Predicting This TV Season's Big Headlines

By Cory Barker

Sep 24, 2012

With each new television season, there is a great deal at stake. Expectations for new shows are high across the board (even at The CW, where execs are surely hoping something pops this fall), and they'll surely get the most attention. But it’s not just new shows or networks amid an overhaul that are under pressure to make good on promises made at Upfronts or in the press—veteran shows and even individual performers can be in those situations as well. Basically, everyone has something to prove, even if they are facing different stages of expectations—and we in the media like to translate those challenges into compact narratives and then repeat them over and over.

With that in mind, let’s explore some of the narratives you’ll probably read or hear about quite often this fall and predict what shows, people, or networks will be attached to them.


“Is There Anything Left in the Tank?”

Applies to: Supernatural, Dexter, Glee

These three shows are all at different stages in their lifespans, but they all have important things to prove. Supernatural is under new management—Sera Gamble is out, Jeremy Carver is (back) in—and while the show can skate by on the charm and chemistry of its leads, the last few seasons have been messy to say the least. Carver’s a strong writer and did well running Being Human, but is there really enough of the Winchester brothers' story left to tell?

Dexter is similarly long in the tooth and has also churned out a few less-than-beloved seasons in a row. However, unlike Supernatural, the end seems actually near, which means it’s time to stop the wheel-spinning. The show has one big card to play (Deb learning the whole truth), and until that happens, the holding pattern won’t be compelling enough.

Although younger than the other two shows in this grouping, Glee is still showing signs of severe wear and tear. With the nature of the story (manic, heightened and scattered) and its creator (Ryan Murphy) in mind, I won’t be surprised if the bottom completely falls out this season. Glee has never balanced its characters well and now that they’re all over the country and a half-dozen new ones are coming in, that sort of mismanagement is only likely to intensify.

“Can It Stick the Landing?”

Applies to: Gossip Girl, The Office, Fringe, 30 Rock, and maybe How I Met Your Mother

In a weird bit of chance, there are several shows with announced end dates heading into this season. Gossip Girl, The Office, Fringe, and 30 Rock are done for sure and if the cast of How I Met Your Mother has their way, HIMYM will be too. With so many long-running series shows coming to close, there will be talk of “sticking the landing” and “ending on a high note.” The good news here is that of the ones that are definitely wrapping things up, only Fringe has any big narrative threads to tie up (which the show has made more challenging by going to the future, but that’s neither here nor there). If HIMYM concludes, obviously there will be necessary “answers” and maybe you’re one of those people who desperately wants to know the identity of the Scranton Strangler, but for the most part, these shows just need to send of their characters in a satisfying way.

Nevertheless, I’m curious to see how The Office and 30 Rock (and again, maybe HIMYM) come to a close. We haven’t had a popular comedy come to a true close for a while now—not since Friends, Frasier, and Everybody Loves Raymond—and there’s definitely something different that goes into ending a show like that versus a big mythology drama.

And as long as Gossip Girl concludes with Serena miserable and alone like she deserves to be, I’m fine with whatever else happens.

“Ready to Break Out?” (Or, Conversely, “Sophomore Slump?”)

Applies to: Scandal, Suburgatory, and Hart of Dixie on a "breakout" basis, and Once Upon a Time, Revenge, New Girl, and American Horror Story on the "slump" side of things

Despite some big duds ('sup, Work It?!) that are now in the great TV schedule in the sky, last season brought us some really good freshman shows. Now in their second season, different questions remain for different series. For shows that received a lot of press and quality ratings last season (Once Upon a Time, Revenge, New Girl, and American Horror Story), people will be looking to see if they can keep the momentum going. Will OUaT’s premise be damaged by characters remembering their past lives, or by magic? Will Revenge be overtaken by the kind of kitchen-sink plotting that often screws up soapy dramas in their sophomore years? Will American Horror Story be able to keep the title of “Show That Is Simultaneously the Best and the Worst Thing Ever?”

Weirdly, I think AHS has the best chance to stay on track, but of course that’s made easier by its upcoming reset and it being so terrible.

Meanwhile, there are three shows (Scandal, Suburgatory, and Hart of Dixie) that weren’t as successful or as popular as that other trio that could be looking to break out. Scandal didn’t have a lot of time to get going in Season 1 but the pieces are there. Chances are good that Suburgatory takes the leap that so many comedies do in their second season. And though I don’t think the narrative or quality will change that much, I think Hart of Dixie might do better in a new timeslot in what could be an okay season for The CW.

“With X Gone, How Will the Show Move Forward?”

Applies to: Community, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead

The biggie here is obviously Community, which moves into its fourth season without original creator and showrunner Dan Harmon. Fans and critics alike are worried about the show’s ability to continue at the same level without Harmon’s very unique voice, and while I’m hopeful that the show will be fine, it’s hard not to have some concern.

For Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead, it’s all about the loss of major characters. A great deal of Boardwalk’s Season 2 success stemmed from the great stories centered around Michael Pitt’s Jimmy, and The Walking Dead got a lot of mileage out of Jon Bernthal’s Shane being a loose cannon. Both characters arguably made their respective show’s “true” leads much more interesting, and without them around, Boardwalk’s Nucky and Walking Dead’s Rick need to move forward—but it’s unclear whether they can.


“Can X Really Carry Their Own Show?”

Applies to: Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project), Jordana Spiro (The Mob Doctor), Stephen Amell (Arrow)

All three of these performers have done good work elsewhere on television, but this season, they’re being asked to carry shows that their respective networks need to succeed. For Kaling and Amell, it’s about stepping into the spotlight and providing more complicated roles than they’ve handled in their past television work. For Spiro, it’s more about making the transition from comedy—where she did pretty well as the lead on My Boys—to drama.

“Shouldn’t X Have Their Own Show?”

Applies to: Lucy Punch (Ben and Kate), Allison Miller (Go On), Giancarlo Esposito (Revolution)

Every season, there are supporting players who get a lot of praise for breaking out in small doses. I’ve found that it’s a little easier to do this in comedies, and both Lucy Punch and Allison Miller feel like good candidates to fill that void this season. Punch is the best part of the Ben and Kate pilot and Miller brings warmth to a character that isn’t that intriguing on the page in Go On.

I mention Giancarlo Esposito here even though he’s already turned in a near-legendary performance as an unforgettable character on Breaking Bad because his work on Revolution is really good. It’s different, and certainly broader, but it’s good. I’d love to watch a basic cable show with Esposito in the lead role.

“Pressure? What Pressure?”

Applies to: Britney Spears (The X Factor), Jonny Lee Miller (Elementary), Ryan Murphy (61 different shows), Greg Daniels (The Office)

These four individuals find themselves in hot seats of various temperatures this season. Britney (and Demi Lovato) are supposed to help The X Factor make a mark on popular culture in a way that its first season could not, which is a tough gig amid the singing competition overkill that's happening right now.

Jonny Lee Miller is tasked with carving out his own contemporary version of Sherlock Holmes even though lots of people (including Cumberbatch himself) adore Benedict Cumberbatch’s take on the character and even more people are annoyed that Elementary decided to make Watson into a woman.

On the showrunner side of things, both Ryan Murphy and Greg Daniels have big challenges ahead of them this season. Murphy now has three shows that he wants to be greatly involved in, a choice that is almost guaranteed to end in disaster. I guess the good news is that all three of those shows (Glee, American Horror Story, and The New Normal) are each disasters already. Daniels is tasked with bringing this generation’s most popular comedy to an end, even though it should have already ended two years ago and The Office has spent two or three seasons ruining any goodwill or affection we had for most of the characters. Tough gig.


“Is This Network in More Trouble Than We Thought?”

Applies to: Fox, ABC

Slightly different cases here, but they both fit under this headline.

Fox will be fine. The network has American Idol to combat any of the fall’s missteps (even though it’s declining in ratings), and it should take care of business on Tuesdays with that great comedy block. But on the drama side, Fox doesn’t have much room for error. What happens in the (very likely) possibility that The Mob Doctor falls on its face? What replaces it on the schedule? Fox doesn’t really have anything. Plus, the early ratings for The X Factor haven’t been positive, despite the big new judges (and, at least in the first few hours, a better show).

Despite the strength of Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy and Once Upon a Time, ABC finished in fourth place in the ratings last season. NBC won’t have the Super Bowl in 2013, so ABC is guaranteed to slide back up to third, but its schedule is filled with shows that are only sort of popular: Revenge, Castle, Happy Endings, The Middle, etc. Dancing with the Stars is getting old and Grey’s can’t last forever. ABC needs a nice hit, especially on the drama side. If the network doesn't get that, the ratings issue might be more pronounced.

“Seriously, What the Hell Is Going on Here?”

Applies to: NBC

This one isn’t hard to figure out. I’d love to stop picking on NBC and I’d especially love if the network turned itself around. But based on what I’ve seen from the Peacock thus far this fall, it doesn’t appear that many improvements are going to be made. None of their new fall shows are particularly great (though none of them are out-and-out awful, either), and the early ratings for The Voice suggest what we all already knew: People are kind of burned out on the singing competition thing.

Though I expect many of NBC’s shows to stick around for a while—probably longer than they should—I also expect that none of them will be hits. It wouldn’t surprise me if of the fall new shows, only Go On returned next season.

What stories do you expect to dominate this season, and which ones do you think might surprise us?

  • Comments (28)
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  • Ronin_Blackwing Oct 18, 2012

    Quick rundown on the points in the article I have limited interest in and ten I have a rant to get to.

    Q1- Supernatural could have ended after S6 and I would not have minded. That said I wouldn't mind if they make it to 10 either. Dexter should have been done by now and as it is I think two more seasons is overly generous. Just one to wrap up things would have sufficed. I don't watch Glee so I have nothing to say on that one.

    Q2-Out of the listed shows I only watch Fringe and GG so I will only comment on them. GG kind of lost me as a viewer late last season - I only finished the season cause it bugs me to leave things unfinished. Fringe... hmm it's never been a must watch show for me, don't get me wrong I enjoy it very much but I would have been fine if they had ended it last season. Let's hope this last one will be a good one so it doesn't erase the good impression of the first 4.

    Q3- I will comment on OUaT and Revenge later, I hope Hart of Dixie gets some traction cause right now it's a bit bland, I barely manged to finish the 1st season of New Girl but I am still willing to see if it can keep me interested, as for he rest I don't watch them so..

    Q4- Currently I don't follow any one of those 3 so not much to say. I only watched the first season of Walking Dead. I tried to get into the 2nd but for some reason I could not stay interested. I'll give it another go soon, maybe this time it'll stick.

    Q5-I quite enjoyed the pilot of Arrow. I will get around to seeing the 2nd episode some time this week but if first impressions can be trusted I think the show has good prospects for the future due in no small part to it's lead. The other two shows are of no interest to me so once again no comment.

    Q6 and Q7- no comment.

    Q8 I will cover in just a bit

    Q9 - once again I don't have anything to say.

    Rant time... Cause it irked beyond words....:)

    Calling Castle "only sort of popular" is more than a little insulting given the ratings since the start of the 5th season. And just so we have a clear visual here are the viewing numbers

    week(date) Viewers Live+SD (million)

    W1(Sept.24th) 10.45

    W2(Oct.1st) 10.35

    W3(Oct.8th.) 10.61

    W4(Oct.15th.) 10.94

    Each of those weeks Castle is the most watched show in it's time slot beating it's direct competition by over a million viewers for the first two weeks and over 2 mil for weeks 3 and 4. On top of that over the entire evening it only stay behind Dancing With the Stars and The Voice.

    How exactly is a show with that much interest in it and in it's 5th season no less (this is about the point in time when a lot of shows start losing viewers) classified as "only sort of popular" is unclear to me. Then again I do not live in the US and I am not clear on how ratings are formed and what is considered good so....

    Rant over.

    Lest stay on the part that provoked me to write in the first place. Now I won't go digging for ratings on ABC's other shows but of the ones listed I watch Castle (I think that one is prety obvious), Revenge and Once Upon A Time. I avoid "reality" TV and Grey's like the plague and the other 3 I simply have never bothered to get into due to the fact that I live in Bulgaria and keeping up with US shows requires I either stay up at ridiculous hours or find a way to watch on the web. Those clarifications made I would say the three shows I do follow are in my humble opinion pretty good and coupled with the numbers I saw for DwtS when I was checking Castle's there is a solid backbone for ABC. Thing is looking at their Fall Schedule they will have to rely on 5 shows to carry them over the coming months - Castle,Revenge, OUaT, Dancing.. and Grey's. Last Man Standing is a comedy I personally enjoy but even if it has a huge viewership (which I somehow doubt) half an hour on Friday night is not likely to help a lot. And the mid-season backups don't look overly promising either. So yeah ABC is in a bit oft trouble especially of one it's lead shows flops this season. Cause honestly the my list of Tuesday Night shows (airing then, I get them the next day) consists of NCIS and NCIS:LA and nothing I see on ABC's lineup could draw me in a way that I would prioritize it over those two. For whatever reason Suburgatory never clicked for me so I have up on it at around ep 10-12 last season and I have yet to find time to check out Revolution but I sure hope those two are helping out.

  • wrapdk Oct 15, 2012

    GO ON - so funny

  • FriendsSherlock Oct 13, 2012

    This is a little bit of a deviation, but I noticed that a lot of articles about Elementary have said that Benedict Cumberbatch claimed that he didn't like the idea of Elementary..... I'm pretty sure the article that that claim was based on was a fake. In several interviews he said that he fully supports Elementary and that he was upset when the rumor about him saying that he didn't started spreading.

  • Dan815 Oct 03, 2012

    Since when in the blue hell was The Office of all shows "this generations most popular comedy"????????

    Not only have comedies like How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, Big Bang Theory had 5-6 MILLION more viewers every season compared to The Office but How I Met and Big Bang are country miles better shows in every way.

    What a bizarre, random, flat-out wrong statement to make

  • bendylegsnick Oct 05, 2012

    Really? The question of good comedies comes up and you go to CBS? Not a good move, my friend...

  • Dan815 Oct 08, 2012

    get a clue, moron ; )

  • JamesGauthier Sep 28, 2012

    Go On is the best new show I've seen so far period.

  • acre1993 Sep 27, 2012

    i'm looking forward to revenge and ouat and scandal sucked and shouldn've been cancelled

  • tv_gonzo Sep 25, 2012

    ABC has imo at the moment an amzing linup of shows. And most of them are fairly fresh. Happy Endings, Suburgatory, Apt. 23, Revenge and maybe even OUAT. There are some of my favourite shows right there.

  • Dan815 Sep 30, 2012

    not to mention ABC had the greatest show of all time period with Lost. Plus Suburgatory and Happy Endings are the best new comedies in years and Revenge is the best drama out there

  • mailliam11 Sep 25, 2012

    thank you so much, you just listed five of my top 10 shows right there

  • saxyroro Sep 25, 2012

    I'm sticking with Supernatural and Dexter, but I dumped Glee on the last ep last season, that I didn't even bother watching. Ryan Murphy, this is Nip/Tuck syndrome. Doesn't know where and WHEN to end. And Supernatural was interesting one because I marathoned it through season 5. So I was pumped, but subsequent seasons aren't as good as those first 5. Wonder why..

    I say good luck to all the shows ending. Come on Gossip Girl. Do SOMETHING.

    I'll be the first to say I love Sherlock maybe more that any show right now. And that says a lot based on what I watch and eventually will. Having said that, watched the Elementary pilot twice. I probably won't stay with it, but I think it will be a success and Americans will never learn who Benedict Cumberbatch is. Until he takes over all the movies. Then they still won't. Good luck Jonny. Can't wait to see you on Craig one day soon. I though Liu was used fine. No objections to her role. I Elementary some how bombs, Jonny for the next Doctor :)

    Don't know about Fox, but seems that ABC is fine.

    I have no idea with NBC. Trying to filter them out slowly. They may make it really easy this season. see Thursday night.

    I was going to watch Arrow already but SPOILER THAT DOESN'T SEEM TO BE MAKING THE ROUNDS for some reason (--------- has confirmed on Nerdist he's a big bad SQEEEEEE That's right I censored myself. But ran around the house screaming.

  • Big_Pecks Sep 25, 2012

    "Will it Die? Because it Really Shouldn't but NBC Hates Us"

    Applies to: Community, Parks and Rec, Go On

  • iAnonymous Sep 25, 2012

    I actually believe New Girl, Revenge, Once Upon A Time, and American Horror Story will all have great 2nd seasons. With Once and Revenge airing on Sunday night when a lot of shows are skewing a male audience, I think they'll both come out strongly.

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