The Future of NBC

     January 15, 2009

Written by Matt Goldberg

It’s embarrassing for NBC to be in 4th place in the ratings. Personally, I’d pick Fox for that slot but I guess you can’t underestimate the sustaining power of “American Idol” and “House”. Still, NBC is clearly doing something wrong when they have superior comedies like “The Office” and “30 Rock” getting schooled in the ratings by “Two and a Half Men”. Then again, maybe the American public just has really shitty taste in television.

But NBC is in 4th place and it has to find a way out. Since it can’t book Leno for three hours every night, it’s going to have to find some new programming while holding on to the quality they already have.

Fans worried about whether or not “30 Rock” would make it to a fourth season need worry no longer. Tina Fey’s popularity is undeniable and I guess NBC is figuring that eventually, if they make it available enough, the show will eventually find a substantial audience. I will say that it doesn’t have the uphill battle of “Arrested Development” since I know a lot of people that said they liked it but felt lost a lot of the time. You can’t get lost with a joke like “A Blaffair to Rememblack”. Also picked up for the 2009-2010 season are “The Office” and “The Biggest Loser”

But what about the new? Where is NBC going to find the next big hit it so sorely needs? If NBC wants to make it happen, they’re going to try to make it happen this spring. First, there’s the Untitled Daniels/Schur/Poehler which is NOT an “Office” spinoff, it’s just in “The Office” style and from its creators, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur. Documentary cameras follow Leslie Knope (Poehler), a mid-level bureaucrat in the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana. In an attempt to beautify her town — and advance her career — Leslie takes on what should be a fairly simple project: help local nurse Ann Logan (Rashida Jones) take on defensive bureaucrats, selfish neighbors, real estate developers, and single-issue fanatics — whose weapons are lawsuits, the jumble of city codes, and the very democratic process that Leslie loves so much. Aziz Ansari and Aubrey Plaza also star. The Untitled project premeries Thursday, April 9th at 8:30 PMET.

To me, this one is the easy sell. Not so with John Wells new project, “Southland”. I don’t want to say Wells “ruined” “The West Wing” after Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme left, but Wells is very dependable for recycled, relationship garbage and where things like saving lives and the workings of the executive branch pale in comparison next to who’s boinking who. “Southland” reads like Cop Drama #4,561 but I’ll let you be the judge. Here’s the kick-off paragraph:

From Emmy Award winners John Wells, Ann Biderman and Chris Chulack comes a raw and authentic look at the police unit in Los Angeles. From the beaches of Malibu to the streets of East Los Angeles, “Southland” is a fast-moving drama that will take viewers inside the lives of cops, criminals, victims and their families.

Holy shit. Never seen that before. If you’ve never seen a cop drama before, you can check out “Southland” when it premieres Thursday, April, 9th at 10:00 PM ET.

I am excited for “Kings” although I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s the alternate-reality aesthetic, maybe it’s Ian McShane, maybe it’s trying to apply the short fable of David and Goliath to an entire series. But I am intrigued. Wait, it’s from the executive producer of “Heroes”? Nevermind. If you’re still interested, “Kings” premieres Sunday, March 15th at8:00 PM ET.

Finally, there’s “The Chopping Block” which is a cooking competition show. Yet again, NBC goes the “Me-too!” route with reality television and will likely come up short as they always do. In fact, the chef-star is Marco Pierre White who was the star of the UK version of “Hell’s Kitchen”. It’s sad that NBC can’t aim any higher than wanting to be Fox. But if you’d rather tune in to wannabe-“Hell’s Kitchen” rather than actual “Hell’s Kitchen”, “The Chopping Block” premieres on Wednesday, March 11th at 8:00 PM ET.

Well, at least we get another season of “30 Rock”.

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