Monday, June 02, 2008

Network Report Cards '08, I: NBC

So begins the week where I try to grade the networks on their performances from this past year. It's more difficult than last year, because I have to grade on a curve thanks to the strike, which disrupted all of the networks' seasons.

Today we start with the Peacock.

WHAT WAS GOOD: It's hard to argue with NBC's out-of-the-box approach to creativity. You won't find "CSI"-style, cookie-cutter procedurals here (except for the umpteen number of "Law & Order" spinoffs).

NBC showed quite a bit of diversity among its programs as well as quality, with shows ranging from "Life" to "Chuck" to "Friday Night Lights." It's old standards ("L&O," "ER") continue to have a loyal following, and its Thursday night lineup of sitcoms is still the best in terms of quality.

WHAT WAS BAD: NBC continues to be mired in a ratings slump. A much-ballyhooed remake of the "Bionic Woman" fell flat both creatively and in the ratings. Season 2 of "Heroes" didn't live up to the first season. NBC failed to create a breakout hit among any of its new shows, and the ones that were renewed got to be so more because of the strike than big numbers.

OVERALL: I'd hate to see NBC go the reality/game show route more than it already has ("Deal or No Deal," "American Gladiators"). Unfortunately, those shows are producing more consistent numbers than the network's dramatic programming. As a viewer, it's frustrating to see clever, well-done shows like "Journeyman" fizzle out because of lack of ratings, but unfortunately, it's a reality in this day and age.

GRADE: C-. NBC deserves props for at least trying different things, and I hope they continue to do so. Unfortunately, one also has to be realistic, and TV - more than ever - is a numbers game these days.


MONDAY'S BEST BETS: One of the more odd reality shows to come out in recent years was "The Mole" (ABC, 10 p.m.) Hosted by Anderson Cooper the first time around, it involves people doing all sorts of crazy things while one of the contestants continually sabotaged their efforts. ABC got rid of it for a couple of years, but brings it back tonight as relatively cheap summer fare, sans Cooper.


Jonathan said...

I was annoyed about "Journeyman" as well. However, since we will be getting another season of "Chuck," "Friday Night Lights," and "Life," I feel that will ease the pain a bit. Less sad about "Bionic Woman," but I will admit it was getting a lot more intriguing before they had to pull the plug.

Also, I watched "In Plain Sight," last night. I think the murder mystery aspect, at least in the pilot, was awful, but I loved the characters for the most part. Was a huge fan of McCormack's from back in the day on the criminally underrated "Murder One," so I'll give her a chance for a few more weeks. I feel that Fred Weller has the potential to be a break-out star with his role on the show as well.

Phillip Ramati said...

In the other two episodes of In Plain Sight I've seen, they focus less on the mystery and more on the Witness Protection program. And Fred Weller gets all of the good lines.

The show isn't in the league of Burn Notice on USA, but it's worth checking out.

Jonathan said...

No, definitely not in the same league as "Burn Notice." They had a couple of previews for its 2nd season last night, and I cannot wait till July. With that and "Mad Men," Summer programming is all of a sudden not too shabby.

It sucked to hear that "Rescue Me" and "Damages" will not be on again until next year though; yet another fallout from the strike.

zodin2008 said...

Hey guys, speaking of great summer programming, don't forget about "My Boys" which returns very soon! Can't wait for that one.

Since I posted on Fox first, not realizing you had "slipped in" NBC, I will make the same call - and you should apply grading this way to CBS, ABC and The CW.

(you could also do a separate blog on the year in Cable).

Again, I would split my grade in two here.

Programming content: B
Ratings Performance: D

NBC has an overall larger number of better shows than Fox, creatuvely, but most Americans seem more willing to watch the crud that Fox peddles, rather than the quality that NBC tried to air, like the underwatched but terrific, "Journeyman", a show (like ABC's new "Eli Stone") that simply got better and better every week, if you stick with it.

(I felt this way in 2005 about the brilliant but underwatched, "Invasion").

Actually, I could apply this to "Life" as well but I am far less excited about the return of Charlie Crews (Damien Lewis) than I would have been about "Journeyman's" great Dan Vasser (Kevin McKidd).

"Bionic Woman" was a dud, agree with this, and so was season 2 of "Heroes". Then again, I saw MASSIVE problems arising in season 1 and I know Phillip, you had a more pollyannic view of it in season 1 which is why you are both less critical and more shocked.

One thing I would have thought "Heroes" would have learned its lesson was a massive influx of new characters in season 2, most of whom, even the normally reliable Kristen Bell, fell very very flat. I have already heard about at least 5-6 additions to season 3 of "Heroes" (including Bruce Boxleitner) so it appears Tim Kring & co. may have not learned their lesson. Color me NOT surprised.

As for Game and Reality shows, well, I hate them all generally but it's a fact of life. We can take solace in the fact that when "American Galdiators" returned to air recently, it bombed horribly in the ratings.

Phillip Ramati said...

I still have hopes that Heroes can bounce back. Some of the storylines started off OK, and it ended on a solid note, but the bulk of the season was uneven.

As I posted on the Fox comments, I give one overall grade.

I've seen the first two My Boys for season 3, and I'll post about them when the show kicks off June 12.