The broadcast network upfronts are finally finished, and the Big 5 had to make dozens of tough decisions to figure out which TV shows would live and which would become tax write-offs (here is the complete fall schedule). Below is our take on the best and worst moves made by NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC and The CW over the past couple weeks:
Best fall trailers: ABC’s savvy The Muppets reboot, CBS’ energetic Supergirl and NBC’s thriller Blindspot. Granted, Supergirl might remind you of SNL’s Black Widow parody, but the nearly six-minute trailer still lit up the room when it screened for advertisers. On the comedy side, CBS’ Life in Pieces and Fox’s The Grinder look pretty good too, and The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow has Arrow/Flash fans quite excited (though that one’s midseason).
Most familiar trailer: NBC’s Heartbreaker starring Melissa George. Is there anything about this show that wasn’t stolen from Grey’s Anatomy? First runner-up: NBC’s The Player (a.k.a. Person of Interest: Las Vegas). Second runner-up: ABC’s Quantico (a.k.a. How to Get Away with Being a Terrorist).
Most cringe-y sitcom trailer: NBC’s People Are Talking. Hold on, the kids’ nanny did a porn video!?
Most depressing-looking trailer: CBS’ Code Black. An emergency room that hits Defcon 1 when there are more patients than resources to treat them. It’s like the med-pocalypse!
Most deserved recent cancellation: CBS’ Stalker. Poor ratings, actively unpleasant content. Runners-up: State of Affairs, Battle Creek.
Least deserved cancellation: ABC’s Cristela. Star Cristela Alonzo is a fresh and original voice; too bad she was surrounded with such stale and unoriginal dialogue. Runner-up: Forever. The ratings didn’t work, but there was a lot of fan passion for this one (it topped our most-missed show poll).
Luckiest canceled show: Fox’s The Mindy Project, which is still in promising talks with Hulu for a rescue pickup. (UPDATE: Welcome to Hulu, Mindy!)
Biggest time period catfight this fall: Supergirl vs. Gotham at Mondays at 8 p.m. DC Comics critics have always said the company is its own worst enemy, but this fall it’s literally true! Runner-up: ABC’s Quantico vs. CBS’ Limitless at Tuesdays at 10 p.m.—two of the strongest new dramas going head to head.
Biggest cancelations: Fox ending American Idol next year and CBS ending CSI this fall (with a two-hour movie to wrap things up). End of an era for two iconic, trail-blazing, oft-imitated shows.
Luckiest new show: Life in Pieces. The single-camera comedy starring James Brolin gets the enviable post Big Bang Theory slot on Mondays.
Riskiest new show: ABC’s Of Kings and Prophets, which the network’s chief Paul Lee described as having “all the intrigue and sex and the power struggles of the real Bible.” A sexy Bible TV series on broadcast? Holy s–t!
Biggest trend: Super cops. They’re cops, but even better—whether they’re FBI agents (Quantico), on smart drugs (CBS’ Limitless), have Jason Bourne-like abilities (Blindpost), or are buffed-out know-it-all forensic docs (Fox’s Rosewood). Tough to make a regular cop show now that Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine mocks that formula so well.
Most surprising trend: Fox shifting from comedies starring feisty females (New Girl, Mindy) to charming males (sitcoms starring John Stamos, Rob Lowe and, for midseason, Jack Cutmore-Scott).
Most shocking scheduling move: NBC only having one hour of comedy in the fall, something the network hasn’t done since 1978.
Best stunt casting: Bradley Cooper taking a recurring role in Limitless. But after watching that trailer, we wonder: Will he be like the NZT drug of the series, where the show is awesome only while he’s on screen and the excitement crashes when he’s off?
Best title for a new show: On this point, we’re bummed The CW didn’t pick up Cheerleader Death Squad. And there are some titles that are great only because they have built-in awareness, like Minority Report and Supergirl (which thankfully isn’t called DC’s Supergirl). But among original shows, the thrillers Blindspot and Quantico have titles that are strong, punchy and descriptive.
Worst title for a new show: Plenty of contenders this year. Readers have been mocking Fox’s The Grinder (it makes you think of either the Grindr app, or dry humping, or maybe both). After seeing the trailer, however, the title actually works. ABC’s Oil is pretty unappealing, but the previous title was Boom, and that was problematic too. NBC’s weak-looking Friday night sitcom People are Talking sounds like a set-up title for critics to mock. But perhaps the worst title is Fox’s forensic drama Rosewood, which is so vague that it tells you nothing about the show (and yet, if you go too far the other direction, and you end up with a overly descriptive disaster title like The Mob Doctor—naming TV shows is harder than it looks).
TV stars we’re most excited about: Melissa Benoist in Supergirl, Stark Sands in Minority Report, Dianne Wiest in Life in Pieces, Jamie Lee Curtis in Scream Queens.
Best publicity photo: Blindspot hit an online home run with its image of star Jaimie Alexander emerging from a duffel bag in the middle of Times Square covered with tattoos. In addition to being a mysterious, striking, sexy image, the art effectively introduces the show’s premise (even if Fox’s The Following did sort of do this first). Sidenote: NBC’s early concept art for the show, which leaked online (NSFW), was far more risque.
Best scheduling move: Fox keeping mega-hit Empire on Wednesday nights rather than succumbing to the temptation to go after more lucrative Thursday nights.
Riskiest scheduling move: NBC doing the opposite—doubling down on trying to conquer Thursdays. This season NBC’s strongest drama The Blacklist got crushed at 9 p.m. In the fall, NBC will put one of its buzziest titles, the Heroes revival Heroes Reborn, on Thursdays at 8 p.m. vs. CBS’ kingpin comedy The Big Bang Theory, keep Blacklist at 9 p.m. vs. ABC’s powerhouse Scandal, then put one of its new dramas The Player at 10 p.m. against ABC’s fromidable How to Get Away With Murder. Basically, NBC is putting most of its best eggs into one basket and then dropping it off a cliff and hoping they don’t break. BUT: If NBC’s block manages to be successful to some degree, the network will look like geniuses.
Buzzy pilots we’re surprised didn’t make it: ABC’s SHIELD spinoff (was only in development, not a pilot, but still…), CBS’ Super Clyde (failed again!), ABC’s quasi Revenge spinoff The Kingmakers.
Strongest upfront presentation. Probably CBS. After a clever video package and and monologue by Stephen Colbert, the network got the ad buyers all juiced up for the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl by bringing on stage eight former MVPs. Runner-up: ABC, which delivered some strong trailers led by The Muppets and Quantico.
Weakest upfront presentation: NBC. The network’s chief Robert Greenblatt performing with Dolly Parton struck the audience as self-indulgent and dated. Greenblatt was also the only network topper who refused to hold a press conference (the man leads a communications company; communicating is part of the gig). Runner-up: The CW. Nothing against its new shows, but when you only have one new fall series and have to fill time by recapping your existing concept, the event feels really padded.
Show we’re glad that got canceled but wish one of its stars would stick around: Backstrom and Rainn Wilson.
Show we’re not glad that got canceled but wish one of its stars would stick around: Revenge and Madeleine Stowe.
Best Jimmy Kimmel joke at ABC’s upfront: “[ABC is] so diverse that when CBS drives by us, they lock their car doors.”
Best Stephen Colbert joke at the CBS upfront: “I know you advertisers really want young eyeballs, and not just ones that Rupert Murdoch buys on the black market.”
Most unsurprising surprise: Ellen Pompeo taking the stage at ABC’s upfront and not saying a word to ad buyers about how Grey’s Anatomy’s male lead McDreamy won’t be on the show this fall. And NBC staying silent about whether Brian Williams will return to Nightly News.