May 17, 2011

2011 upfronts: abc

Programming Notes:

Click here for the full list of ABC's cancellations and renewals announced last week. ABC will introduce at least 13 new shows during the 2011-12 season! Far more than any of the other networks - I think more than NBC and FOX combined. They're really going for it. Here are a few tidbits from the presentation this morning:
  • Given the number of midseason starts, looks like ABC wants to have new shows premiering at multiple times throughout the year.
  • The 8:00 hour on Tuesday will be turning into a new comedy block with two new shows - Last Man Standing and Man Up - providing an alternative to NCIS, Glee, and Biggest Loser powerhouses airing on the other networks.
  • Cougar Town won't be coming back until spring - in the Dancing with the Stars slot on Tuesdays at 9:00. They still have a full 22-episode order though.
  • Instead, renewed Happy Endings will look for a lead-in ratings boost in the coveted post Modern Family slot on Wednesdays at 9:30.
  • ABC Sundays are being revamped with new shows Once Upon a Time and Pan Am sandwiching Desperate Housewives. I'm looking forward to the possibility of good network TV on Sunday again.
TV Line posted a collection of trailers for the news shows. Check them out here and/or read my little descriptions and gut reactions after the jump.

New dramas:

Charlie's Angels
This one needs no description. All you really need to know is that it's set in present day Miami, and the Angels are: Abby (Rachael Taylor, Grey's Anatomy) the Park Avenue princess turned world-class thief, Kate (Annie Ilonzeh, General Hospital) the Miami cop who lost her job and her fiance for yet-unexplained reasons, and Eve (Minka Kelly, Friday Night Lights) the street racer with a past. Eve comes into the fold after Angel Gloria - a former army lieutenant and childhood friend of Eve - dies. So, we meet them when they're first starting as a trio. And of course, there's Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez, The Wire).

My take: The girl power in me wants to like this, but I just don't care about it.

Good Christian Belles (midseason)
A soapy drama set in Dallas, based on the book Good Christian Bitches. Amanda Vaughn (Leslie Bibb, Popular), former high school mean girl, returns home in disgrace after her marriage ends in scandal. Amanda is nothing like the girl she was 20 years ago, and as she and her teenage kids try to adjust to their new lives, the ladies from her past alternate between sympathy and scheming. These ladies include Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) as Carlene Cockburn, Annie Potts (Designing Women) as Gigi Stopper, Jennifer Aspen (Rodney) as Sharon Peacham, Miriam Shor (Damages) as Cricket Caruth-Reilly. Some of the best character names ever?

My take: The producing credits include Sex and the City and Steel Magnolias. And I love the Cheno. But I always have a really hard time watching mean girls in action. It makes me want to curl up under my couch (no issues here).

Missing (midseason-ish)
Becca Winstone (Ashley Judd) learns that her son, Michael, disappears while studying abroad. Her CIA agent husband was killed 10 years later, so she smells danger. This is the story of Becca's trip to Europe to track him down. And turns out, she has a secret of her own-- before her husband's death, she was also a lethal CIA agent. The kidnappers realize they’ve picked a fight with the wrong woman, as she goes back to old contacts to find her son.

My take: Like many pilots I'm seeing this season, how is this not a movie? 24 for chicks?

Once Upon a Time
From a couple of Lost executive producers, this one is described as the collision between modern day and fairy tale. Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison, House) is a bail bonds collector who’s been on her own since she was abandoned as a baby. But when the son she gave up years ago finds her, everything starts to change. Henry (Jared Gilmore - Bobby from Mad Men!) is now 10 years old and believes Emma comes from an alternate world and is Snow White and Prince Charming’s missing daughter. According to his book of fairy tales, they sent her away to protect her from the Evil Queen’s curse, which trapped the fairytale world forever, frozen in time, and brought them into our modern world. Emma brings Henry back to his New England hometown Storybrooke, but soon realizes the town is more than it seems. Fairytale characters are alive, but they don’t remember who they once were. The epic battle for the future of all worlds is beginning, and Emma will have to take the lead. Some big actors in this one, including Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love) as Snow White/Sister Mary Margaret and Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty) as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold.

My take: I like the idea of this, a really different path for ABC. Hard to see it finding a big audience, but I'm definitely going to check it out.

Pan Am
Set in the 1960s when air travel represents the height of luxury and Pan Am is the biggest name in the business. The planes are glamorous, the pilots are rock stars and the stewardesses are the most desirable women in the world. There’s Dean (Jonah Lotan, 24) – a cocky new pilot – the first of a new breed not trained in the war. And Maggie (Christina Ricci), rebellious bohemian turned stewardess "to see the world". There are a bunch of other stewardesses and pilots, but I don't have much more information.

My take: I feel like this and NBC's Playboy Club are the networks' attempted answer to Mad Men. The era of Pan Am is interesting to me, and the film style in the trailer is cool, but I'm worried the characters' problems will be a series of cliches.

Emily Thorne (Emily Van Camp, Everwood) is new to the Hamptons. She’s met some of her wealthy neighbors, has made a few new friends and seemingly blends into the town. But the truth is that Emily isn’t exactly new to the neighborhood. This was actually her old neighborhood, until something bad happened that ruined her family and their reputation. Now Emily is back for revenge. Around town, you'll recognize characters played by Madeleine Stowe (We Were Soldiers), Connor Paolo (Eric from Gossip Girl), Gabriel Mann (Mad Men), among others.

My take: The trailer feels like Gossip Girl or The OC, this feels like another departure for ABC, although I guess it could be a cousin of Desperate Housewives. Not sure I'm feeling it.

The River (midseason)
Famed explorer and TV personality Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek) went looking for magic deep in the Amazon and never returned. Six months after he vanished, his son Lincoln (Joe Anderson, Twilight) is finally ready to bury the past when Dr. Cole’s emergency beacon suddenly goes off. At the urging of his mother, Tess (Leslie Hope, 24)), Lincoln reluctantly joins her on a search for his father. To fund the rescue, they agree to let Dr. Cole’s cagey ex-producer, Clark (Paul Blackthorne, Lipstick Jungle), film the mission documentary-style. They are joined by a mixed crew: sexy and resourceful Lena (Eloise Mumford, Lone Star), loyal mechanic Emilio (Daniel Zacapa, Resurrection Blvd) and lethal bodyguard Captain Kurt Brynildson (Thomas Kretschmann, King Kong).

My take: The special effects in the trailer seem a little silly to me. I think I only have room for a certain amount of mysterious worlds in my TV schedule, and this might be one too many.

Scandal (midseason)
Created and produced by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice). A former White House media relations consultant, Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) defends the public images of our America's elite. Hoping to start a new chapter -- both professionally and personally -- she starts here own firm, but can’t seem to completely cut ties with her past. Slowly it becomes apparent that her staff, who specialize in fixing the lives of other people, can’t quite fix their own. Also starring Henry Ian Cusick (Lost), Columbus Short (Stomp the Yard), Guillermo Diaz (Half-Baked), and others.

My take: Since I reluctantly tend to fall for Shonda's work, and this just happens to be about my day job, I will watch, especially since it's midseason.

New Comedies:

Apartment 23 (midseason)
Midwesterner June (Dreama Walker, The Good Wife) moves to Manhattan only to lose her dream job thanks to a CEO from the Bernie Madoff school of embezzlement. Deep in debt and out on the streets, she gets hired at a coffee shop and finds new roommate Chloe (Krysten Ritter, Gilmore Girls). Chloe swindles June out of all her savings, but she and her snarky friend, James Van Der Beek (for real), soon learn that, just because June’s na├»ve, she isn’t stupid. June turns the tables on Chloe, who is so shocked about being scammed herself that she decides to pull June into her dysfunctional band of friends.

My Take: Watch the trailer. You will laugh. The Beek plays himself!

Last Man Standing
Tim Allen returns to ABC in this new comedy about the marketing director for an outdoor sporting goods store who drives a pick-up truck. While Mike is king of the hill at work, he’s the odd man out in a home dominated by women -- his wife, Vanessa (Nancy Travis), and their three daughters, 22- year-old Kristin, 17-year-old Mandy and 14-year-old Eve. After being a stay-at-home mom for years, Vanessa recently returned to work and was quickly promoted (much to the dismay of her primarily male co-workers). As a result of Vanessa’s increased work load, Mike is pulled into more hands-on parenting than ever before.

My take: Tim Allen is a master of this format, but the trailer is certainly not anything to write home about. The whole premise seems insulting to both genders. Done with it already.

Man Up
Three modern men try to get in touch with their inner tough guys and redefine what it means to be a “real man." Will is more interested in finding the perfect gift for his son Nathan’s (Jake Johnson) 13th birthday than in doing his job selling insurance; sensitive soul Craig (Christopher Moynihan) still pines for his college ex, Lisa; and Kenny (Dan Fogler) clamps down on his anger and asks himself, “What would Tobey Maguire do?,” when his ex, Brenda (Amanda Detmer), starts seeing a guy (Henry Simmons) who is everything he’s not and much better looking. After Craig crashes Lisa’s wedding to try to win her back, they are all faced with an opportunity to Man Up and be like their forefathers.

My take: Kind of funny trailer, but my god, do the descriptions of these guys sound boring. I guess that's the point?

Single father George (Jeremy Sisto) moves with his 16-year-old daughter from New York City to a house in the suburbs (after finding a box of condoms on her nightstand). At first Tessa is horrified by the big-haired, fake-boobed mothers and their sugar-free Red Bull-chugging kids, but somehow they start to find a home there. Still sounds terrifying to me. Also starring Cheryl Hines as one of those enhanced moms.

My take: The trailer made me laugh, and the tone reminded me of Modern Family, so I'll check it out. Plus, it's Elton (Clueless), so yeah.

Work It (midseason)
With unemployment an ongoing issue and women now outnumbering men in the workforce, two alpha males realize the only way to beat the current “mancession” and land a job in pharmaceutical sales is to pass themselves off as women. Jesus, I can't even keep typing.

My take: Terrible trailer. Are they really trying to convince us that these people wouldn't be able to tell they're dudes? This would be the second ABC comedy on this list that's insulting both genders. You gave us Modern Family, The Middle, and Cougar Town - why are you trying to dumb down ?


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