What are you doing at home? It’s Friday and Saturday night! Actually, that’s not fair — these are some of the lesser-watched primetime hours of the week, but there are actually some compelling shows to check out. And anyway, it’s 2014; it’s possible to both have a life AND care about television. What else are DVRs for?
What There Is To Watch
More than you’d think! At least on Fridays. All the broadcast networks, except perhaps for Fox, have scheduled an array of original programming covering a full range of drama, comedy and reality. Between ABC’s family sitcoms “Last Man Standing” and “Cristela,” world-traveling mainstay “The Amazing Race” and reliable drama performers “Hawaii 5-0” and “Blue Bloods,” the evening is just like any other night of television — except maybe a little quieter.
Saturday, meanwhile, is largely given up to reruns and sports — specifically college football, the NFL appetizer of the weekend. However, Starz does offer some counter-programming, specifically the intriguing time travel romance “Outlander,” which already has a largely female fanbase thanks to the books on which the show was based. In October, “Outlander” will surrender its spot to “Survivor’s Remorse,” the LeBron James-produced allegedly-a-comedy about a young man coping with sudden success as a basketball star. Whether or not the show works is yet to be determined, but on the plus side it doesn’t face much competition.
Veteran of the Nights
Getting moved to Fridays is often seen as a demotion for network shows; some even consider it to be the kiss of death. But “Blue Bloods,” which CBS originally premiered on Wednesdays, has seemingly thrived on Friday nights since it made the move in Season 2; with a cast headlined by Tom Selleck, Donnie Wahlberg, Bridget Moynahan and Tom Selleck’s mustache, the mix of family drama and cop procedural is right on brand for CBS in its fifth season. “Blue Bloods” might not be the sexiest program on the line-up — its defining attribute is a weekly dinner scene that brings together the law enforcement-heavy family together. But don’t expect “Blue Bloods” to go anywhere any time soon.
Best New Bet
It’s already premiered, so technically this is less of a bet than usual. But Cinemax’s “The Knick” will be running through October on Friday nights, and the Clive Owen period medical drama may suffer from writing issues, but it’s still directed by Steven Soderbergh. If you aren’t intrigued by what one of film’s most innovative directors might bring to a weekly series — a series in which Cinemax had so much faith that it was renewed for a second season before the first episode aired — then you might need to rethink your priorities.
It’s a tougher one than most to track down — you’ll have to figure out where Pivot is in your cable listings. But if you can pull that off before Fridays at 10:30pm, you’ll get to check out “Please Like Me,” a fresh and charming Australian series about a young man awkwardly negotiating his newly embraced sexuality and a complicated family situation. Creator and star Josh Thomas brings a ton of charm to this deeply personal, intimate and funny series — it’s an undiscovered gem just waiting for your eyeballs.
Biggest DVR Conflict
Fridays and Saturdays actually take it pretty easy on your DVR, as it’s hard to imagine that the same crowd tuning in Fridays at 9pm for “Grimm” is also devoutly dedicated to “Hawaii 5-0” or “Shark Tank.” Probably the toughest call of the night is for family-minded audiences at 8pm, torn as they might be between “The Amazing Race,” which has always been a uniter of generations (mostly because anyone of any age can sympathize with being stuck on a stressful trip with a loved one) and “Last Man Standing” and “Cristela,” two sitcoms which represent ABC’s half-hearted attempt to bring back its TGIF glory days. Either way, “Amazing Race” will probably win the ratings battle — the one that matters.
First to Get Canceled
Much like the soul of its protagonist, the fate of NBC’s “Constantine” is in limbo. The series adaptation of DC Comics’ most unconventional necromancer already seems on shaky ground, what with fan reaction to changes from the comic and one high-profile casting change. Working to its advantage, however, is being partnered up with “Grimm,” another supernatural-themed series that will likely be the perfect lead-in. Also, the fact is that it’s Friday night. Expectations, they are low.
But its only other competition in the race to obscurity is ABC’s “Cristela,” which has an underdog origin story (ABC initially passed on the show, but then changed its mind after seeing a test version of the pilot) and a strong lead in comedian Cristela Alonzo, who based the show largely around her life. After decades of sitcoms about loud, heavyset men and their hot wives, “Cristela” is a nice change of pace, even if it threatens to stick way too close to the traditional sitcom format (easy, laugh-track soaked dialogue and all). Both shows have decent shots at survival.
While “Outlander” lacks major stars, has a rather complicated premise and suffers from an abundance of voice-over, the Ronald D. Moore-created period drama has a lot on offer. It’s already the most aesthetically pleasing show of the fall, thanks to not just the pastoral Scottish countryside, but also attractive young leads Claire (Caitriona Balfe) and Jamie (Sam Heughan), and the tale of a woman sucked from 1945 to 1800s Highlander country, where she confronts Scottish politics, witchcraft, the war against the English and all the fish-out-of-water surprises common to the time travel drama, is one of the more original shows on offer. Plus, because it’s Starz, you can be sure that things will be getting sexy down the line. If the family dinners of “Blue Bloods” aren’t your cup of tea, “Outlander” just might be.
What are you most excited about on Fridays and Saturdays this fall? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter using the hashtag #IWatchFallTV.