The Upfronts 2017: NBC

There is simply no way it can be time for the upfronts yet again! I’ll stick with tradition and run a commentary, but I’m so far behind with my watching that I’ve barely seen any of this years shows before they’ve all been cancelled. First up, NBC a channel where I watch absolutely zero of the shows they air.

What’s cancelled or not returning
It looks like a pretty good year for NBC, only three shows are cancelled, three of them one-and-dones. Grimm managed a very respectable 6 season. I did watch the pilot way back in 2011 and found the whole thing utterly unremarkable, maybe it went somewhere more interesting. Powerless looked like it could have been a fun superhero/office based comedy and had some good names attached, but clearly didn’t grab the ratings. The spin-off of The Blacklist: Redemption only lasted a handful of episodes. I only watched a couple of seasons of The Blacklist, but it didn’t take a genius to see that the only thing that made the show even vaguely watchable was James Spader and the annoying husband wasn’t going to cut it. Emerald City was another attempt at a Wizard of Oz related series and I know nothing about it except it lasted just 10 episodes.

What’s coming back
NBC’s bank of Chicago based dramas continue in all their ridiculous glory – fireman for a sixth, police for a fifth, and doctors for a third; but it doesn’t seem to have been announced if the lawyers will return for a second. James Spader carries the otherwise unremarkable Blacklist into its 5th season, while Blindspot gets a third. Law & Order Special Victims Unit gets a 19th season making it “the current longest running scripted non-animated U.S. primetime TV series… and is the fourth-longest running scripted U.S. primetime TV series on a major broadcast network.” according to wikipedia. I don’t think I’ve seen a single episode. Neither have I felt any desire to watch an episode of Jennifer Lopez’s Shades of Blue, but it’s gonna be back for a third season, as is comedy Superstore.
On the freshman front, the big success has been This Is Us, which was rewarded with a second AND a third season. I haven’t seen because if I want to watch somethign to make me cry this year I’ll just watch the news. Given that the rubbish film managed so many follow ups, I guess it’s not surprising that Taken the TV series somehow found an audience and comes back for a second season. And freshman series Timeless managed the unusual trick of getting cancelled and then renewed 3 days later. Prompting numerous naff time travel jokes. Comedies Great News and The Good Place were both renewed.

What’s new
Will & Grace returns after 10 years. I thought I was kind of looking forward to this, and then the laughter track on the trailer kicked in and I hated myself.

The Brave: fairly generic looking military action drama, with a hefty dose of patriotism. Meh.

Law & Order True Crime: The Mernendez Murders. The clumsy title is a bad start, why bodge the true crime story into the Law & Order brand? Particularly when it looks like it’s only an 8 episode mini-series. The sanctimonious, overly dramatic voiceover killed this one for me.

Rise – about a school theatre department. The blurb isn’t encouraging but… it’s by Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights!) and stars Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) and I’m a sucker for this kind of thing, so I’m bordering on excited!

Good Girls: struggling suburban mums rob a super market. For laughs I guess. Oh, no wait it’s a drama. Um, ok.

Reverie: a hostage negotiator is brought in to help bring people out of a virtual reality they’ve got trapped in. It could be a little Quantum Leap-ey, I was not enthused by a hook that the negotiator has suffered “an unimaginable personal tragedy” which is hopefully not an indication of the quality of the writing on the show.

Champions: “Vince, a charismatic gym owner with no ambition, lives with his younger brother Michael, a gorgeous idiot.” That’s genuinely how the press release sells this pair of morons. Then there’s something about unexpectedly having to look after a teenage son. Hilarious parenting will ensue no doubt.

A.P. Bio: A smug sounding academic finds himself teaching biology to high school kids. It’s a comedy so I’m guessing it’ll mostly be about screwing things up rather than heartwarming growth.

Pilot Review: Law & Order: Los Angeles

Law and Order moves to LA. Don’t really know what more to say about it.

I’ve never really watched Law and Order, but even I felt a little stab of sorrow to hear that the original series was being cancelled after 20 years.I know there are numerous reasons to cancel a show and immediately replace it with a spin-off, but this time felt particularly vicious, because they took a living legend, shot it, and replaced it with something unremarkable and derivative.

As soon as they announced the name of the new spin-off I suspected it was gonna be bad. Obviously shows like being set in LA because most shows are filmed there so location shooting is a breeze. But it’s getting stupid, not only is Law and Order LA not the only series set in LA at the moment, it’s not even the only one with LA in the title! If you’re going to make the unique selling point of your show its location, at least make it an interesting and unfamiliar one.

LA is not just everywhere, it’s just not very interesting, and the pilot of L&O:LA highlighted everything that’s annoying about LA – it’s full of people craving fame, power and money. Maybe that’s the same everywhere, but LA seems to have more than its fair share of vacuous, talentless, overdressed, attention seeking twits and to be honest I have absolutely no desire to watch them either as victims, or as manipulative criminals.

Three days after watching the pilot I’ve completely forgotten all the characters. One of the detectives is bald with a questionable moustache, but I couldn’t tell you his name. I remember Alfred Molina was in it and I liked him, but I can’t actually remember who his character was beyond that he seemed to be a legal person. There were probably some female characters there, but the only ones I can remember were the victim and suspect neither of whom were particularly great examples of humanity.

The case of the week was okay, although it did seem to flip flop about a lot, bouncing off plot points as the finger of suspicion waggles around like one of those giant foam finger thingies. Personally I find the standard Law and Order chung-chungs really annoying and disconnecting, but I guess they’re traditional.

I dunno, maybe I’m missing something. Maybe if you’re watched more than the couple of dozen Law and Order episodes than I have, this series works better for you. The final season of Original flavour averaged 7.2 million, the new series premiered at 10.6 – so I guess the numbers are in their favour, and the series has been picked up for the season. But if they were trying to get me excited about Law and Order again, they should have moved somewhere other than LA, because it’s basically a massive turn-off for me.

Reviews: I didn’t find any on my usual sources, although I didn’t look very hard.

Links: Official website,, wikipedia.

The upfronts: NBC

What’s Out
Heroes – not really a big surprise to anyone. The ratings have been on a steady decline as they tried to stretch what was clearly a one-season-wonder out with generally increasing shoddiness. There’s some talk of a final few episodes to allow them to tie up any lose ends, but I for one won’t miss the show as I gave up on it a season and a half ago.

The bigger surprise was the cancellation of Law & Order, the longest-running TV show in history (depending on who you ask) will not be returning for a 21st season. It’s helped launch hundreds of careers, several spin-offs and many would say an entire genre. I’ve never watched it so don’t mourn it personally, but more as a slightly sad end to an institution.

Of 2009-10’s freshmen, Mercy and Trauma both got the axe. I didn’t bother with Mercy after I judged the pilot to be Grey’s Anatomy Light. The cancellation of Trauma was pretty inevitable given the expensive price tag and low ratings, but I’m still confused why it wasn’t more popular and I’ll miss the characters.

What’s Back
Turns out NBC is full of shows I have barely even heard of let alone watch. The only freshman to survive was Parenthood, the pilot of which I thought was ok, but didn’t make me rush out to watch the rest of the series. Chuck is also back, despite not great ratings it somehow survived the cut yet again to the great delight of its obsessed fans. 30 Rock, Law & Order: SVU, The Office and Parks and Recreation all return but I don’t watch any of them. The only other thing I do watch that’s kind of on NBC is (best show on television?) Friday Night Lights through it’s special deal which sees it air on cable months ahead of running on NBC.

What’s New
It’s apparently the year of the lawyer and the love-seeking sap.

  • OutlawJimmy Smits is a Supreme Court Justice who resigns so that he can go back to helping individual people. You had me at Jimmy Smits.
  • Harry’s LawKathy Bates stars in David E. Kelley’s new legal thing. You had me at Kathy Bates.
  • Law & Order: Los Angeles – They may as well have called this show Same Old Plot: Same Old City. Does the world really need a third new legal drama and yet another show set in LA.
  • Undercovers – Two retired, married CIA agents are reactivated. J.J. Abrams takes on Mr & Mrs Smith and if the trailer is anything to go by, he’s trying too hard.
  • ChaseJerry Bruckheimer brings his usual budget, explosions, running and shooting this time to US Marshals. I was uninspired by the trailer.
  • The Event – It’s about some kind of giant government conspiracy, with interweaving plots and threads, some of which do look interesting. But is coming just as FlashForward and Heroes are cancelled a little bit risky?
  • The Cape – A cop is forced to become a vigilante, taking on the disguise of his son’s favourite comic hero. I quite like the look of this one, it’s a pretty old school super-hero type thing, a nice balance between overdone cheese and actually looking like it might have some heart.
  • Love Bites – The lives of a whole collection of characters as they look for love. The trailer simultaneously managed to have too many plots and not enough of them. Looked like a horrible muddle of irritating people.
  • Friends With Benefits – This didn’t look too bad actually, but rather bizarrely they’re recasting a couple of the roles, so I guess they think it has problems but potential.
  • The Paul Reiser Show – The guy from Mad About You got old and seems to have written a semi-autobiographical show. I struggle to get past the ego issues, but I did quite like the trailer.
  • Perfect Couples – three couples working their way through blah blah, finding together blah blah. The trailer seems to indicate they’re horrible and hate each other, but I guess that might appeal to some people.
  • Outsourced – An Indian call centre, an American manager. Racial stereotyping hilarity ensues. Kill me now.

NBC upfront coverage at TVSquad, Ausiello Files and The Futon Critic