Advertisers were given their first big glimpse of the fall TV schedule Monday as NBC launched the annual Upfront Week in Manhattan. The upfronts are lavish (and longish) network presentations staged for the ad community with the hope of vacuuming up all their money with the promise of great, popular shows.
The truth is, of course, that few shows manage to be great and/or popular. One could even call this a sad truth.
But, to be philosophical, nothing ventured, nothing gained – and NBC could use some gaining. After applying advanced critical theorem to the brief clips presented at Radio City Music Hall, I would say these shows showed the most potential:
The Michael J. Fox Show: Clearly a prestige sitcom, it stars Fox as a news anchor who – like the actor himself – has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Fox has already proven, on Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Good Wife, that he can play comedy that acknowledges yet doesn’t exploit his physical condition. This is just a bigger vehicle for him to deploy his skill and intelligence. The excellent supporting cast includes Kate Finneran (I Hate My Teenage Daughter) and Wendell Pierce (Treme). Watch a clip below:
Blacklist: NBC is very high on this new drama, claiming it had the best testing scores of any drama in a decade, or roughly one-and-a-quarter Honey Boo Boo years. James Spader plays a notorious criminal fugitive who surrenders himself to the FBI with the helpful suggestion that they use him to solve other crimes – and with the proviso that he be partnered with a young FBI profiler (Megan Boone). Well, yes, it does sound something like Silence of the Lambs, doesn’t it? The chief selling point is Spader, who won many Emmys for Boston Legal and is an expert at playing characters who are pretentious, elusive, unpleasant, yet charismatic. That’s a fairly small market to corner. But still, he’s done it. Watch a clip below:
Believe: Because I’m a sucker for just about any pilot from producer director J.J. Abrams of Lost fame. This is one, coming in January, about a little girl gifted, or cursed, with a range of mysterious powers, including everything from telekinesis to – who knows … preternaturally advanced grammar? Also, there are the expected shadowy forces that conspire to capture her and her power.
Now that I’ve written out that description, I’m less sure about this one …
One worrisome note: The prospect of a Dracula starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) gave me a nice Gothic frisson, but the clip of this production, while rich in Victorian detail, didn’t have much atmosphere or menace. Still, that was just an early clip – and there’s no way this could be as lifeless as Johnny Depp‘s Dark Shadows. Watch a clip below: