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What's The Fall TV Season About? Masculinity, Fairy Tales, And The '60s

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What's The Fall TV Season About? Masculinity, Fairy Tales, And The '60s


What's The Fall TV Season About? Masculinity, Fairy Tales, And The '60s

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This week in New York, the broadcast and cable television networks are trotting out their biggest dogs and their fanciest ponies. It's called the upfronts, when the networks sell their fall lineups to advertisers and try desperately to build buzz around new stars, new concepts and, of course, new shows or, as is often the case, putting a new spin on an old idea. There never seem to be a shortage of detective series or medical dramas.

Well, joining us to talk about what's coming to the TV lineup this fall is NPR's pop culture blogger Linda Holmes.

Linda, I'm so glad you're back with us.

LINDA HOLMES: Oh, thank you. I'm glad too.

NORRIS: Now, we should explain. The cables are also rolling out new shows for the fall, but we're going to focus on the upfronts, this period of time when the networks - ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox - roll out their new shows, and let's get right to it. What's the new show that you're most excited about?

HOLMES: Well, it's actually not coming until mid-season, but the best clips that I've seen this week have been for a show called "Awake" on NBC, which is about a cop who gets into a car accident with his wife and son, and then when he wakes up, he is living in two alternate worlds where in one world, his wife is alive and his son has died, and in the other world, his son is alive and his wife has died, and he alternates back and forth whenever he falls asleep, but he doesn't know which one is real.

It's a little bit tough to explain. Fortunately, the trailers for a lot of these shows are online already, so we can listen to a little bit of the trailer for "Awake."

(Soundbite of trailer, "Awake")

Mr. JASON ISAACS (Actor): (as Michael Britten) I'm awake with my wife, then I close my eyes, I open them, I'm awake with my son.

Ms. CHERRY JONES (Actress): (as Dr. Judith Evans) Well, I can assure you, Detective Britten, this is not a dream. What?

Mr. ISAACS: (as Michael Britten) It's exactly what the other shrink said.

HOLMES: I love the premise of this show. It does face long odds. It's difficult for serialized, complex dramas like this on broadcast television. Interestingly enough, the same creator who made this show, who's a guy named Kyle Killen, made "Lone Star," which was most critics' favorite show of last year, which lasted...

NORRIS: But didn't last very long.

HOLMES: Two episodes...

(Soundbite of laughter)

HOLMES: ...two episodes, so we're all hoping for a better outcome for Kyle Killen this year.

NORRIS: We should note that most of the shows that they roll out during the upfronts don't actually have a long shelf life.

HOLMES: Absolutely true. I went back and counted the ones from last fall. CBS did a little better. They rolled out five shows for fall, and three of them are still on. That's a great track record. NBC, ABC and Fox, between three of them rolled out 15 new shows last fall of which one is still alive, one.

That is an astonishingly poor track record when you think about how much energy is going into making these shows, which everyone is so excited about making and presenting, and most of them will die.

NORRIS: And kind of a strange business model also.

HOLMES: It is a bizarre business model in a lot of ways because they will come on and most of them will not last. But everybody hopes that their show will be different - and a couple of them will be every year.

NORRIS: You know, for a long time, the sitcom was the staple of the network evening lineup. Are there interesting sitcoms this time? Is this the return of the sitcom?

HOLMES: The sitcoms this year, with a few exceptions, seem pretty conventional. There are four sitcoms that are about masculinity and the idea of what it is to be a man that are explicitly being marketed that way, that's not subtext. There's one with guys who are in drag to get jobs, and so the whole what is it to be a man versus a woman and...

NORRIS: Didn't we see that years ago with Tom Hanks?

HOLMES: Yes, yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HOLMES: They called it "Bosom Buddies" many years ago. So there's a bunch of that stuff. There are a couple of exceptions. There's a sitcom with Zooey Deschanel, who was in "500 Days of Summer," called "The New Girl," that's on Fox, and it looks cute. She's obviously one of a couple of big stars coming to a TV show, which also happens every year, so...

NORRIS: Which one looks most promising?

HOLMES: Of the sitcoms, I would say it is "The New Girl" probably. It's very hard to tell. It's always important to say you got to take the upfronts with a grain of salt. You're looking at clips and trailers, and some of the pilots will be completely re-shot before it's over.

NORRIS: Linda Holmes, always good to talk you.

HOLMES: Thank you very much. Good to talk to you too.

NORRIS: Linda Holmes writes NPR's pop culture blog called Monkey See.

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