Last fall around this time, I tried my best to guess the headlines that would dominate the 2012-2013 TV season. Looking back on that story now, the results were about as solid as you might expect. I assumed that Gossip Girl's final season would suck, but not to the fiery degree that it did. Similarly, although I predicted that Scandal had all the potential to break out in its second season, I couldn't have foreseen that it would become such a huge pop-culture phenomenon. However, as with anything, with more practice comes better work; my predictions of this season's big headlines will more accurate. I guarantee it.
These are the stories that I think we here at TV.com, and folks all over the internet, will be talking about.
"[Show X]'s Series Finale: How It Stuck the Landing"
APPLIES TO: How I Met Your Mother, Nikita
Unlike last year, there aren't too many shows that we already know are ending this season. I mean, Sean Saves the World is already over and just doesn't know it yet, but that's not the kind of ending I'm talking about. How I Met Your Mother is on tap to have the big conclusion of the spring, and while there's a lot of skepticism surrounding the show—and for good reason—I have this weird feeling that the final season is going to be really strong. Will it be worth nine years of getting jerked around? That, I'm not so sure about. But Ted and the Mother's initial moments together are bound to be something special.
Nikita's back with a short-run send-off, and while that might not work for too many series, the six-episode order will give Maggie Q & company the chance to go full-bore into serialized, action-packed storytelling to wrap everything up. There won't be as much chatter about that ending, but it'll probably be even more successful and in-line with what the whole series managed to accomplish.
"What the Hell Was in the Kool-Aid During Last Spring's Pilot Season?"
APPLIES TO: Back in the Game, Betrayal, Lucky 7, We Are Men, Welcome to the Family, Super Fun Night... nearly all of this season's new shows, basically
This season's freshman class leaves a lot to be desired. Although we can expect networks to be more patient than in recent years because ratings are always on the decline and there's not always a lot left on the shelf to replace the failures, by 2014, there's going to be a slew of new shows that are either officially dead or just waiting for the networks to mercy kill them by the time the Upfronts roll around. That means bad news for Lucky 7, We Are Men, Back in the Game, Welcome to the Family, Sean Saves the World, Betrayal, and maybe even Ironside, The Blacklist, and Super Fun Night. Expect there to be a lot of hand-wringing about the broadcast networks' ability to make good, popular shows in the contemporary industry environment.
"[Show X]: It's Better Than You Think!"
APPLIES TO: The Millers, Trophy Wife, Reign
With so few obvious candidates in the running for the Season's Best New Show, it's more likely that we'll see lots of stories bubbling up about possibly under-watched new series that are on the upswing. This one's especially likely to appear in the second half of the year, and probably more likely to happen to comedies (which often take a long time to get going) and CW shows (which most people don't watch). As a result, prepare yourself for the "Why You Should Be Watching Reign" piece, probably written by me, come President's Day. The idea that The CW just decided to make a show with "Game of Thrones, but for girls" in mind is awful and hilarious all at once, but it's exactly the kind of silly premise the network could find traction with. Identifying the comedies that might start slow before breaking out is a little harder, particularly with Enlisted bumped to the midseason, but The Millers and Trophy Wife are my picks. People will be down on the former because it's a CBS multi-camera and Greg Garcia's series start slow, but that's a great cast. Trophy Wife will struggle to overcome its supposedly ironic title (and we know how that goes for ABC sitcoms), but Malin Akerman is a born sitcom star.
"Annnnnd [Show X]'s Wheels Have Completely Come Off"
APPLIES TO: Nashville, Revenge, The Vampire Diaries
It's not a television season without a few shows diminishing in quality so quickly that it makes everyone wonder why how the heck they ever enjoyed them in the first place. We're all familiar with the concept of the sophomore slump, which is often where the big, surprising train wrecks come from each year. Unfortunately, last year didn't birth that many successful new shows, so identifying candidates for self-destruction is difficult now. Maybe we look to Arrow (raised expectations and bigger stories on a CW budget?) or The Mindy Project (had its moments in Season 1, but sometimes got dangerously close to ruining whatever groove it found), but Nashville is probably the best bet: creative issues, rumors about changing production locations, too big of a cast, and a generally disappointing ratings performance. What are the chances that it remains remotely solid throughout Season 2?
But it almost doesn't matter that we can't count on sophomores to make all the mistakes, because it's easy to turn to some older shows that wobbled a bit in 2012-2013—and that's where the conversation gets interesting. Revenge is poised to be one of the more fascinating shows on the air this fall because it's just as likely to yield cries of "It's back!" as it is to claim the refrain of "This is so bad now." New showrunner or not, Revenge lost its mojo a long time ago, and I don't think it can totally regain it. The Vampire Diaries is teetering on the edge of mediocrity, and with Julie Plec's time split among a number of different projects, Season 5 could be the one in which the storylines get too convoluted, too fast and the character beats aren't even there. The same could be said for Glee, but of course that one is touchy, for obvious reasons.
"[Show X]: Talk About a Turnaround!"
APPLIES TO: Homeland, Revolution
And of course, it's also not a TV season without those shows that make that creative comeback (if not a ratings comeback). Like Revenge, Revolution is just as likely to fall deeper into its creative nadir, but really, how much worse could it get, really? Creator Eric Kripke's been saying all the right things about what went wrong in Season 1, and his former writing bro Ben Edlund is joined the series to clean up some messes. You're telling me that you can't imagine Tim writing a "Hey, it's better!" review come November sweeps?
Meanwhile, an understatement: Homeland wasn't as bad as Revolution last year. However, popular sentiment had turned against the show quite a bit by the end of Season 2, and now Brody's still alive but on the run, and the CIA has literally been blown up. There's no doubt that the Emmy-winning drama's third season will be something of a transition year, one that I think will end up being quieter and a little more contemplative. Ultimately, with somewhat lowered expectations, we'll come back around on Homeland by December.
"Give [Underdog Actor X] All the Emmys"
APPLIES TO: Daniel Gillies, Sophia Lowe, David Walton, Parker Young
We love to rally behind standout performers who probably don't have much of a real chance of actually garnering an Emmy nomination. See: Maslany, Tatiana and Johnson, Jake. This year, it'll be easy to point to Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson on HBO's upcoming True Detective, or Michael J. Fox on his semi-autobiographical The Michael J. Fox Show, and think EMMY, but c'mon, where's the fun in that? Instead, I suspect there will be a lot of love for David Walton on About a Boy, Parker Young on Enlisted, Daniel Gillies on The Originals, and Sophie Lowe on Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. They're all in a great position to break out with captivating performances, just as we're in a great position to be upset when they're (unsurprisingly) not nominated next July.
"Let the [Show X] Backlash Begin"
APPLIES TO: Community, New Girl
High expectations inevitably yield disappointment—and that applies to both shows and individuals. The obvious candidate here is Dan Harmon and his return to Community. Although the show is likely to be back on the air faster than NBC would like it to be, it's not clear whether the rabid fandom will be able to fully process a fifth season that brings Harmon back but that's also missing two original members of the study group. It's the internet's biggest powderkeg, and it's absolutely going off.
On a much tamer level, New Girl is all set up to face some issues in Season 3. Fans are jacked up about Nick and Jess, but we know all the baggage that comes with putting anticipated couples together (warranted or not). Coach is coming back, and that could mess up Winston's energy. And oh by the way, Fox surely wasn't happy with how the ratings turned out in Season 2, which puts a little added pressure on the show's upcoming run of episodes.
"[Show X] Is Twitter's New Darling, for Better or for Worse"
APPLIES TO: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist, Dads
There's nothing quite like experiencing a show, good or bad, on Twitter. Whether people start full-on live-tweeting or a given show simply becomes so ingrained in the general internet conversation (mostly via .GIFs, duh) that you can't escape it, there's bound to be a new addition or three to the recent class of TV Twitter champions (Glee, Scandal, Orphan Black, #TheCape). The early leaders in the clubhouse are Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (obviously), Sleepy Hollow, The Blacklist, and Dads. Chances are that at least two of them will be consistently awful in a such a way that we won't be able to stop joking about them—the amount of vitriol spewed at Dads each week is going to be quite the marvel, and I'm already ready to hashtag everything I tweet with #TheBlacklist. Plus, even if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Sleepy Hollow turn out to be decent, it's likely that there will still be quite a bit to say. Which is really all that television exists for, right?
"Is the Singing Competition Dead?"
APPLIES TO: The Voice, The X Factor, American Idol
This is the year that the singing competition takes a BIG dive. The X Factor already debuted to weak numbers and American Idol is quite the mess coming off its worst season ever. But what if it's not just a Fox problem in 2013-2014? NBC took a risk by airing two cycles of The Voice last season and even though that approach worked, it's bound to eventually cause audience burnout. There's no way that NBC's most popular non-football property will tank entirely this season, but by spring, it will have aired five seasons and something like 135 episodes in just three years. Plus, it's on NBC. Things don't go right for too long over there. By next fall, there will be a lot of attention on singing competitions and whether or not they can serve as the centerpiece for a given network's schedule.
"'Limited Event' Series Are the New Trend Changing the Landscape of Television"
APPLIES TO: Hostages, Intelligence, 24: Live Another Day
Last season it was Netflix, and to a lesser extent Amazon and Hulu, that shifted our perceptions of what TV actually is, threatened all the big players for awards recognition, and generally made a lot of noise. This year? We're going to hear quite a bit about the networks embracing shorter seasons and event programming (in fact, you've already begun to hear it around these parts). A lot of digital ink will be spilled in praise of shows like Hostages and Intelligence, Fox's decision to revive 24 as a summer event, and ABC's choice to finally air its programming in seasonal blocks giving the broadcast networks more room to compete with cable and all the other burgeoning content producers. And even those who shrug at these moves will acknowledge that they're probably good for shows on a creative level.
What topics do you think will dominate the discussion this season? And how do you feel about the predictions above?