The Telefile
NBC: Ahead of the Game, but Still Undecided

NBC had their "infront" presentation today in 30 Rock's Studio 8H (aka SNL's studio) and while media types were treated to a look at their new slate of shows, we really didn't get that many answers or any kind of a schedule. All of that will apparently be magically revealed on May 19 at another NBC event -- until then we're left hanging about the fates of bubble shows like Chuck, My Name Is Earl, Law & Order and Medium. NBC Entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman did confirm, however, that sadly Life is dead. The NBC execs also confirmed that SVU will be back, with or without Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, which would be weird since they're sorta the heart and soul of that show. Also, no word on whether or not they'll chop The Biggest Loser in half (we hope so; it really doesn't need to be more than an hour) or how they are going to fit all of their new programs in with no 10 PM timeslots available thanks to Jay Leno.

But here's what we do know: Heroes will be back on Mondays, SVU will be back (in some form) and possibly on Wednesdays, The Biggest Loser will be on Tuesdays, there will be scripted dramas on Fridays and Dateline will move on over to Sunday nights. Parks and Recreation gets to come back to fill the big pit in NBC's comedy lineup, along with 30 Rock, The Office and special 30-minute SNL Weekend Updates on Thursday. During the presentation, Amy Poehler showed up wearing a surgical mask due to a fear of what she called monkey sniffles. She touted the big P&R season finale cliffhanger, in which "the Others return to the island and everyone finds out they are in purgatory." She also said something sincere about her show, but I didn't hear her because I was still chuckling over the intro that Silverman gave her, which made it sound like Amy had sacrificed her child to the television gods: "Amy, you've had an incredible year... You've had a baby and you killed it on Saturday Night Live... You launched your own sitcom..." We'll blame it on the teleprompter.

We'll also be getting more Celebrity Apprentice next year, which led to Silverman bringing Donald Trump up on stage. Trump, of course, hyped his show and added that "Joan and Annie are tough and they truly hate each other. There's a lot of venom out there." Yeah, no kidding. He wouldn't hint at who wins, but he did remind us all that there's a three hour "scenario" (his word, not mine) on Sunday, as if we could forget with the constant commercials.

As for the new stuff - usually the high point of these presentations -- it was a bit of a mixed bag. They of course spent a long, long time talking about the upcoming historical passing of the Tonight Show torch between Jay and Conan and so much chatter about The Jay Leno Show. Frankly, I don't care if he is getting out from behind the desk and getting celebrities up off the couch, or that his Jaywalking segments will transition with him, I'm still not going to watch five hours of him a week during primetime. The cute promos they showed us touting how his show will have 98% less murder than the other 10 PM shows made me smirk a bit, but only because Leno shot Rainn Wilson, while Jessica Alba looked vaguely confused about the whole bit. To me, this "DVR-proof" show means I've got five more hours a week in my TiVo for other programming.

Trauma was my favorite of the new dramas previewed, as it seemed like an ER substitute. (I love Southland, but I'm a sucker for medical shows). This one is about paramedics in San Francisco and it looks like there is a lot of chaos, blood and plenty of explosions. It should not to be confused with Mercy, their other new medical drama, this time about three nurses. (Those vague one word titles are killing me.) Mercy has one awesome tough gal (who sort of reminds me of Edie Falco on the upcoming Nurse Jackie, but with less issues), another sexy girl and then Michelle Trachtenberg as a newbie nurse. I like Trachtenberg, but only in small doses and it looks like there is a lot of her on this show. On the other hand, it does have James Tupper, who's wonderful, so they probably cancel each other out. I'm undecided about the whole love triangle/Grey's Anatomy vibe the show seems to have going on, though.

Parenthood is based on the 20-year-old Ron Howard movie that no one except TV execs remember since this is the second time it's been adapted for the small screen, and is stuffed full with famous faces trying to cope with the perils of having children at various life stages. It looks just fine, for a convoluted family drama, sort of like Brothers & Sisters without all the wine, and with more small children. Not really my particular cup of tea, but Friday Night Lights' Jason Katims and West Wing's Tommy Schlamme are working on it, so it might be worth a gander.

Then there is midseason drama Day One, which is your garden-variety apocalyptic series. Aussie actor David Lyons (who played the irksome Simon Brenner on ER) and Julie Gonzalo (Mac's annoying college roommate on Veronica Mars) head up an ensemble group of people trying to survive after the world has been destroyed by aliens, or something like that. The execs were careful to say it was still in the early stages, but the preview didn't really grab me. Based on the premise and the hugely expensive production values, it could have potential in a War of the Worlds meets Independence Day meets Jericho kinda way.

As for the comedies, there's good and horrible. The good is in the form of Community, a single-camera sitcom about a lawyer who has to go back to community college. Sounds dull in theory, but Joel McHale (of The Soup) stars as the lawyer, and he rounds up a group of oddballs (including Chevy Chase) for a study group. This one actually had me giggling, and I don't know where they found this Daniel Pudi guy, but he's a riot. On the other end of the spectrum is 100 Questions which is so terrible that it was actually painful. Do you remember that Ex List show last year where a girl had to go through all her ex-boyfriends in order to figure out which one was her true love? This one is sort of like that, except in three-camera sitcom form, and with a laugh track. Basically Charlotte is a single lady who goes to a dating site and has to answer their 100-question personality quiz. Each question brings back a memory of her relationships in the past. I cannot reiterate how very excruciating the two minutes of this show I sat through were. And I cannot possibly imagine actually watching a 30-minute version without crying.

On the reality (excuse me, "alternative programming") side, NBC's also going to have a new show produced by Jerry Seinfeld called The Marriage Ref, some awful-sounding Tony Robbins thing (I can't look at him... he freaks me out) and a program called Who Do You Think You Are? that has celebs (like Sarah Jessica Parker and Lisa Kudrow) research their genealogy, which sounds tediously dull.

That's pretty much all they had to offer, and we're still left waiting two more weeks to find out about those bubble shows, particularly Chuck. But we hope you all really like Jay Leno, because come next fall, that chin will be everywhere.




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