Julie Benz and Michael Chiklis in ABC's new show, No Ordinary Family.
ABC's new fall shows slant toward drama — they've got a very strong night of comedy already on Wednesday nights, and they're looking to fill the void being left by Lost, so it makes a certain amount of sense.
The new dramas include Off The Map, which is almost exactly Grey's Anatomy — it's from Grey's creator Shonda Rhimes — except that it involves doctors who have gone off to assist the less fortunate in a faraway land.
The other one the network seems most excited about is No Ordinary Family, which stars Michael Chiklis (of The Shield) and Julie Benz (of Dexter) as the parents of a family that abruptly obtains supernatural powers. No, really. They've got the actors lined up, and this is actually the kind of show I can easily envision becoming a hit, but it remains to be seen how superpowers are going to plug into an ongoing story.
There's also a legal drama called The Whole Truth, which is one of those legal-drama names that tells you absolutely nothing except that ... it is a legal drama. The gimmick is that you follow both the defense and the prosecution, so you supposedly will feel pulled between the two sides.
I fear that the high concept may be a little too high with My Generation, which involves — stay with me — a group of people who were filmed for a documentary as high-school students and then are revisited by the documentary crew ten years later. So it's like other faux-documentary shows, except that it's sort of a combination of two faux-documentaries.
The most irritating title comes from Detroit 1-8-7, complete with hyphens, which is a cop show starring Michael Imperioli of The Sopranos. This show also has faux-documentary elements, so you can consider that device to have blown right by "trend" and moved directly to "crutch."
And finally, for drama, we have Body Of Proof, another obnoxiously punny title attached here to a show about Dana Delany as a medical examiner who used to be a neurosurgeon. Case of the week, justice for the dead, etc. Delany certainly has the goods as far as carrying a network drama, and it certainly didn't look terrible, but I have to say, it did look like practically every other drama that is similar in type.
On the comedy front, I personally laughed most at the preview for Mr. Sunshine, which stars Matthew Perry and Allison Janney. It's a very, very Chandler-ish presentation of Perry, so if you hated him on Friends, you're not going to like it, is my guess. On the other hand, it's non-laugh-tracked, which I found very flattering to him in the brief glimpse I saw, because broad takes often seem less quirky and more wry when there isn't a cackling crowd. And Allison Janney is divine, naturally, in a very, very different role from C.J. Cregg.
What we saw of Better Together was uneven, I thought. It's a comedy about three couples, one of whom has just met, one of whom has been dating for years, and one of whom is older and married. The opening sequence has a nice joke about couples asking each other how they look, but some of the other stuff fell a bit flat for me. It does have Debra Jo Rupp (That '70s Show), who's funny in most things she does, and the pilot was directed by sitcom giant James Burrows, so that will probably be worth a shot, at the very least. (This is the show that's getting a spot in the fall in that cushy Wednesday-night block; The Middle will move to 8:00 p.m., and this will air between that and Modern Family.)
Happy Endings, I did not like at all. It's yet another gang-of-young-folks comedy, and nothing about the preview seemed at all fresh, or at all reflective of the smarter tone that comedy has taken on in recent seasons. The network calls it a "modern comedy," and almost every time a network refers to something as "modern," it manages to be anything but modern — with the exception of Modern Family.
There's also one new unscripted show in the mix: if you like Undercover Boss and its conviction that rich people are secretly very kind and wonderful, you'll love Secret Millionaire and its display of the very wealthy heading off to do volunteer work in secret. They're charged with finding "the unsung heroes of America." Every single thing about this premise makes me cringe with every fiber of my being, but with that said, I haven't seen it yet. It's been pushed off to Friday nights, which can be a death slot, but perhaps those looking to unwind at the start of the weekend will enjoy a few tales about the benevolence of the extremely wealthy.