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.
In the cinematic desert that is the January-February movie-release schedule one gains a greater appreciation for mere competence. And that’s precisely what you’ll get with Man on a Ledge a mid-budget thriller with modest aspirations and genuine popcorn appeal. Sam Worthington (Avatar Clash of the Titans) stars as Nick Cassidy a former New York City cop wrongly convicted for the theft of a prized diamond. After exhausting all judicial avenues for exoneration he takes the unusual and seemingly desperate next step of planting himself on a ledge outside the penthouse of midtown’s Roosevelt Hotel and threatening to jump. An NYPD psychologist (Elizabeth Banks) is summoned to talk him down unaware that Nick harbors an ulterior motive. From his perch above midtown he is secretly orchestrating a scheme to take revenge against the corrupt corporate chieftain (Ed Harris) who engineered his demise and prove his innocence once and for all.
Director Asger Leth making his U.S. feature-film debut with Man on a Ledge keeps the pace brisk and never allows the tone to stray into self-seriousness which is crucial for a movie whose premise is so devoutly ridiculous. The script from Pablo F. Fenjves provides enough feints and twists to keep us engaged. Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez aren’t the most believable of couples but there’s a screwball charm to their comic routine as amateur thieves charged with aiding Nick’s scheme. (Leth can’t resist inserting an entirely superfluous – but nonetheless greatly appreciated – scene of the criminally gorgeous Rodriguez stripping down to a thong in the middle of a heist.) Worthington makes for a likable populist protagonist even if his Australian accent betrays him on copious occasions and Harris’ disturbingly emaciated frame lends an added menace to his devious plutocrat villain.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.