The Telefile
NBC Upfronts 2012: Once More With Feeling

This morning at Radio City Music Hall, NBC unveiled their new fall lineup with the help of a lot (a lot) of singing. Those of us in attendance were treated to a performance by Voice winner Jermaine Paul, a full gospel choir and orchestra backing Smash stars Leslie Odom Jr. and Katherine McPhee on "Stand" to close the presentation and, to open things up, McPhee and Megan Hilty doing "Let Me Be Your Star," complete with a bit of The Voice judges (sans Blake Shelton) spinning their chairs for them. And then in a pre-packaged bit, Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon "found" footage of the returning shows infused with music (including The Office, Parks and Recreation, Law & Order: SVU, Meet the Press and, most amusingly, Grimm). Honestly, while NBC exec Bob Greenblatt joked that a Grimm musical episode was a long way from a reality, it might get me to start watching that show again. The network's execs promised that their fall lineup won't be all music, but there is a lot of it, and they are going really heavy on the comedies as well. In fact, they mentioned the word comedy about 1,000 times in the two hours, but given that they did see fit to renew both Community and Parks and Recreation (and I got to sit within 100 yards of Adam Scott, which probably violates my restraining order in some way), I am inclined to overlook that. However, I am not willing to overlook the fact that most of the comedies that they mentioned look mediocre and forgettable at first glance.


Go On (Tuesdays at 9 PM)
So a show like Community struggles in the ratings and got bumped to a death slot on Friday nights (after Whitney), but a show that seems to channel the same sort of quirky oddball group behavior gets a Tuesday night slot? This can't end well. Matthew Perry is playing a sports radio host (because radio hosts are a thing on NBC next season) and after his wife dies while texting in a car accident, he's forced into group therapy where he makes fun of other people's pain, and then eventually helps them heal with the power of bracketology. Yes, really. Playboy Club star Laura Benanti is the group's therapist (maybe they'll need her to sing Zooey Deschanel-style at some point), along with Tyler James Williams, who has definitely grown up since Everybody Hates Chris.

The New Normal (Tuesday at 9:30 PM)
I was actually stupidly excited to see footage of this show, as NeNe Leakes has been a breath of fresh air on Glee lately. So the idea of her teaming up with Ryan Murphy seemed promising, but we got so very little of her in the trailer that I was pretty let down. And the plot of the show just seemed far too nice and not satirical enough for something that came from Murphy's brain. David (Justin Bartha) and Bryan (Andrew Rannells) are a gay couple desperate to have a kid; Goldie (Georgia King) is a willing surrogate hoping to someday dress as snappily as Alicia Florrick (we all have that dream) and provide a better life for her own pre-teen daughter; and Ellen Barkin is Goldie's bigoted grandmother who doesn't like gay people or black people or unwed mothers. NeNe appears to be the egg donor (or maybe she's just one of the guys' assistants?), and was the only thing about the trailer that even made me half-chuckle.

Animal Practice (Wednesdays at 8 PM)
While it was a bit exciting to see a monkey in the middle of Radio City, I can't say that it was as exciting to see a live-action show where said monkey is the star. Though, according to the execs the monkey, was the highest testing character of pilot season (we only think they were kidding). Justin Kirk (the actual star of this show) looked thrilled about that. Anyway, Kirk is a veterinarian who works at an animal hospital curing all kinds of creatures... and hooking up with the hot women who bring their pets in. He butts heads with his boss (Amy Huberman) and then they make googly eyes at each other. And certified showkiller Tyler Labine is there to behave idiotically around women. Did I mention there's a monkey in a lab coat and he's scrubbing in to procedures?

Guys With Kids (Wednesdays at 8:30 PM)
Most awkward moment of the day came when this comedy was introduced as being executive produced by Jimmy Fallon, and he started clapping wildly from the wings of Radio City completely unprompted. And then the clips of this show aired, and no one in the audience laughed. Awkward. I guess that's why this sitcom got saddled with a laugh track. It's about three dude friends (Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford and Zach Cregger) who hang out with their babies strapped to their fronts in Snuglis and complain about their baby mamas. Jamie Lynn Sigler (aka Meadow Soprano) and Tempest Bledsoe (aka Vanessa Huxtable) are two of the said moms. It's a decent cast, but a terrible and hackneyed plot. We'd rather stick with Up All Night.

Save Me (Midseason)
Anne Heche is a total drunken mess who dies eating a sandwich, but is saved, gets psychic powers, starts being a real mother/less drunk human being and declares herself a prophet of God. This show had Showtime's name written all over it, but somehow it landed on NBC.

1600 Penn (Midseason)
The actual human who tested almost as well as the monkey? Josh Gad (from Broadway's Book of Mormon). He's playing the president's screw up son in this sitcom, and he's doing it in the most Jack Black-y way he possibly can. Bill Pullman is the president, Jenna Elfman is the stepmom trying to deal with his many offspring, and there's a former Obama speechwriter working on the show behind the scenes. They claimed it was perfect for an election year, but the show won't be airing until after the election is long over. So... while it could be funny in small doses, it will have nothing to do with the election.

Next Caller (Midseason)
Dane. Cook. They want me to watch a show with Dane Cook. Well, I'm sure someone will, so it's probably not a bad programming strategy. I'm just dreading it about as much as the next season of Whitney (which is also a thing that is really happening). Anyway, Cook's playing a Howard Stern-esque shock jock (see, radio DJs... very timely) who turns into an even bigger jerk because of a breakup, so his bosses end up hiring a peppy young feminist woman (Collette Wolfe) to be his new foil. Hijinks ensue, and Jeffrey Tambor is their boss who only sees the ratings boost and doesn't care about their feelings.


Revolution (Mondays at 10 PM)
It's as if Jericho, Terra Nova and Falling Skies had an awkward three-way and this was the result. It's also from creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural), produced by J.J. Abrams and directed by Jon Favreau, proving that if you take three guys who can do good genre stuff and put them together, it does not always end well. It's about a post-apocalyptic world, set 15 years after everything electric (and battery-operated, for some reason) stopped working. Militias form, families are torn apart, people have to make do without and there's a complicated plot about some magical USB drive that holds all the secrets. I'll watch it out of curiosity and misguided loyalty, but I am in no way excited about it.

Chicago Fire (Wednesdays at 10 PM)
After the NBC executive introduced this firefighting drama as being about an occupation "rarely seen on television," with Rescue Me star Steven Pasquale in the audience to promote his new midseason show Do No Harm, I was ready to write this one off. But the actual fire effects look pretty good, and the series feels like Grey's Anatomy with firemen. It certainly has an attractive enough cast with Taylor Kinney (Mason Lockwood from Vampire Diaries), Jesse Spencer (Chase from House) and Monica Raymund (Dana from The Good Wife). So if you like your procedural dramas with fireballs and hookups, then this could be the show for you.

Do No Harm (Midseason)
The most (only) truly promising NBC show of the fall features Steven Pasquale as a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde type of character, but with a medical twist. He's a neurosurgeon who has this alternate personality that is under control thanks to medicine, but has recently become immune to treatment. So now he's a nice guy during the day and a drunken, manwhoring, abusive dude during the night. Sounds predictable, but the teaser looked slickly done, Pasquale has a ton of promise and while it may delve into monster-doings-of-the-week territory, it sure looks like a fun ride. Or at least more fun than Awake.

Infamous (Midseason)
Like Revenge? Here's a show that's almost exactly like that on NBC. Meagan Good is a detective who goes undercover to investigate the murder of her childhood best friend, and she ends up involved in that friend's really screwed up wealthy family. In this bizarre reality, Tate Donovan is somehow the son of Victor Garber (or so it seems, despite their less-than-15-year age difference in real life), and even in the footage we saw, Good's cop seems on the verge of getting caught. So while we couldn't figure out how Revenge would go on more than a season when we saw the pilot, we're really not sure how this show is going to last more than a few episodes plot-wise... or rating wise for that matter. Sorry, Spy Daddy.

NBC has a few other shows in development that may still be surface in midseason. Mockingbird Lane (from Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller) is about to start filming. Eddie Izzard will be playing the head of the Munster family in this modernized version, and since there was no footage, it was far less awkward when Fuller started clapping from the audience at the mention of his show. They are also making a version of the Hannibal Lecter story, aptly titled Hannibal, and it will feature Hugh Dancy as Will Graham, though the titular character has yet to be cast. And they are also working on something called Crossbones: The Story of Blackbeard, which we learned nothing about aside from "hey, pirates!" So if the midseason slate doesn't work out, at least they've got some kind of backup plan in place. Otherwise, they can always go with the musical Grimm episode.

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