The following lists are for the increasingly ballyhooed network television midseason, which has somehow become a part of the average American’s everyday lexicon. Criminal Complex-style, of course. So you know, guns and feds and spies and all that…
These projections are all based on trailers and advance hype from the network promotional machines. If my remarks seem prejudicial, it’s because there is virtually no information available while the space for discussion is virtually unlimited. Also, I had Korean-Mexican fusion for lunch, followed by leftover chocolate cake from a Christmas party two nights ago that I never bothered to put in the fridge, so you know, there are the physical limitations.
You may notice the conspicuous absence of CBS from this inaugral list. This is because, by nature, a preview of a network’s midseason replacements, regardless the light in which they are cast, is a declaration of that network’s failures. Since CBS has its shit together, it has virtually nothing to replace, and the replacements they are fielding are of no particular interest to us.
The Five BEST Midseason Replacements That Have Something Or Other To Do With Wrongdoing.
5. The Firm (NBC) – Thursdays, 10/9c.
The peacock network hasn’t had much luck with…well, anything lately. Nothing that comes with a script, anyway. After Sunday Night Football, NBC doesn’t have another show in the top 25. Howard Stern doesn’t get to America’s Got Talent until next summer. That’s a long time for a network to hold its breath.
The Firm is a proven entity in print and on the big screen. The small screen incarnation picks up ten years after the point where the original book and movie left off, with the McDeeres coming out of witness protection, and finding themselves up to their necks in trouble again.
I’m fully willing to give this a chance, as the novel made a pretty big impression on me as a kid, particularly in regards to the pitfalls of easy and early success.
4. Missing (ABC) – Thursdays, 8/7c.
Don’t judge the show by the fact that its the third series entitled “Missing” since 2006. This show looks to be the goods. Ashley Judd plays a mother whose son has gone missing in Italy. The twist? Ashley Judd is a former super-agent with a black belt in getting answers and beating the piss out of people.
As she begins to turn stones in Europe in hopes of finding her son, Judd’s past in the intelligence field begins to unfold, and old enemies begin to close in on her, Judd begins to see that her kid’s disappearance was no accident.
People love ultra-slick Bourne Identity-style thrillers. There appears to be a good chunk of change riding on this one. Judd’s easy on-screen sophistication and fire paired with a globetrotting plotline make this one to watch.
3. The River (ABC) – Tuesdays 9/8c.
Think Blair Witch Project meets Mosquito Coast (that’s a Harrison Ford movie) meets any of those shows on TLC where some dude goes batshit over animals and tries to tell you all about it.
Bruce Greenwood plays Dr. Emmet Cole, host of a children’s nature show who goes missing deep in the Amazon, never to return. One day, his emergency beacon goes off and the hunt is on. The show tracks his family’s progress in tracking him down, with the hunt being funded and filmed by a documentary crew.
The River is brought to you by Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli, which you might have guessed just by looking at the clip above. Smash cuts and creepy ambience abound.
2. The Finder (Fox) – Thursdays 9/8c.
The only spin-off on our list, The Finder piggy-backs Bones into Fox primetime for an initial nine-episode run.
Geoff Stults looks like a natural delivering some pretty poppy dialogue in the below trailer. He stars as the infectiously curious and paranoid Walter Sherman, a man who can find anyone or anything, and will not stop until he does so. The show also stars Michael Clarke Duncan and comes from Bones producer Hart Hanson.
Personally, I’m not a fan of Bones. But on the strength of the trailer alone, I’m willing not only to give The Finder a shot, but I might be willing to go back and give Bones another day in court as well.
1. Alcatraz (Fox) – Mondays 9/7c.
I’ve been all over this one since day one. J.J. Abrams assigns his patented weirdness to the prison island that closed in 1963.
The idea behind the show is that when the place was shut down, all three hundred-plus prisoners within disappeared, and the government covered it all up. Until, you know, now.
One of the prisoners, Jack Sylvane (Jeffrey Pierce) becomes the subject of a manhunt led by brainy Alcatraz geek Diego Soto (Lost alum Jorge Garcia) and SFPD Detective Rebecca Madsden (Sarah Jones). Sam Neill checks in as shadowy Fed Emerson Hauser.
The top ranking is based entirely on my unflagging belief in Abrams, coupled with the programming choices regarding our recipient of Honorable Mention, listed below.
Honorable Mention – Awake (NBC)
I’m all kinds of pumped about this one.
Premise of the year: A police detective is involved in a car accident in which his wife and son are killed…in alternate realities. When he wakes up, his son was killed in the accident. He wakes up again, his wife is the one who is gone. He has alternate partners, alternate shrinks, and investigates alternate cases, all the time fully conscious of the other reality.
Awake was hot on its way to the top of this list, on the sole basis of the trailer above. Finally, a unique, poignant, original concept for a network television series, all set for its early 2012 debut.
You’ll note the parenthesized “NBC” above.
Naturally, the peacock fumbled the ball, halting production in October for rewrites. Now, it doesn’t appear on the midseason schedule at all. No further dates have been announced.
The Five WORST Midseason Replacements That Have Something Or Other To Do With Wrongdoing.
1. The Firm (NBC) – Thursdays, 10/9c.
We all know what happened to the McDeeres. Young Mitch set up a secret Xeroxing operation and got a record of all the nasty comings and goings of Bedini, Lambert, and Locke, only to set them up on mail fraud charges with the feds, and keep all the purloined papers to himself as insurance against future malfeasance from the mob.
Christ, it really took 350 pages to cover that?
Now, fast forward ten years, when nobody gives a shit. The McDeeres come out of Witness Protection, and you can only imagine what happens: Naturally, they settle into a comfortable suburban existence with two kids, a convertible, an SUV, a dog, and matching anti-depressant addictions. Right?
You wish. More baddies on the trail of the McDeeres, phone taps, tails, and telephoto lenses. Car chases. Explosions. All the same old shit, with none of the exciting build-up of the law firm recruiting orgy that made the original novel a fun read to begin with.
Wake me when it’s over. It shouldn’t take long.
2. Missing (ABC) – Thursdays, 8/7c.
When a mother’s ten year-old son goes missing in France, nothing in the world will stop her from tracking him down. Not spies, not feds, not plausibility…nothing. Meredith Baxter-Birney must be spinning in her grave, depending on what size shoulder pads she’s buried in. And whether or not she’s actually dead. It’s the role of a Lifetime, I tell ya!
Another timeslot, another show about an apparently normal working human being who turns out to be a super-spy. Ashley Judd fills the role of dogged matriarch. You fill the role of drooling zombie.
3. The River (ABC) – Tuesdays 9/8c.
Future species sifting through the ashes of the human race will no doubt wonder why every supernatural event that occurred in the latter years of humanity happened to be covered by a crack documentary crew, and yet nobody learned a thing from any of the footage, like how to handle a camera in a pinch.
More missing people. That’s right. 2012 is the year of the missing family members. A reality TV show host disappears in the jungle and his family takes off into the Amazon looking for him, documentary crew in tow. Weird shit happens, most of it likely off-camera.
Think Paranormal Activity 3 meets Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, and pray that when they make it up the river, they find Marlon Brando and Dennis Hopper.
4. The Finder (Fox) – Thursdays 9/8c.
The Joanie Loves Chachi to Bones’ Happy Days, The Finder tracks the comings and goings of Walter Sherman (Geoff Stults), a paranoid guy who’s really good at finding shit, and won’t be stopped by anything from getting whatever that happens to be. Not spies, not feds, not…oh, fuck it.
Anybody remember The Lone Gunmen? It was a series based on a trio of conspiracy geeks from The X-Files. Ah, now you remember. That one was on Fox, too. It aired in March of 2001. It disappeared in June of 2001. The real conspiracy was the entire American viewing public conspiring to not watch it.
The Finder promises plenty of cutesy, snappy, smart-alecky dialogue in the tradition of the series that inspired it, with likely guest appearances from the Bones boneheads. In fact, they should maybe go ahead and up the guest appearances to approximately every episode. Maybe change the name of the show to Bones. Something.
5. Alcatraz (Fox) – Mondays 9/7c.
J.J. Abrams’ perfect fucking life continues with another auto-pilot executive producing credit for another show that is based around mysterious happenings on another island. Questions arise. Answers are promised. Everyone goes home disappointed and a little ashamed. Biggest mystery: Where the fuck did Sam Neill come from, and when is he going back?
The Abrams faithful (yeah, those suckers) will give this every chance to succeed. Fringe and Person of Interest continue to air, right? Not quite Lost though, are they? Nope, not quite. Neither is this. I’m guessing they make it into a second season, at which point somebody will promise that all the viewing audience’s questions will be answered in the third season, and then…
Why is it that whenever I turn on network television drama, my living room is filled with the scent of mothballs?
‘Cause network TV is your grammy’s medium, cousin. The last Great Network Television Drama has come and gone.
There’s a reason why people are Tivoing The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire and Sons of Anarchy and Boss each and every week. The same reason people have boxed editions of The Sopranos and The Wire. It’s because those shows are filled with brilliant, fresh, original stories. Okay, not The Walking Dead, but the rest of them are. It’s also because these shows are made, for the most part, with a minimum of interference from programming executives.
When was the last time you went over to a friend’s house and saw a boxed set of NCIS DVDs on the shelf under their TV? You haven’t.
That’s because you can get that shit for free, and you’re still being ripped off.