Looking ahead to the 2014/15 TV season, arguably the most exciting time of the year in the television calendar (yup, there’s a ‘television calendar’. I’m so cool…). Old favourites who survived the axe are joined by little freshmen shows, hoping to replicate their success. So without any more waffling, let’s have a look at this year’s ‘golden roster of procrastination’.
Note – One thing to mention, this is a blog looking at current TV, so there will be spoilers for the shows that are featured (*cough* Homeland *cough*).
Homeland, SHO – Season 4 – Season Premiere: 05/10
Everyone’s favourite psychological/political thriller show returns to our screens a little later this year, in early October, and with it comes everyones favourite nutcase CIA agent: Carrie Mathison (portrayed to great lip-quivering effect by Claire Danes). The show is undergoing some big changes this year, focusing on Carrie’s work as a station chief in the Middle East.
Season 3 of Homeland may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but I felt it managed to churn out a pretty impressive season by the end of its twelve episode. Sure, things started slowly, and there was a lot of dead weight to clear away at the beginning, but overall it was just as tense and gripping as the two seasons that preceded it (despite, perhaps, a minor drop in quality). This year, the show runners have a lot more creative freedom, having concluded a lot of overarching story lines from the first three season, while the shift of setting to the Middle East is sure to keep things fresh. The big question is whether the show can cope with such a dramatic change to its identity – and of course, whether they can cope with the loss of Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis).
Last Season: 8.6
The Big Bang Theory, CBS – Season 8 – Season Premiere: 22/09
It’s strange to think of The Big Bang Theory as one of the ‘veteran comedies’, but that’s exactly what it is nowadays. Still America’s most popular TV show, the cast and characters have come on leaps and bounds since it debuted all the way back in 2007. With How I Met Your Mother coming to its conclusion last year, TBBT is the last juggernaut comedy of its kind, and it’ll still be waving that flag proudly for several more years to come.
Season 7 last year was on the whole pretty decent, but was perhaps a small step down from Season 6. The show’s breakout character (and true star) Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) continued to deliver the goods, while Howard & Bernadette (Simon Helberg & Melissa Rauch) established themselves as the most entertaining couple in the gang. And while a lot more effort seems to have been put into fleshing out characters and their relationships – particularly Sheldon & Amy (Mayim Bialik) – a lot of the episodes do suffer from feeling repetitive. ‘Safe’ is a common criticism made of TBBT, and, with at least two more seasons on the way, perhaps it is time for Chuck Lorre & co to shake things up a little…
Last Season: 8.1
The Blacklist, NBC – Season 2 – Season Premiere: 22/09
Arguably the most successful freshman series from the 2013/14 season (both in my books and in the viewing public’s opinion too), The Blacklist returns in late September for another round of lies, secrets and James Spader being… well, James Spader. The future Avengers: Age Of Ultron star is a revelation as the shows co-lead, Red Reddington – initially carrying much of the story on his own. However, his fellow cast members have, over the course of last season, upped their game as well, forming an impressive and well rounded show that continues to defy expectations.
Season 1 of The Blacklist ended on a high point, building a good bit of momentum coming into next year. While the mysteries and mythology doesn’t quite live up to Lost standards yet, the writers have made the show far more serialised than your average procedural. Indeed, the overarching story is very interesting, and now they have a genuine big bad to play with in Peter Stormare’s Berlin. Additionally with Weeds‘ Mary Louise-Parker headlining a new wave of fresh faces for the next season, The Blacklist‘s future looks very bright.
Last Season: 8.2
Gotham, FOX – Season 1 – Series Premiere: 22/09
I’m not sure how I feel about Gotham. On the one hand, I’m a big fan of the core concept – a story (based on Ed Brubraker’s fantastic Gotham Central comic-book series) focusing on the day-to-day lives of Gotham PD and the criminals and psychopaths they share their city with. On the other hand, some of the creative liberties they’ve taken with the source material completely perplexes me. Young Catwoman? Ivy Pepper? A fearsome gangster named ‘Fish Mooney’? Christopher Nolan this is not.
Ideally, Gotham can capture some of the unexpected magic of Brubraker’s work, and focus on a larger viewpoint of the city – and not just on the Bat, or his villains-to-be. Not setting this in present day Gotham also seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity, with Batman appearing fleetingly or not all (and only referred to) – now it just seems like a Smallville-esque origin story for the Dark Knight that is only going to end up disappointing. Nevertheless, I’ll still be tuning in come late September, where hopefully Gotham can exceed my expectations.
Last Season: N/A
Agents Of SHIELD, ABC – Season 2 – Season Premiere: 23/09
Easily the most hit-and-miss show of the 2013-14 season, Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD returns to our screens this year with a lot less fanfare and few lower expectations. Despite eventually showing improvement the second half of last season (and even churning out a few great episodes), on the whole the show’s freshman season was a big disappointment. Poor writing and questionable acting were a big problem, while a tendency to make characters up instead of exploring Marvel’s vast comic-book history was a complete waste.
After Marvel’s success with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy earlier this year, Season 2 should focus on expanding the MCU, instead on creating arbitrary stories about the show’s six main characters. The back nine episodes fixed a lot of the simple problems last year, and pulled off a remarkable coup with the character of Grant Ward (Brett Helton). Those issues aside, the show can hopefully make steps towards realising its true potential in the MCU.
Last Season: 7.5
The Flash, The CW – Season 1 – Series Premiere: 07/10
The Scarlet Speedster makes his triumphant return to television this year, headlining his own show on The CW network from October. Arrow showrunners, Greg Berlanti, Mark Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, struck gold two years ago with their immensely popular take on the Emerald Archer, and they now look set to do it again with The Flash.
Lead actor Grant Gustin turned heads in his two-part appearance on Arrow last year, and he really looks the part as Barry Allen. Special effects have been perhaps the only concern around this TV production, but from the footage seen at the end of that two-parter and the recently released 5-minute trailer, it seems like the creators have nailed it (on a shoestring TV budget to boot). The premise seems interesting enough, mixing in metahumans and genuine superpowers with the gritty reality of the Arrow-verse. Hopefully The Flash can avoid the clichéd formula that bogged down Agents Of SHIELD last year, and emulate the huge success of its sister DC Comics show.
Last Season: N/A
Arrow, The CW – Season 3 – Season Premiere: 08/10
The rise and dominance of The CW’s Arrow continues to amaze and impress me. After producing one of the best seasons of television (not only of the year, but in primetime history) expectations are greater than ever. While Season 1 of the superhero drama surprised, Season 2 raised the stakes to a whole new level, making the show a platform for obscure DC Comics characters everywhere, all the while maintaining a gripping core story. The acting was great, the stunts unbelievable – and the finale was magnificent.
So where do they go from here? Well they appear to be (boldly) aiming even higher this year. In conjunction with the launch of sister show The Flash – and with it various ‘super human’ characters – the creators seem to be ready to expand the DC mythology, most notably bringing in Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer (aka The Atom) and Rila Fukushima as Katana. Perhaps even more exciting however is the long teased onscreen appearance of Ra’s Al Ghul himself the big bad of Season 3 (potentially the only villain who could top Manu Bennet’s Deathstroke). Add in Roy suiting up as Arsenal, a Felicity-centric episode and a potential return of The Suicide Squad, and Arrow is shaping up for a fantastic season ahead.
Last Season: 8.9
Elementary, CBS – Season 3 – Season Premiere: 30/10
Season 2 of Elementary was on the whole an improvement on Season 1, yet you can’t help but wonder if the writers began to lose momentum towards the back nine episodes. For me, the most successful segment of episodes for the show were those leading up to scintillating Season 1 finale, and the opening few episodes from last year. While the introduction of Mycroft Holmes (Rhys Ifans) kept things interesting, there was no replacement for the buildings of a friendship between Sherlock and Joan from the first season. Now in a fully established partnership, it seemed a little like the characters’ relationship had nowhere to develop further.
Arguably it was the lack of Natalie Dormer’s Moriarty that caused the Season 2 finale to fizzle out a little, so hopefully she will have a greater involvement this year. The development of Sherlock working with Mi6 is both an interesting and amusing one, while the latest details involving a significant shift forward in time in the Season 3 premiere should shake things up a bit. The status quo was Elementary‘s worst enemy towards the end of last year, and hopefully the addition of Ophelia Lovibond as Sherlock’s new apprentice can be one of a number of new elements that will help to change that this time around.
Last Season: 8.1
Constantine, NBC – Season 1 – Series Premiere: 24/10
The last of three freshman superhero shows hitting our screens next year, Constantine also looks to be the most underrated. While The Flash has captured most of the buzz and Gotham has provoked some scepticism, this horror-themed hero has crept under the radar a little. However, based on an impressive first trailer, NBC look to have a sleeper hit on its hands that will bring the laughs – and the spooks.
Newcomer Matt Ryan looks like the complete part as the rude, cynical John Constantine (chain-smoking not withstanding), a fan-favourite of a great many comic-book readers. A large portion of the show’s potential success appears to hinge on his ability to replicate the popularity of the Hellblazer anti-hero. Meanwhile, the focus on the supernatural and horror themes should separate Constantine from the increasingly large batch comic-book genre shows, but could also prove to be too quirky for mainstream viewers. Personally I’d like to see the show embrace the zany side of DC’s ‘Dark Universe’ – and hopefully act as a gateway for many more cult characters to hit the screen.
Last Season: N/A
Doctor Who, BBC – Season 8 – Season Premiere: 23/08
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new Doctor. After taking a year-long hiatus (barring a few impressive specials), Doctor Who returns for its eighth season since its 2005 re-launch, led, this time, by Peter Capaldi (best known for intimidating and swearing at everyone on The Thick Of It). Accompanying him (at least for the moment) will be Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara, as the duo set of for a new batch of adventures.
A common worry about Capaldi is the potentially serious nature of his Doctor. While I thoroughly enjoyed the playfulness of Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor, I don’t see this change as a bad thing, but rather an interesting new direction for the series. Personally what worries me more is Stephen Moffat’s showrunning abilities. Now in his fourth season at the show’s helm, he still has yet to replicate the heights of Russell T. Davies’ run on the show (nor those he hit with his individual Who episodes, or with his other show, Sherlock). Hopefully this changing of the guard will prompt better writing, better villains, and a big return to form for the cult show.
Last Season: 8.2 (2012/13 Season)
On the whole, I’m pretty excited by the ten shows on my watch-list for the Fall, and for me September can’t come fast enough. New kids on the block like Gotham and The Flash hopefully can hit the ground running, while the likes of Arrow and The Blacklist will be aiming to reach the heights they hit last year.
Perhaps my one worry is the lack of comedies on my plate. Having watched a wider variety of shows like How I Met Your Mother, Community and (unintentionally or otherwise) The Tomorrow People last year, I managed to get my weekly fix of laughs. This year, it appears the bulk of that burden lies with The Big Bang Theory, although expect Constantine and Doctor Who to help a little in that department. Having browsed the slate of new comedies on the big five networks this year I can say I’m not impressed at all, but hopefully one may surprise me enough to pick it up come October/November.
In addition to a potential new comedy, I will also be picking up several old shows as an when they return to our screens. At the moment I also have two other freshman shows for the season (Agent Carter and I, Zombie) – both of which will have mid-season premieres.
The list of potential pick-ups is (so-far) as follows:
Agent Carter, ABC – Season 1 – An eight episode mini-series set in the MCU and starring the lovely Hayley Atwell (who reprises her role from Captain America: The First Avenger).
Community, YHO – Season 6 – The #sixseasonsandamovie dream lives on after a major scare when NBC axed the popular show last year. Hopefully Yahoo! can replicate the success of Seasons 1-3 & 5.
Game Of Thrones, HBO – Season 5 – Now undoubtedly the most popular TV Show on the planet, look for the new Dornish additions to the cast to shake things up a little next year.
I, Zombie, The CW – Season 1 – Yet another DC Comics foray into television, this is a quirky horror-comedy brought to life by Rob Marshall, the incredibly talented creator of Veronica Mars.