So many new TV shows! So hard to check them all out!
That's a complaint we used to have this time of year. But it's hardly true this fall, with cable and satellite TV service providers nurturing their young shows and doing their darndest to maintain relevancy and value in this age of streamed alternatives like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video that can serve up a complete TV season in a single sitting.
Leading customers by the nose to an edgy new series and letting us play instant catch up via "on demand" have become a big part of the pay TV experience. It's also part of the plan to keep us using their premium-featured (and premium-priced) smart receivers instead of the alternative streaming TV devices the FCC has been considering for consumer purchase and use within a couple of years.
Some pay TV providers are clearly doing the job better than others, we've found, while comparing the on-screen search-and-score resources of Comcast Xfinity, Verizon FiOS, DISH Network, and DirecTV.
Xfinity casts the widest net: Fall preview perks are sparse for Comcast Xfinity subscribers who haven't upgraded their set-top box. But for those who've bought into the interactive X1 platform and receiver, the Fall TV hoopla is being served every which way by what's got to be the most hyperactive editorial support team in all of pay TV land.
X1 guide categories to explore (via touch or voice) include the 10 best new shows of fall, featured pick of the day, and this week's essential premieres. You also can comb the inventory thoroughly by network (the only way to effectively survey the field on a lesser Comcast box), by genre or even by your emotional craving, be it for "easy and stackable," "ambitious and daring" or "ROTFL" (roll on the floor laughing).
To its credit (and credibility), only two properties homegrown by Comcast's NBCUniversal division made it into its "Best of Fall": the heart-tugging dramedy This Is Us and heaven-set farce The Good Place, which stars Kristen Bell as a flighty egomaniac (who should have gone to the other place) and Ted Danson as the Man in Charge (sort of).
Others in the well-culled group include ABC's disabled student-focused Speechless and accidental president-themed Designated Survivor, and Fox's Lethal Weapon revamp and stomach-wrenching Pitch (in which the first female baseball player struggles in the majors).
Also included are FX's Atlanta, on rap life, and its quirky mom-edy Better Things, and two shows popping on HBO, Insecure and Westworld. (Yes, not a CBS show in sight.)
Verizon FiOS: There's more promise than delivery in the FiOS-touted "All-Access Pass to Fall TV." Available interview segments are OK, but its 10 Must-See Previews are merely clips. Only pay-per-view movies popped up in the "New Releases" section. "Popular in Prime Time" rounds up the usual gang of hoary suspects, rather than leading us thirsty horses to fresh water.
Also frustrating: a remote control-entered search for a Pitch or Speechless only brought up future episodes. To view missed shows, you must know and call up the program's channel, and do a five- or six-step branching search.
DISH Network: While DISH's top Hopper 3 and Joey 2 receivers and new voice-activated remote let you verbally summon shows in the vein of Comcast's X1, DISH stands alone with a one-stop shopping feature called Prime Time Anytime.
Missed a doozy everybody is talking about the morning after? DISH's clean, simple PTA menu displays all the programs that have aired in prime time during the past eight nights on ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC.
Tapping on one selection gives you instant access, as DISH has automatically recorded all these shows on the Hopper 3's massive 2 TB hard drive. And the system still has room and tuners (16!) to record a big bunch more.
With a Prime Time Anytime playback, there's no disabling of the fast scan feature that we suffer on many cable-streamed video-on-demand shows (a roadblock defeatable by reprogramming the cable remote's "page up/down" buttons.) But DISH is limiting its controversial commercial-skipping "Autohop" feature. (Now it's only accessible a week after episodes air on CBS, Fox and NBC and after four days pass on ABC.)
DirecTV: Memo to AT&T. We'll make this short and not so sweet. You've got to relight the fire under your new acquisition. Whoever's in charge of the on-screen guide is sleeping at the wheel. Under "Must Watch TV," we found a motley lot of 13 fall shows, just a few authentically new. Genre picks were likewise feh. And DirecTV's "Smart Search" engine only goes deep and snags an instant view target if you type in a network's name.