After a summer dedicated to binge-watching throwbacks on Netflix including “Gilmore Girls” and “Friday Night Lights” and mourning the end of critical darlings like “Mad Men,” every television critic and fanatic’s favorite time of the year has arrived: fall TV season.
Over the past few years, the hype surrounding this particular period has begun to resemble that of the NBA playoffs as viewers pay more and more attention to the critical and commercial reception of their favorite programs. Part of this phenomenon has to do with the new “Golden Age of Television,” as it were, that has established the small screen as a legitimate art medium, exemplified by high-quality programs such as “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” and “Game of Thrones.”
This newfound wave of uncommonly sensational TV also extends to the newfound streaming audiences of online platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, both of which have increased the demographic interested in following critically-respected shows such as “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards,” and “Transparent.”
These online platforms have only heightened the pressure surrounding fall TV season, with the return of old favorites and the advent of newcomers hoping to appeal to critics, casual viewers and the masses gathered on social media. This year is proving to be no different, and only time (and Twitter) will tell which have the staying power to break the mold.
Of the bevy of shows slated to premiere in the coming month, few, if any, have a cast to rival the star power of “Scream Queens,” Ryan Murphy’s latest venture on Fox that serves as an “American Horror Story”-type thriller for the PG-13 audience. Sure enough, Emma Roberts, Nick Jonas, and Ariana Grande are just some of the names the show has recruited in an effort to draw the tween crowd. However, the addition of veteran horror star Jamie Lee Curtis and “Saturday Night Live” alum Nasim Pedrad could be enough to attract Fox’s adult fans as well.
Nonetheless, those who are watching should know by now that in any Ryan Murphy production, the recipient of the most gruesome fate of all is usually the star.
Another show coming down the pipeline is perhaps better suited to the female empowerment theme: CBS’ “Supergirl.” This entry from Greg Berlanti, the creator of superhero hits such as “Arrow” and “The Flash,” has long been anticipated as a star vehicle for Melissa Benoist of “Glee” and “Homeland” fame. Viewers should expect a lighthearted, network-friendly take on the usual comic book tropes, something far closer to a Marvel/Disney production than the dark and gritty style of DC/Warner Bros. pictures like “The Dark Knight” franchise.
More shocking: it’s been 40 years since a female has headlined a superhero show on a major network; under the dream team of Benoist and Berlanti, the time may finally be right for Supergirl to soar.
However, the biggest potential breakout star of the season has to be Priyanka Chopra, a Bollywood star on the verge of American fame through her role in ABC’s spy drama “Quantico.” Taking cues from any good Shonda Rhimes production, this sleek, soapy thriller follows FBI trainees as they attempt to uncover the identity of a major terrorist threat. As the audience for glossy portrayals of high-powered young professionals juggling their responsibilities has grown exponentially thanks to the ShondaLand juggernauts of “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder,” the odds are quite in favor of this one starting off with a bang.
But tempting as the flock of new shows may sound, the real heavy hitters this fall will be returning sensations such as “Empire,” “The Walking Dead,” and “American Horror Story.”
All eyes will be on Fox’s “Empire” when it returns on Sept. 23 and attempts to capture the same ratings craze that it did when it took off in the spring. Lead actress Taraji P. Henson may have just lost the Emmy for her role as Cookie Lyons, but she will be veritably at the forefront this season with Luscious behind bars. Everyone was watching for Cookie before, and if all goes according to creator Lee Daniels’ plan, they surely will be again.
Come October, one of cable TV’s most celebrated serial thrillers will return in the form of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Riding on the heels of its recently debuted prequel, “Fear of the Walking Dead,” “TWD” makes some promising new additions to the cast including Xander Berkeley (“24”) and Ethan Embry (“Empire Records”).
Lastly, the other big horror premiere not to be missed is that of “American Horror Story: Hotel.” Tune in for a chance to see Lady Gaga in her first legitimate acting role and whatever outlandish tragedy Ryan Murphy has concocted this time. From hints producers and actors have been dropping all summer, expect decatuplet vampire children, Hollywood junkies and the bloody trail of a mysterious biblical serial killer. On Murphy’s terms, nothing is too outlandish.
On the whole, this season of television promises a number of intriguing new offerings, but at best they will likely only be chipping away at the audiences of the more established phenomena.
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