Fall 2013 Network Upfronts: What Stands Out

Network TV borrows from their cable counterparts with their new fall shows.

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This week wrapped up the 2013 network upfronts, where TV execs show advertisers all the new and shiny shows they have planned for the 2013-2014 season. Capturing the big, primetime ratings networks once knew presents a daunting challenge for the big four (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX), as the rise of niche cable shows continues to chip away at their audiences. It's not surprising then that some of the shows appear to be inspired by best of cable premium channels. Here's what stands out:

"The Hostages" (CBS: Monday, 10 p.m.)

Toni Collette and Tate Donovan play mom and dad to a family taken hostage by the always menacing Dylan McDermott. CBS describes the show as both a political thriller and a family drama, clearly borrowing from cable hits "Homeland" and "The Americans." It is also borrowing a shorter season, running only 15 episodes.

 

"The Blacklist" (NBC: Monday, 10 p.m.)

James Spader finds new ways to unsettle us as a criminal-turned-agent helping the government to profile kidnappers.

 

"Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (ABC: Tuesday, 8:00 p.m.)

With Joss Whedon (of "The Avengers" and "Buffy") at the wheel, it's hard not to get excited about this super hero fantasy. The trailer promises government conspiracy, secret powers, gadgets galore, plenty of action and even some snappy dialogue. Devotees of the Marvel franchise are already dissecting the trailer. Will it be able to achieve the mainstream success of so many super hero blockbuster films?

 

"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (Fox: Tuesday, 8:30 p.m.)

Andy Samberg ("Saturday Night Live") stars in this comedy produced by Mike Schur and Dan Goor of "Parks and Recreation." The trailer looks as if the staff of the Pawnee city government got hipster makeovers, moved to Brooklyn and became detectives. "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" must evoke Parks and Rec's lovable cleverness without completely replicating its formula. After all, a group of bumbling detectives is a little more disconcerting than a group of bumbling bureaucrats.

 

"Super Fun Night" (ABC: Wednesday, 9:30 p.m.)

Rebel Wilson is always a highlight of whatever she's in, which includes "Bridesmaids," "Bachelorette" and "Pitch Perfect." She even made the MTV Movie Awards worth watching! If executive producer Conan O'Brien can effectively translate her fantastic talent onto the small screen (and not just rely on the obvious fat jokes), she can be the best thing that ever happen to Wednesday nights.

 

"Mixology" (ABC: Midseason)

The premise seems a little tricky: a single night at the bar stretches the entire season. "Mixology" might just be able to offer an epic night worth watching if its characters can harness the youthful, irreverent chemistry of "New Girl," "Happy Endings," and "How I Met Your Mother" (when it was good).

 

"Rake" (Fox: Midseason, Thursday, 9:00 p.m.)

"Rake" looks like "Californication" made for network TV, with Greg Kinnear the irresponsible, middle-aged man-boy. Kinnear will have to emerge his own, fully realized character and not just a typecast – but he certainly has shown the charisma to do so.

 

"The Michael J. Fox Show" (NBC: Thursdays, 9:30)

Fox pulls from his life, playing an anchor who suffers from Parkinson that returns to work, refusing to be sidelined by the disease. Fox's spot role on "Curb of Your Enthusiasm" riffing on his disease was nothing short of brilliant and the trailer promises a show could be equally amusing, despite its heavy material.

 

"The Crazy Ones" (CBS: Thursday. 9 p.m.)

Robin Williams plays an ad man, with Sarah Michelle Gellar playing his daughter, who also works at the firm. Written by David E. Kelley, with all of Williams' manic energy, "The Crazy Ones" looks like "Mad Men" on speed (and even features "Mad Men" actor James Wolk).

 

"Us & Them" (Fox: Midseason)

Alexis Bledel, you're just so adorable. She and Jason Ritter play two young people trying to navigate the romantic waters as their helicopter families tag along – a fairly relatable premise of millennial woes.

 

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