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NPR Arts & Life

Lots Of New TV Shows Air This Fall But Not Many Are Original


The big broadcast networks are rolling out their new fall shows right now. And how many do you count, Eric Deggans?

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: I count about 26 new shows debuting in the next few weeks.

SIEGEL: Twenty-six new shows and Eric has seen a lot of those already because he is, at least for the next few days, TV critic for the Tampa Bay Times. Next week, he comes to NPR to be our television critic. As the great radio star Fred Allen once said, imitation is the sincerest form of television. Eric, I guess these shows are new but they're not all that original.

DEGGANS: Some of them - many of them are not. In fact, the lifeblood of television, as you have noted, is often the spin-off. It's often the recreation. So one of the things that we're seeing, huge premiere just last night, "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC. Their biggest drama premiere in four years and it's essentially a spinoff of the "Avengers" movie, taking a character who actually died during the film and building a new show around these spy guys who try to track down super-powered humans in the real world.

And if you look at the CW, which is kind of a network geared toward younger viewers, we have the show called "The Tomorrow People" that's based on a British show from the '70s about a bunch of young people with special powers. And I think we have a clip.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You're one of us. You're breaking out.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Your latent powers are starting to appear. Soon, you'll be able to do this.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Okay, okay, okay, okay. Put me down.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We're called tomorrow people.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Teleporting in your sleep is just the beginning.

DEGGANS: And, of course, you know, because they're youthful and they're on the CW, they're hidden super power is that they're good looking, so.

SIEGEL: That's true here, too, by the way. I was going to say you're one of us.

DEGGANS: That whole thing about a face for radio is just out the window here.

SIEGEL: Eric, save us a little time. What rehash series don't we have to even bother watching?

DEGGANS: Well, in that category I would name "Ironside," a remake of the old show from the '70s. You might remember Raymond Burr as a police officer who's stuck in a wheelchair. But this time, we've got Blair Underwood in that title role and it is so bad that even the ads sound like a bad "Saturday Night Live" parody. Let's check it out.


BLAIR UNDERWOOD: There's one thing I know, people do bad things. I'm everywhere, on top of everybody, working every angle until I've got my facts. And when I know without a doubt, then I may do bad things, too.

DEGGANS: It's like I expect Danny Glover's character from "Lethal Weapon" to jump out and say, I'm too old for this stuff. It's crazy.

SIEGEL: Well, there's nothing especially creative about television being uncreative. Unoriginal new shows have been around. "The Office" was a remake of a British show. "Hawaii Five-O" was a remake of an old American show. Why are there so many unoriginal new shows this year?

DEGGANS: Well, I think one thing is it's a safer bet for network TV executives. If something does well overseas, there's a sense that they can do an American version of it and the concept is already a proven commodity. Also, more and more these days, income from foreign markets is important to the success of TV shows. So I think there's also a sense that if they can create an American version, then they might be able to sell it better overseas as a different version of something that's already worked.

SIEGEL: I gather Michael J. Fox is coming back to television.

DEGGANS: Oh, yeah. Now, Michael J. Fox, now this is a rehash that I can get behind. Michael J. Fox is starring in a sitcom that's centered on a character who has Parkinson's disease, just like he does in real life. This character is a New York TV anchor who had to quit work as soon as his symptoms started to show.

And as he began to cope with his disease, he goes back to work because, frankly, his family can't stand it when he's home and it's really funny. It's heartwarming and it goes along also with this trend of family comedies that we're seeing this fall.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Eric.

DEGGANS: Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: That's Eric Deggans of The Tampa Bay Times and starting next week, he's going to be NPR's Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.