Everything You Need to Know About the Fall 2012 TV Season

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Is it just us, or have the past few weeks of network television renewals, cancellations, and new series pickups been particularly dramatic? More than any other previous year, the anticipation and anxiety surrounding upfronts has been at fever pitch, with fans of imperiled cult favorites glued to their Twitter feeds for news and a slew of new shows that already have critics and readers talking. The onslaught of announcements has been so intense that even those of us who follow pop culture for a living have had trouble keeping up — so, for the sake of our sanity and yours, we’ve dug through the reports to compile a list of the biggest and most interesting news about the 2012-13 TV season, including trailers for some of the most talked about new series.

Mrs. Coach is becoming a country siren

In the past few years, Connie Britton has become a television MVP. After wrapping up her Emmy-nominated role as Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights, she jumped right to American Horror Story, where she spent a delightfully campy season as a pregnant woman whose husband’s ex-lover (along with a host of other ghosts) is haunting her. Now, ABC has put in a series order for Nashville, a primetime family soap where Britton stars as an aging country singer who’s challenged by a wily, young upstart (Hayden Panettiere). While the setting itself wouldn’t necessarily draw our attention, the tension between Britton and Panettiere in the trailer is perfect, and we’re willing to give anything Mrs. Coach does a shot.

Awake, Ringer, Pan Am, CSI: Miami, and more are canceled

Have you lost track of whether your favorite show is coming back for another season? TV Done Right has an excellent chart tracking which series have been renewed and canceled, and which we’re still waiting to hear about. There aren’t a whole lot of surprises this season, although a few long-running favorites like House, Desperate Housewives, and One Tree Hill are packing it in. Meanwhile, there is no better representation of how NBC’s doing in the ratings than the comparison between how many shows it’s canceled and how few CBS has killed.

Your favorite show probably didn’t get canceled

Fans of 30 Rock, Community, and Parks and Recreation don’t mess around, so we assume you’ve already heard that the trio of perennially at-risk critical darlings have been renewed. Perhaps you’re also fretting that 30 Rock (which will end next year) and Community are only coming back for 13 episodes. But considering that we weren’t sure we’d make it through this round of upfronts with all three series intact, we can’t complain.

Another well-liked show that spent a worrisome amount of time on the bubble is ABC’s Happy Endings. Thankfully, the network has decided to renew the single-camera sitcom about six friends in Chicago, perhaps because it’s climbed significantly in the ratings over the past year. And unlike their peacock-feathered competitors, ABC isn’t hedging its bet — Happy Endings has been cleared for a full, 22-episode third season.

Your favorite TV show is also probably moving to a different day or time

Speaking of Happy Endings, don’t go looking for it after Modern Family on Wednesday anymore. Next fall, it will move to the 9pm Tuesday slot, after Dancing with the Stars, in what appears to be an attempt by ABC to broaden the show’s audience. This should make it a good lead-in to the surprisingly good Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, with which we imagine it shares a somewhat similar, young viewership.

Not all of our beloved NBC comedies will return to Thursday night, either. In a decision that concerns us, Community has been pushed off that schedule, and will instead air on Fridays after Whitney. Some TV critics think the move is an attempt to accommodate a show whose depressingly small number of loyal fans will follow it anywhere — even to the weekend — while others fear that it’s a decisive death blow. For our part, we’re wondering whether this is all a ruse to scare showrunner Dan Harmon, who apparently isn’t getting along so well with NBC these days.

At the trashier, but equally delightful, end of the spectrum, ABC’s Count of Monte Cristo-based soap Revenge is also making an unexpected move, to Sunday nights at 9pm. It’s like the network doesn’t realize that the demographic that watches this guilty pleasure totally overlaps with the folks who never miss AMC’s and HBO’s blocks of Quality Programming on the same night. (Seriously, we’re not the only Mad Men viewers addicted to this camp-fest, are we?)

But the biggest change of all is in store for Cougar Town, which despite its terrible name has had a good last few seasons, despite hemorrhaging viewers. (To be fair, we should all know better than to discount anything with Busy Philipps in it.) After ABC canceled the show, TBS swooped in to pick it up for a 15-episode fourth season. Hell, maybe they’ll even decide to change its name to something that isn’t so embarrassing to type.

Fox picked up Mindy Kaling’s new show

At last week’s upfront, Fox announced that it’s picked up the wonderful Kaling’s OB/GYN show and switched the title from It’s Messy (which wasn’t great) to The Mindy Kaling Project (which is boring and terrible and will hopefully change again before the premiere). Aside from the encouraging trailer, which gives us the likably neurotic Kaling readers of her book already love, this is good news because the tremendously talented writer/actress deserves better than The Office, which should have ended at least two seasons ago.

Glee is changing — hopefully for the better

We were never among this show’s biggest fans, to be perfectly honest, but we found it somewhat enjoyable in its first season, and acknowledged that it was a good alternative to the typical, CW-style teen fare. At this point, though, we’re finding Glee entirely unwatchable, from the sugary pop pastiches to story lines that range from trivializing to non-existent.

So, it’s time to shake things up — something that creator Ryan Murphy has never been afraid of, as next season’s complete American Horror Story reboot illustrates. Aside from moving to Thursday night and announcing guest spots by Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson, Vulture reports that Glee will take on a “show-within-a-show” format, to follow students at both William McKinley High (where we’ll meet some new cast members) and the performing arts school in New York. If you ask us, additional characters and a wider focus are the last things the show needs, especially if none of the current cast is actually leaving, but we won’t knock the new approach until we see how it turns out.

The CW makes Green Arrow a star

We wouldn’t blame you if The CW’s Carrie Diaries pickup prevented you from looking further into its new fall slate, but here’s something comics fans will want to know about: The network has put in a series order for Arrow, which will follow the exploits of DC Comics superhero Green Arrow. This may seem a bit outside The CW’s wheelhouse, but if you remember Smallville — and take into account that Green Arrow is the secret identity of a guy who is basically Chuck Bass — it actually makes sense.

CBS is still too chicken to cancel Two and a Half Men

After a year without its, um, volatile star, Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men chugs on. Critics may have hated the latest season even more than its predecessor, but it’s still one of the most popular sitcoms on TV, which means it merits a tenth go-round while Community is barely getting a fourth. The show is moving from its roost at 9pm on Monday to 8:30 on Thursday, because the ratings have slipped enough to lead CBS to prop it up with a Big Bang Theory lead-in. (Thankfully, considering the very different demographics, it isn’t likely to do as much damage to Up All Night, with which it will share a time slot, as Big Bang Theory has done to 30 Rock and everything else NBC has slotted in at 8pm on Thursdays for the past few years.) In 2013, we expect to see Ashton Kutcher replaced by an upturned mop with a shaggy, brown wig on it and a weekly viewership that still tops 10 million.

Comedy fans will have a major Tuesday-night dilemma

For those old-school types who prefer to watch TV when it airs, Tuesday nights between 9 and 10pm may present something of a conundrum. First, there’s ABC, which is stacking up Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23 at 9 and 9:30. Fox, meanwhile, has put New Girl and then The Mindy Project in those two slots. To further complicate matters, NBC has chosen that hour for two buzzy, punchy-looking new comedies (but remember, Free Agents was pretty buzzy this time last year) — Go On , which stars Matthew Perry as a sportscaster, and The New Normal (trailer above), Ryan Murphy’s sitcom about a pair of gay dads and the woman who gave birth to their baby.

While the NBC shows may not draw the exact same audience as Fox’s and ABC’s shows, we’re worried about seeing the latter two lineups go head-to-head. Happy Endings may be building its viewer base, but we bet it shares a good chunk of its audience with the popular New Girl, which could doom it to a significant ratings plummet. Don’t Trust the B—- and The Mindy Project could be more equally matched, and we’re concerned that this could spell trouble for both shows.

NBC is having an identity crisis

Alas, after the cancellation bloodbath of fall 2011, NBC has presented a massive slate of new programming. And guess what — much of it is noticeably un-NBC-like. Nothing sums up what the network is going through more than the news that third (fourth?) horseman of the apocalypse Dane Cook will star as a satellite radio shock jock on Next Caller, in which his colorful character faces off with the young feminist (Collette Wolfe) who’s been hired to co-host his show, Booty Calls with Cam Dunne. Based on the premise and the woefully unfunny trailer above, we’d say this one is doomed, but if critics could predict the success and failure of TV shows, well, we’ll refer you back to Two and a Half Men vs. Community.

If we had to guess, we’d say Next Caller (and perhaps also the more promising but weirdly similar-looking Go On) is an attempt to serve a slightly more discerning version of the bro demographic currently being under-served by Two and a Half Men. Meanwhile, many have called out The New Normal as NBC’s spin on TV’s most wildly popular sitcom that is actually good, Modern Family. There’s also Revolution , which is produced by J.J. Abrams and, like so many of his successful and unsuccessful post-Lost TV projects, looks a whole lot like Lost.

Of course, there is one show on the fall schedule that promises pure NBC quirkiness: Animal Practice , which stars Weeds‘ fantastic Justin Kirk, looks like it could be Scrubs at a veterinarian’s office. Kirk’s co-star is a chimp in a lab coat.