Pop Rant: Too Much Fantasy on Fall TV Schedule

Vulture.com recently published a slideshow of what they deemed the 20 most exciting pilots of the upcoming TV season. As I clicked through, a pattern quickly emerged. Apparently, real life is boring.

This fall, there could be shows about  fairy tales, ghosts, haunted houses, alternate realities and magical police procedurals, plus David E. Kelley’s notorious Wonder Woman reboot and Edgar Allen Poe re-imagined as a TV detective.

To be fair, some of the above pilots seem quite imaginative and worth checking out. But why does there have to be so many of them?  I interpret it as a Hollywood dictum that fantastical premises are necessary to hook viewers, and that shows about regular people are dull, and therefore more likely doomed to cancellation.

Yet All in the Family, Roseanne and Friday Night Lights are just a few examples of how television can reflect the realities of our times in an engaging and entertaining way. And there are plenty of stories left to be told that don’t require supernatural elements like time travel or magic powers to make them interesting.

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Previewing the Fall TV Season: Undercovers

With the fall season beginning in mere weeks, there’s a whole slate of TV shows to look forward to, including several series that feature diverse lead actors and/or casts. I’ll be previewing these shows in the leadup to the new season based solely on their network promos. First up, the sexy married spy thriller Undercovers, starring Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Network: NBC

Premiere date: Wednesday, September 22 at 8:00

Bite-sized synopsis: Hart to Hart meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith with a dash of Everyone Loves Raymond.

J.J. Abrams is responsible for introducing Sydney Bristow to the pantheon of kickass female TV characters via Alias, and my love of his show’s first season guarantees that I’ll be tuning into his second spy series–but mostly out of loyalty. I really wanted to like Undercovers, not only for the Alias connection but for the fact that its leads are two appealing African-American actors, a rarity for a show that isn’t a cop drama or Tyler Perry sitcom.

Unfortunately, the premise of the bored married couple who regain their spark via a return to the spy life comes off a little forced. (Also forced is “sexpionage,” a groaner of a catchphrase the show seems desperate to make happen.)

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Pop Byte: CBS Sitcom Mike & Molly

When I talk about championing diversity on television, I’m not limiting myself to people of color, but just any group of people who don’t fit the mold of what’s shown on TV.

So it’s great that CBS is debuting a comedy this fall about a charming plus-sized couple called Mike & Molly. Less great is how much the show’s trailer emphasizes the characters’ sizes and their “big” issues (watch below). It’s a 3-minute clip that emphasizes dieting, weight scales, treadmills, and meeting cute at Overeaters Anonymous;  a particularly groan-worthy moment is when Mike is compared to a futon. The preview screams, “Hey everyone, look at how progressive we are! We have a show about people that aren’t skinny!” The focus is so grating that it feels like CBS picked up the show solely for its gimmick. It’s hard to tell if the show’s actually any good, because it’s too busy zinging viewers with what seems like every fat joke from the pilot.

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Diverse Actors Who Deserve Emmy Nods

In a few days, the Emmy nominations will be announced. TV critics have been discussing who they’d like to see get recognized, and for the most part, their lists, like the Emmys themselves, do not include a lot of actors of color.

But I think a strong case could be made for the following group of actors to receive recognition for their impact on their respective series, and not just for the sake of having a diverse roster of Emmy nominees. (It probably goes without saying that they would all be recognized in the supporting categories.)

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The Four Rules of Summer TV

When our favorite series flee the airwaves around Memorial Day, the summer TV “season” begins. These shows are supposed to prevent the next three months from becoming a wasteland of reruns, reality TV marathons and fake award shows.

Last night I came upon NBC’s Persons Unknown, a show that caught my attention because the lead guy looked annoyingly familiar. When I visited IMDB I was mortified to learn that my brain cells had retained the memory of an obscure Beverly Hills 90210 character, Kelly’s pill-popping artist boyfriend Colin. It was then that I realized that there are certain rules when it comes to summer TV.

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