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.
Following Chuck (yes!) on Monday nights will The Event, NBC's attempt to cash in on the fact that Lost and 24 are ending. In her intro to the clip, president of primetime entertainment Angela Bromstad made an attempt to lump Heroes' cancellation in with those big finales like she thought no one would notice, and I had to stifle a giggle. Anyway, The Event is one of those purposefully baffling programs. It stars Blair Underwood (Dirty Sexy Money) as the president of the United States, Jason Ritter (remember how good he was on The Class? Yeah, that's not happening here) as a guy whose girlfriend has gone missing and Laura Innes (ER's Kerry Weaver) as the head of some mysterious facilities that house 97 prisoners and does some sort of testing. They want you to ask "what is the Event?" but the show hasn't even started and I already don't care. In the best-case scenario, this is the next FlashForward, which means that I'm not getting invested because it will likely get cancelled just when it gets good, and in the more likely scenario, this is the next Threshold or Surface, which means I doubt I'll bother watching past the pilot.
At 10 PM on Mondays comes this season's Trauma. There's an unengaging lead (by the name of Kelli Giddish, formerly of the snooze-worthy Past Life) who stars as a U.S. Marshall who takes down criminals. It also features the likes of Cole Hauser (Pitch Black), Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break's Sucre) and Jesse Metcalfe (who will always be the hot gardener from Desperate Housewives). Even Jerry Bruckheimer's name stamped all over this isn't doing it any favors. Really, if you like the subject matter, just watch Justified on FX. It's got Timothy Olyphant in it, don't you know.
Tuesday nights are the same as they are now, with The Biggest Loser and Parenthood, but the brand-new J.J. Abrams show leads off Wednesday night's lineup. Undercovers has a bit of an Alias vibe, with two married former spies who are brought out of retirement to help capture rogue agents. Boris Kodjoe (Soul Food) and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who played Martha Jones's sister on Doctor Who) are the sexy husband and wife duo, with Gerald McRaney as their handler-type person. It looks like it could be fun, but given that it features only stand-alone episodes, I'm guessing there isn't going to be any awesome Rambaldi, Dharma or Observer stuff happening. Bummer. Oh, and after seeing just five minutes of it, I'm already sick of the word "sexspionage." Even Chuck wouldn't be able to make that one work.
Law & Order: Los Angeles
So original flavor Law & Order was finally put out to pasture, while SVU will return at 9 PM on Wednesdays, to be followed by the new Los Angeles edition. When Bromstad started talking about how this was the Los Angeles-based crime show that NBC had been looking for, the Southland fan in me started seething, but I kept it together and watched the clip of LO:LA, that actually showed nothing except for some Hollywood celebrity mugshots and a handful of stock footage of violent riots and O.J. Simpson. There was no original footage since there's no cast yet, so its hard to say much at all about this new Dick Wolf show, except that it will probably be a lot like all of his others.
Thursday nights in the fall will consist of Community at 8, 30 Rock at 8:30, The Office (which NBC execs maintain remains "fresh and hysterically funny") at 9 and then new comedy Outsourced at 9:30. The show is basically a one-note joke about an American office manager (newcomer Ben Rappaport) for a novelty supply company who gets moved to India to run the call center there. The joke gets old and pretty offensive rather quickly, especially when Diedrich Bader (The Drew Carey Show) starts cracking wise about Indian cuisine and bathroom problems. Parks & Recreation will return midseason... or, hopefully, sooner when this gets cancelled.
Following Outsourced is an hour-long comedy from Sex and the City writer/producer Cindy Chupack. It's a show about Becki Newton (Ugly Betty's awesome Amanda) and Jordana Spiro (My Boys's lead) and their love lives, which are intertwined through a series of vignettes. You wouldn't know that either of these leads was in the show by the vignette we saw at the presentation, which was a long segment of Greg Grunberg (apparently added to the cast as a regular thanks to Heroes ending) as a husband on his way to a bachelor party with his best pal Craig Robinson. Greg's character (a tattoo artist; random) ends up meeting the sole person on his "get out of marriage vows free" list: Jennifer Love Hewitt, playing her non-ghost-whispering self. Long, uncomfortable story short, Greg's character ends up sitting in first class next to J.Love herself and then somehow winds up in the plane's restroom with her because she wants to join the mile-high club. Did I mention that this show is totally believable and realistic?
Friday nights are alright for something. In NBC's case, that night is for more episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? and a new reality show School Pride (which is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, but with schools), then Dateline at 9 PM and the new show Outlaw at 10 PM. Aside from the ridiculous premise -- Jimmy Smits is a Supreme Court judge with a wild side who quits his lifelong gig in order to help the little guy and buck the system from within -- it actually looks pretty decent in a Good Wife, sort of way. I'll probably watch it... if I'm home on Friday nights. It is a little suspicious that NBC took a show produced by Conan O'Brien and put it in this kiss-of-death timeslot, but I'm still pulling for a favorable verdict anyway.
Sunday nights are all football all the time. If you want to know more about the lineups, I'm sure the kind folks at NBC Sports or ESPN or something would be happy to help you out.
There are a bunch of shows that are on the back-burner for next winter and spring, so here's my quick run-down and first impressions:
Friends With Benefits: It's a new Brian Grazer comedy with Ryan Hansen (Dick Casablancas from Veronica Mars) having sex with his best (female) friend. It used to have Fran Kranz (Topher from Dollhouse) as his equally lovelorn pal, but they got rid of him for some reason, which ups the odds that I'll watch this show by about 100 percent. It also, stupidly enough, features Jessica Lucas (Riley from Melrose Place) playing another character named Riley, which takes my odds of watching past the pilot down about 95%.
Perfect Couples: This is a sitcom about couple friends and their intertwined lives. It looked like a mildly more amusing Rules of Engagement, so I feel safe in largely ignoring it. But I did like seeing Olivia Munn (Attack of the Show) playing against her fanboy-fantasy image.
The Paul Reiser Show: If you think Curb Your Enthusiasm is too edgy and funny, then this is the program for you. It's pretty much a "lite" version of Larry David's program, but Reiser isn't nearly as curmudgeonly.
Harry's Law: Kathy Bates stars in this new David E. Kelley show about a patent lawyer fed up with her job who teams up with Brittany Snow to sell shoes (I think; could be wrong) and represent underprivileged criminals. The footage I saw had someone falling off a roof and landing on Bates' character, so it's definitely got Kelley's signature style all over it.
The Cape: This is a superhero show, but before you start thinking Heroes, let me assure you that this appears to have more of an old-school comic book vibe, with David Lyons (He played Dr. Simon Brenner towards the end of ER's run) as a cop who gets framed for murder and is then presumed dead. With the help of Keith David as his mentor, he turns himself into his son's favorite fictional hero and starts fighting crime. Summer Glau's in this, too, as the hot girl who's good with computers that every show like this requires. We'll give it a shot.
And that's what NBC has to offer. At some point next spring, you'll also get to look forward to double the Trump, with a poor-version of The Apprentice as well as a Celebrity Apprentice. Jerry Seinfeld's Marriage Ref will also return then. And since you were desperately waiting to find out what happened to Minute to Win It, Guy Fieri will stop stuffing his face with fattening diner food and return to Sundays at 8 once Sunday Night Football is over.
Check out our initial reviews of Fox's new fall and midseason shows.
Watch TWoP's editors discuss the shows that deserved to get cancelled in this segment airing on the New York Nonstop cable news channel:
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