Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fall TV Preview: ABC

ABC has a handful of new shows on tap, with one of them getting on most of the early "Must Watch" lists for this season.  The continued success of Dancing with the Stars is keeping ABC alive on Mondays and Tuesdays, and their successful comedy block on Wednesdays is still strong.

Sunday night brings a new stylish drama to ABC.  666 Park Avenue, obviously set in New York City, is the story of The Drake, a swanky high-rise apartment building where the tenants are often more than what they seem and the supernatural world is never far away.  The adventures begin when a young idealistic couple from Middle America come to the city and end up managing the tony premises.  The cast is good -- Terry O'Quinn (Lost, Harsh Realm, Alias) is a high-powered and devilishly well-connected real estate magnate; Vanessa Williams (Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Eraser) is his beautiful and equally strong-willed wife; Rachael Taylor (Transformers, Grey's Anatomy, the ill-fated Charlie's Angels TV reboot) is the innocent new manager of The Drake; Dave Annable (Brothers & Sisters, Reunion) is her ambitious boyfriend; Robert Buckley (Lipstick Jungle, One Tree Hill) is a troubled playwright; Mercedes Masohn is the playwright's photographer wife; Samantha Logan is a resident with budding psychic abilities, and Helena Mattsson (Desperate Housewives) is a vixen from across the street who stirs up trouble.  666 Park Avenue promises to deliver a swag bag full of glamour, together with generous doses of otherworldly chills.  666 Park Avenue premieres Sunday, 9/30/12 at 10pm.

Wednesday night will see the debut of one new comedy to the strong line-up.  The Neighbors is a outright gimmick comedy -- a middle-of-the-road suburban couple seeking a nice safe place to raise their kids ends up living in a community entirely populated by a  group of stranded outer space aliens.  Jami Gertz (Still Standing, Square Pegs) plays the human mother; veteran performer Lenny Venito (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is her husband; Simon Templeman (The Royal Shakespeare Company) is the head of the alien contingent; Nigeria-born Toks Olagundoye is his wife and Tim Jo and Ian Patrick are their sons.  Amber Mamet (playwright David's daughter, as is HBO's Girls star Zosia Mamet), Max Charles (The Amazing Spider-Man) and Isabella Camp are the human kids.  I've read some good about this series, and some not-so-enthusiastic.  Clearly it's going to be silly, but in its 9:30pm time period it doesn't post a threat to the rest of ABC's comedies on the night.  There must be something there that ABC thinks is good enough to warrant The Neighbors being given the coveted post-Modern Family timeslot.  We'll see.  The Neighbors premieres Wednesday, 9/26/12 at 9:30pm.

Nashville, ABC's Wednesday 10pm show, is where the network is really getting its critical buzz on.  The raves are already flowing in for this country music-set drama, starring Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, American Horror Story) as Rayna James, Nashville's current biggest star and certified legend, whose future looks a little dimmer because of the rise of young and vivacious crossover star Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettiere (Heroes, Scream 4).  Nashville has super soap opera written all over it, with the added plus of the well-liked and talented Britton in the title role.  She's a critical darling after her years on Friday Night Lights, and that will definitely help the reception of Nashville.

The uber-talented Powers Boothe (The Hatfields and the McCoys, Tombstone, Blue Sky, 24, Deadwood, The Guyana Tragedy and so many others) co-stars Lamar Wyatt, the tycoon father of Britton's character.  Eric Close (Without a Trace, Now and Again, the Taken miniseries) is Rayna's frustrated husband who is about to go into politics to escape being 2nd fiddle to his wife.  Charles Esten (Whose Line is it Anway?) is Rayna's loyal accompanist and co-songwriter who has held a torch for her for decades.  Robert Wisdom plays a longtime friend of the Wyatt family who is being ostracized, Australian actress Clare Bowen plays a rising country singer, British actor Sam Palladio (Episodes) is a talented newcomer, and Jonathan Jackson (General Hospital) is another musician with big ambitions.

Thelma & Louise writer Callie Khouri is one of the creative forces behind Nashville, and it's this kind of provenance plus some impressive casting that appears to have pushed Nashville to the top of the short list of "Most Anticipated" new series.  What do you do if you don't like country music?  Presumably the drama will carry you through. And yes, Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere do their own singing, with coaching from musician T-Bone Burnett (who is married to Khouri, btw).  Nashville premieres Wednesday, 10/10/12 at 10pm.

If you can turn away from all the comedies awaiting you on Thursday night, ABC's new 8pm adventure series Last Resort offers up an intriguing premise.  In some near future, a nuclear submarine with orders to fire on enemy territory if the United States is destroyed receives the dreaded order.  Simple, except the U.S. is mired in a political mess with military officials battling with the White House, and Commander Chaplin, played by Andre Braugher (Men of a Certain Age, Homicide: Life on the Street, Gideon's Crossing) wants confirmation of this world-ending order.  When he refuses to arm the missles, it's the U.S.S. Colorado vs. the world.

Scott Speedman (Felicity, Underworld, My Life Without Me -- a wonderful movie, seek it out) is Chaplin's second-in-command,  Robert Patrick (The Unit, Terminator 2, The X Files, Safe House) is the sub's Master Chief, Australian actor Daniel Lissing is an unhappy Navy Seal, fellow Australian Daisy Betts (Harry's Law) is the sub's navigator and the daughter of a Pentagon chief, French actress Camille de Passis is a resident of the mysterious island where the sub makes port,  Sierra Leone-born actor Sahr Ngaujah plays an island local with his pulse on the underground economy, Autumn Reeser (The O.C., Entourage, No Ordinary Family) is an ambitious scientist whose pet project is lost onboard the wayward sub, Jessy Schram (Once Upon a Time, Veronica Mars, Falling Skies) is the wife of the sub's second-in-command, and Nepal-born Dichen Lachman (Dollhouse) is an island woman whose life becomes entangled with the refugees.

Last Resort seems a bit of a throwaway as an 8pm show, but it does present a clear alternative to the comedies and provides another DVR-worthy choice. The cast is good, the acting equally so, and if you want to, you can catch the pilot online right now at ABC before it hits the air.  The show looks good at the very least, and it -- and Revolution on NBC -- bring us something a little different and predictive as we face a future of our own that isn't guaranteed in any way.  Last Resort premieres on Thursday, 9/27/12 at 8pm.

Lastly, Fridays at 8:30pm will bring the late-starting comedy entry Malibu Country, starring Reba McEntire (Tremors, Reba, Annie Get Your Gun on Broadway) as the wronged singer-wife of a country music star who hightails it out of Nashville to California to begin a new life.  Lily Tomlin (Laugh-In, All of Me, Desperate Housewives, Nine to Five, The West Wing, Murphy Brown) co-stars as Reba's feisty (what else?) mother, with Juliette Angelo and  Justin Prentice as Reba's teenage kids.  Sara Rue (Less Than Perfect) also stars as Reba's new next-door-neighbor with a gay stepson.  Jai  Rodriguez (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) plays Reba's new agent's assistant who becomes her best friend.  You've certainly got a barrel-full of ripe stereotypes in the premise for Malibu Country -- Robert Altman's Nashville meets The Beverly Hillbillies, perhaps -- but  Reba has been known to be funny, and Tomlin (who played Miss Jane Hathaway in the Hillbillies movie but now looks like she's graduated to Granny) always lends an air of talent to any production.  Malibu Country is kind of a lost comedy on a network that reserves its strong titles for Wednesdays, but though the buzz isn't kind so far, I think the cast deserves a look, at least.  Malibu Country premieres on Friday, 11/2/12 at 8:30pm.

That's it for the Alphabet Network!


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