ABC's fall line-up: Family Fridays, via fantasy and fairy tales

By Mike Hughes

When the new TV
season starts this fall, two of ABC's nights will transform

-- Fridays once
seemed like an afterthought. Now they'll be a family time for fantasy
and fairytales.

-- Sundays, however,
will be lower-budget, at least durinng football season. There will be
games and reality and such, but only one scripted show.

This is a plan that
took some late re-working. In the final days, the network agreed to
take the “American Idol” revival -- “advertisers like shows
that people watch live,” said programming chief Channing Dungey –
and a shortened season of “Quantico.” Both will wait for
mid-season, alongside a large pile of new shows and “The Bachelor.”

ABC's best nights –
Mondays through Thursdays – will have only modest changes.

On Mondays, Freddie
Highmore (“Bates Motel”) will play a brilliant-but-autistic
surgeon in “The Good Doctor,” from “House” creator David

Tuesdays have two
high-concept shows: In “The Mayor,” a rapper runs for office as a
gimmick and is elected; in “The Gospel of Kevin.” Jason Ritter
plays a self-centered guy, suddenly getting a celestial nudge. “It
takes spirituality in a way that is fresh and heartwarming,” Dungey

But two other nights
will change their identity. Instead of throwing big-budget shows
against football, ABC will have “America's Funniest Home Videos,”
“To Tell the Truth” and “Shark Tank,” followed by the Kyra
Sedgwick mini-series, “Ten Days in the Valley.”

That lets it move
the cinematic “Once Upon a Time” to Fridays, in what's virtually
a reboot. Henry will be grown up now, Dungey said; there will be
mostly new characters, with only a few – Rumpole, Hook, the Evil
Queen -- continuing.

Two Marvel fantasies
will follow it -- “Inhumans” this fall and the return of “Agents
of SHIELD” later.

The acclaimed
“American Crime” has been cancelled, as have the comedies “The
Real O'Neals,” “Last Man Standing” and “Doctor Ken.” For
now, that leaves ABC with no comedies taped in front of an audience;
Carol Burnett's “Household Name” is on hold and the “Roseanne”
remake is aimed at midseason. The fall line-up is:

-- Monday: “Dancing
With the Stars,” 8 p.m.; “The Good Doctor,” 10.

-- Tuesday: “The
Middle,” 8; “Fresh Off the Boat,” 8:30; “Black-ish,” 9;
“The Mayor,” 9:30; “The Gospel of Kevin,” 10.

-- Wednesday: “The
Goldbergs,” 8; “Speechless,” 8:30; “Modern Family,” 9;
“American Housewife,” 9:30; “Designated Survivor,” `10.

-- Thursday: “Grey's
Anatomy,” 8; “Scandal,” 9; “How to Get Away with Murder,”

-- Friday: “Once
Upon a Time,” 8; “Inhumans,” 9; “20/20,” 10.

-- Saturday: College
football, 8 p.m. ET.

-- Sunday:
“America's Funniest Home Videos,” 7; “To Tell the Truth,” 8;
“Shark Tank,” 9; “Ten Days in the Valley,” 10.

Einstein: A life of math and music, rebellion and romance and pure genius

At times -- but not too often -- cable TV lives up to its potential. It tries something large and ambitious. The current example is "Genius," a scripted mini-series Tuesdays (rerunning Saturdays) on the National Geographic Channel, Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

There are lives that
seem too large even for Hollywood.

Albert Einstein
sprawled across history – from the rise of Hitler to the birth of
Israel – and across modern thinking. “His fingerprints are on
every great invention – lasers, micro-chips, atomic power, GPS,”
said Walter Isaacson, whose biography has been adapted into the first
season of “Genius.”

This wasn't a
two-hour life, he said. “I thought it was wonderful to do it as a
10-part series.”

Yes, Isaacson thinks
his other biographies would work as subsequent “Genius” seasons.
Maybe not Steve Jobs (too soon), but definitely Ben Franklin and his
upcoming subject, Leonardo da Vinci.

What do these people
have in common? “They were rebellious, questioning authority ....
They had imagination and creativity,” Isaacson said.

And they mixed arts
with science. Jobs ran Pixar, da Vinci painted (quite well, we're
told), Franklin wrote witticisms ... and Einstein played the violin
passionately. “Mozart's music is so pure and beautiful,” he once
said, “that I see it as a reflection of the universe itself.”

This became a
classic image of genius – the violin, the sprawling hair, the
surprising twinkle. “Einstein looked like an Einstein,” Isaacson
joked. And his life backed up that image.

He was clearly an
outsider in Germany – partly because he was Jewish and partly
because of his individualist nature. Einstein disliked regimen in
education, religion and relationships. “He ran away from Germany,”
Isaacson said, “but they brought him back” by offering the
professorship he cherished.

Alongside many
affairs, Einstein had major romances with three women who seemed
wildly disparate:

-- Marie Winteler
was a teen-ager at the Swiss home where he lived as a student. She
may have seemed sweet and simple, but that wasn't a dealbreaker.
“Einstein had a sweetness to him,” Isaacson said.

-- Elsa Einstein
Lowenthal was his cousin, an eager cook who became his second wife.
He was 40 when they married -- “he needed a domestic partner,”
Isaacson said – and she died 16 years later.

-- And in between
was the marriage that defined him. “I admire him for falling in
love with Mileva Maric, who was not known for her beauty ... but was
known for her beautiful mind,” Isaacson said.

Experts have debated
how much she had to do with his breakthroughs. Isaacson's book
(“Einstein,” 2007, Simon & Schuster) gives her credit for
many things – research, copyediting, debating ideas – but says
the theories were his.

Still, she was the
one who was there for what was called the “miracle year” -- when
a 26-year-old patent clerk published four papers that shook academia.

Some scholars
resisted, Isaacson said. “They labelled relativity as 'Jewish
science.'” In 1933, Einstein emigrated, as did many others –
changing history. “When they came to the U.S., he and his fellow
refugees” would develop the nuclear power that Hitler's own
scientists had been racing to create.

Einstein became a
folk hero at Princeton, even if his breakthroughs were behind him. He
spent years attacking some of the same quantum mechanics theories he
had helped develop.

This was someone who
always second-guessed the accepted reasoning, Isaacson said. “He
said that God must have played a joke on him, by making him an
authority figure.”

There were many such
contrasts. Einstein balked at the orderliness of society ... but
savored precise music and searched futiley for a way to bring all the
theories into a unified whole. He distanced himself from religion ...
but championed the Jewish state. He was a romantic who botched his
romances. He was a far-flung figure, the sort who needs a 10-episode

-- “Genius,” 9
p.m. Tuesdays, rerunning at 11, National Geographic; Saturdays, 10
p.m. and midnight.

-- A scripted
mini-series, co-produced by Ron Howard. The May 16 episode catches
Einstein's “miracle year”; it's the fourth of 10, with the
previous ones rerunning at 5:45, 7 and 8 p.m.

-- In the May 23
one, Einstein re-meets Elsa. The most recent episodes will rerun at
6, 7 and 8 p.m.



Fox's fall: The Devil and Gordon Ramsay, plus music and whimsy


By Mike Hughes

Satan and Gordon
Ramsay will again be big on Fox next season. So will science-fiction
and whimsy.

But don't fret; one
night will still be devoted to young music. “Fox is known for a
music brand more than any other network,” said Gary Newman, the
network's co-CEO.

This is the network
that soared with “American Idol,” cancelled it last season ...
and now sees it moving to ABC sometime next season. “Yes, it felt
bad knowing it's coming back on another network,” said co-CEO Dana
Walden. Fox was willing to bring it back in 2020, she said, but any
sooner would seem “extremely fraudulent” after proclaiming a
“final season.”

But next season, Fox
will have more music. There will be live productions of Broadway's “A
Christmas Story” and “Rent”; also, “Empire” and “Star”
will be back-to-back on Wednesdays.

Both are from
producer Lee Daniels and are “perfectly matched tonally and
thematically,” Walden said.

Last year, they
alternated in one hour, because there were only 18 episodes of
“Empire” and 12 of “Star.” Next year, there will be 18 of
each, Newman said. “These shows are really complicated to produce”
with their big music numbers. They'll continue through the fall, take
a long break and finish in the spring.

Fox has plenty of
other mid-season shows, including 10 episodes of “The X-Files,”
with its original stars. (This year's revivals of “Prison Break”
and “24” aren't scheduled to return.) There's a comedy
co-produced by Will Ferrell, a “911” drama, the final season of
“New Girl” ... and lots of Ramsay shows.

This fall, Ramsay's
“Hell's Kitchen” will again lead into “The Exorcist.” Also
part of the network's Hell-ish mood is “Lucifer,” returning to
Mondays and now sliding to 8 p.m.

That nudges “Gotham”
to Thursdays, as part of a fantasy feel. This fall, Fox has “The
Gifted” (a family on the run, when it finds the kids have special
powers) and “The Orville” (a Seth MacFarlane drama-comedy set on
a spaceship, 400 years in the future). It's only new comedy,
“Ghosted,” has Craig Robinson and Adam Scott fighting aliens and

The fall line-up:

-- Monday:
“Lucifer,” 8 p.m.; “The Gifted,” 9.

-- Tuesday: “Lethal
Weapon,” 8; “The Mick,” 9; “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” 9:30.

Wednesday:”Empire,” 8 p.m.; “Star,” 9.

-- Thursday:
“Gotham,” 8 p.m.; “The Orville,” 9.

-- Friday: “Hell's
Kitchen,” 8 p.m.; “The Exorcist,” 9/

-- Saturday: Sports,
7 p.m

-- Sunday:
Football's “The OT” or “Bob's Burgers,” 7:30; “The
Simpsons,” 8; “Ghosted,” 8:30; “Family Guy,” 9; “The Last
Man on Earth,” 9:30.

NBC's new fall schedule? Well, not really new, but there's more coming

By Mike Hughes

Staring at NBC's
new-season plans, a skeptic might ask: “New what?”

The fall line-up has
exactly three new shows ... one of which is a revival of an old show.

Then again, NBC sees
that as a good thing: Its current season worked; few tweaks were

Besides, networks
avoid letting their best new shows get buried in a fall pile-up. This
past year, NBC introduced two mid-season shows -- “Great News”
and “Taken” -- that will be back this fall; it had two
others,”Trial & Error” and “Chicago Justice,” that are
still undecided.

For the fall, its
lone new shows are:

-- The return of
“Will & Grace,” with the original cast, but only for 12

-- “The Brave,”
with Mike Vogel (“Pan Am,” “Under the Dome”) leading special
military operations.

-- “Law &
Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers,” which replays a
high-profile 1989 murder case and 1994 trial, with Edie Falco leading
the defense team.

That means producer
Dick Wolf will have four shows this fall – two with “Chicago”
in the title and two with “Law & Order”; he'll add “Chicago
Med” and possibly “Chicago Justice” later in the season.

There were no
surprise cancellations, once “Timeless” got a last-second
reprieve to return at mid-season. “Grimm” had already finished
its final season; also not returning are”Powerless,” “Emerald
City” and “The Blacklist: Redemption.”

Mostly, NBC merely
shifted things around, including moving “This Is Us” and “The
Blacklist” to tough, 8 p.m. spots. The fall line-up is:

-- Monday: “The
Voice,” 8 p.m.; “The Brave,” 10.

-- Tuesday: “The
Voice,” 8; “Superstore,” 9; “The Good Place,” 9:30;
“Chicago Fire,” 10.

-- Wednesday: “The
Blacklist,” 8; “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” 9;
“Chicago PD,” 10.

-- Thursday: “Will
& Grace,” 8; “Great News,” 8:30; “This is Us,” 9; “Law
& Order True Crime: The Menendez Brothers,” 10.

-- Friday:
“Blindspot,” 8; “Taken,” 9; “Dateline,” 10.

-- Saturday: Reruns,
including “Saturday Night Live” at 10.

-- Sunday: Football,
8:20 p.m. ET, with preview at 7.

Then come those
mid-season shows. Returning ones include “Time After Time,”
“Little Big Shots,” “the Wall,” and possibly “Trial &
Error” and “Chicago Justice.” There are also the summer shows,
led by “America's Got Talent,” “American Ninja Warrior” and
the offbeat “Better Late Than Never.”

The new shows aimed
at mid-season are:

-- “Rise,” from
Jason Katims, who had cross-generation success with “Parenthood”
and “Friday Night Lights.” This is based loosely on the true
story of a high school drama teacher; it stars Josh Radnor of “How
I Met Your Mother,” Rosie Perez and Auli'i Cravalho, the teen
“Moana” star.

-- “Good Girls,”
about three suburban women who rob a local supermarket, then face the

-- “Reverie,” in
which a college professor (Sarah Shahi of “Fairly Legal” and
“Person of Interest”) helps people live their reams via virtual

-- Two comedies. In
“A.P. Bio,” Glenn Howerton (“It's Always Sunny in
Philadelphia”) is a self-serving biology teacher. In “Champions”
-- co-created by Mindy Kaling, who will also have a supporting role
-- a gym owner learns he has a teenage son.

-- And lots of
reality shows. Neal Patrick Harris hosts “Genius Junior”; Ellen
Degeneres – who already produces the smart-kids show “Little Big
Shots,” has “Ellen's Game of Games.” Also, “The Awesome Show”
has producers Chris Hardwick and Mark Burnett viewing tech
breakthroughs; “The Handmade Project,” from producers Amy Poehler
and Nick Offerman, views personal craftiness and creativity.

Good news: Syfy will emphasize sci-fi

This is good news, actually. Syfy (the former Sci-Fi Channel) is planning to push its focus on ... well, sci-fi. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Plenty of people, it
seems, love sci-fi but not Syfy. Now the cable channel hopes to
change that.

“We're going back
to our roots and embracing the genre like never before,” said Chris
McCumber, the SyFy Channel president. That will involve:

-- New series. Next
season, Syfy expects to have shows based on DC Comics (“Krypton”)
and a graphic novel (“Happy!”); it's developing ones based on
classics (“Hyperion,” “Brave New World,” “Stranger in a
Strange Land”) and on “Nightflyers,” from the “Game of
Thrones” author.

-- Familiar movies.
Next year, it takes over the oft-aired Harry Potter and Marvel films.

-- Attitude, which
is first: A June 19 “re-brand” will have a new logo and will
emphasize a Website (
that McCumber hopes will be the all-purpose science-fiction
destination. Then comes daily coverage of the San Diego Comic Con
(“that's our Super Bowl”) on July 20-23 and a build-up to the
channel's 25th anniversary Sept. 24. Aferward, “31 Days
of October” emphasizes the scary side of Syfy.

Originally, this was
the Sci-Fi Channel, a companion to the USA Network. Both joined NBC's
cable world in 2004; in 2009, the name became Syfy and the approach
softened, with reality shows and some movies with little
science-fiction connection.

Then sci-fi soared
in movie theaters, but Syfy slipped. Like many cable networks, it's
seen a decline: The Variety trade paper says Syfy averages 355,000
viewers (down 22 percent in two years) and lists 23 channels that
have more.

So nowit returns to
its roots: It will keep some reality shows (“Face-off” and
“Cosplay Melee”) and some silliness. “'Sharknado' will always
have a place at Syfy,” McCumber said

But instead, he
emphasizes the current shows -- “The Expanse,” “The Magicians,”
“Twelve Monkeys” -- that are steeply ambitious ... and very