NBC broke with precedent this year and presented their new shows on Sunday afternoon rather than on Monday morning. The network which was in trouble for the past few years announced seven new comedies, five new dramas and four “alternative” programs. The network will have at least an hour of sitcoms on four of the six nights that the network programs. Thirteen shows were renewed, but only six of last season’s fourteen entertainment programs are coming back. I don’t have much hope that this year will be the start of a comeback for the one time “must see TV” network.
Cancelled: Chuck, Prime Suspect, The Playboy Club, Free Agents, Harry's Law, Are You There Chelsea?, Best Friends Forever, The Firm, Bent, Awake, Who Do You Think You Are?, The Sing-Off
Moved: Community, Up All Night, Whitney,
Renewed: Grimm, 30 Rock, Law & Order: SVU, Parenthood, Parks and Recreation, The Voice, Dateline NBC, The Office, Rock Center with Brian Williams
New: Go On, The New Normal, Animal Practice, Guys With Kids, Revolution, Chicago Fire
Held until mid-season: Smash, Fashion Star, The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Apprentice, 1600 Penn, Save Me, Next Caller, Do No Harm, Infamous, Hannibal, Stars Earn Stripes, Howie Mandel’s White Elephant, Surprise With Jenny McCarthy, Ready For Love
Complete Schedule (All times Eastern, New Shows in capitals)
8:00-10:00 p.m.: The Voice
10:00-11:00 p.m.: REVOLUTION
8:00-9:00 p.m.: The Voice
9:00-9:30 p.m.: GO ON
9:30-10:00 p.m.: THE NEW NORMAL
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Parenthood
8:00-8:30 p.m.: ANIMAL PRACTICE
8:30-9:00 p.m.: GUYS WITH KIDS
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Law & Order: SVU
10:00-11:00 p.m.: CHICAGO FIRE
8:00-8:30 p.m.: 30 Rock
8:30-9:00 p.m.: Up All Night (moved)
9:00-9:30 p.m.: The Office
9:30-10:00 p.m.: Parks & Recreation
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Rock Center with Brian Williams
8:00-8:30 p.m.: Whitney (moved)
8:30-9:00 p.m.: Community (moved)
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Grimm
10:00-11:00 p.m.: Dateline NBC
7:00-8:15 p.m.: Football Night In America
8:15-11:00 p.m.: Sunday Night Football
Sunday (after the end of the Football season)
7:00-8:00 p.m.: Dateline NBC
8:00-9:00 p.m.: Fashion Star (moved)
9:00-10:00 p.m.: Celebrity Apprentice
10:00-11:00 p.m.: DO NO HARM
Revolution asks the question of what would happen if the lights went out – permanently. Fifteen years after all electrical power suddenly stopped people are living what appear to be quieter and simpler lives lit by candles and lanterns. All is not what it seems though. When a young woman’s father, who seems to have had something to do with the blackout, is murdered it leads to an unlikely alliance between two young people to find answers to what happened in the past and in hopes of reclaiming the future. From producer J.J. Abrams and Eric Kripke, and starring Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Anna Lise Phillips, Zak Orth, Graham Rogers, J.D. Pardo, Giancarlo Esposito, David Lyons, Maria Howell, Tim Guinee and Andrea Roth.
Go On is a comedy starring Matthew Perry as Ryan King, a sportscaster who recently lost his wife in an auto accident. He’s ready to go back to work but his boss insists that he go to counselling. He wants to get back to work as quickly as possible and sets about disrupting his therapy group. He has no interest in healing and his irreverent attitude to “healing” might be exactly what the group needs. Also stars Laura Benanti, Julie White, Suzy Nakamura, Khary Payton, and Allison Miller.
The New Normal looks at the new American family. Brian (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) are a happy and committed couple. The only thing missing is a baby and it seems like that’s something that won’t happen. That is until Midwestern waitress Goldie (Georgia King) and her eight year-old daughter come into their lives. Goldie is broke but fertile and is willing to serve as a surrogate for Brian and David. Ellen Barkin also appears as Goldie’s small-minded mother.
In Animal Practice Justin Kirk stars as top New York veterinarian Dr. George Coleman. George has a way with most kinds of animals…except the human kind. George used to be involved with Dorothy Crane (no actress named for the part) who is the new manager of the Crane Animal Hospital. Dorothy is smart and ambitious but her romantic past with George and her total lack of experience with animals threaten to cramp his style, which includes playing poker with the clinic’s resident capuchin monkey. Also stars Tyler Labine, Bobby Lee and Betsy Sodaro.
They say it’s easier to become a father than to be one. Guys With Kids from Executive Producer Jimmy Fallon looks at three men in their 30s who are determined to hold onto their youth despite their new responsibilities as fathers. Chris (Jesse Bradford), Nick (Zach Cregger) and Gary (Anthony Anderson) undertake the daily challenge of taking care of their babies while maintaining a social life. Tempest Bledsoe and Jamie Lynn Sigler also star.
Chicago Fire from Law & Order producer Dick Wolf looks at the high intensity life of the firefighters at Chicago’s Firehouse 51. The men and women of the station’s Engine Squad, Rescue Team and Paramedics are under pressure to perform and make split second decisions in deadly situations. When the station loses one of their own tensions boil over between the leader of the Rescue Squad, Lt. Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney) and Lt. Matthew Casey. But when a call comes in, personal rivalries are set aside to get the job done. Also stars Eamonn Walker, Charlie Barnett, David Eigenberg, Monica Raymund, Lauren German, Teri Reeves, and Merle Dandridge
NBC’s midseason comedy 1600 Penn is about an ordinary family with an extraordinary home – The White House. They have all the problems of most families – a son who moves back with the family, kids who are smarter than their teachers, and a stepmom trying to win over the kids. The President’s eldest son (Josh Gad), code named “Meatball” by the Secret Service is the Gilchrist Administration’s greatest liability, and also the glue that holds his family together. Bill Pullman plays President Pullman while Jenna Elfman plays his wife. Also stars Martha MacIsaac, Andre Holland, Amara Miller, and Benjamin Stockham.
In Save Me Midwestern housewife Beth (Anne Heche) has a near death experience after choking on a hero sandwich. She soon discovers that this event left her with a special gift: she has a direct line to God. Her husband Tom (Michael Landes) is dismissive and his mistress (Alexandra Breckinridge) is stunned to learn that her lover’s wife is a prophet. It’s an odd choice to use a desperate housewife as God’s messenger on Earth, but they do say that He moves in mysterious ways. Also stars Heather Burns and Madison Davenport.
Next Caller pairs Dane Cook as foul-mouthed satellite radio DJ Cam Dunne who is partnered with a young, former NPR host. New co-host Stella Hoobler (Collette Wolf) is 26 and ready to take on the world. In this case that means trying to elevate “Booty Call with Cam Dunne” from the sort of locker room humour that Cam has always done. Jeffrey Tambor, Joy Osmanski, and Wolé Parks co-star.
Do No Harm is a modern take on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story. Dr. Jason Cole (Steven Pasquale) is a highly respected neurosurgeon who has it all. He also has a deep dark secret that has suddenly re-emerged, an alternate personality. Every night at the same time Jason Cole changes into “Ian Price”, a seductive devious borderline sociopath. Jason has been able to keep “Ian” from reappearing for many years thanks to a powerful experimental sedative, but now the serum has stopped working. Not only is “Ian” back but he’s out for revenge…on Jason. To protect everything he holds dear, including his patients, friends, coworkers and even the woman he loves, Jason has to find a way to stop Ian once and for all. Alana De La Garza, Mousa Kraish, Michael Esper, Ruta Gedmintas, and Phylicia Rashad co-star.
In Infamous Detective Joanna Locasto (Megan Good) goes undercover to investigate the Bowers family. When Joanna’s childhood best friend Vivian Bowers dies of an apparent drug overdose, everyone accepts that it was the end result of her hard partying lifestyle. Everyone that is except FBI agent Will Moreno (Laz Alonso). He sends Joanna back to Vivian’s home where her family worked as servants. Joanna is quickly re-embraced by the Bowers family and rediscovers the allure of the family’s wealthy an luxurious lifestyle, as well as reigniting a romantic relationship. She also uncovers the family’s dark secrets, secrets which put Vivian’s life in danger. Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Katherine La Nasa, Neil Jackson and Ella Rae Peck co-star.
Hannibal takes characters from Thomas Harris’s novels and puts a new twist on them. William Graham (Hugh Dancy) is a gifted criminal profiler with the ability to empathize with anyone, including psychopaths. However when the mind of the criminal he’s pursuing is too complex for him, he turns to one of the most highly regarded psychiatric minds in the country: Dr. Hannibal Lecter. What the audience knows (and not just from our previous exposure to the character) and Graham doesn’t is that Lecter is a serial killer. The NBC press release does not name an actor for the role of Lecter. Bryan Fuller is the writer and one of the Executive Producers.
Stars Earn Stripes takes stars from various fields and exposes them to different forms of pressure. In this new reality-competition series from Dick Wolf and Mark Burnett, nine celebrities are brought together at a secret training facility where they will be challenged to execute missions inspired by real military training exercises. Money raised through the competition will be donated to various veterans charities. According to the NBC press release, “these stars will be tested physically, mentally and emotionally – and emerge in awe of the men and women who do such tasks on behalf of our country every day.”
Howie Mandel’s White Elephant is a version of the popular party game. One player will pick an unmarked box from a studio full of prizes. The next player has to decide whether or not to steal the box from the first player or pick another box and hope that it is worth more. When the contest gets down to the final two competitors, they each face a choice of whether to share or steal. If both select “Share” they share the prizes that the have won. If one chooses “Share” and the other choses “Steal”, the one who chose “Steal” gets all of the prizes. But if both choose “Steal” they both win…nothing.
Eva Longoria is the Producer of Ready For Love, a unique approach to dating shows because every eligible woman in America is a potential participant. Longoria has personally selected three impossibly handsome “Grooms.” Three of the best Matchmakers in the world will then screen women who appear at mass auditions. Those selected by the Matchmakers will then participate in a journey that, “will combine the best elements of in-studio competition and story-based reality.” Each episode will see some of the women eliminated by the Matchmakers until the three “grooms” and the final three “brides” will decide if they’ll get engaged, get married or just live “happily ever after.” Bill and Gulianna Rancic are the hosts.
Surprise With Jenny McCarthy has McCarthy springing “the surprise of a lifetime” on ordinary people. As each episode develops, the audience gets to know the story of the people involved, making the pay-off all the more emotionally satisfying.
NBC seems to be putting a lot of product out there, presumably hoping that at least some of it will stick, and I’m not convinced that much will stick. The network appears to be relying a lot on their comedy line-up, with comedies on four of the six nights that they are programming. This may be a mistake. NBC’s Thursday night comedies – The Office, Community, Parks & Recreation, and 30 Rock – are critical successes, but the fact the fact is that for the most part the shows have poor ratings. And of the new comedies introduced in the 2011-12 season only two – Whitney and Up All Night – have survived to get a second season. I’m not sure – based on the descriptions provided by the network (I haven’t looked at most of the clips from the shows yet) – how many of the new comedies will survive more than a few episodes. I have watched the clip of 1600 Penn and quite frankly it looks dismal.
Turning to the network’s new drama’s they seem to be a very mixed bag. Revolution is reminiscent of so many shows that we’ve seen in the not too distant past, from Jericho to Flash Forward to The Event that it’s hard to think that it will work. After the failure of Awake I’m not sure that the audience will be too accepting of the premise of Do No Harm. As for Hannibal I think the concept of a profiler working with someone that we know – and he doesn’t know – is a serial killer. The question is whether we have been exposed too much to Hannibal Lecter (and Anthony Hopkin’s portrayal of the character) to accept the TV version of the characters. They might have been better off starting with a new character without the baggage. The two dramas that interest me the most are Chicago Fire and Infamous. I think there’s a lot of potential in a series built around firefighters, and Chicago is an ideal setting , maybe partially because of the movie Backdraft. As for Infamous, it’s success may be more problematic. It’s obviously a show with a long story arc, which is always a risk. Done right it could work; done wrong it could be this year’s Ringer.
Some miscellaneous thoughts on the schedule: NBC won’t be running two cycles of Biggest Loser this year. Based on the ratings this past year it might be a good idea to reduce it to one cycle in a season just to give it a rest. They’re also reducing Celebrity Apprentice to one hour from the current two. If you’re going to have Celebrity Apprentice on the schedule cutting it to an hour – at least for as long as Do No Harm and/or Fashion Star lasts – is a great idea. At two hours the show seems terribly bloated. NBC’s decision to run the low rated Rock Center With Brian Williams in the third hour of Thursday basically abdicates the time slot to ABC and CBS. They are giving up on Thursday night after the comedies just the way they gave up on the third hour when they put Jay Leno on in primetime. Finally, I think I’m going to miss Who Do You Think You Are? which I couldn’t have imagined when the show debuted. It’s a damned sight better than the reality drek – Stars Earn Stripes, Howie Mandel’s White Elephant, Ready For Love and worst of all Surprise With Jenny McCarthy – that NBC has available instead.
On the whole I am unimpressed with this line-up.