Category Archives: NBC

Sorry, Not Sorry: NBC’s Timeless resists the “serialized rabbit hole,” and is better for it

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Timeless—debuting tonight at 10/9c on NBC—is a strikingly old-fashioned television show at its core.

This is not intended as a slight—the show is, inherently, a throwback to the likes of Quantum Leap or something like Sliders, where episodic time travel is used as an anchor for a combination of standalone adventures and ongoing thematic character work. And when executive producers Eric Kripke and Shawn Ryan arrived to present the show as part of NBC’s press tour presentation, they weren’t hiding this old-fashionedness. Where some shows might have run away screaming from the idea of being a throwback to a late 80s time traveling procedural as three characters (a professor, a former soldier, and a technician) travel through time to stop a would-be terrorist, they were more than happy to cite Quantum Leap as an inspiration point, even as a contrast to a more “quality” time travel brand like 12 Monkeys.

It’s a refreshing position, although a somewhat uncommon one, and one that somewhat contradicts the way the show’s pilot contorts itself to assure the viewer that it contains meaningful serialized elements: like most modern pilots, Timeless ends with lots of complications that create questions for future episodes, an instant mythology that will play out over the course of the coming season. But whereas I could imagine a world where the producers promised that this wasn’t “just a procedural,” Ryan insisted something different on the show’s panel: “this isn’t a show that is going to fall down a serialized rabbit hole.”

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The Olympic Myth: NBC’s Failure Overshadows Parenthood’s Potential Success

The Olympic Myth

March 3rd, 2010

I really should have written this post in advance so I could post it as soon as the headlines started to hit, but alas I held out hope that perhaps we could disconnect ourselves from that particular response to solid, but unspectacular, ratings for NBC’s Parenthood.

This myth that the Olympics are some sort of magical promotional tool is not without some merit, in that NBC used a lot of their airtime with a huge captive audience in order to promote the arrival of this new series, but the intense expectation it places on a show is honestly not worth the trouble. The Olympics promotion is not only supposed to increase a show’s chances at success, but it is also expected to create an audience which may not actually exist, whitewashing any of the other problems that the show might face (whether it be timeslot competition, the lack of a compatible lead-in, etc.).

It’s a situation where you have to wonder: would the show have been better off debuting to lower numbers without the hype, just so that the show might have been seen as a mild disappointment instead of another failure of NBC’s network strategy?

Since Josef Adalain has already posted an analysis of the various potential scenarios for Parenthood at The Wrap, I’m going to add this little wrinkle to the mix: in Canada, it “worked.” CTV’s new comedy series Hiccups and Dan for Mayor debuted to huge numbers (1.9 Million viewers) on Monday night after heavy Olympics promotion, which could be seen as proof that with the right show Olympics promotion can result in big numbers.

Except that people tend to focus on the “Olympic Promotion” rather than “Right Show” part of that equation.

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A Policy of Appeasement: Confronting Jay Leno and Heroes’ Role in NBC’s Future

A Policy of Appeasement: Confronting Jay Leno and Heroes’ Role in NBC’s Future

January 7th, 2010

[Edit: now TMZ is reporting that the plan is for Leno to take over from Conan O’Brien at 11:30, either doing a half-hour show leading into Conan or a full-hour pushing the entire Late Night schedule back with it. As someone who likes Conan, this new is sad on a personal level, but it’s even more sad professionally. While NBC can’t entirely throw away what they’ve started, they apparently believe that they can turn back the clock as if nothing happened. However, they barely have the programming to schedule what they’ve currently got, so what are they going to do with five hours of primetime plus the hellstorm that will come with angering Conan (even if angering Leno by promoting Conan is what created this mess). It’s a move that, if true (as I tweeted, it’s odd that I trust TMZ on celebrity deaths as opposed to something ultimately trivial like this, but I’m skeptical), would demonstrate that NBC believes they are still caught up in correcting mistakes as opposed to turning those mistakes into successes, which isn’t easy but would be more preferable to the madness they’re stirring up if the rumour pans out. Either way, my analysis of what NBC should do below stands.]

There are a lot of problems at NBC. The network is suffering from poor leadership, poor performance from a large bulk of its lineup, and the black hole that is The Jay Leno Show. So when news broke today that a) NBC executives are seriously considering (aka rethinking) Leno’s future and b) Greg Grunberg is convinced that Heroes will definitely be returning for a fifth season, the immediate response amongst people who follow television closely is “Yes!” and “No!” respectively.

These reactions come with a strange sense of certainty, as if the idea that NBC isn’t entirely convinced Leno will be sticking around is a clear sign that he will be cancelled, and that Grunberg’s statement of Heroes “definitely” returning is a sign that the show won’t be deservedly canned before heading into the new year (not everyone reacted with such certainty, but I saw enough of it to make a note of it). And yet, while critically speaking both of these shows would easily be cancelled, NBC is in such a state of flux that any decision could upend whatever sense of stability they have: throwing Leno out too soon, or without attempting to revamp the show first, could anger affiliates/shareholders just as much as pretending nothing is wrong, and cancelling Heroes (which remains a worldwide franchise for the network) could create enough chaos to justify keeping the creatively dead show on the air.

The problems for NBC right now are so great that I don’t put anything past them, and while I have my own opinions about how these two situations will resolve themselves (which I’ll discuss below the fold) I think that NBC is trapped between a rock and a hard place: they’re at the point where accepting defeat isn’t an option as it would only further deflate their reputation, even if it results in a slight uptick in their ratings, as there are simply too many people they need to appease to start over from scratch without damaging those relationships.

Because NBC needs more than a Nielsen point to bounce back.

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An Obligatory “State of NBC” Post: Chuck, Jay and Trouble in Southland

nbc-logosmallAs I was getting back from vacation in New York City (there’s some photos of the trip on Flickr), a number of news pieces hit in regards to NBC, easily the most maligned network at the moment. Part of me almost pities the network, to be honest with you: going into this season, every critic was anxious to tear apart the Jay Leno experiment and almost looking for the network to fail. I don’t think this is entirely unfair, as they have ushered in an environment where television drama has become an endangered species on one of the networks, but I think that it meant that NBC was in the public eye in a way that makes this all seem that much more dramatic.

It was ultimately worse than critics could have imagined, and perhaps the worst case scenario for NBC. Jay is getting about the ratings he needs to be considered profitable but well below what he needs to be considered a “success” by any other metric, and the network has all but imploded around him. Outside of reality, which remains buoyed by The Biggest Loser, the network’s dramas (both new and old) are flatlining in a way that no one could have imagined. While Law & Order wasn’t expected to pop on Friday nights, no one expected its spinoff, Special Victims Unit, to implode on Wednesdays. While Heroes’ slide into the ratings basement has been on display for over a year, dragging Trauma into the grave is predictable but nonetheless tragic. Even the Thursday lineup, one that I genuinely love, feels in some way tainted as Parks and Recreation and Community struggle to find viewers. And, of course, to top it all off the network chose to cancel Southland before even airing its second season premiere.

It’s created a network that feels legitimately toxic, an environment that midseason shows like Chuck are going to be forced to wade into. So, when news broke of Chuck potentially being rushed in at the end of October, it seemed like a desperate move for the network to reverse the critical slide by re-introducing a show that we critical folk love. And, for all of my love for the series (I did just purchase a Jeffster t-shirt, after all), I have to say it: I don’t want it to come back this way.

No good can come of it.

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Cultural Learnings’ Fall 2007 Lineup: Thursdays

Yes, I am aware that there was a delay in posting Thursday’s lineup, but there was a reason for this. I’ve been anxious over this day in particular because, as per usual, it remains the most packed night of programming on the Fall Schedule, especially for me. And last night, I decided to see whether I might (finally) be able to cut Survivor out of my Thursday lineup. And, well, see below for whether or not that worked.

The Office

Airing four hour long episodes early in the season before Scrubs premieres, The Office is taking on Grey’s Anatomy single-handedly this year. It hopes to sustain last year’s ratings, and certainly has a decent shot at it. There’s some exciting developments heading into this season (Ryan as the boss, Jim/Pam, etc.), so even some uneven episodes won’t keep me away.

Cultural Learnings’ Review of The Office Finale 

30 Rock

This Emmy-winning comedy has the unfortunate circumstance of being located within a rather difficult timeslot: sure, it belonged to The Office last year, but it’s also against two other shows I’m interested in covering. Still, it gets this particular spot regardless of that development: the show was too good last season to consider putting on the backburner, although it doesn’t debut for a while yet.

Cultural Learnings’ 30 Rock Coverage 

Survivor: China

Yeah, I’m weak: as much as I might claim I can disconnect from this series in its 15th season, it just isn’t happening this time around. The cast of characters have already had a chance to make their impact, and the challenges despite repetition are usually enough to suck me in. I’ve tended to skip the Tribal Council sequences more now, but the point stands: I’m covering Survivor.

Cultural Learnings’ Survivor Coverage 

The Other Shows

Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy are in a tough spot for me, one in terms of time period and the other due to a weak third season. Ugly Betty ended its first season on a high note, and certainly has a lot of momentum moving forward. But I never feel like I’m “caught up” in it, which is the way I perhaps felt about Grey’s Anatomy before a frustrating last stanza. The George/Izzie relationship took out a lot of steam, so it’s going to be wait and see for the series.

I’ll also be watching Scrubs when it returns late in the year, although my interest in that series has also wained.

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Filed under 2007 Fall Preview, 30 Rock, ABC, Grey's Anatomy, NBC, Reality TV, Scrubs, Survivor, Television, The Office, Ugly Betty

Cultural Learnings’ Fall 2007 Lineup: Wednesdays

Wednesdays are a day where there’s a lot of new shows debuting that I’ll probably be talking about at some point in time. Will Private Practice, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, bounce back from a weak back-door pilot? Will Dirty Sexy Money, one of three shows from Greg Berlanti on ABC’s Fall Schedule, take its fantastic cast and make it a primetime soap worth watching? And, as we’ll see tonight, will CBS’ Kid Nation overcome its child labor concerns to emerge as a feel good reality success?I want to answer all of these questions, but in the interest of cutting things down I’ve chosen two shows on Wednesdays that interest me that I’ll be covering in more detail. Considering that both are in danger of cancellation, I might be adjusting my Wednesday schedule (especially if Lost returns on the night early next year)

Pushing Daisies

I believe the adjective being thrown around for Pushing Daisies is “twee,” and I can’t really argue with that: its charm is perhaps its greatest asset, and Bryan Fuller’s series is the kind you fall in love with. I consider it my duty to cover it more closely, if only to help stave off its cancellation the best I can. Plus, it should be interesting to see how a fantastic pilot adapts into a procedural drama.

Pilot Preview: ‘Pushing Daisies’ 

Bionic Woman

NBC’s remake of the 70s property is getting a lot of buzz from NBC, but the huge changes from its pilot and Isaiah Washington’s casting certainly provide an extremely interesting perspective to the new season. My interest is piqued by the concept and Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) as the villain, but it should also prove an interesting case study for pilot changes as well.

Cultural Learnings’ Bionic Woman Coverage

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Filed under 2007 Fall Preview, ABC, Bionic Woman, Kid Nation, NBC, Private Practice, Pushing Daisies, Television

Cultural Learnings’ Fall 2007 Lineup: Mondays

[Although I’ll be covering some of this week’s early premieres, I thought I’d take a break this week and let readers know what shows I’ll be focusing on this television season. Thanks to writing a thesis and all, admittedly post volume might be lower, but I think it will simply challenge me to say more in less words. And I think we’d all agree that’s in the best interest of everyone. So, each day, I’ll preview the shows I’ll be following in this year’s lineup at Culturall Learnings. This doesn’t exclude other shows, but simply means they won’t be a focus. If you want me to write about anything, always feel free to send me an email at cultural.learnings @ gmail.com!]

Cultural Learnings’ Monday Lineup

Heroes

NBC’s sophomore drama series disappointed with its finale, but I’m more than willing to give this strong ensemble another shot. With Kristen Bell appearing for an extended guest arc, and the Heroes: Origins segments to air at the end of the season, it’s looking like an interesting year for the crew. I’ll start the coverage with a look at the show’s season finale airing September 24th, where at least one of the characters in peril during last year’s finale (Peter, D.L. and Nathan) will perish.

Cultural Learnings’ Heroes Coverage 

Chuck

A comedy of sorts from Josh Schwartz, Chuck follows the exploits of a Nerd Herd employee who finds himself a wealth of government secrets due to an email. The dialogue is sharp, and Schwartz has shown an ability to tap into the humour in more serious situations in the past. The show debuts on September 24th, and you can find my review of the show’s pilot by following this link.

Pilot Preview: “Chuck” – Cultural Learnings 

Weeds

Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky, little boxes…sorry, I got carried away. Weeds’ infectious theme song isn’t the only thing keeping me interested: things heat up tonight with Mary-Kate Olsen’s arrival and further escalation of the U-Turn storyline. I’ll be covering the series until it rides off into the sunset in November. You can find my existing Weeds coverage by following this link.

Cultural Learnings’ Weeds Coverage

How I Met Your Mother

I discovered this show over the summer, and it was well worth my time: it is the best traditional sitcom on television, and is certainly deserving of more attention. The show premieres on September 24th with guest stars Enrique Iglesias and Mandy Moore, as Robin returns from Argentina while Ted has moved on from their breakup. This is one I hope that gains more viewers: if you want some more info, check out our coverage by following this link.

Cultural Learnings’ How I Met Your Mother Coverage

I’ll also be watching Aliens in America, The CW’s freshman sitcom, and may occasionally update on its progress and perhaps pick it up post-Weeds depending on how balancing four shows goes.

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Filed under 2007 Fall Preview, Aliens in America, Chuck, Cultural Learnings, Heroes, How I Met Your Mother, NBC, Television, Weeds