by pat howard

UPFRONTS | What was NBC in front of, really?

In NBC, Upfronts on May 5, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Yesterday was NBC’s much-ballyhooed InFront presentation, giving them a supposed two week head start on the traditional May upfront presentations of the networks’ fall schedules to advertisers. Except, NBC really only did half a presentation. They announced a bunch of renewals and six new series, complete with slickly produced NBC trailers (you know, the kind that could make I Love Toy Trains seem heartfelt and compelling). But they failed to include the fall schedule, which is the other half of these presentations.

They swear a schedule is forthcoming in two weeks at the regular upfronts, as soon as they advertisers help them decide what it will be. Granted, there’s not a whole lot of mystery here. Jay Leno is moving into primetime, taking up an hour from 10-11p/9-10c each weeknight. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of real estate to arrange, given that Saturday is for Dateline (remember when this was on five nights a week?) and reruns and Sunday is football night (I’m still amazed that NBC lost money on this year’s Super Bowl).

A few bubble series continue to hang in the balance (Chuck and Law & Order, for example). Their fates will also be finalized in two weeks, at the upfronts. So what was the point of this song and dance, other than to get a head start on the PR? The late Brandon Tartikoff, a legend among network execs, used to say that every show should be someone’s favorite show. With that in mind, I watched the preview clips NBC foisted upon us yesterday.

Community, the Joel McHale/Chevy Chase sitcom, should be a good fit with The Office and 30 Rock. The four-minute trailer of 100 Questions felt like half an hour, so I’ll likely be skipping that one. The best thing about Mercy that I can see is Guillermo Diaz (Weeds) as Angel. Parenthood, which I know is still shooting its pilot, seems soggy to me, though I clearly elude the target audience. I skipped over Trauma in much the same way I suspect viewers might in the fall.

I realize I’ve fallen into the “talk about us” trap that NBC set for the TV grist mill, but I doubt this tepid assessment is the kind of critical acclaim they’re hoping for. NBC is due for a comeback, eventually. TV is cyclical, and the Peacock has seen fallow periods before. But in the meantime, being known as a safe harbor for quality entertainment can’t be a bad thing. I might have been a little more selective and definitely would not ordered so many medical shows, but I’m no Brandon Tartikoff. Neither is Ben Silverman, I guess, but it never hurts to have heroes and aim high.

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