In the fall TV season, everything old is new again … again.
Network execs still believe you want to watch new versions of vaguely remembered or nearly forgotten TV shows and movies.
And while such efforts can yield creative new endeavors, for every reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” there’s a failed remake of “Bionic Woman,” Knight Rider” or “Charlie’s Angels.”
Last season CBS stumbled with since-canceled TV adaptations of the films “Limitless” and “Rush Hour,” but the network will try again with a reboot of ’80s action series “MacGyver” (Sept. 23) and its midseason re-do of the 2001 film “Training Day.”
Fox brings back “24” with a new lead character in midseason’s “24: Legacy,” and this fall the network adapts the 1987 movie “Lethal Weapon” (Sept. 21) for TV with Clayne Crawford (“Rectify”) and Damon Wayans (“In Living Color”) replacing Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.
The CW revisits the less popular 2000 movie “Frequency” (Oct. 5); HBO reimagines malfunctioning amusement park robots in “Westworld” (Oct. 2), inspired by the 1973 movie.
While it’s dangerous to judge any series by its pilot episode, Fox may have the best hope for success with its sequel to 1973’s box office hit “The Exorcist” (Sept. 23). Jeremy Slater, showrunner of Fox’s “The Exorcist,” seems to have a good grasp on the show he’s making.
“The only way you can succeed is by doing something new and telling a new story with new characters and hoping audiences will fall in love and will respond to this new story the way audiences did with the original,” Slater said earlier this month at a Fox press conference during the Television Critics Association summer 2016 press tour.
The pilot, written by Slater and directed by Rupert Wyatt (“Rise of the Planet of the Apes”), introduces a Chicago priest, Father Tomas Ortega (Alfonso Herrera), who teams with an experienced exorcist, Father Marcus Keane (Ben Daniels, “Flesh and Bone”), to help Angela (Geena Davis, “Thelma & Louise”) and Henry Rance (Alan Ruck, “Spin City”) who face a demonic presence in their home.
Slater cited “Lost,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “The X-Files” and “Breaking Bad” as key influences as he makes his first foray into series television.
“People won’t tune in week after week just for scares,” he said. “We have plenty of big plot twists coming up this season, but at the end of the day, it’s always going to be a show about a family in trouble and the two priests that are brought in to help them. And if the audience doesn’t care about that, we haven’t done our job.”
The pilot features nods to the original “Exorcist,” including use of the song “Tubular Bells” and references to events in the film.
“As a horror fan, nothing infuriates me faster than a remake that comes along and says, ‘The movie that you love no longer exists. The story that you were invested in is getting wiped out of history.’ It was important to let everyone know that this is a continuation of an existing story,” Slater said, noting that the Fox series begins to build its own mythology.
“It was important to start laying in bread crumbs right from the beginning, start introducing our Dharma Initiative, our bad guys who are out there. … The basic idea is that this time around, evil has grander ambitions than just targeting one 8-year-old girl in Georgetown. Evil has a plan.”
These programs show the most promise on fall TV:
▪ “Designated Survivor” (Sept. 21, ABC): Kiefer Sutherland returns, but not as Jack Bauer on “24.” This time he’s playing a low-level Cabinet secretary who becomes U.S. president after a terror attack during the State of the Union Address. He’s an apolitical everyman who must navigate the political crisis that ensues.
▪ “The Good Place” (previews Sept. 19, then moves to its regular night Sept. 22, NBC): Kristen Bell plays a woman who should have gone to hell but due to an error gets sent to heaven, aka “the good place.” There she’s mentored (by Ted Danson) and encounters a bounty of weirdness in this series from the co-creator of “Parks and Recreation.”
▪ “Great Performances: Hamilton’s America” (Oct. 21, PBS): Can’t get a ticket to the Broadway show in New York? This documentary special may be your best bet. Filmmaker Alex Horwitz follows “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda as he develops the musical. The film focuses on the history of Alexander Hamilton and the creative process and shows scenes from the musical.
▪ “Insecure” (Oct. 9, HBO): Issa Rae, star of the web series “Awkward Black Girl,” moves up to premium cable in this comedy about young African-American women who struggle with uncomfortable — one might say, awkward — experiences. “Insecure” forgoes the strong, confident style of “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope in favor of Rae’s exploration of social and racial issues through a more flawed lens.
▪ “This Is Us” (Sept. 20, NBC): Characters who seem to have no connection struggle and succeed in their daily lives, including a couple awaiting the birth of triplets; a Hollywood actor on a lousy sitcom and his overweight sister; and a financial titan in New York trying to meet his biological father.
More new shows (by premiere date):
▪ “Harley and the Davidsons” (Sept. 5, 6, 7, Discovery Channel): Historical miniseries about the founding of the motorcycle manufacturer.
▪ “Loosely Exactly Nicole” (Sept. 5, MTV): Young woman tries to make it in Hollywood.
▪ “Son of Zorn” (Sept. 11, Fox): Hybrid live-action, animated comedy follows a He-Man-like cartoon warrior (voice of Jason Sudeikis) who visits his son and human ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) in Southern California
▪ “Kevin Can Wait” (Sept. 19, CBS): Kevin James is back on CBS as a retired cop.
▪ “Bull” (Sept. 20, CBS): Michael Weatherly plays a character inspired by a younger version of Dr. Phil McGraw when he ran a jury consulting business.
▪ “Speechless” (Sept. 21, ABC): Minnie Driver stars as the mother of a special needs son.
▪ “Notorious” (Sept. 22, ABC): A high-profile criminal defense attorney (Daniel Sunjata) colludes with a cable news producer (Piper Perabo).
▪ “Pitch” (Sept. 22, Fox): Fictional drama about the first female Major League Baseball pitcher.
▪ “Conviction” (Oct. 3, ABC): A former U.S. president’s daughter (Hayley Atwell) leads New York’s Conviction Integrity Unit exploring claims of innocence by people who have been convicted of crimes.
▪ “Timeless” (Oct. 3, NBC): Time travelers try to stop a villain from changing history.
▪ “No Tomorrow” (Oct. 4, the CW): Hippie (Joshua Sasse, “Galavant”) believes the apocalypse will arrive in eight months.
▪ “Divorce” (Oct. 9, HBO): Sarah Jessica Parker stars as a woman getting a divorce.
▪ “American Housewife” (Oct. 11, ABC): Sitcom focused on a housewife (Katy Mixon) in suburbia.
▪ “Man With a Plan” (Oct. 24, CBS): Matt LeBlanc plays a family man whose wife goes back to work.
▪ “The Great Indoors” (Oct. 27, CBS): “Community” star Joel McHale leads the cast of this multicam sitcom set in an outdoors magazine office.
▪ “Pure Genius” (Oct. 27, CBS): Tech genius (Augustus Prew) opens a hospital in Silicon Valley.
▪ “People of Earth” (Oct. 31, TBS): Alien abduction support group comedy from Greg Daniels (“The Office”).
▪ “Stan Against Evil” (Nov. 2, IFC): A former sheriff (John C. McGinley, “Scrubs”) teams with a new sheriff to fight evil in a quaint New England town.
▪ “Good Behavior” (Nov. 15, TNT): Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”) ditches her genteel demeanor as Mary Crawley to play a drug addict con artist.
Freelance writer Rob Owen: RobOwenTV@gmail.com or on Facebook and Twitter as RobOwenTV.