Upfronts: NBC Takes First Steps to Help Peacock Peek Through the Ashes

NBC knows it’s got a steep hill to climb and they are taking those first few steps with their new and hopefully improved line-up.

Upfronts are usually exciting anyway, seeing new shows being introduced and seeing whether your favorites survived the bubble. The networks this year though, especially NBC have taken all the fun out of the traditional broadcast Upfronts week.

However, there was still some excitement at NBC’s announcement. While I hoped for, but didn’t expect bold scheduling moves from NBC, their upcoming Fall line-up is definitely a step in the right direction.

Pretty much expected line-up, save for actually scheduling a scripted show on Friday night. I do think NBC putting Jimmy Smits’ Outlaw on Fridays is not a vote of confidence, but it also sets the bar very low for the series which may help it more than hurt it.

Chuck isn’t a good lead-in for anything, but it will be to two new series.

The first is The Event which is getting the most buzz it seems, even more than a series with a J.J. Abrams stamp on it. The trailer is cryptic, yet straightforward. What is The Event? Well, it seems like a combination of ABC’s late, great Traveler, ABC’s now late, wasted potential Flash Forward and NBC’s never was Day One, with some 24 thrown in (thanks to all the critics who keep pointing that out).

Following it at 10pm is Chase, a procedural which promises Jerry Bruckheimer thrills and adrenaline. Trauma promised a procedural with thrills and adrenaline, but unfortunately for San Francisco (and NBC), that didn’t work out so well. Kelli Giddish is the star as a no nonsense U.S. Marshal, and hopefully Chase is better than her last series Past Life on Fox.

Tuesdays stay the same, which was expected as well. Don’t fix what isn’t broken and Biggest Loser/Parenthood is doing very well for NBC.

Wednesday opens with the J.J. Abrams “sexpionage” drama Undercovers which is definitely comparable only to Alias and not to Lost. What made Alias so awesome was its cast headed by Jennifer Garner and it looks like they’ve casted well here with Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the sexy husband and wife CIA duo. I don’t know if this is really an 8pm show, but it looks like it will be as fun a ride as Alias was without all the tricky mythology.

One of the biggest “Huh?” moves on NBC’s schedule is moving Law & Order: SVU back to 9pm when it proved this season that it did a whole lot better at 10pm even on Wednesdays. But the reasoning is to have SVU boost the new LOLA or Law & Order: Los Angeles at 10pm. Fair enough.

All of NBC’s comedies return, with Parks & Recreation pushed to midseason with new comedy Outsourced taking the plum post-Office timeslot. It’ll be interesting to see a full episode of Outsourced which has potential to be hilariously awesome, but also to fall very, very flat. The trailer is okay and newcomer Ben Rappaport seems like a charming lead, but it’ll definitely depend on how the half-hour flows.

At 10pm, NBC tries its hand at an anthology series, which I think networks should do more of. NBC attempted Fear Itself two seasons ago, but it didn’t catch on. But while that series focused on horror/suspense stories, Love Bites is about love, sex, relationships. Some critics have noted that the series which is likely geared towards women is not compatible with the male-skewing comedies and will have tough competition from ABC’s very female skewing Private Practice. It’ll be interesting to see how well it does, as success could easily vary based on guest stars for the story “bites” each week. But Becki Newton and Jordana Spiro are very capable of carrying the show week to week. Both hilarious and witty on Ugly Betty and My Boys respectively, I just hope this series is deserving of their talents!

Probably the biggest show of NBC’s schedule came on Fridays. No, not because Dateline was only an hour. No, not because of Who Do You Think You Are? and the Cheryl Hines, long in development feel-good reality series School Pride are sharing 8pm. But because of Outlaws at 10pm… a scripted!!! series at 10pm on a Friday! On NBC! That isn’t a Friday Night Lights burn off!
While Jimmy Smits is a great actor, the womanizing, loves to party part of the character in this series doesn’t suit him. But he should be able to do well as a Supreme Court Justice turned (back to) lawyer who wants to do good for the little people. What will make the series stand out and for it’s sake, succeed, is what they add to make this different from all other law/courtroom dramas on the air.

Of the series saved for midseason (or sooner), the Kathy Bates starrer Kindreds Harry’s Law from David E. Kelley is a courtroom drama, but this time with the larger than life personality as the lead, sort of like House. And Kathy Bates can handle being the justice system’s Hugh Laurie. The series seems destined to be carried by Kathy Bates though with the rest settling for typical courtroom drama.

Comedy Perfect Couples has a great cast that includes Kyle Howard, Christine Woods, the awesome Olivia Munn and the even more awesome Mrs. Charlie Day, Mary Elizabeth Ellis. The trailer is fine, but one has to wonder what kind of hijinks these three couples will have to go through to make each week interesting and must-see. And relationship comedies seem to be in at NBC with Friends with Benefits another one. Friends with sex is one description I saw. Accurate enough.

The Curb-ish Paul Reiser Show is going to be a hard sell for the mainstream comedy audience, but for anyone who can appreciate this kind of comedy it should be a hit. It definitely fits well with NBC’s current Thursday comedies.

And the series I was most excited about just from reading about it and jumped for joy when NBC finally announced its pick-up, The Cape. It is a pleasant surprise to see it is all-out superhero, comic book-ness. I can’t wait to see the finished product, but I have high hopes for the series. What will sell the series I think other than the comic book villains (in a good way) and Summer Glau will be how much they focus on family. Shows and films about superheroes and those with superpowers are always strengthened by including stories about family and being able to easily fold family and action/fantasy/adventure all into one. Kyle XY was able to do that well. So I can’t wait to see The Cape.

All in all, NBC seems to be very confident with its pick ups. I’m sure there’s at least ONE series that can catch on from this group. I mean really, ONE series. A scripted one. I’m sure School Pride will do well also, but at least one if not several scripted series for NBC this season. At least it is good to see NBC is actually trying again.

Click here to watch more clips of all of NBC’s new shows.

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