With the broadcast networks having unveiled their fall schedules at last month’s upfront presentations in Gotham, it is now time to dust off the showbiz crystal ball to try to forecast which nets may have scored this season’s “The West Wing,” the NBC drama that broke through to a Prime Time Emmy nomination and win in 2000 in its first year of eligibility. (Prognostications are based on a potential actors strike not materializing and hampering network skeds.)
While the “West Wing’s” quick trip to the winners’ circle was heavily attributed by biz watchers to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ switch to home-viewing opportunities, some programs are just born with an Emmy sheen, and the White House-set storylines were tailor-made to tackle the type of topical, heavy issues that strike a chord with Acad voters.
Thus, it’s easy to winnow the field of new season hopefuls based on content criteria (slam-bang, car-crash actioners shouldn’t hold their breath). Strong production pedigrees and big names also go a long way to bringing down the kudos manna.
According to Joe A. Schlosser, Los Angeles bureau chief for Broadcast & Cable (a Variety sister publication), CBS has two strong dramas with potential for future Emmy affiliation: “The Education of Max Bickford” and “Citizen Baines.”
The latter show, starring James Cromwell (“Babe”) as a former U.S. senator living in Seattle, comes crowned with a trifecta of powerhouse exec producers with lengthy Emmy resumes: John Wells (“West Wing,” “China Beach”), Lydia Woodward (“ER,” “China Beach”) and Christopher Chulack (“ER”).
While “Max Bickford” has “Judging Amy’s” proven vets of Dawn Prestwich and Nicole Yorkin in the exec producer saddle, the Sunday night drama about a college professor will be banking on its big-name stars.
“A combination of two Oscar winners in one cast with Richard Dreyfuss and Marcia Gay Harden,” Schlosser notes. “(CBS prexy) Les Moonves is saying that he’s never seen two in one show.
“I think those are the kind that win Emmys, ‘The West Wing’ kind of shows,” Schlosser continues. “Action dramas are not the Emmy kind of show.”
Marc Berman, TV analyst for MediaWeek.Com, also homes in on “Max Bickford” as the standout in Emmy potential, noting, “The acting you would have to assume is A-plus.”
He also was impressed by “Citizen Baines” and Cromwell, who Berman says still makes him think of “All in the Family” and the actor’s role of Archie pal Stretch.
“Philly,” ABC’s Tuesday-night Steven Bochco drama starring Kim Delaney (“NYPD Blue”) as a defense attorney, also could prove popular right out of the gate, says Berman, citing Bochco’s track record with ATAS. “When (his) ‘NYPD Blue’ first debuted, it deserved a ton of nominations.”
On the comedy front, Fox’s “Undeclared,” Judd Apatow’s follow-up to the critically beloved but short-lived “Freaks & Geeks,” may have the chops to cut out a place in future Emmy fields.
“By far and away the best-looking comedy for the fall,” Schlosser says of “Undeclared.” And Apatow’s “Freaks & Geeks” fame is “going to bring in a following right there, and the show itself will hold its own.”
The comedy that both Schlosser and Berman see as having potential for Acad kudos is ABC’s “Bob Patterson,” starring “Seinfeld” co-star Jason Alexander as a motivational speaker. Berman notes Alexander’s popularity with voters — he was nominated for four straight years — may translate into recognition for his new program.
On the flip side, Berman can’t resist singling out comedy “Emeril,” built around famous TV chef Emeril Lagasse, as the anti-Emmy candidate.
” ‘Emeril’ will be making no trips to the podium,” he says of the NBC show, which he calls a train wreck.