Just how conservative is NBC getting?



No, I’m not talking about its liberal cable-news arm, MSNBC. I mean, how ’bout that NBC, fearlessly announcing that they’re replacing ER with… a cop show? Hey, for all I know, Southland, from ER producer John Wells and slated to start April 9, is going to be ground-breaking, exciting stuff. But I really doubt it. For one thing, it’s a show from Wells, which smacks a little of, "Um let’s just stay in business with a guy we know," rather than, "Let’s put on the best new series possible!" At the TV Critics Association gathering in L.A. yesterday, NBC described the show as being about how police officers are affected by crimes, rather than how they solve them, complete with "emotional [story] arcs through the course of the day," Wells told TV reporters. In other words, it sounds a bit like NBC and Wells’ previous show, Third Watch. Or NBC’s Boomtown.



As for the rest of NBC’s TCA announcements, the most heartening is the return of Amy Poehler to NBC, this time in prime time, in a sitcom set in an Indiana Parks and Recreation department, with Poehler as a "mid-level bureaucrat." Sound dry? Not to me: an artfully manic talent like Poehler, working with a master of straight-face comedy, producer Greg Daniels (The Office, King of the Hill), seems like potential comedy gold… and also like the sort of humor that might strike the majority of American TV guffawers as a bit puzzling, or not laugh-out-loud funny enough. No matter: Wouldn’t you rather watch a show that’s as funny as Arrested Development (to name only the most obvious example of too-hip-for-the-living-room comedy, which co-starred Poehler’s husband, Will Arnett) than another earnest cop show with–ick–"emotional arcs"?


And don’t you wish that, in general, networks like NBC would realize that, in a new world of niche, cult TV shows, the best thing they could do is serve us some fresh product, rather than continue to offer more of the same old comfort food, with Jay Leno for dessert?


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  • Ryan

    While I despair at the plethora of cop shows currently airing (often at the expense of more innovative programs), I do feel the need to ask: why does the phrase “emotional arcs” inspire an “ick?” Emotional arcs are at the core of what makes great television drama great. Consider “Friday Night Lights” or the top-tier Herskovitz-Zwick shows. Consider even “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Arcs are what make for deeper, richer, more involving stories. I reiterate: why the “ick?”

  • phil

    what about Kings? That’s a new and different NBC show. Sounds like it could be great.

  • Jordan

    Exactly my thoughts, Ryan!

  • Horatio

    “…deadpan talent like Poehler,”
    Is air being cut off to your brain Ken? You are ordinarily dead on with your assessments, but one thing Poehler has not ever been is “deadpan”. She does not know the definition of deadpan, nor subtle.

  • Natalia

    Ryan, I also experienced an involuntary “ick” when I saw the words “emotional arc.” I can’t really explain why…but I see what you’re saying.

  • Michael

    In a world of niche, cult tv shows? What world is that? NBC has stuck with the Office, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, some niche, cult tv shows, and where has it gotten them? Personally, I feel that those 3 shows are the best that TV has to offer, but it’s not reflected in the ratings. You criticize them for replacing ER with a cop show, yet CSI and it’s two bastard offspring are three of tv’s best rated dramas. I think that we should be praising NBC for sticking with brilliant shows when others would have buried them long ago. Let’em replace ER with a cop show. Maybe increased ratings in other areas will allow them to stick with a critical darling but ratings starved FNL. Considering the television landscape, NBC would be crazy not to try their hand at what has made other networks successful. They all are about making money and ratings so you can’t really criticize NBC for falling in line. If we had a smarter viewing public, this wouldn’t even be an issue.

  • Henry

    I agree with Michael. Let NBC create these canned shows. They can get the good ratings for these shows and ignore the bad ratings that their great shows get.

  • Meleegi

    I loved Third Watch – it was very unpredictable as they killed off many main characters and as much as that sucked it made for good television. If they have another show like that I’m in!

  • Meleegi

    I loved Third Watch – it was very unpredictable as they killed off many main characters and as much as that sucked it made for good television. If they have another show like that I’m in!

  • t3hdow

    Michael, you make a good point (though they lose a few points for giving Scrubs away to ABC). Don’t forget that the Law and Orders and cheaply produced Deal or No Deal does at least cover some of the costs for their ailing shows. You’re right about NBC needing some big hit to recoup some the losses with their former hit Heroes, now treading water with its once powerful audience. Still, after all the L&O shows and Life, maybe NBC should venture into other avenues besides cop dramas. TV’s populated with far too many of them (for god’s sake, the Patrick Swazey vehicle The Beast just premiered last night).

  • Ken Tucker

    Horatio–Your are right: What was I thinking? Poehler is more artfully manic–I’ve made a change above. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • Helen

    Southland may not sound like the most exciting piece of television, but I’m interested in seeing how Ben MacKenzie does.
    Isn’t April an odd time for a show to begin?

  • Anthony

    Amy Poehler is one of the biggest over-actors SNL has ever seen…topped only by the terrible Casey Wilson and horrifically overrated Maya Rudolph.

  • Mikey M

    NBC is not with the program. They have very few shows that are worth watching on NBC anymore. I dont mean Reality and game shows. I mean scripted programming. Look at the treatment of Scrubs and now thats on another network. They would rather adverstise shows like The Big Loser and Deal or No Deal than shows like Journeyman which they let go as well.

  • Snarf

    Let’s see…the gay kid on Heroes (Claire’s friend) virtually disapears without a trace once it becomes clear he’s gay.
    During the Olympics NBC leaves no stone unturned with Gold Winning Atheletes (who they’re married to partnered with etc) except Matt Mitchum the out Auzzie who won gold – not a peep about his personnal life or long term boyfriend.
    Most recently, the ressurected Knight Rider car Kitt caused yuks by asking the new hunk on the show if he was “homosexual”
    It’s 2008 NBC – get with the program.

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