Posts Tagged ‘ night shift ’

The Upfronts 2016: NBC

nbc network logoI don’t watch anything from NBC, actually I’m beginning to realise I don’t watch much network TV at all! NBC are rapidly just filling their schedules with cheesy procedurals tied together by being set in Chicago. Their drama line up isn’t particularly inspiring and their comedies have basically all been cancelled, mostly after less than a whole season. It’s not looking particularly good for them, and the lack of trailers for their new shows isn’t really indicating a lot of confidence either.

Cancelled
heroesrebornHow many times can Heroes get cancelled? Well at least twice according to current evidence. I didn’t make it past the first episode of the resurrection, either because it wasn’t very good or because actually Heroes was always smug and not that good and I didn’t notice at the time. Mysteries of Laura starred Deborah Messing in some of the worst casting I’ve ever seen, but surprisingly made it through the second season before being bumped off. Sitcom Undateable’s third season was apparently entirely live episodes, but that wasn’t exciting enough to get it renewed again.

Cancelled in the middle of their first seasons were: Crowded, a comedy about a re-filled empty nest; Game of Silence a drama I’d never heard of; Heartbeat a medical drama starring Melissa George as the world’s least likely transplant specialist; The Player, action about gambling/crime organisation; and utterly generic sitcom Truth be Told. Comedies You, Me and the Apocalypse, a Sky/NBC joint effort and Telenovela, set behind the scenes of a Spanish soap opera, are winners relatively speaking because they at least made it all the way through their first seasons before being cancelled.

Oh and variety show, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, (based on Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway!) was apparently misnamed and won’t be back either.

Renewed
blacklistNBC is basically now powered by Chicago’s emergency services – Fire (renewed for fifth season), PD (third) and Med (second) will all return. The Blacklist got a long way for me just on the watchability of James Spader, but I eventually lost interest. My lack of viewing hasn’t sopped its renewal for season four though. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit continues ever onwards into season 18, one of the few procedurals that I’ve never actually watched. Every year when it’s renewed, this time for a sixth season, I think I should have a look at Grimm again, and every year I forget 5 minutes after posting the article.

Only three of the freshman shows got pick-ups for a second series, which with the six cancellations doesn’t make a terribly good year for NBC. Blindspot was a ratings hit, I did watch the pilot but was utterly uninspired by it. Shades of Blue is the Jennifer Lopez cop drama which doesn’t seem to be getting much press but is picked up anyway, and the above mentioned Chicago Med makes the third

nightshiftSummer shows are out of sync on renewals so their upcoming seasons were actually all announced last year. The Night Shift is a somewhat mediocre medical drama that I rather liked the first season for the actors in it and the occasional quirkiness, but I no longer get the channel it airs on and I’ve not seen the second season; the third season starts in June. The first season Aquarius wasn’t quite what it could have been, but with David Duchovny leading, it’s very watchable and the second season starts soon.

New/Resurrected
The Good Place – Kristen Bell is accidentally sent to heaven where she doesn’t quite fit in with the no swearing, no drinking, always nice crowd. I love Kristen Bell, and Ted Danson back in comedy land is something to be celebrated, but the trailer didn’t make me want to watch any more.

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This is Us – a dramedy about people born on the same day. It looks like a collection of made for TV movies. Nothing interesting at all.

Timeless – a time travelling criminal is trying to destroy America and a historian, a scientist and a soldier are trying to stop him. Created by Shawn Ryan (The Shield) and Eric Kripke (Supernatural) I had high hopes for this, but the trailer didn’t do much for me.

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Chicago Justice – We’ve run out of emergency services (I don’t think the landscape necessstates Coast Guard or Mountain Rescue) so this is set in the State’s Attorney office. Presumably in 2020 I’ll be making snide remarks about Chicago Refuse Collection or Chicago Tax Auditors.

The Blacklist: Redemption – Given that the only reason to watch the original was James Spader a spin-off doesn’t seem like a particularly inspiring idea, one centred around Liz’s annoying pretend-husband Tom seems even less ideal.

Emerald City – NBC attempting to muscle in on the ‘magic’ of Once Upon a Time with a character list including Dorothy, The Wizard (Vincent D’Onofrio – now that’s good casting!), Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the East. Doesn’t seem to be much more information on how it fits in with the books, but there’s plenty of material.

Trial and Error – “fish out of water” comedy with a New York lawyer in a small town in the South. There’s lots of “quirky” characters and the press release genuinely says “Making a Murderer can be funny”.

Marlon – “loosely inspired by the real life of star Marlon Wayans”, who I’ve never heard of. Usual blather about a bloke trying to be a father despite being the biggest kid of all. Because that stereotype never gets old.

Midnight, Texas – Base on the book series by Charlene Harris (True Blood), it seems to be a murder mystery set in a tiny Texas town full of paranormal people – witches, psychics. Sounds interesting enough.

Powerless – set in the DC Comic Universe, but based in a normal office of an insurance company who have to deal with life in a world of superheroes. It’s a fun idea, and stars Danny Pudi (Community) and Alan Tudyk (Firefly) which has potential, but it could just be a painful Office wannabe.

Taken – oh god, it’s a prequel series to the Liam Neeson film series. As if those weren’t repetitive and awful enough by themselves!

The Wall – oh my god, is this the same as the Hole in the Wall that was on the BBC? If it is, apparently Chris Hardwick (The Talking Dead) is the new Dale Winton!

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2013-14 – New Shows

2013_2014I rather arbitrarily describe the television year for US shows as starting in September (UK shows I cover separately). By my estimates on Wikipedia there were 51 ‘serious’ new drama shows this year (my list was a bit arbitrary as I excluded stuff on smaller channels or that were imported from outside US or that I’d never heard of in the slightest), and I’ve watched 26 pilots, so I’m pretty happy with a 50% hit rate. As this is about US shows, there were a lot that haven’t or won’t make it to UK broadcasters, which in some cases is a shame but in a lot of others is no loss whatsoever.

Of the 52 pilots I identified, 25 were renewed for a second season and a further 7 haven’t been confirmed either way (many of the summer premiers are still broadcasting after all) which seems to me like a pretty good rate of success. But that’s quite heavily skewed to cable channels like HBO etc. Of 29 drama premiers on the five major networks, only 9 of them were picked up for a second season.

I watched 29 pilots (including 3 comedies) and only made it through the whole season of 7 of them. Frankly, I don’t think it was a very good year, last year I watched 23 pilots and 8 whole seasons. There was just nothing outstanding, even the ones that I did stick with, only Fargo would I really describe as great; Almost Human, Penny Dreadful and Blacklist were thoroughly entertaining and SHIELD had some highs amidst the frustrations. But frankly that’s a pretty lacklustre summary. Where are the stars, the headline grabbers, the must-talkabout shows? The only new shows that have fallen into that category this year have been British, this lot are all just a bit mediocre.

Shows I stuck with

  • almost_humanAlmost Human – a very ropey start killed this series before it realised the strength it had in it’s two central characters and actors. It was more ‘fun’ than ‘good’, many of the plots were mediocre retellings of standard tropes, but the bickering between the two cops was worth tuning in for.
  • The Blacklist – this show is all about James Spader, he’s wonderfully charismatic and unpredictable to watch. The ongoing story and mystery is also fairly engaging, although the ‘criminal of the week’ is generally pretty disposable.
  • agentsfoshieldMarvel’s Agents of SHIELD – not nearly as good as it should be. It did get better as the series went on and the story got bigger, but certainly the early episodes were extremely amateur. It could desperately do with more involvement from Joss Whedon, but the building blocks are there, so hopefully season 2 will buck up.
  • Fargo – it took me two attempts to get into the show, but that turned out to be a good thing, because by the time I came back to it, I could watch the whole thing in big blocks. The tone and setting and characters are all just the right level of quirky and contrast wonderfully with the bleak subject matter. Wrapping up the storyline makes for a very satisfying series, but it’s a shame we don’t get to spend more time with them.
  • nightshiftThe Night Shift – I’m about half way through this one too, mostly watched in the last couple of days. It’s far from excellent (the medicine is particularly improbable to anyone who’s watched an episode of ER let alone been in one) but the characters are interesting and the whole thing trots along at the perfect level for background watching while doing other boring tasks.
  • Extant – I’m about half way through this series on Amazon Instant Video and it’s passing the time. That’s pretty faint praise, but I can’t seem to get excited about it despite the interesting story and great actors that are involved.
  • Penny Dreadful – entertaining, engaging and disposable, does exactly what it sets out to do and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

Shows that I may watch/return to

the100

  • The 100 – More teenagers. It’s was nowhere near as painful as the Tomorrow People, but I was again somewhat unenthused by the genericness of it. I may give it another couple of episodes to see if it can do anything original.
  • Sleepy Hollow – I watched about half this season before a recording failed and then I never quite got round to going back to it. I enjoyed each episode, but never really got fully engaged with the sprawling mythology. I may return to it in the future.
  • chicagopdChicago PD – just like Chicago Fire, this does exactly what it sets out to do. It’s rather by-the-numbers, but those numbers work for a reason.
  • Trophy Wife – I never actually reviewed it properly, because I watched it through somewhat dodgy methods, but this was actually a really charming and funny little sitcom. I’m biased because of my love of Bradley Whitford of course, but it’s a real shame that this series wasn’t better promoted and scheduled and got cancelled after its first season.
  • crisisCrisis – a nice idea and solidly delivered, the fact that it’s a contained story means that its cancellation doesn’t matter so much and effectively turns it into a mini-series which I may seek out at some point.
  • Resurrection – the pilot set up some nice ideas and it was certainly more interesting than the French Les Revenants which has pretty much the same plot, I’ve got the series stacking up on my sky plus, but I’ve not actually had sufficient enthusiasm to watch it yet.
  • rakeRake – playing up the charm and the humour makes this a pretty easy watch, but that may have got grating after a while.
  • Halt and Catch Fire – I wanted to like this a lot more than I did, but maybe it will grow on me. I’ll pick it up when it comes to the UK.
  • Black Sails – Like Pirates of the Caribbean without the annoying Johnny Depp. I’m going to add it to my “things to watch while baking” list.

Shows that weren’t my thing

masters_of_sex

  • Masters of Sex – I think it’s probably a superb series, but I didn’t like it. It’s an interesting idea, but I would have found it more interesting if they’d skipped the ‘obvious’ option of having the central characters get caught up in a relationship.
  • Intelligence – Fine, but the chip implanted in someone’s brain was already being turned into a magical fix-all even in the first episode and I immediately felt the writers didn’t have the restraint or skill to establish or stick to any rules of how it could be used, rather than just a magic thing that powers plots and dramatic timing.
  • truedetectiveTrue Detective – I didn’t get on with the style and found Matthew McConaughey’s character supremely irritating. I just decided that life was too short to force myself to sit through this no matter how Good it was.
  • Looking – the male, gay equivalent of Girls. It was less hateful than that series, and I made it through a couple of episodes before the awkwardness of the characters just made me cringe too much.

Shows that just weren’t good enough

  • starcrossedStar-Crossed – bland and derivative.
  • Ironside – generic, cliché and really, really boring.
  • Dracula – it was bright and full of energy but it was also a mess, with characters jumping about, loads of questions and very uneven tone. The whole thing felt very cheap and C-list, but it was potentially entertaining if only as something to mock.
  • legendsLegends – nice idea, but some disappointing choices undermined it. Also, I wasn’t convinced Sean Bean could pull off the complexity of the different roles.
  • Hostages – I didn’t like the story, I didn’t like the characters, I didn’t like the writing and I didn’t like the tone.
  • Tomorrow People – again, just very generic characters partnered with pretty much every superhero power in the box. No spark, no self-awareness, just built by committee.
  • reignReign – completely unbalanced, lurching from silly frippery to pretty brutal historical issues, either one could have been fun, but combined it was just a mess.
  • Believe – oops, I never wrote this one up. For a show about an adorable child, this wasn’t too bad, but fundamentally it was about a precocious child with super-powers and I’m not sure I can get past that.
  • Silicon Valley – I didn’t even make it through the whole first episode before I had to switch it off. Stereotype characters in awkward situations, I just don’t get the attraction.

I edited this post on 8th September because I’d left Penny Dreadful off the list. 

Miscellaneous Pilots

nightshiftThe Night Shift
The night shift in the Emergency Room at San Antonio Memorial is full of Characters, with a most definite capital C.
The show has some potential – reliable premise, solid characters and cast members who’ve been reliable (if not spectacular) in their supporting roles on other shows (Eoin Macken of Merlin, Freddy Rodriguez of Six Feet Under, Brendan Fehr of Roswell). But the pilot at least is very by-the-numbers and is painfully lacking in subtlety. They try to establish backgrounds and future stories for at least 8 characters and there’s not much room left for elegance. The stories, both medical and otherwise have been done to death in other shows with infinitely more accuracy and attention to detail and I was particularly bored by the conflict between the penny pinching administrator and the sanctimonious medics working around him, isn’t it time for a more nuanced discussion of this? The potential is good enough that I may give the other 7 episodes of the season a try as something to accompany cooking or tidying but that will be despite of, not because of, the pilot.
No UK broadcaster has announced they’ve purchased it, but it has been picked up for a second season by NBC in the US.

intelligenceIntelligence
Dr Phlox from Enterprise has implanted a chip into Sawyer from Lost which turns him into a super-agent with Google, satellites and all sorts of ‘apps’ in his head. Catherine from CSI runs the agency and brings in Ruby from Once Upon a Time to try and keep Sawyer from either getting himself killed, or falling down the rabbit hole searching for his supposedly dead CIA wife.
The pilot ain’t bad. The magic chip idea is good but doesn’t seem to have been entirely nailed down as to what it can and cannot do, so there’s a great danger of it turning into a magic mcguffin that can solve all problems at just the most dramatic moment. The side story of investigating the death (or disappearance?) of Sawyer’s wife is a little tedious, but at least it means that there’s no immediate question of will-they-won’t-they between the new partners. I did like that they opted to not have the pilot be an origin story, but instead have a new member join the team as means to deliver all the exposition.
I think this was solid, but not remarkable. There wasn’t anything that made me want to see the next episode. Despite Holloway’s obvious charm it was a bit superficial, lacking in emotional connection.
Sky 1 broadcast Intelligence earlier in the year, but it’s been cancelled by CBS after finishing its 13 episode first season. Presumably it just didn’t generate the massive ratings that CBS requires from its prime time dramas.

chicagopdChicago PD
A spin off from Chicago Fire. Detective Voight is to all appearances a dirty cop, violent and on the take. But there seems to be something else going on as he’s been given a free pass and is now heading up his own team.
Just like Chicago Fire, this is a show that knows exactly what it is and delivers it very effectively. The pilot is very well put together and introduces each of the characters pretty slickly giving each a moment to show they’re distinct and have depth, but not overloading the audience with exposition or heavy handed hints. Occasionally it’s a little too on-the-nose, Voight’s growling tone, carefully showing us the cops’ families and hazing the junior officers but it also plays some of the stereotypes quite effectively (I particularly liked the grumpy female desk sergeant). Just like Chicago Fire, this is an incredibly watchable show. The pilot ends on a cliffhanger and I could cheerfully have gone straight into the next episode.
Chicago PD has been picked up for a second season, and aired on 5USA earlier this year

rakeRake
Greg Kinnear plays a defence lawyer who’s basically screwed up almost everything in his life.
Rake plays things pretty much for the laughs, which is both a welcome relief from some of the other doom and gloom on television and a bit jarring when you realise that you’re supposed to be smiling about a guy getting beaten up by his bookie due to his inability to pay his debts. Kinnear however ladles on the charm and carries it off. The supporting characters of his friends and colleagues find a nice balance between supportive caring and exasperated irritation. Even the legal case was one that I didn’t immediately recognise from several other series. All in all, I found this series quite refreshing and engaging enough that I’d be tempted by the rest of the series.
Rake hasn’t been picked up by a UK broadcaster and was cancelled mid season, although Fox did later air the rest of the 13 episodes.

blacksailsBlack Sails
Pirates, doing the full on pirate thing in the West Indies; a prequel to Treasure Island.
I had pretty low expectations of this, and that probably helped a lot, but I really enjoyed this pilot. It does exactly what you’d expect and hope a period Pirate show to do, there’s sailing, swordplay, secret treasures and shady dealings. It’s not exactly got the big budget production values of Pirates of the Caribbean or Master and Commander, but they do a pretty good job hiding the cheaper corners and the only really noticeable place the reduced cost shows is in the lack of big names in the cast. It is on Starz network in the US and that too shows through in the complete lack of subtlety when it comes to adding in nudity and violence. All things considered though, this made quite a pleasing diversion from endless procedural shows.
Black Sails is available exclusively on Amazon Instant Video in the UK and has been renewed for a second season.

crisisCrisis
A bus load of the children of some of America’s most rich and powerful are abducted, and their parents start getting demanding phone calls.
It’s a very good premise and it’s a very well put together pilot that elegantly introduces a load of characters and sets up various connections and conflicts and establishes that nothing is really as it seems. The cast and characters are all solid, and surprisingly the group of teenagers were not instantly hateable. My only real concern was over how the story would be drawn out over a season, and/or into multiple seasons. It seems like the first season formed a complete story, but the show was cancelled, so I guess further plans don’t really matter.
No UK broadcast information available.

legendsLegends
Sean Bean plays an FBI agent who’s an expert at going undercover, creating elaborate characters and backgrounds. But is he immersing- himself in his covers, or is he losing himself?
This sadly felt rather cheap, which is a real shame because Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, LOTR), Ali Larter (Heroes) and Tina Majorino (Grey’s Anatomy, Veronica Mars) really deserve better. The building blocks are there, but it just didn’t really feel substantial. The science/investigating elements felt unrealistic, the jeopardy manufactured, the characters unoriginal and the relationships tired. The moment where the female agent ‘has’ to go in as a lap dancer just had me groaning out loud and I hate to say it, but I’m not sure that Bean has it in him to play all these different characters.
Legends starts in September on Sky 1 in the UK and is still broadcasting its first season in the US and no pick-up has been announced.

haltandcatchHalt and Catch Fire
In 1983 in Texas a former IBM salesman is manipulating people left-right-and-centre to engineer a new computer which will revolutionise the pc industry.
The title alone was enough to lure me in to this, and Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies, amongst other more huge things like Guardians of the Galaxy) was a nice bonus. I guess to be cynical it’s one of the many shows still trying to jump on the Mad Men bandwagon of looking at under-represented industries and periods, but just because it’s cynical doesn’t make it any less interesting. Unfortunately though the pilot left me a bit cold; it’s not bad in any way, but I’m also not certain that it’s either good or entertaining. I didn’t come away desperately wanting to spend more time with the characters or find out where the story is going to go, which means it rather failed in the key aims of a pilot. I may give it a bit more time, but it disappointingly didn’t set my world alight.
Halt and Catch Fire has been renewed for a second season, but there’s no information on a UK air date.

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.

The Upfronts – NBC

nbc network logoThe Peacock network, best known for… um… While other networks have a bit of a personality to them, I’ve never quite been able to look at a show and say “that belongs on NBC”. Judging by the number of cancellations they have, they’re not so sure themselves. Also given the lack of trailers with most of their new shows, I’m not sensing a massive amount of confidence in having found the answer.

What’s out
smashBig shows bowing out are 30 Rock and The Office, both solid performers (although I can’t stand either of ’em) that have come to the end of their run. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a bunch of stuff that never really got started. Matthew Perry notches up another failed show with the cancellation of Go On, while 1600 Penn, Animal Practice, The New Normal and Guys With Kids were all terrible looking freshman comedies although not as bad as Next Caller it would seem given that it was canned before airing a single episode. Do No Harm was an uninspiring drama and Deception was apparently a “prime time soap opera” and I’d never heard of it. Up All Night and Whitney both bow out after 2 seasons. The only cancellation I’m a smidge sad about is Smash, which wobbled about too much and never lived up to the hype, but I kind of loved it anyway (although I haven’t seen the second season).

What’s returning
CommunityLaw and Order still maintains a television presence as Special Victims Unit goes into its fifteenth season! Critical favourites Community, Parks and Recreation and Parenthood could all easily have been pushed out, but NBC is sticking with them. Chicago Fire has been a big success (firemen saving lives and taking their tops off, who knew?) and will spawn a spin-off. Grimm gets a third season and Revolution a second. Still on the fence though is Hannibal which only started very recently.

What’s new
The Blacklist – Raymond Reddington (James Spader, Boston Legal) is one of the FBI’s most wanted fugitives, but now he’s turned himself in, and is handing the FBI criminals. It looks a bit Following, a bit Silence of the Lambs and I was utterly hooked by the trailer. James Spader is a fantastic piece of casting and I’m perilously close to actually being excited about this one.

The Michael J. Fox Show – Mike Henry (Michael J. Fox, come on, I’m not telling you what he’s been in!), was a top news anchor who’s returning to work after 5 years of dealing with his Parkinson’s Disease and kids. It’s weirdly semi-autobiographical and is trying to find a fine line between self-indulgent, inspiring and manipulative. Given the title… I’m not sure it’s been successful. But Fox’s talent may make it work.

Ironside – a remaking/re-imagining of the 1960’s series. It’s pretty much a standard New York police drama, just with the lead character in a wheelchair. That’s not to say that modulation isn’t an interesting or an important one, just that it feels perilously close to a gimmick.

Sean Saves the World – Pretty standard ‘balancing work with parenting’ thing, it’s just that Sean (Sean Hayes, Will and Grace) is long divorced and gay and his teenage daughter has only just moved in with him. Oh and there’s a difficult mother too. It’s the least funny thing I’ve seen all day and that’s saying something.

Welcome to the Family – Dan (Mike O’Malley, Glee) and Karina (Mary McCormack, The West Wing) think they can finally start their lives again when their daughter graduates and heads to college. The plan falls through when she returns home pregnant. Now the baby’s dad and his parents are on the doorstep and no one gets along. The only thing going for this is the cast and that it’s not as hideous as Sean Saves the World. I still won’t be watching though.

Dracula – Dracula (Jonathan Rhy Meyers, The Tudors) is bringing electricity to 19th Century London, but he’s also pursuing those who made him a vampire. I’ll be honest, I’m confused by both the trailer and the synopsis provided in the press release. It looks expensive, but also a bit rubbish.

About a Boy – Based on the Nick Hornby book (and presumably the Hugh Grant film), “man-child” Will discovers that women find single dad’s irresistible and sets up a deal with his 11 year old neighbour. Sounds annoying, but then I actually liked the film. Mind you I’m not sure the relatively unknown David Walton (Bent? Perfect Couples?) has Hugh Grant’s screen presence.

Believe – I’ll start with the good news, it’s written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and Exec Produced by J.J. Abrams. The bad news is that the blurb is so awful I lost the will to live half way through. It’s something about a 10 year old girl with ‘magical powers’ like telekinesis and predicting the future who tours from city to city with her protector, a former death row inmate. It sounds cheesy, but maybe the names attached can pull it off, without a trailer it’s hard to predict.

Chicago PD – a spin-off from Chicago Fire based in the local police department with the beat officers and the intelligence unit combating organised crime. Hank Voight (Jason Beghe, Californication) and Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda, Treme) from Chicago Fire will transplant to this series and it will be interesting to see how the former, a villain on Fire, will be allowed to grow. For some reason there are no other fire department shows on television, and Chicago Fire filled that gap well, but given the plethora of cop dramas, I’m not sure that there’s anything special enough to make this stand out.

Crisis – A bus load of teenagers from an elite school are taken hostage, their parents are diplomats, CEOs and even the President, so how far will they go to get their children back, and what will that mean for the country. It’s an interesting and different concept, giving plenty of material for both the families and the officials. It stars Dermot Mulroney (My Best Friend’s Wedding) and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) so it’s certainly got potential.

Crossbones – 1715, Blackbeard (John Malkovich, Being Himself) reigns over an island of pirates. An undercover assassin is sent after him, but finds that maybe Blackbeard isn’t as clearly evil as he seems. It’s a pretty original setting for a television show, but without a trailer, it’s hard to get particularly excited by a synopsis that falls a bit flat.

The Family Guide – the Fisher family are pretty unusual, Dad (J.K. Simmons, The Closer) is blind, Mom (Parker Posey, Louie) is rebelling because she didn’t when she was a teenager, daughter is obsessed with the 80s and son has always been his dad’s eyes but is now being replaced by a dog. It’s narrated from the future by the adult son, looking back the time where they all “discover who we needed to be”. Sigh.

The Night Shift – The night shift at San Antonio Memorial is home to a “special breed” of doctors, now not just challenged to save lives, but also to save money. I like the idea, but the names attached are all a little C-list with Eoin Macken (Gwain from Merlin), Ken Leung (Miles from Lost), Brendan Fehr (Michael from Roswell) and Freddy Rodriguez (Rico from Six Feet Under) – all fun in their roles, but the lack of heavy weights undermines everything a bit.

Undateable – Danny (Chris D’Elia, Whitney) takes on a group of romantically challenged friends in an attempt to teach them everything he knows about love. Sounds hideous.

Links
NBC has more information about all their shows on their website. I guess the trailers may turn up there at some point. The press release and schedule summary are at the Futon Critic.