The new TV season is almost here, and our look at the new shows on each network is just about done. This time, it’s NBC, my favorite network. Even when their lineup is uninspired, for some reason the NBC brand just evokes warm feelings. Maybe it’s the sheer mass of beloved shows that have aired on the Peacock, maybe it’s because NBC was the only network that felt like it had an identity when I was a kid. For whatever reason, I’m always rooting for NBC. So let’s see what they have for me this year!
Bluff City Law – Credit where credit is due, this is a very well-produced trailer. It actually had me tearing up a little. And I laughed every time they’d smash cut from a lawyer mouthing off to a shot of said lawyer in a holding cell. So what we have here is a show about a father-daughter legal team and the father is Jimmy Smits. I love Jimmy Smits. Here’s how much I love Jimmy Smits – he was in the Star Wars prequels and I still love him.
So, this is a legal drama set in Memphis, and the official premise is that it’s a law firm that specializes in the most controversial landmark civil rights cases. And I’m taking that verbiage directly, so I have to wonder how many landmark cases one firm would ever actually handle. Or if there are enough landmark cases to fill a season of television. It definitely seems will-intentioned but maybe not sustainable?
The thing is, after The Night Of, most legal dramas just seem unconvincing and dated. (This has nothing to do with Better Call Saul, which is not really a legal drama.) And while I appreciate the focus on civil rights cases, that feels very limited – it’s not like you’re going to have an episode where it turns out maybe that person deserved to be discriminated against. So, and I am not on staff at a network drama and thus am not an expert, I would think you’d have to hit the same beats every week, both emotionally and in terms of legal arguments. Unless this is really more about the father-daughter dynamic than the court scenes, this could get repetitive in a hurry. It seems like a show that will maybe have some excellent episodes that are very similar to one another.
Council of Dads – I was very excited about this, based on the title. I envisioned a surreal comedy where there is a ruling body who give dads their talking points and maybe settle dad issues. And the Council would have all the archetypes – Jimmy Buffett Dad, Repair Dad, Nerd Dad, Music Snob Dad, Lecture Dad.. That sounded awesome and you know Nick Offerman would be Repair Dad and maybe Brian Posehn as Nerd Dad. And then there isn’t a trailer available, so I assumed they were still casting this awesome show I envisioned.
Um. It’s about a guy with cancer who picks some friends to be a council of dads to be father figures to his daughters. So not the show I was hoping for.
It feels like there’s sort of statement being made by giving Dying Dad all daughters. It immediately brings out one of those creepy tropes about dads not allowing their daughters to date or threatening their boyfriends with violence because daughters aren’t human people with feelings but a thing that has to be protected from any pretenders to the Dad Crown. And man, I’m going to hate that. And maybe the show isn’t that, but I can’t get past the stated premise of a dude appointing six guys to be in charge of his daughters. I may be giving it the worst possible read and it may actually be very sweet, but it’s got a lot to overcome.
But if anybody wants to make the show I imagined, I would definitely watch that.
Indebted – Another midseason entry without a trailer. And the third sitcom this season with the premise “broke relatives move in with a young couple”. Which definitely speaks to some economic anxiety in the zeitgeist but also speaks to everybody running out of premises for family sitcoms.
In this case, the young couple is Abby Elliott and Adam Pally, and Pally’s destitute parents are Fran Drescher and Steven Weber. That’s an interesting cast of people with solid comedy backgrounds, but it’s not much to go on for an official Snap Judgment. None of the creators really ring any bells, and the one piece of information is that it’s a multi-cam, which is a tougher sell for me. My NBC senses are tingling, though, and this kind of feels like one of those shows that would air between the two good shows in years past.
The Kenan Show – Since there is no trailer and not even a Wikipedia page yet about this show, we’re not working with much. Kenan Thompson, the longest-serving cast member of Saturday Night Live ever, stars as a widowed father of two kids trying to raise a family and deal with his overbearing father-in-law, who may or may not be played by Andy Garcia.
Here’s how little we know about this show. On the NBC website, the show’s page doesn’t have a logo, any named cast beyond Thompson, and the part where they list the specific studio or production company stills says “Studio / Production Company”. There is no creative team either there or on IMDB. And on that site, actress Bonnie Bailey-Reed’s character name is listed as “Co-Star”. So this is as incomplete a grade as I can give. It feels like NBC is just sort of hoping somebody comes along and makes this show.
The one thing that’s notable is that Kenan is still on SNL this season, which is a notoriously time intensive show. That leads me to believe he’s not deeply involved with the creation of this show, or maybe that he’s not super confident that it’s going to be a good enough basket to hold his career eggs. Or possibly he’s just committed to never sleeping again.
Lincoln – No trailer for this one either, or so it appears. Between Spieberg’s biopic about the President, the actual President, and car commercials, it could be lost in a morass of search results. What we do know is that this show is based on Jeffrey Deaver’s Bone Collector novels, which were previously adapted as a Denzel Washington / Angelina Jolie movie 20 years ago. So we’ve got a paraplegic detective and an NYPD officer who work together to solve cases. Presumably serial killer cases, because that was the whole deal in the movie.
I talked about my aversion to murder shows last week so this is kind of a non-starter for me. The cast is good, with Grimm‘s Russell Hornsby and Arielle Kebbel as the leads and Michael Imperioli in a supporting role. Please note, I thought Arielle Kebbel was the host of Love Island, but that’s a different Arielle. Kebbel is currently on Grand Hotel, played Dean’s wife on Gilmore Girls, and per the Flop House episode about the movie, her chest was a major story point in Fifty Shades Freed. That was haunting me because I genuinely couldn’t believe somebody went directly from Love Island to co-lead in a network drama.
Also? That title is not good. Can they not just use Bone Collector? It’s confusing and also making the title the first name of one of the leads makes me think it’s really going to focus on the guy who can’t move rather than the woman who’s going out and maybe doing action stuff.
Perfect Harmony – Bradley Whitford! OK, you’ve got my attention. This comedy looks… funny? Are we still doing that? The premise is a little tough to suss out from the trailer and the Wikipedia page offers no information, but Whitford plays a Princeton music professor who might be suicidal when he ends up at a small church with a bad choir and then he helps train them and we do see them performing secular songs in their church robes in front of a large audience, so there’s some big logical leap there that isn’t exactly clear.
But even if I can’t follow the plot, the jokes in the trailer are funny. Whitford is great, Anna Camp is always fun, and Wrecked‘s Will Greenberg is a favorite of mine. Oh! And Tymberlee Hill, who was very funny on Drunk History and Search Party. I couldn’t work out where I knew her from and I could have edited so it wasn’t clear that I remembered who she was as I was typing, but I take full disclosure very seriously. I don’t know why a church choir is performing “Eye of the Tiger” in the trailer, but it made me laugh. Bradley Whitford is really funny when he does comedy (I will mourn The Good Guys for years to come) and this just looks charming and fun. This is the first show on the NBC slate that I’m definitely checking out.
Sunnyside – Producer Michael Schur’s name is a big draw here, as is star Kal Penn. And I like that so far this is the second network sitcom of the year with an obvious pro-immigrant message. But the trailer didn’t win me over 100%.
Penn plays a guy who’s helping a bunch of undocumented citizens pass the US Citizenship test. I’m sorry to say variants of “citizen” twice just now but I wasn’t sure of the correct terminology and everything else sounded vaguely offensive. Which is a good plot for an episode or an arc, but I don’t know how you hang a series on that. I mean, that’s sort of Michael Schur’s thing is figuring out how to make a premise into a TV show, but it looks like he’s not actually the showrunner here. So I don’t know how they keep this going for a full season or a partial season – at some point, they have to take the test and either pass or fail.
That said, the trailer itself is a mixed bag. Some of the jokes (especially the rich siblings who are from “international waters”) land pretty hard and some of it seems like it should be punctuated by a laugh track so we know it’s a joke. It may be unfair to decide this based on so little footage, but it has a more earnest than funny vibe. But that’s also how I describe Superstore and people love that, so maybe I’m just cynical. I may also be giving it extra points because of how much I love the Michael Schur universe, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
That’s my Jam – This is an hour-long version of Jimmy Fallon’s “Wheel of Musical Impressions” with an as-yet-unnamed host. Between the title and the source material, I can’t tell you how heavily I sighed just now.
Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist – There is no trailer for this series which is described as a “fantasy musical dramedy”. It’s about a woman (Jane Levy) who hears the thoughts of people around her as songs, which either means that she can read minds or that description was written by somebody who is unfamiliar with the concept of a musical and tried to describe it.
With nothing to go on an a premise that’s just too twee for my tastes, I can’t really build up much enthusiasm for it. So I guess that’s that. Probably give this one a pass. Wait. What’s that? Lauren Graham is a series regular? Dammit. Guess I’m going to be watching this.
What I’m Watching – Perfect Harmony is definite and Sunnyside and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist will get at least a courtesy look thanks to my loyalty to both Michael Schur and Lauren Graham. That’s about it for me.
2018 Follow Up – They had ten shows lined up when I did this last year. Titan Games and The InBetween are in that weird “not cancelled but not renewed”. You might even say that they’re in the InBetween. If that’s the premise of that show. I no longer remember. Julian Fellowes’ The Gilded Age not only did not air but became an HBO project. Abby’s, The Enemy Within, I Feel Bad, and The Village were all cancelled. That just leaves spinoff America’s Got Talent: The Champions, Manifest, and New Amsterdam, none of which were huge. Not a great year all in all.
Next week, we’re wrapping up with The CW. Three new shows. Two spinoffs. No original IP. Business as usual.