Half Of This Fall's New Shows Feature Female Leads

Michele Norris talks Eric Deggans, TV writer for the St. Petersburg Times, for a preview of this fall's TV shows. Half of this fall's new shows feature female leads, he says.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host: And now we're going to take some time to sort through some of fall's new offerings. There are sci-fi fantasies, reality shows, detective dramas and a number of series about raising small children. There's also some interesting adult fare: Playboy bunnies, a fairytale police procedural and a fetching group of flight attendants who seem to conjure up the coffee, tea or me idea of a working girl. For more on the fall landscape, we're joined by Eric Deggans. He's a TV writer for The St. Petersburg Times, and he also writes an online blog called The Feed. Welcome back, Mr. Deggans.

ERIC DEGGANS: Thank you.

NORRIS: What new shows stand out for you?

DEGGANS: In terms of what I'd like, I guess I'd say the "New Girl," starring Zooey Deschanel. They call her adorkable.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: It's a new term that they've coined about her. She's dorky and adorable at the same time.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "NEW GIRL")

ZOOEY DESCHANEL: (as Jessica Day) I was going for, like, a hot farmer's daughter kind of thing. You know, like, oh, I'm going to go milk my cows.

DEGGANS: And then in terms of drama, I like "Terra Nova," the science fiction show that was sort of masterminded by Steven Spielberg and involves this family that goes back 85 million years in the past. It's compared to a mix of "Avatar" and "Jurassic Park."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TERRA NOVA")

STEVEN LANG: (as Commander Nathaniel Taylor) Citizens of 2149, together, we are at the dawn of a new civilization. Welcome to Terra Nova, folks. Welcome home.

NORRIS: Good season for women in Hollywood, yes?

DEGGANS: It really is. I did the math. It wasn't that hard.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: But actually, out of 27 new shows, I think there's about 15 that star women as the main leads - everything from a remake of "Charlie's Angels" to the "Playboy Club" to a look at the stewardesses of "Pan Am."

NORRIS: Now, we've talked before about a show called "Men of a Certain Age," whether they're emoting too much or not enough.

DEGGANS: I call it "Men of a Certain Age" for dummies.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: That's basically what it is. A lot of these shows took the more complex themes that were on "Men of a Certain Age," the late (unintelligible) got cancelled. But a lot of shows took those themes of men feeling put upon in a modern world, and they turned them into cartoons. Tim Allen is probably the best example of that. He has a show called "Last Man Standing," where he is going to be spending more time in a home with a wife who has her own career and three relatively grownup daughters.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LAST MAN STANDING")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as Character) He's a man's man. But lately, he's realizing...

TIM ALLEN: (as Mike) What happened to men?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as Character) He's not in a man's world anymore.

KAITLYN DEVER, ACTRESS: (as Eve) I will take the truck. You can take the minivan.

ALLEN: (as Mike) You'll take the truck. I'll drive the minivan. You're not kidding right now, are you?

DEGGANS: In a way, it's sort of vaguely insulting, I think, to imply that because men are different these days, they are more open with their feelings, that somehow they're less macho. These shows have the subtle message like, as women get more powerful, the men are somehow disadvantaged. They don't know that that's true.

NORRIS: A lot of shows about raising kids. And for a time, it seemed like Hollywood was running away from the family-based sitcom.

DEGGANS: Yeah. Well, you know, I think there's some practical reasons for that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: You know, it's like kids are kind of hard to deal with sometimes on a set and...

NORRIS: And they grow up. And they...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: And they grow up. That's right. You know, Steve Levitan, who's the co-creator and executive producer of "Modern Family," said during the Emmys on Sunday, you know, "Modern Family" was almost an animated show. That's how much they didn't want to have to deal with kids on that show.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DEGGANS: But I think "Modern Family," one of its impacts is that shows are more willing to feature children in part because networks realized they got to reach out to this audience.

NORRIS: Eric, I want to ask you about a couple of shows that I find a bit intriguing -"Grimm," this very adult fairytale.

DEGGANS: Yeah. You know, TV is always trying to find a way to reinvent classic themes. "Grimm" is a way to reinvent the cop drama. You basically have a typical police procedural, but laid over that is this idea that one of the detectives had passed down in his family this ability to see fairytale characters who are disguised as average people. So on the very first episode, there's a big bad wolf who eats and kidnaps young girls who wear red.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GRIMM")

DAVID GIUNTOLI, ACTOR: (as Nick Burckhardt) What kind of animal could do this?

RUSSELL HORNSBY, ACTOR: (as Hank Griffin) A bear, cougar, a wolf. This is the only track we found.

ACTOR: (as Nick Burckhardt) It sounds like what happened to Monsoon Creek Falls.

ACTOR: (as Hank Griffin) It's the same deal, hiker and a bobcat.

ACTOR: (as Nick Burckhardt) The bobcat wasn't wearing boots.

NORRIS: Another show that looks interesting, "Read Between the Lines." Is that another stab at "Cosby's" success because it happens to employ one of the "Cosby" kids now grownup playing the role of the husband?

DEGGANS: Well, everybody is trying to figure out a way to reach out to minority audiences, audiences of color, people who seemed to be underserved. And everybody also wants to tap a bit of that "Cosby" magic. You know, "The Cosby Show" came along and kind of brought new life to the TV comedy and convinced people that TV comedies were worth doing again. So everybody kind of thinks that we're on the cusp of that again. You know, "Modern Family" is doing well. "Glee" is doing well. So we'll see if they're able to present something that's close enough to that that they can stick around for a few seasons.

NORRIS: Eric Deggans, it's always good to talk to you.

DEGGANS: Thank you very much.

NORRIS: Eric Deggans is a TV critic for The St. Petersburg Times.

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