CBS president Les Moonves got us all excited about a one-minute long upfront at the beginning of the network's presentation this afternoon, but it actually went on for over an hour. And considering they only have four new shows this fall, that meant a lot of padding. So they filled it with Mike & Molly stars Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy bantering about their recent fake wedding and the lack of gifts they've received from their fellow CBS stars (except Ted Danson, who sent them a pony); the Two Broke Girls trying to find a way to make money; LL Cool J rapping; and Eli Manning trying to crack jokes (which, as we learned on Saturday Night Live, is not something he can do). Still, despite the fact that this was the network that showed us the fewest clips, the ones we saw actually had more promise than the other three this week so far.
CBS spent most of their upfront presentation telling us that they don't have a lot of new shows because their returning shows are so good or, as Les Moonves put it, "We make mass appeal hit shows." Fantastic, so more cop dramas then? The event kicked off with Michael Weatherly doing a pre-taped bit to appeal to advertisers. Oh, Eyes Only. I expected better from you. Then they had David Letterman, Steve Martin and Paul Schaffer doing a pre-taped song about how good all the new shows were. It was awkward and unfunny. And then the cast of Blue Bloods did an extended segment in which they chased down a perp (Regis Philbin, who was begging for a job on The Talk) in order to get the CBS fall schedule to the upfront in time. After a helicopter ride (on tape), Tom Selleck arrived at Carnegie Hall, old school Jeff Probst on Survivor finale style, with the schedule to hand off to Moonves. Was that really the best they could do with the talented cast of Blue Bloods? On the plus side, Will Estes received more screen time in this bit than he has all season on the show.
Of all the network upfronts each May, CBS' is the one I usually dread sitting through the most simply because it always kicks off with president and CEO Les Moonves both arrogantly crowing about yet another year as the highest-rated network overall ("more Americans watched NCIS this season than went to see Avatar") and trying to convince the audience of advertisers and journalists that everything is just hunky dory in the broadcast biz. But other than his spiel and an awkward but well-intentioned bit by Jim Parsons in character as Sheldon Cooper (something about how he'd use a time machine to go back to NBC's 1969 upfront to convince advertisers to invest in the original Star Trek), the rest of CBS' 2010-11 presentation cruised by fairly painlessly, despite a few clunkers in their new lineup.
When the most exciting news of the CBS day at the Television Critics Association press tour is delivered by corporate-kin cabler Showtime, you know TV's in trouble.
Or maybe not.
Think about the shows Showtime gives us. Dexter, Weeds, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, The L Word, Penn & Teller's Bullshit, This American Life. Distinct. Warped. Smart. Love 'em.
After the obligatory intros from high-ranking execs and Les Moonves talking about all of the different aspects of CBS (We've got outdoor marketing! We're interactive! We're not just for old people any more!) They bring out Craig Ferguson. Let's just say, I'll take Jimmy Kimmel making fun of NBC any day instead of Craig Ferguson's lame attempts at jokes. I mean, he's talking about New York smelling like urine. Really? Then he talks about billboards. I think he might be missing some of the lines on the teleprompter... or reading them after the images come up on the massive screen. Hard to tell.
Since you are reading Television Without Pity, there's a strong likelihood that you are familiar with a little show called Chuck that we talked about obsessively for a few years. Chuck was a nerdy guy who got his life flipped upside down when his brain got filled with a high-tech government computer, and then he got a super attractive handler, a secret identity and had a lot of adventures. This new CBS procedural has a remarkably similar premise, with a little bit of Six Million Dollar Man thrown in for good measure. The main difference between Intelligence and Chuck (aside from the obviously larger budget) is that they got rid of all the nerd factor and the quirkiness and increased the hotness. Here, Gabriel (Josh Holloway of Lost fame) is all clean-cut, former military and sporting cable-knit sweaters. He's got a lovely handler (hey there, Little Red Riding Hood) and still has the computer in his brain that makes him an asset and a weapon.
"It's a fart. Some people think they’re funny." That's what Margo Martindale's character Carol, a screeching cliché of a helicopter mother, declares in the pilot of CBS' new comedy The Millers. That sums up the apparent operating principle behind this show: fart jokes. So many fart jokes.
Anyone fancy a spot of tea?
Apparently CBS doesn't even know how to make a show that's not a procedural anymore.
When I first watched the pilot for this show early in the summer, I thought it was annoying, but that it might be fine for Friday night. But on second glance over the weekend, I just can't condone watching more of this show. There's just so much grating and terrible about it that even the promise of more of Donna Murphy's insanely arched eyebrows can't keep me tuning in. This show is like the anti-Good Wife.
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