STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Fall TV: 'The Big Leap' takes off, and 'Ordinary Joe' isn't your ordinary NBC drama

Fall TV: 'The Big Leap' takes off, and 'Ordinary Joe' isn't your ordinary NBC drama

Posted: Sep 20, 2021 11:11 AM
Updated: Sep 20, 2021 11:11 AM

Broadcasting's fall TV season gets underway this week with a pair of promising -- one might even say out of the ordinary -- dramas, a few spinoffs, and a particularly stale new primetime soap.

The brand extensions include "CSI: Vegas," "NCIS: Hawaii," "FBI: International" and a new "The Masked Singer"-like Fox singing competition "Alter Ego." Since there's not much mystery about how those shows will look, let's focus for now on the ones that aren't new wrinkles (or old wrinkles in different locations) of what already exists.

NBC's "Ordinary Joe" is perhaps the most interesting concept among the series premiering Monday, but not the best -- a distinction that falls to Fox's "The Big Leap," a show-within-a-show about the making of a fictional reality show and the lives of those involved that brings to mind the Lifetime drama "UnReal."

Fox follows that up Tuesday with "Our Kind of People," a too-familiar "Dynasty"-like serial about the super-rich, with the wrinkle being that the community is Black. The show is loosely inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham's book "Our Kind of People: Inside America's Black Upper Class," adapted by showrunner Karin Gist working with "Empire" co-creator Lee Daniels.

Starring James Wolk (a "Mad Men" alum), "Ordinary Joe" is adapted from a British series that finds his character, Joe Kimbreau, at a crossroads on college graduation day: Go eat with his family, pursue a classmate (Natalie Martinez) he just met or take off with Jenny ("You's" Elizabeth Lail), his longtime friend and occasional lover.

"Whichever way I go, I'll still always wonder 'What if?'" Joe says in voiceover, a little too on the nose.

Viewers, however, don't have to wonder, since the pilot then picks up a decade later, following three separate scenarios of how Joe's life played out: Becoming a cop, a rock star or going into medicine.

In a way, the series (created by "Smallville" writers Russel Friend and Garrett Lerner) is three shows in one, requiring dizzying attention to detail -- indeed, it's a continuity nightmare -- in the changes large and small to Joe's journey, and the way various characters are impacted by those ripples.

It's certainly an intriguing rumination on roads not taken and how small decisions can have big consequences, clearly positioned as a possible heir to the "This is Us" mantle, with the disclaimer that this sort of concept-heavy setup can grow tiresome fast. For now, "Joe" is above the ordinary. The trick will be keeping him there.

"The Big Leap," by contrast, focuses on a dancing-competition reality show that will culminate with a performance of "Swan Lake," and the producers manipulating the real-life people grasping at this opportunity.

That includes head honcho Nick Blackburn (Scott Foley, who's terrific), a producer who makes no bones about messing with his participants to build the most compelling program that he can. "The show is not about dancing," he says, as he goes about invading privacy and setting up "stories" that he thinks will grab the audience.

Those tales range from Gabby (Simone Recasner), who got pregnant young and seizes on this as a way to change her life, to Julia (Teri Polo), a trapped-feeling wife and mother. "It might be my last chance to dance again, and I am taking it," she says.

Funny, occasionally touching and pretty savvy about how the reality-TV sausage gets made, the series also bears a modest resemblance to "Smash," which looked at the hopes and dreams of those trying to make it on Broadway. Whatever you choose to compare it to, among the major networks' creative standouts, "Big Leap" looks like a big winner.

Finally, "Our Kind of People" constructs a serialized drama with the usual soapy trappings, starting with the newly arrived Angela Vaughn (Yaya DaCosta), the creator of a haircare line for Black women, whose late mother worked as a maid in the wealthy Martha's Vineyard community to which she's come.

While this is a proven formula, the multi-generational feuding and dialogue like "We do not flaunt our money" -- when that's sort of the whole point -- don't do any favors to the fine cast, which includes Nadine Ellis and Morris Chestnut as the town's reigning power couple and Joe Morton in "Scandal's" Papa Pope mode as the family's ruthless patriarch.

"Our Kind of People" will surely provide a welcome dose of escapism for some, while looking at a part of the Black community that isn't often presented. But while Daniels caught lightning in a bottle with "Empire," as constructed the underlying dynamics of "Our Kind of People" feel like a pretty played-out tune.

"Ordinary Joe" (NBC), "The Big Leap" (Fox) and "NCIS: Hawaii" premiere Sept. 20.

"Our Kind of People" (Fox) and "FBI: International" (CBS) premiere Sept. 21.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2729595

Reported Deaths: 57534
CountyCasesDeaths
Kings35008110971
Queens32689410411
Suffolk2554533688
Nassau2261353332
Bronx2133646806
New York1767984665
Westchester1481672356
Erie1248032050
Monroe976581253
Richmond928091973
Orange62183944
Onondaga59393818
Rockland55509783
Dutchess37964510
Albany34399413
Oneida33196643
Niagara28724419
Broome28212434
Saratoga24658225
Schenectady19328245
Ulster19063291
Rensselaer17411193
Chautauqua14985195
Oswego14170135
Putnam13145101
Chemung12834175
St. Lawrence12815143
Steuben12484190
Ontario11683119
Jefferson11388106
Wayne10251103
Cattaraugus9983157
Cayuga9729113
Sullivan958890
Genesee8633144
Herkimer8312143
Clinton809948
Fulton7854115
Tompkins741461
Madison7365109
Warren730096
Livingston722176
Montgomery7191162
Washington668580
Tioga634473
Cortland609489
Allegany5988122
Columbia5693113
Chenango554795
Orleans549496
Franklin541526
Otsego537063
Wyoming530266
Greene493189
Delaware439951
Lewis420340
Seneca324567
Essex298438
Schoharie268124
Yates198534
Schuyler193320
Hamilton5133
Unassigned1432
Out of NY0339
Utica
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 33°
Oneonta
Cloudy
33° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 24°
Herkimer
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 33°
Old Forge
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 33°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
2022 WKTV Golf Card only $99.99
Game Day Deals - New Deals Each Week
Stuff the Bus Locations
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve