At the NBC upfront: Trying to make you forget 2009 ever existed, mostly with 'sex-pionage'

What does it mean that I was more entertained by the pre-taped Alec Baldwin/Jack Donaghy monologue that began NBC’s up-front presentation today than I was by almost any of the shows from which the network showed clips? Having Baldwin’s Donaghy bad-mouth other shows while staying true to his 30 Rock persona — as when he dismissed Fox’s House by saying, “[Hugh Laurie] is faking being from this country, like our President” — was better than all of Baldwin’s recent SNL hosting gig.

NBC is working hard to give the impression that things are moving right along in its prime-time hit-factory, thereby avoiding the fact that it’s had no hits and a lot of Jay Leno to deal with over the past year. But that’s all changed! They’re opening their wallets and their minds! They’re willing to let J.J. Abrams work his magic on a romantic-spy-adventure show, Undercovers, that, if it works, will implant the term “sex-pionage” into the language:

If the byplay is cutesy, the leads, Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, are a convincing married couple capable of derring-do, and I’d never underestimate the powers of TV-makers such as Abrams and co-exec-producer Josh Reims (Brothers and Sisters).

As for the other trailers:

The Event: Starring Jason Ritter (see, I told you not to get used to seeing him in Parenthood, fans), Blair Underwood (as the President of the United States), and ER‘s Laura Innes, among many others, in a big-canvas conspiracy thriller that’s clearly intended to soak up the Monday-night-at-9 audience after 24 leaves us. With a show as intentionally complicated as The Event means to be, a clip can’t convey quality, but the acting was pleasantly less florid than the recent seasons of 24.

Chase: A cop show whose chief distinguishing trait is that it’s about a U.S. Marshal who’s not on basic-cable TV (Justified, In Plain Sight). Touted by NBC exec Jeff Gaspin today as producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s “next hit franchise,” I’d say Bruckheimer and NBC should make sure this one works properly before they think about expanding to a franchise. Starring Kelli Giddish, who was by far the best thing about the Fox bomb Past Life.

Outlaw: Jimmy Smits as a Supreme Court judge who doffs his robes to get back into private practice to help the accused innocent and the underrepresented. After his fine but anguished turn on Dexter, it’s nice to see Smits smiling again — his character, Cyrus Garza, likes to play blackjack and flirt a lot.

Law & Order: Los Angeles: The original Law & Order was shoved off the schedule so fast, and this new Dick Wolf-produced entry pencilled in so fast, all NBC had time to do was cobble together some stock news footage of crime scenes in L.A. and mock up a fake Hollywood sign that spelled out “LAW & ORDER.” I miss Sam Waterston already.

Outsourced: “Hilarious culture clash” is the way NBC’s press release describes the action in this sitcom about an American novelty company that decides to use a work-force in India. Expect lots of sight gags as non-American characters dance to Beyonce hits and try to sell fake-dog-vomit via phone to peeved Americans. This one will live or die on the strength of its performances and in fine-tuning its tone, which could prove quirky-funny in a Community way (and thus Outsourced‘s inclusion on NBC’s Thursday night comedy block) or silly-offensive.

Love Bites: Inter-connected tales of “love, sex, marriage, and dating” (NBC somehow manages to make those sound disconnected from each other) from Sex and the City producer Cindy Chupack. NBC showed a lengthy scene starring Greg Grunberg flirting with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Grunberg looked so light-hearted, as though so vastly relieved of the angst that Heroes became, that all his Felicity-era charm was instantly back in full effect.

All in all, I wouldn’t go so far as to call this slate ambitious as much as it seems unexpectedly shrewd for NBC. No big dumb two-hour reality shows on the horizon (they’ve still got The Biggest Loser). And since NBC acted as though the returning Parenthood was a long-running favorite of the entire country instead of what it is (a quality freshman series we hope will continue to become even better), you know the network can still be what it hasn’t been in a long time: an idealistic dreamer.

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Comments (66 total) Add your comment
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  • Fridge

    I’m so leery of watching any new shows on network TV and getting hooked on them, only to have them cancelled two or three episodes into the season. I don’t know if any of these even look like they’re worth watching. I’d lover for Undercovers to be great, but other than that I don’t have high hopes for any of the new shows they’ve decided to pick up.

    • T.t

      I am loving love bites outsourced and perfect couples which you didn’t have
      Also event, undercovers and the cape which you also didn’t have

    • James

      NBC – Nothing But Canceled. I only watch 1 show on this network, because I’m afraid I’ll end up investing 5 seasons into one of their shows, just to have it canceled with zero resolution to the storyline. The one show I watch can end anytime, and it won’t leave such a huge gap in the story, because it’s a never-ending story: Parenthood. Outside of that one show, this network is completely worthless.

    • Jimmy

      Did you happen to notice all the NBC union employee’s outside the upfront in New York City? No mention of them eh? Nabet, the main union of NBC broadcast technicians has been without a contract for 14 months now. I have to wonder if the advertisers will care when their names start showing up in anti-union messages. The people that bring the world NBC television deserve to be treated better than the way NBC is treating their workers.

  • Ben42

    Is that Jack Donaghy video available for us to watch?

  • LOL

    Can’t get excited about any of this stuff.

  • Dan

    They delayed Parks and Rec for that crap?! Better cross my fingers for an early cancellation.

    • Aprilcot26

      My thoughts exactly. NBC was finally hitting stride again with its Thursday night comedies and…oh wait, I forgot, this is NBC we’re talking about.

    • Temp

      I had heard that Amy Poehler is having another baby, so thats why parks and rec is being given a little breather, to give her some time off.

      • kmb

        Actually, Amy’s pregnancy has nothing to do with the delay. They started filming season 3 right away to avoid starting late. This is just NBC being stupid again. Another stupid decision by NBC: firing Fran Kranz from Friends With Benefits. It’s like they’re deliberately trying to sabotage themselves.

  • Ed

    The only I’m interested in is Thursday Night comedy on NBC and they managed to botch by yanking Parks & Rec and inserting some terrible-looking new show.


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  • Garrett

    I have only had time to watch the trailer for Outsourced, but I was less than impressed. I want to know if Chuck’s 13 episode order is closed, or if there is any possibility we get the back nine ordered too!

    • Carrie

      I would say as far as Chuck is concerned that NBC is likely to take a wait and see approach. If they have or need episodes, then they will order more, similar as is done with freshman series.

    • PMD

      Its actually based on a really crappy movie called Outsourced. And the show looked just as crappy. That show looked awful but the others were promising. It just sucks that NBC is run by idjits.

  • Here & There

    After all of the writer strikes, one would think they could actually produce something better. I predict based on these programs, that NBC will tank in the ratings in the fall.

  • Ron

    I’m so tired of getting 5 or 6 episodes then going to reruns then back to new the to specials…. You never know when your show is on.

    • Sadie

      If it weren’t for my DVR having a season pass option, I wouldn’t know either. It’s ridiculous.

  • Brenda

    Boris Kodjoe is one gorgeous man. I’ll watch the show just to look at him and hope the show is good too.

  • Ryan

    All these shows just look so boring!

    The only thing I’m looking forward to is the return of the Thursday night comedies (but I want Parks and Recreation back!) and Chuck (which is now pretty lousy unfortunately).

    • JB

      You’re drunk. Chuck has actually gotten better. There’s so much going on right now it’s ridiculous. The last three months have been insane.

      I’ve actually turned people ON to the show lately because of this season.

      • Flaming Moe

        JB you’re drunk. Morgan is a “spy” now, nuff said.

    • James

      NOW Chuck is terrible? Try: since episode #1.

  • ctesdahl

    Oooooh The Event looks cool but only if they can pull it off. They better have more than one season planned out or it’s going to tank.

  • M Weyer

    The Event looks interesting but probably be a case of something yanked after six episodes because ratings aren’t what NBC expects. Undercovers is promising but seriously, they dumped Heroes and Law & Order for some of these shows?

  • mark in nyc

    I am watching 30 Rock and The Office on NBC. When they are done, I will never watch NBC (except sports) again in retaliation for their bungeling of the Conan O’Brien situaion.
    I have commented onthis before, and will again and again.
    When they fire Zucker I will take a look. Till then NBC Zucks!

    • Mac

      And you haven’t been watching Community and Parks and Recreation? I love me some Office/30 Rock action, but P&R and Community are the highlights of NBC’s Thursday night line-up. You should really give them a try again (“Day of the Dead” or whatever, from Community is fantastic).

  • Kyle

    Wow, people are harsh… The Event looks fabulous!

  • Chels725

    I’m gonna give Chase a chance since I like the cast and the concept. The cast seems more likable than any other procedural cast.

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