FOX’s crop of dramas for the 2014-15 season, which includes two closed-ended “event series” that are so hot with networks right now, appears to be the strongest of the broadcast bunch. Of course, it’s only Monday of upfronts week, but still — every new clip was met with an enthusiastic round of applause at the network’s 2014 upfront presentation at the Beacon Theatre in New York City on Monday (May 12).
FOX entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly was big on “eventizing our entertainment slate,” giving viewers an incentive and urgency to tune in. The network is betting big on “Wayward Pines” and “Gracepoint,” two 10-episode series, to bring in more eyeballs than ever. Reilly says he thinks viewers will tune in because “answers are revealed and mysteries are solved in ten episodes, not five years.”
Those two series, combined with reality experiment “Utopia” and expansive dramas “Red Band Society,” “Gotham,” “Hieroglyph,” “Backstrom” and “Empire,” will hopefully give FOX some much-needed ratings wins. Here’s how the trailers for each new show went over with the advertisers gathered at the presentation:
Thursdays at 9
Yes, the first episode of this drama, about the murder of a young boy in a small coastal town, is exactly like the British series on which it’s based, “Broadchurch.” But, like “Broadchurch,” “Gracepoint” stars former “Doctor Who” David Tennant as one of the detectives assigned to the case. Why would he sign on to something completely unnecessary if it wasn’t going to be awesome too? Judging from the trailer, which was met to much applause, this series should be just as dark and chilling (and addictive) as the original. Plus, it’s got “Breaking Bad” star Anna Gunn.
“Red Band Society”
Wednesdays at 9
Reilly pitches this one as a “four quadrant show” with a “charismatic cast that will end up on magazine covers,” but it’s clearly the emotional melodrama that will draw you to this series about a group of children who bond together in a hospital, led by their doctors Octavia Spencer and Dave Annable. They’re played by actual teenagers, and they’re dealing with serious issues — eating disorders, cancer, heart problems — rather than love triangles and typical high school drama (but that’ll probably be in there too). This much-buzzed-about pilot garnered plenty of applause from the audience.
Mondays at 8
Paired with “Sleepy Hollow,” Mondays should be a pretty solid, genre-influenced day on FOX. You’ve probably already seen the trailer, since FOX has been advertising the show on-air for a week already, and it was met to the thunderous applause that you’d expect of a super-cool-looking Batman prequel, plus plenty of “woo”s from the fanboys in the crowd.
Reilly calls this a “mind-bending” drama from M. Knight Shyamalan. The trailer plays like “Twin Peaks” redux, but the more you see of this deliberately quirky, supernatural-tinged mystery about a special agent (Matt Dillon) trapped in a strange Idaho town, the more you want to see of the new series.
Okay, so not much of the story was revealed in the trailer, but this is an Ancient Egypt-set mystery with sexy people and vampires. Looks like it could occupy the same bats*** crazy niche as “Sleepy Hollow.”
This new procedural from “Bones” creator Hart Hanson looks to be the same type of offbeat, quirky drama (infused with plenty of humor) that you’d expect. It’s “House: The Detective,” but not all the jokes in the cutdown landed as they should have. It’s tonally different from FOX’s other new dramas, but it would pair nicely with “Bones” since it’s got that same quirky edge.
“Hip hop has influenced culture for decades, but gone largely unrecognized on television,” said Reilly, and it’s true. But this epic-looking new series, from Oscar nominees Lee Daniels and Danny Strong and with original music from Timbaland, should change that. Terrence Howard is ostensibly the star, but Taraji P. Henson stole the trailer right out from under him. That’s what happens when you assemble so many Oscar-nominated people for one show! The series follows Howard’s hip hop mogul after he’s diagnosed with ALS and must groom one of his three sons to take over Empire, his Def Jam-esque media company.