Upfront Report 2011: NBC

This week is the Upfront Market in which the television networks present their upcoming progamming lineups for next season to potential advertisers.  As I did last year, I will take a look at what new shows each network has in store.  First up is NBC.  (Tune in tomorrow for my thoughts on FOX, followed the rest of the week by ABC, CBS, and finally the CW.)

The biggest news is the pilot that did not make it -- NBC passed on the much hyped Wonder Woman by David E. Kelley.  Despite high anticipation during pilot season, its failure seems to validate the negative buzz it had been receiving. Many argued that it was more like one of Kelley's other dramas than a faithful retelling of the comic book icon.  While I would have loved to have seen a full series starring Adrianne Palicki as the Amazonian superheroine, I'm glad they put it out of its misery and avoided a Bionic Woman reboot embarrassment if it wasn't going to live up to fan expectations.  Let's hope someone someday gets it right and recaptures fans' imaginations as Lynda Carter did in the 1970s hit TV series.

Now, here are the new shows that NBC did pick up:

Free Agents - Based on a British sitcom, this comedy follows two Public Relations executives on the rebound from failed relationships.  It stars Hank Azaria, Kathryn Hahn, and Anthony Head.  I usually root for anything with Azaria -- I would love to see him have a hit with him as the headliner.

Grimm - I am glad and surprised that this show made it, but am worried by its Friday deathslot.  It's a high concept fantasy crime drama -- think of it as a cross between a police procedural and a supernatural monster-of-the-week show, inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairytales.  I hope it lasts.

The Playboy Club - Another show I'm glad got picked up is this drama set in the early 1960s at the Playboy Club in Chicago.  Produced by Brian Grazer, it's NBC's attempt to capture Mad Men glory.

Prime Suspect - One remake that seems to have succeeded is this American version of the acclaimed British television series.  This time, Detective Jane Timoney (played by the awesome Maria Bello) is working in a New York City police precinct.

Up All Night - This sitcom focuses on a couple balancing their careers, their marriage, and having a new baby.  The cast seems great: Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, and Maya Rudolph. The show was created by Emily Spivey of Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live.

Whitney - Who says the sitcom is dead?  Here's another one, starring Whitney Cummings of Chelsea Lately in a comedy about a happily unmarried couple.

The following shows are scheduled to be mid-season replacements, joining 30 Rock which is on hiatus to accomodate star Tina Fey's pregnancy.

Are You There Vodka?  It's Me Chelsea - Inspired by Chelsea Handler's bestselling book, I hope they change the title.  It may have been fine for the bestseller, but it's too unwieldy for a TV show name in my always humble opinion.  It follows the exploits of a 20-something bartender played by Laura Prepon.  Handler also plays a role.

Awake - This high-concept drama seems intriguing.  A detective wakes up from an accident and lives through two alternate realities, one in which his wife died and one in which his son died.  Sounds like one of those annual TV shows that will never last.

Bent - In this sitcom starring Amanda Peet, two people find themselves suddenly attracted to the qualities that typically had repelled them.

Best Friends Forever - Another sitcom, this one about the misadventures of two BFFs.

The Firm - This has promise.  Based on John Grisham's book and the hit movie adaptation, the drama continues the story of attorney Mitchell McDeere a decade later.

Smash - I'm surprised this Glee knockoff was pushed to the midseason.  I'm sure NBC doesn't want people to think of it as a Glee knockoff, but let's face it, it is.  It's a musical drama about talented folks trying to create a Broadway show based on the life of Marilyn Monroe.  The cast includes theater, music, TV, and movie stars Christian Borle, Debra Messing, Katharine McPhee, Megan Hilty, Anjelica Huston, and Jack Davenport.  Oh, and did I mention that it's executive produced by Steven Spielberg?

Which of these shows will find an audience and which will join the dustheap along with NBC's cancelled shows The Cape, The Event, Law and Order: L.A., Outsourced, and others?


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