New TV is on the horizon — and lots of it — but how will history look back on fall 2018? Aside from a fresh crop of buzzy hits and swift failures, this year’s lineup is filled with intrigue for those curious about the medium’s future. After all, this fall’s hits and misses help define next fall’s hopeful pilots.
So what should fans be looking for? Certain dates should be seared into the calendar for the game-changing potential of one or two releases. Other genres need to be monitored for months, checking the vitals of multiple shows to see if trends continue. And still more need to be examined from a network, service, or company’s perspective.
IndieWire’s Very Good TV Podcast has tried to answer a few questions in this week’s episode, and still more are listed below. Peruse the list to help reframe your perspective on the fall — hopefully, these burning questions help assuage any heated worry over how many shows are about to pop up.
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Can the reboot culture continue to sustain itself?
Reboots and revivals have been a part of the media landscape for decades, but only in the last few years did they start dominating conversation to the point where it feels like everything is coming back to TV. Last year, the trend saw public successes — “Roseanne” and “Will & Grace” were the talk of the town — but there were less-noted slips, as well.
Just look at “The X-Files,” a classic series that helped spike revival fever when it returned in 2016, but saw a massive dip in audience when Fox trotted out another new season in 2018. Season 11 was down nearly 70 percent in the 18-49 demo and more than 60 percent in total viewers compared to the first revival in Season 10; even if you eliminate Season 10’s premiere episode, which skewed the numbers skyward by debuting with a big football lead-in, the latest season still saw half the live tune-ins as its first return to network TV.
That could mean bad news for “Will & Grace,” if not revivals as a whole. Though the NBC sitcom pulled in more than 10 million viewers in its September 2017 premiere, that number plummeted to 3.6 million for its April 2018 finale. The season average puts it at the top of NBC’s comedies, but its finale ranks behind “The Good Place” in the 18-49 demo and about on par with “Superstore” for total viewers — fine, but far from groundbreaking, and trending in the wrong direction.
So is it still a hit? Absolutely. But will it be as big a hit when Season 2 premieres on October 4? Maybe not. While one-night wonders can still be a boon for broadcast, they typically come in the form of live events (“Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert”) or sports (the NFL still scores lots of eyeballs), not ongoing series. Barring serious reconfigurations (like “Hawaii Five-O”), recent revivals have yet to prove themselves a viable long-term commodity. But that hasn’t stopped broadcast from trying. CBS is reviving “Murphy Brown” and rebooting “Magnum P.I.” this fall, while The CW is trotting out a reworked “Charmed.” Meanwhile, a slew of 2017 series try to sustain interest. But are any built to last? The industry will have a clearer picture come winter.
How will audiences respond to series with stars or producers facing #MeToo allegations?
When “The Billionaire Boys Club” bombed, moviegoers made it pretty clear they want nothing to do with Kevin Spacey, but does that apply to his old show, as well? Netflix quickly scrubbed the Oscar-winning actor from “House of Cards” after sexual misconduct and abuse claims came out in droves; he was fired, the season was reworked to work without him, and the streaming giant also announced Season 6 would be the series’ last.
Is that enough to make subscribers forget about five years of Frank Underwood and embrace the new president? We’ll find out November 2 when the season premieres, but “House of Cards” isn’t the only show trying to overcome problematic associations with the #MeToo movement. James Franco led “The Deuce” to rave reviews for Season 1, but he hasn’t appeared in anything with a wide release and prominent screen-time since facing sexual misconduct allegations in late 2017 and early 2018. Will fans and critics embrace David Simon’s series with equal enthusiasm now?
“Mad Men’s” Matthew Weiner is returning to serialized storytelling with Amazon’s “The Romanoffs,” despite accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace; Kater Gordon, who also wrote on the AMC drama, detailed her account of Weiner’s harassment in November 2017. Nearly a year later and Weiner’s new show has a release date and couldn’t offer a better cast: Isabelle Huppert, Diane Lane, John Slattery, Amanda Peet, Aaron Eckhart, Corey Stoll, Mary Kay Place, Ron Livingston, Andrew Rannells, Kathryn Hahn, Radha Mitchell, and Clea Duvall.
Ratings could be hard to establish, given Netflix and Amazon don’t reveal statistics, but if the series are perceived to be successes — or discussed as such within the industry — it could open the door for more accused individuals who’ve gone into hiding to come back to work.
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Will audiences accept patched up versions of their favorite shows?
With success comes desperation — specifically, desperation to preserve said success. Two of last season’s hit series found themselves at the brink of cancellation this year, when their respective stars crossed too many lines off-camera.