Monday, May 16, 2011

NBC’s 2011-12 Schedule

Although NBC’s official announcement of new shows won’t be official unveiled until Monday morning, the network made an announcement of their new schedule to the press on Sunday, and thanks to the network’s “new media strategies team” this blog was included in this.

The network announced a dozen new series, although not all of these will debut in the Fall season. In addition, several series have been moved, and there are some returning shows that as yet have not had an official release date.

Cancelled: Law & Order: LA, Outsourced, Outlaw, Friday Night Lights, The Event, Friends With Benefits, Love Bites, Perfect Couples, America’s Next Great Restaurant, The Paul Reiser Show, School Pride, The Cape, Chase.

Moved: Chuck, The Sing-Off, Parks & Recreation, Celebrity Apprentice, Harry’s Law.

Retained: Biggest Loser, Community, The Office, Parenthood, Dateline NBC.

New Series: Dramas – The Playboy Club, Prime Suspect, Grimm
Comedies – Up All Night, Free Agents, Whitney

Coming at Mid-Season or Not yet scheduled: Smash (Mondays after the Football Season replacing The Playboy Club), The Firm (Sunday night after the Football season, following Celebrity Apprentice), Awake, Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, Best Friends Forever, Bent. As well, returning series 30 Rock (on hiatus due to Tina Fey’s pregnancy), and Who Do You Think You Are? have been renewed but are not currently on the schedule. As well I have no official information on game show Minute To Win It. Or at least I’ve never seen anything official.

Complete Schedule: (New Shows in CAPITALS; All times are Eastern)

8:00-10:00 p.m.  The Sing-Off
10:00-11:00 p.m.  THE PLAYBOY CLUB/SMASH

8:00-10:00 p.m.  The Biggest Loser
10:00-11:00 p.m.  Parenthood

8:00-8:30 p.m.  UP ALL NIGHT
8:30-9:00 p.m.  FREE AGENTS
9:00-10:00 p.m.  Harry’s Law (New Day and Time)
10:00-11:00 p.m. Law & Order: SVU 

8:00-8:30 p.m.  Community
8:30-9:00 p.m.  Parks & Recreation (New Time)
9:00-9:30 p.m.  The Office
9:30-10:00 p.m.  WHITNEY
10:00-11:00 p.m.  PRIME SUSPECT

8:00-9:00 p.m.  Chuck (New Day and Time)
9:00-10:00 p.m.  GRIMM
10:00-11:00 p.m. Dateline NBC

Sunday (after the NFL season)
7:00-8:00 p.m.  Dateline NBC
8:00-10:00 p.m.  Celebrity Apprentice
10:00-11:00 p.m.  THE FIRM

The Playboy Club, from Oscar winning Executive Producer Brian Grazer and Image Entertainment, is a period piece in the style of Mad Men. The period is the early 1960s, and the place is the legendary Chicago Playboy Club where Chicago’s top movers and shakers – on both sides of the law – mingle for a good time. Eddie Cibrian plays Nick Dalton, one of the city’s top lawyers who has mysterious ties with The Mob. Nick comes to the aid of Maureen (Amber Heard), a stunning, if naive, new Bunny who accidentally kills the head of the Berlanti crime family. Nick is dating Carol-Lynne, “the first Bunny” who realizes that her time at the club is drawing to an end. She is in conflict with club manager Billy (David Krumholtz). Also in the cast are Wes Ramsay, Jenna Dewan Tatum, Naturi Naughton, and Leah Renee.

Up All Night is a new comedy created by Emily Spivey who also serves as Executive Producer along with Lorne Michaels from Saturday Night Live and Jon Pollack. The show stars Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as new parents Reagan and Chris. Chris is a stay at home father while Reagan is a successful PR Executive. The arrival of their baby has set them on a new path towards being responsible adults, although balancing work, marriage and parenthood is not without its share of pressures. Maya Rudolph co-stars as Reagan’s boss whose whirlwind social life is a reminder of how things were for Reagan before the baby. James Pumphrey plays Reagan’s “socially awkward hipster assistant.”

Free Agents is based on a British series of the same name. Hank Azaria plays Alex, a newly divorced advertising executive who can barely keep himself together, while Helen (Katherine Hahn) is his co-worker, a woman who thinks is obsessed with her dead fiancee. She may think that she has it all together but in fact she’s on the edge of falling apart. When, after a drunken night of partying, Alex and Helen wake up in bed together, they decide to reamins “just friends.” However when Alex’s friends (Mo Mandel, Al Madrigal, and Anthony Stewart Head) are able to persuade Alex to re-enter the dating scene, Helen becomes jealous. And when he ultimately gets cold feet about going out on a date, the two end up back where they were – in  a “casual intimate and beautifully awkward relationship.”

Whitney is a new multi-camera comedy starring Whitney Cummins as a woman who is in a happily unmarried relationship with her boyfriend Alex (Chris D’Elia). After attending yet another wedding of their friends Whitney starts to feel that their relationship is on the verge of becoming boring. After a few attempts to spice things up on the advice of a couple of her opinionated friends (Zoe Lister-Jones and Rhea Seehorne) that end up with her and Alex in hospital ER, Whitney realizes that their relationship might not be perfect but it works for them. Also features Maulik Pancholy and Dan O’Brien.

Prime Suspect is a remake of the classic British series of the same name. Maria Bello plays Jane Timoney (the role played by Helen Mirren in the British series with a differnt name) a tough as nails woman detective with her own vices and a questionable past, who has to buck “boy’s club” atmosphere of her new precinct. She’s forceful, rude and reckless but she’s also a brilliant detective. Also stars Aidan Quinn, Brian O’Byrne, Tim Griffin, Kirk Acevedo, Joe Nieves, Damon Gupton, and Peter Gerety.

Grimm is a detective series with a difference. David Guintoli plays Nick Burkhardt, a homicide detective who finds himself seeing things he can’t explain. When his ailing Aunt Marie arrives for a visit she reveals to him that they are descended from a legendary group of hunters known as “Grimms” whose mission is to keep humanity safe from the supernatural creatures of the world. As Nick digs deeper into his heritage he discovers that the mythology of the Brothers Grimm is all too real. Also stars Russell Hornsby, Bitsie Tulloch, Silas Weir Mitchell, Reggie Lee, and Sasha Roiz. Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt are the creators.

Smash is a musical drama centered on the schemers and dreamers who populate the world of the Broadway musical. Tom and Julia (Tony award nominee Christian Borle and Emmy winner Debra Messing) are a successful songwriting team who are given the opportunity to write another hit, based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Vying for the lead role are an inexperienced Midwesterner played by Katherine McPhee trying to find fame against all odds, and a stage veteran determined to leave the chorus line played by Megan Hilty. Anjelica Huston plays Eileen, a determined producer who jumps all over the Marilyn Monroe project and brings along a brilliant but cunning and amoral director played by Jack Dvenport. The series is based on an idea by Steven Spielberg and features songs by Grammy and Tony award winners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

The Firm is based on John Grisham’s novel and the movie of the same name. Young lawyer Mitchell McDeere brought down the Memphis law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke which had operated as a front for the Chicago Mob. Now, after ten years in Witness Protection Mitchell and his family have emerged to reclaim their lives. They soon come to realize that past dangers and new threats are lurking. No casting has been announced.

Awake stars Jason Isaac as a detective living a bizarre double life. After a car accident Michael Britten regains consciousness to discover that his wife has died but his son Rex (Dylan Minnette) has survived. Trying to put his life back together Michael awakes to find himself in an alternate reality in which his son died but his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) survived. To keep both of his loved ones in his life he tries to live in both realities, which to say the least is confusing. To try to regain a certain amount of “normalcy” he goes back to work as a detective in both realities… with two different partners played by Steve Harris and Wilmer Valderrama. He also has therapists in both realities, played by Cherry Jones and B.D. Wong.

Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea is a comedy based on Chelsea Handler’s book of the same name. Laura Prepon plays Chelsea, a twenty-something bartender who is a force of nature determined to live life to the fullest. Co-starring are Jo Koy as Mark, a charming bartender whose wit makes him a perfect foil for Chelsea; Angel Laketa Moore as Shoniqua, a smart and sassy waitress who looks out for Chelsea’s best interests; Mark Povinelli as fellow bartender Todd whose wry sense of humour keeps Chelsea in check; Natalie Morales as Ivory, Chelsea’s best friend; Lauren Lapkus as Dee Dee, Chelsea’s shy and sheltered roommate; Lenny Clarke as Chelsea’s father and Melvin Handler as Chelsea’s sister Sloan.

Best Friends Forever is a single camera  comedy starring Jessica St. Clair plays Jessica, a woman who decides to move back with her best friend Lennon (Lennon Parham) after her husband divorces her. Unfortunately Lennon’s boyfriend Joe (Adam Pally) has just moved into the apartment and turned Jessica’s old room into a perfect home office. The two women soon fall back into their old patterns of life, leaving Joe feeling like the odd man out. While Lennon tries to find a balance between her boyfriend and her best friend, Jessica has to deal with the unresolved feelings that her old friend Rav (Stephen Schneider) has for her. St. Clair and Parham are Executive Producers along with Scot Armstrong and Ravi Nandan.

Bent is a romantic comedy about two people who are suddenly attracted by qualities that usually repel them. Amanda Peet plays Alex, a tough and resilient lawyer who is now a single mother of an eight year old daughter (Charlie, played by Zoe King). Deciding to downsize she moves into a smaller house and hires Pete (David Walton) to redo her kitchen. David is a recovering gambling addict and an unapologetic womanizer for whom the remodelling job is one last chance to prove that he isn`t a screw-up. Pete doesn`t know what`s about to hit him when he encounters Alex, while for her part Alex isn`t ready for someon who isn`t afraid to call her out for her flaws. Jeffrey Tambor plays Pete`s father Walt, an out of work actor while Margo Harshman plays Alex`s wild younger sister Screwsie.

As usual, I am giving an instant uniformed analysis based on the synopses given by the network in their press release. I`ve watched a couple of of the clips that NBC provided with their press release but I haven`t looked at them all yet, and while the NBC clips are available to me, clips from the other networks may not be.

First up, some thoughts on time slots. NBC will be running reality shows in the 8-10 p.m. time slot two nights in a row – Monday and Tuesday – for the first half of the year, and three nights in a row once Celebrity Apprentice returns (with or without Donald Trump, depending on whether or not he decides to run for the Republican nomination for the Presidency). In my opinion this is altogether too much. Worse, their reality competitions on Monday night will be running up against the established time slot domination of ABC`s Dancing With The Stars. I don`t think that bodes well for Sing-Off or The Voice. I’m also dubious as to whether Playboy Club will be able to carve out an audience up against the established competition of Castle. Even the highly touted Hawaii Five-0 had difficulty in the time slot this past season. One thing’s for sure; the Parent’s Television Council, which has a knee-jerk negative reaction to anything or anyone even tangentially related to Playboy, will be watching this show like a hawk to find something to protest (in fact they already are protesting a supposed nudity clause in the actors’ contracts) – which in an odd way will probably make long-time anti-censorship advocate Hugh Hefner rather pleased. No matter, I don’t hold out too much hope for this show.

Sadly, another show that I don’t hold out much hope for is the one that will replace Playboy Club on Monday nights at midseason, Smash. If Studio 60, a series about the television industry, was considered to be too much “inside baseball” by viewers, how are they expected to react to a show about the inner workings of Broadway musicals. I realize that NBC is trying to tap into the audience that has made FOX’s Glee a big success, but I just don’t see this show catching on, particularly against the established competition.

Of the remaining NBC dramas debuting at the beginning of the season, the one with the greatest chance of success is obviously Prime Suspect. The network has finally decided to stop fooling around with a full night of comedies, and is making a serious push for viewers in the 10-11 p.m. slot on Thursdays. I have a couple of reservations about the show however. They are again trying to establish a beachhead in a time slot with established competition, and while Private Practice might be ready to be pushed out, I think the best that NBC can hope for is a second place finish. I have to wonder if the show will deal with criminal cases in a multi-episode manner, in the way that the British original did, or whether it will be just another “one and done” procedural like most of the shows on TV. Finally, with all due respect to Maria Bello as an actress, she has some mighty big shoes to fill taking on a role originally played by Dame Helen Mirren, and even if Bello is brilliant in the part she will inevitably be compared – negatively – to Mirren’s performance in the part.

Grimm is probably doomed by the time slot alone. Conventional wisdom does suggest after all that Fridays are a dead night for TV viewership. There is at least one point in its favour, and that is that it is paired with an established series in Chuck. The problem is that while Chuck has an ardent following, it is a small ardent following, and by the description Grimm comes across as odder than the show that will lead into it. The same can probably be said for Awake, except of course that we don’t know the time slot that they show will occupy. In fact, if NBC holds to their stated intention of ending Chuck after thirteen episodes Awake might lead into Grimm which in my opinion would be a disaster.

Turning to the comedies, I will remind you that I am not a very good audience for comedies, so my opinions on those series is probably not worth much. The one that stands out for me is probably Free Agents. It is probably the comedy that I would have put into NBC’s Thursday night line-up instead of Whitney. To me – and to others – Whitney doesn’t seem like a good fit on the night. As to the rest of the comedies – and this is just a gross generalization – there is nothing that really gabs me as being original or ground-breaking. There seems to be a lot of romantic comedies and attempts to duplicate the success of Friends. Judged purely on the descriptions and with no reference to the star power attached to the projects, I’d have to say that there’s nothing in this list that reaches out and grabs me the way that I would need to be grabbed if I were going to watch a comedy.

On the  whole I think that NBC has some ambitious show ideas, but I’m doubtful as to how successful these ideas will be when placed before the public. NBC is trying stuff which is good, but I'm don’t think people will be watching in the numbers that the network is hoping to attract.

(Editted to complete the list of cancelled shows.)


Ben said...

Grimm has an interesting idea. Thing is, ABC's Once Upon a Time has pretty much the same idea. Of the two, I have more interest in OUAT because it's created by a couple of guys who have written some of my favorite LOST episodes. Time will tell if viewers respond to either one.

BTW, the link for Tubular needs to be updated. It's not instead of with blogs plural.

Best of luck with the writer's block. I know how frustrating it can be.

Todd Mason said...

The audience for PRIME SUSPECT US will largely be people who haven't seen the first series, so Bello recreating the role won't matter too much except among Mirren fans and crime-drama geeks.

The sitcoms are well-cast, but Whitney Cummings's (note G) series does have a sort of throwaway feel to it...a couple's show with one star cited in the title is often Not a recipe for success, though it did work for a while with ROSEANNE...which like most Carsey/Werners was an ensemble show from jump. Very stand-up heavy, the sitcoms. One wonders if the CHELSEA show will cross-riff nicely with Handler's niche audience.

THE FIRM is not a natural for a weekly show. We'll see how quickly that loses steam. And AWAKE and GRIMM will suffer from NBC's unwillingness to support quirky hours while they find their feet.