Saturday, October 12, 2013

First Comedy Cancelled No Surprise

We are menIt’s We Are Men.

And I’m not kidding that it wasn’t a surprise. There are so many reasons why this show was going to fail that would be apparent to anyone who isn’t a network TV executive that it really is a shock to me that any network would pick it up. Let’s go through them shall we.

1. The central plot device – guys coming together and bonding.
Without resorting to notes I can tell you of two previous series where this central plot device: CBS’s Welcome To The Commodore and ABC’s Carpoolers. The former featured a young man moving into a historic hotel and being taken under the collective wings of the people living there, including the supposedly wiser older man (played in that case by Jeffrey Tambor; in this show it was Tony Shaloub). For the latter I’m going to have to hit IMDb and Wikipedia because memories for failed TV shows isn’t encyclopaedic and this one was gone and forgotten so fast that it would make your head spin. Oh wait, it wasn’t; it lasted 13 episodes. It was just forgotten so fast that it would make your head spin. It was about four guys who carpool together, each with different problems at home. Even reading the descriptions in the Wikipedia article makes me want to turn off my monitor. Suffice it to say that this sort of group of men getting together comedy doesn’t fly very well in the ratings.

2. The other part of the central plot device – Guys trying to regain their masculinity:
If I’m not mistaken we went through a recent spate of comedies that looked at how men were trying to regain their lost masculinity. It was back in the 2011-2012 season, and only one of those shows is still in the line-up. That was the season of such gems as How To Be A Gentleman (the first comedy cancelled that season), Man Up! (which, from looking at the description, is also one of the shows with the first problem – I forgot that this one even existed, lucky me), and the too horrible for words Work It! The only show to survive that trend was Last Man Standing which is still on and is Tim Allen reviving his old Home Improvement series with daughters instead of sons and apparently a lot other similarities that showed up after I gave up on watching this show…about three weeks after it debuted.

3. Show killer Jerry O’Connell: That’s right, I’m labelling Jerry O’Connell a show killer. Take a look at the record. Since Sliders, O’Connell has been a regular on Crossing Jordan, Carpoolers, Do Not Disturb, and The Defenders. Of those series, only Crossing Jordan lasted more than 18 episodes, and that is largely due to the fact that O’Connell’s part wasn’t the lead or even the co-lead. Crossing Jordan was very much Jill Hennessy’s show while O’Connell was the detective who usually worked with her and occasionally expressed romantic feelings towards her. Of the other three series, Carpoolers lasted 13 episodes with O’Connell as one of the four title characters, Do Not Disturb aired 3 episodes (two or three others were made but mercifully never aired), and The Defenders (where he was equally billed with Jim Belushi and was in a semi-dramatic role for the first time since Crossing Jordan), last 18 episodes.

4. A guy in a Speedo: In this case it was Jerry O’Connell, which makes it worse, but really pretty much any guy who isn’t an Olympic swimmer wearing a Speedo is going to make a show a failure. I’m fine with nudity and near nudity on TV – I actually applauded the producers of NYPD Blue for having Dennis Franz bare his butt – but there are some boundaries that just shouldn’t be crossed and a guy in a Speedo - aka a Banana Hammock – is one of them.

We Are Men will be replaced at 8:30 p.m. (Eastern) by 2 Broke Girls which had been at 9 p.m. Reruns of The Big Bang Theory will air in the 9 p.m. time slot for the next three weeks. Mike and Molly will return to that time slot on November 4.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The First Series Cancelled Is…

Lucky_7_logoThe ironically named Lucky 7 after two episodes. The second episode of the ABC Tuesday night drama had a 0.7 rating in the 18-49 demographic (which we know are the only people whose buying habits count).

The show had ton of problems. It was part of an all-new Tuesday line-up and aired an hour after the heavily touted blockbuster Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The lead-in for Lucky 7 was the new comedy Trophy Wife. Neither Trophy Wife nor Lucky 7 were given a heavy promotional push by the network before the start of the season. It had a cast of unknows.

There’s one other thing, and I’m not sure it’s accurate but I think it leads into something that is accurate. More than one writer has claimed that people don’t like shows about lottery winners. Of course it’s not exactly easy to find shows in the past about lottery winners, but let’s let that slide.A bigger problem for the show as far as I can see is that it’s an ensemble drama where we have very little investment in what the characters are doing. There is a very long history of shows with that sort of premise dying quickly on the vine. Successful ensemble dramas – shows like Lost or The West Wing grab you with dramatic stories and make you want to be involved with the characters. It isn’t easy to do; for all the Losts and West Wings there are shows like Reunion, Six Degrees Of Separation, and The Nine that are dismal failures. An ensemble drama can work if it delivers a cohesive group dynamic with people we like and can identify with quickly, and dramatic situations that people can relate to. Lucky 7 clearly didn’t do this.

ABC’s immediate plan for the time slot is to have reruns of their hit Thursday night series Scandal fill the slot, opposite new episodes of Person of Interest on CBS and Chicago Fire on NBC.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I’m Ba-ack

Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be back reviewing this season’s new shows in the next day or two.

Who am, you ask? I’m Brent McKee the proprietor of this little corner of the Internet that is forever England. No, wait, that’s something else. Oh right; that is forever maintained for the ramblings of a Canadian who is outside the preferred demographic for the TV audience about American TV. That’s a triple irrelevant score. First, because I’m Canadian my opinions or viewership of TV shows doesn’t matter to US network executives. Secondly, because I’m outside the 18-49 demographic I might as well dry up and go away since the networks are convinced that people such as me aren’t effected by advertising and they make their money on advertising. Finally, writing criticism about TV shows might be the most irrelevant thing ever. People may make their choices of the movies they watch based on what a movie critic says (although this certainly doesn’t explain the success of things like the Transformers movies) but when it comes to TV they watch what they watch and don’t give a damn what professional TV watchers say. Want proof?
  • Exhibit A: Two And A Half Men is starting its 10th season and has won two Emmys for acting, while Firefly only had 14 episodes shot, and John Noble was never nominated for an Emmy for playing Walter Bishop on Fringe.
  • Exhibit B: The fact that the ratings for the series finale of Battlestar Galactica were less than a quarter of the ratings for most episodes of the current season of Duck Dynasty (and I like Duck Dynasty, but still…).
  • Exhibit C: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. ‘Nuff said.

Despite the irrelevance of what I’m doing, and despite the fact that I don’t have the various premium services that will deliver unto me what is supposed to be the “new Golden Age” of Television, I am back to tilt at critical windmills again. I think that over the past couple of years I’ve become increasingly burned out by the process, and maybe by some of the frustrations that I just vented about. In the past I’ve tried to write through the sense of being burned out, but this summer I took the opposite approach. Except for some forum comments (mostly at the soccer management game site Hattrick.org, I haven’t written a damned thing since May. We’ll see how that works won’t we.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The CW’s 2013-14 Schedule

the_cwThe CW has its own standards of success that aren’t necessarily the standards of other networks. It explains why shows like Gossip Girl and 90210 lasted as long as they did. What is of interest is that the legitimate successes that The CW has had – shows like Supernatural and Smallville – have had a broader base that transcended the 15-34 female demographic that the network has traditionally aimed for. The network’s most recent success, Arrow (which even Marc Berman has described as a “winner”) has a significant appeal to people who pee standing up. This season’s line-up from The CW looks to continue this trend with it’s new line-up.

Cancelled
90210, Emily Owens M.D., Gossip Girl, Cult

Renewed
Arrow, The Vampire Diaries, America’s Next Top Model

Moved
Hart of Dixie, Beauty And The Beast, Supernatural, The Carrie Diaries 

New Shows
The Originals, The Tomorrow People, Reign

Held Until Mid-Season
Nikita, Star Crossed, The 100, Famous In 12


Complete Schedule (All times Eastern, New Shows in Capitals)


Monday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Hart of Dixie (New Day)
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Beauty And The Beast (New Day) 

Tuesday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: THE ORIGINALS
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Supernatural (New Day)  

Wednesday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Arrow
9:00-10:00 p.m.: THE TOMORROW PEOPLE 

Thursday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: The Vampire Diaries
9:00-10:00 p.m.: REIGN
 
Friday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: The Carrie Diaries (New Day)
9:00-10:00 p.m.: America’s Next Top Model

The Originals is a spin-off of The Vampire Diaries. Klaus (Joseph Morgan) is a member of the Original Family of vampires and is the original vampire-werewolf hybrid. He returns to the supernatural melting pot of New Orleans when he hears rumours of a plot against him. In the city he encounters his former protégé Marcel (Charles Michael Davis) who wields control over human and supernatural inhabitants of the city. Determined not to answer to Marcel, Klaus together with his brother Elijah (Daniel Gillies) are determined to reclaim power in the city that their family helped create. Tensions within the supernatural factions of the city are nearing a breaking point, and Klaus and Elijah make an uneasy alliance with witches lead by the powerful Sophie (Daniella Pineda).

According to some The Tomorrow People are mankind’s next evolutionary step: people with paranormal powers. Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) was an ordinary teen until a year ago. Then he started developing strange abilities like hearing voices and teleporting in his sleep. Listening to one of the voices, he encounters John (Luke Mitchell), Cara (Peyton List) and Russell (Aaron Yoo), the Tomorrow People. Opposing them is Ultra, a paramilitary group of scientists led by Dt. Jedikah Price (Mark Pellegrino) who see the Tomorrow People as a threat to humanity. Determined not to turn his back on humanity or abandon the world of the Tomorrow People, Stephen is determined to find his own way.

Reign is the (very) fictionalized tale of the teenaged Mary Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) and her engagement to Prince Francis of France (Toby Regbo). Arriving in France with four ladies-in-waiting Mary (who had been Queen of Scotland since she was six days old) Mary wants to finalize the strategic alliance between France and Scotland with the arranged marriage between her and Francis (which had been arranged when she was five and he was four). Religion, court intrigue and secret agendas threaten the agreements. Francis is unsure about the Scottish Alliance and has a history with a lady in the French court, and there is Francis’s illegitimate half-brother Bash (Torrance Coombs) who has caught Mary’s eye. And of course there’s Francis’s mother Catherine de Medici (Megan Follows) who has her own agenda.

When an alien spaceship crash landed a fierce battle erupted. In the course of the fighting a six year old Atrian child named Roman hid in a shed where a six year old human girl named Emery protected him and became his friend. That’s the beginning of Star-Crossed. Despite Emery’s efforts Roman is captured and sent to a heavily guarded camp known as The Sector where the Atrians are imprisoned. Now, ten years after the Atrians arrived on Earth a group of Atrian teenagers will be attending a suburban high school, including the now grown Roman (Matt Lanter). One of the human students at the school is a teenaged Emery (Aimee Teegarden) who thought Roman had been killed by the authorities. Their relationship quickly restarts but can it work in a world where both sides have small minded attitudes?

The 100 is a science fiction series with a youth twist. Following nuclear Armageddon on earth the only survivors of humanity are the 400 people on twelve international space stations in orbit at the time. Bringing the stations together they form The Ark. Now 97 years after the original disaster The Ark is ruled with draconian methods including capital punishment and strict population control. One hundred juvenile prisoners are ordered exiled to Earth’s surface to determine whether or not the planet is now habitable. The exiles include Clarke (Eliza Taylor) the daughter of Abby (Paige Turco), The Ark’s Chief Medical Officer, Wells (Eli Goree) who is the son of The Ark’s Chancellor Jaha (Isaiah Washington), daredevil Finn (Thomas McDonnell), and the illegal siblings Bellamy (Bob Morley) and Octavia (Marie Avgeropoulos). The Earth they find is at once magical and deadly, and they must overcome their differences to forge a new path; the fate of the human race depends on them succeeding.

The only real way for me to describe Famous In 12 is to quote from the CW’s press release. “There is a family in the U.S. that has what it takes to become famous - the question is: Can they pull it off in 12 weeks? That's the challenge in the new unscripted series Famous In 12 , a unique social experiment that tracks the lives of one determined family as they move to the entertainment capital of the world - Los Angeles - and seek fame in a 12-week time frame. Members of the family will all have unique and varied talents, and they will each get a series of challenges to create a public profile fit for a Kardashian. The family will be guided by the TMZ machine, which will create a series of opportunities for them. TMZ and Harvey Levin will help, but it is up to the family to pull it off. When they succeed at their challenges, they will appear on the TMZ TV show and TMZ.com, which will raise their profile. Family members will exploit all forms of social media to wage a campaign of fame. In addition to the challenges, the family will circulate day to day... at the gym, restaurants, bars, parties and other places where celebs hang and opportunities call.”

Comments
Say what you want about The CW, they are going outside of what had been their comfort zone. The network was famous for catering to the young female market is making a sharpish turn towards Genre Programming, albeit with a youthful orientation. The Originals is an extension of a successful brand for The CW, being a spin-off of the popular Vampire Diaries series. This would seem to be a natural success for the network…at least by CW standards. Then again Secret Circle had at least tenuous ties to Vampire Diaries and it was cancelled after one season.

The Tomorrow People is an attempt at a second “comic book” show alongside Arrow, although it is vaguely closer to Smallville in that it deals with people with super powers. Actually the closest comparison – and this has the potential to cause some troubles for the producers and the network – is with The X-Men in which you had a group of teens with mutant abilities called by some “homo superior.” Beware if a leader in a wheelchair comes to the fore. Star-Crossed on the other hand has a very obvious progenitor in the works of a writer whose work is long ago in public domain. The show is so obviously using Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a starting point that even The CW’s own press release is mentioning it. Then too it uses motifs reminiscent of the the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and the Little Rock school integration crisis.

The two shows that interest me the most are The 100 and Reign for entirely different reasons. The 100 is an interesting take on a post-apocalyptic society and the reclaiming of a depopulated Earth. Something similar is being done with the new Will and Jaden Smith movie After Earth. This might have potential or it might sink to the depths of a Terra Nova. Much depends on the approach that is taken by the writers and producers. As for Reign, I have to ask why anyone thought that this was a good idea? I mean admittedly it has the elements of a teen romance novel, but I’m betting that the producers are going to gloss over the facts, namely that Mary was married at 16 and widowed at 18, and that Francis was 14 when they married and was sickly, abnormally short, and stuttered (and was probably incapable of fathering children). One needs dashing figures for this sort of historical romance, while the censors would probably turn a dim eye to a story about a 16 year-old girl bedding a 14 year-old boy. By all rights, I think that The 100 should work (at least by CW standards), and Reign should be an abject failure by anybody’s standards.

Friday, May 17, 2013

CBS’s 2013-14 Schedule

cbslogo200CBS is a network that has the luxury of doing things that other networks wouldn’t do, like cancelling shows that win their time periods because they didn’t win in the “right” way. Which is to say that shows didn’t retain a high enough percentage of the previous show’s audience. Or that the show didn’t draw as big an audience this year as the show in the same time slot did last year…and oh yes CBS cancelled that show last year (in that example I am thinking about the third hour of Tuesday where CBS cancelled Unforgettable last year and then cancelled Golden Boy this year because it didn’t draw as big an audience as Unforgettable did a year ago). As is the case most years, CBS is programming the lowest number of new shows and apparently think that they’re programming the best new shows.

Cancelled
CSI: New York, Golden Boy, Made In Jersey, Jobs, Partners, Rules of Engagement, Vegas

Renewed
How I Met Your Mother, 2 Broke Girls, NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles, Survivor, Criminal Minds, CSI, The Big Bang Theory, Two And A Half Men, Elementary, Undercover Boss, Blue Bloods, 60 Minutes, The Amazing Race, The Good Wife, The Mentalist

Moved
Person Of Interest, Hawaii Five-0

New Shows
We Are Men, Mom, Hostages, The Millers, The Crazy Ones,

Held Until Mid-Season
Mike & Molly, Reckless, Friends With Better Lives, Intelligence

Complete Schedule (All times Eastern, New Shows in Capitals, except the CSI and NCIS shows)

Monday
8:00-8:30 p.m.: How I Met Your Mother
8:30-9:00 p.m.: WE ARE MEN
9:00-9:30 p.m.: 2 Broke Girls
9:30-10:00 p.m.:  MOM
10:00-11:00 p.m.:  HOSTAGES/ INTELLIGENCE

Tuesday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: NCIS
9:00-10:00 p.m.: NCIS: Los Angeles
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Person Of Interest (New Day and Time)

Wednesday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Survivor
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Criminal Minds
10:00-11:00 p.m.: CSI

Thursday
8:00-8:30 p.m.: The Big Bang Theory
8:30-9:00 p.m.: THE MILLERS
9:00-9:30 p.m. THE CRAZY ONES
9:30-10:00 p.m.: Two And A Half Men (New Time)
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Elementary

Friday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Undercover Boss
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Hawaii Five-0 (New Daw and Time)
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Blue Bloods 

Sunday
7:00-8:00 p.m.: 60 Minutes
8:00-9:00 p.m.: The Amazing Race
9:00-10:00 p.m.: The Good Wife
10:00-11:00 p.m.: The Mentalist

We Are Men is about four guys living in a short term apartment complex. Carter (Chris Smith) is the youngest of the group. He was left at the altar in the middle of the ceremony and is eager to re-enter the dating game. He finds “advice” from the other three men in the group. Frank Russo (Tony Shaloub) is a successful clothing manufacturer…and a four-time divorcee who still considers himself a lady’s man. Gil Bartis (Kal Pen) is a small business owner who was caught having the world’s worst affair. Stuart Strickland (Jerry O’Connell) is an OB/GYN who is hiding assets while waiting for his second divorce to be completed. Jill (Rebecca Breeds) is Frank’s daughter, and the only good thing from his failed relationships.

Mom is the latest series from Chuck Lorre. Anna Faris plays Christy, a newly sober single mom with two kids who works as a waitress at a posh Napa Valley restaurant. She’s four months sober but her efforts to overcome her history of bad choices and be a good mother to her kids is complicated when her mom Bonnie (Allison Janney), herself a recovering alcoholic re-enters her life, full of passive-aggressive insights into all of Christy’s mistakes. She’s just another member of Christy’s dubious support circle, which includes her “16 going on 25 year-old” daughter Violet (Sadie Calvano), her overly honest son Roscoe (Blake Garrett Rosenthal), Christy’s irresponsible ex-husband (and Roscoe’s father) Baxter (Matt Jones), her married boss – and lover – Gabriel (Nate Cordry) and the restaurant’s hot-tempered chef Rudy (French Stewart).

In The Millers Will Arnett is roving news reporter Nathan Miller. Newly divorced he’s looking forward to living the single life, but fate intervenes. After he finally tells his parents about the divorce his father Tom (Beau Bridges) is inspired to leave his wife of 43 years. Nathan’s life is turned upside down when his mother Carol (Margo Martindale) decides to move in with him. Meanwhile absent-minded Tom imposes on Nathan’s sister Debbie, her husband Adam and their daughter Mykayla (Eve Moon). Even Nathan’s cameraman Ray (JB Smoove), who was looking forward to being Nathan’s wingman finds his style cramped by Carol. Nathan and Debbie are left to wonder how long the awkward adjustment phase is going to last, and how to deal with their impossible parents in the meantime.

The Crazy Ones marks Robin Williams’s return to series TV, in a show produced by David E. Kelly. Williams plays Simon Roberts, the head of a powerful ad agency that woks with some of the biggest brands in the world. His biggest thing for him though is that his partner is his daughter Sydney (Sarah Michelle Gellar). The two are polar opposites; while Simon is unpredictable and given to unorthodox methods, Sydney is focused, organized and eager to make a name for herself. All while parenting her father.

The latest Jerry Bruckheimer series to come to CBS is Hostages. Rogue FBI Agent Duncan Carlisle (Dylan McDermott) takes surgeon Ellen Sanders (Toni Collete) and her family captive in their home. Carlisle orders Ellen to kill the President of the United States (James Naughton) when she operates on him in order to save her overbearing husband Brian (Tate Donavon), secretive daughter Morgan (Quinn Shepherd) and not so innocent son Jake (Mateus Ward). Working with Duncan are his brother-in-law Kramer (Rhys Coiro) whose loyalties will be tested, intimidating ex-military man Archer (Billy Brown) and the mysterious last minute replacement Sandrine (Sandrine Holt).

In Intelligence, Gabriel (Josh Hollaway) is the first human to be directly connected to the electronic grid through a super computer chip implanted in his head. he has access to the Internet, wi-fi, telephone and satellite data. He’s an operative of Cybercom, a government agency headed by Director Lillian Strand (Marg Helgenberger) a straightforward and efficient boss who oversees the unit’s mission. Secret Service agent Riley Neal (Meghan Ory) is assigned to protect Gabriel, not just from foreign threats but from his own appetite for reckless unpredictable behaviour. The designer of the chip is Dr. Shenandoah Cassidy (John Billingsley) whose son Nelson (PJ Byrne) is jealous of the prominent place Gabriel has in his father’s life.

A Southern lawyer from Charleston and a litigator from Chicago must hide their simmering attraction when a police sex scandal threatens to overtake the city in Reckless. Jamie Sawyer (Anna Wood) is the cool confident and street-smart Chicago  defense attorney while Roy Rader (Cam Gigandet) is the Charleston-born City Attorney who owes his position to his influential former father-in-law Dec Fortnum (Gregory Harrison). When disgraced former cop Lee Ann Marcus (Georgina Haig) comes to Jamie to ask her to represent her in a lawsuit against the police department, Jamie and Roy soon discover that the case will uncover a sinister case within the police department. The department is headed by Deputy Chief Holland Knox (Michael Gladis) a family man who exudes integrity. But is he what he seems, and are the people around him, including Jamie’s boyfriend Preston Cruz (Adam Rodriguez) implicated in the corruption that is about to come out?

Friends With Better Lives is a new comedy about a group of six friends at various stages of their lives who, while outwardly happy, can’t help but wonder if maybe their friends have it better than they do. Andi (Majandra Delfino) and Bobby (Kevin Conolly) are happily married with two kids…but at time long for the days when they had more fun and less responsibility. Will (James Van Der Beek) is recently divorced and preaching the bachelor lifestyle…but still yearns for his ex-wife. Jules (Brooklyn Decker) and Lowell (Rick Donald) are high on their newly engaged status. Kate (Zoe Lister Jones) is single and has a successful career, but is not going to react well when she discovers that her one remaining single friend, Jules, is engaged.

Comments
The schedule that CBS announced is quite a departure for the network which has generally ignored the ongoing story type series for shows with self-contained episodes. And I think it can be argued that part of the reason for the network’s success in recent years is that model, which allows shows to be repeated, often out of sequence, which has allowed those shows to build audience where shows that have a tight sequential storyline can be repeated as readily. Two of the three dramas that CBS will be debuting this year have that sequential storyline as a key aspect. Admittedly Hostages appears to have been set up as a limited run series – I’m not sure what they can do for an encore after the series completes its run in January or February – but it seems to be a poor way to program a network if one of your big series can’t build on any success it might have. The description of Reckless at least holds a bit of promise beyond the initial storyline of the series. As for Intelligence, it is probably the most self-contained and therefore repeatable of the three dramas, but because of the subject matter it might be difficult to sell to the public who already isn’t in love with midseason series.

The comedies seem to be a mixed bag, which is a bit of a problem since CBS is making a big comedy push this season. The plot summary of We Are Men reminds me of a number of shows including Carpoolers, Welcome To The Captain, and Happy Hour. The common thread is that they were all dreary and they all died quickly. The Millers boasts an incredible cast, in Beau Bridges, Will Arnett and Margo Martindale and because of that it may have a shot but the premise of divorcing parents making their adult kids’ lives hell isn’t necessarily appealing (but remember I’m a guy who at best is lukewarm about comedies). Similarly Mom from Chuck Lorre goes to a pretty dark place and I’m not convinced that the great cast can do anything to make that more appealing. Friends With Better Lives just sounds like a tired concept that we’ve seen done before with a group of friends who are envious of what the others have. The one comedy that I’m interested in is The Crazy Ones, and that is mainly because I’m interested in seeing how Sarah Michelle Gellar will do playing off of Robin Williams. It could be a train wreck – which is what a lot of people commenting about the preview clip on YouTube seem to expect – or it could be great. I’m hoping for great because I think CBS could use some great with this line-up.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

NBC’s 2013-14 Season

NBC_logoNBC was the first network to announce their new schedule on Sunday, following a precedent that they had set last year (and which I completely forgot about). The network, which was once the premiere broadcast network has had significant troubles this season, and indeed in previous seasons. Based on initial impressions, while there may be some good shows in the mix here, this isn’t a line-up that is going to vault NBC back into first place… or second, or maybe even third.

Cancelled
30 Rock, Animal Practice, Do No Harm, The Office, Deception, Up All Night, 1600 Penn, Guys With Kids, Whitney, Go On, New Normal, Smash, Rock Center

Renewed
Chicago Fire, Grimm, Law & Order: SVU, The Voice, Parks And Recreation, Community,

Moved
Biggest Loser, Revolution, Parenthood 

Fate To Be Determined
Hannibal, Betty White's Off Their Rockers, Fashion Star 

New Shows
The Blacklist, Ironside, Welcome To The Family, Sean Saves The World, The Michael J. Fox Show, Dracula 

Held Until Mid-Season
The Family Guide, About A Boy, Crossbones, American Dream Builders, Believe, Crisis, Celebrity Apprentice, Chicago P.D., The Night Shift, Undateable, Food Fighters, The Million Second Quiz, Sing-Off

Complete Schedule (All times Eastern, New Shows in Capitals)

Monday
8:00-10:00 p.m.: The Voice
10:00-11:00 p.m.: THE BLACKLIST

Tuesday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: The Biggest Loser
9:00-10:00 p.m.: The Voice (results) (New Time)
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Chicago Fire (New Day & Time)

Wednesday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Revolution (New Day & Time)
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Law & Order: SVU
10:00-11:00 p.m.: IRONSIDE

Thursday
8:00-8:30 p.m.: Parks & Recreation (New Time)
8:30-9:00 p.m.: WELCOME TO THE FAMILY
9:00-9:30 p.m.: SEAN SAVES THE WORLD
9:30-10:00 p.m.: MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Parenthood

Friday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Dateline NBC
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Grimm
10:00-11:00 p.m.: DRACULA

Sunday
7:00-8:15 p.m.: Football Night In America
8:15 p.m.-11:00 p.m.: Sunday Night Football 

At Mid-Season 

Tuesday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: The Voice (results) (New Time)
9:00-9:30 p.m.: ABOUT A BOY
9:30-10:00 p.m.: FAMILY GUIDE
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Chicago Fire (New Day & Time) 

Friday
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Dateline NBC
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Grimm
10:00-11:00 p.m.: CROSSBONES 

Sunday
7:00-8:00 p.m.: Dateline NBC
8:00-9:00 p.m.: AMERICAN DREAM BUILDERS
9:00-10:00 p.m.: BELIEVE
10:00-11:00 p.m.: CRISIS

The Blacklist doesn’t look back at the McCarthy era blacklisting in the entertainment industry. Instead it is about former Government agent Raymond “Red” Reddington (James Spader). For years Red has been on the FBI’s most wanted list for his shadowy dealings with criminals that has led him to be called “The Concierge of Crime.” Suddenly he surrenders to the FBI with an explosive offer: he will help the Government to capture an infamous terrorist. His only condition is that he’ll only speak to Liz Keene (Megan Boone), a profiler who has just graduated from Quantico. He has a complete blacklist of people he’s willing to help bring down, but only if he continues to work with Liz. Why is this woman, with whom he apparently has no connection, so important for Red?

NYPD detective Robert Ironside (Blair Underwood) is a fearless cop who is determined to bring the guilty to justice and isn’t going to let the fact that a bullet shattered his spine two years ago and put him in a wheelchair slow him down. Supported by his team of specialists – Virgil (Pablo Schreiber), Holly (Spencer Grammer), and Teddy (Neal Bledsoe) – as well as his former partner Gary (Brent Sexton) and boss Detective Ed Rollins (Kenneth Choi), Iroonside is determined not to let being in a wheelchair slow him down. 

Welcome To The Family explores what happens when two very different families become in-laws. Dan (Mike O’Malley) and Karina (Mary McCormack) Yoder discover that their college-bound daughter Molly (Ella Rae Peck) is pregnant, and that she plans to marry the baby’s father. He’s Junior Hernandez (Joseph Haro) from East LA, and his parents Miguel (Ricardo Chavira) and Lisette (Justina Machado) are upset by (according to the show’s press release) the prospect of having “Caucasians in the family.” Once they realise that their kids are serious about marrying the two families start to come to terms with their new circumstances. 

Sean Saves The World stars Sean Hayes as a divorced gay dad who has a lot to juggle including work, the employees who are under him, his pushy mother (Linda Lavin) and weekends with his teenaged daughter Ellie (Sami Isler). When Ellie moves in permanently with him, he is determined to be the best father ever. Unfortunately the new owners of the company where he works want Sean and his team to work longer hours destroying his carefully planned efforts with Ellie. which is actually fine with her, since he’s obviously going overboard. 

The Michael J. Fox Show stars Fox in a story that parallels his own life to a degree. Five years ago New York’s most beloved TV news anchors, Mike Henry (Fox) put his career on hold to focus on his health and spending time with his family after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Now, with the kids growing up and Mike feeling restless it might be time to get him back to work. His old boss Harris Green (Wendell Pierce) never wanted to let him go in the first place so he’ll jump to get him back. The trick is – as it always was with Mike – to make him think it was his own idea.

Set in the late 19th century Dracula features Jonathon Rhys Myers as the mysterious Dracula. Posing as an American entrepreneur who wants to bring modern science to Victorian London, Dracula is particularly interested in electricity and the promise of the electric light as a way to lighten the darkness. He has a deeper mission however; to take revenge on those who cursed him with immortality centuries before. All seems to be going according to plan, right up until he meets a woman who appears to be the reincarnation of his long dead wife. 

About A Boy is an adaptation of the movie that starred Hugh Grant. Will Freeman (David Walton) wrote a hit song which allows him to enjoy a life of “free time, free love and freedom from financial woes.” When needy single mom Fiona (Minnie Driver) and her 11 year-old son Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) move in next door it is disruptive to his lifestyle, particularly when Marcus starts dropping in unannounced. Will isn’t sure he’s too keen on being the kid’s new best friend…until he discovers that women find single fathers irresistible. The strike an arrangement where Marcus gets to chill at Will’s place in return for pretending to be his son. In time Will finds himself looking forward to those visits and looking out for the kid. 

Family Guide is a comedy about how a divorce can draw a family together. Mel Fisher (J.K. Simmons) has never let his blindness slow him down, be it chopping down trees, teaching his daughter Katie (Ava Deluca-Verley) how to drive or tossing the football around with his son Henry (Eli Baker). When Mel shows up with Elvis, his new guide dog, Henry feels displaced; he’s always been his dad’s eyes ears and wingman. That’s how he finds out that Mel and his pip-smoking wife Joyce (Parker Posey) are getting a divorce. The adult Henry (voice-over provided by series Executive Producer Jason Bateman) tells us that the split would “allow all of us to finally discover who we needed to be.”

The year is 1715 and the Bahamian island of New Providence is the location for Crossbones. New Providence is “the first functioning democracy in the New World,” The island is part shantytown, part marauders’ paradise ruled over by Edward Teach aka the pirate Blackbeard (John Malkovich).  Undercover assassin Tom Lowe is sent to take the brilliant and charismatic Blackbeard down, but the more he’s exposed to the man and the place the more he comes to admire Blackbeard’s political idealism. But Lowe is not the only threat; Blackbeard has many villainous enemies and a weakness for a passionately driven woman.

American Dream Builders is a reality competition in which America’s leading designers, builders, architects, and landscapers will be challenged to complete extreme home renovations. Each week host Nate Berkus and a panel of experts will determine which team achieved the best results. The losing team will send one member home until the final two compete. The will each design and renovate a home after which the viewing audience will vote for the winner. Two viewers will win the houses that were renovated in the final challenge.

In Believe 10 year-old orphan Bo (Johnny Sequoyah) has amazing gifts that she doesn’t understand or fully no how to control; gifts like levitation, telekinesis, the ability to control nature and the ability to predict the future. She has been protected by a group called the True Believers against those who would use her for their own gain, but as she’s aged her powers and the threat have grown stronger. The group decide that Bo needs a permanent protector and break wrongly convicted death row inmate Tate (Jake McLaughlin) out of prison to fill that role. Together Tate and Bo travel from city to city changing both the places they visit and the people they meet. Kyle MacLachlan and Delroy Lindo also star.

Crisis is sparked when a school field trip from the elite Ballard School in Washington D.C. is ambushed and the students and teachers are taken hostage by a vengeful mastermind. The teens are the children of industry CEOs, political movers and shakers, international diplomats and even the son of the President of the United States. The question arises of what you would be willing to do or to become in order to save your child’s life. The very power of the people involved results in the unthinkable scenario grows to become a national crisis. Stars include Gillian Anderson, Dermot Mulroney, Lance Gross and Rachel Taylor.


Chicago PD is a spin-off from the popular Chicago Fire and looks at the two two distinct groups within Chicago’s Police District 21; the uniformed cops who deal with day to day crimes, and the Intelligence Unit which deals with major offences including organized crime, drug dealing and high-profile murders. The Intelligence Unit is commanded by Sgt. Hank Voight, a man who is not above skirt the law in pursuit of justice. Detective Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) has a troubled history with his demanding boss, but he harbours ambitions of commanding the unit someday so he’s prepared to persevere.

The Night Shift is a medical drama that pits the need to save lives against the economic realities of running a hospital. T.C. Callahan (Eoin Mackin) is a former military doctor who has returned from a deployment in the Middle East and is about to find that the toughest battles are the ones at home. He works the late shift at San Antonio Memorial Hospital along with his military colleagues Topher (Ken Leung) and Drew (Brendan Fehr). They are confronted with the new night shift boss Michael Ragosa (Freddy Rodriguez), a bureaucrat who is more interested in cutting costs than saving lives, and his second in command Jordan Santos, who just happens to be T.C.’s former fiancee, who has to try to keep him in line, not the easiest task around.

Undateable is the name that slacker Danny Beeman (Chris D’Elia) gives to his new roommate Justin (Brent Morin) and his romantically challenged friends. Seeing himself as “the ultimate player,” Danny decides to teach them everything he knows about “the game of love.” According to the press release for the show this is, “a refreshing comedy about the ‘dos’ ‘don’ts’ and ‘duhs’ of dating.”

The best way for me to explain The Million Second Quiz is to pull straight from the network press release: “’The Million Second Quiz’ is a state-of-the-art, electrifying new live competition where contestants test the limits of their knowledge, endurance and will to win as they battle each other in intense bouts of trivia for 12 consecutive days and nights. Live from a gigantic hourglass shaped structure in the heart of Manhattan, this setting will also serve as the living quarters of the reigning champions - the four players who have remained in the game the longest. The show will be the first fully convergent television experience, where viewers will be able to play along at home in real time and sync to the live primetime broadcast. When the million seconds draw to a close, the champions will battle it out and the ultimate winner could claim an unprecedented cash prize of up to $10 million.”

Food Fighters pits home cooks against five professional chefs. The amateur cooks will produce their signature dishes which the professionals will not only try to make but will try to improve them as judged by a dinner party made up of the American public. Each victory by the amateurs will increase the amount of the prize money.

Comments: If you were keeping track you would notice that NBC cancelled all but two of the series that they announced last year at this time. Some lingered long enough to build a bit of an audience, others died so quick that you might not have noticed, and I think at least one might never have seen the light of day. All of the comedies that the network thought would take over from low rated but critically successful shows like The Office, Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, and Community have fallen by the wayside. Of the two shows that survived I think it can be argued that NBC squandered the success of Revolution by interrupting the series for a substantial period in the winter when Deception ran and failed to win an audience. I have to wonder if Revolution might be the next Heroes; a show that started hot but quickly fell apart.

There is nothing in the new comedy line-up that is as egregiously and obviously bad as last year’s first cancellation, Animal Practice although my enthusiasm for both Welcome To The Family and Sean Saves The World are limited. In the case of the latter it may be just because my tolerance for Sean Hayes as he was in Will & Grace is very low. Welcome to the Family reminds me of a Canadian show from the ‘70s that  I’ve mentioned here in the past Pardon My French, but that show set up the premise without going with the teen pregnancy route. And I didn’t like the line in the press release about “Caucasians in the family.” Perhaps the gem of the Fall comedies is the Michael J. Fox Show (because who doesn’t like Michael J. Fox) but much depends on what they give him to work with.Turning to the mid-season comedies, About A Boy takes the premise from a good movie so we’re going to want to see how NBC manages to screw it up (which I fully expect them to do, sadly). And I don’t know what to think about Family Guide. There are a few elements that remind me of the premise of The Wonder Years but in all honesty I just don’t have much of a feel for it.

The dramas are a really mixed bag. The two shows slated for Friday night – Dracula and Crossbones – have me shaking my head in amazement. They remind me of Pan Am and The Playboy Club (or maybe even Kings) in how far away from what American network television does they are. Shows like these might work on cable – indeed the History Channel has had some success with Vikings – but I don’t see it working here. Then again the shows are following Grimm on Friday night so they might develop a following. I think you could include Believe in that list as well except that there’s something about it that that could resonate with the public in the same way that Highway to Heaven or Touched By An Angel did years ago.

NBC has a number of procedurals on tap which might help to improve their lot over the season. The one that holds a lot of interest for me is The Blacklist. The first meeting of Reddington with Liz Keene has a strong resemblance to the first time that Clarice Starling encounters Hannibal Lecter in Silence Of The Lambs. Reviving Ironside is an interesting idea, but I don’t really know that we need a new version of the classic, particularly when they strip away one of the show’s best elements: San Francisco.Certainly Blair Underwood is no Raymond Burr. As for Chicago PD, the cynical side of me sees the show as Dick Wolf getting back to what he`s most comfortable with after briefly going off in another direction with Chicago Fire. I’ll hazard a guess and suggest that the Chicago PD cops will have no more of a life outside their precinct than the cops on Law & Order did.

I want to tackle Crisis on it’s own. The obvious question to ask about this show is, “what do they do for an encore.” Or is this a big 22 (or however many) episode mini-series masquerading as a regular series with the potential to be renewed if it catches the attention of the audience. Oh well, anything to get Gillian Anderson back on TV in North America.

Special note: This should have been out much sooner than it was. My Internet and Cable TV were down for four hours on Monday which means that I wasn’t able to get the information I needed to complete this article. To get back on track I will be holding the FOX upfront material back until after The CW presents on Thursday.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Imitation Cheese

The_TasteThere are some shows where you can just picture the “elevator pitch” made to the network. Take the new ABC reality competition series The Taste for example. I imagine the elevator pitch went something like this:

Producer type: I’ve got a great idea for a new reality-competition series.
Programming Executive type: Give me the elevator pitch and remember my office is on the third floor.
Producer type: It’s exactly like The Voice except – and this is going to blow you away – instead of singers judging and mentoring singers we get chefs to judge and mentor cooks.
Programming Executive type: My God that is BRILLIANT!!!! Come to my office immediately and I will throw huge amounts of money at you to make it and then we’ll work out the details.

I’m pretty sure it went like that because The Taste is exactly that, a blatant rip-off of The Voice where four professionals in the food industry – Chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, Chef Ludo Lefebvre, TV food goddess Nigella Lawson, and Chef and restaurateur Brian Malarkey – do blind tastings of a spoon-sized portion of a cook’s food.

The premiere of the show, which aired Tuesday January 22nd, was one of two audition shows that are being done for the series, but the principle behind it becomes very clear very fast. Each of the four judges will pick four of the cooks who auditioned for the show (and presumably made it past some sort of screening process). They will then mentor and advise their team of four in how to prepare food, probably involving a different ingredient or style each week. Then, after the training sessions the contestants will cook their food which will be presented to the judge/mentors in random order. They’ll then decide which one or ones they like the least and eliminate them. They make a big point of the notion that because this is a blind tasting it is possible that they could vote to eliminate one of their own team members.

So far I’ve only seen the first, two hour, audition episode of this show. It gave us the usual assortment of characters; arrogant professionals, people looking to step up their reputations to a higher level by appearing on TV, home cooks with varying levels of skills, the plucky underdog who cooks like a dream, and of course the idiots who inform us that, “I quit my job to do this…” which in most cases on this show and just about every other show of this type is a kiss of death because you ain’t going to go any further than the audition. Everyone has a story, like the guy who works in a sewage treatment plant (he didn’t get on the show), the self-described tattooed Asian lesbian who is the personal chef to Charlie Sheen and who actually said when she was picked to be one of the final 16, “Winning!” Two of my favourites – for entirely different reasons (and in the case of this show, favourite is a relative term for reasons that will become obvious if they haven’t already) – who went through to the mentoring period are an arrogant and prickly older woman who took offense to one of the other contestants asking her a question about what she was doing (she was picked by Bourdain), and a young home cook from Mississippi who is the very definition of “plucky underdog. She lives in a mobile home with a stove that consistently sets off the smoke detector but somehow managed to produce a flourless chocolate cake and a pistachio brittle that blew all four judges away although only Nigella decided to pick her for her team. I can already picture both of them in the final episode.

The Taste isn’t good TV. It’s a lazy concept model based on the popularity of TV cooking competitions on channels like The Food Network or like Hell’s Kitchen and Masterchef, and of course the blind judging element of The Voice. They seem to be missing the point however. The shows on The Food Network are on a specialty network and the competitions have their own dynamic suited to the channel. Hell’s Kitchen survives not because of the cooking but because of the combative nature of the show’s contestants as well as it’s charismatic host and judge, Gordon Ramsay. Masterchef has some of those qualities – in smaller doses – but also has the personalities of the contestants. So far at least The Taste has none of the qualities that elevates those other shows. Even the raves and the snarky remarks by the judges fail to give this show a zip or a personality.

From my perspective The Taste is both a pale imitation of a fairly original concept and more than a bit cheesy in it’s execution. And I might have described it as the worst reality show to debut in the second half of the 2012-13 TV season except for one thing: the series that will follow The Taste is Celebrity Diving. Shoot me now!