Sunday, September 16, 2012
NBC is going gung-ho for comedy with four new entries on deck, maybe a surprising move since even on Thursday their laugh line-up is far from strong as in seasons past. Their current comedy roster is full of fan favorites with devoted cults like 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Community, but the renewal of the generally awful Whitney is a puzzler. Matthew Perry's Go On and Animal Practice were previewed on the heels of NBC's Olympics coverage in August, and at least a week before the other network fall debuts The New Normal and Guys With Kids premiered. Whether this plays as a clever leg-up on the competition or something with less impact is yet to be seen.
Turning first to Monday nights, the buzz is positive for 10pm's Revolution, a post-electricity saga which is being touted as a swashbuckling adventure even more than as a doomsday downer. Producer J.J. Abrams (Lost, Star Trek reboot) is among the bright creative minds behind this intriguing concept, and fans of mesmerizing shows like his Lost are hoping that Revolution will offer up the requisite thrills and intricate mythos that will keep them tuning in. With a cast of characters that is spread out over every possible demo group, including young folks with the Hunger Games-like female lead played by Traci Spiridakos (Being Human), Revolution boasts an impressive cast. Breaking Bad's terrific baddie Giancarlo Esposito co-stars, along with Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell, The Twilight Saga's Billy Burke, Daniella Alonso (One Tree Hill, Friday Night Lights), Tim Guinee (The Good Wife, Iron Man), Maria Howell (The Color Purple, The Blind Side), Australian David Lyons, and other talented performers. As is often the way, Revolution's competitive climate on Monday nights at 10pm is super-tough in two other very worth and watchable series, ABC's Castle and CBS' Hawaii 5-0. It'll be a DVR-ing melee, we think, with machines whirring away trying to capture all the options in a very lively time period, probably the most entertaining hour of the entire week.
Go On, about a recently widowed sports radio personality trying to find his way back to life. The talented theater veteran Laura Benanti (The Playboy Club) co-stars as the rooky therapist who takes the reluctant Perry under her wing. Fellow group therapy participants include Brett Gelman (Upright Citizens Brigade), Suzy Nakamura (Second City), Julie White (Grace Under Fire), and John Cho (Star Trek, Harold and Kumar...) appears as Perry's pal and boss. If you like the ensemble and Mr. Perry, you will want to take a look at this one.
The New Normal hasn't been getting quite the reception NBC hoped for, not even counting the decision early on by at least one station to decline airing the sitcom because of its subject matter. You've got several cultural touchpoints converging in The New Normal, including surrogate motherhood, gay marriage and child-rearing, plus all the attendant controversies. Plot in a nutshell -- a male married couple (he's a doctor, he's a...actually, I'm not sure what he does but he likes to shop) decide they want to have a child via surrogacy, and they find a perfect candidate. Justin Bartha is the doc (National Treasure, The Hangover), Andrew Rannels (The Book of Mormon on Broadway) is his spouse, Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love, The Big Easy) is the opinionated mother of the surrogate mom played by British actress Georgia King. Early buzz is swinging both ways on this one, and naturally the comedy will rely on either smashing stereotypes or gleefully embracing them for laughs, or both. If we like the characters, The New Normal could make it.
Animal Practice anchors Wednesday in the 8pm slot. It's another ensemble comedy, this time centering around the workers and patients at a busy veterinary clinic. The chief doc is crabby, more fond of his four-legged patients than their human owners, and he's played by Justin Kirk, most famous for his role as the eccentric brother on Showtime's Weeds. Joanna Garcia Swisher (Better with You, Gossip Girl, Privileged, Reba) co-stars as the office manager who of course is often at loggerheads with Doc Crabby, Tyler Labine (The Rise of the Planet of the Apes) is a nice veterinarian, Bobby Lee (MADtv) is a playboy vet, Betsy Sodero (Upright Citizens Brigade) is a nutty vet tech, and comic actress Kym Whitley is the even-handed receptionist. The most buzz for the show has been thanks to monkey co-star Crystal, star of The Hangover II and Community (among many other productions), and though you can never underestimate the power of a monkey to liven things up, it's a little unfair to put all the hopes for a successful launch on the hairy little shoulders of Crystal.
Guys With Kids, with a concept that's fairly easy to get: men are lousy at taking care of children (though maybe that's only heterosexual men because The New Normal would seem to posit otherwise). The cast is good -- Anthony Anderson (Law & Order), Jamie-Lynn Sigler (The Sopranos), Tempestt Bledsoe (The Cosby Show), Jesse Bradford (Flags of Our Fathers), Zach Cregger (The Whitest Kids U'Know), and Erinn Hayes (Worst Week). All are talented and personable performers, and if guys dealing with dirty diapers when they'd rather be playing videogames is a notion ripe enough for a weekly series, then Guys With Kids could make it. It could be dragged down by an under-performing Animal Kingdom if that one doesn't work, though.
Going serious again, NBC features the new firefighter/paramedic action drama Chicago Fire Wednesdays at 10pm. Featuring a uniformly attractive -- and attractive in uniform -- cast, Chicago Fire promises to mix the best of several genres into a irresistible combo. This is Law & Order maestro Dick Wolf's newest TV outing, and he generally has a golden touch for offering up winning formulas. Jesse Spencer (House) stars, along with Taylor Kinney (The Vampire Diaries), Charlie Barnett (Men in Black III), Monica Raymund (Lie to Me), Lauren German (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Eamonn Walker (Oz), David Eigenberg (Sex and the City) and Teri Reeves (General Hospital). The time period competition for Chicago Fire is an aging CSI on CBS, along with ABC's highly-touted new musical drama Nashville. If CSI viewers are looking for an alternative, Chicago Fire would be their go-to choice.
We'll deal with the shows coming in mid-season closer to their debut dates.
Next up, CBS and its small contingent of new series for 2012.