Upfronts 2016: The Undefeated guide
Who’s in — who’s out — and which fall TV trailers to watch right now
This week, the major broadcast networks held their annual upfront presentations. Basically, it’s a giant dog-and-pony show for advertisers so that networks can say Look! Look how awesome we are! Please ignore our shaky ratings and give us money. This is the best we’ve got. Here are the highlights of what’s to come this fall, Undefeated-style.
There was much talk last year about what effect Empire might have on network television. Would seeing the week-after-week growth of an hour-long drama about black folks living an authentically black folk life times 5,000 translate to the development of new shows? If you’re at FOX, the answer appears to be yes. Empire certainly left us all with this big, interesting cliffhanger about who went over the balcony: the pregnant Boo Boo Kitty (Grace Gealey as Anika) or the daughter-in-law Rhonda (Kaitlin Doubleday)? But the network’s biggest tease wasn’t how that season finale ended; it was seeing the trailer of Lethal Weapon, which co-stars Damon Wayans. Also: get excited about Gina Prince-Bythewood’s forthcoming event series Shots Fired, which teams her again with Sanaa Lathan, whom she picked to be her leading lady in her debut 2000 feature film, Love & Basketball. Also starring in the 10-episode series is The Wire alum Tristan (Mack) Wilds. Coming in the spring is Star, the anticipated Empire spinoff that will star Queen Latifah. Morris Chestnut’s Rosewood moves to Thursdays, Straight Outta Compton’s breakout star Corey Hawkins lands the leading role in the promising 24: Legacy. Keep an eye out: Laverne Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Picture Horror Show remake set to air around Halloween and a Prison Break reboot coming back after a seven-year hiatus with Wentworth Miller reprising his role as Michael Scofield.
After a disappointing season in which it fell to fourth in the ratings, ABC is breaking up the TGIT juggernaut and moving Scandal to midseason. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise since the network already announced it was trimming its episode order to accommodate Kerry Washington’s second pregnancy. However, there’s some interesting stuff going on at ABC. This marks new network president Channing Dungey’s first full season in her new position. Meanwhile, showrunner and producer Shonda Rhimes remains busy. With Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, The Catch, Grey’s Anatomy, Still Star-Crossed, and its first comedy, Toast, Shondaland will have six shows on air this season. We’re intrigued by the idea of Still Star-Crossed, a diverse Romeo and Juliet sequel that received a series order, and curious about Toast, which is written by Scandal star Scott Foley. John Ridley’s American Crime also returns, along with Black-ish and the ever-enduring Grey’s Anatomy (13 seasons!). Other key renewal: Quantico, Dr. Ken, and Fresh Off the Boat.
Netflix doesn’t actually participate in upfronts, which is one of the luxuries of being a subscription-only based service. However, this was worth mentioning: Shameik Moore (Dope) stars in The Get Down, a new series set in the Bronx during the 1970s, just as hip-hop dawns, which premieres Aug. 12 — the trailer has almost a million views. Newcomer Mamoudou Athie plays Grandmaster Flash, and the show also features performances from Jimmy Smits and Jaden Smith. Netflix wasn’t shy about pouring resources into this project — Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann is the creator and executive producer and he’s directed several of the first episodes as well. Assuming they get the details right, this has the potential to be a really fun series.
BET is pushing five new series this year — and is creating more scripted products. It’ll have Comedy Getdown, a scripted series about the behind-the-scenes antics of a standup comedy tour (George Lopez, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin and Charlie Murphy). And Will Packer’s The Yard, starring Anika Noni Rose as a newly elected president of the fictional historically black school Georgia A&M University. The network is also amping up its nonscripted projects, including Music Moguls, which gives insight to some of hip-hop’s biggest personalities — Birdman, Dame Dash, Jermaine Dupri and Snoop Dogg over eight 60-minute episodes. Also keep an eye out for: The Gary Owen Family, a reality series about the white comic who black people love.
Not a whole heck of a lot to say here, except that CBS really likes white guys. Like a lot. Like maybe too much? But hey, we get to see Laverne Cox in primetime and not in an orange jumpsuit. She’s co-starring in the new Katherine Heigl show Doubt — but not like a teevee adaptation of Meryl Streep/Viola Davis Doubt — this is set in a law firm, and Heigl’s character may or may not have the hots for her colleague played by Dulé Hill. So, cheers for more Cox on our screens, but boo to the fact that it looks like she may be playing a Black Best Friend. Womp. Also: there’s a whole slate of television adaptations of movies — because Rush Hour was such a ringing success, right? CBS is introducing a small-screen version of Training Day. It’s set 15 years after the events in the film happened. Both Doubt and Training Day are midseason dramas.
The big news this week is that the CW, as expected, becomes the new home for Supergirl. It takes the lead in spot on Monday nights for Jane the Virgin, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend gets bumped to Fridays at 9 pm. This isn’t a great development for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fans, but it’s mitigated by the fact that we get to see more will-they/won’t-they tension between Mehcad Brooks and Melissa Benoist.
The peacock network is bringing back The Carmichael Show for at least another 13-episode season. The show centers around a black family arguing about politics, generational misunderstandings and racism. It’s another fantastic look for young standup comedian Jerrod Carmichael, who is smart and engaging and knows how to tap into of-the-moment, Twitter-friendly conversations for the sitcom.
Netflix and Univision also announced a partnership this week that will bring the first seasons of the Netflix shows Narcos and Club de Cuervos to Univision. The two are also teaming up to co-produce El Chapo. In the United States, El Chapo, which presumably will not include a Sean Penn consulting credit, will first air on Univsion’s cable channel UniMás, and later be available to stream on Netflix. The rest of the world will be able to see it via streaming.
Niecy Nash, who is just so delightful as Nurse Dede on Getting On, is starring in a new TNT dramedy, Claws. Per THR:
“Originally developed as a half-hour, single-camera comedy at HBO, Claws is set in a South Florida nail salon. The hourlong dramedy is described as a midnight-dark, wickedly funny meditation on female badness that follows the rise of five diverse and treacherous Floridian manicurists in the traditionally male world of organized crime. The potential series will showcase that there’s a lot more going on at the Nail Artisan of Manatee County salon than silk wraps and pedicures.”
Funny lady Nicole Byer, who you may know from her web series Pursuit of Sexiness, which she starred in with her friend, Saturday Night Live cast member Sasheer Zamata, or the MTV series Girl Code, is getting her own show. Loosely Exactly Nicole is a half-hour comedy about the perils of adulthood, or as MTV put it, “humiliating auditions, unpaid electric bills, friendship ups and downs, and the battlefield that is Tinder.”