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Fall TV Upfronts Reviewed

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Upfront 2011

Upfronts are finally over, but the walk-up to the fall 2011–12 lineup has only just begun. Before we start splitting hairs over the really important stuff (why is Jesus starring on a J.J. Abrams show? Can somebody ixnay the silk pantsuits on Charlie’s Angels already?), we have some knee-jerk reactions to what we saw and heard this week in New York.

Most impressive big-event trailer: Fox’s new X Factor trailer. Okay, we get it now — the show is really big with lots of drama — and did you realize contestants fly off to, like, Simon Cowell’s palatial European estate to get berated by him in a whole other country? The Kool-Aid has been successfully ingested.

Strongest déjà vu: Fox pitching Terra Nova. Hey, wasn’t this your big new drama last year, too?

Most deserved cancellation: Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior. No offense to Forest Whitaker — his arc on The Shield still sends shivers down our spines — but if there was one procedural that wasn’t screaming for a spin-off, it was the Joe Mantegna starrer.

Least deserved cancellation: $#*! My Dad Says. Sorry, America, we know you wanted us to say Brothers & Sisters or V, and we hated this $#*! show too (especially having to type the title every week). But it was the highest-rated show of all those that were pink-slipped, averaging a whopping 10.7 million viewers and a 3.1 in the demo once DVR was added — only a tenth of a point lower than The Mentalist. Sure, it was propped up by a strong lead-in (The Big Bang Theory), but so are half the shows on TV.

Least deserved cancellation runner-up: The Defenders. We admit it, we have a soft spot for Jim Belushi, but he and Jerry O’Connell made a winning team, and they suffered after the show was moved to Fridays — and then pulled off the schedule back in February.

Most unexpectedly honest statement by a network honcho on the upfront stage: “I thank God for The Voice.” — NBC’s Robert Greenblatt

Best comeback to a statement by a network honcho: “God hasn’t watched NBC since Friends.” — Jimmy Kimmel

Most disappointing show pickup: Actors typically jump for joy whenever their shows get a pickup, but we can’t help thinking Sarah Michelle Gellar may be pouting now that CBS passed on her new drama, Ringer, and the fifth-place network — which used to be the home of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — nabbed it instead.

Worst new show title: The 2-2. This gritty Richard Price cop drama was originally called Rookies, but that was deemed too generic. Now it’s called…the tutu? Not only does the name sound silly, but it’s also supposed to represent the police precinct number of a tough NYC neighborhood. Too bad in real life the 2-2 is the Central Park police. Makes last year’s similarly problematic Detroit 1-8-7 seem elegant (187 is not a homicide code in Detroit, btw).

Most impressive-looking procedural: NBC’s Prime Suspect. We were skeptical that the whole female-detective-fighting-sexist-colleagues angle would still feel relevant, but the trailer featuring a heroic Maria Bello dealing with her thuggish cop brethren had us on her side.

Show we’re most bummed didn’t make it on the schedule (tie): Wonder Woman and Poe. Do we think they would have been hits? No. But we would have been in TV blogger nirvana had we been given more chances to write about them. Let’s face it: Are you going to click on a link to see the costumes on The 2-2? Didn’t think so.

Most exciting show that ad buyers secretly suspect will bomb: ABC’s Charlie’s Angels. Or as we’re calling it: She Spies 2011.

Best scheduling move: Getting CSI off Thursdays and giving a new drama (Person of Interest) a shot. It’s about time.

Worst scheduling move: NBC moving Harry’s Law to 9 p.m. on Wednesdays. The show was barely surviving at 10 p.m.; why give it a promotion to anchor a night?

Best scheduling catfight: Desperate Housewives versus The Good Wife on Sundays this fall.

Most and least impressive statistics: Fox bragged that it has won the broadcast season for a record seven years in a row, and then added that its number of Facebook followers is higher than the populations of several foreign countries.

The Lone Star award — a show that critics might like, but we suspect mass viewers will not: NBC’s Awake. Serious, dark, sad, complicated. It’s perfect — for AMC.

Toughest sell: NBC’s The Playboy Club. There’s a reason period dramas don’t draw high 18–49 ratings — they’re mostly watched by older viewers who are nostalgic for that era. Plus, the Playboy brand, though tame in today’s online pornucopia landscape, could be rough sledding for a broadcast (see: free) network.

Cleverest schedule spackling: NBC slotting a two-hour Sing-Off on Monday nights. Using the winter-hiatus reality show as a placeholder for The Voice isn’t a very heroic way to start your fall lineup, but it will probably draw a healthy number and keep Fox from having the only fall singing competition on the air.

Network in sore need of a new upfront venue: TNT/TBS. There was a major snafu with the video clips on Wednesday, which prompted Conan O’Brien to say, “You know, I love working for TBS.” We think he meant it.

Funniest sitcom trailers: Split decision! James votes for Fox’s New Girl and animated show Allen Gregory, ABC’s Apartment 23, and CBS’ 2 Broke Girls; Lynette opts for Fox’s I Hate My Teenage Daughter and NBC’s Up All Night.

Most polite applause during an upfront presentation: ABC screening the trailer for Work It, its Bosom Buddies-like cross-dressing comedy.

Most impressive-looking soap: Pan Am. Looks amazing. We also expect this to last about two months (see: Toughest Sell, above).

Most frequently asked question: “What do you think about Ashton?” Answers varied wildly, because nobody could make up their minds about whether Demi Moore’s husband will be a game changer on Two and a Half Men.

Most impressive-looking genre show: ABC’s The River. Have you seen the trailer? It feels familiar — you could call it Lost Paranormal Anaconda Activity — but we’re in.

Least impressive-looking genre show: Grimm is right; looks more like a Syfy series. And if the show is good enough to get ordered for fall, shouldn’t it be good enough to not start on Friday nights?

RELATED:

FINAL: Fall 2011-12 primetime TV schedule chart

NEW SHOW TRAILERS: ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, CW

EW’s 2011 Upfronts coverage