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Cast a wide net among channels when sampling new fall shows

The fall TV season always marks a reset of sorts, signaling an influx of new shows and a respite from reruns.

That’s the way it’s been since TV began, back when there were only three or four networks and dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Well, almost.

But despite this time-honored ritual of rebirth, series’ comings and goings have evolved into a seamless affair that flows year-round, boosted by the ever-escalating number of video outlets.

Dubbed “Peak TV,” this latter-day embarrassment of riches is noted by FX network’s president with a mixture of wonder and dismay.

Speaking to the Television Critics Association recently, John Landgraf forecast that a new peak of some 500 different scripted series would be introduced by TV outlets in 2017.

Of these, he said, “only” about 150 would be offered by the six major English-language broadcasters (ABC, CW, CBS, Fox and NBC, plus PBS).

The rest would emerge on cable and streaming services.

“I do this for a living, I think I have a pretty good memory, and I certainly can’t come close to keeping track of it all,” sighed Landgraf, adding, “While there’s more great television than at any time in history, audiences are having more trouble than ever distinguishing the great from the merely competent.”

Not to mention more trouble even stumbling on shows that viewers might consider great but instead get lost in the shuffle.

For instance, how many viewers will happen upon StartUp, one of the most distinctive and addictive dramas on any lineup? Starring Martin Freeman and Adam Brody in a steamy Miami mashup of techies and drug lords, it premieres Sept. 6 on Crackle, the streaming network known, if at all, for Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

On MTV, where “gym, tan, laundry” was once the mantra thanks to Jersey Shore, a much smarter situation awaits on Mary + Jane (premiering Sept. 5), a devilish comedy about two gal pals who run a marijuana delivery service in Los Angeles.

And on Hulu, where you may typically binge on Forensic Files reruns, you might be happy to discover Hugh Laurie in the psychological drama Chance (Oct. 19) as a physician perilously different from his role as life-saving Dr. House.

These new arrivals might well escape your notice in the fall onslaught.

But word of other new shows is impossible to miss.

In particular, NBC leveraged its sprawling, much-watched Rio Games to beat the drum for fall newcomers like This Is Us and Timeless.

Both those series are sure to be heavily sampled by the audience. But while many viewers may embrace This Is Us (Sept. 20) as a tenderhearted and touching dramedy about divergent characters who have a lot in common, other viewers may dismiss the show as saccharine and labored.

And while some viewers may see Timeless (Oct. 3) as thrilling and eye-popping, others may dismiss this time-travel romp as clunky in concept and a misappropriation of lavish computer-generated imagery.

While ABC’s sitcom Speechless (Sept. 21) can congratulate itself for its special-needs focus — the family’s teenage son has cerebral palsy (as does the actor who plays him) — some viewers nonetheless may find it cartoonish and, well, not very funny.

While Michael Weatherly is certifiably a fan-fave from his years on NCIS, his much-awaited new CBS drama, Bull (Sept. 20), seems over-reliant on his fast-talking, glib portrayal. For some viewers, his performance as a charming trial consultant gaming the legal system may quickly wear thin.

And while Notorious (Sept. 22) will plant its flag in the Shonda Rimes-ruled landscape of ABC’s Thursday lineup, this dismal poppycock (a hunky defense attorney joins forces with a hot TV producer to promote their respective professional interests) may succeed primarily by exposing how hard it is to pull off what Rimes does so well.

None of this is to suggest that the commercial broadcast networks aren’t a party to TV’s current Golden Age.

Television, almost anywhere you look, is enjoying a renaissance.

But for the most part, broadcast TV has been overtaken by its cable and streaming competition while being forced to chase conflicting goals — to please a necessarily mass audience while taking enough creative risks to not get left in the dust by its more nimble rivals.

Millions of viewers are satisfied with the results.

Now, as ever, broadcast TV serves as a home for the expected, a 22-episodes-a-season respite where the viewer can feel comfortable, not challenged.

Meanwhile, surprises and creative daring greet viewers who look elsewhere — and result, sometimes, in explosive success (consider HBO’s Game of Thrones or AMC’s The Walking Dead, neither of which would have ever gained admittance by broadcast gatekeepers).

Granted, mining shows from the mountain of Peak TV can be a daunting task, especially since on niche media platforms, as with mainstream broadcast, there’s plenty of fool’s gold cluttering the view.

But if this fall season is any indication, TV’s current Golden Age is aglow — and this gold rush clearly leads toward cable and streaming.

New & closing soon

Carrie Schneider: Reading Women’

‘Page Turners: Women and Letters’

‘Bijinga: Picturing Women in Japanese Prints’

‘Joan of Arc: Highlights from the Permanent Collection’

Haggerty Museum of Art

13th and Clybourn Sts., Marquette University 

Through May 22 

The Haggerty Museum of Art has opened a slate of new exhibitions organized around themes of women, changing notions of feminine ideals and their resonance in the art world. Brooklyn-based artist Carrie Schneider will be present on Feb. 4 at 6 p.m. for an artist talk and reception. 

‘A person is a noun’

Dean Jensen Gallery, 759 N. Water St. 

Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St., fifth floor

Through March 19

With the ubiquity of cameras on smartphones and otherwise, it can be easy to lose sight of the qualities that imbue powerful portraits. This photography exhibition is a powerful reminder. Works by Tom Bamberger and Lois Bielefeld are among those featured at Portrait Society, while works by Kyle Seis, Sally Mann and others are on view at Dean Jensen Gallery. 

‘Wallflowers’

‘Elizabeth Shreve: The Mysteries of Flight Revealed’

Tory Folliard Gallery 

233 N. Milwaukee St. 

Through Feb. 6 

While the word “wallflower” suggests a shrinking violet or other shy ideas, in this exhibition contemporary artists explore the floral world with vigor and varied personal styles. Complementing this is a solo show by artist Elizabeth Shreve, who playfully delights in surrealistic narratives between human and avian forms. 

Federal tax code change will help live theater nationwide

Live commercial theater from Broadway to Los Angeles is about to get a huge financial boost under a federal tax code change that’s been championed by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and such stars as Neil Patrick Harris and Bryan Cranston.

Under a new tax package, Broadway and live theater productions will be given the same benefits that have long been afforded to TV and film productions.

Now, like small and large screen projects, live theater and concert productions would get up to $15 million in tax credits if they spent at least 75 percent of their budgets in the U.S. The new rule would apply for productions starting after Dec. 31.

“This is the biggest shot in the arm that Broadway and live performance has had in a long time,” Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said by phone. “It’s a very fair rule. It says: ‘Treat live performance the same as you treat movies.’”

Broadway and off-Broadway producer Ken Davenport, who has urged the theatrical community to push for the measure, celebrated its imminent passage.

“Half the reason I’m happy is that it’s just another sign that people are paying more attention to Broadway as a significant part of the economic driver in this country,” said Davenport, who has helped produce such shows as Kinky Boots, Spring Awakening and Allegiance.

The change is part of the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015, a package of more than $600 billion in tax breaks for businesses, investors and families.

Schumer, who has been working on the tax break for four years, said the change would create “thousands and thousands” more jobs for actors and backstage workers, and produce more shows nationwide, helping hotel, restaurant and taxi industries. He noted that other countries also grant live theater similar breaks, especially in London, which has been luring away American productions.

Schumer said he expected the measure will help both Broadway producers —since they’ll be able to deduct their expenses up front — and investors, who won’t have to pay taxes on profits they haven’t made yet. The measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican of Missouri.

Last year, the New York senator was joined by Harris, Cranston, Tyne Daly and producer Harvey Weinstein, as well as cast members from The Phantom of the Opera, Newsies and Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. They all urged passage of the bill, saying it would enable theater producers to take more chances.

“It will help small theater production even more than large, but it will help both,” Schumer said. “I obviously care about Broadway — it’s a major New York industry — but it’s good for the whole country.”

The backers of the change pointed out that the benefits go far beyond New York, where Broadway box offices earned $1.36 billion last season. In the 2012–2013 theater season — the most recent year for which data is available — some 45 touring Broadway shows performed for more than 14 million theatergoers, contributing almost $3.2 billion to the U.S. economy.

“Broadway has a ripple effect through the rest of the country. If Broadway’s booming, then the touring houses are booming. It’s one of our greatest exports, in my opinion. And that business has been growing tremendously over the last 10, 20 years — U.S.-created Broadway entertainment going everywhere from South Korea to Australia. Russia, Sweden and all these countries,” said Davenport.

“It’s a huge business and I think they finally said, ‘Wow, this is significant and we need to treat them with respect and to make sure that people like me still do it.’ It gets harder and harder to produce on Broadway. Every year, it gets just a wee bit harder,” he added. “I’m glad people are starting to say, ‘We can’t lose this business.’”

The Sets List | Heart, Madison Music Foundry Student Showcase, Big Snow Show X, ‘The Music of Queen’ with the MSO, Wintersong

Heart

8 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Riverside Theater, Milwaukee. $50 to $85. pabsttheater.org. 

The idea that women can rock as hard as any man owes quite a debt to the sisters of Heart. Ann and Nancy Wilson took over the charts in the ‘70s with hits like “Crazy on You,” “Magic Man” and “Barracuda.” They’re Rock and Roll Hall of Famers now, and they can still command a stage like few others touring today.

Madison Music Foundry Student Showcase

11 a.m. Dec. 12 at High Noon Saloon, Madison. $3 (suggested donation). high-noon.com

They may be kids, but the six rock bands tuning up for this showcase aren’t untested. They’re the product of the Madison Music Foundry, a nonprofit that’s spent the last 15 years cultivating student rock bands. One of their recent success stories will join them at the event — rock band Take The King, graduates of last year’s program, who will be celebrating the release of their new album that day.

Big Snow Show X 

7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 and Dec. 11 at The Rave, Milwaukee. $40, $50 VIP. therave.com.

This year’s three-day Big Snow Show event already has one date entirely booked (sorry, Panic! at the Disco fans), but tickets are still available for the first two nights of the event. Kicking things off are Big Snow Show veterans Weezer (above), bringing along fellow indie rockers Glass Animals, X-Ambassadors and BØRNS for a show Thursday night. Friday will feature newer additions to the scene as headliners: Of Monsters and Men, whose folk-infused alternative rock will be preceded by Cold War Kids and Meg Myers.

‘The Music of Queen’ with the MSO

8 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Riverside Theater, Milwaukee. $38, $46. pabsttheater.org.

Queen was already symphonic enough when its music was being performed by four rock ’n’ rollers. Add an actual orchestra, and it soars. Conductor/arranger Brent Havens and Windborne Music will present a selection of the quartet’s greatest hits, performed with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra — a perfect early Christmas present, if you’re looking for one.

Wintersong

8 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Barrymore Theatre, Madison. $20 day of show, $18 advance or with food donation. wintersongmadison.com.

Local folk musician Anna Vogelzang (above) has spent the past three years gathering artists from across Madison and southwestern Wisconsin for Wintersong, a benefit show supporting Second Harvest Foodbank. This year will be no different, with artists including Phox and Faux Faun coming out to help raise money to feed thousands of families in the region. 

ABC family gets top marks for LGBT inclusiveness

The television network that gets the most praise from an advocacy group that monitors content featuring gays, lesbians and transgender people has “family” in its name and targets an audience of teenage girls and young women.

GLAAD said in a report issued last week that 74 percent of the programming hours on ABC Family included at least one LGBT character – the highest percentage any network has recorded since the group began issuing content reports in 2007. GLAAD studied the networks for a one-year period that ended May 31.

“We feel it is our responsibility to our viewers to reflect the world that they live in and it’s a diverse world,” said Karey Burke, executive vice president of programming at the Disney-owned network.

ABC Family’s numbers were boosted by the drama “Pretty Little Liars,” where one of the lead characters Emily Fields is a lesbian. “The Fosters” follows the story of a lesbian couple. “Chasing Life” featured a bisexual woman and a gay man, although the latter character died of cancer. “Young & Hungry” and “Mystery Girls” both featured gay men, and there were a number of gays and lesbians in the supporting cast of “Switched at Birth.”

Network viewers are also anticipating the January debut of “Shadow Hunters,” a show based on the book series “The Mortal Instrument” that prominently features a gay couple.

Three-quarters of ABC Family’s typical audience is female, with a median age of 29, according to the Nielsen company.

The network is likely to be more inclusive partly because it seeks a younger audience, an age group that is more accepting of gays and lesbians, said Matt Kane, GLAAD programming director.

Seamlessly including these characters in the stories sends a strong message of acceptance that is likely to help young people dealing with their own identity issues, he said.

“I hope that it is something that other networks are taking notice of,” Kane said.

GLAAD has consulted with ABC Family on its programming, although Kane wouldn’t divulge the group’s specific role. The network and its actors have helped GLAAD with some of its activities, including an annual “Spirit Day” that encourages people to wear purple for a day.

Burke said the status as GLAAD’s top-rated network “makes us deeply proud.

“We were hugging each other in the halls here,” she said. “It’s an honor to be recognized.”

GLAAD’s grade did not reflect “Becoming Us,” a nonfiction series about two transgender people in an Illinois community that aired on ABC Family this summer.

That series, which averaged 452,000 viewers per episode, was a ratings disappointment for ABC Family and it has not been decided whether it will come back for another season. Executives aren’t sure why it didn’t do well, whether the subject matter made viewers feel uncomfortable or whether the attention paid to Caitlyn Jenner’s E! docuseries “I Am Cait” drowned “Becoming Us” out.

“We hope it’s not a reflection of the subject matter,” Burke said.

Despite the inclusive hours, GLAAD said one story line on “Pretty Little Liars” was a disappointment. The series had a mentally ill transgender woman who, in the season finale, attempted to murder both her family and the main cast of the show. GLAAD said it was “the latest in a long series of transgender women portrayed as psychotic killers in mainstream media.”

Part of acceptance for LGBT characters in entertainment is having them portray villains as well as heroes, Burke said.

“We don’t feel the show has anything to apologize for,” she said.

The Sets List | Big Data, Belle and Sebastian, Bleachers, more

Big Data 

7:30 p.m. April 1 at the Rave, 2401 W. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee. $15. therave.com.

Admittedly, Big Data is not big yet. Which is weird, because the electronic music project had one of last summer’s most underrated jams (the disco-influenced, sinister “Dangerous”) and the producer behind it, Alan Wilkis, is turning big monumental things, like NSA surveillance and our growing reliance on technology, into stuff you can dance to. But with its new album 2.0 finally out, Big Data should be moving beyond the Internet underground soon.

Belle and Sebastian

8 p.m. April 4 at Overture Center, 201 State St., Madison. $39. overturecenter.org.

Almost 20 years into their musical career, Belle and Sebastian still have more than a few tricks up their sleeve. The indie pop band has never quite regained the luster of their earliest albums, the super-underground Tigermilk and their name-making smash “If You’re Feeling Sinister.” Yet their latest effort, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, shows that the band still has more to offer, turning in a work that ventures onto the dance floor more brazenly than any album before. Come for the Europop take on Sylvia Plath, stay for the indie music veterans still making waves. Honeyblood opens.

Cactus Club Comedy & Music Show

9:30 p.m. April 3 at the Cactus Club, 2496 S. Wentworth Ave., Milwaukee. $7. cactusclub.dostuff.info.

Don’t force yourself to choose between a comedian and a rock band. Get both at the Cactus Club’s latest combination show, featuring a stacked slate of stand-up artists and two sets by the evening’s featured artists. This time around, the artist-in-residence is indie rock act Twin Brother, hot off its Turner Hall debut last month, performing with seven local comics. 

Bleachers 

8 p.m. March 31 at the
Majestic Theatre, 115 King St., Madison. $26. majesticmadison.com.

His fun. bandmate Nate Ruess has the radio’s ear right now, but Jack Antonoff has the retro ‘80s sound on lockdown with his side project Bleachers. Accidentally crafting the tracks for his debut Strange Desire in his spare time on the road, Antonoff taps into the nostalgia of his childhood, evoking a modern day John Hughes-soundtrack sound that still resonates 25 years later. The best part is all that ‘80s angst is happening in the here and now, so until fun. gets back together it’s all yours for the taking. Joywave and Night Terrors of 1927 open. 

Clean Bandit 

9 p.m. April 4 at the Majestic Theatre, 115 King St., Madison. $20, $22 day of show.
majesticmadison.com.

It’s too bad “Mozart’s House” wasn’t the single that actually put Clean Bandit on the map, because it’s the track that perhaps best hints at the British act’s fusion of classical and electronic music. Instead, we got “Rather Be,” a more-than-worthy, infectious alternative. Clean Bandit won’t perform with any of the guest artists featured heavily on their album, but reports from elsewhere across the country suggest that doesn’t make their live shows any less exuberant. 

Queen Latifah takes long road to ‘Bessie’ film

When Queen Latifah was approached 20 years ago to play Bessie Smith, she had to do some research.

“I was Queen Latifah the rapper. I had no idea who Bessie Smith was,” the singer-actress told the Television Critics Association this week.

Since then, she’s been thoroughly schooled in the life and talent of the legendary blues singer, whom Latifah, 44, finally gets to portray in the HBO film “Bessie.”

Her music “may be almost 100 years old, but it has a power a lot of artists could learn from today,” Latifah said. Smith herself would be a success if she were a contemporary artist, Latifah said of the singer who died in 1937 at age 43.

“Bessie,” whose cast includes Mo’Nique, Michael Kenneth Williams, Khandi Alexander, Mike Epps and Charles S. Dutton, will air this spring. A date was not announced.

The film was directed and co-written by Dee Rees and includes among its producers Lili Fini Zanuck and Richard D. Zanuck, who first brought the idea of a Smith film to Latifah. Richard Zanuck died in 2012.

2014 gave viewers great shows on-air and online

From the extraordinary Maggie Gyllenhaal-starring miniseries “The Honorable Woman” on SundanceTV to Syfy’s goofy “Sharknado 2: The Second One,” TV delivered in 2014 — streaming, on cable and over the air.

Showtime’s “Homeland” roared back from last year’s muddle with a season of white-knuckle suspense. CBS’ “The Good Wife” killed off a main character to give the show its latest burst of life. FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” ended its seven-season run with explosive closure. HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” wrapped its saga with a fascinating season that juggled three phases in the life of Atlantic City potentate Nucky Thompson.

AMC’s “Mad Men” teed up satisfyingly for its final round in 2015. Showtime’s “The Affair” gave fair warning against cheating on your spouse, while making such a misdeed seem irresistible.

And ABC’s “Scandal” was wackier than ever.

Consider them winning programs, one and all.

But here are 10 that get a special nod:

• “black-ish” (ABC). The diversity of life is celebrated within the seeming confines of an upscale African-American family whose patriarch is determined to uphold a sense of cultural identity for his four kids. Starring Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross as his far-less-fretful wife, it’s a smart comedy that addresses race, culture and class with a colorblind brand of relatability _ plus plenty of laughs.

• “Fargo” (FX). This deliciously deranged series channeled the 1996 crime classic while setting off in fresh new tracks across the Minnesota tundra. Its brand-new crop of oddball characters was led by Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo, a sotto-voce psycho on a byzantine trail of deadly mischief.  Black comedy never shone so bright.

• “Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce” (Bravo).  Truth may be stranger than fiction, but sometimes fiction is more true-to-life than truth. Exhibit A:  This fine new comedy-drama, the first scripted series on a network identified with reality fare such as the “Real Housewives” franchise and “Millionaire Matchmaker.” Lisa Edelstein is a how-to author dispensing radiant advice for a successful family life while her own marriage is coming apart. You might call it an adult variation of “Sex and the City,” full of mature emotions and challenges (divorce isn’t for sissies), but also spiced with grown-up fun.

• “Gotham” (Fox). The comic book crowd can embrace it as an “origin” series about the lad who would grow up to become Batman. Fans of noir thrillers can savor the sleek storytelling and brooding stylishness. “Gotham” has everything: larger-than-life characters completely at home in the free-floating world of this crime-ridden city. A terrific cast (led by Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue) that plays the twisted narrative completely straight. And gorgeous production values. Were it on premium cable, this broadcast-network series would be worth the price.

• “Jane the Virgin (CW). Jane Villanueva, a young Miami woman whose eyes are trained on professional success and whose knees have stayed virtuously clamped together, finds her plans upended after she’s mistakenly impregnated with a specimen meant for someone else. After that, the show is as unpredictable as Jane’s life, and as big-hearted as she is. Based on a Venezuelan telenovela, it stars the effervescent Gina Rodriguez in a multicultural world that feels genuine yet buoyed with wonder.

• “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” (HBO). A balm for the imminent pain of losing Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” this weekly half-hour swiftly proved itself with its in-depth looks-plus-laughs at serious subjects that “serious” TV news routinely overlooks. Employing a style that’s been called “investigative comedy,” Oliver has applied his British brand of wry bemusement to gender-pay inequality, anti-gay laws in Uganda, exaggerated claims for Miss America scholarships and net neutrality. In these seminars-cum-sermonettes, he’s hilarious and illuminating.

• “Nixon’s the One” (Online: http://harryshearer.com). At first glance, it might seem like a cheap shot tossed off as a bunch of comic sketches. But, no: Harry Shearer has dramatized the real-life President Richard Nixon with an eye toward authenticity, not parody. Shearer mimics the man known to detractors as Tricky Dick in bizarre but actual interludes lifted word-for-word from the White House recordings Nixon secretly made _ the very tapes whose revelations wrecked his presidency. In the series’ six half-hours, Shearer has reanimated scenes from Nixon’s Oval Office archive with tender, loving care while exposing them with full comic effect.

• “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” (NBC). What mattered when Jimmy Fallon took over from Jay Leno (and “The Tonight Show” returned to Manhattan after four decades) was this: Fallon just kept doing what he’d done so successfully as host of NBC’s “Late Night” _ just bigger and better on this grander stage. He remained funny, gracious, bubbly and much-assured. Instantly “The Tonight Show” became, in effect, “The Jimmy Fallon Show.”

• “Transparent” (Amazon Instant Video). Any family, no matter how seemingly stable, is just one revelation away from upheaval. The Pfeffermans are no different, especially when its patriarch, Mort, shocks his ex-wife and grown children by coming out as a would-be matriarch re-christened as Maura.  With Jeffrey Tambor starring as a man on the search for womanhood, this transgender comedy is funny, poignant, perceptive and relatable as it explores the complexity of family dynamics as well as the far reaches of sexual identity.

• “True Detective” (HBO). A ghoulish 1995 murder is investigated and solved by a pair of Louisiana State Police detectives. Or was it? Pressed by investigators in 2012, the by-then-former partners are forced to relive the case, as well as their stormy relationship, amid growing doubt that the right man was charged years before. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson both were masterful in their bifurcated portrayals, while the tale was as consuming and dark as pitch.

Over and out: TV flops, exits and endings in 2014

Along with its triumphs, the world of TV had its share of setbacks in 2014.  Here’s a sample:

• “How I Met Your Mother” Concludes: This long-running CBS sitcom met few viewers’ expectations for a slam-bang finish. Its big reveal — naming the titular “your mother” after nine years of teasing — yielded a finale only slightly less tangled than the ending of “Lost.” And even “Lost” resisted the temptation to include a blue French horn in its wrap-up.

• David Gregory Exits “Meet the Press”:  After months of speculation that Gregory was being ousted from the program he had hosted since 2008, NBC News announced in August he was toast. That was 18 months after the network signed him to a new contract it described as “a long-term commitment.” And four months after NBC News’ president defended him in a memo to “Meet the Press” staff expressing support “for David, now and into the future.” His future was short-lived. He was out in a jiffy, with Chuck Todd his replacement.

• Ray Rice’s Elevator Assault: Over and over, viewers were force-fed the chilling video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice striking his then-fiancee and knocking her out. After it was released on a Monday in September, the video of Janay Palmer crumpling to the elevator floor was aired repeatedly by multiple networks. In one particular hour, the clip aired 37 times on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. But by Thursday, many of those networks vowed to give it a rest. But Rice isn’t necessarily off the air. Having lately appealed his indefinite suspension by the NFL, and won, he’s eligible to play again in the NFL — and log more TV face time.

• “Utopia” Unrealized: Arriving with much fanfare, this Fox reality show stranded a group of strangers at a remote site where, during the year to follow, they were meant to build a more perfect society. But it turned out they couldn’t even build a show that viewers would watch. Puny ratings forced its cancellation after just two months. For Fox (and the human race) “Utopia” swiftly proved to be a dream unfulfilled.

• “Peter Pan Live!” It proposed a bold counter-theory for the space-time continuum. It argued for eternal youth in a realm only accessible by fairy dust-assisted human flight. Unfortunately, NBC’s live production of this time-honored musical never managed to take off. Viewers had the feeling they had grown up and grown old by the end of its three hours struggling to get off the ground.

On Broadway: Season features Sting, Mirren, Jackman and Peter Pan

The coming Broadway season has something for everyone – a musical by Sting, a magician-filled SUV, the incomparable Hugh Jackman, the equally regal Helen Mirren, a musical set in a funeral parlor and not one, but two Gyllenhaals. Here’s a look at some highlights of the 2014-15 season:

STARS, STARS, STARS

You want A-listers? Broadway listened. Bradley Cooper, Michael Cera, Hugh Jackman, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ewan McGregor, Glenn Close, Gretchen Mol, Kristin Chenoweth, Helen Mirren, James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick, Tavi Gevinson, Nathan Lane, Rose Byrne, Alan Alda, Brian Dennehy, Mia Farrow, Candice Bergen, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Chenoweth, Carol Burnett, Anjelica Huston and Tony Danza.

REVIVE, REVIVE

It wouldn’t be a new Broadway season without some revivals: “Side Show” returns for a second time; Tom Stoppard’s “The Real Thing” for a third time in October; Edward Albee’s “A Delicate Balance” for a third time in the fall; “The Elephant Man” for third time starting in November; and the screwball comedy “Noises Off” for a third time next winter.

OLD SCHOOL

Producers have dug deep into America’s past to pull out four classic tales: The play “You Can’t Take It With You,” by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, which first debuted in 1936, comes back in September; the 1944 show “On the Town,” with music by Leonard Bernstein and book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, returns in October; “An American in Paris,” an adaptation of the 1951 Gene Kelly film, comes in spring; and another Comden-Green comedy, “On the Twentieth Century,” steams into town in February.

YOU HAD US AT HUGH

Hugh Jackman is coming back this fall in “The River” by Jez Butterworth, but does it really matter what he’s doing? For the record, the play, the first since Butterworth’s “Jerusalem,” is about a trout fisherman in a remote cabin who is visited by two of the women in his life. It’s new and moody but Jackman is box-office catnip – his one-man show in 2011 routinely sold out, as did “The Boy From Oz” in 2003 and “A Steady Rain” with Daniel Craig in 2009.

ROYALTY RULES

Helen Mirren will be playing British Queen Elizabeth II this spring in “The Audience,” which imagines the private weekly meetings between the monarch and 12 prime ministers, while Kelli O’Hara and Ken Watanabe will be romancing each other starting in March in the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II musical “The King and I.”

BROWN ROUND 2

Three-time Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown will seek redemption this winter with his musical of “Honeymoon in Vegas.” Brown’s last show, the lush and romantic “The Bridges of Madison County” closed in May after just 137 performances. Brown’s luck on Broadway has been pretty awful, with “Parade,” “Urban Cowboy” and “13” each not lasting long.

A TORCH PASSES

Kenneth Lonergan’s play “This Is Our Youth” debuted off-Broadway in 1996 and has over the years featured such high-profile actors as Mark Ruffalo, Josh Hamilton, Matt Damon, Colin Hanks, Chris Klein, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anna Paquin. Now it’s time for Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin and Tavi Gevinson, all three making their Broadway debuts.

WE KNOW YOU GUYS

Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick will be together again on Broadway in a revival of Terrence McNally’s “It’s Only a Play.” The duo last appeared together in “The Odd Couple” and famously before that in a little show called “The Producers.” In the updated version of “It’s Only a Play,” Broderick plays an anxious writer, and Lane is stage actor-turned-TV-star best friend.

NO RABBIT PULLING

Seven magicians – including an anti-conjurer, a futurist, an escapologist and an inventor – take the stage for “The Illusionists – Witness the Impossible.” They’re going to hang upside-down, pull gross things from their throats and use swords in creative ways. Critics might be scared to give them a thumbs-down.

INVENTIVE STORYTELLING

Two shows promise sparks from challenging material: The London import “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” based on an adaptation of Mark Haddon’s best-selling novel about a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome who tries to find a dog’s killer, and “Fun Home,” a musical adapted from Alison Bechdel’s memoir about growing up in a funeral home with a closeted gay dad.

2 PETER PANS

There’s no reason to grow up this season: “Finding Neverland,” a musical led by Diane Paulus explores the Peter Pan book’s back story and Allison Williams stars as the iconic title character in NBC’s Dec. 4 telecast of “Peter Pan Live!” the heavily anticipated follow-up to “The Sound of Music.”

TWO GYLLENHAALS

Maggie Gyllenhaal will make her Broadway debut starring opposite Ewan McGregor in “The Real Thing” starting in October, while her brother, Jake, will also make his Broadway bow in Nick Payne’s play “Constellations” beginning in December. Those who love Gyllenhaals might be able to see both in the same day.

TWO BY TWO BY TWO BY…

Producers of A.R. Gurney’s romantic play “Love Letters” seem to have found a way to get you to see the show over and over: they’ve stacked it with changing pairs of stars. Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow start out in September, then Carol Burnett and Dennehy, then Alan Alda and Candice Bergen, then Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg, and finally Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen.

NO QUIET PARTY

A polite dinner party spirals out of control in Ayad Akhtar’s “Disgraced,” which hits Broadway in September having already won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It will star Hari Dhillon, who played the Muslim-American lawyer at the heart of the play in London. Akhtar, the author of “American Dervish,” is one of theater’s most vibrant, exciting young writers.

ROCKER IN THE HOUSE

Sting, a 16-time Grammy Award winner and former lead singer of The Police, has written the music for “The Last Ship,” with a story by both “Red” playwright John Logan and “Next to Normal” writer Brian Yorkey. The musical is inspired by Sting’s memories of growing up in northeast England.

OFF-BROADWAY HIGHLIGHTS

Nathan Lane and Brian Dennehy both will come off-Broadway to co-star in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music starting in February. And “In the Heights” composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda will premiere a hip-hop retelling of the life and death of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton at The Public Theater in January.