Continuing the week of networks’ upfront presentations, ViacomCBS released sneak peeks of four new shows to their advertisers and public consumers Wednesday.
Although it’s too soon to really assess the shows themselves, that isn’t stopping this critic from weighing in on their potential, based upon these first looks.
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Here are those thoughts, in rough descending order:
If any further proof was needed that Dick Wolf is in the absolute elite tier of TV producers — beyond the fact that this fall he will have three dedicated nights of television, with NBC’s “Chicago” Wednesdays and “Law & Order” Thursdays joining CBS’ “FBI” Tuesdays — it’s in this trailer. How many other producers would be trusted to explain their point-of-view to audiences directly? It’s Wolf’s appeal that CBS is banking on far more than any insight as to what the forthcoming “FBI: International” will look like. We get a sizzle reel of action; moody character stomping; officers entering rooms with weapons drawn, and tense, grim violence, all while Wolf explains his concept: The new installation of the popular “FBI” franchise will draw more upon “international intrigue” than gunplay, given that FBI agents posted overseas, Wolf says, eschew violence. “These shows are different,” he adds, but they “have an overarching similarity of purpose. You give them what they like, they’ll stick around.” Addressing the audience this way in a trailer approaches meta, but we can’t deny that Wolf’s good at his job. Suggesting a sort of continuity-with-change — the old “FBI,” but with the violence that pulses throughout replaced by tradecraft — is an effective sell that made me curious in spite of my skepticism.
Reboots and revivals tend to suggest a dearth of ideas, but CBS attempts to make the affirmative case for “CSI’s” existence — not just continuing the stories of familiar characters, but also, as producers and cast emphasize, focusing on new methods of crime-solving devised in the years since the show left the air. How much of that comes into play remains, of course, to be seen, as does the infusion of new talent. The teaser places a heavy emphasis on the actor Paula Newsome, who seems — over the course of a couple of minutes — to be able to gin up the requisite intensity. And Jorja Fox and William Petersen are more than ties back to the series’ first iteration: One might have forgotten, in the time the show was off the air, the off-kilter nature of their charisma.
Vanessa Lachey is the first female lead of an “NCIS” franchise and, she tells audiences, “I don’t take that lightly.” We get precious little sense of how the show will look, though B-roll throughout the “NCIS: Hawai’i” teaser suggests that this, among other things, represents yet another chance for CBS to return to alluring shots of sea and sand (making this show a sibling of sorts to Peter Lenkov’s “Hawaii Five-0” and “Magnum P.I.”) Lachey tells viewers that she hopes to show “the beautiful side of Hawai’i” as well as its complexity. It’s impossible to judge how well the series will do from here, but the trailer seems to emphasize the franchise’s history and place a bet fans will hop aboard: The first and last person we see in the trailer is Mark Harmon, of the “NCIS” flagship.
It’s not without precedent — see, recently, “The Unicorn” — but it still feels genuinely strange to see a trailer for a single-camera, laugh-track-free sitcom on CBS. This novelty may account for why the “Ghosts” trailer feels a little shaky, as if the best material is being withheld. In fairness, it’s a bit of a chunky premise for a trailer to explain: A recently sold house (purchased by characters played by Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar) is possessed by ghosts from different eras across history, all of whom fear the new inhabitants and whom McIver’s character develops the ability to see after she hits her head. That seems to be a lot to pack into 22 minutes — it certainly strained the limits of this trailer — but a single-camera sitcom hit on CBS would be an exciting development, if only to prove that the net could do it.
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