TV Fall 2016: Fridays
Fridays were TGIF during my childhood, when networks really tried to put interesting, family-friendly scripted shows on the schedule. That has long since passed, and now reality television and low-rated fare dominate. The said, both Fox and CBS are making a splash with two new shows I’m checking out, even though they are part of the groan-inducing trend of rebooting old movies or franchises on the mistaken belief that the property is “pre-sold” to an audience that might have been too young to see the original. They are:
MacGyver: Relative newcomer Lucas Till (best known for playing Havoc, one of the newer class of X-Men in the eponymous movies) headlines this show for CBS. This reboot goes further than the others this fall in trying to speak to a modern audience without feeling caged by the original. This Mac has more in common with the team over on Scorpion than he does with the Richard Dean Anderson version of the character, including relying on a team rather than being out there alone. The comedic tone and narration is a bit of a nod to the campy 80s action stylings of the original. But some of the twists are seen a mile away, including that (SPOILER) Mac’s dead girlfriend is alive and will likely be a Big Bad for the season. The pilot is certainly more watchable today than the original (which does not hold up well). I could quibble about some of the plot points or unnecessary characters, but the overall the show was better than I expected, and I will DVR it at least for a few more episodes to see if the series can distinguish itself from other CBS shows like NCIS or Scorpion. (For example, the original Mac never used a gun and had a more idealistic mission than the slightly more generic anti-terrorism goals of this new show.)
The Exorcist: Translating a movie into a television show (or vice versa) is always tricky business, since certain plot elements and character traits can be explored in different ways and on different timetables. That is why adaptations are never perfect carbon copies of each other. The Exorcist is setting up a particularly tough task, as horror movies as a genre are generally shorter films with less attention paid to plot or character and more so on jump scares. And this adaptation is opting to go with a more serial storytelling, meaning that the family afflicted with the demon in the film will instead suffer all season long. How the show treats them week to week will be a clue as to whether the premise can hold up as a television show. Will they have the priests stumble upon a whole nest of demons harms others and get to work as some religious male version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so we can be distracted for a few episodes, or will this family obsess about the problem as it slows cresends? I think we’ll see a mix of the two, given the acting caliber in the parents and what we saw in the trailer for the following week. Unfortunately, Geena Davis does not come across as particularly convincing as a high-powered CEO or a devout Catholic worried about demons possessing her children, nor was I convinced by the priest’s sudden change of heart on helping the family, just in time to set up the (not a surprise) surprise twist of which daughter was possessed. But I will give the show this – even with more than its share of expected horror cliche moments, The Exorcist still managed to find some new or at least legitimately creepy moments in that first hour (including a random crow breaking a window and dying with its head half-way through). Normally, this is not my genre, and I still have my doubts that the premise can be stretched over 13 or even 22 episodes, but I will give it another chance.
My two Friday shows from last season, Grimm and Sleepy Hollow are held for mid-season. Grimm is delayed because a shortened final season of 13 episodes is expected, while Sleepy Hollow is delayed in part because of a major retooling of the show was required when the female lead asked to leave at the end of last season.