Several network series return this week, but the fall season starts in earnest next week. Before the premieres kick off, here are SoS TV Editor Kate Kulzick, SoS Managing TV Editor Deepayan Sengupta, and SoS contributor Randy Dankevitch’s initial impressions on the networks’ new offerings.
Note: Our thoughts are based on pilots, some of which are works in progress, so there may be changes to these episodes before they air.
The Mysteries of Laura (8pm ET, NBC)
Premieres Sept. 17th, 2014
Hilariously dubbed Copmom Momcop by Linda Holmes of NPR (complete with theme song), The Mysteries of Laura is an adaptation of Spanish series Los misterios de Laura, which explains its somewhat bizarre title, but not its tonal inconsistencies. Rather than embrace the elements that make the original unique, like the CW’s telenovela-inspired Jane the Virgin, this adaptation gets a heavy dose of Americanization. Debra Messing stars as Det. Laura Diamond, a hardworking cop and (nearly) divorced mother of two. Messing is charismatic in the lead role and the series manages to get some mileage out of its soccer-mom-as-cop approach (it’s a relief seeing someone other than a brilliant, but difficult or socially inept man center a police procedural for once), but instead of making the series the lighthearted blue skies fare it wants to be, it tries for moments of intense action and pathos, taking itself far too seriously and losing any goodwill it had earned in the process.
Det. Diamond is actually a type of cop rarely depicted on TV, which should give the series plenty of fodder, but instead of building out her world, The Mysteries of Laura dives into cliché, with forgettable to downright annoying supporting characters and storylines. It seems to find its lead’s dual status as both a police officer and a mother astonishing (Copmom! Momcop? No—it can’t be done!) and enough of a conceit to carry the series and puts little work in elsewhere. If it finds its tonal center and sticks to its more successful, goofier moments—and stops trying to follow the beats of every other police procedural out there—this series could become a pleasant laundry-folder. As it is, The Mysteries of Laura is a puzzle best left unsolved. [KK]
Red Band Society (9pm ET, FOX)
Premieres Sept. 17th, 2014
The new ensemble drama from Fox, Red Band Society stars Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable as a nurse and doctor, respectively, in the pediatric ward of a hospital, focusing on the young patients and how they go about their lives. The show is adapted from a Spanish drama, and is developed by The Good Lie scribe Margaret Nagle.
Based on the pilot, it’s apparent that one’s enjoyment with this show will hinge on whether they find the children of the titular red band society interesting or not. Despite the presence of Spencer and Annable, this is clearly a story about the younger patrons of the hospital, with the adults getting only limited screentime. While Spencer makes an impression in the pilot, this is more a testament to the capability of the actress than the script, as neither Dave Annable nor Griffin Dunne, the only other two older characters of note, manage to do the same.
This is not necessarily a mark against the show: done right, the story of young people going through hardships both physical and emotional could make for a compelling, emotionally stirring series. The pilot, however, gives no real indication of whether the show will be emotionally resonant or emotionally manipulative, as it shows potential for both. If it chooses to tell the story of real people going through trying circumstances, this series will certainly be worth watching. If it doesn’t, then despite its commendable decision to set a story about young people in a hospital instead of, say, a school, Red Band Society will become another forgettable series from this season. [DS]
Black-ish (9:30pm ET, ABC)
Premieres Sept. 24th, 2014
Like most new comedies, black-ish is all over the place, trying to be funny and relevant and Important all at the same time, with the added sparkle of Race on top of everything. Created by America’s Next Top Model co-creator Kenya Harris, black-ish comes off surprisingly tone deaf at times, a story about redefining cultural identity that is all too willing to embrace uncomfortable stereotypes at the same time, some remarked upon, others lingering in the background.
There’s an intriguing show somewhere to be found in black-ish, though. Led by Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Laurence Fishburne as the parents and grandfather, there’s an undeniable family dynamic between the cast of actors comprising the Johnson family and there are moments where the show genuinely appears to have at least a tenuous grip on what it wants to say about race in America. The real question is whether black-ish is going to be able to be funny without degrading or undermining itself–a tough balancing act for any young comedy. It will need to do so if it wants to be taken seriously at all (which it certainly feels like it does), and this is a skill black-ish may take awhile to master, if it ever does. [RD]
Stalker (10pm ET, CBS)
Premieres Oct. 1st, 2014
Dawson’s Creek and The Following creator Kevin Williamson moves to CBS with his new series, titled Stalker. The show focuses on a group of LAPD detectives, led by Maggie Q and Dylan McDermott, as they investigate cases of stalking and harassment in the city while battling personal demons.
While Sound on Sight is unable the see the pilot for Stalker prior to its premiere, there’s one big positive to this show in the form of lead Maggie Q. As the titular Nikita in the latest CW adaptation of the Luc Besson movie, Maggie Q proved herself more than adept at carrying a show, dealing with both stunts and emotional arcs effectively.
However, the series has a major negative aspect to it as well, and that’s creator Kevin Williamson. Williamson’s latest series, The Following, has been plagued by weak characterization and incompetent writing that has led to baffling character decisions and laughable outcomes. However, the most disturbing aspect of the show is its seemingly unintentional misogyny, as nearly all the women on the show end up as victims in some capacity, regardless of their position within it. The violence perpetuated on them makes for unpleasant viewing at times and while it’s possible that Williamson and the writers will bring a defter touch to Stalker, the premise of the show, and the seemingly needless addition of Dylan McDermott as a co-lead, does not bode well. Handled properly, this subject matter could be effective, but handled poorly, this show could veer from being just innocuously bad to being actively harmful, particularly for real life victims. With Williamson’s poor track record, audiences are better off avoiding this one altogether. [DS]