Thursday, August 16, 2007

NBC: The Good News And The Bad

I finally got through four of NBC's most prominent pilots for the upcoming season - "The Bionic Woman," "Journeyman," "Life" and "Chuck" — and I have to say, there's enough there that made me want to continue watching.

Of course, last year NBC produced more quality than any network with the likes of "Heroes," "Kidnapped," "Friday Night Lights" and "Studio 60," and network still remained in fourth place, with only "Heroes" being a bona fide hit.

So, while NBC still produces quality, it must find a way of bringing aboard the American public, no easy task to be sure.

Since these are the original, not-intended-to-air pilots, I'm not giving them full reviews, but I can tell you what's in store should you choose to turn the dial back to NBC:

--"Bionic Woman": This was the pilot I was most looking forward to, since it was co-created by David Eick, one of the brillliant minds behind the "Battlestar Galactica" remake. It shows, too, because three "BSG" alumns, including Katee Sackhoff, are key figures in "Bionic" as well. It's a tough pilot to discuss, because I know they are doing extensive reshoots on it.

The show revolves around Jamie Sommers (Michelle Ryan), a bartender who is essentially rebuilt by her scientist boyfriend after a car crash. But Jamie isn't the first to undergo this procedure, and let's just say the original bionic woman (Sackhoff) isn't too pleased with the powers that created her.

The show is pretty fast paced once it gets going, and Ryan and Sackhoff are both strong in their roles as these superwomen. Like "BSG," there's an overarching theme to the season, so it's hard to judge the show dramatically based on one episode.

--"Chuck": I didn't know what to expect of this series, but it's delightfully quirky. Chuck (Zachary Levi) reminds you of a nerdier version of Tom Cavanaugh's "Ed." He's a techie for a Best Buy-type store who receives a mysterious e-mail from an old college friend. It turns out the e-mail contains the sum total knowledge of the U.S. Intelligence community, making Chuck one very valuable commodity among the various spy agencies. Chuck tries to deal with this while dealing with the mundane activities of his life. With its tongue-in-cheek style, "Chuck" could be one of the more fun shows of the new season.

--"Journeyman": People have accused this new drama, starring Kevin McKidd ("Rome") as a "Quantum Leap" ripoff, but I wouldn't say that's completely accurate. McKidd stars as a news reporter in San Francisco who suddenly finds himself leaping about in time with no explanation. His leaps are centered around the life of a stranger whose life he saves. While the story gets a bit too bogged down in McKidd's personal problems, the ending has a clever twist that gives the pilot a worthwhile payoff.

"Journeyman" is as much "Tru Calling" as it is "Quantum Leap," and if you're going to borrow ideas from other shows, those are two pretty good ones to borrow from.

--"Life": The premise of this show - Damian Lewis ("Band of Brothers") is a cop who was wrongly imprisoned for 12 years and is now back on the force - didn't excite me too much, but "Life" was probably the best among the pilots I was sent. Lewis is outstanding as the cop who takes a Zen-like approach to his life as a way of coping during his time in prison. The pilot is presented as both a regular drama of a crime to be solved with elements of a documentary as various people from Lewis' life are interviewed.

The show also promises an interesting arc for the season centered around why Lewis was imprisoned in the first place.

THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: God, I love cable programming. Not only has it easily given us the best dramas of the summer, but they also repeat episodes a dozen times a week, very valuable when Cox Cable can't be bothered to come out and fix the cable for two days.

So I'm not too worried that I may miss two of my favorite summer shows tonight, "Burn Notice" (USA, 10 p.m.) and "Mad Men" (AMC, 10 p.m.), because I should be able to catch them at some point this weekend.

Still, I'd much rather be catching them tonight. "Mad Men" is considered by many to be the summer's best show, while "Burn Notice" continues to get better and more fun every week.

I tend not to promote reruns too often, but two of the cleverest episodes of their respective series air tonight. "My Name Is Earl" (NBC, 8 p.m.) is showing the takeoff of "Cops," while "Supernatural" (CW, 9 p.m.) is re-airing the episode in which the Winchesters visit a movie set.


zodin2008 said...

Thanks for the pilot update. I am also most in anticpation of "Bionic" though I wish they would throw Isiah Washington overboard. I was disappointed that such a loser of real life human being was added to the show for purposes of "media hype". Rather shameless.

The other shows sounds interesting and it's not a terrible thing that NBC continues to be in 4th allows them to hang onto to lower rated, high quality new shows like "Friday Night Lights" or "30 Rock" longer. Had Lights or Rock premiered on CBS last year and gotten those ratings, they wouldn't have made it past October.

As for "Journeyman", yeah, if it rips off "Quantum Leap" (possibly one of my 4-5 all time favorite series) and "tru Calling", that's a good pedigree.

As for tonight, can't wait for a new "Mad Men". It's literally the only series each week I actually look forward to. I mean, I watch "Rescue Me", "Psych", "Kyle XY" and other series, but "Mad Men" is the one I actually look forward to.

Phillip Ramati said...

That's a good point you bring up, that a lot of shows have survived on NBC that might not have if the network were doing better, especially "FNL."

However, if the network were doing better, it would mean presumably that these shows were getting better ratings with more people watching. So it's a double-edged sword.

My biggest worry is that NBC starts giving up on quality in favor of reality shows or other less-quality shows designed to appeal to a broader audience.

zodin2008 said...

And considering the switchover from kevin Reilly to Silverman & Graboff, plus considering their initial decisions, it appears NBC maybe (eventually) headed down the road of making less quality and making dull CSI type shows (and more horrible reality TV) since that is apparantly what the general public in fact wants.

Very sad.

Jonathan said...

Since I didn't start reading your blog before the new year, I am glad to see that I am not the only one who thought "Kidnapped" was a hell of a show. Finally getting to watch all of the episodes that were shot a month or so ago, it made me wonder if their intention all along was to wrap this storyline up in the 13 episodes they filmed, and then start a new storyline for the second half if it was picked up. It had a perfect pace to it, and I'm not really sure how they could have expanded it for 9 more episodes. And Sisto's character could easily be a person, ala Jack Black, that could find himself in these predicaments on a regular basis based on his profession. I was fairly shocked it didn't do well in the ratings considering the success of shows like "24," "Prison Break," and "Lost." But I guess "CSI New York" was just too much for it. Sucks.

Looking forward to all of those pilots, especially "Bionic Woman" and "Chuck." Wasn't sure what "Life" was going to pan out to be, but based on your description, I'm very curious. Unfortunately, the chances are only one of these shows, maybe 2 will be successfull enough to garner a full season and hopefully more; hopefully the best two get the audience approval.

Phillip Ramati said...

Kidnapped was one of my biggest disappointments from last season, in terms of a show not making it. I don't think NBC did it many favors in promoting it and yanking it, and trying to catch it on was too frustrating.

I think Chuck will be paired with Heroes, which should be a natural pairing. Actually, any of these shows would work well with Heroes.