Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Watching the ABC upfront

So I cobbled together most of the ABC upfront by finding the clips scattered about the Internets. And I liked what I saw. So let's compare notes, shall we?

--The only OUTRIGHT bust I saw was Big Day. The trailer was straining for amusement but never quite reaching it. Still, the cast is pretty great (Wendie Malick is able to sell just about anything), so I have to assume there are bigger laughs hiding in the actual pilot. Right? RIGHT?! Or maybe they all just signed on for the format: 24 as sitcom. Ah, well.

--William Shatner singing. There's something that never gets old. And introducing attractive men! Who all looked embarrassed! Except for Hurley! But that's to be expected.

--The next comedy introduced, In Case of Emergency, was actually a little dark, I thought. It seems very SERIOUS, which is cool for a sitcom, but I wonder if that will alienate viewers. It's not so much funny ha-ha as it is funny-stew-about-how-the-world-has-screwed-you-over. Which we all gotta do sometimes. It's amazing they didn't think this was a good fit with DANCING WITH THE STARS.

--Speaking of which, Stephen McPherson has charisma, baby. And, apparently, he can dance. As the head of ABC entertainment showed by dancing with one of the dancers from DWTS. He's a welcome tonic to the dry, dry, dry folk at NBC (whom I've only seen bits and pieces of).

--I don't remember which comedy was next, but for sake of my memory, let's say it was Ugly Betty. . .er. . .Betty the Ugly (I like the original title better). This looked kind of cute, if not like something I would watch week after week (it's the televised equivalent of a chick flick). One of the problems with putting TV for singles on Friday nights is that said programming tends to drive home just how UNattractive and ALL ALONE the singles are. Betty doesn't do that. America Ferrara brings a new type of woman to primetime, and it looks like she does the role justice. I didn't laugh, but I smiled.

--ABC seems a bit. . .embarrassed by the Desperate Housewives now. They were trotted out for a cursory wave at the end of the presentation, but even in ABC's montages, DH was sandwiched in between Lost and Grey's every time. DH was overexposed, and the quality fell off sharply in its second season. In that regard, it's remarkably similar to Friends (even if Friends' second season was much better quality-wise). I hope Marc Cherry can right the ship, even though I'm not watching anymore. I feel kind of bad for him. Even though I won't watch his show.

--Help Me, Help You finally got me to chuckle (under my breath). There's just something about an angry, angry man that is comic gold every time. And the gag about the suicidal guy landing on the boss who just fired him is timed well (if a little grim). Does ABC REALLY think dark humor is the future of sitcoms? Really? Still, it's got Ted Danson and Jane Kaczmarek.

--If DH is embarrassing McPherson, he's in LOVE with Grey's Anatomy. That show was everywhere, right down to the odd parody of the Super Bowl episode's shower scene.

--Let's Rob. . . finally found my funny bone. If the whole 30 minutes is as funny as this trailer, ABC has found its comedy hit. Smart lines, instantly recognizable characters. . .even a hilarious turn from Mick Jagger. I knew the creators of Ed would strike gold someday. And here it is. But about that title. . .let's change it.

--Everybody's thrilled about multiple platforms and the like. But the talk about watching TV on your cell phone, computer, etc. got really boring really quickly.

--Notes from the Underbelly could be another comedy hit for ABC. But it's in a terrible time slot. It's not the best show ever (you can tell), but it's got potential (you can tell) and some good actors. Plus, it's got an interesting point-of-view. Still. . .that horrible time slot? Let's hope ABC has an alternate plan for this one. Still, it's relatable.

--I know Jon thinks single-camera sitcoms will take off. But I think there are going to be too many of them. It won't matter if they're good. People will long for the reassuring sounds of the (sigh) laugh track.

--On to the dramas! I don't know (exactly) how The Nine is going to be a series. But the trailer was sure intriguing. And the cast is the definition of "full of TV all-stars." Which you could say for a lot of ABC's drama pilots. And the idea of turning post-traumatic stress disorder into a whole series, then teasing out exactly what the trauma was is one full of promise (the creator figured out how to follow up CSI with Without a Trace, so I think he knows what will go well with Lost). I'll be checking it out (of course, I check everything out).

--Smart move giving all of the advertisers the complete pilots for every show on DVD. It shows confidence, and it shows that you think your product is worth selling. ABC seemed proud of every one of these shows. The law of averages says many will stink, but we won't think about that just now.

--Brothers & Sisters looks too much like a cable show to make it on network, I'm afraid. It, too, has an all-star cast, but I think maybe it will be too dour to follow Housewives. Still, it looks like ALL OF THE CHARACTERS HAVE SECRETS, so maybe it will give everyone that feel of first-season Housewives.

--ABC has been really smart about splitting up its dramas this year. There are three action-oriented "for the guys" pilots and three soap-oriented "for the girls" pilots. And Six Degrees looks like it could be both.

--Next, Daybreak, and we're back to the action. Of the ABC drama pilots, this looked the least likely to succeed. The cast is amazing (again), and Taye Diggs is a VERY charismatic lead, but I just don't see a way to do Groundhog Day the series (even with extensive action) and not make it get boring after a while. And what happens in season two? He lives a different day over and over and over? Still, a good choice to fill in for Lost, even if I felt something else would have worked even better (it's coming).

--ABC seems to be returning all of its alternative series (the fancy name for reality shows). All of them work well enough I guess. I just think it's stupid abandoning Monday with the Wife Swap/Bachelor duo. Though I guess they have to have SOME night where they won't do promotion. Still, there's a definite theme. Nice things happening to people who deserve it. And stars dancing.

--Men in Trees is another series that looks cute enough, though it's another I probably won't watch. Anne Heche isn't all that bad now that she's no longer trying to channel Celestia, and the cast of men in Alaska is full of "Hey! I know that guy!"s. But, even though I like Alaska as a setting, I don't know who the audience is for this on Friday nights.

--ABC's new alternative series include a show where people in a bad spot sell their crap on eBay and learn just how much money their crap is worth. Also, there's a game show. I don't foresee that taking off. And a show where people do crazy stuff like extreme parallel parking. And they just picked up a hidden-camera show today. THAT I can see taking off. And. . .let's see. . .there's the country music awards? I zoned out during this part.

--Traveler is the show that should have stepped in for Lost (unless they're saving it to go before Lost at some point or something, though that might be too intense). This just looks like an insanely good time, seeing as its a mash-up of 24, Prison Break, The Fugitive and our fears about the War on Terror. Plus, it has Viola Davis. The cast for this one was a little under-the-radar, so I didn't pay it a lot of heed at first. After seeing the trailer, I'm definitely interested.

--Mary J. Blige turned up to sing U2's "One," which is something she's becoming known for, I guess. "One," a song about finding yourself through love for God and love for your neighbor (and the pain that both cause), was being used to sell advertisers on the idea of buying ad time on television. Fill in your own irony as you will.

--And, finally, J.J. Abrams rides in to save the day, as Six Degrees spreads its wings. ABC loves them some Abrams, and the man knows how to craft a pilot. This one (again) has an all-star cast, full of faces you'll recognize (and Hope Davis!). The premise (six strangers are connected, even though they don't know it) is one full of promise, even if it's also fraught with danger (in essence, the show is going to have to link together six mini-shows to pull this off). There was no dialogue in the trailer, but it looks handsomely shot. And Erika Christensen shows us her ta-tas.

--At the start of the presentation, a new device was introduced that was said to be a device that would revolutionize the world, that would connect us all. The device, of course, was a television, designed to drive home the point that TV can reach more eyeballs than anything else. And, I swear, NOTHING got a louder round of applause than that TV. Not Mary J. Blige. Not the new shows. Not even Jimmy Kimmel (who was funnier than I expected). It ACTUALLY TOOK William Shatner, a chorus line of beautiful girls, the creator of Desperate Housewives AND a parade of hunky, hunky men (all at once, mind you) to top the applause that television got. And the TV didn't even DO anything! It didn't sing or tap dance or anything!

--And at the end, they played "Midnight at the Oasis," and all was well.

More reviews coming up (Prison Break and Scrubs), plus farewells to Will & Grace and That '70s Show. Plus, I'll be introducing more new writers as the weeks roll on. So stick around.

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