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NBC's Fall Shows

By Seth Freilich | Industry | May 4, 2009 |

By Seth Freilich | Industry | May 4, 2009 |

Over the weekend, folks were getting ready for NBC’s announcement of its fall lineup today (what they called their “infront” presentation, with the schedule itself being revealed in two weeks at the proper “upfronts”). And during this time, various stories came out about the status of “Chuck” and whether or not it would be coming back. On Friday, Variety said odds for a renewal were looking good, while THR hedged things a bit more considerably. Then over the weekend, star Zachary Levi told E! that he got an e-mail from Josh Schwartz telling him that the show’s fate would not be resolved by today, and to hold tight. Sunday afternoon, however, Nikki Finke reported that the renewal was all but a go.

Fuck man, will they or won’t they?

In typical shitty sitcom style, tune back later. Seems that Josh Schwartz was right and that NBC has yet to make up its mind. Both “Chuck” and “Law & Order” (which would be going into a whopping 20th season), along with “My Name is Earl,” are inlimbo. They’re not currently in NBC’s fall programming, but they still could be, as the Peacock has another two weeks to gets its schedule all put together. I stopped caring about “Law & Order” a long time ago, and although I still watch “Earl,” I wouldn’t bat an eye if it was not renewed. But if my “Chuck” don’t come back, I be a sad boy. Don’t make me cry, NBC.

In the meantime, NBC did announce some of the other shows that will be airing this fall along with the wondrous joy of five hours of Jay Leno. Most of the shows coming back are no surprise. News that “Southland” was being renewed dropped a few days ago, as did word that “Parks & Recreation” was working on negotiating a renewal. The other Thursday night comedies not named “Earl” — “The Office” and “30 Rock” — are all getting another go-round, of course, and there will also be six more episodes of “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday” (suspect choice, NBC — that worked in the ramp-up to the Presidential election, but not so sure it’ll be worth a spit without the political magnifying glass). “Heroes,” “Medium” and “Law & Order: SVU” are all coming back, although Meloni and Hargitay are not signed on for “SVU” yet, and that show isn’t worth the script Dick Wolf mails in without those two. Oh yeah, and there will be more “Celebrity Apprentice” and “The Biggest Loser,” so phew.

As for the new shows, NBC picked up four dramas and a pair of comedies. One of those comedies, “Community,” is no surprise, as early word was rather positive. The show stars Joel McHale (host of “The Soup”) and the formerly-funny-but-now-an-asshole-but-he-was-good-on-“Chuck” Chevy Chase as they interact at the Greendale Community College. The NBC press release tells us that the “not-so-hallowed halls” of GCC are “is made up of high-school losers, newly divorced housewives, and old people who want to keep their minds active.” …comedy! Actually, I like McHale quite a bit, and there are some moments of potential in this trailor (but also some moments of terrible), so I guess we’ll see:

The other comedy NBC picked up is “100 Questions for Charlotte Payne.” “100 Questions” is a bit of a gimicky comedy staring Sophie Winkleman (a British actress probably best known Stateside for … nothing). Anyway, the gimick is that each episode centers around one of Ms. Payne’s 100 questions (or as the press release puts it, the show “provides hilarious answers to 100 questions about love”). Apparently, Charlotte fills out a 10—question compatibility test when signing up for an online dating site, and wouldn’t you know, these questions aren’t easy. And she has to think back on the trials of her love life while answering each question and … comedy *channels generic entertainment beat writer* So the first question on Charlotte Payne’s mind is whether her show will fare any better. *hey-yooooo*

Am I being harsh? Judge for yourself:

“An unquestionably funny comedy?” Au contraire, NBC, I will question it. Right after I’m done slicing my wrists.

Seriously, NBC, fuck both these shows and just give us some “Chuck!”

On the drama front, it’s absolutely no surprise that “Parenthood” was picked up. Early word on the pilot script has been very high. As you know or could guess, this is based on the wonderful movie of the same name and is coming to from Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights”), with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer also exec-producing. As with the movie, the show is focused on a large extended family, with all the comedy and drama that ensues. The cast is first rate (we’ll pretend that Dax Shepard isn’t in the cast), including, among others: Peter Krause, Maura Tierney, Craig T. Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen, Sarah Ramos and Mae Whitman. The pilot was directed by Thomas Schlamme and looks pretty solid from the trailer:

Man, I really love Peter Krause. Here’s hoping this doesn’t go the way of the last NBC freshman show with earily similar pilot-hype (*cough* “Studio 60” *cough*).

Next up, NBC gives us not one but two new medical dramas, “Trauma” and “Mercy” (*soooo many puns and wordplays jumping through my head … must reboot brain*). Trauma comes from Peter Berg, which is a good thing, and will focus on first responder paramedics in San Fracisco. Derek Luke and Kevin Rankin (!), among others, star, so that’s also a good thing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like anything particularly special from the trailer — doesn’t look necessarily bad, just looks like typical NBC over-the-top melodrama:

Strike that — I wrote the lead-in sentence before seeing the second half of the trailor, with the loud music and the booms and the “I love my job.” I’ll pass, thank you much.

“Mercy,” meanwhile, is a hospital-based drama focusing on nurses. Blah blah blah, “daily traumas and social landmines” … blah blah blah, “life and love both inside the hospital and out in the real world.” Based on the trailer, rather than the terrible press release write-up, it doesn’t look awful. Just looks like another generic hospital dramedy (but it’s already threatening to drown itself in the “you’re just a nurse!” BS):

NBC’s last new drama, for now, is “Day One.” The one-sentence logline is pretty good: “‘Day One’ tells the story of life on earth following a global catastrophe that has devastated the world’s infrastructures.” But then you find out that the lead actor starred in Date Movie and you begin to wonder. The show will apparently focus on a group who all lived in an apartment building together, and the group “embarks on a quest for survival and discovers that hope is found in small victories — and heroes are born every day.” Oh really?

…I have absolutley nothing to say about that siliness.

NBC released one other trailer, but I haven’t watched it and I won’t force it on you either, since it’s for Jay Leno’s new 10 p.m. mess.

Finally, two pilots were noticably absent from NBC’s announcement. “Legally Mad” was David E. Kelley’s latest legal whatever. While it’s not picked up yet, don’t be surprised if it’s on NBC’s schedule in two weeks. Not because it’s any good (I have no idea, though I’d certainly bet against it). Rather, because NBC will have to pay a pretty price in penalty fees if it doesn’t pick the show up. Meanwhile, Dick’s Wolf’s latest procedureal, “Lost & Found,” is also, *ahem*, missing from the fall listing. Gone is the “Law & Order” heading, but the show still sounds about the same, which is why NBC may be passing. While the show stars Katee Sackhoff, who’s proven to be a fantasticly riveting actress in the right circumstances, its focus on her solving John and Jane Doe murders doesn’t sound like those right cirucmstances.

I’m sure there will be a gajillion reports over the next two weeks on whether “Chuck” is coming back or not. My advice? Take it all with huge grains of salt and just try to be patient. And NBC, please don’t fuck us over yet again.

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Seth is a Senior Editor and sometime critic. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.