NBC's new sitcom Save Me is better than it has any right to be. The leads -- Anne Heche, Michael Landes and Alexandra Breckenridge -- have no chemistry and can barely act their way through the pilot. The premise -- which has Heche as Beth Harper, a woman who starts receiving messages from God after nearly choking to death on a sandwich -- is at best pretty stupid. The first half of "The Book of Beth" was just terrible. However, by the end of the episode, I actually had the desire to watch more... an entire 12 episodes more, maybe. (Note: At the time of writing, I'd only watched the first of this week's two-episode premiere.)
This morning at Radio City Music Hall, NBC unveiled their new fall lineup with the help of a lot (a lot) of singing. Those of us in attendance were treated to a performance by Voice winner Jermaine Paul, a full gospel choir and orchestra backing Smash stars Leslie Odom Jr. and Katherine McPhee on "Stand" to close the presentation and, to open things up, McPhee and Megan Hilty doing "Let Me Be Your Star," complete with a bit of The Voice judges (sans Blake Shelton) spinning their chairs for them. And then in a pre-packaged bit, Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon "found" footage of the returning shows infused with music (including The Office, Parks and Recreation, Law & Order: SVU, Meet the Press and, most amusingly, Grimm). Honestly, while NBC exec Bob Greenblatt joked that a Grimm musical episode was a long way from a reality, it might get me to start watching that show again. The network's execs promised that their fall lineup won't be all music, but there is a lot of it, and they are going really heavy on the comedies as well. In fact, they mentioned the word comedy about 1,000 times in the two hours, but given that they did see fit to renew both Community and Parks and Recreation (and I got to sit within 100 yards of Adam Scott, which probably violates my restraining order in some way), I am inclined to overlook that. However, I am not willing to overlook the fact that most of the comedies that they mentioned look mediocre and forgettable at first glance.
So this network upfront actually broke some news, albeit unsurprising news that no one really cared about, but news nonetheless. Towards the end of the very lengthy two hour presentation, Donald Trump came out to announce that he was going to continue making money on The Celebrity Apprentice and not take a run at the presidency. He made it sound like he was doing us a favor, but I cover entertainment television, so having him stick around on reality TV isn't really helping me at all.
Aside from that, the rest of the presentation was fairly typical, and filled with all the NBC executives reminding us as frequently as possible that The Voice is a big success. I tried keeping count of how often they mentioned the show's name, but they worked it in so seamlessly to nearly every segment that it was almost impossible. And just when I thought they couldn't mention it one more time, they had Christina Aguilera and Cee-Lo come out at the end of the presentation to sing. Fortunately, I was already heading out the door at that point.
The 2010-11 NBC upfront presentation was so long that we're not sure who'd be more bored by a detailed recap of the event, you or us. Suffice it to say that the presentation began with a clip of Alec Baldwin as Jack Donaghy making jokes about his brief, ill-advised marriage to Nikki Finke, getting in a dig about President Obama's citizenship and then talking about how the "more colorful" slogan might sound like a "no-mess painting kit for pre-school girls" but is really more than that. Then there was some random talk about how the network would act like a dangerous Eastern European woman in order to gain advertisers. That was the highlight... it got less interesting from there, unless you are really, really, really into football announcers, in which case it picked up somewhere in the middle, and then it just slowly spiraled downward until it finally ended and I got to see Jerry Seinfeld on the esclalor. Oh, and did I mention that aside from an awkward appearance from Jimmy Fallon and his guitar, and the football announcers, there was a dearth of talent on stage? Guess they saved them for all of the swanky after-parties. But anyway, NBC previewed a bunch of new shows for both the fall and midseason to help us get an early start on deciding what we'll want to watch - or avoid.
NBC had their "infront" presentation today in 30 Rock's Studio 8H (aka SNL's studio) and while media types were treated to a look at their new slate of shows, we really didn't get that many answers or any kind of a schedule. All of that will apparently be magically revealed on May 19 at another NBC event -- until then we're left hanging about the fates of bubble shows like Chuck, My Name Is Earl, Law & Order and Medium. NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman did confirm, however, that sadly Life is dead. The NBC execs also confirmed that SVU will be back, with or without Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, which would be weird since they're sorta the heart and soul of that show. Also, no word on whether or not they'll chop The Biggest Loser in half (we hope so; it really doesn't need to be more than an hour) or how they are going to fit all of their new programs in with no 10 PM timeslots available thanks to Jay Leno.
NBC might actually have some interesting new shows this fall. Operative word there being "might." Because critics haven't seen them yet. During the network's two fall-preview days closing out this summer's Television Critics Association press tour, we did see:
A Scene It?-styled DVD game built around clips from The Office. A two-sided Heroes bobblehead doll with present-day Hiro on the front of its head and future Hiro on the back. A Battlestar Galactica toaster that imprints Cylon centurion helmets on your white bread. ("Toaster." Slang for Cylons. Get it?)
Who doesn't love Michael J. Fox? (Wait, if you don't, you probably shouldn't answer that, as you are a monster). That's the question NBC is banking on for The Michael J. Fox Show to be a hit. That our universal love for the actor will make us overlook just how weak the new series with his name in the title really is. And while Fox's talents and charms are still as undeniable as ever, you can't help root for the guy… to wind up on a much better show.
It's obvious what Eva Longoria and NBC were trying to do with Ready for Love: Cash in quite belatedly on the fame of The Bachelor using the "science" and snark of Millionaire Matchmaker. Unfortunately, this show is so poorly edited, egregiously sexist and clearly low-budget, it's much closer to The Choice meets Fashion Star and has all of the authenticity of Burning Love. Rather than validate Ready for Love by giving it a straight-up review, I'll instead list the very worst things about the show.
Rather than write a second long piece in praise of 30 Rock, add yet another blog post to the world about how Tina Fey changed television (though, she did) or try to convince you how much the series transformed TV while glazing over the fact that the show was almost unwatchable for two seasons, let's just focus on the finale... the very satisfying and heartfelt finale.
Maggie Smith holds court again.
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