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New Shows: Winter/Spring '12 Network TV Predictions

Back in September, I made some predictions about how the new shows premiering in the fall would fare, and now that stage two of the TV season has begun, it is time to make some more wildly premature predictions.

This new crop of shows premiering in the coming weeks are of a different variety than the shows that I profiled in the fall - there, they were shows that looked to the past - to fairy tales, to the 1960s, to Prehistoric eras - as a source of inspiration. These new shows keep the focus in the present, but with an angle that brings them in line with what have worked before - on television, or in movie theaters.

But before we get to that, I'll address my predictions from last time:

Terra Nova

My Prediction: 3 seasons

Result: Looks like it might just limp to a season 2 - but not much more beyond that.

Pan Am

My Prediction: 1 season

Result: Still going, weakly, and a cancellation notice is all but inevitable.

Person of Interest

My Prediction: 5+ Seasons

Result: The ratings are good and getting better. It remains to be seen if five seasons was too optimistic, but it's well on its way.

The Playboy Club

My Prediction: 13 Episodes or less.

Result: 3 episodes aired, 4 more produced. My most successful prediction thus far.

Once Upon a Time

My Prediction: 2 seasons.

Result: It looks like it'll get to season 2 going strong, instead of just barely getting there.


My Prediction: DOA, 3 or 4 episodes.

Result: It's made it to episode 8 already, and while Season 2 is no certainty, Grimm showed up much stronger than I expected.

Now, onto the new crop!


The River seems to be coming at a perfect time: mockumentary shows are popular, horror television seems to be making a comeback, and the Paranormal Activity movie franchise has proven to be something of a cash cow for Hollywood. This found-footage style drama created by the original Paranormal Activity director seems poised to steal some of those viewers. Or will it?

Reasons It’ll Work:It will be able to grab the audience of the Paranormal Activity movies, and perhaps a generous amount of viewers will get involved in the central mystery.

Reasons It’ll Fail: Only 8 episodes have been produced for the first season, and while that has worked in the past for cable shows, it is a short time to make an impact, and if those eight are not up to snuff, The River just might find itself forgotten in the jungle.

Prediction: 1 season. ABC has not been particularly aggressive marketing The River, and the eight-episode season will be over before many will realize it was on.


Another J.J. Abrams-produced show, with mystery, Islands, and Jorge Garcia. Of the many shows attempting to catch LOST's lightning, Alcatraz has the talent behind it (including former LOST writers Elizabeth Sarnoff and Jennifer Johnson) to potentially back that up. Will it finally break out of the pack and assert itself as its own show?

Reasons It’ll Work: It's going for a vibe perhaps closer to 'The X-Files' than LOST, and just may find a footing with mythology that 'Fringe' has managed to gain over its seasons. If it can keep the inmates-of-the-week interesting, the mythology will grow and so will its viewership.

Reasons It’ll Fail: J.J. Abrams fatigue, and LOST fatigue. Many viewers might be wary to jump on another show with many obvious similarities, especially in its advertising. It needs time to branch out and create a new image for itself, but it's unclear if it will get that luxury.

Prediction: 2 seasons. It'll do well enough to get to a season 2, but as soon as the answers don't start coming, it'll be sunk. On the other hand, if it manages to remain creative and interesting, a season 3 wouldn't be out of the question - but it is an uphill battle.


A sequel to the 1991 novel and the 1993 movie, this new NBC show starring Josh Lucas was given a 22 episode order without broadcasting a single episode. As described by its showrunner, it's still about a man in a suit being chased around. Though its source material has been a little forgotten over the years, NBC hopes this will reinvigorate it.

Reasons It’ll Work: John Grisham's work remains popular in the U.S., and mystery and conspiracy still remain popular genres, especially with the business corruption bent that resonates in a recession economy.

Reasons It’ll Fail: The source material is a bit on the older side, and the concept itself remains relatively complex and hard to boil down like so many other shows. While controversies and mysteries are nice, the ads have done nothing to explain what exactly the plot is. Those who are looking for a suspense show might be turned off by the convolutedness of it.

Prediction: Less than the 22 episodes it's producing. If the reviews remain tepid (at best), word of mouth will be nonexistent.


Though its creators have been quick to brush off comments that GCB seems to be ABC's attempt for a new Desperate Housewives, it is angling completely to be the new hit prime-time soap opera. Originally titled Good Christian Bitches based on the book, and then changed to Good Christian Belles, and finally GCB, the show has generated a tiny bit of controversy just for its title.

Reasons It’ll Work: If it pull the viewers of Desperate Housewives in and pull some intriguing stories out of the soapy concept, it might work as a guilty pleasure show that Revenge proved audiences can still latch on to.

Reasons It’ll Fail: Controversy before a premiere is never good (just ask The Playboy Club), and while it was relatively small, the idea of the show being ever-so-slightly exploitative of the Texan religious community still remains.

Prediction: Like ABC learned when it tried to launch FlashForward in response to LOST's imminent end, viewers often aren't so quick to jump from one beloved show to another similar one. In this case, GCB will flop as Desperate Housewives goes for its final lap, and get one season, or maybe crawl to another mid-season replacement for season 2.


Tim Kring's (Heroes) latest show has a concept that seems better fit for a film than a TV show - perhaps because it was a film, and that film was called Knowing. However its similarities to the other children's-random-number-strings-predicts-disasters films, it does have several things going for it: Kring, who may have some good-will left over from Heroes, and Jack Bauer himself.

Reasons It’ll Work: Jack Bauer and intriguing (and familiar) premise will get viewers in, and if the writing is able to hold up the concept for long enough, it'll keep viewers watching.

Reasons It’ll Fail: The concept's been done before, and not well. Adding to that is the father-son drama angle, which may disappoint those looking for something along the lines of Heroes or 24.

Prediction: 1 season. It may get good reviews, but it'll be ignored by the general public.


NBC is banking big on Smash this winter, and for good reason: It rides on several of the most popular waves in television at the moment: It combines Broadway musical flair with a hint of singing-competition - like Glee meets The Voice. If there's anything we know Americans like, it's singing shows. Were you aware that The Singing Bee is still on television?

Reasons It’ll Work: It's Glee, produced by Steven Spielberg. While Spielberg's name may or may not have helped his other big gamble in the fall (Terra Nova), it certainly might help here. If it can take it's glitzier, more serious approach to musical television and make it appealing to more adults than teens, it'll be able to branch out and become its own animal. If the original music is good enough, it should also be able to gain viewers that way.

Prediction: Could be a strong hit. I'm not sure how many seasons it could go, as its plan to go anthology-season style is a little risky. However, it should catch Season 2 going strong, and maybe more.

If my track record says anything, it's that chances are I'm wrong on these (GCB in particular has me second-guessing myself).

Either way, right or wrong, It'll be an entertaining winter and spring, as always.

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