With its ratings in the toilet and prime time roster trashed by the failed Jay Leno experiment, the upcoming television season is make-or-break for NBC. Based on the trailers for the shows it has coming up, is there any hope?
Maybe a little, but probably not much. The network presented its future programming roster at the annual upfronts, where TV networks show off what they've got in store for potential advertisers. Below are the trailers for all 12 of NBC's new programs that range from superhero dramas and procedurals to sitcoms and things about lawyers. If you were McDonald's or Procter & Gamble would you gamble on any of these?
What It's About: An intersecting story about a newlywed whose wife disappears and the president fighting off an assassination attempt. Might it have something to do with the Russian prison the CIA have been covering up?
Big Names Involved: Blair Underwood plays the president.
Will It Be Good: The acting looks solid and the story interesting enough.
Will People Watch It?: Maybe those abandoned by 24 will need something new to glom onto, but the plot seems too intricate for procedural fans and the mystery too simple for the post-Lost crowd.
What It's About: Sexy U.S. Marshals on the hunt for evil kidnapping criminals.
Big Names Involved: From the ever creative mind of Jerry Bruckheimer. Does former Desperate Housewives eye candy Jesse Metcalfe count as a big name?
Will It Be Good: No better or worse than any of the CSIs, Without a Traces, or tough-as-nails-professional-lady shows on TNT.
Will People Watch It?: They're going to eat this shit up.
What It's About: Married secret agent types come out of retirement to help find a missing colleague.
Big Names Involved: Created by JJ Abrams and co-starring Gerald McRaney (does that mean Delta Burke will guest star?).
Will It Be Good: We have the utmost faith in JJ Abrams to make something worth watching but his shows have been known to spiral out of control a la Alias.
Will People Watch It?: The show is hotly anticipated and will have a highly-rated premiere, but whether or not it will make it for the long haul will depend how good the first few episodes are. Though the blend of espionage and sex-pionage seems just right.
What It's About: The lawyer Jimmy Smits played on L.A. Law apparently became a Supreme Court Justice who later retires from the court in his prime to change the legal system and start all that "doing the right thing" nonsense.
Big Names Involved: That Smitts character.
Will It Be Good: What was the last original lawyer show?
Will People Watch It?: Remember what a blockbuster it was when Sally Field played a Supreme Court justice? Yeah, we didn't think so.
What It's About: A stoner patent attorney gets fired from her job and decides to start living an authentic life by setting up a law practice in a used shoe store. God, what is with all these fucking do-gooder lawyers?
Big Names Involved: Oscar winner Kathy Bates slums on TV in a show created by Ally McBeal and Boston Legal scribe David E. Kelly.
Will It Be Good: Kelly is incapable of making anything new, but usually his fare is at least middle of the road, if it's not ruined by his forced quirkiness and willful wackiness.
Will People Watch It?: Kathy Bates smoking reefer and being zany? Sure, we'll tune in for an episode or three.
What It's About: An honest cop is framed for murder and killed. Except he survives and is helped by a circus of misfits who teach him all the skills he needs to become a super hero whose weapon is his outfit.
Big Names Involved: There's a midget in the circus. Does he count?
Will It Be Good: The trailer is laughably bad.
Will People Watch It?: About as many as watched the last season of Heroes.
What It's About: A Psych-esque puffy haired guy is hired to be the head of an American call center for a novelty products company (fake poop, fake vomit, canned laughter) only to find out on his first day that everything's been outsourced to India. So he gets in a green screen mobile and goes to India and learns a lot about himself while teaching a bunch of wacky Indians about America. Plus, romantic intrigue with a call center girl and, for some reason, a white lady.
Big Names Involved: That guy from Drew Carey and Office Space with the deep voice.
Will It Be Good? If the show doesn't constantly rely on "haha aren't Indians weird" jokes, it could become a pleasantly offbeat fish-out-of-water comedy in the vein of Northern Exposure or something. It will probably not get there, though.
Will People Watch It: A sitcom set in India with no notable comedy stars? Yes, that sounds like something that a lot of network TV-watching Americans will be into.
What It's About: It's hard to tell, but it looks as though Becki Newton (Ugly Betty) and Jordana Spiro (My Boys) are lovelorn sad weirdos who like to talk about sex a lot and also tell stories in "bite size" installments. Love stories like Lindsay Price prefers her vibrator to her boyfriend, Grover from House Arrest. (Who was also on My Boys.) Apparently there's a new couple of stories and guest stars every week.
Big Names Involved: Jennifer Love Hewitt (who was also in House Arrest) is a guest star in the pilot it seems, playing herself. Craig Robinson pops up. Obviously Grover from House Arrest is a pretty big deal.
Will It Be Good? This little trailer is bizarrely and confusingly put together, so it's hard to tell. Probably not. Jokes about the list of celebrities you're allowed to cheat on your spouse with were done on Friends a million and a half years ago. Other sex jokes — about virginity and dudes and stuff — seem really desperate and awkward. And actually Newton and Spiro seem really desperate and awkward too. Unless the story-of-the-week format becomes interesting, this show has stink written all over its little candy heart.
Will People Watch It? Again, if the different-guest-star-every-week thing clicks, then maybe, just to see who's on. But, honestly, we kinda doubt it. If the other J.Lo is the biggest person they could get for their first episode outta the gate, we think they might have a problem attracting big enough names. And without that, it's just a show about two annoying women and their oft-referenced vaginae.
What It's About: Part two in NBC's three-part study of white straight people, Couples is about three wacky couples and the wacky things they do, wackily. Basically there's the normal couple that just needs to stop being so harried all the time, the yuppie couple with an uptight wife and an alcoholic husband (hilarious!), and the kooky angry sex couple made up of the Waitress from It's Always Sunny (poor dear...) and some horrid Zany Man character who says "dude" a lot and has all kinds of inside jokes and weird sayings and stuff. You know, the type that boring middle aged people who wear suits and live in Pasadena think are funny. Anyway, the couples have game night together and crazy things happen and we just sit back and shake our heads and chuckle and say "Ohhh, straight white people."
Big Names Involved: Grover from House Arrest. We shit you not. Grover is everywhere this year.
Will It Be Good? Stephen Hawking has spoken of a universe far, far away where anything about this tired-looking show could be considered funny, but that's only theoretical. For us Earthlings, this looks about as upsetting as Grover's parents' divorce in House Arrest.
Will People Watch It: Those who think to themselves "You know what I don't see enough of these days? Relationship comedies about straight white people" will love this so hard. Everyone else will pass.
Friends With Benefits
What It's About: A
sci-fi show about TV execs who travel back in time to the year 1999 when the term "friends with benefits" was still new and interesting sexy white straight people romp about looking-for-love friends who do it to each other while looking for love, this hilarious comedy features jokes about sex and the differences between men and women. This is NBC's first relationship comedy since Perfect Couples.
Big Names Involved: Grover from House Arrest. No, just kidding. Fran Kranz from Dollhouse. Seriously that's the biggest name in it.
Will It Be Good? There didn't seem to be one funny joke in the entire trailer, so we think it will be wonderful. Plus the lead guy's dyed blonde hair is the best dye job since Peter Facinelli in Twilight, so it's got that going for it.
Will People Watch It? No, frankly. No they will not.
The Paul Reiser Show
What It's About: It's about Paul Reiser. It's basically NBC's watered-down attempt at a Curb Your Enthusiasm type show, only unlike Larry David, Paul Reiser isn't funny. He has a fake wife and fake friends, hilarity ensues.
Big Names Involved: Well, they couldn't even find a big star for the lead (WHAM-O!), so not really. The very funny Andrew Daly plays one of his buddies, which is kind of sad, but at least he's working. Ben Shenkman from Angels In America is in it. So, there you go.
Will It Be Good? Once again, Paul Reiser. But really the problem is that unlike the weird and petty-little-peccadillos comedy of Curb, this is yet another goddamned show about a weary dad with his tough, beautiful, demanding wife, his handful kids, his wacky funnyguy friends, and aging and stuff. Snooze.
Will People Watch It? Some people like Paul Reiser. We're not sure, though, if those people like Paul Reiser enough to watch a show about Paul Reiser. Plus, no Helen Hunt this go around. This looks like Curb meets Men of a Certain age and no one watches either of those shows, at least not in network numbers terms, so no. Probably they won't, no.
What It's About: Extreme makeover, school edition.
Big Names Involved: It's produced by Cheryl Hines from, gasp, Curb Your Enthusiasm. Grover from House Arrest's school gets renovated. (You wish.)
Will It Be Good? It'll be good in the way that any of these weepy, heavily corporate-sponsored makeover shows are. There's a nice undercurrent of real human emotion brought about by actual good deeds, but they are overshadowed a bit by all the plugs and "Thank you, big brave TV network!!" stuff. Plus, quick shoddy craftsmanship seems really dangerous for a school. And we'd like to say "Well how many schools really need huge makeovers anyway??" but we're depressingly sure that there are more than enough.
Will People Watch? Folks probably can't relate to school buildings as much as they can to a family's house, but sure. NBC is doing feel-good well with another show right now (Biggest Loser), so maybe they'll hit gold twice. Big, fat, weeping gold.