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NBC's fall schedule: A snap judgment

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Robert Trachtenberg/NBC

No longer the home of quirky comedies like The Office and Parks and Recreation, NBC is turning its attention to dramas, with sobering shows about a cardiac surgeon, an underground gambling circuit, and… a league of superhumans. Okay, it’s not all that serious, especially not with Neil Patrick Harris waiting to tap-dance his way onto the variety show circuit. So, in the grand tradition of not-quite-seriousness, let’s watch the trailers once or twice and deem ourselves qualified to judge the whole series. It might not be scientifically accurate, but it’s fun.

Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris

The oldest rule for monster movies goes double for live variety shows starring Neil Patrick Harris: The less you show in the trailer, the more excited the audience will get. This cheeky clip might not reveal anything more about Best Time Ever than the fact that Harris is (duh) prepared to sing and dance for us. (He has previously promised comedy sketches, musical numbers, game-show competitions, pranks on celebrities, and A-list guest stars.) But 15 seconds is all it takes to bring back memories of him running through the Oscars in his tightie-whities, delivering the funniest Tony Awards opening number in ages, and generally proving that he’s already the best live host of our time. It’s telling that this trailer offers nothing more than footage of Neil Patrick Harris About To Do Something, and somehow, it’s NBC’s most promising pilot by far. 

Heartbreaker

Let’s put this cliche to rest: Whenever there’s a drama about a woman trying to make it in a man’s world, that woman always has a man’s name. So it seems inevitable Heartbreaker focuses on Dr. Alex Panttiere (Melissa George), a feisty heart-transplant surgeon who’s not only one of the few women in her field, but also happens to play basketball like an NBA star and loves to question whether her male colleagues “have the balls” to keep up with her. Alex’s story is based on the real life of Dr. Kathy Magliato, who wrote a well-recieved memoir about her experience, but her character owes more to Dr. Meredith Grey, considering the soapy plot twists, the love vs. work drama, and the soaring indie-pop soundtrack. There are too many bad double entendres about cardiac medicine, as we see when Alex grafts one heart on top of another and points out that they’re “beating together on their own.” (Aw!) But if anyone can save Heartbreaker from becoming another Grey’s Anatomy rip-off, it’s George, who has brought real psychological depth to her characters on In Treatment, The Good Wife, and, yes, Grey’s Anatomy. When she says she likes “the sound of cracking a patient’s chest open like a lobster,” you believe her, and you want to know why.

Blindspot

So, a brainwashed woman known only as “Jane Doe” (Jaimie Alexander) claws her way out of a bag that was left in Times Square, steps out onto the streets totally naked, and discovers that she has tattoos all over her body that were most likely inked by some evil mastermind who’s being hunted by Special Agent Kurt Weller (Sullivan Stapleton). And that’s not even the creepiest part! This new thriller from Greg Berlanti (ArrowThe Flash) isn’t just about some skeevy villain—it looks like it was filmed by one, too. The camera keeps lingering over Jane’s body as the doctors slowly pull back her hospital robe or she inspects her flesh while posing topless in front of the mirror. Jane doesn’t remember anything that happened to her, so if you’re the type of mystery fan who likes to pause your television to search for clues, you might actually enjoy zooming in on her skin. Is that a Navy Seal tattoo? Could she be Special Ops? Of course, if you want to concentrate on her body, you’d have to get past her face. Her expression when she discovers that (gasp!) she speaks Chinese made me laugh, and that Grumpy Cat look when she’s fighting the bad guys with her near-supernatural ninja skills doesn’t help. “None of this feels real!” Jane tells Weller. You’re telling us?

The Player

From the makers of The Blacklist comes a Las Vegas thriller about gambling with human life—and a whole lot of puns about high-stakes games and the house always winning. After his wife gets murdered, a former military operative turned security expert (Philip Winchester) gets drawn into a shady underground organization where he’s forced to stop crimes while a wealthy man (Wesley Snipes) gambles on the outcome. Can our hero destroy the organization from the inside and avenge his wife’s death? Who knows? Can he ride a motorcycle through a building, duck machine gun fire without messing up his hair, and utter lines like “It was wrong… and I liked it” with 100 percent commitment? Absolutely. Your own feelings about The Player will depend on whether that’s enough. 

Heroes Reborn

When the original Heroes first premiered in 2006, some people went so crazy for it (cough, cough!) that they were bound to be disappointed. For those geeks who are still angry, this 13-episode “event series” offers a second chance. We don’t get much from the preview clip, beyond the fact that original cast member Jack Coleman will reprise his role as Noah Bennett. (Jimmy Jean-Louis and Masi Oka will also return, joining Zachary Levi, Ryan Guzman, Robbie Kay, Danika Yarosh, Judith Shekoni, Kiki Sukezane, Henry Zebrowski, and Gatlin Green.) But where is Claire Bennett? C’mon! If you can’t save the cheerleader, you can’t save the show.

People Are Talking 

Poor Mark-Paul Gosselaar. He’s trapped in a sitcom from the 1990s, and I’m not talking about Saved By the Bell. Everything about his new comedy, which focuses on two married couples who are best friends, seems dated: the canned laughter, the John Mayer joke, the uh-oh the babysitter is hot! drama. The worst might be the conversations between the husbands, which focus on a wide range of topics, from porn to who has the best boobs in the house. Well, I’m not sure who has the best boobs, but the award for the world’s biggest boobs should go to these guys.

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