The final two nights of the week-long Paley Preview Parties finished with FOX and ABC presenting just a few of their new fall offerings earlier this week.
FOX had their preview party on Monday and started the night with a moderated panel for the network’s new comedies Ben and Kate as well as The Mindy Project and the medical drama The Mob Doctor. Among the panelists were Ben and Kate series creator Dana Fox and lead actor Nat Faxon; The Mindy Project Executive Producer Matt Warburton and cast member Chris Messina and Jordana Spiro, lead actress on The Mob Doctor and the show’s executive producer Rob Wright and series creator Josh Berman.
Among the subjects discussed during the panel included the pitch process for each of the shows, how the cast members landed their roles in each show; how much ad-libbing vs. actual scripted dialogue goes on during the filming of the comedies and just how much trouble Jordana’s character – Dr. Grace Devlin – will get into with the mob on the new drama. Then, the evening ended with screenings of the pilot episodes of all three shows; but more on that shortly.
The next evening – the final night of the annual parties – focused on the offerings from ABC, starting with a screening of the second season premiere episode of the drama Scandal. Right after that exciting episode screening, a moderated panel featuring nearly all of the cast members of the show, including Bellamy Young, Jeff Perry, Tony Goldwyn, Kerry Washington, Katie Lowes, Columbus Short, Darby Stanchfield and Guillermo Diaz as well as Executive Producer Betsy Beers and series creator Shonda Rhimes.
It was easy to see during the panel that the cast gets along really well with one another and they are just as enthusiastic over the show as the fans. In fact, they joked that while attending the recent Television Critics Association press tour they all received the latest script via their cell phones and they all stopped on the press line to read the script because they simply could not wait to read it.
As most people know, Shonda Rhimes is reticent to provide spoilers for any of her shows, but she did let slip that an upcoming episode will be a full flashback episode to which the cast members literally “squeed” over like any devoted fan. The cast also paid tribute to all of their great guest stars because they are completely dependent on them to bring out the best in each episode.
The second screening of the night featured the network’s new comedies Malibu Country and The Neighbors, which was quickly followed by a moderated panel that included cast members Reba McEntire, Lily Tomlin and Sara Rue as well as executive producer Kevin Abbott from Malibu Country and cast members Jami Gertz and Lenny Venito as well as executive producer and writer Dan Fogelman from The Neighbors. The evening finished off with a screening of the much buzzed about new music-laced drama Nashville that stars Connie Britton as country music queen Rayna James and Hayden Panettiere as up-and-comer singer Juliette Barnes.
In terms of what viewers should expect from all of these offerings from FOX and ABC, I would strongly suggest avoiding The Neighbors at all costs. Lead actress Jami Gertz mentioned during the panel that she thought the sitcom was “charming and funny”, but I found it to be simply insipid, poorly constructed and just bad. I honestly believe that it will be one of the first sitcoms to be pulled from the fall line-up; and I didn’t seem to be the only one in the audience that night who shared in that opinion. The other comedies were not quite that bad; but as a non-fan of sitcoms, I won’t be watching any further episodes of any of them.
As for the dramas, I think The Mob Doctor is really going to have to work for its audience because there just isn’t enough heart in the show and the lead character is just not fully believable (and the car chase near the end of the episode is just unfathomable).
Scandal, on the other hand, already has a leg up on the competition because of the seven-episode first season that aired earlier this year; the intriguing stories featured in those seven episodes and the incredible chemistry between leads Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn. I can also say that the cliffhanger from this past May is resolved in the premiere and is something that should not be missed.
Lastly, Nashville is being touted as one of the top 10 new shows of the fall and I have to agree that it will definitely be a hit for the network. The music is terrific and overseen by none other than T. Bone Burnett (and if I have to explain who that is then you are really missing out on one of the finest men in music); there is plenty of eye candy for both men and women to droll over and the stories behind the characters are as complicated as any typical country music single. This is a series with a lot of potential.
You can tune into The Mob Doctor on FOX this Monday, September 17 at 9 PM while Scandal will be back for the start of its second season on ABC on September 27 at 10 PM; but you will have to wait until October 11 for ABC to roll out the debut of Nashville.
Mark your calendars!!