Once the number one network, the Peacock has been dwindling in the cellar for several years now. A collection of poor decisions (e.g. the Conan/Leno debacle; that year when it was Dateline like four times a week) and shows that couldn’t catch the public’s attention have left NBC desperate to have a least one non-scripted prime time show that would get any sort of traction.
This year, instead of diversifying, NBC decided to invest heavily in COMEDIES. The home of Cheers, Seinfeld, and Friends is in a dangerous place in the realm of funny- this will apparently be 30 Rock‘s final season and this should be The Office‘s last one too. (And, if Dunder Mifflin is not gone this year, it will probably be gone next.) These are NBC’s two biggest sitcoms- The Office for the ratings and 30 Rock for the critical acclaim, celebrities, and press. Parks and Recreation and Community, as superior as both of those are, are still more cult hits. (Though I would be surprised if Amy Poehler isn’t the frontrunner in the Lead Comedic Actress pool right now.) And Whitney is reviled. Just utterly reviled.
With the two biggest shows on the way out and none of the current ones ready to take up the flagship mantle, NBC has greenlit seven new sitcoms between fall and midseason and renewed five veteran ones (The Thursday Four plus, for some reason beyond the realm of comprehension, Whitney). The network also greenlit five dramas, three of which are premiering during the fall/winter and one of which doesn’t have its star yet.
Let’s go through it day by day. All plot descriptions taken from the official NBC press release.
8-10 p.m. – “The Voice”
10-11 p.m. – “REVOLUTION”
The Voice is a reality show that I do not watch, but it is also the only NBC show to make it into the top 10. That they didn’t try to replicate its success by developing another talent-based reality show for the fall is either a testament to their commitment to original programming or their incompetence at running a network.
Following The Voice is Revolution, a show about the world after 15 years of absolutely no energy. However, this show is not merely about how people survive without electricity while dealing with militias ruling the land a la The Road, it’s about conspiracies and mysteries and Bella’s dad from Twilight being a sword-wielding bad-ass.
Revolution does have a good pedigree with the likes of producer J.J. Abrams, writer Eric Kripke, Pilot director Jon Favreau, and main villain Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito. Unfortunately, a lot of these “next Lost” big budget, sci-fi, ensemble-based, post-apocalyptic-y shows have consistently failed on a critical and commercial level. While they might give us a good pilot, their steam dies down very quickly. Over the past few years, we’ve had Jericho, Terra Nova, The Event, and Flash Forward to name a few, and none of them landed. Regardless of how good Revolution actually is, the public might be tired of wanting to invest in another one of these series that will likely be canceled after a single season.
Nevertheless, it does seem like NBC’s most interesting new show.
8-9 p.m. –“The Voice”
9-9:30 p.m. – “GO ON”
9:30-10 p.m. – “THE NEW NORMAL”
10-11 p.m. – “Parenthood”
Go On is Matthew Perry’s third grasp at post-Friends TV glory. Following the bizarre mistake/Aaron Sorkin therapy session known as Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (the final four episodes were about a late night sketch comedy show solving a Middle East hostage crisis, imagine Seth Meyers and Lorne Michaels in that position) and Mr. Sunshine where he played a grumpy sports arena manager, Go On features Perry as a grumpy sports broadcaster- Ryan King.
In the show, King is forced to go to group therapy as a condition behind getting his on-air job back. He must receive counseling because he recently lost his wife in a car accident, which is always a funny genesis for a sitcom. Every time Ryan lays on his fast-talking smarm, you can’t help but think “oh right, the love of his life died horribly. Possibly right in front of him. Bleeding out into his arms.” Even House didn’t have that tragic a backstory. Not to mention that recognizing his sarcasm as a defense mechanism to losing his wife takes away from his vitriol. Nevertheless, he “takes over” the therapy group, and, I’m sure, begrudgingly (but not really!) learns life lessons along the way.
As for the jerkiness itself, it’s difficult to say that it looks like anything new. It’s a character that hasn’t really worked for Perry outside of Friends, and in the minute-plus clip, it doesn’t really seem like there’s anything of substance to his character. If the best they can offer for our first look is him being generically rude to a person, it’s hard to believe in the show.
The New Normal
Created by Glee and American Horror Story‘s Ryan Murphy, The New Normal is about a gay couple hiring a surrogate mother. Bearing comparisons to Modern Family, my biggest concern with the show is the clip’s deadly serious closing line: “a family is a family and love is love.” The lack of edge makes it seem as though maybe this show would be better as a family dramedy rather than a full-on comedy or that the homosexual couple angle is the show’s only hook. Though I guess it will be interesting to see when Ryan Murphy takes this show completely goes off the rails.
8-8:30 p.m. – “ANIMAL PRACTICE”
8:30-9 p.m. – “GUYS WITH KIDS”
9-10 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
10-11 p.m. – “CHICAGO FIRE”
Described in early reports as Dr. House as a veterinarian who cares more about pets rather than people (which shows how little they actually get House), Animal Practice stars Justin Kirk as Dr. George Coleman. He’s unorthodox, but the woman who broke his heart has become the head of his hospital, and Fake Cuddy wants to cramp his roguish style. As the description says, Dorothy is whip-smart and ambitious, and she’s going to make George pay for the past. Needless to say, he’s determined not to make any changes in his (animal) kingdom — which includes poker games with a resident capuchin monkey.
This sounds like the type of horrible idea that the The Simpson‘s Lindsey Naegle would pitch. Now whom could we get to voice the monkey? Boo-Ya!
It co-stars Tyler Labine, late of the CW’s underrated/canceled too soon Reaper.
Guys with Kids
As the title suggests, Guys with Kids is about guys with kids. The twist is that they don’t really know how to take care of them! Gender reversal! How modern. You’d think NBC would have learned their lesson about man-children from ABC’s botched attempts at the concept last year, like Man Up!. Maybe they’re hoping on the returns for What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
Further adding to the embarrassment of this show, it has a laugh track, which really highlights the horribleness of the “dilemma” conversation. I am also annoyed by their lack of creativity in blatantly ripping off Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover for the main picture of the three guys.
Dick Wolf’s latest procedural, Chicago Fire, takes him away from New York police and lawyers and puts him with Chicago firefighters and not the Major League Soccer team the Chicago Fire.
First Thought: Dr. Chase’s American accent sounds weird.
Second Thought: It’s been nearly a decade, and Eamonn Walker’s still Kareem Said to me.
Third Thought: I kind of miss Rescue Me. Yes, the show collapsed, then kind of brought itself back, then remained unsteady until the end, but watching the dialogue between the guys in the firehouse brought to mind the strongest part of the FX show- the relationship between the members of Ladder 62. When the show wasn’t Tommy Gavin’s sex fantasies, the conversations between Franco, Garrity, Mike, Lou, and the rest had a genuine humor and realness to them while this show seems to prefer bombastic speeches and melodrama.
Additionally, I’m surprised Law and Order: Special Victims Unit is still on.
8-8:30 p.m. – “30 Rock”
8:30-9 p.m. – “Up All Night”
9-9:30 p.m. – “The Office”
9:30-10 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation”
10-11 p.m. – “Rock Center with Brian Williams”
Nothing to add except why couldn’t they have left Community in this line up? The Community, 30 Rock, The Office, and Parks and Recreation line-up isn’t just solid, it prevents you from having to watch NBC on any other night.
Does Up All Night have the strength/heat to place on that line up?
8-8:30 p.m. – “Whitney”
8:30-9 p.m. – “Community”
9-10 p.m. – “Grimm”
10-11 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
They renewed Whitney? Whitney?
And they hate Community so much that they gave it that as a lead-in?
Whitney‘s coming back?
I haven’t watched Grimm, but I know that another CLR writer has appeared on the show, and I have to respect NBC for sticking with something for a change.
Nothing to say about encore programming…other than lazy.
SUNDAY (Fall 2012)
7- 8:15 p.m. — “Football Night in America”
8:15-11:30 p.m. — “NBC Sunday Night Football”
Nothing to add here
SUNDAY (Post-football/Winter 2013)
7-8 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
8-9 p.m. – “Fashion Star”
9-10 p.m. – “The Celebrity Apprentice”
10-11 p.m. – “DO NO HARM”
Do No Harm
Speaking of Rescue Me, that show’s former star Steven Pasquale, who played ladder dope Sean Garrity, appears as a neurosurgeon who develops Jekyll & Hyde syndrome. By day, he’s nice guy Dr. Jason Cole, but by night, he’s the evil Ian Price. This is one of several serial killer shows appearing on the line-up this season, and they are coming on the tail end of Dexter Season 6, which is quite probably the worst thing aired on television in 2011. From plot description alone, Do No Harm might have some potential, even if the show seems kind of CBS-y and NBC has tended to avoid challenging dramas over the past several years. The clip definitely doesn’t sell the show or its concept, and Dr. Jason Cole worrying about his sanity seems an awful lot like Garrity worrying about the horrible smell after having sex with his girlfriend, but I might grow curiouser as its premiere date grows closer.
Fashion Star? Are they taking from sister-station Bravo now? And it’s already had a season?
Coming This Fall- Dramas:
Starring Laz Alonso and Meagan Good thus fulfilling NBC’s commitment to diversity, Infamous is about the FBI infiltrating an evil rich family following the mysterious death of a socialite. Good’s character was friends with the dead woman so this time, it’s personal. Apparently more “soapy” than suspenseful, Infamous seems along the lines of ABC’s Revenge and Scandal.
I like Bryan Fuller and his shows Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies, so it’s not disappointing to see him get another short-lived wonder on the air. How great must that Pilot script have been to get NBC ordering Hannibal to series without an actual Pilot or even a cast? As of right now, the show doesn’t even have its Hannibal Lecter, although it does have Hugh Dancy as Will Graham (formerly played by Edward Norton and William Petersen).
Taking place between Hannibal Rising and Red Dragon (or Manhunter if you prefer, and you really should prefer Manhunter), Hannibal will delve into the relationship between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter prior to Lecter’s arrest.
It’s a concept that could work, but one must doubt that NBC will have the commitment to go all the way with a show that should push the bounds of network television. I’m sure the alleged plan not to reveal Hannibal as a serial killer until Season 3 will give the ever fretful and reactionary NBC even more reason to retool quickly. Hopefully, this doesn’t become some sort of “serial killer of the week” procedural with its only hook being that one of the detectives has a famous name.
Another concern I have is with Bryan Fuller. Fuller’s more of a quirky writer than one known for psychologically intensity. A show like this, especially as it progresses, needs a pure darkness that challenges ethical and moral boundaries. The Will Graham that emerges at the end of his relationship with Lecter is a man who has looked into the abyss and cannot come back from it. I’m not sure if Fuller is the type of writer for that task.
Also, I recommend watching Manhunter, which is the only good Lecter film other than The Silence of the Lambs. It’s worth it for the Inna-Gadda-da-Vida climax alone.
Coming This Fall- Comedies:
Starring Anne Heche as a woman who can suddenly communicate with God, Save Me shows her dealing with an adulterous husband while performing miracles and trying to convince people to believe in Him. Although Heche lacks the screen presence of John Denver in Oh God!, at least the relationship between her and her husband appears more interesting than the plot description led me to believe. She doesn’t so much seem “okay” with his cheating, but more as though she has more important things on her mind. The best thing the show can do is get all the annoying “I don’t believe you, you’re crazy” stuff out of the way early on, like Journeyman did. I miss that show.
Regarding the plot description, nobody calls it a “hero sandwich”; it’s either a “hero” or a “sandwich.” Did they think readers would be confused about the term “choking on a hero?” Speaking of which, have I mentioned Wonderfalls yet?
Also, watching the clip made me tire of the single camera look.
A single camera family comedy set in the White House, 1600 Penn features Independence Day‘s President Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman as the President and the First Lady and Josh Gad as their rambunctious son, Fat Mark Ruffalo. Created by Gad and a former Obama speechwriter (so you know the political satire will be biting (that’s sarcasm)), I need to see the White House scenes before forming a full opinion on it. If the show is primarily about Gad’s man-child character, it’s dead.
That being said, I still miss That’s My Bush!.
Apparently, NBC is into angry radio hosts this season and Next Caller features a toned down Dane Cook as a satellite radio “shock jock” saddled with a feminist cohost in an attempt to boost his falling ratings. From the clip, Next Caller seems to be adopting a kind of darker 30 Rock format where the surreal comedy of the veteran show is mixed with people acting more seriously.
The clip was better than I expected- actually it was probably the strongest of all the comedy snippets- but this was mostly due to Jeffrey Tambor’s performance. But why would they cast an Arrested Development-era Michael Cera clone opposite Tambor? Listening to the assistant’s voice I kept waiting for him to say “Pop Pop.”