Monday, May 13, 2013

Could NBC Make a Come Back?

I must confess that I have been very hard on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) in this blog. From replacing Conan O'Brien with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show to their handling of the 2012 London Olympics to replacing Ann Curry with Savannah Guthrie on The Today Show, it just seemed to me that the network could do nothing right. Given the general ineptitude I believe NBC has shown the past few years, I then really did not have very high expectations for their upcoming fall season.  Fortunately I was rather pleasantly surprised when I watched the trailers to their new shows today. If this set of trailers is any indication, the 2013-2014 season could be the strongest NBC has had in some time.

Indeed, one of the pleasant surprises for me was The Blacklist. The show centres on Raymond "Red" Reddington (James Spader), a master criminal who turns himself into the FBI so he can help them find criminals the FBI was not aware of, the individuals on his "blacklist." I have to confess I didn't know what to make of the show when I first read about it, but the trailer actually does look interesting.

I must also say that I was very impressed with the trailer to The Michael J. Fox Show. I think it is safe to say it is one of the most anticipated shows of this autumn and if the trailer is any indication that anticipation is well warranted. The trailer was very funny--I found myself laughing several times. And I must say that I am impressed to see Michael J. Fox on the small screen, especially playing someone who has Parkinson's disease just as he has in real life. If the show is as good as the trailer, it will definitely be worth watching.

Of course, besides Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC, the new show I'm looking forward to the most his fall is Dracula. Aside from the fact that I simply like the idea of a regular series based on the classic horror novel, Dracula has some very good people involved. Daniel Knauf, who wrote and produced Carnivàle is a  producer on the show and Jonathan Rhys Meyers from The Tudors plays the title role. The trailer looked very good. Not only are costumes and sets sumptuous (it is set in the Victoria Era, just like the original novel), but the performances and dialogue seem quite good as well.

Beyond the trailers with which I was impressed, I must admit that I am also intrigued by the concepts behind some of NBC's mid-season shows. I can sum up Crossbones in seven words and that should be enough to get you to watch it: "Pirate show from the creator of Luther." If that's not enough, consider that John Malkovich is playing the lead role. Believe is another potentially interesting mid-season show. It is from director Alfonso Cuarón (perhaps best known for Children of Men) and J. J. Abrams, and centres on a young girl with an array of abilities ranging from psychokinesis to precognition. Another show to which I am looking forward to is Chicago PD. It is produced by Dick Wolf of Law & Order fame, whose Chicago Fire proved to be a pleasant surprise this season.

Given the trailers I have seen for the shows above and the descriptions I have seen for some of the mid-season shows, I think NBC might actually have a stronger line up than CBS this fall. Now CBS has yet to announce their fall schedule, but so far I am not particularly impressed by their pickups, which seem to be heavily sitcoms. Worse yet, most of these sitcoms, such as Chuck Lorre's Mom and Greg Gracia's The Millers, just seem generic at best. And I have to point out that CBS has what could be the show with the lamest concept of any this season. Despite the fact that Hostages will star Toni Collette and is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it hardly sounds promising from its concept. Basically, Miss Collette plays a surgeon who has been picked to operate on the President of the United States when her family is taken hostage. Now I think this would make a great concept for a two part television movie or a six part mini-series at most, but I don't see how there will be enough plot for an entire series. If it is like such previous efforts with rather limited concepts, it will require a good deal of padding, during which time the audience will probably bail on it.

Of course, even given how poor I think most of the series CBS has picked up sound, it is still possible NBC could drop the ball. From where I stand it seems as if NBC did pick its share of losers. I was not impressed by the trailer of Ironside, the re-imagining of the classic police drama starring Raymond Burr. From the trailer it appears the new Ironside adds nothing new to police dramas and is simply paint by numbers. I did not find the trailer to Welcome to the Family funny at all, and the trailer to Sean Saves the World had me thinking it belongs on CBS (coming from me that is not a compliment when it comes to sitcoms).

Worse than the weak series that seem to be debuting on NBC this fall is that they seemed to have dropped the ball when it comes to scheduling. While The Blacklist has a solid Monday night slot, NBC placed Dracula in a 9:00 Central, Friday night death slot. This seems wrong headed to me, as I am sure it will appeal to a young audience. Sadly, NBC also placed Crossbones in the same time slot at mid-season. Again, I think it is a show that will appeal to a young audience. They really should have placed them on other nights (as well as Grimm, for that matter) when they would get much higher ratings (young people do tend to go out on Friday night). I also have to question why they did not use The Michael J. Fox Show as their anchor on Thursday night, scheduling it at 7:00 Central, or at least following the excellent Parks and Recreation at 7:30. I fear viewers might not stick around through Welcome to the Family and Sean Saves the World, not even for Michael J. Fox. I guess I shouldn't mention that I think NBC should have kept Go On and placed it on Thursday night instead of picking up either Sean Saves the World or Welcome to the Family.

Of course, trailers can be misleading and thumbnail descriptions don't always mean that a show will be any good. It's possible that Dracula will be horrible and Sean Saves the World will be brilliant. It's even possible that CBS' pickups aren't as lame as I think they are. Regardless, my over all impression of NBC's new fall schedule is very good at the moment, even if they should move some shows around before fall.


Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

I watched Go On when it premiered, and while I must confess losing touch with it sometime around mid-season (I was in busy mode and got behind on my Hulu) I'm sorry to see that NBC is letting this one go. It had sharp scripting and a great cast; I even liked Matthew Perry, and that's a lot coming from someone who would cringe whenever I saw him on 30 Rock copycat (I'm too lazy to look up the title).

But in all seriousness: if the best NBC has to offer is revamping Ironside (Hi, Raymond Burr! Mind if we dance a jig on your grave a while?) and resisting the urge to put a pillow over Community's face while it's sleeping I'm just not all that optimistic about the network's future. They should think about leasing themselves out as a public access channel.

Note to commenters: TTC and I have a running Twitter disagreement on Community: I think it needs to hang it up (even I didn't spend that much time at the community college I attended), he thinks it's still better than The Office without Steve Carell. (This last part doesn't make him a bad person...just horribly, horribly wrong.)

Terence Towles Canote said...

Besides not letting Up All Night ever reaching the air, I think NBC's biggest mistake the past few years was cancelling Go On. I really think they should have moved it to Thursday night.

That having been said, a revamp of _Ironside_ appears to not the best NBC has to offer. The problem is they are scheduling all their best at the wrong time. Still, it seems to me that NBC's worst shows may be better than CBS's worst shows (I just don't have high hopes for Hostages). That doesn't bode well in my mind for the Tiffany Network. I'm thinking ABC could actually beat them the way things look right now!

And, of course, you know I have to say it. I think Community still has a good deal of life left in it, while The Office should have been canned the moment Steve Carrell left!

Jim Marquis said...

They're doing a new version of Ironside? Oh, give me a break. Even the original got old pretty fast.