Thursday, April 7, 2011

Fantasy Network Mogul: Part 4 - NBC

Part 1: ABC
Part 2: CBS
Part 3: Fox

I've been glad to get so many Tweets and messages from readers who've enjoyed this week's look at Pilot Season. These posts take a little more effort than most of my regular ones, so I'm glad that the work has paid off for you.

Next to ABC, NBC probably has the most interesting pilot slate this year. In fact, I daresay you could program an entire network pretty solidly just from the stuff that those two networks aren't able to order to series. They've got 12 comedies and 12 dramas.

Gone: The Cape, Chase, Perfect Couples
Endangered: The Event, Outsourced, Chuck, Law & Order: LA

Comedies - NBC's existing comedy block is pretty solid. They really only have room for two shows, possibly three or four with midseason stuff. I'll admit that a lot in this category leaves me uninspired.

Are You There Vodka, It's Me Chelsea
Logline: A multi-camera comedy series based on the autobiographical book of the same name by Chelsea Handler, which chronicles her history with family, dating and friends.
Cast: Laura Prepon, Angel Laketa Moore, Natalie Morales, Jo Koy, Chelsea Handler
Creatives: Dottie Dartland-Zicklin, Julie Ann Larson (writers); Gail Mancuso (director)
Thoughts: This seems to be Chelsea Handler's year. I'm not a particular fan, but every woman in my age range and older seems to adore her. NBC doesn't need many comedies and this stands out in a middling comedy slate.

Untitled Emily Spivey Project
Logline: A single camera comedy series which takes an irreverent look at parenthood from the perspective of an acerbic working mother, who never thought she’d be a mom, along with her stay-at-home husband and opinionated parents.

Cast: Christina Applegate
Creatives: Emily Spivey (writer)
Thoughts: I don't have much information on this, but it's a single camera show and it's produced by Lorne Michaels, so perhaps it'd fit in well with 30 Rock.

Unt. Whitney Cummings Project
Logline: A multi-camera comedy series centering on a couple who have made the decision that they don't want to get married.
Cast: Whitney Cummings, Chris D’Elia, Beverly D’Angelo
Creatives: Whitney Cummings (writer), James Burrows (director)
Thoughts: I might as well be up front with this: I'm not a fan of Whitney Cummings' particular sort of comedy, I don't think the premise sounds good.... but the legendary James Burrows is directing. Never bet against Burrows.

Dramas - There's a lot of high profile stuff that has so much buzz, you'd think it was ordered already. NBC needs to make over a good portion of their line-up, but with a few aging shows taking up space, they likely won't get the full-scale makeover that ABC does.

17th Precinct
Logline: Drama in which the world is ruled by magic and not by science.
Cast: Stockard Channing, Jamie Bamber, Eamonn Walker, James Callis, Matt Long, Tricia Helfer, Kristin Kreuk, Esai Morales
Creatives: Ronald D. Moore (writer), Michael Rhymer (director)
Thoughts: This is another script I've heard extremely positive reviews of. Ron Moore also seems intent on re-employing many of his Battlestar Galactica actors. The challenge for this will be to break out and find a wider audience. It's a niche show that would do gangbusters on cable, but might not pull in the numbers needed on a network. Still, NBC would be wise to be patient, and if I was setting the schedule, I'd put this on Mondays at 10, in a block that includes a hopefully-renewed Chuck, and a likely-to-be-ordered Wonder Woman.

Logline: A complex drama in the style of Traffic set in the world of crime, law enforcement and politics in sprawling modern-day Los Angeles.
Cast: Danny Pino, Daniella Alonso, Matthew Levy, Madchen Amick, Noah Emmerich, Emma Dumont, Luis Chavez, Jimmy Smits
Creatives: Stephan Gaghan (writer/director)
Thoughts: It feels like NBC orders this show every year, just under a different name.

Logline:A soapy dramatic series that looks at the social and political tumult of the 1960's from the perspective of Playboy bunnies working at the Playboy Club in Chicago.
Cast: Amber Heard, Naturi Naughton, Laura Benanti, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Leah Renee, David Krumholtz, Wes Ramsey, Eddie Cibrian
Creatives: Chad Hodge (writer), Alan Taylor (director)
Thoughts: I've seen some unkind reviews of this pilot script. The show was in the middle of controversy when the publicity whores at the Parents Television Council attacked the show for its nudity waivers. (Presumably, they're going to shoot more explicit versions of scenes for later release on DVD.) I'm willing to be that NBC won't be able to resist the free publicity unless the final result is completely unwatchable.

Logline: This one-hour musical series follows a cross section of characters who come together for the exhilarating ride of putting on a Broadway musical.
Cast: Debra Messing, Megan Hilty, Katharine McPhee, Jack Davenport, Angelica Huston
Creatives: Theresa Rebeck (writer), Michael Mayer (director)
Thoughts: Steven Spielberg is executive producing, and this musical series is clearly NBC's bid to get in on the Glee action. Throw in a few Broadway vets, and you'll probably end up with a pilot strong enough to get ordered.

Wonder Woman
Logline: In this reinvention, Wonder Woman is a corporate executive and vigilante crime fighter in Los Angeles who works to balance all of the extraordinary parts of her life.
Cast: Adrianne Palicki, Elizabeth Hurley, Tracie Thoms, Cary Elwes (Harry)
Creatives: David E. Kelley (writer), Jeffrey Reiner (director)
Thoughts: I saw more reviews of this script online than any other, and the buzz was overwhelmingly negative. Then I read it and my immediate reaction was "Okay, there's stuff here that will absolutely need to be rewritten and nobody does rewrites and on-the-fly retooling faster than David E. Kelley." My feeling is this project is too high-profile right now NOT to get ordered, barring a total disaster of a pilot. (And even then, I think they'd order it for midseason and start the retooling process.)

The main reason I'm not going in-depth about the scripts I have read is that I know a lot of rewriting can still happen before the script goes before the cameras, so I don't want to be too harsh on a work in progress. There's a lot I could say about what I've read - especially Wonder Woman, but I'm not sure that's quite fair. (For instance, by the time it leaked, the Wonder Woman draft was already six weeks old.)

Rewriting can save the bad execution of a good concept, but a terrible concept will never be salvaged. Fortunately, I think the networks have a pretty good ratio of good concepts this season, so most of the worst concepts probably won't see the light of day.

Part 5: The CW


  1. I am not seeing a single thing that would make me want to watch. I wish sci-fi of the sort that we saw in the 90s would make a comeback, but I'm not holding my breath.

  2. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on "R.E.M.". I see why you didn't include, as it's a PREMISE PILOT on steroids, in terms of its pitch and concept. Yet, it was probably one of the most stunningly emotional scripts I've read all year. Killen did a fantastic job of creating characters we CARE about while in the middle of a preposterous "Which is the dream/which is reality?" conceit. My only qualm with this fantastic read was that it felt like it's a movie, not a TV show that can sustain multiple episodes. Is that why you didn't consider? Or is it one of the ones you read?

    Also, I'm a little surprised you've heard bad things about "Playboy". I'm only half way through the read, but from what I've read, I think it's pretty solid. The end of the teaser dropped my jaw, and I don't SHOCK easily. That said, I am at a point in the script that makes me wonder if the second half becomes just trash. Will have to finish it I suppose.

  3. There's only one Wonder Woman far as I'm concerned and the only sitcoms I watch anymore are reruns of ones from braver times such as Golden Girls, Sanford & Son, All In The Family, and Good Times - plus a few others from those eras and earlier like The Dick Van Dyke Show. Today's sitcoms suck. You'll never see any willing to deal with things like rape or racism like those shows were. (Plus Sammy Davis Jr giving Archie Bunker a big wet kiss on the cheek is just priceless.)

    And they better not cancel L&O:LA. As someone who was born and raised in SoCal I'm so sick and tired of New York getting all the attention. We need some action out here too.

    Though admittedly since I'm in Orange County - Costa Mesa to be exact - it would be nice if there was a show - outside the fake "Real Housewives" set here. (Writers please take note! LOL)