Once again, fall’s almost here – which brings with it the advent of the school year, the yearly ritual of reading Harry Potter or your favorite school-themed book series. And over here at Ephemeral Pursuits (or as it’s better known, my house) – the annual entry in the fall television preview series I began in 2012 (but have actually been doing via email to my family for quite some time). It usually takes the form of a top-10 list, with some attached commentary about shows that didn’t make the list.

Fall 2013’s edition will be slightly different with so many cancellations and series ending – there will be two separate lists this time. The 2012-2013 season had some untimely ends as usual (you will be missed, Happy Endings). Here are the top ten new shows that I’m anticipating the most (returning shows will be the next post):

10. Super Fun Night (ABC) – October 2

super fun night

No matter what I say about Super Fun Night, it can’t be described quite as well as this glorious picture above does. The succinct summary of the premise of this television series: “For the past 13 years, three single ladies have set every Friday aside as ‘Super Fun Night'”. Described as situation comedy, I really can’t see this one lasting past this season, but it should be good for at least a couple of episodes. The current comedy shows are winding up their runs, so we essentially have to give anything decent a fair shake – no matter how long the odds are.

9. Trophy Wife (ABC) – September 24

trophy wife

I can apply the same conclusion I did with Super Fun Night here – give it a fair shake. This is even more promising – as the third wife of a dude, this show seems primed to be the breakout role for Malin Åkerman in the titular role (as Kate). Shades of My Name is Earl blended with Everybody Loves Raymond served with a dash of Step by Step? Sign me up! It’s likely that this show will try to capture Modern Family‘s feel, without being too Modern Family-y.

8. Welcome to the Family (NBC) – October 3

welcome to the family

Yet another comedy entry. It’s telling when comedies are the hardest shows to create, especially when the roster of aging comedy series are about to kick the bucket. Welcome to the Family is an interesting premise about 3 or 4 years too late. MTV already had Teen Mom success and there’s been a variety of reality shows dealing with teenage pregnancy. However, this is fiction. It doesn’t stray too far from real life though – and the focus is on the blending of two very disparate families when they find out their teenagers have gotten pregnant as they graduated high school (that’s the happy couple on the left above, with their unhappy families on the right). Might strike a bit too close to home to survive more than a couple of seasons – but I can easily see this one being slated as mid-season replacements for several seasons in a row before finally dying an inglorious death, like Til’ Death did. It can probably jump the shark in the first season as well, to shatter all the land-speed records set by Unhappily Ever After.

7. The Tomorrow People (The CW) – October 9

The Tomorrow People

The CW has always been hit and miss. Eventually they have to land upon some hits: ‘90210’, ‘Gossip Girl’, and the like. But even these can only last so long. ‘Gossip Girl’ has long since left us. And The CW has eventually picked up some interesting shows that have opened the door for future shows, given their success on the network – such as ‘Nikita’, even if ‘Ringer’ failed miserably. But here’s the formula for the successes on The CW – ‘90210’, ‘Gossip Girl’, and ‘Nikita’ already had been done before (either as a TV show – ‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ for ‘90210’ (rather obvious there) and ‘La Femme Nikita’ for ‘Nikita’). ‘Ringer’ was original. It bombed. ‘The Tomorrow People’ was actually a British television series from 1973-1979, with a remake in 1992, and yet another remake in 2001-2007. The US version will be the fourth remake. It’s certain to have some degree of success!

The premise: Young people (perfect for The CW) possess powers as a result of human evolution.

6. The Michael J Fox Show (NBC) – September 26

michael j fox

Michael J Fox is… well, Michael J Fox. There’s no one else quite like him, and it’s a shame that he stopped acting for a while immediately after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. However, he decided to return to acting after spending some time off on the sidelines. Television is better off for it, especially with his recurring role on The Good Wife. This comedy actually is based on his life – which gives it a bit of gravitas, but it’ll be fun to see how Fox handles comedy involving Parkinson’s. I truly hope this series stays alive for a few seasons, especially since we can all use more cowbell Michael J Fox.

5. The Crazy Ones (CBS) – September 26

crazy ones

Robin Williams. Sarah Michelle Gellar. Say no more. Sign me up!

Wait, I have to give a summary of the plot for this series? Well, um… Williams plays the father and Gellar the daughter, and both work at an advertising agency. If Williams could pull off Toys, he can certainly pull this series off. If Gellar… well… Ringer flopped, but that’s probably due to the poor writing of that series rather than Gellar’s fault. Let’s call it a push and hope that The Crazy Ones lives up to its potential.

4. The Blacklist (NBC) – September 23

blacklist

The Blacklist is probably the safest bet on this entire list of television shows to endure. There seems to be an almost insatiable appetite for procedural dramas in the flavor of 24, Person of Interest, Revenge, NCISCSI, and the list keeps going on and on. The premise is intriguing, blending the best of The Mentalist and The Following together. A ‘Most-Wanted’ fugitive surrenders to the FBI and wants to cooperate with the FBI to find the “top” criminals that the fugitive believes the FBI would never be able to catch, simply because they don’t know of the existence of these criminals. Definitely screaming ‘syndication potential’ from the outset.

3. Sleepy Hollow (FOX) – September 16

sleepy hollow

We’ve entered the realm of the top-3 new shows for the 2013-2014 television season. Each of these top three shows are swinging for the fences in very different ways. It could be a spectacular flame-out, whiffing completely. Or it could be a massive home run, anchoring their day of the week for season after season for the network airing them.

Given Grimm‘s surprise success for NBC, I’m willing to bet that FOX decided to enter the supernatural thriller arena once again – especially since they had the best-known supernatural show for years (The X-Files). Sleepy Hollow has received a massive amount of buzz in the preceding months, and I don’t blame the media. It has such potential. Grimm is based on Grimm’s Tales (the German collection of fairy tales, which are often macabre) – it departs from those tales, mining it only as thematic flavor and the occasional storyline. Sleepy Hollow is doing the same with the iconic short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. Unfortunately, basing an entire television series off of a single short story means that you have to create a LOT of plot from a flimsy source, and to extend it beyond the scope of the story in order to ensure several seasons.

This will be the case with FOX’s Sleepy Hollow. To give you a taste of the absurdity in store for us – Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman both awaken in 2040, centuries after 1790. An unholy war between good and evil breaks out. And… scene!

2. The 100 (The CW) – Midseason replacement

the 100

I’ve already heard negative reviews about The 100, or others lamenting that the fact that it’s a midseason replacement means it isn’t going to last. Some of the best television shows in history started out as a midseason replacement: Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, The Simpsons, The Wonder Years, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, The Office, Quantum Leap, Married… With Children, and Mister Ed actually all began out as midseason replacements amongst several other excellent series. It’s never a kiss of death for a brand new series. Sometimes it actually works out rather well, as viewers may have already moved on from the lamentable first choices made in a new television season.

The 100 has rich source material it can use – it’s the same concept that J. Michael Straczynski used for Rising Stars. It’s also the same concept that Salman Rushdie used for his Booker-winning Midnight’s Children that proceeded to demolish the Booker-winning fields to win the Booker of Bookers and ‘best-of’ awards decades after it was published. All of those are fine examples, but The 100 is actually based on a book of the same name written by Kass Morgan (the first in a series). As previously discussed above – The CW does best with non-original television series, but actually does the best when adapting material or remaking material. See Gossip Girl for an example of The CW’s success with adapting a series of books into a successful television series. With the current ‘post-apocalyptic’ boom in books and television (Revolution, FlashForward, et al.), The 100 is poised for success.

1. Once Upon A Time in Wonderland (ABC) – October 10

SOPHIE LOWE

Uniquely positioned as the best new television series with the best chance of succeeding due to its status of being a spinoff that isn’t a spinoff. ABC became successful beyond their dreams with Once Upon a Time. It’s based on Alice in Wonderland, one of the most-loved fantasy worlds of the 20th and 21st centuries. It’ll also take place within the Once Upon a Time fantasy world, providing meaning to the ‘spinoff that isn’t a spinoff’ comment I made. There will even be crossover episodes with the original Once Upon a Time world – bringing us one of comics’ much-loved (and much-hated at times) gimmick of having cross-over story arcs. Sometimes it succeeds really well, while at other times, it spectacularly fails. Given that ABC is owned by Disney, who recently purchased Marvel – I can see a few more strategies from the comics world seeping into ABC’s television series over time.

It’ll air the full first season – pretty much guaranteed. After that – I’m not sure if it’ll keep going more than a couple more seasons, but with Alice in Wonderland on television once again, I don’t think anybody minds. Maybe they’ll keep this spin-off series going, but only running each as a single season. Next up… Once Upon a Time in Neverland (Peter Pan)?

While the slate for new television series seems a bit weak – most of the shows are poised for success. There are some absolutely dreadful shows that will be aired this coming fall – it’s always fun to put on a fortune teller hat and try to predict which show will be cancelled first. Here’s your bonus list of the shows that I think will be rapidly cancelled (and in the order I think they’ll go):

  1. We Are Men (Isn’t this more of a movie plot? I can’t see it sustaining more than a couple of episodes.)
  2. Dads (Because *@*! My Dad Says was unable to find its target audience?)
  3. Mom (Anna Faris stars? Probably less than I Give It a Year. See what I did there?)

As much as I abhor saying this, I can see Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. lasting more than a few seasons, even if I have no desire at all to view it. With how much money the Marvel movies are pulling down every year, it makes sense to exploit some Marvel property that would fuel a television series without using top-tier talent. S.H.I.E.L.D. was probably the best choice possible for television. Those folks over at ABC/Disney/Marvel are being pretty savvy lately, although I’ll reserve judgment about their plan to release a new Star Wars movie every *year*. If all these new projects go over well, we’ll be seeing spin-off after spin-off, along with Marvel’s expanded universe being mined for obscure television series to go with all the new blockbuster films.

Next up on Ephemeral Pursuits… the returning television series I’m looking forward to most for the 2013-4 season.

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