So, they're finally gone. Those pesky “Friends.” Along with “Frasier,” “Angel” and “The Practice.”
For the first time in several years, there are some substantive holes in most of the broadcast networks' schedules. Execs aren't just scrambling to fill the vacant timeslots, they're flailing wildly to find the next big thing...another 10+ year performer to anchor their flagging market share.
It ain't easy. Programming for television is like shooting skeet blindfolded, while simultaneously, dozens of others are blindly blazing away at the same brittle clay pigeon. And more often than not, the pigeon escapes.
That said, these execs might have a little more luck if they'd load their lineups with buckshot instead of rock salt.
This month, the nets announced their tentative fall schedules. It's a chance to learn which shows survived hiatus, and which were cancelled with far less fanfare than befell “Friends,” et al. And it's the chance to see what new shows will struggle to find a niche come autumn. What follows is a list of series in various stages of production. Whether they make it on the air is still...er...up in the air. But as a public service, here's the good, the bad and the ugly of the 2004-05 season -- as well as my pick for the sure fire early cancellations.
Good: “The Catch” is "an ensemble drama set in the world of bounty hunters." This show has three points in its favor right off the bat. First, it's being produced and developed by J.J. Abrams, who created ABC's only saving grace, “Alias.” Second, it's going to star Greg Grunberg, who plays Eric Weiss on “Alias,” where he's been written into the woodwork this past season. Third, and finally, the show marks Don Rickles' return to series television. That's right, hockey puck: Don (“CPO Sharkey”) Rickles. Let me be the first to say it: he's a better dramatic actor than you know.
Bad: “Life As We Know It,” a "drama that tracks the sexually-driven coming-of-age story of three teenagers." Y'know, I seem to recall the networks attempting to push a pair of sex-centered shows last season, only to yank them in record time. This stars Sean Faris, from MTV's sexually-driven coming-of-age series, “Undressed,” and Kelly Osbourne, whom no one wants to see naked, ever.
Ugly: “The Ultimate Love Test.” Yep, another lust-driven reality series. “Love Test” will offer "an established couple a substantial sum of cash if one of them agrees to spend several weeks with a member of the opposite sex; however there'd be no requirement that the relationship be consummated." Sure. It's not required. Is there a way to write that sentence with more sarcasm?
Doomed: “DeMarco Affairs” offers up Selma Blair and übercutie Sabrina (“Sports Night”) Lloyd in the story of sisters who take over their parents' wedding planning service. Sounds harmless enough, right? Unfortunately, someone also cast Jonathan (“The Single Guy”) Silverman, who's killed more shows than anyone not named Ted McGinley.
Good: “Numbers.” Because adding another version of “C.S.I.” wasn't enough, CBS tosses another crime drama for nerds into its lineup. In “Numbers,” two brothers (one is a mathematician at M.I.T., the other is an FBI agent) work together on cases. Will “Numbers” really be that great? No. But it's more of the same procedural plodding that works so well for CBS, so why shouldn't it be a hit?
Bad: “Saint Louie” offends me right off the bat, by having nothing to do with my city of residence. This "family comedy" takes its title from its star, some comedian I've never heard of, named Louis C.K. What kind of name is that? Is he related to Andrew W.K.? I looked the guy up, and his claim to fame outside stand-up is appearing in Pootie Tang. That's all I need to know. I mean, really -- Pootie Tang? Tiffany network, my ass.
Ugly: “Listen Up” is the latest attempt to break the Seinfeld curse. Jason Alexander (the short, fat, bald one) stars as real-life ESPN talking head Tony Kornheiser, one half of the “Pardon the Interruption” team. The catch is, I don't want to see Kornheiser's off-the-air life "as a sports columnist and father of teenagers" any more than I want to see that schmuck Costanza acting it out.
Doomed: “Dr. Vegas.” If the title isn't damning enough, this new show stars Rob Lowe and Joey Pants. I love you guys, but please stop these futile experiments. At one point, Tom Sizemore was also attached to this project, but he's too busy doing meth/stalking Heidi Fleiss/appearing in court to contribute. Is Robert Downey Jr. available?
Good: “American Dad.” Shh! I'll let you in on a secret. “American Dad” is really “Family Guy” in disguise. The new animation project from Seth MacFarlane "focuses on Stan, a right-leaning CIA agent; his wife; their two kids, including a liberal daughter; a housebound alien named Roger; and a French-speaking goldfish." Expect the typical blend of sarcasm and the surreal.
Bad: “The Perez Family” is a sitcom about "a multigenerational Cuban-American family in Miami, as seen through the eyes of a 16-year-old boy." Fox crashed and burned last season with “Luis”; why do they think this Hispanic comedy is going to fare any better? Still, if they could bring in Janet Reno for sweeps, they could have something.
Ugly: “Lucky Us” sounds like “Ned and Stacey”..with a fetus. Chyler Leigh and Ethan Embry star as a couple who "wind up permanently linked after their blind date results in an unexpected pregnancy." DA HA HA! That's SO funny! Man, if I knocked up some girl I'd just met, I'd probably crap my pants...from laughing so hard! I bet she'd have a good laugh, too.
Doomed: “Sweden, Ohio” should take a good, long look at “The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire.” Never, ever name your show for a country and a state. This sitcom features "a teenage boy whose life suddenly gets more interesting when a sexy foreign exchange student moves in with his family." Until Lane Myer wins her heart. If Aly Hannigan shows up with a flute, though, I'm there.
Good: “LAX.” No, not “Lax,” but “LAX,” as in Los Angeles International Airport. Watch Heather Locklear and Blair Underwood pack 'em, stack 'em and rack 'em each week. "Security breaches, tearful reunions, illegal immigrants, missing children, runaway animals, drug busts, drunken pilots -- there are countless stories to tell in 'LAX'," according to NBC's press release. Just remember: the white zone is for loading and unloading of passengers only; there is no parking in the white zone.
Bad: “Father of the Pride” is one part Vegas, one part The Lion King. If you ask me, it's one big part creepy. This animated sitcom treats us to the behind the scenes lives of Siegfried and Roy's white lions. In the pilot, daddy lion "Larry" (John Goodman) accidentally eats Roy. Again.
Ugly: “The One That Got Away” is a new reality series, featuring a bachelor who "reunites with eight of his former girlfriends -- and offers them the opportunity to rekindle their romance while sharing a house in North Carolina." If this was actually real, the eight former girlfriends would tie the conceited bastard to a tree in the front yard, and horsewhip him for his arrogance.
Doomed: “D.O.T.S.” No, I don't know what it stands for. All I have is the description: "a comedy set in the world of meter maids." I wasn't aware meter maids had their own world. Is it anything like that planet of the apes, I wonder?
WB and UPN
Oh, come on...it's all bad, ugly and doomed.
Okay, okay...one title from WB. That's all.
(Thanks to The Futon Critic for pilot synopses!)
If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
5.24.04 @ 12:14a
These all suck. Even the good ones. Looks like I'll complete that "must read" list in no time.
Fortunately, "Carnivale" returns to HBO in the fall.
5.24.04 @ 12:16a
I was close to saying, "I'm not going to watch television this season," and then you hit me with Father Of The Pride. I am so there!
On the other hand, if I never see any reality television again, it'll be much too soon.
5.24.04 @ 8:41a
“The One That Got Away” is a new reality series, featuring a bachelor who "reunites with eight of his former girlfriends -- and offers them the opportunity to rekindle their romance while sharing a house in North Carolina."
What did North Carolina ever do to NBC?
You know what I'd like to see? A cable package that doesn't require you to have the basic (i.e., LOCAL/BROADCAST NETWORK) channels. Being the web junkie that I am, I'd like all sponsors to have surveys set up where I could go in and basically say, "If you ever sponsor this program your product will gather dust in warehouses all over the world." Networks don't listen to viewers, but they tend to panic if a sponsor pulls lucrative advertising.
5.24.04 @ 9:15a
I think DirectTV doesn't provide the locals, but I think there is federal law that required the cable companies to. Not sure though.
Nice "Better Off Dead" reference. Looks like next year I'll only be watching "Carnivale" (Lods rules!) and again wondering what the heck you guys are talking about.
5.24.04 @ 10:20a
The Sunday night at 10 HBO slot will be filled with joy for ages now... Deadwood has a couple more eps, Six Feet Under starts mid-June, and I assume as soon as that's wrapped up, Carnivale takes the slot somewhere around September.
Other than that, looks like an occasional CSI for me, and nothing else til the return of Alias in January '05.
Thank heaven for Netflix.
5.24.04 @ 10:46a
The Wire is back on HBO in August, and you are all seriously missing out by not watching that show.
5.24.04 @ 10:51a
I watched it for a few weeks. It is excellent, but impossible for the casual viewer to grasp. You've got to be loyal to enjoy it.
5.24.04 @ 10:55a
True, it is impossible to watch casually. It's so dense. I still haven't seen Carnivale, but I hope to catch it if (when) they rerun it before the 2nd season.
5.24.04 @ 11:04a
The Wire is good if you are into the inner workings of a long term criminal investigation. These aren't cases that can be solved in an hour like most cop shows (but more than one show to complete a storyline is a lot to ask for most viewers).
pootie tang is pretty funny. I mean, Chris Rock plays a talking stalk of corn.
Nonetheless, I'm not watching any of these shows. Nor did I watch any of those above being cancelled within the last 4 years or so. And I feel fine.
5.24.04 @ 11:12a
The Wire is painstakingly detailed, and therefore the most realistic cops/robbers show I've ever seen. Walker's right, the investigations span entrie seasons, and the overall investigation is spreading into its third. And it's not just about the cops and the crimes, it tackles the effects of those crimes on working class neighborhoods and the inner cities, etc. It's incredible.
5.24.04 @ 11:15a
I only watch broadcast networks now if there's a NASCAR race or baseball game on one. Otherwise, I prefer HGTV, Food Network, Bravo, and the occasional Perry Mason rerun on Hallmark. The Addams Family Marathon on TVLand in June will be a must-see for me, though.
5.24.04 @ 11:16a
I wonder where in NC they're shooting "The One That Got Away". We could send an Intrepid team out to ridicule them mercilessly.
5.24.04 @ 11:27a
One of the exec producers (and writers) on "The Wire" is David Simon, the same guy who helped create "Homicide: Life on the Streets," and the leading reason the show is set in Baltimore...and is so richly textured. "Homicide" was "The Wire," if softened a bit for network TV. And I think Walker's point (it's beyond most viewers' desire to stick with story arcs in a cop show) is one reason "Homicide" never gained the ratings it deserved. Are there story arcs in other cop shows (read: "NYPD Blue") sure? But they're soap opera stories.
5.24.04 @ 11:59a
Oh, good! I can just listen to Air America until deep into the night, except for Sunday nights, of course.
5.24.04 @ 12:43p
Russ is right; the parts of the plot that extend through a season in other cop shows are only relationship / character things. The Wire, on the other hand, is like what really happens on the job; long time work to capture whole criminal enterprises. Although, while I can see parallels with Homicide (which I also loved), I see them as wholly different shows. I don’t think I knew they were the same creator (At least, not the obvious similarities of a David Kelley or Aaron Spelling show).
And Mike is right about the detail level of the show; the 2nd season was amazing because it dealt with a new, second investigation while still following up on the completed bust from the first season; effectively DOUBLING the plot. The BEST second season to any show I've ever seen.
5.24.04 @ 1:00p
The thing with Homicide was that even with its grit and detail and great acting, it had a bit of a gimmick in the all "The Box" stuff. Those interrogation scenes were great, but whenever I watched I was always waiting for that part.
Jeff is right again about The Wire; half the show deals with the red tape and legal roadblocks that go along with investigations. As well as showcasing the political dealing within the police department...this upcoming season is supposed to focus more on the shady political doings that have been in the background since Season 1.
5.24.04 @ 1:29p
Scenes in The Box were great, because they were often small one-act plays of their own. No scenery, no distraction, just one or two detectives, one suspect. Frank Pembleton as a modern day Torquemada.
5.24.04 @ 1:53p
Braugher ruled, and still hasn't found another role up to his level of talent. But I just meant that those Box scenes became the reason I watched, and I started getting impatient about the rest of the show. But I was never a regular viewer anyways, it was in a bad day/time slot.
5.24.04 @ 3:35p
I wonder where in NC they're shooting "The One That Got Away". We could send an Intrepid team out to ridicule them mercilessly.
Great idea...wish I'd thought of it first! Volunteers, anyone? Just think of the number of columns you could get out of the experience.
5.24.04 @ 3:44p
Mike; they (were) replaying Homicide episodes on Court TV for a while. Don't know if they still are, but at any rate, nexflix has all seasons now in box sets. (and, not too far off subject, but they have also Battlestar Galactica: Complete Epic Series (6-Disc Series), which, if you buy it at the store, comes in a Silon robot face -- awesome!!)
The NC show may already have wrapped production if they are preparing to air the show. search party will find an empty set...
5.24.04 @ 4:11p
search party will find an empty set...
And the bones of a dead bachelor once all eight exes remember why they dumped him in the first place.
5.24.04 @ 8:06p
"The One That Got Away" is such a great idea. And no, I'm not kidding. I will not miss a single episode. On a 1 to 10 trainwreck scale, this one could be an 11.
And really, is there a better reason to watch TV?
Honestly, it's been close to a decade since I've religiously watched, or even been entertained by a TV show that wasn't 1) reality TV, 2) sports programming, or 3) a documentary. And really, #2 and #3 are just versions of #1.
Alias, Simpsons, Seinfeld, Friends, Buffy...it's all the same old boring, rarely entertaining shit.
5.24.04 @ 11:08p
I personally don't get the attraction to reality television. I get enough of reality by going to work and dealing with people. For me television is about escape from reality.
Unfortunately most of the line up mentioned here is drivel. Under the link to the sex-centered shows of last season I found a show I got hooked on in the first episode (Coupling) and was disappointed when it was yanked by the third episode. NBC didn't even give it a chance.
When you consider how much money is poured into these programs, it seems like a waste to not show at least the episodes already in the can.
I've noticed my viewing habits are drifting more to cable, and most syndication stuff. I'm also getting more into picking up box sets of old series when I find them on sale. Even though I've probably seen them before, I find them more entertaining than the current dreck.
5.25.04 @ 10:18a
Just got around to this. "The One That Got Away" was filmed in Statesville or around there at least. The guy is from there. I've got some friends that know him.
5.25.04 @ 11:33a
Ah. Bet it was set at or around Lake Norman, then.
5.25.04 @ 11:33a
Yeah, my roommate's a reality junkie. I just don't get it. Why would I want to watch people with more neuroses than me get semi-famous for not really doing anything useful?
But Russ, regarding "Lucky Us," to be fair, there was a subplot about unexpected pregnancy on this past season's "That '70s Show," that really did make for some good laughs. And Chyler Leigh is hot.
5.25.04 @ 11:36a
Maybe I'm just downright weird, but to me the phrase "reality" implies life as it happens, not life as it is engineered by t.v. producers with no taste trying to appeal to the prurient tastes of a viewing public. This Old House is reality t.v. Fear Factor is just gross, if the commercials are anything to go by.
5.25.04 @ 11:53a
So, Russ, nothing to say about "Lost"?
Chyler Leigh is hot.
5.25.04 @ 12:24p
Mike: "Lost" has a reasonable premise, as long as they don't try to Survivorcise it. That is, take characters we've already seen from "Survivor" and template characters on the show from them. I have more faith in Abrams than that, but still...I want "Lord of the Flies," not Jeff Probst.
"Fear Factor" isn't reality TV; it's sort of a game show. Personally, I wish they'd stop calling it "reality" TV, when it's actually just unscripted. And even "unscripted" is a stretch; they may not have the dialogue preplanned, but certainly any semblance of plot or conflict is predetermined.
5.25.04 @ 12:29p
I heard that "Lost" has a lot of mythical, sci-fi elements to it, perhaps in a Rimbaldi-ish way. But I think there are freaky creatures and stuff on the island.
5.25.04 @ 12:37p
5.25.04 @ 12:38p
6.1.04 @ 5:27p
Mauled by the press! Poor NBC...
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- When taped remarks from Roy Horn were played for a recent gathering in New York, the Las Vegas magician recovering from a near fatal tiger mauling was met with respectful silence.
Silence, too, greeted what followed in the NBC sales presentation to Madison Avenue: Clips of "Father of the Pride," an animated comedy based on Horn and partner Siegfried Fischbacher's act, failed to draw laughs.
In a New York minute, bad buzz had started humming for one of NBC's highest-profile fall series.
"'King of the Pride' is DOA," was the headline the following day (May 18) in an online newsletter distributed by industry analyst Jack Myers.
"The animated series was in far worse shape" than Horn, Myers wrote, "and the reaction of NBC's advertising clients was so negative that it's unlikely the program will last on NBC's schedule."