Television season is back

By Kevin Romani

Listen in on Kevin’s conversation about the fall’s most watchable premieres with Collegian writer Malea Ritz in Fall TV Review Podcast

The summer season belongs to the movie theaters and cinema, but the fall is dominated by the small screen. With only a few worthwhile series airing over the summer months (“Breaking Bad,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), television fans have been aching for their favorite series to return and to check out the pilot episodes of new programs. Thanks to Internet streaming, on demand services and DVR devices, viewers are now able to tune in to a vast number of these programs, and can do so whenever they like.

Courtesy cmun_Project/Flickr
Courtesy cmun_Project/Flickr

There are consequences, however, to these new methods of watching television. Low ratings in live-viewership decrease the amount of advertising dollars for the studio. Therefore, studios are even less compassionate towards new series, and will cancel them in a much shorter window than before. Both new and returning series are forced to have strong showcases in their opening episodes in order to make it out of the fall alive.

The comedy genre welcomed back a number of returning series in the last two weeks. “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” premiered two weeks ago, and continues to provide a multitude of laughs nationwide. The comedy is known for its usage of the title as a joke summarizing the entire episode, and this premiere may be the best example to date.

“Modern Family” premiered last week, hot off of its dominating showcase at the Emmy Awards, and did not disappoint those who awarded it Best Comedy. The show aired two episodes, and both proved that the clever writing and spot-on pacing of the series are as strong as ever.

“The Office,” on the other hand, may be in trouble. Even before star Steve Carell left the series, questions began to arise as to whether or not the show had peaked in earlier seasons. Now without Carell, the show has little to hang its hat on. Andy Bernard (Ed Helms) has replaced Michael Scott as manager. Andy used to be a character that viewers could not get enough of, but he has become more of a straightforward and harmless character in recent seasons. He does not have the level of unpredictability that made Carell’s character, Michael Scott, so captivating. The addition of James Spader – typically a dramatic actor – will probably not be enough to carry the series.

One new series that may have a promising future ahead of it is NBC’s “Up All Night.” With a strong cast of Christina Applegate (“Anchorman”), Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”) and Maya Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live”) along with the backing of producer Lorne Michaels (“30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live”), the series will have enough star power to attract viewers and will have a bit more wiggle room if ratings are low.

Several new shows will be looking to make an impact in the drama genre. Fox’s “Terra Nova” has been heavily promoted so far, and premiered last Monday. The last time producer Steven Spielberg met dinosaurs, audiences received “Jurassic Park.” If this series could have any semblance of the entertainment that the first “Jurassic Park” film provided, then “Nova” could be a major hit.

The dream team combination of producer J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” “Star Trek”) and director Christopher Nolan’s brother Jonathan Nolan (who co-wrote screenplays for “The Dark Knight” and “The Prestige”) led to “Person of Interest,” a new spy series on CBS. With strong lead actors – James Caviezel (“The Passion of the Christ”) and Michael Emerson (“Lost”) – and an interesting concept, “Person of Interest” has the potential of being must-watch television on a week to week basis.

The best premiere of a returning series thus far was Fox’s “Fringe,” which is quietly one of the five best television series currently airing. “Fringe” has officially become the new “Lost,” as each week presents new twists and turns while continuing to deliver real and impactful drama. The science fiction nature and lower ratings of “Fringe” has unfortunately pushed it to the Friday night death slot, but this is a perfect series to utilize one of the many alternative methods of television viewing.

The major premium channels – HBO and Showtime – as well as newcomer AMC have several highly anticipated series returning now or in the coming weeks. HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” premiered this past Sunday night and showcased one of the most eventful premiere episodes in recent memory. Those viewers anticipating questions to be answered do not have to wait for weeks on end, as the first episode did not hide the directions “Boardwalk” will take in its sophomore season.

These first few weeks have just scratched the surface for the return of major television series. Showtime’s popular “Dexter” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” will not premiere until October, but both of these programs will look to be a major force in the always busy Sunday night primetime lineup. There is a lot to look forward to if you are a fan of quality, narrative television.

Kevin Romani can be reached at [email protected]