Well, it’s that time of year again: the time when we find out which of our favorite shows will live to see another day, which will be unceremoniously axed, which will be mercifully concluded and which new shows will (and won’t) grace our screens this falls. It’s upfronts, the networks’ first opportunity to pitch their fall line-ups, including all their new projects, to prospective advertisers. Compared to last year — when networks cancelled 19 shows in 24 hours — the week preceding upfronts has been relatively calm. Though there have been a few surprises, it’s a far cry from the frenetic cancelled-then-not merry-go-round we were on last year.
But just in case you missed anything, here’s a wrap-up of all the latest happenings in television.
Last November, in advance of the Disney-Fox merger, Channing Dungey stepped down as president of ABC Entertainment. Her departure left the network, now led by Karey Burke and Dana Walden, with a slew of pilots developed under the previous regime which they weren’t at all eager to greenlight. While I’m hopeful that Burke’s experience at Freeform might lead to more inclusive programming at ABC, that’ll have to wait: it’s transition season at ABC Entertainment and their new fall line-up reflects that.
Among the queer characters returning to ABC’s primetime slate:
+ Annalise Keating and Tegan Price from How to Get Away With Murder
+ Maya Bishop of Station 19
+ Angela from American Housewife
+ Taryn “Hellmouth” Helm from Grey’s Anatomy
While earlier comments from Ellen Pompeo suggested that Grey’s 16th season might be its last, the network gave the show a two season renewal. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that after Grey’s can continue to find new ways to reinvigorate itself… like, perhaps, instead of just touting that you have a lesbian, a gay man and trans man among your intern class, you actually give them all storylines. JUST A THOUGHT, Krista Vernoff, just a thought.
ABC will be down one queer character this fall, though: we won’t get another season of For the People‘s Paris Gellar-esque federal prosecutor, Kate Littlejohn. It was a small miracle that the Shondaland property survived last year and none of the creative changes it made in its second season — which included sidelining queer actress Jasmin Savoy Brown — helped improve its mediocre ratings. Also? NBC’s renewal of Manifest ensures that Nicole won’t be coming back to the Fresh Off the Boat which was renewed for its sixth season, much to the chagrin of the show’s star, Constance Wu.
ABC’s fall slate will include three female driven shows:
+ mixed-ish, the second ABC spin-off of Kenya Barris’ black-ish, that focuses on Rainbow’s childhood
+ Emergence, the Allison Tolman-led thriller which was originally shopped at NBC
Every year, before its upfront presentation, CBS used to host a breakfast event with reporters called “Lox with Les.” It was an annual tradition that allowed the network’s then-CEO, Leslie Moonves, to sit down with reporters and talk about the upcoming slate. This year, though, Moonves is gone: ousted over multiple allegations of sexual assault and CBS is still trying to deal with the fallout. How’s that going? Well, if you ask the new president of CBS Entertainment, Kelly Kahl, it’s going swimmingly… after all, just look at all the HR changes they’ve made. Plus, they have a swanky new hashtag that they’re using, #CBSSeesHer, to promote all their content for women and girls.
But also, Michael Weatherly still has a job, despite the fact that he didn’t tell his bosses about a $9.5 million settlement, because “he’s a dad, he’s a father.” So, you know, don’t go patting CBS on the back too much.
There are some bright spots for CBS, though, at least when it comes for more diverse programming: all three of the network’s queer female characters will return in the fall.
+ Kat Sandoval and Madam Secretary‘s sixth and final season will be just 10 episodes.
+ Cris Alonso and her team on S.W.A.T. will also return for their third season but CBS will move the show from Thursday to Wednesday nights.
+ Ali Finer returns to Sundays on God Friended Me… hopefully with more to do in the show’s second season.
In addition, the five shows slated to debut this fall, four of them feature women and/or people of color in lead roles. That said, there’s no indication from any of the trailers for CBS’ new fall shows or the midseason additions will add any new gays to their roster.
Listen, I know what you’re all here for — the official trailer for CW’s Batwoman:
Batwoman will join a bevy of other queer women returning to the network next season.
+ Jess Damon on In the Dark
+ Isobel Evans-Bracken on Roswell, New Mexico
+ Cheryl Blossom and Toni Topaz on Riverdale
+ Coop on All American
+ Alex Danvers, Kelly Olsen and Nia Nal on Supergirl
+ Mel Vera and Niko Hamada on Charmed
+ Nyssa on Arrow
+ Sara Lance and Ava Sharpe on Legends of Tomorrow
+ Anissa Pierce and Grace Choi on Black Lightning
+ Josie Saltzman on Legacies
+ Clarke Griffin on The 100
It’s like someone asked the CW if their network could get any gayer and they said, “YES. Yes, it absolutely can.” In fairness, though, the end of Jane the Virgin and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend did mean the loss of four prominent queer women so, really, the CW owed us this. Welcome to our screens, Batwoman.
Batwoman will serve as the lead-in for Supergirl as part of the CW’s Sunday night line-up. That moves sends Charmed to a new time: Fridays at 8PM. All American moves to Monday nights, joining Black Lightning, ceding its post-Riverdale slot to CW’s Nancy Drew reboot.
Funny thing about Nancy Drew: over the last three years, three separate networks have tried to bring it to the small screen: first, CBS tried it with Sarah Shahi in her first post-Person of Interest role but it wasn’t picked up. Then, NBC tried it: still with Sarah Shahi as the titular character but with a new supporting cast; still, no pick-up. Finally, the idea’s landed at the CW — though, sadly, without Sarah Shahi — and will be part of the network’s fall line-up. The CW’s take on Nancy Drew (trailer, first look) features a fresh out of high school Nancy (Kennedy McMann) who gets embroiled in a murder investigation during her gap year. The show also stars Leah Lewis who you should definitely get familiar with before her star turn in Alice Wu’s upcoming lesbian teen romcom for Netflix.
Also? Lucy Hale returns to the CW as the titular character of the Riverdale spin-off, Katy Keene (teaser). The show follows four Archie Comics characters, including Katy and Riverdale alum, Josie McCoy, as they chase their dreams in New York City. Katy Keene will join Roswell, New Mexico, In the Dark, Legends of Tomorrow and The 100 as part of the CW’s midseason slate.
The CW is also home to the biggest surprise of the pilot season: the failure to launch for Jane the Novela, the would-be spin-off of the network’s critically acclaimed show, Jane the Virgin, which ends its run this year. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the pilot didn’t impress network executives and they opted to pass. That said, CW President Mark Pedowitz told reporters that the network was still open to another potential Jane reboot and the ball was in Jennie Snyder Urman’s court. C’mon, Jennie, give us the Petra/JR spin-off we all want and deserve!
Though a subsidiary of ABC, Freeform is its own network, doing its own thing, appealing to a very particular young adult audience and moving at its own speed. But while they’re eschewing all the traditional schedules, Freeform is creating a space for inclusive storytelling that is really unrivaled in broadcast or cable television. At this year’s upfronts, the network announced renewals for Siren and The Bold Type, both of which feature queer characters.
Freeform has three new shows expanding its roster of inclusive programming in the upcoming season: Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, the story of a 25 year old guy, Nicholas, played by the show’s creator/writer Josh Thomas, who becomes the legal guardian for his two half-sisters when their father dies. One of the sisters, Matilda (Kayla Cromer), has autism…and in a rarity on television, a character with autism will be played by an actress on the spectrum. Freeform will also debut their reboot of Party of Five, featuring a group of siblings left to fend for themselves when their parents are deported back to Mexico. Have your Kleenex ready.
But, just in case you were worried that Freeform would go a full season without debuting some queer women, think again…check out the trailer for Motherland: Fort Salem.
From the creator of Claws, Motherland: Fort Salem follows three young women from enlistment in a supernatural army to basic training in combat magic into early deployment. Thanks to a longstanding agreement with the government, witches are no longer persecuted, they’re relied on, to defend the country from all threats, foreign and domestic. It’s a discomfiting look at witchcraft which, historically, has been used to protect women from the excess of government (and patriarchy), rather than being used as an arm of the government… but, I guess we’ll see how this goes.
Missing from Freeform’s upcoming schedule? Unrelated the Kenya Barris produced comedy that Freeform announced at last year’s upfronts (though, back then it was called Besties). Reports from March have the show, starring Jordin Sparks and Gigi Zumbado, in production, but no word yet on when it’ll join the Freeform line-up.
Freeform is using the recent Disney/Fox merger to its advantage by bringing 30 seasons of The Simpsons to the network, beginning in September. The addition of television’s longest running animated series to its ranks, along with reruns of Family Guy, lays the groundwork for Freeform to launch two original animated series of their own: Betches and Woman World. Both projects are still in development but Betches will tell the stories three best friends and roommates as they navigate early adulthood in New York, while Woman World will bring Aminder Dhaliwal’s graphic novel — which Heather dubbed one of the best graphic novels of last year — to the small screen.
The Disney-Fox merger also left FOX’s broadcast network arm, Fox Entertainment, in search of a new identity. This fall, the network’s betting its future on a line-up on a mix of live events, reality shows and competitions and a bevy of new scripted series. Among the fall slate:
+ Henrietta Wilson will return to Station 118 on 9-1-1
+ Tiana Brown will return for Empire‘s final season.
But FOX’s new identity will be forged without four of its queer characters: Star‘s Simone Davis and Cotton Brown and Proven Innocent‘s Madeline Scott and Wren Grant. While the latter’s cancellation was no surprise — the ratings for Proven Innocent were not great and the show just wasn’t very good — Star‘s cancellation came as a bit of a shock. Despite a downturn in ratings, Star was still performing better for Fox in the key advertising demographic than The Resident and The Orville, both of which were renewed. Star and Proven Innocent‘s cancellation does feed into a worrying trend at Fox of disprioritizing diversity. While the bulk of Fox’s cancellations feature African American leads, the new pick-ups are predominantly white and predominantly male driven.
Still, though, it’s worth looking out for Not Just Me, an adaptation of the Australian series, Sisters. Brittany Snow stars as the only child of famous fertility specialist who finds out that her father’s been using own sperm to conceive upward of a hundred children, including two new sisters (Megalyn Echikunwoke and Emily Osment). In the Australian version of this show (available on Netflix), Echikunwoke’s character was a married lawyer who ended up having an affair with a female attorney at her firm. Fingers crossed that they retain that aspect of the character.
While Deputy won’t show up on our screens until midseason, I’ll be keeping an eye out for
how Bex Taylor-Klaus queers up the show. Plus it stars Yara Martinez in her first post-Jane the Virgin series.
One of the biggest surprises of last year’s upfronts was seeing Brooklyn 99 saved from cancellation. The pickup made sense for NBC, since the show was produced by its parent company (Universal) and the network wanted to maintain its relationship with creator Michael Schur. A season on NBC has yielded higher overall ratings for B99 and a 13 episode pick-up for the show’s seventh season. Also renewed? Schur’s other NBC mainstay comedy: The Good Place. Now all that’s left to do is MAKE IT GAY, YOU COWARDS. The fate of Schur’s other NBC show, Abby’s, is still TBD, but show’s ratings do not offer cause for optimism.
Returning with Rosa Diaz and Eleanor Shollstrop to queer up NBC’s fall offerings Tess Pearson, the tween lesbian on This Is Us, whose show was re-upped for an unprecedented three seasons. The long-term renewal operates a lot like Brooklyn 99‘s pick-up did: a way of NBC cementing its relationship with the show’s creator, Dan Fogelman. While it falls short of granting me my greatest Fogelman wish — that is, a Pitch revival — I’m looking forward to the possibility that we’ll get to witness so many of Tess Pearson’s gay firsts.
None of NBC’s new additions seem particularly gay based on trailers the network has released thus far — Bluff City Law, Perfect Harmony, and Sunnyside — but surely with two musicals in their line-up (Sunnyvale and the mid-season addition, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist) there have to be some gays in there somewhere.