Monday, September 01, 2008

NBC Fall TV Preview

Labor Day has come and gone, the first football games have been played, and there are leaves piling up in my yard (due to drought, but still). That means only one thing--Fall is almost here and that also means one other thing . . . I've got to get to work writing this year's Fall TV Preview posts.

If there is anything constant about my blog (and, no, there isn't much) it is that I have spent some time during this part of the calendar year previewing the upcoming slate of television shows on the networks. It has gotten a bit more complicated over the last few years as the networks have sort of added a summer season, while also mercilessly cutting and destroying poor performing shows. And, of course, I don't spend time talking about cable series and premium channel shows that I am not a subscriber of. So, the utility of this exercise becomes less and less relevant each year, but it means something to me, as when I was younger, I greatly anticipated the arrival of the Fall TV issue of TV Guide. (Yes, I really did.) I loved reading about the new shows, seeing the actors, and trying to gauge which episodes I thought might be interesting to watch and trying to see if I could fit any of the good ones into my schedule.

So, here we go again. For no reason at all, I'm starting with NBC.

While perusing the network website, I am struck by the small amount of new shows upcoming for the Fall. I count only FIVE new shows, if you can believe it. Either than means NBC has truly given up any belief in its ability to create new scripted programming that America wants to watch--a thought process I am not willing to entirely discount--or they are sticking with the shows that, while huge ratings successes in recent years, are at least pleasing to the critics and SOME of the viewing public.

Monday: Chuck [9/29 @ 8 pm] (a show that I said I liked last year and did watch some, but not enough) remains on Monday night's at 8 pm. Chuck's first season was quirky and hit my sweet spot of being nerdy and about spies. So, let's hope the show keeps things going for season two. Heroes [9/22 @ 9 pm] is also back again on Monday. I've read that the creators and writers learned from the poor plotting and delays that screwed up a very poorly received season 2. Season 3, they claim, is going to be more action-packed and more engaging. I just hope it keeps people interested. The mystery isn't nearly as compelling and knotty as LOST, which has used its intrigue and better quality writing to keep going over rough patches. Heroes doesn't have the same loyalty from me or from most people, I'm guessing. So, they need to step up quickly. The other new show on Monday's is one of the few that I am intrigued by. Unfortunately, My Own Worst Enemy doesn't hit the network until next month [10/13 @ 10 pm]. But I'm a fan of high concept (schizophrenic family man that might be a spy in a different life--again with the spy fetish, David?) and Christian Slater is the main character. So, I'll give it a try. It's probably this year's Bionic Woman, but I hope it might be engaging.

Tuesday: Well, NBC doesn't seem to have much going on. Most of the night is filled with another Biggest Loser spinoff (this one focusing on families losing weight together, it seems). I'm all for weight loss, but I don't think I'll be losing much weight by sitting down in front of the TV watching other people do it. And NBC doesn't inspire much confidence the rest of Tuesday night by ending the primetime hours with Law & Order: SVU. I've never been and L & O fan, so it looks like Tuesday night is another network's night in this house.

Wednesday: NBC won't be drawing me in too hard on that night either. The night begins with one of the few new shows of the season, but I've already experienced it (more than once!). You see, it is the ill-conceived reboot of the Knight Rider series that I was a fan of back when I was a kid. I was an unabashed fan of David Hasselhoff and KITT (vers. 1.0), but this new "updated" show probably seemed like a good idea in the executives offices of NBC when they were discussing how much critics liked "Battlestar Galactica." But, BSG is gritty, pseudo-political and just awesome. Knight Rider [9/24 @ 8pm] just doesn't work. I gamely tried the "movie version" of the pilot back in the spring, but I don't think I'll be taking KITT back out for another spin. Following that, you've got Deal or No Deal. (I say No Deal.) And after that is Lipstick Jungle. [9/24 @ 10 pm] You might not be aware that that show was on last season . . . at least I think it was. I distinctly remember typing the title Lipstick Jungle during last year's NBC preview . . . hold it, let's check . . . hmm. I can't seem to find it in last year's writeups. That probably means that it was a mid-season replacement just waiting in the wings. I do know the Brooke Shields is in it, but that's mostly because Brooke was a celebrity judge on Project Runway recently.

Thursday: Moving on, we can see on Thursday, the bulk of NBC's plans and the only place they have really strong shows (other than Chuck on Monday . . . but that's mostly my opinion, I guess.) The night kicks off with My Name is Earl [9/25 @ 8pm] and then moves on to another of the new shows, Kath & Kim, [10/9 @ 8 pm] a show with a flashy website. Usually, that means the network is engaged in the success of the show. It also helps that the show features SNL alumnus Molly Shannon. But it doesn't bode well to me that the show is an Americanization of an Australian original show of the same name. (I know, I know that The Office has done well in this regard, but doesn't anyone besides me remember the disaster that was Coupling?) The 9 o'clock block on Thursday is filled with the reliable and funny duo of The Office [9/25 @ 9 pm] and 30 Rock [10/30 @ 9:30 pm]. These are the shows you can guarantee will be talked about the next day around the office water cooler (do those still exist anywhere? my office has a water dispenser that comes pre-chilled . . . anyway). So, even though you have to wait until Halloween for 30 Rock (and have to fill that time with SNL Weekend Update Thursdays) I recommend you spend time with those shows. I don't even know yet what it's Thursday night competition is, but that's why we DVR stuff, right? And then there is ER [9/25 @ 10 pm]--in it's kajillionth and final season. What can I say? I stopped watching in the Clinton administration but it's still going strong. I guess the legislation on euthanization finally came through? But in a final season, keep an eye out for stunt casting, dramatic returns of old cast mates--those not ridiculously killed by falling helicopters or now far too famous to bother.

Friday: NBC is bringing back Life [9/29 @ 10 pm--a special Monday repremiere before consigning it to death on it's regular Friday slot] from last season and either rerunning Tuesday's episode of Deal or No Deal (I surely hope not) or they are just running another one (not a good option either, when you think about it). The only new thing on Friday night doesn't look very promising on the face of it--Crusoe. [10/17 @ 8 pm] Yes, THAT Crusoe. Supposedly, the show will "brave the elements (??) in a contemporary tale of love, friendship, and self-discovery." I know that some people love costume shows, but I don't think I'll be staying home on my birthday to watch that premiere.

Weekend:Well, it's what you expect. Friday is either Dateline or reruns of what you decided not to watch on the previous weeknight (Knight Rider or Law & Order: SVU) or football, football, football on Sunday.

Not very inspiring, huh? Well, there's not much I can do about it being far from the power center of television and decision making in California. I can only vote by neglect (for the most part) and try my best to give my ratings to the few shows on NBC that seem to be creative and fun to watch.


Anonymous said...

thanks for the write-up, David. someday you should write about the new Nielsen methods that are starting this year that quantify viewership in better ways and might change upcoming programming patterns. we can only hope something changes the current trend, because network TV should be put down it's getting so pathetic.

i only see one flaw in your write-up: you failed to mention that Thursday night now features Selma Blair.

David said...

Oddly enough, Dr. Actually and I were talking about the final season of ER this afternoon and so, therefore, I find it appropriate to include this tidbit of news