This is a big week for me. The most important of the year, even. For this is the week when the 'big' American television networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX & The CW) announce their schedules for the upcoming television season. The thrill of discovering that your favourite show is returning is lessened only by the dejection of finding out that another of your American staples has been sent to the glue factory. The excitement generated by these announcements keeps me occupied through the long, barren summer, until the new season kicks off in September.
As well as revealing the fates of existing programmes, the networks preview the new shows that will fill our television schedules (and lives) for the next twelve months. I have been online all week, reading up on the pilots that each network has picked up. In the run up to the announcement, I was in a very excitable mood, thinking about all of the hypothetical shows I was going to become obsessed with. A kind of televisual mania, if you will. "These new shows will allow me to discover new actors", I thought. "I will be able to appreciate the subtle delicacy of their scripts", I thought. "I'll enjoy the gripping narratives and be drawn in to immersive, fantastical worlds," I thought.
What a crock of shit. Seriously, was this the best the networks could do? I was so appalled by some of the ideas that I actually questioned whether or not they were genuine. Sadly, they are. And here are some of the terrible shows we are going to put up with...
The pilots seem to fall under two categories: the ones that are cheap-looking imitations of successful shows, and the ones that are just terrible ideas in general. Side note: I haven't seen any of these pilots. I have only read the short plot summaries that were contained on the networks' press releases. Does that give me the right to criticise them? Of course it does; don't be so silly.
Have you seen Modern Family? Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee and American Horror Story has. Murphy, being ever so smart, must've taken a look at the success of the mockumentary series and thought, "I am going to take that idea, tweak it slightly, and put it on another network." And that's what he has done. The New Normal, Murphy's latest series, is part of NBC's fall schedule. The sitcom centres around a gay couple who, desperate for a baby, hire a surrogate and invite her to live in their house. It's supposed to be a comedy, but judging by Murphy's work on Glee, he will suck all of the comedy out of The New Normal, and turn into a platform for serious political discussion.
In 'What goes around comes around' news, Murphy seems to have been given a taste of his own medicine by ABC, who have ripped off his successful anthology series, American Horror Story. The show in question, 666 Park Avenue, is based around a haunted apartment building, known as 'The Drake'. Faced with the job of managing the building, a young couple are frightened by lots of creepy supernatural occurrences. If you want to know what happens in 666 Park Avenue's first season, but can't be bothered waiting, American Horror Story is available on Blu Ray and DVD now.
This next show isn't based on a stolen idea, just a ridiculous one. Fox's new drama, The Mob Doctor, isn't your normal hospital drama. As well as putting in shifts at a Chicago hospital, our protagonist Dr Grace Devlin also provides medical assistance to members of the mafia. Why? Because her family is indebted to them for some reason, I'm not sure. What I am sure of is that Fox seems to think creating an amalgam of two popular television genres (medical, gangster) is going to spell success in the ratings. What do they have planned for midseason? A series about a serial killer who joins a high school Glee club? Compared to The Mob Doctor, it doesn't sound half bad.
Picture the scene: a young family finally gets their dream home in an exclusive gated community. Quite a nice idea for a show, right? What I didn't mention is that the suburb's other residents are aliens who, amongst other things, read instead of eat and cry green goo out of their ears. No, it isn't a joke. It's The Neighbours, a sitcom that's due to air on ABC. I don't know about you, but I'm laughing already.
I was supposed to spend my summer anxiously counting down the days until the new TV season starts. Instead, I feel obliged to do one of two things: kill myself (because I can't live in a world without good television), or come up with my own idea for a show.
Both seem like a lot of work...
Follow Ross Semple on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@rosssemple