It’s time for another TV season to start. Just like the first day of school, the possibilities are endless. Then reality sets in and it becomes clear that some will pass and some will fail.
It all comes down to which network has guessed correctly about what trend will be the most popular. There are 20 new programs launching on the five networks (ABC, CBS, CW, FOX and NBC), below the 22 new series that launched for the 2015-16 season and down from 24 the year before and 29 in the 2013-14 season.
Even with a record low number of new shows, several trends have emerged. Here are five things you need to watch for as the 2016-17 shows launch.
1. Someone has been watching a lot of movies.
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Several new series this fall are based on movies, including “The Exorcist” and “Lethal Weapon” on FOX.
Dana Walden, chairman and CEO of the Fox Television Group, ordered a series based on “The Exorcist” because the network wanted a scary series to add to the network lineup.
As for “Lethal Weapon,” she was skeptical when she heard the original pitch.
“After receiving the script, great script, skeptical. At the stage of casting, brought in Damon (Wayans), which was phenomenal but they didn’t have Clayne (Crawford) yet,” Walden says. “I thought that was going to be the place that we were going to be able to say, ‘See, this project isn’t going to work. It’s too hard.’ And then they found Clayne, and it was, like, I love this show.”
The CW’s “Frequency” is based on the 2000 film starring Dennis Quaid about a father and son who can communicate through decades via a short-wave radio. The movie wasn’t the biggest box office hit that year, ranking 57th of all releases, two spots behind “The Tigger Movie.” But that didn’t stop series creator Jeremy Carver from using the movie as a launching point for the series.
“It was a popular movie in my heart. I really enjoyed the movie, personally, when it came out, and from the moment I saw the movie, I was really struck by that central relationship of what was a father and a son,” Carver says. “And whether it was genre or sci-fi, or whether it was popular or not, doesn’t really affect how I decide what I like or what I don’t like. It was that central relationship that really struck me. I think the movie actually was very well liked. I think there is a certain element of the movie that flies beneath the radar, and that’s only a plus for us, and it allows us tons of room to develop new takes on characters and new takes on the way the show should go.”
This ploy of basing TV shows on movies hasn’t shown itself to be all that successful in the past. The shows “Minority Report” and “Rush Hour” failed to attract an audience. But, there’s more on the way this season. Mid-season, you will see “Time After Time” on ABC, “Taken” on NBC and “Training Day” on CBS.
2. You’re going to be tripping
You may need a set of clocks and calendars to keep up with all of the time manipulation going on this season. It starts with the returning CW series, “The Flash” but gets kicked in second gear with the new NBC show “Timeless.”
The NBC series follows three time travelers chasing down a man who stole a time machine and is bouncing through the past trying to change events. Don’t look for the time treks to take them into ancient history as the 1750s are as far as the travelers go in the first season.
Executive producer, Eric Kripke, tells viewers to look for the travels to have a major ripple affect on the world.
“We look at our timeline as one continual timeline. So any change that they are making, to put it bluntly, does start to pile up on each other. It’s not so much that you hit a reset button. It’s their reality, the one that they keep coming back to, is the one that, for instance, has changed a little bit,” Kripke says. “If they’re not careful in episodes moving forward, it’s going to change more.”
That means the team must accomplish their mission to stop the changes or the world will be a place they didn’t know.
The same kind of time ripples will happen in “Frequency.” When the daughter of a police officer who was killed 20 years ago is warned through a magic short-wave transmission, he survives and the world changes.
Executive producer, Jeremy Carver, stresses “Frequency” won’t be a show where every week you’re going to end up with a different foreign power running the United States.
“The butterfly effect is meant to be very, very personalized. And we often describe it as, if history is a rope, we’re changing, maybe, fibers on that rope from episode to episode, and mainly seeing how it’s affecting our main characters or our guest cast,” Carver says.
One other series uses time as an element, but saying which show would take away one of the biggest surprises of the fall season. Just know that in this case, time will remain a constant.
3. TV or not TV
The trend of making new shows based on old TV series continues with the return of “MacGyver” on CBS.
This trend has a poor record, with re-vamped versions of “Dragnet,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “V,” “Night Rider,” “Bionic Woman” and “The Muppets.” Only new versions of “90210” and “Hawaii Five-0” have been able to find the same kind of success as the original series.
You’ll see more than different fashions and hairstyles with the new MacGyver, played by Lucas Till. Executive producer, Peter Lenkov explains the character will use whatever he needs to accomplish his mission.
“I think technology certainly plays a big role now in our everyday lives, but I want people, just the way I did, to look at something and say there’s multiple uses for it,” Lenkov says. “So MacGyver, whether he’s got a cell phone in front of him, he’s not a guy that’s going to go and have a problem solved with an app. He’s not going to go to Google. He’s going to be using technology, re-purposing in a way that’s going to get him out of a situation to his benefit.”
Duct tape will still be a big part of the show.
4. Weighing in
Television has always been a haven for thin women, except for a rare offering like “Mike & Molly.” This season, two series will feature plus-size actresses in major roles: Katy Mixon in “American Housewife” and Chrissy Metz in “This Is Us.”
Mixon plays a woman who’s concerned about being the largest housewife in her posh community. The comedy makes serious points about weight issues.
“I thought the premise was so incredible in the sense of she’s an authentic woman living in an inauthentic world. And she’s trying the best that she can to be who she is,” Mixon says. “And sometimes she’s fearless and sometimes she’s got so many insecurities. What attracted me to the role was that everybody can relate. Whether what gender you are, whether what area you come from, background, everybody can relate to insecurities. And it’s about how you meet yourself where you are and go through it and how you tackle it.”
The weight issues are treated seriously on the new NBC series “This Is Us.” Kate (Metz) is so loaded down with insecurities, she’s struggling to get through the day. Only her brother (Justin Hartley) can give her the emotional support she needs.
Metz considers herself lucky to be part of the series because she’s not seen a lot of plus-size women land roles on programs. As soon as her casting was announced, Metz began to hear from women and men who have dealt with weight issues.
“I hope to bring hope. A lot of people are body positive, and I’m not saying that I’m not happy with who I am, but a part of me is like I do want to change. I do want to live a healthier life,” Metz says. “And so I get to do this in life on the show, and it’s tenfold of incredible luck and opportunity. These are our vessels. It’s not everything that we are. I’m not just my body. So it’s been amazing.”
5. Hedging their bets
The networks have turned to some familiar faces as a lure to get viewers to their new TV shows.
After keeping malls safe with the “Paul Blart” films, Kevin James is returning the the traditional situation comedy format that he starred in for years with “King of Queens” on CBS’s “Kevin Can Wait.”
“ I love that format,” James says. “I miss that format, not only being in one, but watching them. We’re trying to do new stuff and keep it fresh as well. So it’s I think it’s a great area to play. I’m excited.”
CBS is playing other big face cards with Matt LeBlanc, Joel McHale, Dermot Mulroney, Katherine Heigl and Bill Paxton starring in shows for the fall or mid-season.
Ted Danson is back on NBC with “The Good Place,” “ which also stars another familiar face in Kristen Bell. Geena Davis is on the FOX series “The Exorcist, “ while Kiefer Sutherland stars in ABC’s “Designated Survivor.”