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.
With only five freshman shows on its slate for fall (plus a Criminal Minds spinoff for midseason), perhaps the biggest news to come out of CBS today related to the rescheduling of two returning favorites: Survivor moving to Wednesdays at 8 PM and, more importantly, The Big Bang Theory (currently airing Mondays at 9:30 PM) relocating to the reality show's Thursday 8 PM timeslot. Considering Big Bang's enormous ratings, CBS' move to break NBC's Thursday comedy monopoly has to be troubling news for fans of Community, not to mention the rest of the Peacock's sitcom lineup. Also, for those who can differentiate between CSIs, the one with Lieutenant Dan is moving from Wednesdays to Fridays, while the one with the star of Jade is moving from Mondays to Sundays.
With that said, on to our initial thoughts on the previews of CBS' new programming:
Mike & Molly
A Chuck Lorre-produced sitcom is the closest thing to a sure thing these days that any CBS executive could ever hope for. But the creator of the insanely lucrative Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory may now be facing his greatest challenge: crafting a hit show around one of the most annoying characters in modern TV history: Sookie from Gilmore Girls... Well, actually, it's just actress Melissa McCarthy, but she'll always be you-know-who to me. She and Billy Gardell (picture a live-action Peter Griffin) star as a couple who meet cute at Overeaters Anonymous and then eventually start dating, all the while dealing with weight issues and an assortment of thin friends and relatives, including Swoosie Kurtz as Molly's mom. The quality of the humor is on the low end of the Lorre scale (sample one-liner: "stationary bikes wreck havoc on testicles"), but CBS gave the show Big Bang's plum timeslot, so it'll probably be huge, though we'd be happy to have to eat our words.
$#*! My Dad Says
Yes, that's really how they're spelling the first word in the title of this new sitcom based on the apparently popular Twitter ShitMyDadSays. The network is officially pronouncing it as "Bleep," but we think we'll stick with the original phrasing now that we've seen a preview of the show. In his ongoing (and, so far, sadly effective) campaign to erase all vestiges of his super-cool-starship-captain image, William Shatner (in watered-down Denny Crane mode) stars as the dad, who - wait for it - can't help spewing politically incorrect rants and observations to his family, particularly a son who has recently moved in with him. With insanely tame material like "A bike? Take a look out there... does that look like Bangkok?" and "Why do you keep giving me gifts? If I wanted piles of crap around the house, I'd buy a bird," you better believe the laugh track will be cranked to 11.
Billed as a "comedic drama," this show stars Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell as lawyers in Las Vegas for whom no case is too small or too big. It's hard to do much with the courtroom genre at this point in TV history, but the sinful setting is at least fairly unique and the cut-down footage was pretty watchable, mainly thanks to Jim Belushi stealing every scene from his bland co-star. The last time we gave a CBS legal drama a chance, it was called The Good Wife and turned out to be one of the best shows of the past season, so we'll definitely check this one out to see if the network's lucky streak can continue.
This police drama's about an entire family of New York cops, starring three actors we're happy to welcome back to series television: Tom Selleck plays the reigning chief of police. The great and underrated Donnie Wahlberg is his oldest son, a detective who doesn't mind getting all Jack Bauer on a suspect when necessary. And American Dreams' Will "J.J." Estes, MIA since Reunion (perhaps hiding in shame), is the youngest son, a Harvard Law graduate who recently joined the force. Bridget Moynahan (Six Degrees; Tom Brady) plays the sister, an assistant district attorney. The preview was nowhere near as gritty as we like our NYC cop stories, but the cast might make it work. Definitely worth a first look.
It feels like this reboot (not remake) of the '70s police drama that most people only remember for its theme song and "Book 'em, Danno!" catchphrase has been talked about forever. The much-maligned (at least by us) Alex O'Loughlin gets his chance to find out if CBS has a three-strikes policy as he takes over Jack Lord's lead role of Detective Steve McGarrett, while James Caan's kid (also known as Scott Caan) plays his new partner, Danno. But the casting that interests us the most is Lost's Daniel Dae Kim as an ex-detective falsely accused of corruption and BSG's Grace Park as his rookie cousin -- if only the entire show was built around them. Based on the cut-down we saw, the show has superior directing and production values but a too-serious tone, while O'Moonlight appears to be utterly devoid of charisma in this role (it's now an old joke, but he really does have zero appeal when he's not playing a vampire) and has little chemistry with Caan. However, the series is produced by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, who were responsible for Fringe and the stellar Star Trek reboot, so we may give it a few episodes before we say aloha.
Check out our initial reviews of ABC'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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