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6 Burning Questions Facing Fall TV in 2018, From ‘Roseanne’ Without Roseanne to Cary Fukunaga’s Return

What will audiences make of series marred by #MeToo allegations, plus more questions raised by the fall lineup via IndieWire's Very Good TV Podcast.

Michele K. Short / Netflix

In “Lethal Weapon,” conflicting reports of a poorly handled feud between Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans Jr. resulted in the less famous figure getting fired for his on-set behavior. With “Roseanne,” Roseanne Barr took her Twitter antics way too far and was fired by ABC, despite being the series creator and playing the star character.

Now, both shows are returning in significantly altered forms. “Lethal Weapon” has swapped out Martin Riggs for Wesley Cole, played by Seann William Scott, who will serve as Roger Murtaugh’s new partner. Meanwhile, “Roseanne” has been rebooted as “The Conners.” Not much is known about the new season, which focuses on the rest of Roseanne Conner’s family, other than it will premiere October 16 and Barr will not be part of it.

Still, the biggest question may not be what happens in either show, but how people will react to the established changes.  Typically, audiences aren’t too happy to see their favorite formulas — or performers — disappear, so how many of each show’s massive audience share sticks around could determine if anyone tries as hard next year to keep them on the air. Not to mention, it could also determine how much leniency networks show problematic talent in the future.

Maniac

Justin Theroux in “Maniac

Michele K. Short / Netflix

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Can Cary Fukunaga’s return to the limited series make the same impact as his debut? 

In 2014, Cary Fukunaga directed all eight episodes of “True Detective” Season 1, and the television medium shifted. More limited series went into production; more movie stars found their way to the small screen; more directors were asked to handle more than just the first episode, and often, the whole series. On September 21, Fukunaga will return with “Maniac,” another limited series with two more movie stars (three, really, because Sally Field is a legend).

Despite the similarities, there are a number of key distinguishing factors. First and foremost, no one knows if “Maniac” will be in any good. Though “True Detective” had its detractors, the series made quite a run at the Emmys and remained a ratings success even when the second season (sans Fukunaga) saw strong critical backlash. “Maniac,” though, would not only need to be good, but also accessible. As opposed to a cops vs. killers mystery, Fukunaga’s new project sends its protagonists deep into their own minds, where they inhabit various versions of themselves while trying to repair long-held mental disorders and heartbreak.

In other words, it’s trippy. Fukunaga is playing with different genres in every episode, and a sci-fi black comedy doesn’t typically carry the same broad appeal as a cop show — even a dark cop show. One could argue that only benefits the chances “Maniac” pushes the medium to new places — that instead of a fresh spin on an old concept, a completely new take is what television needs to move beyond remakes and reboots — but it’s a bigger risk, for sure. Telephiles will undoubtedly be excited, but will “Maniac” be a cult sensation or the small screen’s big-time gamechanger?

Will Amazon’s flood of programming be able to help the streaming service gain ground on Netflix? 

“Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan”: August 31
“Forever”: September 14
“The Romanoffs”: October 12
“Homecoming”: November 2

There are plenty more series coming out on Amazon this fall — including a TV movie of “King Lear” starring Anthony Hopkins and new seasons of “The Man in the High Castle” and “Lore” — but look at shopping/streaming service’s coordinated effort to drop highly anticipated premieres on a monthly basis. That’s a familiar strategy for Netflix subscribers, and while Amazon’s Prime-ary competition still has more to offer in sheer quantity, there’s a clear case being made for a superior product. Amazon has one of 2018’s biggest stars (John Krasinski), a buzzy comedy from beloved “SNL” veterans Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph, the much-anticipated follow-up to Matthew Weiner’s “Mad Men,” and Julia Roberts’ debut in a scripted television series — Julia Roberts!

With that kind of content (as well as offering more content overall) Amazon could see a marked uptick in awareness by the holidays; Amazon Prime has 100 million subscribers, yet it only reports 26 million are using Prime Video domestically. For the service to compete with Netflix’s 56 million subscribers, it needs its customer base to take their original series seriously. This fall, Amazon is deploying enough big-ticket shows to compete with what Netflix is offering, or at least make the monthly fee for Prime worth it beyond the two-day shipping. That’s a step in the right direction, and a key one given what the service was making headlines for at this time last year.

Is Christmas on September 14 this year?

“BoJack Horseman” Season 5, “American Vandal” Season 2, Beau Willimon’s Hulu debut “The First,” and “Forever,” Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph’s Amazon comedy, all debut on the same Friday. What did the good citizens of Earth do to deserve such kindness, and will we be as happy once all have been seen? Early reports indicate at least one of these is worth the time, so clear your calendar come mid-September: You’re about to get a sleigh-full of gifts.

For more on these questions and more, make sure to listen to this week’s Very Good TV Podcast. IndieWire TV Editor Liz Shannon Miller and TV Critic Ben Travers dissect the distinct aspects of the fall season and what’s next in TV’s future.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Very Good TV Podcast via Soundcloud or iTunes. Make sure to follow IndieWire on Twitter and Facebook for all your TV news. Plus, check out IndieWire’s other podcastsScreen Talk with Eric Kohn and Anne Thompson, the Filmmaker Toolkit Podcast with Chris O’Falt, as well as Michael Schneider’s podcast, Turn It On, which spotlights the most important TV each week.

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