It has not been a good year for NBC. Former stalwarts like “Heroes” and “Law & Order” continued their ratings decline. New shows like “Trauma,” “Mercy,” “100 Questions,” and “Day One” either stunk up the joint or never even aired. And of course, “The Jay Leno Show” was a failed experiment of epically bad PR proportions. On the plus-side, the Thursday night comedy block has been injected fantastic new life with “Community” and a tweaked (and hilarious) “Parks & Recreation,” and the freshman “Parenthood,” which has turned into a really solid dramedy.
Meanwhile, as you probably have read about here or elsewhere, “Heroes” and the mothership “Law & Order” have been canceled. Regarding “Law and Order,” the network says it is going to try to do some type of special event movie to give the show a proper send-off (and they’re also going to talk to Tim Kring about maybe doing something similar for “Heroes”). Meanwhile, you can also say goodbye to freshmen “Trauma” and “Mercy,” cancellations which I could’ve predicted this time last year, when they were originally announced. I’m not sad to see “Heroes” go, as I had stopped watching it a while back (as did many others - it went from a first season average of 14-odd million viewers to a fourth season average of six or so million), but that’s really a wasted opportunity. It was a strong idea that was initially embraced by more than the limited genre fans, but bad writing coupled with increasingly bad acting led to NBC’s potential flagship show fizzling into nothing.
So it’s unsurprising that NBC’s new schedule has a host of new shows on it (including in Leno’s former 10 p.m. home for four of the five nights). The question remains, of course, whether this is the year that NBC digs itself out of being the crummy fourth-place network (poor CW, nobody even thinks about you way down there in fifth place)? It’s obviously quite early to say for sure, not even having seen the new lineups for the other networks, but I’m pretty confident in saying the answer to that question will be a resounding no.
We’ll have some videos from NBC’s new shows for you in a little bit but, in the meantime, here’s a breakdown of the new schedule and those new shows.
Mondays. As we already knew, “Chuck” is coming back for a fourth season, and it will lead of Monday nights at 8 p.m. While this last season has been a little hit and miss, the hits are still strong, and the misses are still more entertaining than a lot of the other shows out there so I, for one, remain happy with its renewal. “Chuck” will be followed by new shows “The Event” and “Chase.”
“The Event” is a “high-octane conspiracy thriller” about a dude who stumbles into a massive cover-up while trying to find his missing fiancee. As we previously wrote about, it co-stars Zeljko Ivanek, which is great. Beyond that, well, it co-stars Ivanek at least. “Chase,” meanwhile, is Jerry Bruckheimer’s latest, and it’s about U.S. marshals hunting after fugitives. I guess NBC figures if they can’t beat CBS, they can at least try to look like CBS.
Tuesdays. From 8 to 10 it’s “Biggest Loser” (are the contestants now so fat that two hours is necessary?) followed by the increasingly good “Parenthood” at 10.
Wednesdays. The night leads off with “Undercovers,” J.J. Abrams’ latest show (he also directed the pilot), co-exec produced and written by Josh Reims (who worked on “Brothers and Sisters” before this). The show is a spy drama about a married couple who were both CIA spies until they met on the job, fell in love and retired. Now they own a small catering company and, five years removed from their spy lives, their splendid life is foiled when they’re reinstated to find a missing agent. And, of course, they “realize that this supercharged, undercover lifestyle provides the excitement and romance that their marriage has been missing.” This show could be good, could be watchable, or could be ass. But we do know that it’s the highest profile of NBC’s new shows, and the network is clearly banking on the show giving it a strong Wednesday lead-in in a timeslot that’s currently pretty open for grabs.
After “Undercovers,” NBC has teamed up its surviving “Law & Order” shows, the been-around-the-block “Law & Order: SVU” and the newbie “Law & Order: Los Angeles.” Yes, the mothership may be dead, but there’s more CHUNG-CHUNG in store with “Law & Order: Los Angeles” (lovingly referred to as “LOLA”), which is still in casting and pre-production. But I think we all know what we’ll be getting, right? As for “SVU,” I suspect this may be its last year, because both Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay have their contracts coming up, and I’m not sure NBC can afford to give them new ones (the last contract extension was a battle that resulted in the pair each getting something on the order of $400K per episode). Which means that, with USA unlikely to pick up “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” for next year, if “LOLA” winds up stinking, next season may be the last season that we have any new “Law & Order” shows.
Thursdays. Motherfucking “Outsourced.” As I previously described it, “Outsourced” is:
…the hilarious new comedy about a novelty company that sells whoopee cushions and wallets made of bacon (and here I though bacon could do no wrong) which has its call center outsourced to India. And when Todd Dempsy is transferred to India to teach the new employees “in all things American,” hi-jinx ensue.
Ugh. And now it’s even worse, because the addition of this “comedy” to the Thursday lineup means the best of NBC’s comedies, “Parks & Recreation,” is being bumped to mid-season. NBC explains the decision thusly:
Ultimately we wanted to get a new comedy on our schedule … it’s not in any way any indication that we don’t think it’s good. It seems on cable you can wait a year and actually create more anticipation for a series so we’re not losing momentum.
So for the fall, it’ll be “Community,” “30 Rock,” “The Office,” and “Outsourced.” The hour long comedy “Love Bites” will then air at 10. “Love Bites” stars Becki Newton (yum!) and Jordana Sprio in “an hour-long romantic comedy anthology series featuring three loosely connected, modern stories of love, sex, marriage and dating. Each episode contains multiple vignettes, all illuminating the theme of love with an edgy, irreverent spin.” I have no doubt that it will be maudlin as hell, so the only question is whether it can also be funny, and be funny enough to sustain being an hour-long “comedy.” I’d say the odds are stacked against it.
Fridays. At 8, it’ll be “Who Do You Think You Are” for a while (that’s the show where celebrities look at their family trees), and then “School Pride” after that. “School Pride” is a reality show from Cheryl Hines and a produce of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which will follow various communities attempting to fix up old schools with the help of whoever the show sends to them, and is inspired, apparently, by a real-life by local activists in Compton to fix up local school buildings. Sounds so heart-warming that I can already feel my arteries clogging with the treacle (though, in seriousness, I support this effort more than many, as improvement of schools and education is something our country needs a hell of a lot of).
After that, it’s “Dateline” at 9, and the new “Outlaw” buried at 10. “Outlaw” is Jimmy Smits’s latest outing, where he plays Cyrus Garza (the show was previously called “Garza,” in fact). Garza is apparently a Supreme Court justice who up and quits to return to private practice. Where he’ll be an outlaw (!), representing the little guy and using “his inside knowledge of the justice system to take on today’s biggest legal cases.” Sounds like an absolutely typical legal drama, and while I love Smits, I can’t imagine I’ll be tuning in for much of this. Not that it matters much because, by burying it in the Friday/10 p.m. slot, NBC isn’t really giving the show much of a chance anyways (NBC’s response to this criticism as that they “are certainly counting on Jimmy to bring people [to this timeslot]”). Seems like it the show would be much better served on Sunday nights (after the football season, of course).
Finally, next spring/summer, Friday nights is, fittingly, where we’ll also get the final season of “Friday Night Lights,” which will have aired on DirecTV in the fall.
Saturdays. Like years past, NBC will dump reruns from the week into its Saturday night slots.
Sundays. In the fall, it’s football, football football. As of March, it’ll be “Minute to Win It” at 9, and two hours of “Celebrity Apprentice” from 9-11.
As to this new schedule, NBC’s chairman says that it “brings NBC back to basics with its commitment to quality scripted programming.” We’ll see about the “quality” part, but I’m not holding my breath on a lot of these.
Meanwhile, NBC has picked-up quite a few mid-season shows.
First, there’s “The Cape,” which is an hour-long drama about a cop (David Lyons, “ER”) who goes into hiding when he is framed for a bunch of murders and presumed dead. While in hiding, he takes on the guise of “The Cape,” a superhero his son loves, and uses his new secret visage to battle crime in Palm City. It also stars Keith David and Summer Glau, among others, and Glau has the distinction of playing one of the dumbest new characters of next season: “Orwell, an investigative blogger who wages war on crime and corruption in Palm City.” I’m a nerd, so I want to like this show, but I suspect it’s going to be a serious uphill battle.
Also, why have one new legal show (“Outlaw”) when you can have two? “Harry’s Law,” another mid-season show, is David E. Kelley’s latest legal drama, starring Kathy Bates as an ex-patent lawyer who is looking for a fresh start, which she finds when she meets a former high school teacher also looking for a fresh start, and some help in his upcoming criminal case. It also stars Ben Chaplin from Me and Orson Welles. “The most unlikely of people are starting a law practice in the most unlikely of places — a rundown shoe store.” Jesus Christ on a cracker, why won’t someone just take Kelley behind the shed and put him down?
One of the Peacock’s mid-season comedies is “Friends With Benefits,” which sounds absolutely vanilla, focusing on a bunch of twenty-somethings who are dealing with the wild and crazy world of dating. The only thing it has going for it is that, among others, it stars Fran Kranz (“Dollhouse”) and the hilarious Ryan Hansen (“Party Down,” “Veronica Mars”). Meanwhile, NBC also picked up “Next,” which has now changed its title to the clever “The Paul Reiser Show.” Would you be shocked to learn that this is a semi-autobiographical sitcom from Paul Reiser about Paul Reiser and his life after his hit TV series went off the air?
NBC’s third mid-season comedy is “Perfect Couples,” which is about three engaged couples struggling to maintain the perfect relationship “through humorous trial-and-error.” And if that doesn’t sell you, how about this: “The series explores their heroic journey in search of the perfect relationship without destroying each other in the process.” This is the show that stars a bunch of people most of us have never heard of and Olivia Munn, who the geeks love from her G4 “Attack of the Show,” but who hasn’t previously shown much in the acting department (though she nailed the role of geeky woman reporter in Iron Man 2).
…Sigh. With these new sitcoms, doesn’t it seem like NBC is reverting back to the ’90s, rather than taking the lead from creative comedies like “Community” and “Parks & Rec” and pushing the envelope forward? Disappointing.
Meanwhile, NBC is also planning to dump another season of “The Apprentice” on us, along with another season of the inexplicably watched, godawful “The Marriage Ref.” It also has a new mid-season reality show up its sleeve, “America’s Next Great Restaurant,” which stars Bobby Flay and will presumably have him, I’m going out on a limb here, looking for America’s next great restaurant.
Finally, with no mention of “The Rockford Files,” it seems that this troubled show has been killed. There has been a lot of reporting that this remake was having serious troubles, and I’m guessing that those troubles came largely from Dermot Mulroney being cast in the lead. He no good. And even though Beau Bridges had been cast as the father, and he be very good, Beau and Jeff combined can’t defeat the bad that is Dermot Mulroney. So no “The Rockford Files” for ya.