body: Drama about a powerful woman at the head of a crime family; written by Rob Fresco (Heroes, Jericho), directed and executive produced by Jodie Foster, Fresco and Russ Krasnoff.
— Conquest: Period drama about Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, who clashes with the Aztec ruler Moctezuma II; written by Jose Rivera (The Motorcycle Diaries), produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo.
— Low Winter Sun: Based on 2006 British miniseries about the aftermath that follows the murder of a cop by a fellow detective; written by Chris Mundy; James Ransone, Ruben Santiago Hudson and Athena Karkanis to star.
— Those Who Kill: Based on Danish series about a detective and forensics scientist who track down serial killers; written by Glen Morgan, produced by Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo, Peter Bose and Jonas Allen, directed by Joe Carnahan.
— Untitled LaGravenese/Goldwyn Project: Legal thriller about an attorney who discovers new evidence that re-opens a sensational murder case; written by Richard LaGravenese, directed by Tony Goldwyn, exec produced by David Manson; Marin Ireland to star as female lead.
— The Americans: Period drama about two KGB spies posing as Americans in Washington, DC; created by Joe Weisberg, exec produced by Weisberg, Graham Yost, Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey; directed by Gavin O'Connor; Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich to star.
— The Bridge: Based on the Scandinavian series, about a murder investigation opened up after a dead body is discovered on a bridge connecting the United States and Mexico; written by Meredith Stiehm and Elwood Reid (Cold Case), produced by Carolyn Bernstein, Lars Blomgren and Jane Featherstone.
— Untitled Dr. Dre Project: One-hour drama about music and crime in Los Angeles; written by Sidney Quashie, exec produced by Dr. Dre.
Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcSnetiker
[Photo Credit: ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, The CW]