Tuesday, May 16, 2006

TV: My Unfair Previews, Fall 2006: NBC

This week, the networks begin unveiling their Fall 2006 television schedules, which means it's time for me to start unfairly judging the new shows on their title, premise, and promo web page alone.

I did this last year (the entries are still perma-linked over on the sidebar), which led into my extremely painful decision to watch every single new show premiering in Fall 2005 (also still linked on the sidebar). I swore I would never do that again. And I won't. Probably. At any rate, here's a preview of the pain we've all got in store for us in a few months. And as with last year, thanks to Laurel's TV Picks for her handy, helpful Fall TV grid. (You might want to fix your links on 30 Rock and Studio 60, by the way, Laurel!)


On Monday, the only new show is Heroes, about a bunch of people around the world who suddenly get superpowers. I expect this show to tank as quickly as the three Lost-inspired supernatural shows from last year, Invasion (which apparently has now officially been cancelled), Surface, and Threshold (the WB's aptly-titled Supernatural, which wasn't really a Lost ripoff like the others, might still survive to the CW). The show stars Adrian Pasdar, whom I know a lot of people like from the legendarily cancelled-too-soon Profit, but who always rubs me the wrong way. No reason, he just bugs me. It also features Ali Larter, who is smokin' hot, but is cast in the prurient cliche role of "a Las Vegas stripper struggling to make ends meet to support her young son." Ugh. But! It also stars Greg Grunberg, J.J. Abrams' lucky charm and a big favorite of mine. His presence alone guarantees I'll check this show out for at least a couple episodes... despite the additional presence of Milo Ventimiglia (the hated Jess from Gilmore Girls) as "a young dreamer." Double ugh.

Tuesday brings Friday Night Lights, an adaptation of the book and film of the same name, about a high school football team. Wait, Friday is on Tuesday? That will baffle enough people right there to ensure poor ratings. Ha! America's dumb! I liked the film a great deal, and the pilot is written and directed by the writer/director of the film, Peter Berg (and stars Kyle Chandler, whom I like, as Coach Taylor, and, weirdly, Connie Britton as the coach's wife, the same role she played in the movie, when Billy Bob Thornton was Coach Gaines), but I feel like I've already seen it. And, really, I have. Pass. (And that's not meant as a football pun.)

Also on Tuesday, Kidnapped follows one kidnapping case over an entire season. This kind of thing failed as Murder One, and it'll fail here, despite the success of current season-long plotline shows like Prison Break and 24. Which is a shame, because it features some great talent, including Mykelti Williamson, Delroy Lindo, and past Object of My Affection Dana Delany. By the way, I'll tell you who did it right now, just from the promotional materials. The press release says, "The boy's bodyguard Virgil [played by Williamson], the boy's first line of defense even after the kidnapping, is left to die." Left to die, but doesn't die. He's the bad guy (or at least one of them). I'd bet money on it.

Wednesday brings two new sitcoms, neither of which look like they totally suck, which is a great step up for NBC, especially following last year's great My Name Is Earl and the previous year's even better The Office. First is 20 Good Years, the less promising show, starring John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor (playing characters named "John" and "Jeffrey," which signals a lack of imagination that troubles me a bit) as two old dudes who realize they've got "20 good years" left, and decide to make the most of them. Not tremendously promising on paper, but the talents of Lithgow and Tambor make it worth checking out.

Then there's 30 Rock, which, any other year, would look like the most promising and original new show on the roster; unfortunately, this isn't any other year, it's the same year as Studio 60 (see below). Anyhoo: created by and starring Tina Fey (I could stop right there: sold! But I won't), it's a behind-the-scenes look at a Saturday Night Live-type live variety show. Fey, the head writer at SNL, plays the head writer on 30 Rock (big stretch). Does this mean, by the way, she's off SNL next year? Bummer. It also stars Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, and Rachel Dratch. I could stop right there -- and I will. Sold!

Then on Thursday, we've got Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. See if this sounds familiar: it's a behind-the-scenes look at a Saturday Night Live-type live variety show. Yikes! Deja vu, dude. This one is created by Aaron Sorkin, and stars Matthew Perry (who will hopefully do better back on Thursday than Matt LeBlanc did), which means it's going to eat up all the buzz 30 Rock probably should've gotten instead. I think both shows will be worth watching -- but this show is going to be great. It's so packed full of people I want to see I can't believe it. Bradley Whitford and Timothy Busfield, fresh off of The West Wing, Sarah Paulson (love her), Amanda Peet (LOVE! HER!), Evan Handler, Carlos Jacott, Nate Corddry -- this show is sick with talent, a lot of it underappreciated (except by me, I guess). My most anticipated show of the season, on this or any other network.

Also on Thursday, taking over the ER spot in January, strangely enough, is The Black Donnellys, about "the exploits of four young, working-class Irish brothers and their involvement in organized crime in New York City," all played by people I've never heard of, and created by Paul Haggis, who produced Crash, which I hated. Pass.

Nothing new Friday or Saturday. And on Sunday, we'll see the dawn of a new era in broadcast network football, as ABC's Monday Night Football moves to ESPN, and NBC takes Sunday Night Football away from ESPN. I'm skeptical of how well football will do on network TV on Sunday. Sundays and Thursdays are the biggest TV-watching nights, but I think people want and expect regular programming on Sunday night, rather than sports. I wouldn't be surprised if it draws lower ratings than ABC's Monday games from last year. Still, it's Al Michaels and John Madden, which is a good thing.

Other notes on NBC: Scrubs has definitely been renewed, but again is being held back for the second half of the season. Also being held for midseason debuts: Raines, a cop show (eh) starring Jeff Goldblum (Brundlefly!) and Nicole Sullivan (yay!), and Andy Barker, P.I., a sitcom starring Andy Richter, executive produced by Conan O'Brien, and co-starring Arrested Development's Tony Hale. Sweet!

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