Earlier this week, some of the most prominent TV critics in the nation collected for a special panel at The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Burbank (California) to discuss the upcoming fall TV season.
Among the participants in the panel were Robert Bianco, Television Critic for USA Today; Tim Goodman, Chief Television Critic for The Hollywood Reporter; Brian Lowry, Chief Television Critic at Variety and Matt Roush, Senior Critic at TV Guide Magazine.
Overseeing the evening was Deputy Editor for Variety, Cynthia Littleton, who opened the panel with a question to the critics about the “bigger picture”; namely, whether the fall schedule really matters anymore given all the options available to viewers nowadays. While you would think the critics would want to move along with the times in order to stay up-to-date and accurate; they each came to the agreement that tradition still matters to TV viewers.
As the discussion progressed to various topics, Matt shared that unlike past TV seasons; only 20 new shows are coming this fall on the major networks, making their jobs a little less cluttered, a little easier. And, the men also joked that now that the major networks are jumping on the year-round programming like the cable networks, there is almost a strange flow of shows.
Case in point is the fact that once the major networks ended their 2011-2012 TV season shortly before the Memorial Day weekend, there was very little downtime before new shows were debuting or returning for the summer. There was virtually no break for viewers and critics alike; but that is becoming the norm as more and more original programming starts taking hold of the primetime line-up.
Not that that truth is a bad thing, mind you, but the critics did agree that the structure is still the same in terms of the work they have to do for their media outlets. In fact, they briefly discussed just how much of a battleground Sunday night has become during the summer and will continue to be this fall, which makes their schedules quite hectic.
But the main discussion of the night, of course, was reserved for what new fall dramas surprised them with Elementary and Vegas being the top shows mentioned while Ben and Kate seemed to be the most buzzed about new comedy. On the alternate side of that discussion were the new shows that disappointed the critics with The New Normal, Partners and The Neighbors seeming to take the brunt of their criticism. Although it should be noted that all of the critics seemed to agree that there is no “home run comedy pilot this fall”. As for the new dramas that didn’t seem to click with the men on the panel, The Mob Doctor and Made in Jersey seemed to be the shows that got the most attention.
The evening came to an end almost a bit too quickly but first a few questions from the audience were posed to the panelists. It should be noted that at this particular event questions from the audience were actually written down prior to the event and I was pleased to learn that one of my questions was the first to be asked. The question was “What one piece of advice would the critics give to an executive producer or showrunner before they start a new project?” While the men first joked that they aren’t “Dear Abby” nor should they be the barometer by which the powers that be behind any new show should gauge their work; they did provide one very valuable piece of advice: they should think toward what happens in episode five (and beyond) not just concentrating on the pilot because the best shows come from showrunners who have a vision.
While I enjoyed getting insights from renowned TV critics, my only source of displeasure from that evening’s event is the fact that more women critics were not included on the panel. It would have been valuable to get more female perspectives. But in the final analysis of the evening, it was interesting to hear the men talk about what to anticipate and avoid this fall.