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The new (?) TV season

Robert Galvin

This used to be the sweet spot in the calendar for those who considered themselves, for lack of a better term, television junkies.

By that, I don’t mean those who were addicted to certain genres or particular series; rather, those who followed the ebb and flow of what used to be called the “Big 3” networks with the same fervor as a presidential election or the baseball standings.

Late spring into early summer was the time when the network shows ended their seasons of 20-25 episodes, cancellations would be announced and we’d get an introduction to the programs that would begin in the traditional post-Labor Day, start of school year window.

It was TV’s version of the circle of life — at least as Baby Boomers understood it — and it was as comforting a ritual as turning off the set and heading to bed after Johnny Carson swung his imaginary golf club.

Suffice to say, those days are gone for good.

The Big 3 — ABC, CBS and NBC, for those of you who might be saying “OK, Boomer” at the moment — no longer rule the airwaves. Heck, the “airwaves” no longer rule the airwaves, as streaming services dominate the landscape … offering up a deluge of programming available beyond the limitations of the Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel” era.

The autumnal lifting of the curtain on new and returning programs remains, but seems more and more an anachronism as programs debut and are discarded at dizzying speed at any point on the calendar.

And those seasons of 20-25 episodes? Even for the most stalwart of veterans, that number decreases with every year as production costs escalate.

Let’s put it this way: If “Gunsmoke” were to begin its run this fall, it might not have even half of the 39 installments that it did during the first season of its legendary 635-episode run.

This all is not to say that this evolution has been a bad thing for viewers … or streamers or downloaders or bingers or whatever it is those who watch “television” programs are called in the here and now — as long as, that is, we heed the advice of Dr. Rick and remember they’re no long “programs,” but TV shows.

The Big 3 have long since become the Big 4, adding Fox; and while the network known as The CW knocks continually on the door with its slew of youth-oriented fantasy and superhero programming, the overall sense is that of rushing to the station not only after the train has departed, but after trains were no longer cat’s pajamas.

Still, some traditions continue, if only through muscle memory or nostalgia, and so it was that over the past 10 days or so that the broadcast networks rolled out the schedules for fall — after canceling some prog … TV shows too soon (CBS dropped “The Unicorn,” one of the few sitcoms still around actually intended for adults), while inexplicably renewing others (NBC ordered yet another go-around for “The Blacklist,” long after anyone cared who Red Reddington really was or realized that “The Blacklist” was still on the air.)

At the same time, the networks unveiled the new entrants in the battle for the increasingly shrinking attention span of the American media consumer.

So, if only through muscle memory or nostalgia, why don’t we take a look at what’s coming our way after Jerry Lewis sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the end of his Labor Day Telethon.

Oh.

Speaking of nostalgia, ABC is bringing back “The Wonder Years.” Well, not the adventures in childhood series that went off the air in 1993.

For one thing, Kevin Arnold is 45, so he has to have made it through puberty by now. No, this version of “The Wonder Years” is again set in the late 1960s but, unlike the original, isn’t located in a generic Anywhere, USA.

Thew new version will follow a Black family in Montgomery, Alabama — a time and place which will provide a political and cultural backdrop with more looming difficulties than the original’s Vietnam Era timestamp.

The television junkie in me always wonders about this trend in programming.

The primary reason to use the same title would seem to be establishing a connection with the audience through branding. But once viewers sample the new version, that advantage disappears and the show has to stand or fall on its own merits.

Branding is also big over at CBS, which loves nothing more than its reliance on acronyms.

“NCIS: New Orleans” might have been canceled, but “NCIS: Pearl” says aloha from Hawaii. Meanwhile, there’s a third branch of mega-producer Dick Wolf’s FBI franchise coming. Called “FBI International,” it will be sandwiched between “FBI” and “FBI: Most Wanted” on Tuesday nights — which not only bumps the “NCIS” mothership to Mondays, but gives Wolf three nights of Programming … with a trio of “Chicago” shows Wednesdays and “L&O” shows set for Thursdays.

Finally at the Eye, they’ve hauled CSI” out of mothballs with a reboot of the original … now titled “CSI: Vegas,” with many of the original cast.

OK.

Over at NBC, when they’re not showing Dick Wolf prog … oh the hell with it … programs, they’ve based a new series on the La Brea tar pits.

Called “La Brea” — because “Tar Pits” might have been a tad over-the-top — the series focuses on a massive sinkhole opening on Los Angeles (maybe the redundancy is supposed to be irony?), sending those who fall through it to a mysterious and unexplained primeval world.

Just once in these series where something mysterious and explained happens to ordinary folks, I’d like to see the ordinary folks knocked off in the series premiere — because the mystery is always far more intriguing than the yokels from Anywhere, USA trying to return to their ordinary lives.

Finally over at Fox, the network that brought us the sublime ridiculousness of “The Masked Singer” and the wretchedness of “The Masked Dancer,” comes “Alter Ego.”

Yet another singing competition show, this one will present contestants who are so insecure about performing that they’re unwilling to face the backs of the revolving chairs on “The Voice.”

Instead, they will perform from the relative safety of a computer-generated avatar as they discover, apparently, who they really are — although discovering that you’re actually an avatar seems a tad high-concept for wannabes singing questionable covers of songs we’ve all heard way too often.

Whatever, while it might sound like a TV show for people who don’t watch television … as long as one of the contestants performs a Pet Shop Boys number while disguised as that creepy hood ornament from the Allstate commercial, it’s all good.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin watches the little white dot disappear at the end of every night at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.comT

his used to be the sweet spot in the calendar for those who considered themselves, for lack of a better term, television junkies.

By that, I don’t mean those who were addicted to certain genres or particular series; rather, those who followed the ebb and flow of what used to be called the “Big 3” networks with the same fervor as a presidential election or the baseball standings.

Late spring into early summer was the time when the network shows ended their seasons of 20-25 episodes, cancellations would be announced and we’d get an introduction to the programs that would begin in the traditional post-Labor Day, start of school year window.

It was TV’s version of the circle of life — at least as Baby Boomers understood it — and it was as comforting a ritual as turning off the set and heading to bed after Johnny Carson swung his imaginary golf club.

Suffice to say, those days are gone for good.

The Big 3 — ABC, CBS and NBC, for those of you who might be saying “OK, Boomer” at the moment — no longer rule the airwaves. Heck, the “airwaves” no longer rule the airwaves, as streaming services dominate the landscape … offering up a deluge of programming available beyond the limitations of the “Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel” era.

The autumnal lifting of the curtain on new and returning programs remains, but seems more and more an anachronism as programs debut and are discarded at dizzying speed at any point on the calendar.

And those seasons of 20-25 episodes? Even for the most stalwart of veterans, that number decreases with every year as production costs escalate.

Let’s put it this way: If “Gunsmoke” were to begin its run this fall, it might not have even half of the 39 installments that it did during the first season of its legendary 635-episode run.

This all is not to say that this evolution has been a bad thing for viewers … or streamers or downloaders or bingers or whatever it is those who watch “television” programs are called in the here and now — as long as, that is, we heed the advice of Dr. Rick and remember they’re no long “programs,” but TV shows.

The Big 3 have long since become the Big 4, adding Fox; and while the network known as The CW knocks continually on the door with its slew of youth-oriented fantasy and superhero focus, the overall sense is that of rushing to the station not only after the train has departed, but after trains were no longer cat’s pajamas.

Still, some traditions continue, if only through muscle memory or nostalgia, and so it was that over the past 10 days or so that the broadcast networks rolled out the schedules for fall — after canceling some prog … TV shows too soon (CBS dropped “The Unicorn,” one of the few sitcoms still around actually intended for adults), while inexplicably renewing others (NBC ordered yet another go-around for “The Blacklist,” long after anyone cared who Red Reddington really was or realized that “The Blacklist” was still on the air.)

At the same time, the networks unveiled the new entrants in the battle for the increasingly shrinking attention span of the American media consumer.

So, if only through muscle memory or nostalgia, why don’t we take a look at what’s coming our way after Jerry Lewis sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at the end of his Labor Day Telethon.

Oh.

Speaking of nostalgia, ABC is bringing back “The Wonder Years.” Well, not the adventures in childhood series that went off the air in 1993.

For one thing, Kevin Arnold is 45, so he has to have made it through puberty by now. No, this version of “The Wonder Years” is again set in the late 1960s but, unlike the original, isn’t located in a generic Anywhere, USA.

The new version will follow a Black family in Montgomery, Alabama — a time and place which will provide a political and cultural backdrop with more looming difficulties than the original’s Vietnam Era timestamp.

The television junkie in me always wonders about this trend in programming.

The primary reason to use the same title would seem to be establishing a connection with the audience through branding. But once viewers sample the new version, that advantage disappears and the show has to stand or fall on its own merits.

Branding is also big over at CBS, which loves nothing more than its reliance on acronyms.

“NCIS: New Orleans” might have been canceled, but “NCIS: Pearl” says aloha from Hawaii. Meanwhile, there’s a third branch of mega-producer Dick Wolf’s FBI franchise coming. Called “FBI International,” it will be sandwiched between “FBI” and “FBI: Most Wanted” on Tuesday nights — which not only bumps the “NCIS” mothership to Mondays, but gives Wolf three nights of Programming … with a trio of “Chicago” shows Wednesdays and “L&O” shows set for Thursdays.

Finally at the Eye, they’ve hauled “CSI” out of mothballs with a reboot of the original … now titled “CSI: Vegas,” with many of the original cast.

OK.

Over at NBC, when they’re not showing Dick Wolf prog … oh the hell with it … programs, they’ve based a new series on the La Brea tar pits.

Called “La Brea” — because “Tar Pits” might have been a non-starter — the series focuses on a massive sinkhole opening on Los Angeles (maybe the redundancy is irony?), sending those who fall through it to a mysterious and unexplained primeval world.

Just once in these series where something mysterious and unexplained happens to ordinary folks, I’d like to see the ordinary folks knocked off in the series premiere — because the mystery is always far more intriguing than the yokels from Anywhere, USA, trying to return to their ordinary lives.

Finally over at Fox, the network that brought us the sublime ridiculousness of “The Masked Singer” and the wretchedness of “The Masked Dancer,” comes “Alter Ego.”

Yet another singing competition show, this one will present contestants who are so insecure about performing that they’re unwilling to face the backs of the revolving chairs on “The Voice.”

Instead, they will perform from the relative safety of a computer-generated avatar as they discover, apparently, who they really are — although discovering that you’re actually an avatar seems a tad high-concept for wannabes singing questionable covers of songs we’ve all heard way too often.

Whatever, while it might sound like a TV show for people who don’t watch television … as long as one of the contestants performs a Pet Shop Boys number while disguised as that creepy hood ornament from the Allstate commercial, it’s all good.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin watches the little white dot disappear at the end of every night at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com