"What will network TV look like in the coming season? Based on what the networks presented at the just-concluded Television Critics Association press tour, here’s your answer in 428 words:
• Magical realism up the wazoo. Trying to piggyback on the success of Heroes, the networks will serve up no fewer than eight shows with fantasy elements. There’s Journeyman (reporter/time traveler), Bionic Woman (superhero), Chuck (government secrets planted into an ordinary guy’s brain), Moonlight (private investigator with supernatural abilities), Reaper (parents sold son’s soul to the devil, who makes him a bounty hunter for hell), The Sarah Connor Chronicles (more Terminator), New Amsterdam (immortal New York homicide detective) and Pushing Daisies (a man can bring the dead to life with his touch).
Why? Because sci-fi and its offshoots draw a devoted audience. Look at how fans brought Jericho back from the dead. Did they do the same for the best sitcoms of last season, The Class and Knights of Prosperity, and the best drama, The Nine? No, they didn’t.
• Loads of English and Australian actors you’ve never heard of in lead roles. I won’t mention them individually since the names would mean nothing. But if you’re looking for a reason, try this: The networks are trying to cut costs. I don’t know if English actors work cheaper than Americans do, but unknowns cost less than stars.
• More unscripted “reality.” Coming are Kid Nation (40 youngsters ages 8-15 work together for 40 days to create their own society in a New Mexico ghost town), Farmer Wants a Wife (city babes and Midwestern small-town farmer try to make a love connection), Crowned (a mother-daughter beauty pageant), Anchorwoman (bikini model becomes a newswoman), Nashville (country music hopefuls participate in a docu-soap), Kitchen Nightmares (turning a restaurant into a hotspot) and Phenomenon (searching for the next Uri Geller).
Why? It’s cheaper than scripted and the threat of a writers strike looms.
• Exceedingly wealthy characters. Cane (Hispanic family in the rum and sugar-cane businesses), Gossip Girl (the problems of idle-rich teens in New York City), Dirty Sexy Money (a fabulous family and the lawyer who tries to keep them out of trouble), Cashmere Mafia (four women try to have it all) and Big Shots (four men try to have it all). Why? We love rich people. Don’t we?
• Quality. Just kidding. Why? It’s TV, dummy. The only shows I can wholeheartedly recommend are Aliens in America, a new sitcom on The CW, and Dirty Sexy Money. Otherwise, I’m sure there’s something good on cable.