TCA 2017 Travel Log #5 - A competitor for ‘American Idol,’ mutants, and Seth MacFarlane in space are highlights for Fox

By Terry Terrones Updated: August 8, 2017 at 6:02 pm • Published: August 8, 2017 0
photo - 2017 FOX SUMMER TCA: Behind The Scenes at the Brooklyn Nine-Nine Themed Breakfast at the 2017 FOX SUMMER TCA at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, Tuesday, August 8 in Beverly Hills, CA. CR: Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup
2017 FOX SUMMER TCA: Behind The Scenes at the Brooklyn Nine-Nine Themed Breakfast at the 2017 FOX SUMMER TCA at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, Tuesday, August 8 in Beverly Hills, CA. CR: Frank Micelotta/FOX/PictureGroup

On Tuesday the Fox network spent the day presenting at the Television Critics Association summer tour. There were panels for several returning shows (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Empire”) but my focus was on new programs. Fox’s new fall lineup is pretty diverse and has a little something for everybody. 

Announcements for shows coming in 2018
The first panel was with Fox executives Rob Wade, Dana Walden and David Madden. They answered a number of questions from critics but also highlighted some of the network’s opening announcements that deal with shows coming out in 2018.  

“9-1-1” - This is an upcoming series from Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the team who created the “American Horror Story” franchise. It will star Peter Krause (“The Catch,” “Six Feet Under”) and Angela Bassett (“What’s Love Got to Do with It”). The procedural drama explores the high-pressure experiences of police, paramedics and firefighters. There wasn’t much discussion about exactly what the series is but the people behind it and starring in it are first rate so I’m definitely intrigued. 

“The Four” - This is a new singing competition series that looks to compete with NBC’s “The Voice” and ABC’s “American Idol.” The format is pretty unique. Four singers, chosen from their auditions by the show’s panel of music industry experts, will try to defend their coveted spots on the stage, as they are challenged individually by new singers determined to replace them. Each week, if any of the four are outperformed, they’ll go home and their challengers will take their place.

Those challengers could be fans who had been sitting on a couch one week, and singing onstage the next. Viewers who think they’ve got the talent to compete and unseat the four singers onstage will have the opportunity to submit an audition video. Expert panelists and additional information regarding “The Four” will be announced soon.

“A Christmas Story” - Live musical events have become quite popular and that trend continues with “A Christmas Story,” which will premiere on December 17. Today Fox announced that “Saturday Night Live” alum Maya Rudolph will star as the mother of nine year old Ralphie Parker. Additional casting will be announced soon. 

“The Gifted,” premieres Oct. 2
This is a Marvel series that focuses on a suburban couple’s life that is upended by the sudden discovery that their children possess mutant powers. Forced to go on the run from an anti-mutant government, the family joins up with an underground network of mutants and must fight to survive. The series is set in the X-Men universe but not based on any particular comic series. The X-Men are either disbanded or have been wiped out in this series. That said there are established X-Men characters like Blink and Polaris who are major players in the show. I’ve seen the pilot and it was pretty decent. I think its one of the more promising new series airing this fall. 

“Ghosted,” premieres Oct. 1
This new multi-cam comedy stars Craig Robinson (“The Office”) and Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) as two men who are recruited to investigate unexplained phenomena in Los Angeles. It’s a bit like “The X-Files” mixed with “Scooby-Doo” but with more goofiness. The panel for “Ghosted” was fun as Adam Scott and Craig Robinson are quick witted. Unfortunately the panel was more enjoyable than the “Ghosted” pilot, which wasn't particularly good. I really wanted it, and actually expected it, to be funny but a lot of the humor was just too basic. I’ll give the series a chance but the pilot was a bit of a let down. 

The Orville,” premieres Sept. 10 
One of the first questions brought up to show creator Seth MacFarlane is how this series has been advertised. “The Orville” is more of a “Star Trek” homage and not “Family Guy” in space, which hasn’t been coming across in the promos. MacFarlane said in the panel that he is aware of the disconnect but figured people will figure it out and was willing to let PR do their thing. The “Star Trek” comparisons are bound to happen as the series has a number of Trek alumni working behind the scenes on the series. MacFarlane’s love of Trek is obvious but he's clearly using it as an inspiration. 

MacFarlane made it clear in the panel that this show is a more optimistic view of science fiction. Producers during the set visit were clear to point that out as well. Even though the message from MacFarlane was that they see “The Orville” as a sci-fi/comedic drama and they’re trying to break new ground, many critics in the room are having a hard time seeing it. There are some seemingly conflicting messages in the show as it’s primarily an action drama with some humor sprinkled in. “The Orville” certainly takes some getting used to but the more episodes of it I watched the more I started to figure out the tone. True to MacFarlane’s word it is a different type of series and I like what I’ve seen so far.    

Gazette media columnist Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @terryterrones. 

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