Monday, May 31, 2010

Upfronts Analysis | Friday Nights

For true TV nerds, upfront week (the week that the major television networks present their fall schedules to advertisers) is one of the best weeks of the year because we get a look at all of the presents that are going to be under our proverbial TV trees come September. Here, then, we continue a night-by-night analysis of new offerings as well as of old favorites being shifted into new slots.

Note: Click through the hyperlinks for trailers on YouTube for each new show.

Most Promising Newcomer
Blue Bloods (CBS, 10:00)Took until day five for a CBS show to appear in this spot but we now have the five major networks covered with a show each in this category (what that says about the quality of this crop of fall shows is up for discussion). Coming from Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green (two executive producers on The Sopranos), Blue Bloods examines three generations of cops in a New York Irish family. Boasting a winning cast that includes Tom Selleck, Bridget Moynahan, Donnie Wahlberg, Will Estes, and Len Cariou this is a show that seems like it could play very well on Friday nights and we admit that cop shows are our kryptonite so we’ll be watching this one.

Strangest Move
The networks are actually programming Friday nights againAfter years of being a dumping ground for reality shows and procedurals geared towards lonely women (your Ghost Whisperers and Mediums), it actually looks like the networks are trying to grab eyeballs on Friday nights. ABC has a new series starring Desperate Housewives fave Dana Delany (Body Of Proof), CBS has moved modest hit CSI: NY  and paired it with the promising new Blue Bloods, FOX has an '80's-style throwback Friday night with Human Target and The Good Guys, and The CW has reunited its former Thursday tag team of Smallville and Supernatural. Call it a product of the economy with more people staying home or that the networks themselves can’t afford to just throw away a night anymore (that’s what Saturdays are for) but without a doubt, this is the most action Friday night has seen on screen in a long, long time.

Hour By Hour
8:00Total grab bag hour as NBC has something called Who Do You Think You Are? and ABC counters with a Secret Millionaire. Honestly, I could give a shit about either of those so we’re just gonna skip right past them. CBS shifts Medium an hour earlier and, really, if you haven’t started watching Medium by now you’re probably not going to (which is probably for the best). FOX moves Human Target from its Wednesday slot to Friday nights and this is the type of show that could play well with lowered expectations on Fridays. It’s a throwback to Friday shows of the past – light, fun hours to cap off a rough week. And, after its tenth season wraps on The CW, Smallville will (finally) call it a day.

9:00We’re gonna start out with The CW in this hour because it’s of the most relevance to us. After programming Supernatural in one of TV’s toughest timeslots (Thursdays at 9:00) for the past four and a half years, The CW has relegated the show to Friday nights. As huge fans of the show, we’d love to get pissed about this and say that the network is trying to kill the show but the thing is… pragmatically, we can’t. Its ratings dropped, albeit slightly, this past season and with The Vampire Diaries breaking out and becoming The CW’s most talked about show, the network owed it to themselves to try to create another hit by giving a new show a chance in that slot because much of their slate (Smallville, Supernatural, One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl) is aging. That said, Supernatural is yet another show that will play well on Friday nights and its audience is super-loyal. CBS moves CSI: NY to this slot where most of its audience will likely follow. NBC has Dateline NBC. Body Of Proof has already been dubbed “China Bones” by at least one critic as Dana Delany (China Beach) plays a neurosurgeon who, after a car accident, is unable to practice and turns to work as a crime solving medical examiner. We generally like Delany but this isn’t for us although worse shows have been added to networks’ schedules this fall. Finally, Fox has The Good Guys, yet another throwback actioner about two mismatched cops in Dallas that’s already aired its pilot to less than stellar ratings. Fox has scheduled the first half of its season to run this summer so, if its ratings woes continue, we’re betting that it doesn’t even make it to the fall.

10:00We’d love to see Blue Bloods break out here because its pedigree (The Sopranos) and its cast both suggest that this could grow into a quality series. Luckily, it’s got a chance because its competition is nothing special. ABC has 20/20 and while people watch it, it’s not like there are hardcore 20/20 fans. And NBC? Get the irony of this: they actually pick up a show from Conan O’Brien’s production company, Conaco, and they stick it in the Friday at 10 dungeon. Granted the show, Outlaw starring Jimmy Smits, looks like House with lawyers, but it’s still a very telling sign of NBC’s expectations for this show. We’d be shocked if Blue Bloods doesn’t win this slot going away. 

What We're Watching/TiVoing
Human Target
The Good Guys
Blue Bloods

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Upfronts Analysis | Thursday Nights

For true TV nerds, upfront week (the week that the major television networks present their fall schedules to advertisers) is one of the best weeks of the year because we get a look at all of the presents that are going to be under our proverbial TV trees come September. Here, then, we continue a night-by-night analysis of new offerings as well as of old favorites being shifted into new slots.

Note: Click through the hyperlinks for trailers on YouTube for each new show.

Most Promising Newcomer
Nikita (CW, 9:00) - We like to spread the most promising newcomer love around as we hit our fourth network in as many nights with The CW's reboot of Nikita (also known as La Femme Nikita). After originally appearing as a Luc Besson film in the early '90's, La Femme Nikita became a modest performer for USA Network later in the decade and now old is new again as The CW ventures out of their comfort zone of teen dramas into the action genre with this continuation of the franchise. Maggie Q stars as the titular character who's working to bring down the shadowy spy organization she once worked for and The CW has planted it on the most prime piece of real estate on their schedule - following last season's breakout smash The Vampire Diaries. We definitely see some compatibility there and fans of genre TV could have a new obsession on their hands with Nikita.

Strangest Move
This probably isn't so much strange as it is bold, but CBS moved longtime Thursday stalwart Survivor to Wednesday nights to make room for an hour of comedy to compete with NBC's combo of Community and now 30 Rock. Monday night hit The Big Bang Theory now leads off Thursday nights for the Tiffany network and is followed by surely the first sitcom to be based off of a Twitter feed in the William Shatner starrer $#*! My Dad Says. Unfortunately, I think this move kills Community dead as it was barely cracking four million viewers at the end of this season and now it has to deal with a sitcom juggernaut in The Big Bang Theory. As much as I hate it since Community is the funniest show on network TV, you've gotta applaud CBS's balls here. They're the #1 network and could have stayed with the status quo but instead chose to be more daring than the other four networks combined. I just wish this move didn't have to be at Community's expense.

Hour By Hour
8:00 - We already discussed a large chunk of this hour above but look for CBS to take 8:00 even if $#*! My Dad Says looks a lot like your average garden variety sitcom, albeit one that stars the always entertaining William Shatner. Fox's Bones, a reliable utility player that thrived in this spot last season, will likely follow not far behind. NBC counters with the always hilarious Community, which we hope NBC has the sense to move it out of this slot after it gets slaughtered by The Big Bang Theory as it deserves a much better fate than this, and critical favorite 30 Rock, which is being shifted an hour earlier than usual. Normal occupant Parks And Recreation is being held until midseason. The CW's The Vampire Diaries which, for our money, was our top guilty pleasure of last year is the perfect melding of executive producer Kevin Williamson's Dawson's Creek and Scream work and is The CW's top hit. It's tough to get a read on ABC's My Generation as we're apparently already at the stage for '00's nostalgia. The series follows the coming of age of a group of high schoolers through the decade. It's ABC's second new documentary-style drama along with Detroit 1-8-7 and could be interesting, but we doubt it finds an audience.

9:00 - CSI and Grey's Anatomy blah blah blah. Theirs is an eternal struggle and it won't be any different in the coming season. NBC pairs The Office (potentially Steve Carrell's last season of The Office) with the execrable new sitcom Outsourced. Its trailer is one of the most offensive things we've seen in a while and it's mind-boggling that NBC not only greenlit it but deemed it worthy enough to serve as The Office's lead-out. Stereotypes galore abound as an American middle manager is sent to India to oversee a call center. Really, we're rooting for this one to be gone as soon as humanly possible. Fox's entry this hour is Fringe which, frankly, we don't really care about anymore. The CW programs Nikita in this spot.

10:00 - Another DVR hour as CBS's The Mentalist and ABC's Private Practice take up space in this slot. We couldn't be more disinterested. And NBC? After seeing the completely schitzoid trailer for Love Bites, we're still not exactly sure what it's supposed to be but if we didn't know any better, between Outsourced and Love Bites, we'd think that NBC's waving a white flag of sorts.

What We're Watching/TiVoing
30 Rock
The Vampire Diaries
$#*! My Dad Says
The Office
Grey's Anatomy out of habit

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Upfronts Analysis | Wednesday Nights

For true TV nerds, upfront week (the week that the major television networks present their fall schedules to advertisers) is one of the best weeks of the year because we get a look at all of the presents that are going to be under our proverbial TV trees come September. Here, then, we continue a night-by-night analysis of new offerings as well as of old favorites being shifted into new slots.

Note: Click through the hyperlinks for trailers on YouTube for each new show.

Most Promising Newcomer
Undercovers (NBC, 8:00) - Our choice for Wednesday’s most promising newcomer takes us to yet another network, this time NBC (really… we’re as surprised as you are). We’ve been huge fans of JJ Abrams for years, all the way back to his Felicity days so his name being attached to any project is gonna grab our eyeballs. Undercovers is Abrams’ return to the spy genre he’d previously mined with Alias but the twist this time is that the series follows a married couple who are also CIA agents. Its trailer seemed to suggest good escapist fun that looks to be somewhat in the vein of Mr. And Mrs. Smith. Abrams is also famous for uncovering hot new female stars (Felicity’s Keri Russell, Alias’s Jennifer Garner, Lost’s Evangeline Lilly, and Fringe’s Anna Torv) and, after watching the trailer, we feel comfortable with adding the UK-born Gugu Mbatha-Raw to that list. It’ll face stiff competition in its timeslot (see our hour by hour analysis below) but this looks like a show we can get behind.

Strangest Move
NBC cancels Law & Order to make room for... Law & Order: Los Angeles?While it’s true that the viewership for NBC’s Law & Order has been eroding for years, it was still an institution within the television industry, spawning countless spinoffs dating back to 1999, so the announcement that NBC was launching yet another iteration, this time set in LA and creatively titled… Law & Order: Los Angeles was no big surprise. What was a little surprising, though, was NBC’s decision to cancel the mothership, just as it was one season away from breaking its tie with Gunsmoke as television’s longest running drama (both currently stand at 20 seasons). Producer Dick Wolf is reportedly shopping the original around to other networks to try to continue it as a weekly series but that NBC would axe a long running player like this in favor of a new series from the same franchise let alone the same producer is more than a little puzzling.

Hour By Hour
8:00 - In one of the bolder moves of the new season, CBS has relocated its longtime Thursday hit Survivor to Wednesdays at 8:00. No doubt this is a blow to both NBC (which probably thought that Undercovers had an easy road in its freshman season) and ABC (who had enough faith in last season's modest hit, The Middle, to entrust it with leading off the night while pairing it with the new Better Together which looks like the EXACT same show as Fox's forgettable Mixed Signals and seems wholly incompatible with The Middle) who saw this slot as wide open ground. Survivor will rule here and will set up a showdown (that we really don't care about) with American Idol in the spring. We realize that Fox has currently only slotted Idol for a half hour at midseason but anyone who thinks that Raising Hope  is still going to be around to serve as its lead-in, please consult your psychologist because you're insane. Getting back to fall, though, both Fox's Lie To Me and The CW's America's Next Top Model are afterthoughts in this slot.

9:00 - ABC's Modern Family and Cougar Town were two of TV's more encouraging success stories from the 2009-10 season. Modern Family was the year's highest rated new sitcom and battled week after week with NBC's Community for the title of Best New Comedy, while Cougar Town (despite losing a decent chunk of Modern Family's audience each week) moved past its cringe-worthy initial premise (fortysomething woman cruises for young guys while acting as a single parent to a son who wasn't much younger than the guys she was banging) into a frequently laugh-out-loud ensemble comedy about a group of friends. They'll face competition from two aging police procedurals that will likely bleed into each others' audiences (NBC's Law & Order: SVU and CBS's Criminal Minds), Fox's Hell's Kitchen (which as best as I can tell simply features Gordon Ramsay yelling at people), and The CW's Hellcats (a Bring It On ripoff that, since we don't possess a vagina, we won't be watching). Fox has also announced plans to move Glee here in 2011 but Fox's best laid plans rarely ever see the light of day so we wouldn't hold our breath on that.

10:00 - This hour serves as a good spot to catch up on DVR'd shows as it's a vast wasteland of crap. ABC offers The Whole Truth, a cookie cutter procedural starring Rob Morrow (Numb3rs) and an already recast Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) that takes a look at court cases from both sides of the aisle. Yawn. Law & Order: Los Angeles occupies NBC's timeslot, garnering a pickup on the strength of its brand name as not only has no pilot been shot but the show hasn't even been cast yet. Finally, CBS actually greenlit a show starring Jim Belushi (According To Jim) and Jerry O'Connell (any number of failed series) as lawyers in Las Vegas called Defenders. Rattle that one around in your brain for a minute - Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell. As lawyers. In Vegas. And CBS gave the OK to this show. Your head didn't just explode, did it?

What We're Watching/TiVoing
The Middle
Modern Family
Cougar Town

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Upfronts Analysis | Tuesday Nights

For true TV nerds, upfront week (the week that the major television networks present their fall schedules to advertisers) is one of the best weeks of the year because we get a look at all of the presents that are going to be under our proverbial TV trees come September. Here, then, we continue a night-by-night analysis of new offerings as well as of old favorites being shifted into new slots.

Note: Click through the hyperlinks for trailers on YouTube for each new show.

Most Promising Newcomer
No Ordinary Family (ABC, 8:00) - ABC's No Ordinary Family, which stars Michael Chiklis (The Shield) and Julie Benz (Dexter) and is about a family that mysteriously acquires superpowers after a plane crash, is the choice here almost by default as none of Tuesday's new entries significantly stand out. We were a little underwhelmed by the trailer but it's Chiklis's first post-Shield project and series creator Greg Berlanti's track record (Everwood, Dirty Sexy Money, Eli Stone) speaks to the potential quality of this one. Berlanti is also reportedly a comics geek so maybe this will succeed where every season of Heroes (save for the first) failed miserably. Call this a mild recommendation with the option to recant if if actually blows.

Strangest Move
Fox's post-
Glee sitcoms - Look, we've got no love for Glee (we made it through 20 minutes of the pilot before we wanted to maul our ears with a rusty garden claw), but Fox's decision to pair three new sitcoms (Raising Hope, Running Wilde, and Mixed Signals) with it in the 9:00 hour throughout the season is puzzling for the simple fact that they all look to be varying degrees of terrible. Words cannot do justice to how bad Raising Hope is going to be - just watch the trailer... or don't if you enjoy your will to live - but you get what you pay for when you greenlight a series by the creator of Yes, Dear and My Name Is Earl. We really want to like Running Wilde since it was co-created by Mitch Herwitz (the genius behind Arrested Development) and star Will Arnett and it co-stars Felicity's Keri Russell (mmm... Keri Russell) but the advance look at the show seems to suggest that it's much, much less than the sum of its parts. Still, with that team we'll be watching and hoping against hope that it's worth our time. And Mixed Signals? Seems to be some generic sitcom about friends in various stages of relationships. Pass. Let's be honest here - Fox is just biding time until American Idol (the gradually receding American Idol - praise Jeebus!) returns in 2011, and that's clear by this throw-crap-against-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks approach.

Hour By Hour
8:00Another night, another inexplicably popular set of CBS series. NCIS is somehow TV’s most-watched scripted series and, for reasons unknown to everyone on this planet, will likely continue to hold that title. People also seem to love the heartwarming schlock of NBC’s The Biggest Loser so that’s one spot where the Peacock Network will actually be OK. To quote the great TV critic Alan Sepinwall, Fox is forcing Glee to put on its big boy pants by having it lead off the night. Look, all of the Glee-tards (credit to Warming Glow’s Matt Ufford for that term) are going to follow this show wherever it goes but don’t think this little bit of news went unnoticed. All of you Glee fans had better realize that your show was created by Ryan Murphy, the dude behind Nip/Tuck. A little TV history lesson - Nip/Tuck started out as an enjoyable guilty pleasure before it rapidly devolved into an unwatchable fever dream of self-parody. This is surely Glee’s fate as well. And that doesn't  even take into account the fact that a show whose popularity burns as white-hot as Glee's did in its first year often stumbles under the weight of both critical and fan pressure in its second outing. Fox’s decision to renew it for a third season BEFORE THE SECOND ONE EVEN AIRED is almost Jay Leno at 10:00 bad. Bold prediction – Fox will be looking for a way to get this show off of their schedule by early 2011. ABC throws No Ordinary Family out at this hour and, if it gets enough good enough press, it could gain some traction. Finally, The CW moves One Tree Hill, otherwise known as this generation’s Dawson’s Creek, to Tuesdays where its loyal audience will likely follow it.

9:00I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Tuesday’s middle hour will likely be a won by this past season’s bland freshman winner, NCIS: Los Angeles although it will lamentably face stiff competition from the results hour of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars. The Biggest Loser will carry over for NBC and, lagging far behind will be Fox’s sitcom hour that we’ve already discussed. This hour’s other entry is the second season of The CW’s Life Unexpected and, frankly, it’s good to see this show getting another chance to catch on. Not that we’re on a soapbox by any means because we love television that pushes the limits, but TV needs more shows like this one. Is it great? No, but it’s enjoyable enough and is a throwback to the days of family dramas like Everwood and Gilmore Girls on The WB that were pleasant enough for all ages to watch (but that were not in any way mawkish and preachy like, say, 7th Heaven).

10:00CBS will make Tuesdays a clean sweep with the second season of yet another first-year hit, The Good Wife, but the fight for second place is where it could get interesting. NBC was pleased enough with Parenthood’s ratings as a midseason replacement to award it with a slot on the fall schedule, while ABC plugs the spot that once belonged to NYPD Blue in the 90s with another cop drama, the unfortunately hyphened Detroit 1-8-7. Parenthood is a very well-cast enjoyable family ensemble, while Detroit 1-8-7 is a gritty, documentary-style crime drama in America’s bleakest city. We’ll be watching both of these while wondering why The Good Wife actually wins this hour.

What We're Watching/TiVoing
No Ordinary Family
One Tree Hill
Running Wilde at least initially
Life Unexpected
Detroit 1-8-7

Monday, May 24, 2010

Upfronts Analysis | Monday Nights

For true TV nerds, upfront week (the week that the major television networks present their fall schedules to advertisers) is one of the best weeks of the year because we get a look at all of the presents that are going to be under our proverbial TV trees come September. Here, then, we begin a night-by-night analysis of new offerings as well as of old favorites being shifted into new slots.

Note: Click through the hyperlinks for trailers on YouTube for each new show.

Most Promising Newcomer 
Ride-Along (Fox, 9:00) - Somewhat strange that Monday's most intriguing new entry doesn't arrive until midseason. Ride-Along, a Chicago-based cop drama from Shawn Ryan (The Shield) won't appear on Fox's schedule until sometime in early 2011 but based on the trailer alone we're all in for this one. Shot entirely on location in the Windy City, Ride-Along promises to not only look authentic, but based on Ryan's track record of creating one of the best cop shows in TV history in The Shield, we're willing to bet that this one's going to be worth the wait.

Strangest Move
NBC leaves Chuck on Mondays at 8:00: OK, we admit that we're unabashed Chuck fans at The Dirtywhirl who realize that the show's lucky to have even gotten a fourth season and that its audience will likely never grow from the small yet very vocally loyal cult that it is today. That being said, would it have killed NBC to try to expose it to a wider audience by pairing it with the buzzworthy (and entirely compatible) new JJ Abrams spy drama, Undercovers, or to give it a lead-in like the new conspiracy drama The Event (which actually follows Chuck at 9:00) instead of burdening it with leading off the night on its own? Chuck settled in at just over five million viewers this past season so why not see if you could boost that audience by giving it a better partner or shifting it to a later time? Like I said, we're lucky to even be getting another season but NBC could still be treating this show better.

Hour By Hour
8:00 - ABC's Dancing With The Stars will likely still rule the hour with CBS's comedies (the generally still funny How I Met Your Mother and the how-in-the-hell-is-this-still-on Rules Of Engagement) and Fox's aging House battling it out for second. Chuck should still attract its loyal audience but this could be the death knell (and deservedly so) for The CW's 90210. It struggled on its former Tuesday home and this slot is a helluva lot more cutthroat than that one was.

9:00 - Oh, Two And A Half Men, why can't you go somewhere where you won't hurt anyone? Your popularity is unfathomable and inexcusable. CBS, in one of the boldest moves of any network, moved hit (and Two And A Half Men partner) The Big Bang Theory to Thursday nights at 8:00 in order to make room for Men producer Chuck Lorre's new Mike & Molly, about two lonely fatties who meet and fall in love at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. I liked the leads in previous work (Melissa McCarthy from Gilmore Girls and Billy Gardell from FX's short-lived Lucky) but I have absolutely no interest in a torturous hour of Lorre-produced sitcoms that's unfortunately going to be this slot's ratings winner. (Side note: It kills me that Chuck struggles to find an audience while more than twice as many people tune in each week to see the fart and boner jokes of Two And A Half Men. Goddamn you, American viewing public.) Dancing With The Stars also bleeds into this hour for ABC. After that, it's toss-up-ville. Fox counters with Lonestar (from Party Of Five producers Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman in their return to television after a ten year absence), a drama about con men in the Texas oil world. Its trailer seemed to suggest more of a cable sensibility than a network one, which was intriguing. Plus, Friday Night Lights' Adrianne Palicki is in the cast so we're watching this. It'll cede its slot at midseason to the aforementioned Ride-Along so Fox could be your best bet for quality in this hour. NBC's entry is The Event, which seems like it could be interesting but the recent track record for launching high-concept serialized dramas (this one about a shadowy conspiracy) isn't very good, and I don't think that this show in particular is going to be the one to break that trend. It does have an appealing cast (Jason Ritter, Blair Underwood, Laura Innes, and Scott Patterson) so it could be worth checking out but I wouldn't get too attached. Finally, The CW's Gossip Girl could be in a put up or shut up year based on the amount of viewers it's been hemorrhaging lately.

10:00 - Very interesting race at 10:00 between ABC's breakout hit of the 2009-10 season, Castle, and CBS's reboot of Hawaii Five-O. Castle no doubt gets a huge boost from its Dancing With The Stars lead-in so it definitely has the leg up in this battle, but CBS is likely going to put a large chunk of its promotional muscle behind Five-O as they apparently have so much confidence in it that they felt comfortable moving CSI: Miami out of the slot it's held for the past eight years. The network also seems bound and determined to make a star out of lead Alex O'Loughlin (this is his third series for CBS in the past three years, following Moonlight and Three Rivers) and it has an appealing supporting cast (Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim's first post-Lost role, and Battlestar Galactica's Grace Park), not to mention built in brand-name appeal. We wouldn't be surprised if Hawaii Five-O is winning this hour by the end of the season. NBC's a total afterthought with Chase which, I swear to God, looks like the exact same goddamn show as USA's In Plain Sight, right down to the blonde lead US Marshal who wears jeans and a leather jacket. This could be one of the first shows to get the axe. Mark it, Dude.

What We're Watching/TiVoing
How Met Your Mother
Lonestar / Ride-Along
The Event
Gossip Girl
Hawaii Five-O