Fall Broadcast / Pay-TV Preview 2021

Readers, I’m intentionally separating out the shows premiering on broadcast and pay-TV. I have nothing against streaming, but it’s a different animal and not really the focus of this blog.

It’s that time again. Time to hear me grouse about the sad and sorry state of network television. I am reminded that every year, 75% or more of broadcast TV series don’t go onto a second season. Those that do are often derivative spinoffs of successful franchises or reboots of old successes. Which, really, just makes me wonder why I, personally, can’t be a network executive. I’m not saying I could do better than a 10% success rate (once you take out the spinoffs and reboots) but statistically it’s hard to believe I could do worse.

Let’s take a look at shows premiering on broadcast or pay channels in the next few months. Sadly, it won’t take long.


American Crime Story, September 7 (FX)

Ryan Murphy loves to make us uncomfortable, and he has a real love for the news stories of the 1990s to be sure. Audiences showed up in droves to watch his dramatization of the OJ story, and FX believes they’ll do the same to watch the Clinton scandal unfold. Except, unlike OJ, this one is more political, and we’re more divided than ever. I won’t watch it, but I’m sure FX doesn’t care. The obvious audience here is millennials in their 30s who were too young to understand it the first time around.

American Rust, September 12 (Showtime)

Showtime is still trying to get the mojo going by turning out oh-so-relevant programming that’s never really as well reviewed as it should be. This is a bit of a cookie-cutter “prestige TV” show. Formerly prominent and now crumbling town with a secret that needs uncovering. Troubled police officer. If it sounds like something you’ve seen before, it probably is.

Scenes from a Marriage, September 12 (HBO)

I’m tempted to say, skip this and watch the original movie from which it is based. After all, Ingmar Bergman is thought of as one of the most amazing filmmakers of all time. But admittedly, Swedish-language films from the 1970s are going to be a tough sell in the best of times. This film gives us Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain who are both joys to watch no matter what they are in. It’s going to be longer, at least five episodes. It is very unlikely to be uplifting but if you want to feel better about your own relationships, this will probably do it for you.

Y: The Last Man, September 12 (FX)

Is this really the right time for a show about a post-modern apocalypse? FX thinks so, and they’ve adapted this story for television. It’s about a plague that killed all the men except one. I’m not sure why we need that but hey who am I to judge.

The Big Leap, September 20 (Fox)

Finally, something you can get with an antenna. The Big Leap is… a reality competition show about, uh, casting Swan Lake? It is literally amazing how few good ideas there are that remain in this world, and this is definitely not one of them.

Ordinary Joe, September 20 (NBC)

Skip this one and just watch that old Gwyneth Paltrow movie, Sliding Doors. It seems like it’s the same thing.

NCIS: Hawai’i, September 20 (CBS)

The world needs another NCIS like it needs a whole in the head. But obviously someone disagrees.

Our Kind of People, September 21 (Fox)

Lee Daniels is a treasure, and a brilliant filmmaker. And this is a nighttime soap, so I have no interest in it.

FBI: International, September 21 (CBS)

It’s another Dick Wolf crime show. Either you like those or you don’t.

Alter Ego, September 22 (Fox)

Um, so, it’s another singing competition show where you can’t really tell who’s singing. I rather thought we had enough of those but ok whatever.

The Wonder Years, September 22 (ABC)

It’s a remake that’s supposed to make you nostalgic for the last time they made a show about the 1960s. Although now it’s oh-so-2020s with a topical race-based twist and I’m sure it’s designed to appeal to millennials who weren’t part of the 1960s, rather than their grandparents who were.

La Brea, September 28 (NBC)

Don’t bother watching this. Watch any of the many, many movies about a disaster in Los Angeles, specifically Volcano, which puts an active volcano in almost the same spot that this show puts a massive sinkhole.


CSI: Vegas, October 6 (CBS)

It is inconceivable that the CSI franchise keeps chugging, but apparently it does. You know what it is, you’ll know if you want it.

Ghosts, October 7 (CBS)

Hey, at least there’s one new sitcom on someone’s schedule. In this one, new homeowners move into a haunted house. Not exactly a fresh premise (anyone remember The Ghost and Mrs. Muir?) but points for trying to make me laugh anyway.

Chucky, October 12 (Syfy)

Did we need another show about the scary killer doll from the ’80s movie franchise? Someone thought so.

Queens, October 19 (ABC)

Another one you can skip if you have streaming, because it seems like exactly the same show as Peacock’s Girls5eva without the Tina Fey-induced sharp writing.

And that’s uh, it

I guess we’ll see what washes out in the next few months. Not sure too much of this stuff is going to be around by the spring, but I’ve been known to be wrong. I guess we’ll see.



About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.