May 16, 2011

2011 upfronts: nbc

Programming Notes:

You can see the full list of renewals and cancellations here. NBC has ordered six new pilots for the fall 2011-12 schedule - three dramas and three comedies - and another six are planned for midseason. Other interesting notes:
  • NBC will start a one-hour comedy block on Wednesdays
  • Thursday will go back to two hours of comedy followed by an hour drama
  • 30 Rock will be held until midseason to work around Tina Fey's bun in the oven
  • This will be Chuck's fifth and final season - 13 episode order with the possibility of more
  • A primetime news magazine show with Brian Williams is in the works
  • Crazy ratings hit The Voice will be back midseason (they're coming for you Idol)
  • Holiday special The Sing Off will adapted into a weekly competition series for the fall
TV Line posted a collection of trailers for the news shows. Check them out here and/or read my little descriptions and gut reactions below.

New Dramas:

You guess it, this one is inspired by the Grimm's Fairy Tales. Nick Burkhardt (David Guintoli, who's had guest spots in everything) is a homicide detective whose aunt informs him that his family are descendants of an elite group of hunters, also known as “Grimms,” who fight to keep the balance of humanity safe from the supernatural creatures of the world. Still with me? Nick must now shoulder the responsibility of his ancestors -- and contend with a larger-than-life mythology of the Brothers Grimm. You'll recognize some folks: Also starring: Russell Hornsby (Lincoln Heights), Bitsie Tulloch (Quarterlife), Silas Weir Mitchell (Prison Break), Reggie Lee (Persons Unknown) and Sasha Roiz (Caprica).

My take: You know I love a unique premise, but the dialog in the trailer felt like a bad CW show. Even so, I'll check it out. I'm always a sucker for pedestrian, mythical sci-fi, and the special effects look pretty cool.

Prime Suspect
Another hugely popular British series adapted for us Americans. You probably know this as the detective series made famous by Helen Mirren. Maria Bello is filling those intimidating shoes. I feel kind of blahh about that. She plays homicide detective Jane Timoney - an outsider who has just transferred to a new NYC precinct dominated by an impenetrable boys' club. Timoney has her own vices too -- with a questionable past -- and she tends to be forceful, rude and reckless. You'll recognize a bunch of faces in this one, including Aidan Quinn (always Benny to me), Brian O'Byrne (Flash Forward, Brotherhood), Kirk Acevedo, and Peter Gerety (Blue Bloods, Mercy).

My take: Something tells me this isn't really my thing, but Peter Berg (FNL creator) is directing the pilot, so I'll at least tune in for that.

The Playboy Club
Executive producer Brian Grazer (FNL, 24, Parenthood, etc) brings this new drama set in the early ‘60s at the legendary Playboy Club in Chicago. Inside the seductive world of the bunny, the epitome of beauty and service, the clientele rubs shoulders with the decade's biggest mobsters, politicos and entertainers. Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian, CSI: Miami) is one of the city's top attorneys and the ultimate playboy. With mysterious ties to the mob, Nick comes to the aid of Maureen (Amber Heard, Zombieland), the innocent new bunny who accidentally kills the leader of the Bianchi crime family. Dating Nick is Carol-Lynne (Laura Benanti, Eli Stone), an established star at the club who knows her days as a bunny are numbered and finds herself continually at odds with Billy (David Krumholtz, 10 Things I Hate About You), the club's general manager.

My take: Playboys and mobsters? Pretty sure I will love this. The film style looks pretty, but it also feels a little bit like Cibrian is doing a Don Draper impression.

Awake (midseason)
When Detective Michael Britten (Jason Issacs or Lucius Malfoy) regains consciousness following his family's car accident, he is told that his wife Hannah (Laura Allen, “Terriers”) perished but that his teen son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, “Saving Grace”), has survived. As he tries to put the pieces of his life back together, he awakens again in a parallel reality in which his wife is very much alive -- but his son Rex died in the accident. In order to keep both of his loved ones alive at one time, he begins living in parallel worlds -- in one moment, Michael and his wife debate about having another child to replace their son, while in the other reality, he is attracted to his son's tennis coach (yipes). Of course, he also returns to crime-solving with the help of two different partners -- Detective Isaiah “Bird” Freeman (Steve Harris, The Practice) and Detective Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama, That '70s Show). Also starring: Cherry Jones (24) and BD Wong (Law & Order: SVU) as therapists in each respective world.

My take: I implore you to watch the trailer (link above). I can't tell if I love it or hate it. Or don't understand it. WTF? The cast is really strong, at least I know that.

Smash (midseason)
A musical drama (still with me?) about the creation of a Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe -- written by the successful songwriting duo of Tom (Christian Borle, Legally Blonde: The Musical) and Julia (Debra Messing, Will & Grace). Julia recently began the process of adopting a child with her husband, but her focus is torn when she has the opportunity to write another Broadway hit. A rivalry forms for the lead role between a youthful, inexperienced Midwestern beauty (American Idol Katharine McPhee) and a stage veteran (Megan Hilty, 9 to 5: The Musical) looking for her big break. A tenacious producer Eileen (Anjelica Huston) discovers the "Marilyn" project and jumps on board with a brilliant director (Jack Davenport, Pirates of the Caribbean).

My take: I like that NBC is taking a chance on something different here. There could be an audience for a show like this, but probably a small one, which I'm not sure they're after. Also, I can't help it, I'm not wild about Debra Messing.

The Firm (midseason)
Based on John Grisham creation, “The Firm” continues the story of attorney Mitchell McDeere and his family 10 years after the events of the film and novel. As a young associate, McDeere brought down the prestigious Memphis law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke, which operated as a front for the Chicago mob -- and his life was never the same. After a difficult decade, which included a stay in the Federal Witness Protection program, Mitch and his family now emerge from isolation to reclaim their lives and their future -- only to find that past dangers are still lurking and new threats are everywhere.

My take: Without knowing the cast members or seeing a trailer, it's hard to judge. I feel like it belongs on CBS though.

New Comedies:

Up All Night
From producers Emily Spivey (Parks and Recreation, SNL) and Lorne Michaels, this is a comedy about balancing a career, marriage and a new baby. Christina Applegate stars as Reagan, a successful public relations executive, and Will Arnett (Arrested Development) plays her supportive, stay-at-home husband. The two have just become parents – a surprise that has set their lives on a new path as responsible adults. Maya Rudolph (SNL) stars as Reagan's outlandish boss and best friend, whose whirlwind social escapades serve as constant reminders of Reagan's former carefree life. James Pumphrey (High Road) plays Brian, Reagan's socially awkward hipster assistant.

My take: It's a different camera style for an NBC comedy. It's a really good cast that made me laugh out loud a few times during the trailer, so I'll check it out.

Whitney (Whitney Cummings, Chelsea Lately) and Alex (Chris D'Elia, Glory Daze), are a happily unmarried couple. However, after attending yet another one of their friends' weddings, Whitney realizes that she and Alex are close to relationship boredom. (ugh, this is painful) Whitney consults her close circle of opinionated girlfriends -- including Lily (Zoe Lister-Jones, The Other Guys) and Roxanne (Rhea Seehorn, The Starter Wife) -- and then snaps into action. A few awkward sexy costumes and one botched seductive evening later, the couple ends up in the emergency room. Even so, Whitney and Alex realize that while their relationship might not be perfect on paper, they really do love each other -- and that works for them.

My take: Is this a TV show or a bad romcom? The laugh track during the trailer annoyed the crap out of me.

Free Agents
Another UK import, this one is a workplace/romantic comedy about two public relations executives on the rebound. Alex (Hank Azaria) is newly divorced and can barely keep himself together while his co-worker Helen (Kathryn Hahn, Hung) thinks she has it together but is obsessed with her deceased fiancé and actually is falling apart. They drunkenly sleep together, and in the resulting sober confusion, Helen decides that they should only be friends. Alex finally agrees to start dating again, she gets jealous, and he gets cold feet, so they end up back where they started -- in a weird, awkward relationship.

My take: Another really strong cast, but I'm having visions of myself fast-forwarding through the awkwardness.

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (midseason)
Inspired by the best-selling book by Chelsea Handler, this one follows the exploits of twentysomething bartender Chelsea (Laura Prepon, That '70s Show) who is determined to live life to the fullest and make no apologies. Her friends are along for the ride but they all know it is Chelsea's way or the highway. She's surrounded by friends and co-workers: Mark (Jo Koy, Chelsea Lately) a charming bartender whose wit makes him the perfect foil for Chelsea, Shoniqua (Angel Laketa Moore, ER) a waitress who looks out for Chelsea's best interests, and close friend and fellow bartender Todd (Mark Povinelli, Water for Elephants) whose wry sense of humor that keeps her in check. Also starring: Natalie Morales (Parks and Recreation) as Ivory, Chelsea's feisty best friend as well as Handler herself, who plays Chelsea's sister Sloan, a happily married new mom who has little in common with her sister.

My take: I've always found Laura Prepon charming, but I'm unsure of her ability to deliver Handler's lines. And again, lose the laugh-track. It makes the show feel like a series on one-liners.

Best Friends Forever (midseason)
Another comedy about unhappy 20-something friends. When Jessica's (Jessica St. Clair, In the Motherhood) husband files for divorce, she flies across the country to move back in with her best friend, Lennon (Lennon Parham, Accidentally on Purpose). But Lennon's boyfriend, Joe (Adam Pally -- unless Happy Endings doesn't get renewed), has just moved into the apartment and turned Jessica's old room into his home office. Three's a crowd as Lennon struggles to find balance between her previous life with Jessica and her new life with Joe, and Jessica's reentry to single life is complicated by the unresolved feelings from an old friend, Rav (Stephen Schneider, The Funniest Movie Ever…Just Kidding).

My take: The only thing I liked about the trailer was Adam Pally, who I'm guessing (hoping) will be staying on Happy Endings.

Bent (midseason)
A romantic comedy about two people who find themselves attracted to the qualities that typically repel them. On the surface, Alex (Amanda Peet, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip") and Pete (David Walton, "Perfect Couples") could not be more different. The recently divorced Alex is a tough lawyer raising her eight-year-old daughter as a single mom. She hires Pete, a recovering gambling addict and womanizer, as the contractor to re-do her kitchen. The remodeling job is Pete's last chance to prove that he is no longer a screw-up -- but he doesn't know what's about to hit him when he encounters the force of nature that is Alex -- nor does she realize that she's met her match in Pete, a man unafraid to call out her flaws.

My take: Who, in fact, is the boss?


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