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March 4, 2008

All Year Television

Filed under: Entertainment,TV — CPav @ 7:28 pm
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NBC Television announced a few weeks ago, around the time the writers’ strike ended, that they were switching away from the traditional model of the television season, to a 12-month schedule. This is, in a way, something I’ve been advocating for years, and something that viewers have been able to take advantage of thanks to the original programming being offered on cable networks, for a number of years, but it’s the first time that a network has fully embraced the concept. Assuming, of course, that they actually do fully embrace the concept, which remains to be seen.

When I was a kid, the television season ran from roughly Memorial Day to roughly Opening Day of the baseball season. A television show would have about 24 episodes in a season, and would sometimes take a week off around Christmas or New Year’s, but other than that, new episodes reliably aired weekly. Summers were filled with variety shows, filler programming, and reruns.

Fast forward a bit, and you found production costs going up and more networks and such, and eventually we found ourselves with the current September to May season, with each program running between 20 and 23 episodes, with new episodes often a rarity between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Summers have been given over to reality programs and “burn offs”, episodes of canceled series that were completed before the program was pulled from the network schedule. If the NBC brass is to be believed, however, that might be at an end.

NBC has been looking at the success of summer drama series on basic cable networks (The Closer, Mad Men, and Greek are recent examples), and asked themselves, “Why can’t we do that?” And the answer was, they can. They haven’t revealed exactly what their plans are, but have indicated that they won’t necessarily be waiting for Fall or Spring to debut new shows. When the show is ready, and when there’s an opening on the schedule, they’ll plug the new show in.

For quite some time, I’ve been advocating spreading the season out more. My theory is that it would be possible to divide the year into three segments: September through November; January through May, and June through August. They’ve almost been doing this already, with shows like Heroes going on break during the holiday season, and others, like 24, not starting their season until January. What I’m thinking, though, is that some series would run fewer than 22 episodes, maybe as few as 6-10, as their storylines dictate, as they do in Britain. Stories which require more time to develop can run in the January-May “season”, with the summer series representing more “boutique”-style shows, which the networks wouldn’t expect to generate the same rating level as the other seasons’ shows.

I’m anxiously awaiting what NBC decides to actually do with this, and I’ll keep you posted.

The 300 Project: 1/42


September 24, 2007

Monday and Tuesday Premieres

Hi, all. A crazy weekend prevented me from blogging about last night’s premieres.
All the Sunday debuts were returning shows, most of them long-time Sunday staples, with little of note (the exceptions being the relocated Shark and the hour long, Star Wars parodying Family Guy.)

As I’ve been editing together my comments for this summary, the file just keeps getting longer and longer. So I’m going to post tonight and tomorrow’s shows, and will get the rest of the week’s shows up in a post or two later on.

7 p.m.
ABC Dancing with the Stars – Co-host Samantha Harris just had a baby. And that’s about the most interesting thing I could think of to say about it. My daughter seems to be excited that two of the pro dancers are brother and sister. Me, I’m more interested in potential wardrobe malfunctions. But there’s too much else going on in this time slot for me to care too much.

CBS How I Met Your Mother – This underrated sitcom got some additional attention last season, and will probably get more this year, as Mandy Moore guest stars in a number of episodes (beginning tonight) as a potential love interest for main character Ted.

NBC Chuck – My second-favorite hour-long pilot of the new season, Chuck features Zachary Levi (LESS THAN PREFECT) as the title character, a twenty-something working at a Best Buy-type store (as part of the Nerd Herd), who inadvertently downloads all the contents of a National Security database into his brain. Pursued by evildoers and protected by a beautiful CIA agent (Yvonne Strzechowski) and her dour NSA counterpart (FIREFLY’s Adam Baldwin), Chuck finds himself immersed in a world of action beyond his wildest imagination. Created by Josh Schwartz, who previously brought us The O.C., Chuck is sweeter than REAPER, and a whole lot of fun.

7:30 p.m.
CBS The Big Bang Theory – Another in this season’s ubiquitous nerd shows, this one is a fairly traditional sitcom. Leonard (Johnny Galecki, Roseanne’s David) and Sheldon (relative newcomer Jim Parsons) are egghead roommates whose lives are changed when an attractive young woman (Kaley Cuoco, EIGHT SIMPLE RULES) moves into the apartment across the hall. Created by Chuck Lorre (DHARMA AND GREG, TWO AND A HALF MEN), BIG BANG shares much of the same humor with those shows. Think of TWO AND A HALF, with Jon Cryer’s character as the suave one. There’s some work that needs to get done, but its simple presence is enough to dispell those rumors that the sitcom is dead.

8 p.m.
NBC Heroes – Last season’s breakout hit enters its second season asking a new question. Instead of trying to find out what would happen if ordinary people had extraordinary powers, this season will deal with the question of how the extraordinary people will live ordinary lives. With some interesting cast additions (David Anders, ALIAS’ Mr. Sark; and Kristen Bell (VERONICA MARS)), the show’s braintrust has already shown that they’re not satisfied with the status quo, before a single episode has aired.

CBS Two and a Half Men – This show takes a lot of heat, but it’s one of the few comedies that we go out of our way to watch.

8:30 p.m.

CBS Rules of Engagement – Stars David Spade. Your opinion of the show will depend on your reaction to that statement. Mine is not particularly positive, though it also stars Bianca Kjalich and Patrick Warburton.

9 p.m.
ABC The Bachelor – This is still on?

NBC Journeyman – One of the four pilots NBC made available to the general public, JOURNEYMAN is intriguing. My first impulse is that the show is a combination of QUANTUM LEAP and THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE (one of my favorite books of the last few years). ROME’s Kevin McKidd stars as Dan Vasser, a reporter with a wife and young son who, at some level, still mourns his first love, Livia (Moon Bloodgood, DAY BREAK), who’s died in a plane crash. And then Dan starts blacking out (or, more appropriate to the show’s visual effects, whiting out). As part of these whiteouts, Dan finds himself jumping through time, following one person in particular over the course of an episodes. There are challenges in the present, as well, as his friends and relatives attribute Dan’s disappearances to alcohol or drug abuse. And there’s an overarching mystery as well, as Dan doesn’t appear to be the only time traveller, and the travel does not appear to be random. The first episode was sufficiently engaging to encourage additional viewing.

CBS CSI: Miami – Horatio has a son he’s never met, and Tim Speedle is back, even though he died a number of seasons ago.


7:00 p.m.
CW Reaper – This slacker/geek comedy is getting a lot of press, but I’m not entirely convinced. The premise is amusing, with Bret Harrison starring as Sam Oliver, a slacker working at a Home Depot-type home improvement store, who discovers, on his 21st birthday, that his parents sold his soul to the devil before he was born. Now the devil has come for his due. And what a devil. Ray Wise (TWIN PEAKS, 24) plays Satan with a gleeful twinkle in his eye, as he explains that Sam and his friend Sock will now serve as demonic bounty huntesr, retrieving souls that have escaped from hell and returning them to the neter regions. I wasn’t sold on the Kevin Smith-directed pilot, though there were some gleams of interest. The fact that the retrieval instrument the duo used to capture their errant target was a dustbuster (the tools will change each episode) was amusing, and, as noted, Wise was a hoot, but I didn’t feel it in quite the way I did CHUCK or PUSHING DAISIES. I’ll give it time to grow on me. Just not a lot.

Fox Bones – Fox’s lightweight procedural doesn’t have the grit of the Kathy Reichs novels it’s based on, but it’s got enough engaging characters to make it interesting. It looks like the primary change for the season will be a darker demeanor for Eric Millegan’s Zack, upon his return from Iraq.

8:00 p.m.

Fox House – Taking a cue from Fox’s other big hit, HOUSE is doing its own version of American Idol or, given the nature of its main character, SURVIVOR. Having lost his entire team at the end of last season, as a result of firings and resignations, Dr. Gregory House is attempting to assemble another group of foils. He starts with dozens of applicants and, in typical House fashion, winnows them away through threats, abuse, and all around misanthropy. Not to worry, though; in addition to the newcomers, the old crew will be back in some fashion or another.

NBC L&O: SVU – The strongest of the L&O shows now, even SVU is showing its age.

CBS NCIS – Military show meets CSI. Don’t watch it.

CBS The Unit – Military show meets 24. Haven’t watched it since the first season.

CBS Cane – DALLAS, with a Hispanic caste (and cast). Jimmy Smits and Hector Elizondo lead the family of a sugar empire. Pretty people doing nasty things in the name of family. A good cast, but soaps have lost a lot of their interest for me.

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