Monday, May 14, 2007

NBC Upfronts: Quick Thoughts

Network TV wisdom says that you've got to keep going with what works until it stops working. In NBC's case, almost nothing worked this past season, so it's no surprise that the network is hoping to use "Heroes" as something of a blueprint for everything to follow.

That means four new dramas, three of which contain elements of sci-fi or the conventionally unexplainable. Does NBC actually expect "Chuck," "The Bionic Woman" and "Journeyman" to all deliver "Heroes"-type numbers? Probably not. But they're all potentially repurposeable on NBC's corporate sibling the SciFi channel, so they may not need to be hits in the same way we've previously judged success. That, in fact, may be NBC's new motto: "NBC: Since we were losing, we've decided to change the rules of the game."

Anything that brings "Friday Night Lights" and "30 Rock" back is fine by me.

A quick night-by-night review and a glance at the pilots NBC didn't pick up is after the bump, so click on through:

MONDAYS: "Deal or No Deal," "Heroes," "Journeyman." Stable up to 10 p.m., which has become one of three or four Hours of Death on NBC's schedule. Can "Journeyman" succeed where "Studio 60" (R.I.P.), "The Black Donnellys" and "The Real Wedding Crashers" failed? Well, it has Kevin McKidd, who was my third choice for James Bond (after Clive Owen and Daniel Craig), plus the lovely Moon Bloodgood. We'll see.

TUESDAYS: "The Biggest Loser," "Chuck," "Law & Order: SVU." Here's the NBC we all know and love, delivering an evening with absolutely no flow. Well done. I've read the script for "Chuck," which is clever and fun and is going for an audience that has nothing to do with the one supplied by "The Biggest Loser" and very little to do with the one that tunes in to "Law & Order: SVU."

WEDNESDAYS: "Deal or No Deal," "Bionic Woman," "Life." The reboot of "Bionic Woman" became a bit more interesting when Jason Smilovic ("Kidnapped") signed on to bring his brand of sub-Mamet chatter to the the sci-fi remake. I think I could also really warm to leading lady Michelle Ryan. As for "Life," despite a cast pepper by folks I respect -- Damian Lewis, Melissa Sagemiller, Robin Weigert -- I don't have my finger on how it transcends being merely a procedural.

THURSDAYS: "My Name Is Earl," "30 Rock," "The Office," "Scrubs," "E.R." I love "30 Rock" and "The Office." I like "My Name Is Earl" and "Scrubs." But NBC is working backwards. Thursday night always used to be the network's one sure thing, but now the more important advertising evening of the week is being dedicated to shows that guarantee a third place finish at best and likely fourth place if FOX does anything sensible.

FRIDAYS: "Game Show Blob," "Las Vegas," "Friday Night Lights." Depending on how you look at it, this is either the place NBC is sending "FNL" to die, or it's a relatively smart move for a show that they don't expect to suddenly become a massive hit anyway. It's an intuitive time slot (to quote my father, "FNL on FN! Shocking.") and it's a time period with a respectable 18-49 audience. It probably won't have huge audience overlap with anything on any other network. That being said, will the people who watch the show be watching real football on Friday nights instead? Well, since NBC's mantra has always been "The show isn't about football," it makes total sense. Plus, the 10 p.m. slot allows for more time at the Landing Strip, greater exploration of quad sex and a more likely bikini carwash subplot. Huzzah. [Sepinwall notes that Sepinwall deserves credit for the bikini carwash subplot idea. I agree. I'd only mention that he said it as a joke, while I'm TOTALLY serious.]

SATURDAYS: Put fingers in ears and start singing "La, la, la, la."

SUNDAYS: Football in the fall, then "Dateline," "Law & Order," "Medium" and "Lipstick Jungle." You train men to tune in for football and then when football's over, you turn the night over to women. It's a strategy that only occasionally worked on Mondays for ABC. "Medium," already struggling this season, will get crushed by "Desperate Housewives" and whatever CBS programs. That, in turn, will leave "Lipstick Jungle" to get crushed without a lead-in. Good times.

INTERESTING PILOTS (BASED ON PLOT AND CAST, NOT ANYTHING I'VE SEEN) THAT DIDN'T GET PICKED UP: The Spike Lee-directed "M.O.N.Y.," starring Bobby Cannavale, whose pilot track record is fairly dismal. The alien comedy "Area 52" had Paul Rubens as an alien, so I was sold. There was lots of great buzz on "Fort Pitt," produced by Peter Tolan and Dennis Leary (among others), but that apparently waned. The comedy "Business Class" had Mark Valley and Krista Allen (I'm there!), but also Horatio Sanz (Buh-bye).

And check out our more exhaustive upfronts coverage over at Zap2it.


  1. Anonymous5:43 PM

    And your respect for Melissa Sagemiller's thespian chops comes from...what now?

  2. See, I'm already forgetting what I wrote. Did I say I respected her thespian chops or that I like her?

    Regardless, she wasn't bad on Sleeper Cell. At times she was pretty good.

    That's my answer and I'm sticking to it unless you press me harder...


  3. Just browsing after following a link. Anyone that is on board with Friday Night Lights is ok in my book.