The annual TV upfronts have started in Manhattan, with the networks announcing their fall lineups and tossing sardine-size video clips into the open mouths of assembled advertisers and media people.
The big news out of NBCs presentation Monday is that The Voice, the network's standout hit, will be making more use of those wonderful swivel chairs. Yes, America, you will get to see more of Christina Aguilera swiveling, and you will be glad of it.
As to the actual new lineup ... well, NBC has had its problems with programming. Even the mightily promoted Smash, after a heavenly opening, sputtered. Its star, Katharine McPhee, was brought out not once but twice to perform at the upfront, but her show won't be back until midseason.
For fall, NBC has decided to emphasize comedy, with four new sitcoms and only two new dramas. But I can't say any of the clips thrilled me.
The shows seem solidly conceived, without much innovative spark – but then, these aren't even pilots, mere nano-pilots. Perhaps, as one NBC executive put it, we will witness a renaissance in programming. If that implies that The Playboy Club was the Dark Ages, then that might prove correct. Here's what I liked best:
Revolution: A what-if fantasy thriller that imagines a world devastated by the total loss of electricity. The visual design, with metropolises overrun by vegetation, is impressive, and the very clever J.J. Abrams is executive producing. But shows like this, if I may release an exquisite drop from my dispenser of irony, tend to run out of energy quickly.
Go On: The latest comedy vehicle for Matthew Perry. He plays a sportscaster who attends a grief-therapy group to cope with the death of his wife. It looked something like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with sitcom patter instead of electroshock, but Perry is one of the best comic actors out there, a study in quicksilver, and he knows how to play light and dark.
That said, I'm more excited by the still unscheduled Mockingbird Lane, the Munsters reboot starring Eddie Izzard. A pilot hasn't even been shot, yet this is an idea whose time has come.
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