2019-20 TV season pilot watch, the rankings: Fox

Illustration of characters from Fox TV shows
Olivia Staser/Staff

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Fox’s upcoming season will be an interesting one to watch in the aftermath of the network’s loss of its TV studio and much of its parent media company to the Disney/Fox merger. While Rupert Murdoch is the chair of Fox Corporation, with Mouse now owning 21st Century Fox, the network seems to be responding by doubling down on its animated comedies and poaching literally the entire cast of “Parks and Recreation.” Out of all the network slates, Fox has the most promising shows for the coming season. But with 10 new series pickups, odds are slim that all of them will succeed. So here’s a look, from best to worst, of Fox’s upcoming shows.

1.“Prodigal Son”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Tom Payne, Michael Sheen, Bellamy Young

Premiere date: Sept. 23

Fox/Courtesy

Tagline: “Malcolm Bright knows how killers think. Why? His father was one of the best, a notorious serial killer called ‘The Surgeon.’ That’s why Bright is the best criminal psychologist around; murder is the family business. He uses his twisted genius to help the NYPD solve crimes, while dealing with a somewhat manipulative mother, an annoyingly normal sister, a homicidal father still looking to bond with his prodigal son and his own constantly evolving neuroses.”

First impressions: It’s funny how we’re drawn to watching macabre criminals whom we would never wish to encounter in real life on television: serial killers, murderers, rapists. That being said, “Prodigal Son” looks like the most promising show on Fox’s lineup. Reminiscent of Fox’s “The Following,” the upcoming series appears to be a well-done mix of episodic procedural and serialized crime drama. And with Sheen in a Hannibal Lecter-esque role, what more can you ask for? The only caveat is that the show seems to be too rooted in Malcolm helping the NYPD find his father’s serial killer copycat, which can only go on for so long. If the show does not expand beyond this premise, it may quickly lose steam with further seasons. But in the meantime, we will enjoy watching Payne wear various peacoats.

Prediction: Renewed, but not for more than three seasons

2. “Duncanville”

Genre: Animated comedy

Cast: Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Wiz Khalifa

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

Mary Ellen Matthews/Courtesy

Tagline: “(The show) follows Duncan, a spectacularly average 15-year-old boy, along with his friends and family. His high-strung mom, Annie, constantly is trying to prevent her son from ruining his life.”

First impressions: Leslie Knope and Ann Perkins are reunited — but this time with Wiz Khalifa? The show is already intriguing even without a trailer. Created by Poehler herself and the Julie and Mike Scully duo of “The Simpsons,” “Duncanville” has a television pedigree right off the bat that any other show would kill for. Not to mention that Poehler is Seth MacFarlane-ing it and voicing both Duncan and his mom; plus, perpetual dad Ty Burrell is set to play Duncan’s father. What a time to be alive. The only way this show could be better is if it was live-action and Poehler was using “Saturday Night Live” costumes and a bad wig to play a 15-year-old boy.

Prediction: Renewed

3. “The Great North”

Genre: Animated comedy

Cast: Nick Offerman, Jenny Slate, Megan Mullally

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

Rich Polk/Courtesy

Tagline: “ ‘The Great North’ follows the Alaskan adventures of the Tobin family as single dad Beef does his best to keep his weird bunch of kids close, especially as the artistic dreams of his only daughter Judy lead her away from the family fishing boat and into the glamorous world of the local mall.”

First impressions: Ron Swanson and Tammy II are reunited — but this time with Mona-Lisa Saperstein? The premise of this show is offbeat, but if there is anyone who can take on a comedy about wacky family misadventures in the Alaskan wilderness, it’s Offerman. Fox is really killing it with its animated series and its tactic of wooing over all of NBC’s former stars this season; its cartoon comedies have more hope for renewal than their live-action counterparts.

Prediction: Renewed

4. “Filthy Rich”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Kim Cattrall, Gerald McRaney, Aubrey Dollar

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

Fox/Courtesy

Tagline: “When the wealthy CEO of the world’s largest Christian network dies in a plane crash, his wife and adult children are stunned to discover he has grown, illegitimate kids who also are in his will. When the steel azalea matriarch of the family tries to pay them to go away, these newly legitimized heirs have very different ideas and insist on not only staying in town but becoming part of the family empire.”

First impressions: Cattrall is back on television in the leading matriarchal role she was always meant to play. With “Empire” on its final season, this “Empire” meets “Dynasty” meets Christian televangelism show may be exactly what Fox needs after saying goodbye to the Lyons. Everyone loves watching the melodramatic lives of the rich and famous — so much so that they may be willing to overlook this show’s seeming lack of any racial diversity. And while calling the leading lady a “steel azalea” clearly indicates that this soapy show was created by a man, it is the man who wrote and directed “The Help.” At least Tate Taylor is well versed in suburban Southern housewife snark. 

Prediction: Renewed

5. “neXt”

Genre: Drama

Cast: John Slattery, Fernanda Andrade, Michael Mosley

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

Fox/Courtesy

Tagline: “A Silicon Valley pioneer discovers that one of his own creations — a powerful A.I. — might spell global catastrophe, and teams up with a cybercrime agent to fight a villain unlike anything we’ve seen — one whose greatest weapon against us is ourselves.

First impressions: Finally, a show that recognizes the end of humanity with the rise of Amazon Alexas and Google Homes! Self-aware artificial intelligence is nothing that we haven’t seen with “Westworld” and “Black Mirror,” but “neXt” doesn’t go with the “humanoid robots” trope and instead makes the threat everyday machinery. Slattery in a Steve Jobs-esque role (or one could even draw comparisons with … a modern-day Howard Stark) is always a welcome sight. But, as with many high-concept network shows, this one’s premise doesn’t seem sustainable in the long run — which, of course, will lower its chances at being a successful television show.

Prediction: Renewed, but only for one season

6. “Almost Family”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Brittany Snow, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Emily Osment

Premiere date: Oct. 2

Fox/Courtesy

Tagline: “An only child finds her life turned upside down when her father reveals that, over the course of his prize-winning career as a pioneering fertility doctor, he used his own sperm to conceive upwards of a hundred children, including two new sisters. As these three young women slowly embrace their new reality, they will attempt to form an untraditional bond as sisters, even as they must welcome a tidal wave of new siblings into their rapidly expanding family. Based on the Australian series ‘Sisters.’ ”

First impressions: “Almost Family” seems like a direct response to a Fox executive seeing the success of NBC’s “This is Us” and demanding a heartwarming family drama for the network. What’s funny and scary is that fertility doctors caught giving their own sperm is more common than you would think. But questionable medical practices aside, the female-led show sounds promising — though this premise about sperm donation gone awry sounds more suited for a movie than for a serialized show. “Almost Family” will have to find plot points beyond this premise for the long run. Also, the original Australian “Sisters” launched as a Netflix original just last year, so this show already has U.S.-based competition.

Prediction: Canceled

7. “Deputy”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Stephen Dorff, Yara Martinez, Brian Van Holt

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

Fox/Courtesy

Tagline: “When the Los Angeles County’s Sheriff dies, an arcane rule forged back in the Wild West thrusts the most unlikely man into the job: a fifth-generation lawman, more comfortable taking down bad guys than navigating a sea of politics. He leads a skilled team of ambitious and complicated human beings who won’t rest until justice is served.”

First impressions: “Deputy” seems like a direct response to a Fox executive reminiscing about FX’s “Justified” and demanding a modern-day Western for the network. Take a police procedural but make it Western! So many questions arise from watching the show’s trailer: Is this just “Designated Survivor” but with police? Why do the police in this show carry rifles and ride horses during raids? Is any of this standard procedure? This show screams “gritty,” but it can only be so gritty on family-friendly sanitized network television. Although “Deputy” has high production value and an excellent lead (with Dorff from “True Detective”), it doesn’t seem to have what it takes to survive on network TV.

Prediction: Canceled

8. “9-1-1: Lone Star”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Rob Lowe

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

Frederick M. Brown/Courtesy

Tagline: “(The show) follows a sophisticated New York cop who relocates to Austin along with his son and must try to balance saving those who are at their most vulnerable with solving the problems in his own life.”

First impressions: Beyond the fact that it is a spinoff of Fox’s successful “9-1-1” and is starring Lowe, everyone’s favorite ‘80s heartthrob-turned-Chris Traeger, there is little known about the upcoming Texan show. However, given that it is based off the Ryan Murphy procedural hit and that it is starring Lowe, chances of a second season are pretty high. After all, there is a reason why CBS is built off of spinoffs and franchises.

Prediction: Renewed

9. “Bless the Harts”

Genre: Animated comedy

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz

Premiere date: Sept. 29

Fox/Courtesy

Tagline: “(The show) follows a group of Southerners who are always broke as a joke and struggling for the American dream of status and wealth. What they don’t realize is that they’re already rich — in friends, family and laughter.”

First impressions: Despite “Bless the Harts” having the only trailer out of all the new shows in Fox’s “Animation Domination” lineup, it also sounds like the least promising. Just like Fox’s other animated comedy newbies, this show is stacked with comedic talent but has little going on beyond that. Despite being created by the masterminds behind “The Lego Movie,” “21 Jump Street” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” the trailer’s jokes are stale, and the animation is off-putting. Also, these coastal elites seem to be riffing off the “white trash” stereotype, which is never a good way to appeal to a wide audience.

Prediction: Canceled

10. “Outmatched”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Jason Biggs, Maggie Lawson, Connor Kalopsis

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

Fox/Courtesy

Tagline: “A blue-collar couple in South Jersey tries to get by and raise four kids, three of whom just happen to be certified geniuses.”

First impressions: Who thought it was a good idea to take “Young Sheldon” and multiply it by three? Any chances this show had of succeeding because of Biggs and Lawson as the leads are further squashed with the addition of a laugh track. There is supposed to be comedic juxtaposition between the genius kids and blue-collar Atlantic City parents, but it just seems like an excuse to make constant jokes about New Jersey. The premise of “Outmatched” sounds like a campy ‘80s “wacky family” movie that people might make a few obscure references to today — but that ultimately became mostly forgotten once the ‘90s rolled around.

Prediction: Canceled

Jule Lim covers television. Contact her at [email protected].