Upfronts: 7 hot new shows from ABC, NBC and Fox to talk about at your water cooler
From old franchises like "The Muppets" (now updated to include marijuana jokes) to... a bunch of shows trying to copy other shows or using nostalgia.
The major networks are in New York selling their upcoming shows to advertisers, and Vulture's Joe Adalian talked with the Frame to run down seven of the shows making waves. They're all largely drawing on old franchises, nostalgia and other shows for their inspiration.
The classic Muppets TV show mocked variety shows, which were the hot trend of the '70s, but the rebooted show is mocking modern television — particularly mockumentary sitcoms, including ABC's own "Modern Family."
On the show, Miss Piggy hosts a late night show while Kermit the Frog serves as the show's producer, dealing with a strained relationship as they make a show within the show.
"It's a question — are the Muppets still relevant to viewers today? But I think they are," Adalian says.
The show describes itself as an adult version of the classic Muppets. The trailer even features what's essentially a marijuana joke.
Of Kings and Prophets
This show shows a strong "Game of Thrones" influence, while also building on the Bible. ABC head Paul Lee described the show as a sexy version of the Bible, focused on power and intrigue while avoiding feeling like Sunday school.
"We'll see. Big historical epics haven't worked lately on the networks, but they're hoping this could be a soapy sort of thing and a 'noisy' thing, as they like to say at ABC, that can stand out from all the big shows on cable Sunday nights," Adalian says.
"The Blacklist" is a big show, so here's an attempt to build on that success with a similar pairing of law enforcement with a person with secrets. It focuses on a woman with clues tattooed all over her body — and amnesia — working with an FBI agent. The vibe also gives a feel of "Bourne Identity" meets "Memento."
The show comes from prominent producer Greg Berlanti, who's been an executive producer on everything from the CW's "Arrow" and "The Flash" to "Dawson's Creek." Berlanti also has "Supergirl" and "DC's Legends of Tomorrow" hitting the air next season, along with "The Mysteries of Laura," which is already airing.
"It's really the same show [as "The Blacklist"], but Greg Berlanti does well-executed shows, well-done shows, so it could work," Adalian says.
Wesley Snipes is trying to move on from his IRS troubles on this new show. On the show, rich people bet on if the show's lead can stop a crime or not, and Snipes represents the gamblers.
The NBC formula, according to Adalian: "Can crime be stopped by people who have advance notice of said crime?"
The farfetched idea delivers escapist fare, moving in the opposite direction of some of the more gritty reality currently seen on cable, Adalian says.
Empire 7 days a week 2 hours a night
(We're kidding, but they probably wish they could.)
The show stars Rob Lowe as an actor playing a lawyer on a TV series who can't leave that life behind, while his character's brother, played by Fred Savage, is an actual lawyer. Lowe's character decides to take his TV skills into the actual courtroom.
It goes meta, playing on Lowe's TV image and everyone's nostalgia for both Lowe and Fred Savage from his "Wonder Years" days. Lowe gets to play the Cyrano de Bergerac to Savage's tongue-tied lawyer who helps Lowe pursue a meaningful life.
"The Grinder" is paired with John Stamos's "Grandfathered," with Adalian is calling "Fox's Fun-Time Flashback Hour," with "stars millennials and older women might fondly recall, being sort of grouchy and weird and irascible, but lovable!"
The show plays on Stamos's sexy image — as well as his pop culture history, including a trailer with music reminiscent of when he played with the Beach Boys and Stamos being adorable with a little tyke that'll remind you of "Full House's" Michelle. He discovers that he not only has a son he didn't know about, but a grandchild he didn't know about either. The trailer also delivers on a Bob Saget cameo, so there's not one, but two projects they'll be working on between this and Netflix's "Fuller House."
Fox is hoping that the Steven Spielberg film can be made into a successful TV show. It takes place after the film's continuity, following one of the precogs in the film after "Precrime" has been abolished.
"One of the hot trends this year is solving crimes before they can happen," Adalian says — that isn't just the domain of NBC.
In this version, they try to stop murders before they're committed. The show has a slick trailer, but whether that translates into a great show remains to be seen.
"Pilots often spend a lot of money to look good, but we'll see. Movie adaptations don't always do that well," Adalian says.