Best and worst decisions of the 2012 upfronts
Broadcast’s dog-and-pony shows in New York City are finally over, but the walk-up to the fall 2012-2013 lineup has only just begun. Before we start wringing our hands over Britney Spears’ emotional readiness to be a reality show judge, we have some knee-jerk reactions to what we saw and heard this week:
Biggest trend: Comedy explosion. There’s 29 sitcoms hitting the air this fall — and we’re not including Rock Center With Brian Williams. That’s an enormous number of couches, awkward dates and workplace misunderstandings. Tuesdays will be a three-network comedy traffic jam, while ABC and NBC will offload extra chuckles into Fridays.
Highest concept: Lost godfather J.J. Abrams’ latest sci-fi series, NBC’s Revolution, has a spectacular trailer (thanks to pilot director Jon Favreau) and sky-high concept (set 15 years after every electronic gadget has ceased working). Will “It’s going to turn off!” be the new “We have to go back!”?
Most deserved recent cancellation: GCB (ABC: 7.4 million, 2.6). Desperate Housewives hadn’t even wrapped, and along comes Desperate Rehash, an unfunny attempt at replicating its success.
Least deserved cancellation: Terra Nova. From what we gathered, it came down to saving this show or Touch — and Fox oddly chose the latter. Too bad; for all it’s faults, Terra Nova built a good family following and had plenty of room for creative growth.
Least deserved cancellation runner-up: Rob. Readers will say we’re going to hell for this, but at 12 million viewers for a critically despised comedy, the show demonstrated that, like it or not, Rob Schneider can draw an audience. Why not retool it — like, maybe, de-hotting his wife a bit so the relationship seems more believable — rather than scrap it entirely?
Most ho-hum show pickup: NBC’s Guys With Kids. We get it, it’s soooo hard being a modern man (for further proof, look at this season’s Man Up!, How to Be a Gentleman and Work It).
Best new show title: CBS’ Sherlock Holmes drama Elementary. It’s not fancy, just strong, simple and evokes the voice of its famed detective. CBS knows how to make a TV show that’ll stick and this, starring the dashing Jonny Lee Miller as modern-day Sherlock, looks promising.
Worst new show title: CBS again! Also, for the second year in a row (remember, The 2-2?). The detective drama Golden Boy just makes the protagonist sound like a suck-up, or well tanned.
Most potentially politically loaded new show title: NBC’s The New Normal. We suspect Ryan Murphy didn’t consult The Tea Party when naming his comedy about a gay couple who hires a surrogate.
Shows the media were most surprised didn’t make it on the air: Roseanne Barr’s multi-camera comedy Downwardly Mobile and Sarah Silverman’s much-buzzed sitcom, both at NBC; Martin Lawrence comedy at CBS; the John Stamos comedy Little Brother at Fox; the Judy Greer comedy at ABC. (For more about the fall pilots that didn’t earn a pickup, click here).
Show we’re secretly relieved didn’t make it on the air: NBC’s County starring Jason Ritter. Now maybe his character, Mark, can work it out with Sarah on Parenthood?
Best Good/Bad News: NBC renews Community — for only 13 episodes, moves it to Fridays this fall and pairs it with Whitney. NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt: “Most people in our industry think Friday is a graveyard, but we don’t really believe that.” All those tombstones must be there for decoration then!
The Kyle Killen Award — a show critics will like, but might have trouble finding a large audience: Last Resort. A morally complex, male-skewing apocalyptic bonanza about a submarine crew wedged in a haunted time slot (Thursdays at 8 p.m.) on a female-skewing network (ABC). Still, this looks way more user friendly than Killen’s Lone Star and Awake.
Best scheduling move: Moving Two and a Half Men to 8:30 Thursdays. Nothing has managed to keep pace with 8 p.m. Big Bang Theory in this slot. Re-pairing these two Chuck Lorre shows once again will keep CBS dominant in the hour …as long as CBS’ Monday comedy block doesn’t collapse without its tentpole hit.
Worst scheduling move: Moving Rock Center With Brian Williams to 10 p.m. Thursdays. Averaging only 1.0 in the adult demo, Rock Center was this season’s lowest-rated show renewed by one of the Big Four broadcast networks. We can appreciate NBC wanting to support quality TV journalism. But Rock Center‘s ratings are dreadful for any prime-time slot, especially a prestigious one like this.
Best scheduling upgrade: Rarely does a show escape after being tossed into the Friday vortex. But The CW’s Supernatural, banished to Fridays in recent years, is now moving to Wednesday nights — and getting a lead-in from promising new show Arrow.
Best scheduling cat fight: Revenge versus The Good Wife on Sundays.
Wisest push back: NBC is serving up its returning comedies in the fall this time, but you’ll have to wait until mid-season for Smash, which is undergoing some creative tweaking under new showrunner Josh Safran (Gossip Girl). NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke explains the network didn’t want to “put a gun to [Safran’s] head and say, ‘You gotta get going!’” Though that does sound like a promising reality show.
Longest wait: The return of The CW. While NBC is expected to get some of its shows launched as early as August to take advantage of its Summer Olympics coverage, The CW is going the other direction and getting out of the way of the usual September flood by pushing back its premieres to October.
Best joke by a network honcho on the upfront stage: ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee, when touting the renewal of America’s Funniest Home Videos after 22 years on the air, “Or what I like to think, after 11 [ABC] presidents of entertainment.”
Jimmy Kimmel’s best lines at the ABC upfront: Said he fell and hit his head while watching Dancing With the Stars and “for the first time this season, I actually saw some stars.” On Britney Spears joining X Factor: “Britney Spears has wanted to be a judge ever since she spent the last 10 years appearing in front of them.” And what he said about older-skewing CBS: “They really do have their finger on the pulse, of viewers who have almost no pulse.”
Best comeback to a Kimmel joke: After Kimmel made his 1,260th joke about the Eye’s older audience, CBS Corp chairman Leslie Moonves said Kimmel should consider “freshening up” his material since CBS is beating ABC among young adults, 3.0 to 2.4.
Most impressive-looking soap: Nashville at ABC. We’ve seen so many shows with an ensemble of snarky stylish women (including the upcoming trash-tastic Mistresses). Maybe its the change of setting, maybe its the music-scene focus, maybe its the addition of ever-credible Connie Britton, but this one feels unique.
Least believable pairing: Partners on CBS, about two male buddies with significant others who would be way out of their league in the real world. Ugly Betty‘s Michael Urie is dating Superman (Brandon Routh) while Numb3r‘s David Krumholtz is engaged to the drop-dead gorgeous Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill). In related news, Lynette just got a marriage proposal from George Clooney.
Least surprising surprise: Fox finally confirms Britney Spears’ deal to judge X Factor is done. On stage, Britney looked terrified. Good luck! Runner-up: NBC confirms long-rumored 30 Rock final season — after denying it was the final season the day before.