Now what? After a week of network executives showcasing their visions of the future, critics, analysts, and investors are taking stock. What looked good, what looked bad, and what looked like so insane you can't believe someone gave it the green light? More importantly, what trends can we spot?
This season will see at least three spinoffs -- The Flash, NCIS: New Orleans, and CSI: Cyber -- debuting over the next year with more likely to be attempted as back-door pilots. Why all the spin-offs? They make money.
It's hard to launch a new series, let alone a new franchise, and when executives see something that's working it's their inclination to try and duplicate it. The addition of The Flash was a no-brainer -- Arrow is a big deal for The CW (a subsidiary of CBS (NYSE:CBS)) and superhero series from the DC Comics canon have been ingrained in the network's DNA from day one.
With something like NCIS or CSI, it's more to do with expanding a footprint and cashing in internationally through programming and licensing deals. With CBS killing off CSI: Miami and CSI: New York, many assumed we may have seen the last of these shows' spawn. After all, they don't always work (see NCIS: Red), And Supernatural's attempted spinoff Supernatural: Bloodlines failed to get audiences' blood pumping.
But when done right, spinoffs are big business. Having NCIS lead Mark Harmon back NCIS: New Orleans was key to it succeeding -- the affable actor is highly respected and his fans were on board with his stamp of approval. Similarly, Flash has the backing of DC brass and Arrow producers, plus the show is in the sci-fi comic book realm that's been ultra-hot this year, and will see additions that include Gotham, Constantine, and iZombie.
Audiences aren't laughing ... and neither are executives
With the exception of Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory networks have largely struck out with laughers.
Last year the networks took solid steps with hits like The Millers, The Goldbergs, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but analysts aren't ready to anoint any of them the next big thing. At least all three will get the chance -- all were renewed for sophomore runs despite some being panned by critics.
This fall will see nine traditional half-hour comedies (I don't count hour-long dramedies as comedies even if the Emmys do) and another 10 coming at midseason. On first glance none have the potential to give Modern Family a run for the Emmy or Big Bang a run for viewers. In fact, the biggest comedy story surrounds one that didn't get picked up. CBS' shocking decision to pass on How I Met Your Mother's spinoff How I Met Your Dad sent shockwaves through the industry ... but it shouldn't have.
Audiences were livid after Mother's finale. CBS felt it wasn't ready to trot out as the next "it" show, and producers disagreed with the network over the need for reshoots, which led to the network passing on it altogether. But Mother's breakout star, Cristin Milioti (the only thing positive some believe came out of HIMYM's final season), will be back in the fall with her new NBC (a subsidiary of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA)) comedy A to Z, which along with CBS' The McCarthys and ABC's Cristela are among the most anticipated.
Diversity making a comeback
For years African American and Latino actors have not been featured as prominently as they should have been. Audiences don't care what gender, ethnicity, race, creed, or sexual orientation our cast members have as long as they have talent.
Shonda Rhimes, who is one of the pioneers of the current TV life cycle, has proved this over and over again ... just look at the diversity in the casts of Grey's Anatomy and Scandal. It's a solid ensemble with actors from all demographics. Most importantly, they are all talented. Rhimes is even getting a whole night of programming to herself in the fall, which includes her latest drama, How to Get Away With Murder. Starring Academy Award nominee Viola Davis, the show been earning some of the best buzz among all networks.
It's not just Murder that is upping the diversity quotient. Fox has hip-hop urban family drama Empire on its midseason bench and Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ABC has three comedies (Cristela, Black-ish, and Fresh Off the Boat) about three different types of families. The trend also extends to cable as 2015 will see Larry Wilmore take over for Stephen Colbert's old timeslot with his new series The Minority Report.
For advertisers this is a welcome change as they've been telling networks for years a wide variety of people buy its products and each group wants to see themselves represented. It's hard to invest financially and emotionally in a network that only caters to one group and the industry is getting better, but it still has a long way to go.
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Brett Gold owns shares of CBS. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.