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The broadcast networks have presented their 2014-15 schedules, picking up more than 50 original scripted comedies and dramas including the tried and true family comedies and political thrillers. Joining them are a roster of high-concept fare and big swings, including a musical fairy tale comedy, an ancient Egyptian fantasy as well as an abundance of comic book-based dramas. Here, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at some of the big swings on the Big 5’s schedules.
The long-gestating musical fairy tale drama centers on a prince (Joshua Sasse) and his quest for love against the king (Psych‘s Tomothy Omundson) who stole his true love (Mallory Jansen). From The Neighbors creator Dan Fogelman and features original music from Disney movie duo Alan Menken and Glenn Slater. Think Smash set in Disneyland’s Fantasyland. The network balked at bringing back pricey country musical Nashville before renewing it for a full season, Glee has been showing its age and Fox is also bowing a high-profile hip-hop drama, Empire, from Lee Daniels and with music from Timbaland. Plus American Idol and The Voice. How much music on TV is too much? Is the concept broad enough to lure much-needed male viewers to ABC? ABC will heavily promote the musical over the holidays, where it will air two new episodes a week and serve as a bridge show between the fall and spring runs of Once Upon a Time.
The high-concept ancient Egyptian fantastical action-adventure drama centers on a notorious thief plucked from prison to serve the Pharaoh who must navigate the palace intrigue, seductive concubines, criminal underbellies and divine sorcerers. The long-gestating and at times messy drama is effectively Game of Thrones set in ancient Egypt. From Travis Beacham (Pacific Rim), the Hieroglyph went straight to series with a 13-episode order under Fox’s new approach to abandon pilot season. Filming in Morocco under showrunner Anna Fricke (Being Human), the drama is as ambitious as HBO’s red-hot Thrones in scope but grounded in history, meaning the series opens itself up for scrutiny if it plays willy-nilly with the facts. (Returning comedy The Goldbergs had an early hiccup before declaring the show wasn’t set in a specific year but rather 1980-something.) Hieroglyph has not yet been scheduled.
NBC’s new Thursday lineup
After ordering eight new comedies (up two year-over-year) and returning only rookie About a Boy as well as the final season of veteran Parks and Recreation (held for midseason), NBC is bailing on its long-storied must-see lineup on Thursdays. Rather than continue a four-comedy block from 8-10 p.m., NBC slated The Biggest Loser to open the night, followed by Kate Walsh comedy Bad Judge at 9 p.m. and Cristin Milioti rom-com A to Z at 9:30 p.m. leading into the final season of Parenthood at 10 p.m. Starting in February, even the rookie comedies will make way for James Spader‘s The Blacklist, with NBC completely abandoning comedy for the night. Can The Biggest Loser help reverse NBC’s fortunes on a night that over the past few seasons was home to several canceled comedies, including The Michael J. Fox Show, Animal Practice, Sean Saves the World and veteran Community? How will The Blacklist fare going head-to-head with ABC’s red-hot Scandal in its new 9 p.m. slot?
The Comics Invasion
In addition to ABC’s returning Agents of SHIELD and The CW’s Arrow, both the Marvel and DC universes will expand to include spinoffs Agent Carter and The Flash, respectively. Fox will join the fray with Batman prequel Gotham and NBC has Constantine, based on DC’s Hellblazer, on Fridays. The CW also has Veronica Mars boss Rob Thomas adapting DC’s iZombie, set for midseason. How much is too much? Will any of the comics-themed dramas be able to appeal beyond their built-in fan bases? Do women want to see Commissioner Jim Gordon’s origin story? Will viewers and fanboys alike feel fatigued with all the supes on TV and the big screen?
Not only are the leads on the crop of new comedies and dramas becoming more diverse, but the overall themes are starting to follow. ABC alone has comedies about black (Black-ish), Latino (Cristela) and Asian-American (Fresh Off the Boat) families — all of which are semi-autobiographical. That’s in addition to a drama exploring a racially themed trial (ABC’s American Crime). The CW’s Jane the Virgin, based on the Venezuelan telenovela, also boasts a largely Latino cast. Fox’s hip-hop drama Empire revolves around a black family. (For more on the big year for black actors, click here.) That’s all in addition to a rapidly growing roster of diverse leads across the networks as broadcasters look to reflect society. The hope, of course, is that the new fare is broad enough to break out from the cluttered schedule and produce a runaway hit that appeals beyond its key demographic.
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