5 Takeaways of New Fall TV Schedules: From Kiefer Sutherland to Time Travel

As the networks finish upfront week in New York, it looks like broadcast TV is headed back to the past

Last Updated: May 19, 2016 @ 8:05 PM

TV is headed back in time.

As the networks wrapped up their upfront presentations for the new fall TV schedules in New York this week, many of the trends pointed to an industry in love with the past.

After years of loading up on reality series and edgy dramas, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are returning to the comfort food of yore, such as crowd-pleasing star vehicles, plenty of comedies and even time travel, that hoariest of premises.

Consider some trends that emerged this week:

1. The 10 p.m. drama isn’t dead
The live audience at that hour isn’t what it used to be, thanks to DVR viewing and streaming competition. But networks are still taking swings on big new shows. Perhaps the biggest is ABC’s “Designated Survivor,” with Kiefer Sutherland as a Cabinet secretary who’s seen as a lightweight until a terrorist attack on Washington, D.C., unexpectedly makes him the president.

2. Reality is ebbing
Shows such as “Survivor” and “Dancing With the Stars” remain broadcasting bulwarks. And there are still occasional breakthroughs like NBC’s “Little Big Shots.” But if you’re looking for new reality TV series, you’ll have to go to cable. There are no new unscripted series on the fall lineups. Broadcasters have learned that these shows generally aren’t as popular with advertisers as scripted series. And they don’t repeat well.

3. Comedy is back
Not all the sitcoms will get queued up right away in September, but viewers will see more of them over the course of the season. CBS is returning to a two-hour Monday sitcom block after experimenting with “Supergirl” last season. ABC will have eight comedies in total on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

4. So is time travel
It may one of the tiredest tropes around, but time travel has suddenly made a big comeback on TV. ABC has “Time After Time,” in which novelist H.G. Wells is transported through time to solve crimes. “Timeless” (pictured) is an NBC thriller about a time-traveling criminal bent on destroying the United States. And Fox has a midseason comedy, “Making History,” that uses time travel as a premise.

5. Ditto old ideas
Feeling nostalgic? The networks can help out. CBS has a new version of “MacGyver,” the action-adventure series that had its original heyday back in the 1980s. Fox is retooling “Lethal Weapon” and “The Exorcist,” two old movie franchises. “24” will get another go-round — this time with a new lead – and even Kevin James is coming back in a new CBS comedy. Well, it has a new title, anyway: “Kevin Can Wait.”

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