Upfronts trailers are always tricky things. Movie previews have a hard enough time selling a 90-minute movie in two minutes. Convincing people to get excited about an entire season of television is another.
As ABC’s fall lineup hinted at earlier today, it’s a male-heavy new slate of shows, but there’s always more below the surface. We’ve gathered our thoughts on these nine new sneak peeks and ranked them for your perusal.
“Ten Days in the Valley”
Kyra Sedgwick plays Jane, a single mom who’s woken in the middle of the night for an urgent script rewrite, and when she comes back to bed…her daughter…is gone! While the implication that moms will be punished for working hard isn’t ideal, we were ready to forgive anything for the great Kyra Sedgwick. But then, well, the tagline flashed across the screen: “What happens when fiction becomes all too real?” Did Jane’s show focus on a kidnapped child? Why are they arresting writers in her writers’ room? Why is she getting yelled at by a cop for putting his off-the-record gossip in a script, and why, really, does she care about her TV show at all while her daughter is missing? This melodrama seems to be looking in too many places for its soap, and not even Sedgwick can save this spot.
“The Gospel of Kevin”
If this is a prequel to “The Leftovers,” we’re in. Think about it: Kevin Senior, played by Scott Glenn, has been adamant in recent episodes that the “gospel” should be about him, and that the series was really supposed to be his story. “The Gospel of Kevin” could be fixing that mistake by showing what Senior’s life was like before Kevin Jr. (Justin Theroux). This show would tell us how it all began: how Senior started hearing voices, why he flipped on October 14, what Kevin Jr.’s mom was like — so much good stuff! The trailer even shows Senior talking to someone no one else can see! It’s the perfect prequel!
…if it is a prequel…which seems unlikely… So, if it’s just a new TV show, we’re out. It’s very confusing. Space rocks and religion? Come on.
Prequel Grade: B+
Non-Prequel Grade: C
An island. An accident. A handful of survivors. And… mystery!! Well before “from the network that brought you ‘Lost’” flashed across the screen, it was pretty clear the trailer for “The Crossing” is meant to evoke memories of airline passengers getting sucked into fuselages. And it was off to a pretty good start with Steve Zahn, a haunting shot of bodies floating onto the beach, and a soft hint at time travel. But then former “Kingdom” star Natalie Martinez started jumping around like The Hulk and things got a little too wackadoo to be taken seriously. Whoever cut this trailer together should know better than to flash images of 500 dead bodies washing up to shore with an ex-MMA fighter bouncing around like there’s Flubber in her shoes.
Season 1 of StartUp is one of the creative pillars of the podcast boom. It’s a family story, a business story and (for lack of a better phrase) a story story, all wrapped up in a finely tuned meta-commentary on the medium itself. While ABC and Zach Braff have made for a fruitful partnership in years past (“sterile high five!“), this is a fairly conventional first glimpse at a fascinating story.
The marriage at the center of the show is the biggest hook (how would you react if the future of your family rested on making a hit podcast?) and casting Tiya Sircar alongside Braff might be the series’ shrewdest creative decision. Sircar’s been a vital part of two of the year’s best comedies, with guest starring stints on “The Good Place” and “Master of None.” “Alex, Inc.” doesn’t seem destined for those heights, but given the source material, there’s still a chance there’s more to see here.
“For the People”
Try as you might, a courtroom drama will always be a courtroom drama. But add in an extra layer of “you’re literally going up against the government” and “For the People” might be onto something. It’s a Shondaland show, so it’ll get enough breathing room to find its niche. At this point, all the hallmarks of a TGIT-style offering is here: beautiful people quipping about the surface-level intricacies of their job, staring at each other before the sexual tension becomes too much and they start ripping each other’s clothes off. It might not reinvent the wheel, but it’s giving its target audience what they want.
“The Good Doctor”
Like sands in the hourglass, seeing Freddie Highmore play a role where there’s a younger version of himself is a reminder of our impending mortality. Also, this premise — a doctor who uses his unique outlook on the world to assist in medical diagnoses — is a reminder of “House,” as the title card with the phrase “FROM THE CREATOR OF HOUSE” effectively reinforces.
With the back half of the trailer bathed in import, it’s a serious trailer for a serious subject. The first glimpse of Highmore’s character hints that they’re toeing the line between presenting a thoughtful depiction of his condition and using his perceptive abilities as a kind of secret weapon. In the meantime, if Antonia Thomas’ involvement means that this show is standing in the way of a third batch of “Lovesick” episodes, it better be good.
“Splitting Up Together”
A hammy play at the “This Is Us” crowd — especially the ones whose No. 1 priority was Jack and Rebecca’s marriage — “Splitting Up Together” tracks the lives of Martin (Oliver Hudson, with Milo Ventimiglia’s long hair, beard, and requisite references to his fitness) and Lena (Jenna Fischer, who already kinda looks like Mandy Moore), a couple who are getting a divorce after 12 years together. But, in a twist just kooky enough to work, they’re still going to live together.
There’s certainly something to be said about the potential within the premise — ambitious attempts to rework the typical parenting constructs are always fun to watch unfold — but, long-term, this feels shortsighted. Can we watch this will-they-won’t-they couple break up and get together for five episodes, let alone five seasons? Based on three minutes with it, I’d say no.
Laughs are hard to come by in police procedurals these days, mostly because it’s such a delicate balance to strike. Luckily, this “Psych”-meets-“Now You See Me” mashup looks like it’s got enough fun to deliver along with the requisite FBI investigations.
Sure, the wisecracking professional brought in to help beef up law enforcement efforts isn’t a novel concept. But…there’s also a disappearing plane! Toss in enough “magic might actually be real…?” and stamp out that budding romance they tease at the end and this could be something with enough personality to stick.
The premise is solid, the cast is stacked, and there’s certainly no concern over the plausibility of a young rapper becoming the mayor. Brandon Michael Hall (“Search Party”) plays a son who runs for mayor as a means of protest, and his mother (Yvette Nicole Brown, “Community”) makes him follow through once he wins. This light, charming spot does exactly what it needs to do — for now: be funny, move quickly, and carry a touch of subversive spirit. “The Mayor” will need more of the latter to prove itself later on, but it’s already piqued our interest. And there weren’t even any Trump jokes!