The network “upfronts” last week introduced us to the 2014-15 plans of the major networks. We’ll have plenty to say about the new shows as we get closer to September, but here are a few first impressions:
�• CBS has the show we’re most looking forward to, although we won’t get to see it until midseason. “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan and several other veteran producers are behind “Battle Creek,” a police drama about two mismatched detectives struggling to get along with each other as they fight crime in downtrodden Battle Creek, Mich. Josh Duhamel and Dean Winters star. It’s not the setup that intrigues us as much as Gilligan’s return.
�• Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving America crazy? CBS is going through with the plan to revive “The Odd Couple,” with Matthew Perry taking the Oscar Madison role and Thomas Lennon as Felix Unger. It is also due in midseason, where it will inevitably suffer from comparison to the classic ABC series. Yes, the original series was canceled nearly 40 years ago, but CBS’ viewers are old enough to remember.
�• CBS canceled both “CSI” spinoffs and quashed a third “NCIS” edition that had a backdoor pilot on the original, but that was just the network taking a breather. “NCIS: New Orleans” and “CSI: Cyber” are both on the schedule for the coming TV year.
�• ABC has handed over Thursday nights entirely to Shonda Rhimes – probably not a bad idea, given the writer-producer’s successes with “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal.” The 8 p.m. slot will be filled by “How to Get Away with Murder,” starring Viola Davis. Do we even need to say that it will be an intricately plotted soap opera full of over-the-top story lines?
�• The weirdest idea out there also belongs to ABC: a musical comedy “fairy tale” set in medieval Europe. I’m taking two episodes in the “how long will this last” pool.
�• Speaking of musicals, NBC announced that the followup to last year’s smash live production of “The Sound of Music” will be “The Music Man,” coming next spring. It has yet to be cast.
�• NBC is putting greater emphasis on special-occasion television. Along with the live musical come four “event series” – or miniseries, as we used to call them. One is “Emerald City,” a modern and decidedly darker retelling of “The Wizard of Oz.”
�• The American version of the BBC’s fabulous miniseries “Broadchurch” comes to Fox as “Gracepoint,” a 10-episode series that follows the investigation of a young boy’s murder in a seaside town. David Tennant reprises his role from the original.
�• The Fox show generating the most buzz is “Gotham,” a Batman prequel that follows the career of a young policeman who will eventually become Batman’s great ally Commissioner Gordon. Benjamin McKenzie of “The O.C.” and “Southland” gets the lead role.
�• The CW is following through with its “Green Arrow” spinoff “The Flash,” although the shows will air on different nights. It is also giving viewers a small break from the usual comic book heroes and monsters with a new one-hour comedy, “Jane the Virgin,” starring Gina Rodriguez.
BACK TO LIFE
Five years after his passing, Michael Jackson was still able to steal the show Sunday night during ABC’s broadcast of “The Billboard Music Awards,” when a hologram of the late pop star “performed” a single from his forthcoming posthumous album.
During “Slave to the Rhythm,” Jackson’s computer-generated image danced with a troupe that was really there, creating a startlingly realistic experience. Hologram performances are increasingly popular in live shows, and Jackson is not the first to be brought back to life this way. Dead rappers Tupac Shakur and Eazy E both have “appeared” at concerts, and Jackson’s hologram performs regularly at a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas.
It’s an interesting technology and one just in its infancy. How long before television and movie stars of the past are resurrected this way to star in a series? Suddenly, the holodeck from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” doesn’t seem quite so futuristic.
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Gilligan’s back, plus other upcoming tidbits
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If you can’t get enough swords and derring-do, you may want to sample ABC’s “Galavant” this fall, a medieval musical comedy fairy tale.
NICK RAY , ABC
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