Fall TV: 5 trends people are talking about

What will be on the television next season? Expect big-budget dramas, funny women, and plenty of singing

The pilot for NBC's new fall musical sitcom "Smash" cost $7.5 million and competing networks CBS and FOX are pulling out the big bucks for their fall lineups too.
(Image credit: NBC Universal, Inc.)

This week, New York City hosted network television's "upfronts" — the annual presentations designed to show off upcoming fall lineups to potential advertisers. As new series were unveiled, commentators spotted a number of trends. Here, five that people are talking about:

1. Big-budget shows

Though relatively low-budget reality TV series have been popular in seasons past, the networks are investing in several costly productions this year, says Lacey Rose in The Hollywood Reporter. That includes ABC's Pan Am and Charlie's Angels, NBC's musical Smash (reportedly the pilot cost $7.5 million), CBS' crime series Person of Interest (from Lost executive producer J.J. Abrams), Fox's dinosaur drama Terra Nova (from executive producer Steven Spielberg), and Alcatraz (also from J.J. Abrams). "It really feels... like the broadcast networks are back," says Zack Van Amburg of Sony Pictures TV. "It doesn't feel like they're chasing the eroding audience that seems to be migrating to cable." (Watch a trailer for Smash here.)

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2. Female-friendly shows

From Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (based on comedian Chelsea's Handler's memoir) to New Girl, a comedy starring indie cutie Zooey Deschanel, "there's a bumper crop this year in particular of comedies with female leads," says James Poniewozik in TIME. That could work out well in "the year of Bridesmaids," though not all are "necessarily a step forward in representing women." (Watch a trailer for New Girl here, and Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea here.)

3. Singing shows

NBC and FOX have little in common — except for one thing: "Music is key to their future," says Matt Roush in TV Guide. From returning favorites like Glee and American Idol to newcomers like Simon Cowell's The X Factor and Smash, there's a lot of singing on primetime. "Unless we suddenly tire of this genre, which the resurgence of the reinvented American Idol seems to argue against, there's no reason to think The X Factor won't be a major fall player." (Watch a trailer for The X Factor here.)

4. A Sarah Michelle Gellar show

The star of the cult hit Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) returns to television with CW's Ringer, a tale of a woman on the run. The show's "trailer ranks among the most intriguing of the week," says Troy Patterson at Slate. (Watch it here.)

5. And some manly shows

The fall schedule isn't all girls and singing. ABC unveiled two new manly comedies, Last Man Standing, starring Tim Allen, and Man Up, about three modern young dudes wondering how they got so "touchy-feely." There's something unique about the man shows, says Poniewozik. They all seem to be "overtly about the idea that men today are wussified, marginalized, powerless or rudderless." The overwhelming theme is "manxiety."

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