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Time Travel to the Fall: Broadcast TV’s New Shows & Schedules

Network television is going back in time, all the way back to… the Revolutionary War! And the Hindenburg disaster! And H.G. Wells’ 1800’s! And those are only the literal time travel series debuting either this fall or sometime next spring. The mindset of hopping in a box (or giant bag in the case of FOX’s Making History) and flipping through the decades is all over the schedules of broadcast TV. This week, each of the big five channels held their upfronts where they announced pick-ups and new schedules, following last week’s wave of cancelations. Now that the dust is settled, let’s pop open the time machine, go ahead to the fall and see what will air in the very near future.


One to Watch: MacGyver
So, we’re listing these channels in rough order of how excited their new slate of shows have us. And there’s a reason this is first. Listen, we committed to having a “best” pick for each one of these, and we’re not going to drop that simply because nothing on CBS seems remotely appealing. MacGyver looks fine. The cast appears to be charming, the special effects aren’t embarrassing and there’s some inherent charm in the show’s premise. But this show will have to do a lot of work to prove itself as something more than a reheated leftover.

How Much Time Does It Travel?
What we said about MacGyver? That holds true for pretty much everything CBS is up to this fall. There may not be literal time travel on the network, but almost every series is clearly going after an expired mindset. For some sitcoms, that means centering a flaccid premise around a former star (Kevin Can Wait‘s Kevin James, Man with a Plan‘s Matt LeBlanc). For another sitcom, it means forming that premise around a hipster stereotype that would have been tired ten years ago (The Great Indoors). And the dramas don’t fare much better; in addition to MacGyver, CBS is bringing Training Day to television for some incomprehensible reason (the trailer looks timely, but in the way you’d like it to). Other series Bull, based on Dr. Phil’s days jury consulting for lawyers, and Pure Genius, high-tech medical procedural, don’t quite fall into these traps. But that doesn’t mean they looks very good.

The Schedule
8:00pm – NCIS: Los Angeles
9:00pm – Madam Secretary
10:00pm – Elementary

8:00pm – The Big Bang Theory (After 10/24: Kevin Can Wait)
8:30pm – Kevin Can Wait (After 10/24: Man with a Plan)
9:00pm – 2 Broke Girls
9:30pm – The Odd Couple
10:00pm – Scorpion

8:00pm – NCIS
9:00pm – Bull
10:00pm – NCIS: New Orleans

8:00pm – Survivor
9:00pm – Criminal Minds
10:00pm – Code Black

THURSDAY (after Thursday Night Football ends on 10/20)
8:00pm – The Big Bang Theory
8:30pm – The Great Indoors
9:00pm – Mom
9:30pm – Life in Pieces
10:00pm – Pure Genius

8:00pm – MacGyver
9:00pm – Hawaii Five-O
10:00pm – Blue Bloods

NEW AT MIDSEASON: Doubt, Training Day
RETURNING AT MIDSEASON: The Amazing RaceCriminal Minds: Beyond BordersUndercover Boss


One to Watch: Designated Survivor
ABC’s new shows don’t look nearly as dire as CBS’s, but there’s still very little to be inspired by. The trailer for Designated Survivor isn’t all that special, but the premise certainly is: when the State of the Union is attacked, the presidency is handed down to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Though Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t naturally sell that troubled scenario as well as a more meek individual would, he’s still a strong actor who could really do something if given the material. Whether or not that material is there is yet to be seen, and high-concept shows rarely succeed for long, but Designated Survivor is one of the only new ABC shows that sticks out even the slightest bit.

How Much Time Does It Travel?
Not too much, honestly. You could certainly draw lines between new series and modern classics, but that’s almost always true with broadcast television. Downward Dog, with drowns the great Allison Tolman in a talking dog sitcom, does look like something more ready-made for the 90’s than today’s world. And there’s literal time-travel in Time After Time, which sees H.G. Wells travel to modern day in order to stop Jack the Ripper. But for the most part, any groans here are due to bad trailers rather than a nostalgic mindset (or to the fact that we lost Agent Carter for the turgid-looking Conviction). Also, if you’d like a relatively safe bet for the fall’s first cancellation, watch the trailer for Notorious. Despite the “safe zone” of ABC’s Thursday night, this thing looks destined to be lost to the waves of time rather quickly

The Schedule
8:00pm – Once Upon a Time
9:00pm – Secrets and Lies
10:00pm – Quantico

8:00pm – Dancing with the Stars
10:00pm – Conviction

8:00pm – The Middle
8:30pm – American Housewife
9:00pm – Fresh Off the Boat
9:30pm – The Real O’Neals
10:00pm – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

8:00pm – The Goldbergs
8:30pm – Speechless
9:00pm – Modern Family
9:30pm – Black-ish
10:00pm – Designated Survivor

8:00pm – Grey’s Anatomy
9:00pm – Notorious 
10:00pm – How to Get Away with Murder

8:00pm – Last Man Standing
8:30pm – Dr. Ken
9:00pm – Shark Tank
10:00pm – 20/20

NEW AT MIDSEASON: Downward DogImaginary Mary, Still Star-Crossed, Time After Time
RETURNING AT MIDSEASON: American CrimeThe CatchScandal


One to Watch: The Good Place
All hail Mike Schur. Writer on The Office and co-creator of Parks & Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, the man has built himself a fairly impenetrable resume, and The Good Place looks just charming enough to fit right in. The premise recalls Dead Like Me, but it’s set in the after-life rather than bringing the deceased to our world. Kristen Bell plays a woman mixed up in the system and considered great when she should probably be in hell. Keeping tabs on her is Ted Danson, always a welcome sight on the TV screen. But really this comes down to Schur; if he’s making a sitcom, you’d do best to pay attention.

How Much Time Does It Travel?
Like ABC, NBC has less thematic time-travel but does contain a literal example. Timeless could be intriguing, and it helps that it’s led by Rectify‘s great Abigail Spencer. This is Us is set in present day, but deeply recalls the “everything is connected” series that popped up like weeds in the wake of Lost. Really, though, NBC is looking to keep the time machine set on present day, or maybe a year or two ago. There’s a Blacklist spin-off and continued growth of the sturdy, if uninspired Chicago franchise. This speaks to the fact that the network is doing fairly well for itself with those shows, football and The Voice. Nothing golden can stay, of course, but NBC is going to get the most out of present day for as long as it can.

The Schedule
8:00pm – Sunday Night Football

8:00pm – The Voice
10:00pm – Timeless

8:00pm – The Voice
9:00pm – This is Us
10:00pm – Chicago Fire

8:00pm – Blindspot
9:00pm – Law & Order: SVU
10:00pm – Chicago P.D.

8:00pm – Superstore
8:30pm – The Good Place
9:00pm – Chicago Med
10:00pm – The Blacklist

8:00pm – Caught on Camera…
9:00pm – Grimm
10:00pm – Dateline

NEW AT MIDSEASON: The Blacklist: Redemption, Chicago Justice, Emerald City, Great News, Marlon, Midnight, Texas, Powerless, Taken, Trial & Error
RETURNING AT MIDSEASON: The Carmichael ShowCelebrity ApprenticeShades of Blue


One to Watch: Pitch
Oh lord, I hope this series is good. Pitch is about the first woman to play professional baseball in the US, and it’s made with co-operation from the MLB. That could lead to a “playing it safe mentality” that doesn’t allow for genuine critique or analysis of the sport. But it also helps with a genuine look; seeing the game shot like an MLB broadcast and having its lead play for the San Diego Padres (rather than, say, the Texas Wildebeests) helps considerably. And, as a baseball fan, I can’t hide my personal thrill at seeing an MLB-licensed show imply that this fictional story may become true in the coming years. Unlike my other picks, this won’t be around until midseason (to line up with the start of 2017’s baseball I assume), but it just might be worth the wait.

How Much Time Does It Travel?
If anyone would like to hop into the past more than CBS, it’s FOX. The network isn’t doing so well after losing American Idol, which hadn’t been its former self in years. There’s nothing here to imitate that success, but there’s plenty else. Assuming The X-Files gets another season, there will be three “revival series” currently on FOX. Midseason will see both 24 and Prison Break return, though the former ditches the old cast completely. And before then we’ll get TV versions of Lethal Weapon (which I’m genuinely shocked hasn’t happened yet) and The Exorcist. Neither looks great, though yet another Rectify alum in Clayne Crawford gives Weapon at least some degree of charm. And then there’s the actual science-fiction, in the season’s funniest trailer: Making History. If nothing else, it’ll change the way you appreciate ham forever. FOX is all over the place, in terms of time and apparent quality, but it’s difficult to blame their scattered approach in today’s boggling TV landscape.

The Schedule
7:30pm – Bob’s Burgers
8:00pm – The Simpsons
8:30pm – Son of Zorn
9:00pm – Family Guy
9:30 – The Last Man on Earth

8:00pm – Gotham
9:00pm – Lucifer

8:00pm – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
8:30pm – New Girl
9:00pm – Scream Queens

8:00pm – Lethal Weapon
9:00pm – Empire

8:00pm – Rosewood
9:00pm – Bones

8:00pm – Hell’s Kitchen
9:00pm – The Exorcist

NEW AT MIDSEASON: 24: Legacy, APB, Making History, The Mick, Pitch, Shots Fired
RETURNING AT MIDSEASON: Prison BreakSleepy Hollow


One to Watch: No Tomorrow
It would be completely fair to watch this trailer, or hear the premise of No Tomorrow (woman meets doomsday prophet hunk, learns to embrace life) and sigh. But The CW has made a name for itself taking questionable premises and making something wonderful (there’s a reason Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend are name-checked in this trailer). So consider this less an endorsement of this ad than general optimism in the network, and the fact that writer Corinne Brinkerhoff also penned scripts for Jane and The Good Wife.

How Much Time Does It Travel?
Would I shock you if I said there’s a time travel show on this network as well? If so, you haven’t been paying attention. Nobody physically moves through the years in Frequency, an adaptation of the 2000 sci-fi film. But an old radio connects daughter to her deceased father and the butterfly effect starts creeping in everywhere. And Riverdale takes the old-school charm of Archie and applies a seedy underbelly. This ranks among the worst ideas in the history of television, but it comes from Greg Berlanti (The FlashSupergirl) so the verdict is out. (Though, they probably would have done better following the new comics reboot, which is more mature without succumbing to “moody darkness”). But the headlines here are time-shifts and channel-travel. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend moves to Fridays, breaking up the best night of television and raising the question of how much CW is invested in the tremendous series. And Supergirl moves here from CBS, which makes all the sense in the world even if it is an unusual occurrence. The CW isn’t just the best basic network, it ranks among your FX’s and HBO’s. Whether or not it will stay that way is yet to be seen, but hopefully the future remains as bright as the present day.

The Schedule
8:00pm – Supergirl
9:00pm – Jane the Virgin

8:00pm – The Flash
9:00pm – No Tomorrow

8:00pm – Arrow
9:00pm – Frequency

8:00pm – DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
9:00pm – Supernatural

8:00pm – The Vampire Diaries
9:00pm – Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

RETURNING AT MIDSEASON: The 100iZombieThe OriginalsReign

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Josh Oakley is a writer for Cut Print Film and runs the pop culture blog Wine and Pop.

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