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Fox's new shows have a ghost of a chance in Buffalo

The only Fox program that I watch regularly is "Lethal Weapon" and I'm not alone in Western New York.

That doesn't look like it is going to change in 2017.

"LW," which was based on the hit movies, was the highest-rated Fox program here last season after live viewing and seven days later, barely edging the retired "Bones" and the national hit "Empire."

WUTV (Channel 29) never has been a strong Fox affiliate, with none of its series averaging a 5 household rating this past season even after viewing seven days later.

So my primary concern about this year's Fox schedule is where the network was going to put its surprise hit of 2016-17.

Fox moved the buddy cop series starring Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans from 8 p.m. Wednesday to 8 p.m. Tuesday in the hopes of providing a strong enough lead-in to the midseason comedy success "The Mick" and the critically-acclaimed but little-watched "Brooklyn Nine-Nine."

The move is part of Fox's somewhat risky strategy of moving several of its stronger performing shows to 8 p.m. time slots, which means they air at 7 p.m. Central time.

"Empire" has been moved to 8 p.m. Wednesday as the lead-in for "Star," "Gotham" has been moved to 8 p.m. Thursday to be the lead-in for the new Seth MacFarlane series "The Orville," and "Lucifer" has been moved to 8 p.m. Monday as the lead-in for the new Marvel series "The Gifted."

Here is a quick look at Fox's new fall shows, which all have a sci-fi element:

"The Gifted," 9 p.m. Monday:  Steve Moyer ("True Blood" and Fox's "Shots Fired") and Amy Acker ("Person of Interest") star as the parents of teenage mutants with special powers who flee from a government agency that tracks down mutants.

As added complications, the teenage son hasn't yet learned to control his superpower and Moyer plays a prosecutor in the district attorney's office that goes after mutants like his children.

Now that he realizes who his children are, he is more sympathetic to the plight of the Mutant Underground. The idea is to use the latest Marvel superhero series to explore the social issues of today. The cast is full of so many teenagers and attractive young adult actors that it could be confused with a CW series. The pilot is loaded with special effects, but isn't anything special. 2 stars out of 4


"The Orville," 9 p.m. Thursday: Described as MacFarlane's passion project, the writer-producer of "Family Guy" stars in a science fiction series set 400 years in the future and seems designed to be a comical version of "Star Trek." MacFarlane's character gets to command the ship U.S.S. Orville, whose first officer is his ex-wife (Adrianne Palicki of "Friday Night Lights").

Fox's PR machine has noted how successful the initial ratings have been, but that was inevitable since the first two episodes ran on Sunday night after NFL games. Here is an edited version of my review of those episodes:

When you've made as much money for Fox as Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy," "The Cleveland Show," "American Dad!"), you can pretty much get anything you want from the network.

In a tweet to his 13.3 million followers, MacFarlane wrote "The Orville" "is the show I've wanted to make since I moved to Hollywood. Thoughtful sci-fi with a comedy streak. A challenging hybrid, but here goes."

In another tweet, MacFarlane wrote: "As shocking as it sounds from the 'Family Guy' guy, yes, 'The Orville' is a show that the entire family can watch."

After watching the opening hour, I thought that he must have been kidding in that tweet. What is considered family viewing has rapidly changed, but I still don't know a show that starts with infidelity, has occasional verbal and visible jokes about genitals and bodily functions, and has some mildly offensive language is family viewing even in 2017.

MacFarlane's humor always workers better in animated shows than it does with real actors as evidenced by his movie "A Million Ways to Die in the West." Many of his jokes in the pilot of "Orville" should have died before they hit the page.

But I'll give him credit for one thing: The pilot, loaded with special effects and directed by Jon Favreau ("Iron Man"), had a sweet ending that may lead viewers to root for MacFarlane's character and the character's ex-wife.

The opener is what is referred to in the TV business as a premise pilot, which introduces the story line and all the characters and their eccentricities – one guy needs to be able to drink soda on board. Ha, ha.

The opening plot, which is secondary, involves a secret aging weapon that an enemy is seeking. But as usual with these space shows, the enemy can't shoot straight. It also is outsmarted by strong female characters.

It is never a good idea to bet against MacFarlane, but the pilot often falls as flat as week-old soda so things will have to improve fast. The second episode, which had cameos from Holland Taylor and Jeffrey Tambor as Ed's parents, reduced the crude quotient. Unfortunately, it wasn't any funnier than the premiere, except at the end when it took a laudable shot at reality television.

But at least "The Orville" appears at times to have its heart in the right place and beats most of reality TV. 2 stars


"Ghosted," 8:30 p.m. Sunday: Adam Scott, most recently seen in HBO's "Big Little Lies," and Craig Robinson ("The Office") star in a comedy apparently inspired by "The X-Files" (which is coming back this season with 10 episodes).

Scott plays a talkative, disgraced scientist who everyone believes "he is nuts" because he believes in aliens and Robinson plays a quieter, disgraced cop and Stevie Winwood fan.

The mismatched duo is forced to become partners to try to save the human race from aliens. It is a buddy show and Scott and Robinson are friends in real life. But only their friends might love a show that is loaded with special effects and pop culture references and thinks that saying Kevin Spacey out loud is funny. 1.5 stars


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