4:02pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
Fox's New Show Trailers: A Critic's Ranking
Fox found an interesting way to pique my interest in its 2017-18 programming options during its upfront presentation to advertisers on Monday afternoon: Offer new show clips after an exhausting and seemingly endless cavalcade of inert sales pitches and cringe-worthy comic bits.
This is just simple math, that if you make me watch five minutes of Jimmy Johnson, Jim Harbaugh and Joe Buck trying to do comedy, watching two-minute clips of Seth MacFarlane, Adam Scott and Craig Robinson doing comedy will feel relatively pleasurable (or at least professionally adequate) in contrast.
The spiel I'll be repeating five times this week: Over the course of this week, I'll be doing quick reactions to all of the trailers being presented in New York City. This is the first step in a process that will continue with my Take Me to the Pilots series during the summer and then the actual reviews that will arrive in the fall. It's all about using every piece of the buffalo. It should go without saying that these aren't reviews of actual pilots that I haven't seen, but rather responses to how the shows are being chopped up as sales pitches in a multibillion-dollar fiesta of advertising.
One of Fox's biggest midseason shows is the Ryan Murphy-spawned 9-1-1, which stars Angela Bassett and was ordered straight-to-series. Without a pilot, there were no clips to show.
Fox did present clips for five shows, none of which looked awful.
Interestingly, the first comedy trailer of this upfront week to actually make me laugh wasn't the one that starred any of those very funny professionals I listed earlier.
Fox's five upfronts trailers, ranked:
5) The Resident — So it's kinda House if instead of being brilliant and never screwing up, House were aging and losing his touch and killing people, but still had moments of inspiring brilliance? Dunno. Either your medical trailer makes me go, "Ah, this looks like a new spin on the genre" or "Oh, this looks like a familiar spin on the genre." This trailer was the latter, but the reality is that I'll watch a handful of episodes of a medical show starring Bruce Greenwood, Matt Czuchry, Emily VanCamp and Manish Dayal, because those are all people I like. I think this trailer correctly reads how much a certain audience likes Czuchry, but holding VanCamp out of the trailer halfway gave me the impression they were hiding her. The show's gonna need more of a Big Idea take-away than "Medicine is a business." For example, are they all mob doctors?
4) The Orville — Why is this an hourlong? Fox is conspicuously calling it a "science-fiction series" rather than a comedy or a drama, but the clips were all shtick. So is it going to turn out that the pilot is much more dramatic than the trailer, that the show is both loving homage and takeoff? Dunno. I just don't see how the trailer tone or Seth MacFarlane's performance could stand up to an hour per week for a full season. The trailer is pretty much all MacFarlane, with just a little Adrianne Palicki to reassure me. The show's ability to sustain itself doubtlessly rests with the barely featured supporting cast, and its ability to be popular probably hinges on the gelatinous CG creature voiced by Norm Macdonald. I didn't laugh, but I smiled at MacFarlane's delivery of "We need no longer fear the banana." With MacFarlane writing and Jon Favreau directing, an OK pilot wouldn't shock me, but man, I need to see more (and I could sure stand to see less hacky gender-based comedy).
3) Ghosted — Adam Scott + Craig Robinson in a pilot directed by Jonathan Krisel (Baskets) is something I would watch eagerly on principle. This trailer was pretty bland and gave no real sense of how the project got Scott and Robinson involved, but a show with these stars and a mixture of Ghostbusters/Men in Black tone probably would be good. Really, all I got from this trailer was, "These two people you like are definitely in it." That'll be enough for now.
2) The Gifted — Realistically, if you were to send me all of the network pilots tomorrow, this is probably the one I'd watch first, just as I watched Supergirl first last year. [Supergirl was two years ago? Man, time flies when you're having countless superhero shows.] My hopes for superhero things are always high. Based on the trailer, my instinct is that this is way-familiar stuff, either from NBC's several incarnations of Heroes or from Fox's Touch or from FX's Legion. Even the things Fox has been boasting makes it distinctive are familiar. I'm glad to see Natalie Alyn Lind getting a lead role after skipping around TV briefly dating teenage protagonists on several shows I watch. I'm always happy to see anybody giving Amy Acker a potentially meaty role. I'm always wary of anything that asks Stephen Moyer to do an American accent, and his first dialogue in this trailer already made me wince. With Bryan Singer directing, you know the pilot will have production values and the trailer showcases them, but what will the second episode look like?
1) LA to Vegas — Comedy Mustache Dylan McDermott didn't just make me laugh once in this trailer. He made me laugh two or three times. I think something unintelligible that Peter Stormare said also made me laugh. I'm a sucker for Peter Stormare saying unintelligible things, but I'm not normally a sucker for Dylan McDermott being funny. It's possible that if air travel were feeling like its normal annoying inconvenience, this wouldn't be the right time for a show like this, but with air travel having descended into the realm of nightmare, a burnt-out narcissistic captain and a team of frazzled flight attendants and a plane full of Las Vegas-bound tourists might be just the tension-release valve we all need. But already I'm here for McDermott's performance, which boasts strong timing, worthy physicality and the first time he's appeared fully alert on TV for a while.