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After the holiday season comes another eventful midseason on the Big Four broadcast networks


Jennifer Lopez will try to get a little gritty in Shades of Blue. Joining her in this effort are Ray Liotta and Drea de Matteo. NBC photo

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Two of the Big Four broadcast networks (ABC and Fox) have put out detailed summations of their revamped midseason schedules while NBC is dribbling out information and CBS remains silent save for the biggest splash of them all -- Super Bowl 50.

Let’s spotlight some of the more notable new and returning attractions.


Jan. 3 -- The whimsical, witty medieval musical Galavant returns for Season 2. It’s supposed to run for 10 episodes.

Jan. 6 -- One of the standout new dramas of last season, American Crime, takes on an all-new case in Season 2. Or as ABC puts it, “Issues of sexual orientation and socioeconomic disparity come to a boil when lurid photos of a high school boy are posted on social media following a school party.” Season 1 stars Felicity Huffman, Timothy Hutton and Emmy winner Regina King return in new roles.

Jan.7 -- The off-putting title of this new reality series is My Diet Is Better Than Yours. Well, that may be true, but I recently had a substantial helping of kale before relapsing back into a frozen Tombstone pizza. Anyway, it’s a variation of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, with “celebrity trainers coaching average Americans to lose weight and get in shape.”

March 2 -- A seemingly perfect family isn’t so perfect after all in the comedy series The Real O’Neals. But then “everyone stops pretending to be perfect and actually starts being real.” Martha Plimpton and Jay R. Ferguson head the cast.

March 3 -- In The Family, a politician’s young son returns to the fold after being presumed dead for a decade. But not so fast. Is he really who he says he is, or should the family build a wall? Joan Allen stars as the matriarch.

March 8 -- Bumped from the fall schedule, Of Kings and Prophets at least will arrive before Easter. The official network of The Ten Commandments describes it thusly: “An epic biblical saga of faith, ambition and betrayal as told through the eyes of the battle-weary King Saul, the resentful prophet Samuel and the resourceful young shepherd David -- all on a collision course with destiny that will change the world.” Well then. Ray Winstone stars as Saul.

March 24 -- Mireille Enos from AMC’s The Killing and the resilient Peter Krause head the cast of The Catch, with Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder) running the show. Enos plays a topflight L.A. private investigator who’s intent on payback after her fiancé (Krause) cons her out of millions of dollars and then vanishes.


Jan. 3 -- The new Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life chronicles the “charming misadventures” of the title character and his misfit friends. Fox says their “hilarious disasters” include a night in jail, crazy ex-girlfriends, going broke and the heartbreak of psoriasis. OK, not the last one. Newcomer Jack Cutmore-Scott stars.

Jan. 3 -- Bordertown debuts as a cartoon series taking a “satirical look at the cultural shifts taking place in America.” Voice actors include Alex Borstein, Hank Azaria and Judah Friedlander.

Jan. 4 -- The “reality-competition” series Superhuman assembles 12 contestants with supposedly extraordinary abilities. They then battle for a grand prize of $100 grand, which frankly doesn’t really seem like a super sum. Comedian Kal Penn hosts, with the likes of Mike Tyson and Mary Lynn Rajskub popping in as guest commentators.

Jan. 5 -- New Girl returns for its fifth season.

Jan. 6 -- Here comes the most powerful TV series of this century, American Idol, for its 15th and final go-around. Judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr. and Keith Urban all return, with Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and an array of past champs (maybe even including Taylor Hicks) also sure to show up at some point.

Jan. 13 -- Rob Kazinsky (True Blood) heads the cast of the new drama series Second Chance. Fox says he plays a “disgraced, 75-year-old ex-sheriff who dies at the hands of corrupt cops.” But then he’s “brought back to life by a pair of young tech scientists who are founders of a social networking empire -- and given a second chance as a 35-year-old with unpredictable near-superhuman abilities.” Sounds about as plausible as the Jacksonville Jaguars winning the Super Bowl. But hey, this is television.

Jan. 24 -- David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reunite as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in this limited six-episode edition of The X-Files. Its last original episode on Fox dates back to May 19, 2002. So yes, it’s been a while, and no midseason entry will be dissected more on Twitter and various other social media “platforms.”

Jan. 25 -- The new drama Lucifer stars Tom Ellis (Merlin) as Lord of Hell Lucifer Morningstar, who’s now fired up about retiring in L.A. But then he meets a homicide detective and is infatuated by her “compassion for humanity.” Inner conflict ensues.

Jan. 31 -- Fox takes a page from NBC and presents Grease: Live. It’s gonna be three hours, and the singing/dancing cast includes Julianne Hough, Vanessa Hudgens, Aaron Tveit, Keke Palmer, Mario Lopez, Ana Gasteyer and Carly Rae Jepsen.

March 30 -- Empire’s so-called “spring premiere” dawns after a lengthy hiatus. Its “fall finale” is scheduled for Dec. 2nd. After that, eight new episodes will remain from an 18-episode Season 2.


Dec. 3 -- NBC’s latest musical extravaganza, The Wiz Live!, stars Shanice Williams as Dorothy and also will include Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Uzo Aduba, David Alan Grier, Common and Ne-Yo in supporting roles. The Broadway original dates back to 1975, with a 1978 feature film adaptation fronted by Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. This is NBC’s third full-blown holiday season musical, following The Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live!

Jan. 4 -- The new comedy Superstore will sneak-preview on Nov. 30th before resuming as a weekly series on this date. America Ferrera and Ben Feldman head the cast. All involved “hilariously tackle the day-to-day grind of rabid bargain hunters, riot-causing sales and nap-worthy training sessions.” Sponsored by Wal-Mart? Probably not.

Jan. 4 -- NBC has a jones for sneak-previewing, so Telenovela also will get an early jump start on Dec. 7th before settling in on this date. Eva Longoria is both the executive producer and star, playing Spanish language soap star Ana Sofia -- who doesn’t speak Spanish. And uh-oh, her ex-husband is resurfacing as Ana’s new on-screen love interest.

Jan. 7 -- Jennifer Lopez plays NYPD detective Harlee Santos in the new drama series Shades of Blue. She’s also a single mom with financial problems who must choose between “doing the right thing” or covering up for her corrupt cop colleagues. Ray Liotta joins in as Lt. Bill Wozniak and former Sopranos co-star Drea de Matteo gets another shot as Det. Tess Nazario. The show premieres on the same night as Idol’s second two-hour episode of Season 15, but not directly against it.


Feb. 7 -- We don’t know the teams yet, but we do know that Super Bowl 50 again is certain to be the season’s most-watched TV event. CBS says its post-Supie attraction will be a live edition of Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It’s the first time a late night talker has landed this coveted slot.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board, Thurs., July 2) -- ReelzChannel to the rescue (again)


No longer operative on NBC or Univision, it’ll be on ReelzChannel.

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The still obscure ReelzChannel again has stepped in as an adoption agency for orphaned TV programming.

It will proudly present the Donald Trump-tainted Miss USA pageant on July 12th after Univision backed out and NBC followed suit four days later.

Stan E. Hubbard, CEO of the Minnesota-based cable network, announced on Thursday that acquiring the rights to the pageant is “based on our belief that this special event, and the women who compete in it, are an integral part of American tradition. As one of only a few independent networks, we decided to exercise our own voice and committed ourselves to bringing this pageant to American viewers everywhere.”

Networks, hosts and judges began bailing on the Trump-owned pageant after his heavily publicized slams at Mexican immigrants during his June 16th announcement that he’s running for president as a Republican.

“When Mexico sends its people,” he said, “they’re not sending the best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”

In 2011, ReelzChannel picked up The Kennedys miniseries after History Channel paid for its production and then decreed it “not a fit for the brand.” The 8-hour production, which starred Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Tom Wilkinson and Barry Pepper, ended up receiving 10 Emmy nominations and won four.

There’s possibly more work to do for ReelzChannel on the abandoned programming front. The TV Land network this week yanked reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard because its signature General Lee vehicle has a Confederate flag on its roof. Co-star John Schneider angrily told The Hollywood Reporter, “Are people who grew up watching he show now suddenly racists? Will they have to go through a detox and a 12-step program to kick their Dukes habit?”

For now, ReelzChannel also is home to Hollywood Hillbillies, its most popular program, as well as Branson’s Taxi, Master P’s Family Empire, Celebrity Damage Control and repeats of Access Hollywood Live.

Its most immediate challenge, in light of the Miss USA pageant acquisition, will be finding identifiable people to host and judge it. Dropouts include previously announced hosts Cheryl Burke and Thomas Roberts (an anchor for MSNBC), and former Dallas Cowboys star Emmitt Smith, who had signed on as a judge.

***NBC has renewed one serial killer and canceled another. The network’s summer series Aquarius, starring David Duchovny and built around the pursuit of Charles Manson, is getting a second season. But Hannibal has been axed in its third season after being eaten alive in the prime-time ratings. For now, though, new episodes continue to air on Thursday nights.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board (Tues., March 24) -- The X Files returning to Fox while Easter Sunday is loaded with prime attractions


X-rated anew on Fox: truth-seekers Dana Scully and Fox Mulder.

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It had begun to seem as though a continuation of The X Files on Fox was about as likely as a 24 feature film. Lots of false starts but no payoff.

But a renewal of the famed sci-fi series is now an officially announced reality, with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reuniting as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully in a six-episode “event series.” Creator/executive producer Chris Carter also is returning as show runner, Fox said Tuesday. Production is scheduled to start this summer.

“I think of it as a 13-year commercial break,” Carter said in a publicity release. “The good news is the world has only gotten that much stranger, a perfect time to tell these six stories.”

The X Files premiered on Fox in September, 1993, ages before Facebook, Twitter and the whole social media upheaval. It nonetheless became a much-talked about phenomenon in those primitive times. The series ran for nine seasons and 202 episodes while also spawning two big-screen films starring Duchovny and Anderson.


Showtime has ordered 12 episodes of Billions, a new drama series starring Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis, who will be returning to the network after three seasons as the ill-fated Nicholas Brody on Homeland.

The network describes it as a “complex and contemporary drama about power politics in the New York world of high finance.” The series is due in 2016, with Giamatti playing “hard-charging, politically savvy” U.S. attorney Chuck Rhoades and Lewis cast as “brilliant, ambitious” hedge fund king Bobby “Axe” Axelrod.


Easter Sunday, April 5th, threatens to run DVRs into the ground with a wealth of significant premieres plus the return of AMC’s Mad Men for its concluding seven-episode run, subtitled “The End of an Era.”

Besides Don Draper’s last stand, here’s what else is coming on Easter night.

*PBS’ Wolf Hall, a six-part Masterpiece presentation starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell and the aforementioned Lewis as Henry VIII.
*HBO’s Sinatra: All or Nothing At All, a two-night, four-hour documentary on the legendary singer.
*NBC’s American Odyssey, an ambitious, Homeland-like drama series delving into global politics, corporate espionage and military skullduggery.
*Lifetime’s The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, an eight-episode continuation of the network’s hit movie starring Christina Ricci in the title role.
*NBC’s A.D. The Bible Continues, post-crucifixion sequel to the History network’s The Bible.
*ABC’s annual reprise of The Ten Commandments

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net

TV Bulletin Board (Mon., March 9) -- demonic killers, big prize competitions spur NBC's summertime schedule


Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) strums up business in Aquarius. NBC photo

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NBC’s “tentpole” summertime premieres include three name-brand returnees and a new series in which David Duchovny chases down Charles Manson.

Aquarius, starting on Thursday, May 28th, stars Duchovny as LAPD Sgt. Sam Hodiak, who joins two other cops in pursuing Manson (Gethin Anthony) “down a rabbit hole of drugs, sex, murder and a cultural revolution.” It’s set in 1967.

Another twisted psycho, Hannibal Lecter, is due back on Thursday, June 4th for Season 3 of Hannibal. That’ll put the series in tandem with Aquarius for a full two-hours of maniacal killers and manipulators.

The Peacock’s biggest summertime hit, America’s Got Talent, launches its 10th season on Tuesday, May 26th. And American Ninja Warrior will be back the night before on Monday, May 25th.


CBS has its major hot weather attractions lined up. Big Brother is first in line with a Wednesday, June 24th re-launch. It also will air on Thursdays and Sundays.

Season 3 of Under the Dome gets going on Thursday, June 25th and the second season of Extant is due on Wednesday, July 1st.

The network’s summertime newcomer is Zoo, adapted from the James Patterson novel. James Wolk (Mad Men, The Crazy Ones) heads the cast as a “renegade biologist” battling a wave of animal attacks against humans who presumably aren’t members of PETA. Kristen Connolly (House of Cards) co-stars.


Kevin Spacey, currently skewering his many enemies as President Frank Underwood on Netflix’s House of Cards, has been signed to produce the six-part docu-series Race For the White House for airing in 2016 on CNN.

Each of the one-hour chapters will revisit a “no-holds-barred” presidential campaign. CNN hasn’t announced which ones yet.


CBS on Monday, March 9th launched “Viewers to Volunteers,” which the network says “empowers people to give to a charity of their choice without spending their own money.” D-FW is the one of the first four “launch markets,” joining Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. For more information on how this all works, go here.

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TV Bulletin Board (Tues., Feb. 3) -- Supie sets another record


Even last year’s blowout of the Denver Broncos by the Seattle Seahawks set a new record as the most-watched TV program ever with 112.2 million viewers nationally.

So it was hard to imagine Sunday’s down-to-the-wire Super Bowl XLIX classic not bettering that mark.

The New England Patriots’ 28-24 win over the Seahawks, still the sports commentary gift that keeps on giving, averaged 114.4 million viewers on NBC. So that makes it the new kingpin -- at least until the 2016 Supie.

On the other hand, NBC’s post-Super Bowl new episode of The Blacklist was no record-breaker. It drew 25.7 million viewers, the most since NBC’s 2012 followup, The Voice, amassed 37.6 million viewers.

The all-time record-holder for post-game attractions is still NBC’s 1996 guest star-studded episode of Friends, which drew 52.9 million viewers and likely will never be equaled.

Also on Sunday, NBC’s special live edition of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show had 9.8 million viewers.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net