The new fall season is breathing down our necks. In fact, we’ll have the first few premieres before the week is up. To help you prepare for the world to come, we’re taking a look at all the new network shows and letting you know what their deal is and whether they might warrant a look. This week, it’s NBC. I think if I had to pick a favorite network, it would be NBC, but that’s maybe due to the fact that they had such strong branding when I was a kid. And then you had decades of Thursday night comedies and some of my favorite series of all time. So I’m rooting for NBC, even though last year I hardly watched the network at all. And this year, they’re going with an interesting strategy of not having any promotional material available at all. Out of twelve new entries on the schedule, they’ve made two trailers available as of this writing. That feels like a bad idea, but then again, I’m not the network who decided not to air Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and then watched it become a hit elsewhere. So what do you have for us, Peacock?
There’s no trailer available, but it sounds promising – Always Sunny’s Glenn Howerton stars as a philosophy scholar who ends up teaching the titular Advance Placement Biology class and uses his students as a way to exact revenge on the people who’ve wronged him. It sounds weird, but given that it was created by Seth Meyers and Mike O’Brien, that’s kind of what you’d expect. It also has Patton Oswalt playing the principal and everything about this sounds kind of great. It doesn’t sound like something that’ll be a hit, but the SNL pedigree should ensure that the network gives it a shot. Or they’ll sell it to Netflix and it will be very successful. I can’t pretend to understand NBC’s business model.
The Awesome Show
No trailer on this one either. Chris Hardwick co-created and hosts this six episode series about technology. Basically, each episode will focus on a cool new thing. That’s a decent premise, and Hardwick is the right guy to be enthusiastic about new stuff, but this totally sounds like something that’s going to air in the dead of winter, largely unnoticed. Also? They’re going to run into some problems with Google given that Tim and Eric Awesome Show is a thing. Unless this is huge right out of the gate or they pay for placement, it’s not getting near the first page of search results.
The second of three “patriotic military dramas” this season, this show looks virtually indistinguishable from SEAL Team except with fewer recognizable people. I’d feel a lot better about these shows if they didn’t seem to be entirely about exterminating evil Muslims. I’m also starting to feel a little weird about violence on network TV. I’m a guy who likes some violent shows, but sometimes it seems like network shows are irresponsible with how they portray violence, making it more palatable and thus more acceptable. Maybe it’s the way Standards & Practices requires them to sanitize the ugly results, but seeing all these consequence-free headshots in the trailer really bothers me. As for the show, my guess is that there’s really only room for one entry in this genre to be a hit, and let’s be honest, it’s not going to be the one on the CW. Based on the last few years, if CBS and NBC have similar shows, CBS is going to win.
Still no trailer. Does NBC know it’s September? Are they waiting until the night before it’s due to write their book report? Well, Mindy Kaling created this show about a gym owner who lives with his “gorgeous idiot” brother when he finds out he has a teenage son thanks to a high school fling. That’s really all we’ve got. I like Mindy Kaling and it stars her Mindy Project buddy Anders Holm, who’s good at being on TV. It’s impossible to get any sense of it, but I’ll check out any show Kaling creates.
Ellen’s Game of Games
No trailer, but you don’t need one. This is a six episode series based on game segments from The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It sounds like it’s going to be dirt cheap midseason filler. I don’t care for those games in their shortened form, so an hourlong expansion of the not particularly innovative segments sounds unbearable to me. It’s Double Dare for adults only without the messiness and the running.
NBC: We don’t bother with trailers! This is a kids’ game show hosted by Neil Patrick Harris. Now, I feel like Junior Genius would be a better title because this makes it sound like it’s a young version of National Geographic’s bio-series. It doesn’t matter because I’m going to call it Quizboys no matter what. I can’t imagine ever watching this, but it seems like it could be fun for family viewing. Somebody with a family, let me know!
Come on, NBC. This is a scripted series, not a game show. You really should have some footage to show. And it’s a bummer that there’s no trailer because this sounds good – three suburban women have trouble making ends meet and decide to rob the local supermarket. Since this is a series, presumably that sets off a whole chain of problems. This could be a great, low-stakes version of Breaking Bad if they play it right. The stars are Christine Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman, which sounds like some really fun castings. Hendricks replaced a different actress after they shot the pilot, so extensive reshoots may be the reason there isn’t a trailer. I will definitely check this out – I like the premise and the cast enough that a trailer isn’t going to flip me one way or the other.
The Handmade Project
Eight shows in, one trailer. This one is a reality competition where “amateur artisans will take on a series of projects they must complete in their own unique way”. I like how that’s really specific and so very vague at the same time. It’s an interesting premise, but what really makes it stand out is that it’s hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. Leslie and Ron, together again! NBC says it’s shot in a “serene outdoor setting”, so between that and the two hosts, it sort of feels like this could be an American, non-edible Great British Baking Show. And who doesn’t want to see Amy and Nick goofing around? I can already tell I’m going to watch this even though I don’t understand how anybody can make anything.
Finally, a trailer! But half of it is Edie Falco talking about the show and this is actually a series that we covered in last year’s Snap Judgments that was delayed. And a year later, it makes even less sense. It is an attempt to get in on that People v. O.J. Simpson heat from two years ago, right down to putting it under the Law & Order banner. (Remember, the actual title is American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.) This eight-part series dramatizes the 1996 trial of Lyle and Erik Menendez, who murdered their parents. It’s actually got a really great cast, including the aformentioned Falco. But there are some key differences between this and O.J.’s case. There was no question as to whether or not they did it. There weren’t broader societal issues at play. And most importantly, even at the time, there was virtually no cultural resonance. People followed the case, but it didn’t provide an unending supply of recognizable characters and references. There’s no Lance Ito or Kato Kaelin or “If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit”. It seems to lack everything that made People v. O.J. compelling. Also, I hate that there’s no colon in that title.Even a hyphen would help.
Not only is there no trailer, but this is the entire Wikipedia entry. “Reverie is an upcoming American drama television series set to be broadcast on NBC. The series was commissioned on May 12, 2017. The first season will contain only 10 episodes, for creative and scheduling reasons.” Well I am certainly on board for that! A deeper dive indicate that it’s about a former hostage negotiator brought in to rescue people from an advanced virtual reality program and, in the process, save herself. I’m not kidding about that last part. That’s what NBC says. It doesn’t sound like much, and stories about virtual reality are rarely good. I do like the cast, though. Sara Shahi, Dennis Haysbert, Sendhil Ramamurthy… That’s a good start but in the absence of anything to watch and an unimpressive premise, I can’t really get excited about it.
Hey, there’s no trailer! But with a twist! I found an article about how the trailer wowed critics at the upfronts, so apparently there is one and it’s very good, but they don’t want to show it to us. So here’s what we’ve got – this drama stars Josh Radnor as a fictionalized version of Lou Volpe, a small-town teacher who helps turn around a struggling high school’s drama department. It’s produced by Friday Night Lights’ Jason Katims, which is usually a good sign. I could see this doing well, although drama students make me intensely uncomfortable, so I may have to bow out. This is another series that’s set for ten episodes and NBC has really embraced the short seasons. I can’t tell if that’s where network TV is heading (and it probably should) or if being in fourth place for so long has left NBC unwilling to commit to a full season of an unknown quantity.
Will & Grace
I guess in this case, the trailer is the eight seasons that aired from 1999-2006. NBC is bringing it back for sixteen episodes and they’ve already announced a second (tenth?) season renewal. And while the show is historically important in that it was one of the first network shows with an openly gay lead (though they strenuously avoided showing anything actually gay, other than Jack’s embodiment of every early 2000’s stereotype), but I don’t know what it has to offer in 2017. I get that it has fans and there are probably people who are really excited about this, but the style of the show seemed kind of dated when it was actually on the air and I can’t imagine that’s going to improve with another eleven years piled on. It’s just… I don’t care about this at all. I’d rather see something new than being reminded of a thing I used to watch. But your mileage may vary. If you were a big fan and miss these characters, this is exactly what you want and I hope it’s good. There’s just nothing here for me, so I’ll meet you on the other side.
What I’m Watching: The lack of trailers makes it really tough to make any decisions, but barring disaster I’m on board for A.P. Bio, Good Girls and The Handmade Project. Champions is a possibility, but nothing else piques my interest even a little.
2016 Follow-Up: We covered thirteen new shows last year. Blacklist: Redemption, Chicago Justice, Emerald City, and Powerless were cancelled. Which means that two franchise expansions and a DC Comics show all failed on NBC, which is pretty grim. And RIP Emerald City, which was on the fall schedule three years in a row before it actually aired. This might be the first one of these I’ve done without Emerald City. Two shows, Marlon and Midnight, Texas were delayed enough that they haven’t finished their seasons yet and haven’t been decided either way. Law and Order True Crime didn’t air and is back on the list again this year. Of the renewed shows, Taken and Timeless were as on the bubble as it gets. Taken lost most of its cast and Timeless was actually cancelled before getting a stay of execution. Comedies Great News, The Good Place, and Trial and Error all were renewed. I like Great News a lot and The Good Place was maybe my favorite new show of the year. And of course, This Is Us was maybe the biggest critical and commercial hit of the new season. All in all, they did OK last year even if they proved to be the one network that can’t keep a DC show on the air.
Next week we’re wrapping it up with the CW and maybe some final thoughts since they only have a handful of new shows.