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ABC took Manhattan on Tuesday and dropped piles of new show trailers to tease advertisers at its upfront presentation.
The network had 10 trailers, and I’m not even including the clip package reminding us that Roseanne was once awesome and is now returning, the promise of a Grey’s Anatomy spinoff I’ve already dubbed How To Get Away With Arson or the threat of American Idol: Resurrection, featuring Katy Perry.
I’ll keep saying this: 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.
Now, on to ABC’s trailers, half of which seemed to be a decade or two old and the best of which made me excited and worried in equal measures about the show it was presenting.
10) Deception – Man, this would have made a great pairing with Castle five or 10 years ago. Or maybe it would have been a wildly popular ABC drama in the ‘80s at some point, but as it stands now, the “Oddball uses his skill set to whimsically solve crimes” genre is, at best, on life support — and if you’re going to make it work, you need a really, really charismatic lead. I didn’t think Jack Cutmore-Scott was bad on his Fox comedy, but he doesn’t have that instantly compelling presence you need to sell a job title as silly as Crime-Fighting Magician. And the supporting cast is mostly people I’ve thought were OK other places, but there’s nobody whose presence excites me. Despite David Nutter directing, the clips weren’t all that handsomely shot either. My remaining interest in this comes completely from ample Chuck-based affection for creator Chris Fedak.
9) Marvel’s Inhumans – Well, at least the teaser trailer was better than the laughable first image Marvel released earlier this month? There’s barely anything to work with here, as Anson Mount, Iwan Rheon, Serinda Swan and company glower on the moon and then suddenly they’re jumping around the Lost sets in Hawaii. So many Lost sets. Just call it Marvel’s Lost. In motion, the costumes didn’t look awful and there was the one effect with the giant dog that I dug. Are the dog and the Hawaii locations reason enough to get me to go see this in Imax? Better come up with a better trailer, guys.
8) The Gospel of Kevin – Like Deception, this looks like it’s from a different era, the spiritual procedural era that brought us Joan of Arcadia and Book of Daniel and Wonderfalls and, on the comic side, My Name Is Earl. With Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters in charge, it’s not surprising that this feels more supernatural than earnestly spiritual, which isn’t necessarily bad. It’ll be interesting to see how Jason Ritter, usually cast as the nicest guy in the room, works as a self-centered lead in need of redemption. This looks OK, but I really can’t even justify giving a gut reaction when so much of the trailer focused on Cristela Alonzo as the angel-type figure who steers Kevin’s awakening, since Alonzo is being recast. Oh, and this season of The Leftovers has really changed the way this title plays for the 73 people who watch The Leftovers.
7) Alex, Inc. – I like Zach Braff as a sitcom star, and if anybody’s going to know how to make the most of Zach Braff it’s going to be a Scrubs veteran like Matt Tarses. The trailer? It felt much more of a piece with Braff’s directing oeuvre than his TV background, with lots of sentiment and treacly emotional beats, but that could just be what the cut emphasizes. I’m not sure what my threshold is going to be for people saying “podcast” over and over, so I wonder how the series is going to unfold. I did, however, laugh at both gags involving the prop baby. Because I’m a child.
6) The Good Doctor – We’ve had decades of eccentric, socially awkward procedural heroes whose place on the autistic spectrum was left unspoken, so this trailer feels both kinda progressive and really dated. Too much felt on-the-nose — especially Hill Harper as the main character’s detractor and Richard Schiff as his noble defender — and I wonder if that relates to Seth Gordon, who directed the pilot. On-the-nose/premise is how you have to trailer a show like this, and maybe spaced out over 43 minutes it won’t grate. Still, Bates Motel absolutely earned Freddie Highmore one free-pass series that I’ll watch for a long time just to see if it rises to the level of Highmore’s skill. I’m wary.
5) 10 Days in the Valley – The premise seems very on-brand for ABC, especially as a female-led ABC midseason thriller in the vein of Missing or Red Widow. Neither one of those was all that successful. Kyra Sedgwick is a sturdy lead, but off of the trailer, it’s Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje I’m excited to watch. Hollywood has frustratingly shied away from giving him this sort of leading man role, and I’d love to see this succeed for him. I also think the Malcolm-Jamal-Warner renaissance needs to continue. This was given a straight-to-series order, and there were a bunch of big names circling the lead (and Sedgwick isn’t a small name). This trailer doesn’t instantly show why.
4) For the People – Last year, ABC tried to slip some faux Shonda Rhimes dramas onto the air in the fall in the hopes that audiences wouldn’t realize Conviction and Notorious were fraudulent. Audiences noticed. It’s fun how quickly you can recognize the authentic Shondaland article, especially since each and every actor in the cast looks like they were probably the second choice (or were previously too young) to play lead roles in earlier Shondaland shows. She has an assortment of types, so I feel good about Susannah Flood and Rege-Jean Page and the rest of the young cast. And adding older gravitas, you can’t do much better than Ben Shenkman, Hope Davis, Vondie Curtis-Hall and Anna Deavere Smith. This feels like it should scratch the itch that the 2016-17 imitators did not.
3) Splitting Up Together – Having watched Jenna Fischer suffer through the original pilot of CBS’ Man With a Plan, I’m just happy to have her in a comedy in which it looks like they’ll try to make her funny. It looks like Fischer will be good here, and when used very carefully, Oliver Hudson can actually be amusing as well. I’d trust Emily Kapnek to put in good effort, and if Hudson can’t be funny, a supporting cast including Diane Farr, Bobby Lee and Lindsay Price has potential. Based on the trailer, though, the show’s breakout star is going to be that craftsman house. Man, no wonder neither of them wants to move out post-divorce.
2) The Mayor – I liked the tone and rhythms exhibited in the trailer. I think Brandon Michael Hall has potential, freeing Yvette Nicole Brown after The Odd Couple is a mitzvah, and Jeremy Bronson is a good writer. While the “Rapper becomes a small city mayor” hook didn’t look great on paper, it played better in action. But when you’re boasting about your show’s musical elements and the contributions of Daveed Diggs, it stinks to heaven when you put out a trailer in which music plays such a minimal role. This is the kind of single-cam that ABC has done really, really well with in recent years, so I’m optimistic.
1) The Crossing – Sometimes trailers make me want to see shows to see how good they are, and sometimes I wanna see shows to see how bad they are, and sometimes I’m sure a trailer is giving me a show that will be one pole or the other and I can’t tell which and … Hello, The Crossing! ABC chief Channing Dungey used all manner of hyperbole for this pilot and ABC whipped out the “From the network that brought you Lost” tagline, which is funny given how long ago Lost was and how the vibe I was getting at least as much, “From the network that brought you Invasion and FlashForward and Resurrection and The Whispers and 50 other shows that thought they were the next Lost, but weren’t.” This pilot is deep with actors I like including Steve Zahn, Rick Gomez, Jay Karnes and a few others, and the trailer was bursting with twists already. I guarantee you that even if this is absolutely garbage, some people will love it. I’m ready to make my own call!
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