This week I’d like to take a different approach to For Your Consideration. Instead of trying to sell you on something, let’s talk about something we’re all being sold: this Fall’s new TV shows. This may make me seem extra geek, but I love this time of the year. Networks are busy giving the greenlight to what they found to be the cream of their pilot crop, which lets nerds like me speculate about what we’re dying to watch in a few months time.
Of course, in a few months time, we’ll be sorely disappointed that most of them stink. But that’s Future Me’s problem. Today I get to geek out about what I’m looking forward to most. There are about a dozen new shows I’m at least moderately excited for, but to make things challenging, I’m going to cut that list down to three.
Note: This list has been culled purely from network TV pilots. (Sorry, F/X and HBO.) Also, it’s safe to assume that if J.J Abrams or Steven Spielberg are producing something, I’m going to give it a shot. So consider this a list of Most Anticipated Fall Dramas That Aren’t Person of Interest, Alcatraz, The River or Terra Nova, because those are all no-brainers.
Who Made It: Written and conceived by Kyle Killen (Lone Star, The Beaver), a man with a track record of solid screenwriting that doesn’t get its proper dues. The pilot was directed by David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night).
Who’s In It: Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter), B.D. Wong (Oz), Dylan Minnette (Let Me In), Cherry Jones (Signs), Laura Allen (Terriers) and Wilmer Valderrama (That ‘70s Show)
What’s It About: A cop who, following a car accident, finds himself slipping in and out of different realities whenever he closes his eyes. In one reality, his wife survived the crash, in the other it was his son. His shrinks think he’s crazy, but something more bizarre than just a psychological breakdown may be at play.
Why I’m Excited: This is the most interesting looking show premiering this Fall, which of course means that NBC will cancel it right away. That’s not being pointlessly glib, either, I fully expect the peacock to back out of these thing, the only question is will they stick with it long enough to give us a satisfying season (as they did with their short lived but superb alt-reality show, Journeyman) or axe it just as it’s getting good (as Fox did with Kyle Killen’s Lone Star).
Who Made It: Produced and written by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice), with a pilot directed by Paul McGuigan (BBC’s Sherlock).
Who’s In It: Kerry Washington (Lakeview Terrace), Tony Goldwyn (The Last House on the Left), Columbus Short (Armored), Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), Joshua Malina (Sports Night)
What’s It About: A team of media consults that make a killing off of protecting the public image of anyone rich enough to pay for them.
Why I’m Excited: On paper I should want nothing to do with this show. The premise is exceedingly obnoxious and Shonda Rhimes exclusively makes TV shows that might as well be dead air to me. But, it’s got an interesting cast and the promo looks like it could be a fun, pseudo-court room ensemble, and it’s been a few years since I’ve liked a show like that. However, that could be purely because the pilot was directed by Paul McGuigan, the man who directed the pilot for Sherlock, BBC’s omgamazing modernization of the iconic detective. Instinct tells me he may in fact just be polishing a dud here, but I’ll be tuning in out of the hope that this is more like Dirty, Sexy Money and less like Grey’s Anatomy but with politics.
Who Made It: Written and produced by David Greenwalt (both Buffy and Angel) and Jim Kouf (Angel).
Who’s In It: David Giuntoli (a ton of small TV roles), Reggie Lee (Drag Me to Hell), Silas Weir Mitchell (24),
What’s It About: A cop who discovers that fairy tales are real, he’s a descendant of the Brothers Grimm, and it’s now his duty to track and kill the beasties of the night.
Why I’m Excited: There are actually two fairy tale-themed TV shows premiering this fall, and I’ll also be checking out ABC’s Once Upon a Time, but the reason Grimm is on this list is because it’s the most underdog show any network slated this fall. It has no eye catching stars in it and it sounds cheesy as hell. Having said that, it looks like my kind of cheesy as hell. No surprise there, since its show runners have worked on the likes of Buffy, Angel, Eureka, Kidnapped, The X-Files and even National Treasure. This could either be the next Moonlight or the next Supernatural, and I’m really, really pulling for (though not betting on) the latter.
Playing second fiddle to a more famous sibling can be rough. Just ask Fred Claus (Vaughn) a regular guy who has had to grow up under the shadow of his little brother Nicholas Claus (Paul Giamatti) aka Santa. That’s a big shadow to say the least both figuratively and literally. As an adult Fred has pretty much steered clear of his family but when he finds himself in dire need of some fast cash he calls his brother. Pleased as punch to hear from him Nicholas nonetheless makes him a deal: If he comes up to the North Pole for a visit and to help out the few days before Christmas then Fred can have the money. Fred reluctantly agrees and soon he’s being whisked off in Santa’s sleigh by head elf Willie (John Michael Higgins). But once Fred gets to the North Pole nothing seems to go right and soon he is the cause of much chaos--which unbeknownst to Fred causes Nicholas even more stress since his North Pole operation is one step away from being shut down by a cold-hearted efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey). Can Fred quit being bitter in time to save his brother’s livelihood? Of course he can. Hmmm Vince Vaughn minus the R-rated Wedding Crashers/Old School irreverence? It’s a stretch. Seeing the comic actor playing it PG is a little weird but you might enjoy how Vaughn infuses his unique energy into Fred Claus. From getting all the elves to boogie down in Santa’s workshop to going on one rant after another (on his brother: “He’s a clown a megalomaniac a fame junkie!”) to pilfering money on the street and then being chased by Salvation Army Santas it’s all good. Giamatti too seems a little out of his comfort zone as the saintly St. Nick. The actor who usually plays such endearing sad sacks has already played against type to great effect this year as the maniacal bad guy in Shoot ‘Em Up but he isn't nearly as successful in doing the flipside of that in Fred Claus. And what the hell is Kevin Spacey doing in this? As the villain of the film he fills the shoes nicely but he is almost too good at it (natch) for such a feel-good family film. Even Higgins--a character actor who is usually so hilarious in films such as The Break Up and all of Christopher Guest’s movies—has to shed the cheekiness and sugar himself up for Fred Claus. There’s also Rachel Weisz as Fred’s beleaguered girlfriend (you heard right) and Kathy Bates as the Claus boys’ mother who always sees Fred as inferior to her other son to fill out a cast of big names doing family fare. Director David Dobkin is a Vince Vaughn favorite having directed him in Wedding Crashers and Clay Pigeons but like his muse Dobkin seems a little out of place guiding this material. Granted Dobkin creates a pretty magical North Pole complete with an entire city of little dwellings a Frosty Tavern and a huge domed Santa’s Workshop. The montage of Fred delivering presents on Christmas Eve—falling down chimneys stuffing cookies in his face zooming around in the sleigh—is also well done. But overall Fred Claus is a Vaughn vehicle—even as sugary sweet and family-friendly as it is--and all Dobkin really does is turn the camera on and let the man do his stuff. Dan Fogelman's script is also so very bland full of any number of holes and only picks up once Vaughn starts to improvise. Bottom line: If you’re looking to take the kids to a sweet Christmas movie and are a Vince Vaughn fan then Fred Claus is for you.