The Upfronts 2014: NBC

nbc network logoIt’s upfront time once again, it does come around fast! For those that are unaware, upfront week is when each of the five major US networks announce their schedules for next year, thereby confirming which shows are renewed, which ones are axed and which new shows will be arriving. What that mean for me is that I watch a large number of terrible trailers, read some awful press releases and get generally despondent about the whole thing. It usually takes me until Wednesday to lose the will, this year I started off pretty far gone.

What’s Dead?
CommunityGiven that it has been on the bubble every single year, it’s more of a surprise that Community got the five seasons it did, I think it’s actually to NBCs credit that they supported it that long, five seasons is extremely respectable. Slightly less impressive are the two seasons that Revolution managed, although to be honest I’m a bit surprised it lasted that long.

Four underwhelming new dramas, Believe, Crisis, Dracula and Ironside didn’t see out the year, the first three at least got most of the way through their (admittedly short) seasons before it was announced at the upfronts they wouldn’t be back, Ironside was abruptly pulled from the schedules after just three terrible episodes. New sitcoms didn’t do much better, Growing Up Fisher, a sitcom I have no memory of hearing about got the plug pulled. The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World were both cancelled mid-season and Welcome to the Family equals Ironside and was killed after just three episodes too.

What’s Survived?
Chicago FireOnly three new shows received pickups (3 out of 10), About a Boy based on the book and film of the same name and doesn’t seem to have been drawing a huge amount of attention. On the other extreme The Blacklist has been something of a smash, led by a hugely entertaining performance from the always reliable James Spader. The third pick up is for Chicago PD, which does numbers just about comparable with its parent show Chicago Fire, which is picked up for season 3.

Parks and Recreation and Parenthood have both been given shortened final seasons (7th and 6th respectively), both of which (like Community) lasted far longer than their ratings necessarily justified. NBC also renewed Law and Order: Special Victims Unit for season 16, making it the longest running primetime show on air at the moment, and closing in on Law and Order’s 20 season run. Grimm and Hannibal also get pickups for seasons 4 and 3 respectively.

What’s on this summer?
Crossbones (trailer): Blackbeard (John Malkovich) is a pirate. He does pirate things and is slightly insane. There’s something about him trying to decrypt a code or something, and he abducts some bloke to help him. The trailer starts out with appealing sea battles and ends up with tedious Da Vinci Code cyphers and lots of loaded dialogue. Not exactly blown away.

The Night Shift (trailer): The Night Shift in the Emergency Room is made up of a gaggle of quirky medics with an overabundance of issues. The trailer appears to be from at least two different series, one a budget version of Scrubs with cringey jokes and the other a cheap knock-off of ER with overdone sincerity and mediocre acting. Eesh.

Taxi Brooklyn (trailer): An “action-comedy” New York cop ends up with a French taxi driver as a partner. Bizarely I can only find the trailer in badly dubbed French, which means I don’t think I can watch the show without remembering that and finding it ridiculous.

Undateable (trailer): A group of ‘undateable’ men are taught how to play “the game of love” by some bloke who thinks he’s all that.

Welcome to Sweden (trailer): A celebrity accountant moves to Sweden to be with his girlfriend, cultural hilarity ensues. Or doesn’t.

Working the Engels (No trailer): Sitcom about a widow struggling to try and keep her husband’s law firm running to support the kids, despite her not actually being a lawyer. I’ve heard weaker premises, but it’s not much to go on.

What’s New?
Constantine (trailer): Yup, THAT Constantine, demon hunter and somewhat reluctant fighter against all things evil and weird is brought back in to the fight to save the daughter of an old friend who’s got the ability to see supernatural stuff. It’s a strong story, that’s why it’s been done so many times, and it sits nicely alongside Grimm on NBC’s schedule. I’m not sure the balance of dry humour and biblical epicness is quite right in the trailer, but it may even out in the show.

State of Affairs (trailer): Charlie Tucker (Katherine Heigl) is a CIA agent, she was also dating the President’s (Alfre Woodard) son when he was killed. Now the two of them appear to be on a crusade to kill whoever’s responsible, which I suspect will turn out to be more convoluted than just killing terrorists. It looks extremely Zero Dark Thirty, which may or may not be a good thing, but with the exception of some stunningly bad romantic comedies, Heigl is always watchable and Woodard brings significant class. However it does feature the painful line (in text) in the trailer – “All the Presidents men are nothing compared to her”.

The Mysteries of Laura (trailer): Debra Messing is the least believable homicide detective ever seen on television, she’s better as a single mother clinging to the edge balancing everything, but every time she holds a gun or tries to act tough I want to die a bit. She deserves better.

A to Z (trailer): Andrew likes Liam Neeson movies and Celine Dion, and Zelda likes cocktail parties and apparently having less back story than the guy. They apparently caught a fleeting glance of each other 2 years ago and now, like it’s destiny, they’re reunited. It’s not offensively bad, but I didn’t laugh either.

Bad Judge (trailer): Kate Walsh (Private Practice) is a judge, a slightly unorthodox one who is a drummer in a band, drinks too much and hasn’t exactly settled down, then she gets a phone call from a kid whose parents she put in jail and now needs some help. I always liked Walsh in Grey’s Anatomy and this could be a good vehicle for her, and I did actually laugh a couple of times!

Marry Me (trailer): Jake attempts to propose to Annie, but she has a meltdown. Then she proposes to him and accidentally gets him fired. Based on the 2 minute trailer, she’s a hateful person, he should avoid her like the plague.

Aquarius (mid season): In 1967 an LA police officer is investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl, the trail leads to a cult led by someone by the name of Charles Manson. Yup, THAT Charles Manson. The series will apparently follow what happens over the next couple of years, “ultimately ending with the infamous Tate-LaBianca murders”. That sounds like they’re pretty confident about how long the series will be, I sense frustration. Duchovny is a draw though.

Odyssey (mid season): A lawyer, a soldier and a political activist, three strangers, are pulled into an international conspiracy about a huge corporation that’s secretly funding Jihadists. There’s an awful lot of terrorists and secret agents on NBC this year and without a trailer to go on it’s impossible to know what the tone of this will be and if it’s going to have some interesting character stuff, or just dull conspiracy wrangling.

Allegiance (mid season): Mark and Katya are Russian spies that have been sleeping in the US for decades. Now Russia is trying to bring down America and they’ve been reactivated and told their son must become a spy for Russia, a bit of a problem, because he works for the CIA. It’s like The Americans: The Next Generation. Frankly it sounds pretty ridiculous, are they really doing a show set in the present day about the Kremlin trying to overthrow America?

Heroes: Reborn (mid season): Tim Kring restarts the hit series of 2006 and flop of 2007 with a new miniseries with new ‘heroes’ just discovering their powers. Did the world really need this? Can NBC not find anything original, or at least old but popular!

Mission Control (Mid season): Dr Mary Kendricks attempts to break into the boy’s club of NASA mission control in the 1960s. The blurb incudes “Houston, we have a problem!” and “They all want… to get a man on the moon. It might just take a woman to get him there”. I predict we are about to lose the battle of the sexes.

Mr Robinson (Mid season): struggling musician takes job as substitute teacher, gets crush on English teacher, clashes with uptight head teacher. Not sure whether it’s actually School of Rock or just stealing everything from it, but Craig Robinson is gonna have his work cut out being Jack Black.

One Big Happy (Mid season): Lizzy is gay, Luke is straight, they’ve been friends since childhood and they decide to platonically start a family together. Then Luke falls in love with Prudence, they get married, Lizzy is pregnant and “a different kind of family is born”. It’s an unsurprising but solid enough setup, will need a trailer to actually make a real assessment.

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