An affair and some zombies prop up US fall TV season

GMT 13:14 2014 Thursday ,27 November

Arab Today, arab today An affair and some zombies prop up US fall TV season

Actress Ruth Wilson
Los Angeles - AFP

On American TV screens this fall, romantic comedies have mostly flopped, family sitcoms abound, Amazon has joined the fray in earnest, and an extra-marital affair has generated serious buzz.
Here are some of the hits and misses of the current US television season:
- 'Affair' has tongues wagging -
"The Affair," a love story thriller on subscription cable network Showtime, has "not only captured eyeballs but also imaginations," said Tom Nunan of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
The series -- starring British actors Dominic West ("The Wire") and Ruth Wilson ("Luther") as the cheating lovers -- depicts the same events viewed back-to-back from both perspectives, following a summer extra-marital romance with devastating consequences.
The show has seduced critics and draws some 3.9 million viewers per week -- a strong showing for a cable channel.
- Romantic comedies wilt -
"Manhattan Love Story," about how a couple seduce each other, and "Selfie," about a woman who falls in love with the man she hires to cure her addiction to social media, have been among the romantic comedies which have failed to convince.
"Romantic comedy never seems to work on TV," even if they are a dependable staple on the big screen, said Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University in New York state.
- Family sitcom melting pot -
Family sitcoms, a reliable small screen formula, have been given a new coat of paint by exploring themes about minorities.
"Black-ish," broadcast by ABC and already renewed for a second season, follows the adventures of a middle-class African-American family a bit like "The Cosby Show" did 30 years ago, but with the focus on the father's identity crisis.
"Cristela," another ABC comedy, probes challenges facing Latinos in America, as does "Jane the Virgin," which is adapted from a popular Venezuelan telenovela.
- Corridors of power -
Shows about the corridors of power have long existed, with Netflix's breakthrough political series "House of Cards" the most recent example, and this season is no different.
The latest installment is "State of Affairs," Katherine Heigl of "Grey's Anatomy" fame plays a CIA analyst tasked with briefing the president (Alfre Woodard).
The show on NBC, the former home of "The West Wing," tries to surf the Washington power politics wave, but has left critics lukewarm and failed to win viewers since debuting this month.
"Madam Secretary" on CBS, starring Tea Leoni as a Hillary Clinton-esque US secretary of state, has fared a little better -- but not much.
"Homeland," now in its fourth season about the adventures of super-spy Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), has experienced something of a revival despite the shock death of her love interest Nicholas Brody (Emmy winner Damian Lewis) last season.
- Amazon goes with the flow -
Amazon "has been waiting for their 'House of Cards' moment, and they got it with 'Transparent'," Nunan said.
"Transparent" follows a transsexual father who comes out as his children themselves are grappling with their own sexual identities and love lives.
"The fact that 'Transparent' is universally adored by critics and viewers who subscribe is a historic moment for Amazon," Nunan said, as "The Sopranos" was for cable heavyweight HBO in an earlier era.
- Success, dead or alive --
Post-apocalyptic shows have long worked. The success of AMC's zombie series "The Walking Dead" has grown with each season.
Among the other hits this fall is "The Strain," about a virus which turns people into zombies, which has been booked for another season.
- Reality TV: make it simple -
"Utopia" on Fox tried to give reality TV a new lease on life by creating an ideal community from an eclectic group of people.
Verdict: thumbs down after a few episodes.
Thompson said it was too complex, but insists the genre is far from dead.
"Anybody hoping that the reality show will die, will die before reality shows do," he said.  "When it's done well, it is really compelling and fun to watch."


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