An inside look at this fall's prime-time TV lineup

Fall TV will see Robin Williams back on the small screen, a live-staging of "The Sound of Music" and the return of Kiefer Sutherland's "24."

The major networks announced their prime-time schedules this past week -- and viewers can expect a wide variety of shows to click on, from highly-produced thrillers to more "offbeat" options, such as one-off musicals.

Brian Steinberg, Variety's television editor, said, "All of broadcast is pulling out a lot of new tricks. They're trying to be different and trying some new things. People are watching TV in recorded fashion, on-demand...they [networks] are trying to line up new tricks -- whether that be one-time specials or limited series that they kind of show for a short period of time and get out of very quickly and go to something new."

NBC, for example, will offer up a three-hour live staging of "The Sound of Music." The CW, meanwhile, will air the iHeartRadio Music Festival and supernatural and sci-fi-themed programming. And "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane is behind "Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey," a 13-part limited docu-series set to air on Fox.

"Even CBS, which tends to do things the old-school way, is going to use Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET for limited series," said Steinberg. CBS will introduce "Hostages" in the fall, a 15-episode, highly-serialized thriller series, and come mid-season, it will replace that with "Intelligence," a high-action drama featuring Josh Holloway of "Lost" fame.

"The networks are looking to do a lot more original programming and show fewer reruns," said Steinberg, who said there's a lot of buzz about Michael J. Fox's new series on NBC. "There's a feeling of hoping it will do well," said Steinberg. Excitement is also building around ABC's upcoming sitcom, "The Goldbergs" -- think "The Wonder Years" of the '80s. Also getting a lot of attention is Marvel's "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." from ABC, set in the same world as last summer's blockbuster "The Avengers."

Despite all of the excitement around the upcoming series -- many of which will be highly-produced -- not all of them will make it. In fact, most of them won't survive. As Steinberg notes, history shows that roughly 75-85 percent of the new series get the axe.

"There's still a fair share of things that aren't going to work very well -- ones that are sort of far-fetched or strange," he said, adding, "Not everything is going to work, but there's more willingness to do more high-quality stuff whether that means having Robin Williams come in to do a sitcom on CBS, or even launching '24' again on Fox is really ambitious. Fox is doing it in a very cost-conscious way, they're only doing 12 episodes," he said, as opposed to the original 24 when the series first aired.

Competition from cable and Netflix are making the broadcast networks step up their game, too, as traditional networks are looking not only to greenlight shows with the likelihood of success, but also ones that will live on in the "aftermarket" of reruns.

One TV genre that doesn't score well in reruns is reality TV, which means networks are continuing to shift to scripted series. With a focus on new dramas and comedies, we're seeing fewer reality debuts. Jeanine Poggi, who covers TV for Ad Age, said the networks are focusing less on reality television this time around, putting it on the "back burner."

"I think some of these reality contests are starting to mature and age out," added Steinberg. "Cable is really saturated with reality TV."

ABC announced that long-running"Dancing with the Stars" will be scaled down from two nights to just one. And "American Idol" is in limbo, with Randy Jackson leaving the judges' panel in the wake of low ratings. The season 12 "Idol" finale garnered the lowest ratings in "Idol" history.

Before the fall arrives, though, there will be plenty to see this summer, including the premiere of "Under the Dome," CBS' new series of based on Stephen King's novel of the same name, premiering June 24.

"I think the networks are really interested in at least creating the allusion that they are always there, even during summertime," Steinberg said.

For more information on this fall's hottest shows and TV trends, check out our interview with Jeanine Poggi of Ad Age above.

Tell us: Which shows are you most excited to check out this fall?

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