Burn Notice is flaming out. The View welcomes Jenny McCarthy. Bethenny Frankel has a talk show. So does Arsenio Hall — again.
We are taking the first significant steps into the new TV season.
To be sure, the idea of a TV season is one that viewers embrace less and less. Shows come and go year-round on broadcast and cable networks, and online program providers have made binge viewing a DVD-free exercise when you’re ready to give it a shot. (Still haven’t seen Orange Is the New Black? Thirteen episodes still await you on Netflix.) Millions of viewers satisfied their viewing craving this summer with CBS’ Under the Dome, while others are discussing AMC’s Breaking Bad as it charges toward its series finale on Sept. 29.
But the fall is still a major launching point for programs, especially the biggest prime-time hits. Young people are back in school, it’s getting dark earlier and the temps are dropping, and it feels as if most viewers are ready to get off the patio and back in front of the set.
While most of the big prime-time hits will not be back for a week or more (read about those in next Sunday’s Life section), there are still some changes and program stunts in the week ahead, and it’s worth pointing out some of them.
Consider late-night, for example. Northeast Ohio’s own Arsenio Hall returns to talk after a 19-year hiatus with a new syndicated show. It premieres locally at 11 p.m. Monday on WJW (Channel 8). Hall knows that his old audience is, well, older — but thinks he can bring in his previous fans and a new audience. If nothing else, he is a rare African-American voice in late-night, and the only one with a successful track record in the form. (Read my interview with Hall on Ohio.com.)
In daytime, Bethenny Frankel of Real Housewives of New York City goes from a 2012 test run of a talk show to regular weekday telecasts, starting locally at 3 p.m. Monday on WKYC (Channel 3). Rachael Ray, who had occupied that time slot, is getting bumped to 1 a.m. Yes, a.m.
Also in the daylight hours, Jenny McCarthy formally joins the cast of The View at 11 a.m. Monday on WEWS (Channel 5). The show’s new lineup includes McCarthy, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd and Barbara Walters. ABC has referred to McCarthy as “comedian/actress/host and best-selling author” — but her anti-vaccination activism has made her a controversial pick. Time magazine’s James Poniewozik said, “To legitimize McCarthy’s dangerous anti-science because she will probably get crazy attention and ratings is irresponsible and shameful.”
In prime time, NBC’s Sunday Night Football makes its time-period debut at 8:20 tonight with the Giants at the Cowboys. The Ravens-Broncos game this past Thursday was technically its season premiere — really, NBC once again listed a Thursday show as Sunday Night Football — but tonight marks the beginning of the season in its regular time slot. At least ESPN’s Monday Night Football will begin on Monday.
As for entertainment shows, Boardwalk Empire begins a fourth season on HBO at 9 tonight. Sons of Anarchy is back for its sixth season on FX at 10 p.m. Tuesday. The X Factor will have a two-night third-season premiere at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday on Fox, with yet another change in the judges — say hello to Paulina Rubio and Kelly Rowland — and hosts, as Mario Lopez is now flying solo. (Read more about The X Factor in today’s Channels.)
PBS at 8 tonight premieres the series Last Tango in Halifax, a comedy-drama about love among us over-40s. Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid star as folks who reconnect on Facebook.
NBC, which spent part of the past season trying to get past Univision in the ratings, will try to get a jump on the new season with The Million Second Quiz, a game show hosted by Ryan Seacrest and airing on 10 of 11 nights beginning Monday. Expect lots of promos for other NBC shows during the series, which will be live in the 8 p.m. hour Monday through Saturday and Sept. 16-18, with a two-hour finale at 8 p.m. Sept. 19.
The series has contestants answering trivia questions from a “money chair” for as long as possible in the million-second duration of the show, adding cash for every second they last against challengers. And people can play along at home for a chance in the chair.
For those of you doing million-second math (it’s about 11½ days), NBC says that refers to the full competition, which starts off-air today and goes into the evening of Sept. 19. Fans can follow it online on NBC.com during most of the non-televised hours. And aren’t many of us spending more and more time watching shows online anyway?
At the same time that there are new arrivals, it’s time to start saying goodbye to some of the shows of summer. Burn Notice, for one, has its series finale at 9 p.m. Thursday on USA Network. So You Think You Can Dance completes its current season on Fox on Tuesday, while the network’s MasterChef picks its new winner Wednesday. HBO’s The Newsroom begins the first of a two-part season finale at 10 tonight, with the second part on Sept. 15.
But believe me, there will be lots of other TV to talk about by then.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.