Thursday, May 19, 2011

The CW's Fall 2011 Schedule

And the last network to hold it's upfronts is also the biggest outlier among broadcast networks. Often outperformed by Spanish-language channels, the five-year-old CW network operates like a cable channel that offers itself over-the-air. The niche audience they seek out is very pronounced in the shows they air, very clearly seeking to appeal to young women.

This makes you really wonder how they can pull this off, especially when you realize how low their ratings tend to skew. I've read plenty of analysis on the CW, and among the best I understand regards the loophole they operate out of. Apparently, the CW operates at a loss of itself, but manages to recoup via sales of their programs in international markets, and eventually syndication. As a consequence, said programs are limited to productions by its two corporate parents, CBS and Warner Bros. In fact, one of these new fall shows is a transplant from CBS proper, and one of the partner producers, ABC Studios actually bailed out of it when it moved to the CW.

Personally, I don't really care about the CW. I seldom watch the channel, but that's mostly because I am a young man. For the most part, I just don't gravitate towards the kind of shows they pick up. Hell, this network hasn't aired a comedy since Everybody Hates Chris ended it's four-year run two seasons ago. They don't consider themselves in that business anymore, just sticking to dramas.

But, I must also give credit where credit is due. Among the female-skewing shows the CW picks up, some of them are interesting genre shows that are able to appeal to wider audiences than one would expect. Supernatural is a series that's run just long enough to have aired on the CW's predecessor, the WB. (Long story there.) I've watched some of it, and it's really impressive. The same goes for this past season's freshman, Nikita, and I've also watched one episode of The Vampire Diaries, a drama whose female appeal is quite pronounced. And yet, that was also pretty good.

In any case, onto next season. One Tree Hill, a drama which had been on for three seasons when the WB shut down and the CW launched, will wait until midseason to start it's newest season. In addition, look for new reality shows The Frame and Re-Modeled come midseason.

There is substantially less ground to cover here than on the other networks for the fall schedule. You see, unlike the other broadcasters which simply take it easy on Saturday nights, the CW skips the weekend entirely. They only broadcast Mondays through Fridays, and with as much primetime space each night as the FOX network this adds up to a mere ten hours a week.

And in those ten hours, there's a lot of shifting about as the CW tries a big batch of new shows and shuffles it's deck of existing shows for the fall:

8/7c - Gossip Girl (Drama; 5th Season)
9/8c - HART OF DIXIE (New Drama; Light drama with Rachel Bilson as a city doctor who defects to a small-town practice she inherits)

The thing that brings these two shows to the same table is the presence of producer Josh Schwartz, the creator of The O.C. As someone who's never seen it, or Gossip Girl I cannot judge of similarities between the two, although I've heard about similar themes. This new show, Hart of Dixie reunites Schwartz with former O.C. actress Bilson, and takes up an ambitious effort to reclaim "that old-school WB flav" (as I said, referring to the network's predecessor). The biggest parallel comes from Everwood, a drama that ran for the last four seasons the WB existed and had the similar premise of a city doctor uprooting his family and moving to the Rocky Mountains.

8/7c - 90210 (Drama; 4th Season; New Night)
9/8c - RINGER (New Drama; Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a woman on the run from the mob, and tries to take her twin's identity to protect herself)

The remake of 90210 tries its hand on the next night over, and all I can say it "More power to it". Following it is that CBS transplant I've mentioned earlier. Ringer brings the star of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer to the very network formed by the merger of the two that aired her old show.

8/7c - H8R (New Reality; Mario Lopez hosts the chronicle of celebrities who confront their biggest and fiercest critics)
9/8c - America's Next Top Model (Reality; 9th Year)

What makes this night distinctive is that it's the only night of the week without any dramas. Instead, one of these shows is the CW's single hit reality show, and the only series left that ran on the long-forgotten UPN. It only makes sense for this one show to stay put, and to try out more reality shows alongside it.

8/7c - The Vampire Diaries (Drama; 3rd Season)
9/8c - THE SECRET CIRCLE (New Drama; A woman discovers she's a witch and confronts a potential war going on)

Thursdays has their most popular show, The Vampire Diaries. Naturally, this season also sees another supernatural-themed series launching alongside it, a near-perfect match of one premise to the next.

8/7c - Nikita (Drama; 2nd Season; New Night)
9/8c - Supernatural (Drama; 7th Season)

And Nikita, arguably the widest-appealing show the CW launched this past season moves to Fridays in it's second run, in the slot Smallville settled well into in it's final two seasons. Supernatural joined it last season, and both shows performed about up to the low standards for both the network, and Friday nights in general. This is one scenario where the night seems to work out best.

The shows not coming back are Hellcats, Life Unexpected, Shedding for the Wedding, and Smallville.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CBS' Fall 2011 Schedule

The last of the major four broadcasters, CBS holds its upfronts today. (Tomorrow,  the CW which CBS co-owns will wrap things up, although it's much smaller and hold less punch than the incomparable other four networks.) CBS holds the highest rank amongst total viewers of the four, but there is a key tradeoff. Their 18-49 ratings are more second-best, behind the FOX network.

In my life, this is fairly evident. While I do enjoy a few of the sitcoms they offer, specifically The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother, it's my father who really patronizes the network. He used to watch JAG back in the day, and thusly can say that he liked NCIS before it was cool to like NCIS. On top of that, there's also the key successful freshman drama from this network, the new version of Hawaii Five-0. That's in addition to my mother, who watches The Good Wife as well as NCIS. And there's Blue Bloods as well, and it doesn't take me too much exposure to it to realize the dignity it has for the cops it portrays. As far as younger viewers goes...did I mention NCIS? Because that's CBS' key hit drama, particularly with the 18-49 crowd.

But yeah, the Tiffany network's still quite thriving. Come midseason, you can expect to see the next season of Undercover Boss as well as new drama The 2-2, from executive producer Robert DeNiro.

As far as the fall goes, CBS has its bases loaded with plenty of new shows. Before we start, I think you may notice a pattern with some of these shows. If you watch CBS, you would know why they tend to skew older in viewership. These shows have a pretty clear traditionalist bent, the network in a clear comfort zone that sticks to procedural dramas and multi-camera comedies. They don't really tend to seek out bigger risks among shows, and don't seem to have tried it this season in contrast to the other networks. Perhaps the boldest drama they have is The Good Wife, which does have a legal procedural bent to it as well. At the same time though, it's not necessarily a bad thing. A lot of these more old-fashioned shows are very successful. Two and a Half Men is TV's biggest comedy and I've already spoken for NCIS. And besides, where is it written that standard, comfort-zone shows necessarily had to be bad?

With that said, here we go with the lineup, and commentary on each night. No first impression here either, but that might change if CBS has clips to offer.

8/7c - How I Met Your Mother (Comedy; 7th Season)
8:30/7:30c - 2 BROKE GIRLS (New Comedy; Two waitresses come together under the impression of a potential business partnership)
9/8c - Two and a Half Men (Comedy; 9th Season)
9:30/8:30c - Mike & Molly (Comedy; 2nd Season)
10/9c - Hawaii Five-0 (Drama; 2nd Season)

There's not much to note on this lineup, just the two details that reflect any change. First, you have the new show 2 Broke Girls, and it only figures that it's going to follow How I Met Your Mother while Mike & Molly proves successful under Chuck Lorre's branding and Melissa McCarthy's comedic charm. There's nothing particularly noteworthy about this new comedy, especially since CBS is the only network that still makes the traditional three-camera on a soundstage format work for them (and perhaps that's what's inspiring it's competition to try it). I'll certainly take a look at the trailer, and note the presence of two producers. For one, you've got Sex and the City's Michael Patrick King, and the other producer is Whitney Cummings, also headlining her own NBC show. The other thing of note is Two and a Half Men, and you can't be TV top comedy and have your lead explode out of his job without notice. It just doesn't work that way. There was some idea that Charlie Sheen would manage to return to work for next season after sidelining the show for the remainer of this season. But that was kind of a fool's hope to be honest, his pyschotic breakdown would have been entertaining for a few seconds, but it quickly just got disturbing and sad. Anyway, it's no surprise to see CBS is bringing his show back without him, Ashton Kutcher taking the reins as the lead. That call actually makes perfect sense, who better to replace an actor who fell into a pit of absurd and insane self-promotion than someone who chooses that style purposefully and works it to his own benefit?

8/7c - NCIS (Drama; 9th Season)
9/8c - NCIS: Los Angeles (Drama; 3rd Season)
10/9c - UNFORGETTABLE (New Drama; New procedural drama about a woman with a perfect memory)

CBS has decided to move The Good Wife, a bolder type of procedural show they run off Tuesday nights in an effort to increase viewers from one season to the next. In the mean time, the proven block of NCIS dramas beginning with the megahit series originally spun off of JAG, gets a new procedural to cap off the night. The premise does sound like it would add plenty to the formula that CBS has crafted to its own art, but not really raise the stakes.

8/7c - Survivor (Reality; 12th Year)
9/8c - Criminal Minds (Drama; 7th Season)
10/9c - CSI (Drama; 12th Season; New Night)

On this night, the biggest change this season is the relocation of the network's longest-running drama from it's long-time stead of Thursdays. Mind you, this show has since been dethroned by NCIS as TV's biggest scripted drama. This will either rejuvinate the show to fighting form, or end up serving as it's swan song. Or it could, you know keep it going at a good, steady pace as was proven last season by some of its spinoffs having been shuffled.

8/7c - The Big Bang Theory (Comedy; 5th Season)
8:30/7:30c - HOW TO BE A GENTLEMEN (New Comedy; The lives of an uptight columnist and a crude personal trainer clash)
9/8c - PERSON OF INTEREST (New Drama; Procedural with Jim Caviezel as a former CIA agent teaming up with a benefactor to solve crimes)
10/9c - The Mentalist (Drama; 4th Season)

Here we have not one new show, but two. The sitcom with high expectations leading out of Chuck Lorre's massively successful nerd-culture comedy offers a standard buddy-style humor wherein opposites attract. Replacing CSI on Thursdays is a show that might be similar, but the trailer will clear any suspicious about that up. Otherwise, both the shows staying on the lineup have proven successful, in particular The Big Bang Theory since it moved there from Mondays last year.

8/7c - A GIFTED MAN (New Drama; A doctor has a life-changing experience when he seems to have heard from his wife from beyond the grave)
9/8c - CSI: NY (Drama; 8th Season)
10/9c - Blue Bloods (Drama; 2nd Season)

True to their traditionalist nature, CBS actually sticks to what may be the biggest risk they take -- programming Friday nights with scripted shows. Of course, the block is quite different from where it was two years ago, when it picked by Medium from NBC to go with their own spiritual-communication show Ghost Whisperer. In addition to that, they had another procedural, NUMB3RS with Rob Morrow, David Krumholtz (now on NBC's The Playboy Club) and Judd Hirsch. Of course, these were easier-going shows, trying to appeal to to people who stay home on Fridays, and the current crop of dramas does the same. In the case of CSI: NY, though we get more than one season of a show that's since cooled off in popularity and has settled down to some degree of success on Fridays. Same goes for Blue Bloods, and it's lucky and well-deserving of renewal, even if it's earning it based on relative success on Fridays. There's also the new drama, A Gifted Man. It sounds like a medical procedural from the full description in CBS' press release of this schedule, and it can come off like the short-lived ABC series Eli Stone as equally as it would evoke memories of Medium and Ghost Whisperer.

8/7c - Rules of Engagement (Comedy; 6th Season; New Night)
8:30/7:30c - Comedy Encores
9/8c - Dramatic Encores
10/9c - 48 Hours Mystery (Newsmagazine)

And on the least-watched night of the week, CBS actually blends encore presentations with one original program -- newsmagazine 48 Hours Mystery. Not much to report on here...whoa. WHAT?! Rules of Engagement? That's where it went with its renewal? Is this a fate worse than death for this show, to put it on this far out of the way while still renewing it? Don't get me wrong, I don't care about this show. But it seems pretty extreme. And I thought that FOX cancelling America's Most Wanted was surprising. Jeez.

7/6c - 60 Minutes (Newsmagazine)
8/7c - The Amazing Race (Reality; 11th Year)
9/8c - The Good Wife (Drama; 3rd Season; New Night)
10/9c - CSI: Miami (Drama; 10th Season)

And here's where The Good Wife went. As I reach the last night of the week, it occurs to me that CBS is now confident in shaking up it's status quo in the occasional reorganization of it's dramatic scheduling. (It works for comedy too, as The Big Bang Theory has proven.) Considering that CSI: Miami isn't as hot as it used to be, moving it off of Mondays to make way for Hawaii Five-0 hasn't hurt it that much. In the case of The Good Wife though, CBS is trying to grow the audience for its biggest critical darling, earning such in it's ambition whilst their ratings try to get by.

And in addition to these renewals, the cancelled show are $#*! My Dad Says, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, The Defenders, Mad Love, and Medium. The lattermost is the only show that wasn't a freshman on CBS.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

ABC's Fall 2011 Schedule

UPDATE: (1:00 PM) ABC has just released clips from their upcoming shows, including one for each new fall show. Accordingly, I have updated each commentary below to include my take on them, constituting first impressions.

With ABC, I have to admit something right away -- I always have some strange fascination with this particular network. It's not that they have spectacular shows, although I will admit to liking Castle and Modern Family. And it's not that they're particularly successful, constantly racing against NBC to avoid landing in fourth place while still maintaining consistantly strong ratings for a few key shows. And their days of cultural relevance are well behind them, with the TGIF block remaining in the 1990's (and I'm aware of the more ill-fated revival from around 2003), serving as only a source of nostalgia the network can't benefit from.

To be perfectly honest, the thing I like the most about this network are it's promos. Like I said last fall, I enjoy how they play out and that they seem to have a real energy to them. It was true back in the TGIF days and it's true at these upfronts. I mean, I enjoyed NBC and FOX's newest trailers, but it's the ones from this network I'm looking forward to the most!

Anyways, onto the fall schedule itself. There have been a lot of pickups at ABC this season, reflecting their issues trying to get a new show off the ground. As such, there are a fair share of new series put on hold until midseason, specifically Apartment 23, Good Christian Belles, Missing, The River, Scandal, and Work It. Also shelved until midseason is Cougar Town, Courtney Cox's very popular comedy.

And this is the fall schedule, with commentary on each night:

8/7c - Dancing With the Stars (Reality; 7th Season)
10/9c - Castle (Drama; 4th Season)

Of course! Why mess with a good thing? You've got ABC's monolith of a reality competition with such familiar faces. And the choice of chaser feels like a real proven success -- Nathan Fillion helping to solve crimes for another season. ...So, yeah. This is absolutely no surprise.

8/7c - LAST MAN STANDING (New Comedy; Tim Allen comes to grips with his masculinity when considering the woman leading all around him)
8:30/7:30c - MAN UP (New Comedy; A trio of friends come to grips with their sense of masculinity)
9/8c - Dancing With the Stars Results Show (Reality; 7th Season)
10/9c - Body of Proof (Drama; 2nd Season)

And with ABC, we get more multi-camera comedies, but this time it's not so surprising. Oh sure, this network has scored with a trio of Wednesday night single-camera comedies after years of efforts at it. But still, they did have one traditional-style sitcom lingering around the past season -- Better With You, which drew mixed rating results and was eventually cancelled. Personally, I liked that even with it's corny moments. Regardless, we have two more this coming season, airing on their own night but on a network that's seemed to remain open to having more than one kind of sitcom on the air. It just comes off as Paul Lee's desire to start another night of comedy, sticking to a genre that ABC has the most to be proud of. He tries a night that's had limited success with dramas the last few seasons, and let's be honest, some ideas he had were even worse, like trying a new TGIF block. The premises of the two shows are akin to each other, so it makes perfect sense to pair them up. For the moment I don't have any first impressions, I have yet to see either of any show. Still, with plots like those it should be interesting to see how they come off in the trailers. And it's nice to see Tim Allen return to his TV roots. (I consider his film career, and there he was as indeed a sad, strange little man.) The rest of the night is unsurprising, with the other night of Dancing With The Stars followed by procedural Body of Proof. It's not unlike Monday's arrangement with Castle, especially since it's their one recent dramatic success and it's similarly spearheaded by a strong character actress lead in Dana Delany. Perhaps it'll grow to the same success Castle had over time.

UPDATE: It turns out, I was wrong on my sources regarding these two new comedies. Only one of them, Last Man Standing is actually a multi-camera comedy. Man Up, at least based on the clip I saw is actually a single-camera comedy. In any case, I have commentary to add based on the new clips released. Tim Allen's new show appears to be the funnier one, with his father and husband character trying futily to leave an impression on his wife and daughter to amusing results. The second show looks okay, but didn't leave much of a comic impression so far. Hopefully, the trailer will be better.

8/7c - The Middle (Comedy; 3rd Season)
8:30/7:30c - SUBURGATORY (New Comedy; A teenage daughter is forced to move into the suburbs with her father)
9/8c - Modern Family (Comedy; 3rd Season)
9:30/8:30c - Happy Endings (Comedy; 2nd Season)
10/9c - REVENGE (New Drama; A contemporary, female twist on The Count of Monte Cristo, with a young woman planning to exact revenge)

On Wednesdays, ABC's wisely not messing with what works, keeping solid performer The Middle and the hit comedy Modern Family in their old time slots. The way they're playing with it is by touting Happy Endings, a solid and likable relationship comedy that's gotten a reprive from ABC for another season, after Modern Family in a bid to increase awareness. And just as we've gotten an hour the next night over for the traditional-style sitcom, the only new comedy here is a single-camera comedy Suburgatory. With the premise of a father-daughter relationship touted like that, it of course fits in nicely between the two popular family sitcoms on this night. At the 10 o'clock hour, which ABC's been desperately trying to work for it for several seasons now, we get a new drama with a potentially bold, innovative storyline. Should be interesting to see the trailers for it.

UPDATE: Based on the clip of Suburgatory I've seen, the show looks like it could be funny. Jeremy Sisto and his daughter share a bit of banter in regards to his efforts to leave a positive impression on her, and it's fairly amusing. The clip we got of Revenge displays what appears to be the inciting incident of the series, with the murder of a young man. It's sort of hard to tell from just the 90-second snippet, but I'm almost inclined to believe that's the protagonist's brother or boyfriend. It's got some good going for it, but it's not exactly the best dramatic clip I've seen for this network.

8/7c - CHARLIE'S ANGELS (New Drama; A reboot of the 70's action-heroine thrill-ride)
9/8c - Grey's Anatomy (Drama; 8th Season)
10/9c - Private Practice (Drama; 5th Season)

On Thursday nights, Shonda Rhimes' series are staying put. Say what you will about them, but these two still do well enough to earn their ratings keep. Leading into it is the one foregone conclusion among new ABC pilots -- the new Charlie's Angels. Yes, it would appear TV is picking up some of the same shortcuts as the film industry, utilizing the "What's old is new again" philosophy. Now, I barely remember the original, which I last saw as a little kid. But we've also got Drew Barrymore producing, which only brings to mind the insipid and bombastic feature films based on the shows. Those are the only judgements I can make, and they don't say if the show will be good or not. The closest we can come is with the trailer, which I haven't seen yet. In any case, it's certainly going to be interesting with this classic returning to it's home network.

UPDATE: Okay, the best thing I can say of the Charlie's Angels clip is that it appears to be faithful to the show. Then again, I can't exactly be the best judge on this series. It does seem to have the right amount of action for a contemporary show, though.

8/7c - Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (Reality; 7th Season; New Night and Time)
9/8c - Shark Tank (Reality; 3rd Season)
10/9c - 20/20 (Newsmagazine)

Friday night remains the second least-watched night of the week (Saturdays are behind it), so the choice of stacking one unscripted show on top of another is the most sensible decision on hand here. Furthermore, we also have the choice of series, including one of ABC's veteran reality shows trying it's hand on Fridays. It's ratings have been mixed the last season, so it's unsurprising to see it pop up here. Nothing else about this lineup is noteworthy, although ABC is the most exhausted at trying to program this night.

8/7c - Saturday Night College Football (ESPN Sports Coverage)

Aside from FOX, the most consistant Saturday schedule I've seen the last several years is on ABC. In the fall, it's the simple, popular coverage of NCAA football, a longtime staple on the network in general.

7/6c - America's Funniest Home Videos (Reality; 22nd Season)
8/7c - ONCE UPON A TIME (New Drama; Fantastic drama reimagining the story of Snow White and the Wicked Queen)
9/8c - Desperate Housewives (Drama; 8th Season)
10/9c - PAN AM (New Drama; 1960's period piece soap set on the legendary airline)

And on Sunday nights, the biggest change is with the displacement of the reality veteran in favor of a bold new drama. Desperate Housewives will of course stick to it's timeslot, and so will America's Funniest Home Videos, staying on the air even as it would be obsolete in theory. The new dramas certainly sound unique and interesting, marking three new, adventurous dramas for ABC. The trailers for Once Upon a Time and Pan Am almost seem guaranteed to offer a beautiful look to them. On top of that, the cancellation of Brothers & Sisters opened up the potential for two dramas like this to kick off, for the price of one. Still that decision is the most surprising among the ABC cancellations. This past season saw an upgrade from 18 episodes just to wrap things up to a full 22 in the wake of improved ratings. There was also talk of bringing the show back for a brief final season, but that plan fell through.

UPDATE: I have to say, both the clips for Sunday's new dramas look absolutely marvelous. Not since Pushing Daisies have I seen ABC put so much effort into the style of a dramatic series, with such a rich, stylistic appeal for both. Pan Am really puts us into the time the show's set (not unlike NBC's The Playboy Club, which takes place the same decade), and I already expect a good show sporting women trying to rise above their given circumstances. The clip for Once Upon a Time is even better, creating a lush, rich, fantastic atmosphere for it's fairy tale setting, and not just by broadcast standards. This must've been expensive to put together, and I can only hope that the show itself delivers with such a high standard set.

The shows that ABC won't be bringing back are Better With You, Brothers & Sisters, Detroit 1-8-7, Mr. Sunshine, My Generation, No Ordinary Family, The Whole Truth, and V.

Monday, May 16, 2011

FOX Addendum - Fall Comedy Trailers

As I said in the post commenting on the FOX network's fall schedule, I could not give first impressions on most of the new shows. This is unlike NBC, wherein I at least had some clips to go with the intentionally-leaked fall lineup. All I had to work with in the case of FOX was an early, brief trailer for Terra Nova, a new sci-fi drama picked up early as a bold, new initiative. I may do an entire post dedicated to the full trailer for that, since it's the only drama on the fall schedule and it only merits a closer look than the glimpse that's been around for months.

Meanwhile, however what we have below are the trailers to all three of the new sitcoms coming to FOX in the fall. Obviously, we can only expand on what we know with these. And so, let's get to these first impressions, shall we?

New Girl (working title) -- To be perfectly honest, this looks like it may have potential. Zooey Deschanel (joining her sister, Emily with her own FOX network series) plays an offbeat young lady coming off a harsh breakup, and it really seems like she's putting a lot into this performance. Granted you've also got some insecurities in regards to her breakup, but it's not that easy to tell from a trailer. In addition, you've got the three guys who take her in as a roommate. One of their reactions is to her model friends, but otherwise it seems like they care about her. As far as relationship comedies go, this looks like one of the better concepts and could blossom into a substantial series. They just might be onto something.

I Hate My Teenage Daughter (working title) -- On the other hand, here we have a multi-camera comedy that just makes it seem like the average TV writer is getting bored with the format. (And this is despite the fact that I've seen traditional-style comedies actually do more than just serve as a televised one-act play, before the rise of single-camera ones, too!) For the most part, this trailer for a sitcom following two mothers and their teenage daughters is rather lifeless and drab without any jokes or situations really standing out. Jamie Pressley plays one of the mothers, coming to the network her old bosses from My Name is Earl actually produced a family comedy of substance. On the other hand, the only thing I would call amusing comes at the end when the two mothers try to get back at their daughters at a dance, by bopping to Katy Perry. And even that did very little. I don't know, this doesn't exactly scream "New hit" to me.

Allen Gregory -- And here we have the new animated sitcom FOX is touting on Sundays in the fall. Just my kind of series! In general, the Animation Domination block is a mixed bag (though the same could be said of Seth MacFarlane's shows by themselves), and this seems like a creative enough premise to merit an animated series. We get a pretty funny trailer out of this, offering Jonah Hill as the voice of a 7-year-old child prodigy who's already accomplished a great deal among adults. The only problem he has to face? Going to school with ordinary kids his own age. Admittedly, I like it so far. Hill gives a fine vocal performance and captures each pretentious, overly precocious beat with this character to a tee. Just hope it can carry through.

In any case, make of those what you will. Hopefully, they will at least turn out to be good shows.

NBC Addendum - Fall Comedy Trailers

Here are a few trailers that NBC released at their upfronts today, which came among trailers for every new show debuting next season, midseason included. All three of these are the new sitcoms debuting in the fall, Up All Night, Free Agents, and Whitney. Accompanied with each is a brief commentary offering more full impression than what I said yesterday with the fall schedule. With a more complete idea of what each show will offer, I'll come off more as a critic than I did previously.

Okay, now onto the trailers.

Up All Night -- This relationship comedy feels like a series version of the recent Katherine Heigl movie Life as We Know It, albeit with a husband and wife in place of a casual couple saddled with an unpleasant surprise. So far, though this appears to be better, even with a weaker premise than the movie had. On the upside, we are treated to an inspired bit of casting, offering Will Arnett more substantial material than he had with last season’s FOX bomb Running Wilde. Further, Christina Applegate seems to give him better byplay than Keri Russell did a year ago. And even before it hits the air, this sitcom already has a breakout character in mind – Maya Rudolph (solidifying SNL producer Lorne Michel’s involvement on the show) playing Applegate’s girl-friend, and she seems to be trying a touch too hard in this sneak preview. Some of this material is a bit chuckle-worthy, though and it takes advantage of the situation a great deal.

Free Agents -- What we have here is another relationship comedy, with less recognizable talents on hand resulting in this series getting the second-banana bump in the new Wednesday hour of comedy. Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria plays a man recovering from a divorce and Kathryn Hahn (an actress who’s been around, but not enough to leave an impression) as a woman who lost her fiancĂ©. Sparks supposedly fly as the two of them balance their professional lives with their personal troubles, offering some trite forms of humor. The preview did not me offer many laughs, and came off as tepid at best. As a workplace comedy, it seems more ideal a choice for Thursday nights, alongside The Office and Parks & Recreation, although it doesn’t come even close to those levels. It feels more like a romantic comedy, and a pretty lame one at that.

Whitney -- If there’s any problem with the choice of a multi-camera setup with this show, its how much Whitney stands out against just all the new sitcom pickups, let alone the rest of NBC’s comedies. When your comedies predominantly resemble feature films and even take advantage of it in their substance in a few cases, a show that features a laugh track undercutting the humor at every turn just proves distracting. I’ve had to scan back and forth through the preview for Whitney a few times just to get the overall feel of the comedy, I was so frequently distracted. But, putting that aside when I did get the main feel of it I was a little unimpressed. There were a few funny moments from time to time, so I do see some potential, but I saw a few bad beats as well. The premise is nothing special, while the show-driving factor of a boyfriend and girlfriend’s relationship does seem to fit the casting choice of a comedienne. Speaking of which, Whitney Cummings herself is good so far as an actress. She’s able to deliver her jokes with a reasonable sense of timing and doesn’t distract in her reading of dialogue.

FOX's Fall 2011 Schedule

Note: FOX's Upfront isn't until later the afternoon, so there aren't any clips up yet for new shows. As such, this first update (12:45 PM-EST) will not include any first impressions any of the new shows (with the exception of Terra Nova and The X Factor, a pair of special cases as you will see). Those will be up later on. For the time being, however I will talk about the rearranging of the schedule and some of the choices made, or what I can say about it.

The FOX Broadcasting Company is in first place among the key demographic of 18-49 year-olds, and is certainly most dominant with shows that permeated popular culture. From The Simpsons leaving a mark so indelible that the show can't seem to leave the air at all, to contempory/knock-off Family Guy being unable to fail at leaving an impression. And then you have the burgeoning musical talents on American Idol, going hand-in-hand with the musical phenomenon of Glee.

In the fall we get another talent competition, and at that one with the key American Idol judge onboard. This resulted in a number of shows getting cut, all to acomodate this new kind of bold move on FOX's part. And the new line also includes a major innovative drama launching as well.

Also of note is FOX's midseason schedule, which was announced alongside their fall lineup. New shows to look for there include dramas Alcatraz and Bones spin-off The Finder, along with animated sitcom Napoleon Dynamite. Returning shows include American Idol, the perennial singing competition and the animated Bob's Burgers.

Here's the lineup for the fall, slightly-above-average-viewer commentary for each night.


8/7c - TERRA NOVA (New Drama; Time-travelers from 2149 go to prehistoric times in a bid to save the planet and escape the deteriorating conditions of their time. From executive producer Steven Spielberg)
9/8c - House (Drama; 8th Season)

On Mondays, we are unloaded with one of the big new dramas that FOX actually picked up to series months before the upfronts -- Terra Nova. In fact, previews for this new series were up and running as early as the Super Bowl. FOX's intention was to air the pilot as a sneak preview at the end of the season, implementing a strategy akin to how the Tuesday night hit Glee was launched. However, issues with special effects on the series delayed the first episode, and the special launch plan was shelved. A look at one of several promos you can find on YouTube clearly plays up the environmental overtones, with the premise of human beings travelling to prehistory from the quickly-dying future. The characters talk about "starting over" and imply their intentions to stay in the past. Certainly a show which already grabs your attention, doing so with topics that are more than familiar and have proven irritatingly repetitive in the past. Already, it's guaranteed to attract plenty of viewers with such a curious hook. And ambitious enough to lead into established hit House on this night.


8/7c - Glee (Drama; 3rd Season)
9/8c - NEW GIRL (New Comedy; Romantic sitcom with Zooey Deschanel, who moves in with three men after a breakup)
9:30/8:30c - Raising Hope (Comedy; 2nd Season)

First impressions of New Girl will come later. Right now, I will point out that the single-camera setup of this show is the main reason it's been not only paired with Raising Hope, a sophomore family comedy that's proven more successful for FOX than most recent live-action sitcoms, but also leading into it. Otherwise, this will be the second time FOX has put the latter show with a relationship comedy, the first the now-cancelled Traffic Light, which led out of it. Otherwise, the best decision regarding this setup is what the industry calls "hammocking", with the new show leading out the very popular musical comedy Glee.


8/7c - THE X FACTOR (New Reality; Simon Cowell's hit UK Talent Competition makes it's much-hyped US debut)
9:30/8:30c - I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER (New Comedy; Jaime Pressley plays a mother in this mother-daughter comedy)

The X Factor is Simon Cowell's new reality competition, clearly meant as a companion piece to his old stomping ground American Idol. This will only be the second time FOX tries a major reality show in the Fall for two big cycles a year. The first was So You Think You Can Dance, the summer hit which tried a fall run in 2008 and has since stuck to summer runs. The buildup for this new show has been immense, as promos have been running for months before this upfront. I personally am not much into reality TV and seldom watch Idol, so I am one of those less inclined to tune in. Also listed above is a multi-camera comedy, which I do not have any impressions of yet. However, I will right now point out what I wrote about Whitney on my commentaty on the NBC Preview, and add some more about FOX. FOX had shows like Malcom in the Middle and The Bernie Mac Show in the past and helped to move us toward single-camera comedies about ten years ago. Furthermore, with the debacle that was Do Not Disturb back in 2008, I previously thought FOX was done entirely with traditional-styled sitcoms. That this new show is airing after a reality show that offers the likelihood of frequent pre-emptions, it would not surprise me if this were a sort of sacrificial lamb of a scheduling, as much as a small experiment on the network's part.


8/7c - THE X FACTOR RESULTS (New Reality)
9/8c - Bones (Drama; 7th Season)

And we have The X Factor's second night of shows, leading into a new season of everyone's favorite screwball chemistry-driven cop show. Also of note is Emily Deschanel's impending maternity leave. This will give the show a break mid-season, in which time it's spinoff The Finder will get a go-around. Certainly an interesting approach, in this world where spinoffs like that usually goon after the series that spawned them.


8/7c - Kitchen Nightmares (Reality; 5th Season)
9/8c - Fringe (Drama; 4th Season)

Perhaps most surpising is that Friday nights remain consistant, with a reality series leading into a genre show. Fringe may be the luckiest FOX genre show of all, going into it's fourth season in the wake of many a cult of getting cancelled by the same network. It's ratings have wavered from good given the night its on, slinking down but not too offensively, and keeping the tremendous fortune of good faith with the network all throughout.


8/7c - Cops (Reality; 24th Season)
9/8c - Encores/America's Most Wanted (Specials)

Far more surprising is that FOX is changing their Saturday night schedule, announcing that America's Most Wanted has been cancelled. Or rather, that it's being limited to the occasional special. Cops will stay put, at least for the time being, but it never occured to me even once that either show was in trouble, even with the occasional pre-emption in favor of a Proctor & Gamble family-friendly telefilm. In hindsight though, the fact that these shows took the night off so a singular sponsor could buy entire blocks of time isn't so surprising, especially with one executive saying that America's Most Wanted isn't as lucrative as it once was. I guess this is a just sign of the times (along with ABC's efforts to get out of the soap opera business).


(Discounting NFL Overrun)
7:30/8:30c - The Cleveland Show (Comedy; 3rd Season)
8/7c - The Simpsons (Comedy; 23rd Season)
8:30/7:30c - ALLEN GREGORY (New Comedy; Animated series about a seven-year-old child prodigy who tries to blend in at an ordinary school. Jonah Hill voices the lead)
9/8c - Family Guy (Comedy; 10th Season)
9:30/8:30c - American Dad! (Comedy; 7th Season)

And finally, we have Animation Domination. This constitutes the network's greatest contributions to TV pop culture, with The Simpsons and Family Guy serving as the block's cornerstones. Of the two shows sharing crews and producers with Family Guy, of note is the fact that American Dad! is now going to lead out of the major hit. Meanwhile Family Guy's own spinoff, The Cleveland Show is now getting the more precarious 7:30 slot against NFL coverage (although that may not be the case with the lockout). This past season, the slots for each show were reversed when accomodating Bob's Burgers. And we have one new animated sitcom, Allen Gregory in the fall this time. Watch this space for my impressions of it later.

Among the FOX shows getting the axe, The Chicago Code, The Good Guys, Human Target, Lone Star, Lie to Me, Running Wilde, and Traffic Light are all gone. As of this writing, Breaking In was announced as cancelled, but has scored a reprive and potential for renewal. A new episode will follow Raising Hope this week and serve as a test for it.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

NBC's Fall 2011 Schedule

As has been the norm for NBC the last few years, the new schedule for the Fall is released one day before the upfront presentations on Monday. Said schedule has just been released, and the network is also kind enough to provide interviews and nuggets of information to go with it, as if a sneak preview of the upfronts themselves.

Of course, NBC has consistently performed anemically in the ratings this season, and has for several years now. They're always struggling just to get a break and with diminishing numbers in broadcast ratings overall, relief should only come sooner rather than later. Now, only recently did a new singing competition, The Voice open to spectacular numbers. So good did the premiere perform, as did each subsequent installment that it comes off as the break NBC needed.

I was personally surprised by this success, since it seemed like such a cash-in on FOX's American Idol. On the other hand, I can understand it better with consideration. Given how long Idol has been on, any major series to compete with it only seems overdue.

Mind you though, The Voice is naturally only going to wait until midseason to make its debut. Other midseason entries include sitcoms Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (Based on the book by E! talk show host Chelsea Handler), Bent, and Best Friends Forever, along with dramas Awake, The Firm (Based on John Grisham's novel), and the musical Smash (giving the impression of going hand-in-hand with The Voice). Returning shows waiting as well include The Celebrity Apprentice, and the revered comedy 30 Rock, which frees up the Thursday night schedule by one slot.

Now on to the Fall Schedule, with commentary on each night including first impressions of new shows. Naturally, it all comes from the perspective of the average viewer, even with the occasional heightened sense of programming know-how.


8/7c - The Sing-Off (Reality Competition; 3rd Season)
10/9c - THE PLAYBOY CLUB (New Drama; A 1960's period piece set at the titular club in Chicago. Such a name kind of speaks for itself.)

For those of you who've never heard of it, The Sing-Off is a reality show comprised of a capella groups competing with each other. It is also worth noting that the past two seasons of the show were special runs that came at Christmastime, airing over the course of one week it's first season and two it's second. The second season performed fairly nicely in the ratings, especially for the month of December and it's low-traffic viewership for programming outside of holiday specials. As an instance where the network considers this a worthy gamble, it makes perfect sense, and we'll see how it does. The Playboy Club has a potentially provocative premise to go with it's period piece setting. We get a slick, stylistic look to go with an opening (I assume) narration from Hugh Heffner himself, adding so far to a sense of atmosphere above most network dramas.


8/7c - The Biggest Loser (Reaity Competition; 8th Season)
10/9c - Parenthood (Drama; 3rd Season)

This is simply a case of "If it ain't broke, Don't fix it". Even with the weaker numbers, NBC's Tuesday schedule has performed consistently with the popular drama from the Ron Howard movie of the same name following the relevant weight-loss competition. It did so up until one month shy of the season's end (Accommodating only The Voice). At the same time, Parenthood is one of NBC's better dramatic performers, and with any luck it should only rebound next season whilst staying put. Same goes for The Biggest Loser, although that's a better performer.


8/7c - UP ALL NIGHT (New Comedy; Christina Applegate and Will Arnett play fairly new parents)
8:30/7:30c - FREE AGENTS (New Comedy; Workplace comedy with two rising executives coming off romantic stress)
9/8c - Harry's Law (Drama; 2nd Season; New Night & Time)
10/9c - Law & Order: SUV (Drama; 13th Season)

NBC's attempt at a second night of comedy seems most destined to face the most conflict with ABC's Wednesday block. Bearing any adjust on their part, it will compete with the moderately-performing, but consistent and popular The Middle. Whatever new comedy ABC picks will certainly matter, as will any decision to shift The Middle, if competing with the parenthood-themed Up All Night seems too risky. I can't imagine it would much, though. The clip I've seen of it is mildly amusing, but doesn't come off as anything special. Still, the leads are of course inspired and the decision to lead off with the one starring veterans from Arrested Development and Married...With Children only makes perfect sense. Free Agents doesn't look as engrossing, or at least the clip given isn't particularly funny. But at the very least, a workplace comedy seems like a change of pace among sitcoms. Much more interesting is the pairing of the two returning dramas, with the David E. Kelly/Kathy Bates legal drama (which had a decent initial run) leading into of SUV, the sole survivor of Dick Wolf's once booming procedural franchise. And even the latter has changes in store, with Mariska Hargitay planning to nurse her successor from the middle of the season out.


8/7c - Community (Comedy; 3rd Season)
8:30/8:30c - Parks & Recreation (Comedy; 4th Season)
9/8c - The Office (Comedy; 8th Season)
9:30/8:30c - WHITNEY (New Comedy; Vehicle for comic Whitney Cummings, wherein she goes through the quirks of a relationship)
10/9c - PRIME SUSPECT (New Drama; Remake of the popular British procedural, with Maria Bello taking the reins)

Aw, yeah! Thursdays on NBC just might be the best night for comedy! After all, with the ingeniously inspired and aggressively creative Community and Parks & Recreation, ever so relatable if you ever seen the interior working of bureaucracy, you can't go wrong. With Steve Carell's recent departure from The Office, it almost feels like the finale will be a scripted contest for the new lead, and certainly is much prettier than CBS' PR nightmare surrounding Charlie Sheen. Perhaps the biggest standout is the new comedy on the block, Whitney for sheer virtue of being a multi-camera sitcom. Not that it's a bad thing necessarily, I still love a few of CBS' sitcoms which largely avoid the single-camera approach. I'm just a touch surprised, given that I expected NBC (as well as ABC, though to a lesser extent) to view the soundstage and laugh-track approach as outdated and obsolete, preferring the more streamlined sophistication of a sitcom shot more like a feature film. I can write a whole separate piece on this subject, but let's just focus on the show itself. In another detail of a throwback approach, we have the choice of a comedian as the lead akin to many a sitcom that ran on ABC in the 1990's. (Sure, Seinfeld also. But the writing had a special approach.) The clip doesn't inspire much confidence, and isn't quite as funny as the pilot of ABC's Better With You was last fall. But with hope, the rest of the pilot will fare better when I see it. And the choice of 10 PM drama takes perhaps the most popular procedural in the UK and makes it our own. My mother is something of an Anglophile so I've certainly heard of Prime Suspect, but the dark tone is not very much her style. More power to NBC for trying an edgier approach on a cop show, but I can't say I'm much interested in procedurals to begin with and this one doesn't have an extra appeal for me.


8/7c - Chuck (Drama; 5th Season; New Night)
9/8c - GRIMM (New Drama; Reimagining of Grimm's Fairy Tales
10/9c - Dateline (Newsmagazine)

Certainly, I may write up about Chuck's most recent season in another entry, because storywise what went down goes hand-in-hand with it's latest escape-act of a last-minute renewal. You see, it's coming back in the fall for one last go-around, running only 13 episodes. It's odd enough that this season is the big chance to provide absolute closure, but the choice to air it on Fridays is intriguing to say the least. After all, this isn't a night where many people gather around the boob tube and wasn't really back in the day, either. Still, I look forward to this final run when it comes. I'll be ready. What follows it is perhaps the show with the weakest chance at survival, Grimm. It's a real shame that it's going to air between a drama whose fate is already set in stone and a newsmagazine whose low cost renders it suitable filler for Friday nights. NBC's apparent low confidence in this unique revamping of Grimm's fairy tales is compounded by a simple clip of one detective taking to a woman on her deathbed, as we've seen plenty of times before. Still, the concept evokes memories of ABC's absolutely marvelous, albeit short-lived Pushing Daisies, which seamlessly worked the idea of a man who can raise the dead with the conventions of a murder-of-the-week concept.


All Night - "Encores"

Even less people watch TV on Saturdays than on Fridays. Moving on.


7/6c - Football Night in America
8:15e - Sunday Night Football

Baseball may be America's past time, but football remains the favorite child among sports. If anything, that just makes the threat of a cancelled NFL season by way of lockout more threatening for NBC than for any other network.

Among cancelled shows, Chase, The Cape, The Event, Law & Order: LA, Outlaw, Outsourced, The Paul Reiser Show, Perfect Couples, and Undercovers are all out.

Look for more updates to go with each network's upfronts as the week progresses. Further, make sure to keep watching this space for more essays looking back on the season and even for some updates that come along need the case be.

Friday, May 13, 2011

On Past Errors in Judgement...

Last Fall, to usher in the start of the new TV Season I did a series of posts and commentaries about each of the broadcast networks. Or rather...I started on it, and never completed. I only wrote an introduction, also mentioning the CW and three pieces, one each on NBC, FOX and ABC.

To be honest, I really didn't take much advantage of this blog since starting it a year ago, upon my graduation from college. Upon putting more thought into why, I can summarize the overall problem in two main points. Firstly, I don't seem to have enough drive to actually write. It obviously puts a block on anything remotely related to progress, and it feels like something that can change with the flick of a lightswitch. But, I at least now understand that there's a gradual process to fixing it. And secondly, I never seem to know what to write, what I want to talk about, or how I want to say it. On the bright side, in understanding this point I can start to improve on the first. The process of actually writing on this blog initiates with thought, or rather motivating myself to think. It all starts to come to form when I realize what I want to write.

And after that point, I can motivate myself to actually do so.

With that in consideration, I realize that aside from not taking up enough initiative, the biggest mistake I made last fall was overwhelming myself. The last post I wrote was about the FOX network, and I had too much to write. As a major animation nerd, I naturally gravitate towards their Sunday night schedule with hits like The Simpsons and Family Guy and thusly, I have plentiful investment in and a whirlwind of opinions stemming from them. I was going to cover the Sunday lineup as a separate entry, but lost track of it. Eventually too much time passed, the topic lost relevance, and the writings stopped there.

The other basic error on my part was setting the bar too high. Looking back, this is sort of why I overwhelmed myself in the first place. I tried to cover the networks in general and overextended myself, unsuitably and pretentiously approaching this topic like I was a professional, when I am not. And to reiterate my prior point, I didn't think about what to write or rather what specifically to cover. What resulted was several articles that were all over the place.

But now, I can honestly say that I feel a sense of accomplishment approaching this issue, mulling it over, and coming to these realizations. I do not expect to completely undo the mistakes of the past, or even gloss over them. All I intend to do is start to try harder in the future.

The TV season is about to close and the upfronts are drawing near. As such, I have come up with a few ideas to write about that just might make up for the way I cut myself off on last fall's posts. Such writing would cover TV again, talking about specific comedies I've followed during the season, along with the two dramas I can say I've consistently tuned in for (that would be NBC's Chuck and ABC's Castle). And it would in a sense, sum up the season in a nutshell.