Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: Last week we talked hits, so now for the misses. Which new TV show do you think will flop, and how would you fix it?
Damian Holbrook (@damianholbrook), TV Guide Magazine
This new season lacks that one network show that stands out as just total shit. Some are weak, like “Rel,” because it wastes the star’s talent and others, like “The Kids Are Alright,” are mostly unnecessary since we already have like, five sitcoms about large messy families set in different decades with voiceovers. But most have something going for them to spare the viewer from inescapable TV hell. So I am giving this Jeers to The CW’s “Charmed” reboot for making several missteps, some thankfully fixable. First off, even though it provides some nice representation with a Latinx central trio, the original ran for eight seasons and only ended 12 years ago. The damn thing airs endlessly in syndication, so we don’t need a new one. Secondly, it’s not scary, nor is it all that sassy. The pilot looks pretty cheap, like they’re using effects from the show’s first incarnation, and there’s one sister in particular who is unlikeable right off the bat. And thirdly, I expected more smart humor and, well, charm, from the folks producing it. Carter Covington’s “Faking It” was so sly and socially cheeky, and Jennie Urman has essentially made magic with “Jane the Virgin.” Yet their early take on “Charmed” left me wanting so much more. More for the actresses tasked with trying to honor the original power of three (even though there was actually four). More for the viewers excited to see young witches who look like them on-screen. And more from The CW, which has been upping its game with shows like “Jane,” “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and the so-great “All-American.” I have hopes that it’s just a case of pilot-itis and the writing-acting mix starts to gel as the season progresses. It happened with “Dynasty,” it can happen here.
Liz Shannon Miller (@lizlet), IndieWire
It’s kind of odd that this is my pick, but I’ve seen enough smart people suggest that despite the fact that “The Conners” will be “Roseanne” without its most problematic element, it’ll launch big and then drop off fast. Which, honestly, has come to make more and more sense to me, in part because the whole situation just feels weirdly tarnished by everything that happened, and also because it’s not like the quality of writing will improve dramatically just because Roseanne Barr is out of the picture. If the show can push through the novelty, then perhaps it’ll last, but this has a DOA feeling.
Daniel Fienberg (@TheFienPrint), The Hollywood Reporter
For around 10 years, I did a series of summer non-reviews of pilots in which the goal was NEVER to “give networks advice on how to fix their broken shows,” but I generally focused on what the best version of a show might turn out to be, pointing out flaws months ahead of premiere and anybody who for some strange reason wanted to fix/change/improve anything could. Rarely, if ever, did anybody “take my advice,” which again is fine since my Take Me To The Pilots series was never about me or them FIXING anything. Well, ABC and CBS added “No first impressions” language to their pilots this year and effectively killed my Take Me To The Pilots series, as is their right! If they don’t want candid first impressions getting out there, for better or worse or merely informational purposes, that’s totally fine! Que sera sera. In short, it’s not my job to fix the shitty shows broadcast networks are satisfied to make. That’s their business. I’m stealing my only advice from Melania Trump: Be Best.
Todd VanDerWerff (@tvoti), Vox
Look, never, ever, ever bet against CBS and a recognizable brand name, but there’s no pilot I’ve seen this year that bored me as much as the network’s soporific take on “Magnum P.I.” I really would love to love Jay Hernandez in the role, and the rest of the parts are cast well, too. But this is far too boring for a series that begins — I’m not making this up — with a man skydiving from space. How is this possible?
The general lack of excitement and the fact that the show doesn’t have the best lead-in in the world make me think “Magnum” might be doomed. But this also might be wishful thinking.
Clint Worthington (@alcohollywood), Consequence of Sound, Freelance
Looking over all the new TV that’s coming out this fall, there’s a lot of interesting possibilities – “Kidding”, “Maniac”, “The Little Drummer Girl” – but I’m less than enthused for FOX’s new sitcom “The Cool Kids,” a “Golden Girls” laugh track rehash starring David Alan Grier, Vicki Lawrence, Martin Mull, and Leslie Jordan as four older folks causing trouble in a nursing home. Sure, the cast seems game, but I’d like to think we’re past the era of multi-cam sitcoms (certain shows, like “One Day at a Time”, excepted, of course), no matter how grateful I am to see four talented older comedians get major, regular work like this. It’s doubtful that this show will effect the same mixture of laughter and heart supplied by Dorothy, Rose, and the rest, but who knows? “The Cool Kids” may well surprise us all.
Daniel D’Addario (@DPD_), Variety
CBS’ comedy brand is among broadcast’s more solid — which means that a new entry has a pretty high bar to clear to succeed. And while it’s far from the worst new fall series, “Happy Together,” from its generic title to its somewhat dated unlikely-roommates premise, lacks the point of view that other CBS sitcoms, from Chuck Lorre’s shows to the returning “Murphy Brown” can boast. (Like them or not, most CBS half-hours have a pretty clear sense of what they are.) It’s too bad, because Damon Wayans Jr. and Amber Stevens West have shone so brightly on, respectively, “Happy Endings” and “The Carmichael Show”; in the pilot, both are working with fairly uninspiring material that forces them to playact being less interesting than we know they are. That they, playing civilians hosting a celebrity in their house, are vastly more charismatic than the show’s “star” is a pretty major issue. Were I in charge of TV, I’d refocus the show a bit, exploring Wayans and Stevens West’s relationship as young marrieds worried they’ve grown boring but allowing them a little more space; de-emphasizing the show’s high concept might make for a show that’s an amiable hang rather than, unfortunately, a bit of a bore.
April Neale (@aprilmac), Monsters & Critics
The one that I think will flame out like the Hindenburg is the CBS series, “God Friended Me” for a variety of reasons. One is that Facebook getting free brand adverts in the title does not endear it to anyone already on guard from the behemoth’s various casually criminal and inept ways of safeguarding anyone’s information. And despite Greg Berlanti and “Gotham” writers Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt’s creative hands on this, it is slightly insulting to any one of us who are not at all theist or religious in any capacity to have a premise that assumes the atheist lead needs any sort of “godly” intervention to make his/her life have meaning or be worthwhile.
How would I fix this? I would have the lead give himself a complete flush of all social media and actually get out there, meet someone face to face and ask them for a date (in person) and discover the power of proactive human interaction. I would call it “Swipe Up.” Each week our protagonist would discover another person in need to help out without creating a GoFundMe page. The show would still suck, but less so than the aforementioned “God” series.
Diane Gordon (@thesurfreport), Freelance
ABC’s “Single Parents” has a decent concept about a single parent (Taran Killam) who’s immersed in single dad life to the exclusion of everything else and has to re-learn how to be a single guy. The cast also includes Brad Garrett and Leighton Meester, which got my hopes up, but the lackluster writing made for a pilot that felt a lot longer than 22 minutes. As for what I’d do to fix the show: get punch-up writers and go hard for more jokes and less touchy-feely moments with the kids. The pilot episode fell flat and the result was a soft, tepid comedy. We know from “SNL” and his roles in various movies that Killam is a comedy chameleon – this show should give him a little more room to run and be funny.
Ben Travers (@BenTTravers), IndieWire
After giving negative reviews to three of the last two years’ biggest hits, critics (or at least this critic) may not be the best at predicting flops, but I’m betting on “God Friended Me” getting a quick cancellation, probably via Facebook Messenger. It just seems to be the kind of “big idea” premise — an atheist is gets a social media request from God — that needs delicate handling in production and through its marketing. So far, the marketing hasn’t seen the best response, and it feels like the kind of show that would work better as a half-hour comedy than an hourlong drama. Also, change that title. It’s too easy to mock.
Q: What is the best show currently on TV?*
A: “Better Call Saul” and “Insecure” (three votes each)
Other contenders: “America to Me” (two votes) and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (one vote)
*In the case of streaming services that release full seasons at once, only include shows that have premiered in the last month.