Tag Archives: NBC

Fall 2016 Previews and Predictions: NBC

19 Sep

NBC

(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall (edit: spring, now) television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (spring, again)(reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

  1. Renewal – show gets renewed
  2. 13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed
  3. 12- – the show is cancelled before 13

Additional note: Since more and more series on network TV are following cable models with set orders for shorter seasons, and mid-season replacements tend to have shorter seasons in particular, I’ll note any planned limited runs in my prediction section for each show)

The Good Place – 9/19

The Good Place

The high concept drama is a dime a dozen, but rarer is the high concept comedy. Kristin Bell wakes up, finds out from Ted Danson that she just died and has been elevated to the “good place” a take on a version of conventional heaven where all people who have lived extremely good lives go and get to live in a community with others like them. Apparently, a mistake was made however, and she was confused with a human rights lawyer. She was supposed to probably go to the not-so-good bad place, but she’s going to live amongst a bunch of goodie-goodies and maybe hope not to get caught. Oh, and possibly most importantly, it’s from Parks and Rec’s Michael Schur.

Prediction: Renewal – Is this likely to last? Not necessarily, but it’s from Michael Schur and stars Kristin Bell and Ted Danson so I’m going to be rooting for it and hopeful that NBC will give it some leeway.

This is Us – 9/20

This is Us

It’s a melodrama about some people. The hook is that instead of being about a family or group of friends or coworkers, the show focuses on a cadre of people born on the same day including Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia. The show follows them through happiness, sadness, births, deaths, you know; life. Looks like it’ll rate high on the crying scale.

Prediction: 12- Network family melodramas do catch on occasionally (Parenthood lasted a cool five seasons) but the odds are definitely against them. They’re not procedural and they don’t have the over-the-topness or suspense hooks to keep network viewers coming. Leave them to cable (or whatever amazon and Netflix are).

Timeless – 10/3

Timeless

This is a variation of a concept that comes up every few years, the time-travel show. Seven Days, Timecop, Quantum Leap, Time Trax. (I could have sworn there were more, but it might just be my imagination because it’s such a classic idea) A team of, in this case, three people use top-secret government technology to time-travel to chase down a supercriminal who is using that same machine to mess up history, which could result in butterfly effects and what not. They’ve got to do whatever’s necessary to make sure history continues to exist as we know it.

Prediction: 13+ Splitting the difference. With these average looking shows, it’s always just a guess.

Fall 2015 Review: The Player

25 Sep

The Player

The Player is one of two ludicrous high-concept action shows NBC is airing this year, and possibly the more ludicrous, though I’ve veered back and forth between the two. It’s also unrelated to the early ‘90s Robert Altman movie of the same name.

Here’s the story. Alex Kane is the best security consultant in the industry in Las Vegas. He’s just that good. He’s hired to protect high value targets and to show the audience his sheer competence he saves a rich foreign royal family in the first couple of minutes. He follows his success with a meaningful moment with his ex-wife where they decide to get back together until she’s subsequently murdered leaving him as the prime suspect. He knows, however, that he’s not only innocent but that the killer was coming for him; the killer wants another shot at the same royal family he protected before and saw him as the biggest obstacle in the way.

He escapes from the hospital where he’s being held while the police look into him. Now the real fun starts. He’s helped in his escape by a woman Cassandra, who takes him to a man, Mr. Johnson, played by Wesley Snipes. They work for a cadre of very, very rich men, who are above the FBI, above the CIA, above basically everyone. They have capabilities far beyond what Alex can imagine. In fact, they’ve figured out a way to predict crime. Alex has 10 minutes, Cassandra and Johnson tell him, to save the family he was assigned to protect at the beginning of the show. Without really understanding, he races to save them, but is unable to get there in time. The daughter is kidnapped and several people are killed, and he’s blamed.

He meets with Cassandra and Johnson again and they fill him in further. The mega-wealthy bore easily. They like to gamble, but typical gambling is far too low stakes.  So, they gamble on crime. They require a player, which is a lifetime appointment. You play until you die, some people bet on you, some people bet against. He enlists, because, well, there’s a boring backstory about how his wife inspired him to be good, and he hasn’t looked back, so if he has a chance to do good, gosh darn it, even if the circumstances surrounding it are poor, he’s got to take it. Oh, and he can avenge his wife, and on top of that, he has a tip she might not actually be dead. Yes, that’s something that might happen.

The Player is pretty wooden. It’s very very silly, though not knowingly so. Network shows are so obviously predictable and the writing is hackneyed. I could call some of the many, many gambling puns campy, but that’s giving the writers too much credit. Something this silly and over the top needs to have really good action scenes and be a hell of a lot of fun to work and The Player is neither.

Will I watch it again? No. There were some mediocre action scenes. But that’s about it. It’s not the worst, but you can get what it gives you, elsewhere and better, if that’s what you want.

Summer 2015 Review: Mr. Robinson

12 Aug

Mr. Robinson

Hi, decade of the 90s. You seem to be missing a sitcom. I like Craig Robinson. I think he has some natural charisma and comedic sense. Unfortunately, it’s not well-used in this sitcom which seems pulled straight from 20 years ago.

Of course, there’s the laugh track, but I’ve talked about that many times before, so I’ll merely made the one sentence point of how ridiculous it is that the laugh track still survives, but moving on.

Craig Robinson plays Craig, a substitute music teacher and part-time bandleader. He’s a slightly more grown up version of the classic Seth Rogan-Judd Apatow immature adult. He’s both a little more mature, relatively (he’s actually a teacher, and he’s good at it) and older (about 15 years older than most of the Apatow-esque prototypes) but the idea is strikingly similar. He’s been making nothing of his life – being smooth and charming and well liked but without a real steady career or money to his name. Out of the blue, at one of his shows, he sees an old ex-girlfriend Victoria who he stood up twenty years ago for prom. He finds out she works at the school they went to growing up and he somehow manages to get himself a substitute gig there where he can pursue her further.

There’s a mish-mash of sitcom tropes pervading Mr. Robinson. Mr. Robinson is filled with Characters, characters with ridiculous over-the-top attributes. Mr. Robinson is one, signing, and dancing, and attempting to snake-charm everyone he meets. His brother, his co-band leader, is his fun-loving slightly negative influence who nonetheless is there for him when it counts. The new school principal (played by Frasier’s Peri Gilpin) is immediately suspect of Craig, but her effeminate superior is a big fan of his band and excited to have him on board. The fellow teachers include the most cartoonish character, the gym teacher who prefers to be called “Magnum P.E.” (that-guy TV actor Ben Koldyke who played among other roles, newscaster Don in How I Met Your Mother) and teacher Ashleigh (Spencer Grammer, Kelsey’s daughter, and voice of Summer in Rick & Morty) who both Craig and his brother immediately recognize from her weekend second job at the local strip club. Pretty much all of these characters are ripped from old style sitcoms, each more over-the-top characters with big, loud, distinctive styles and characteristics who rattle off punch lines that stand in for smarter jokes.

The episode ends with a classic sitcom gesture. Craig’s students, who adore him after a mere week, try to help him get together with Victoria by restaging a version of the prom he had stood her up for years ago. The gesture of course works in salving old wounds but is in vain as she hasn’t broken up with her boyfriend like Craig had believed. Craig is forced to attend the prom at the expense of missing the biggest gig yet for his band, a supposed first episode stab at being more mature, but everything works out in the end when he gets to the show late and brings a crowd. Everyone wins, except the viewers.

I may not have explicitly stated it yet, but you probably get the correct idea that Mr. Robinson isn’t very funny, and there’s certainly nothing else redeeming about it that would make up for the lack of laughs. Oh well.

Will I watch it again? No. It was not very good.

Reviewing My 2014-15 Predictions: NBC

1 Jun

NBC

Well, there’s no point in making predictions if you’re not willing to revisit them later and see just how wrong you were. Now that the final decisions are in, let’s review how I did.

We’ll start with NBC. My fall predictions are here and my spring predictions are here, and in short, every show gets one of three predictions: that it will air 12 episodes or fewer, 13 episodes or more, or be renewed.

The Mysteries of Laura

Prediction: 12-

Reality: Renewed

Sometimes I’m wrong, and sometimes reality is wrong. That’s one of these times. I watched this show and I understand I’m not the arbiter of taste for network television but I still don’t really understand how this became popular. Admittedly, this isn’t quite as shocking as the fact that Undateable will have three seasons under its belt on NBC (which is legitimately incredibly shocking) but I still am surprised this happened.

Bad Judge

Prediction: 12-

Reality: 12-

This prediction game isn’t rocket science. Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s easy. Bad Judge was one of the easier calls of the year.

A to Z

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: 12-

A to Z was an okay show that I still think could have succeeded on the right network in the right timeslot, but it’s getting harder and harder for comedies on networks, particularly on NBC, which will be down to a record low number this fall. There just wasn’t enough support or appeal to make this happen.

Marry Me

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: 13+

A series by the creator of Happy Endings starring one of the stars of Happy Endings and my beloved Ken Marino! I may have been too optimistic, about both the success and quality of the show. NBC gave it a shot, but no go. It’s a bad time to be a network sitcom.

Constantine

Prediction: 12-

Reality: 13+

Everything about this series, including when it was airing, led me to believe it was in for a short run. NBC surprisingly gave it a little more support than I anticipated, and it made it to 13 where the lack of ratings finally did it in.

State of Affairs

Prediction: 13+

Reality: 13+

 

Hey, I got something else right. I didn’t see an early cancellation with the amount of stock NBC put into this series, but I didn’t see it as a success either, and for once, I was right.

Spring:

Allegiance:

Prediction: 12-

Reality: 12-

Another easy one. Midseason shows mostly fail, which makes them generally easier to predict than fall shows, though the few breakouts that happen often come out of nowhere. This was so obviously a poor man’s The Americans rip-off that was destined to fail and did.

The Slap

Prediction: No renewal

Reality: No renewal

This was a limited series, so odds are it was never returning unless it was such a huge hit that it forced NBC’s hand to develop some sort of sequel. Still, The Slap, from just the name alone, was destined to fail, despite an impressive amount of star power in the cast.

One Big Happy

Prediction: 12-

Reality: 12-

This show looked terrible, was pretty bad, and as previously discussed, it’s hard out there being a sitcom these days. Not a difficult call, and now that Elisha Cuthbert’s back out of work, along with Marry Me’s Casey Wilson, we’re two actors closer to the Happy Endings reunion.

A.D.: The Bible Continues

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: 12-

People love the Bible, and people loved The Bible, so I suppose I overestimated that love; what counts as a hit for History Channel registers as something less on NBC. I underestimate religious fervor too often that I overestimated it this time in an attempt to compensate.

American Odyssey:

Prediction: Renewal

Reality: 13+

I have absolutely no justification for predicting this as a renewal, other than I was trying to balance out my spring forecast with another renewal or two, in spite of the fact that’s just not how spring works. While I don’t regret this pick too strongly, this is one I’d be most likely to change if I made these predictions again.

Summer 2015 Review: Aquarius

29 May

Aquarius

There isn’t a ton to say about Aquarius. It’s not particularly good, but it’s not really particularly bad either. It’s not even remarkably unmemorable, it’s just unmemorable enough. You’re probably not going to watch it, there’s no reason you should watch it, and you’ll probably forget about its existence within about five minutes of reading this if not sooner. I’ll get into the meat of the show for those would like to know what it’s about in a minute, but first I’ll quickly lay out the most (and by most I mean still not particularly) noteworthy facts about the show in a couple of sentences for those of you who wants to stop reading right there.

Aquarius takes place in the ‘60s, specifically in the late ‘60s when hippies and the summer of love and drugs and rock and roll music are a big deal, and it takes place in Southern California. David Duchovny stars as a cop. Famed multi-murderer Charlie Manson appears as the primary antagonist. The vast majority of spent on the Aquarius budget was clearly sent on music licensing, as “I Can See For Miles” by The Who, “Paint in Black” by The Rolling Stones, and “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane all play in the first episode. And, lastly, NBC put the show online all at once, like Netflix, while airing it week to week, the first time it, or as far as I know any other broadcast network, has done that.

Okay, those are pretty much the only potentially interesting facts about Aquarius. Here’s the rest. A teen girl, always a bit of a troublemaker, goes missing, and her parents ask Duchovny to help look for her. Because the father is an enterprising local politician, he asks Duchovny to keep the investigation off the record, and the police department, who could benefit from influence with this pol, goes along with it. Duchovny partners with a young cop who is too cool for school, constantly rubbing other people in the department the wrong way with his sideburns and long hair. Duchovny though believes he’s just the man to go undercover with the hippie types who may know what happened to the girl. Duchovny isn’t above bending a few rules along the way and ignoring due process, and eventually him and his partner find out that the girl went off on her own accord with Manson and his crew, which operate something between a commune and a cult.

They also figure out that Manson holds a grudge against the girl’s father due to early events and is using her as leverage to get back at him. That’s more or less all you get in the first episode. It’s not really such a bad show, there’s nothing embarrassing or laughable outside of the well overplayed cop-who-is-willing-to-break-the-rules trope. It’s just a nothing show. You will not be offended if you watch it, but considering it prominently features Charles Manson as a character it’s surprisingly forgettable.

Will I watch it again? No.  Why?

Spring 2015 Review: A.D.: The Bible Continues

27 Apr

A.D.: The Bible Continues

I’m a non-believing Jew, so A.D.: The Bible Continues is obviously not geared towards me. Still, this is on NBC, rather than some niche cable channel, so with that disclaimer I’ll dive into attempting to analyze this show about the bible like any other TV show.

I’m about as far away from a Bible expert as you can get, but from my limited knowledge even someone as completely uninterested in religion as myself believe the Bible contains plenty of compelling stories, regardless of its literal truth. These stories, at their best, and the Bible is long enough to have some winners and some snoozers, are interesting both as stand-alone narratives and in terms of the historical context of how they came about. A.D.: The Bible Continues, sadly, is not a particularly riveting or enlightening portrayal of those tales.

More than that, it’s, well, cheesy. The production values, dialogue, and story combine to make A.D. more like a cheaply produced instructional special shown in Sunday schools to keep children mildly entertained while relaying to them the story of Jesus and his followers than a network program airing in 2015. This just doesn’t cut it. The effects look corny, the dialogue and acting is stilted and just everything about rings of a B-level piece of work.

A.D. starts just before the crucifixion of Jesus, and the pilot ends as he’s about to be resurrected. In between, Judas hangs himself out of guilt from his betrayal, his followers fret about whether to quickly escape, or wait for his alleged resurrection, and Pontius Pilate, his wife, and some others struggle with whether or not they made the right and sensible decision to have Jesus executed.

As a series, A.D. purports to tell Bible stories as a continuation of the hugely successful “The Bible” miniseries, which aired on the History Channel, which aside from this not actually being history, is at least the type of network on which these low budget reenactment type stories belong. These days, even most of the second tier summer shows on network channels that will get cancelled after four episodes of virtually on one watching, if not looking like something on AMC, Showtime, or HBO, at least look pretty decent; the general standard of production has been ratcheted up by the success of premium cable, even if networks don’t quite aspire that high. A.D., on the other hand, is suitable for some simplistic religious history for kids, but not as entertainment or serious programming for anyone older.

Will I watch it again? No. I’m done with Hebrew school forever, which I could not be happier about. No need to watch Saturday afternoon bible specials here.

Spring 2015 Review: American Odyssey

22 Apr

American Odyssey

American Odyssey is a conspiracy thriller set in the present post-9/11 world of Middle Eastern Islamic extremist terrorism. It’s kind of a cross between Homeland and Rubicon, and since most people understandably are unfamiliar with Rubicon, AMC’s first scripted show which lasted a mere single season before Breaking Bad and Mad Men made everyone care about AMC, I’ll explain further. This is a complicated military industrial conspiracy show, so get ready for a bit of exposition. There are three primary protagonists at the heart of American Odyssey. These are their stories.

Odelle is a member of an army team which makes a surprise discovery of one of the world’s most wanted terrorists while in Mali. He’s dead and they’re assigned to turn over everything they found to a shady paramilitary unit. Odette against orders holds onto a thumb drive which shows a bizarre transaction between an American company and Middle Eastern terrorists. The army group makes their way back to safety through the desert on horses, and while Odette is over in the brush urinating, her team is surgically hit with a drone strike. From a few yards away, she then sees the paramilitary group from earlier come in and kill anyone not already dead. She’s then captured by some terrorists and held hostage by a boy, who, after his terrorist dad is killed by the paramilitary agents, agrees to help her escape. The boy also texts a photo of her out to the world; while the military tells her family at home that she’s dead and the photo is mere propaganda, we know it’s very real.

Second, there’s a young, charming Occupy leader who kindly listens to what seems to be a nutty conspiracy theorist. When the theorist claims that the Odelle is still alive, before the picture comes out, and the picture than validates his claim, the charming Occupier decides he best start listening to conspiracy nut, but conspiracy nut is nowhere to be found. The Occupier also learns that an attractive young female journalist to whom he gave an interview doesn’t work for the publication she claimed to have.

Third and final is a lawyer, who used to work for the government but now works for an investment bank helping ensure the merger of two possibly evil sounding giant corporations. Doing his due diligence he finds out some information that his higher-ups don’t want him to know, and though they encourage him not to look too closely, he digs deeper and finds a former drone pilot who was ordered to fire on Americans, and who one of these corporations attempted to bribe in exchange for his silence. When the drone pilot is about to meet up with the lawyer to go talk to some government people about his story, he gets hit by a bus. Dun dun dun.

Wow, that was involved, and that’s about the kind of show it is. It’s high on plot, but it’s also high on material that sounds about as generically conspiratorial as it gets. Evil corporations, military, government, goes all the way to the top. Sure, any of these allegations would be a huge, massive deal in real life, but on TV and in movies, anyone has seen them again and again and again. American Odyssey was fine. It was competent enough, and these conspiracy-based shows and movies continue to propagate because there’s something inherently fascinating about corruption, power, secrets, and lies and that can be somewhat compelling even when the allegations are not particularly interesting or original.

But, there’s nothing here that makes this feel like anything more exciting that whatever minimum excitement is generated in you by a conspiracy. It’s fine, but it doesn’t feel like anything special. There’s really nothing notable about it, and while phoned in is too harsh, generic is not. That’s really all.

Will I watch it again? No. It wasn’t that bad, but when you already watch more than 40 TV shows a year, wasn’t that bad doesn’t cut it enough to make it worth viewing.