TV Squad previews NBC's new shows
So, to start things off, we've got a slew of NBC pilots to cover: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Heroes, Friday Night Lights, Kidnapped, 20 Good Years, 30 Rock and The Black Donnellys.
(Mondays at 9PM ET)
Premise of screener: The first of a two-part premiere episode. With Lost-like similarities, we're introduced to some of the characters we'll follow throughout the series (though not all of them yet, it seems). Some characters seem fully aware of their powers, while others aren't really so sure.
Keith says: This show will definitely have a fan following, though it has the high potential of becoming cheesy. There were only a few moments where I felt editing needed to be done, but otherwise it felt finished and ready to roll. Some of these "heroes" have powers that are more obvious than others, and it's not yet clear if all their intentions are good ones, leaving you to question the show's title. This is one of a few new shows I'll definitely follow beyond episode one. The very end of this episode will have you dying to see the next one.
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
(Mondays at 10PM ET)
Premise of screener: Studio 60 is celebrating its 20th year on the air (read: SNL), and the producer of the show has an on-air meltdown. He's fired, but how can they save the show? By bringing back the brilliant but drug dependent old writers to run the show. Can they bring the show together? Can they get along with the suits at the network?Bob says: This is an Aaron Sorkin/Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing, Sports Night) project, so you know that it's of high quality right from the get-go. The script is brisk, the acting is good, and the direction shows style and energy. I'm just worried about all the characters. There are so many characters, I wonder if people will give this show a chance. I hope they do, because judging from this one episode there's not a show like it on television. I'm already hooked.
(Wednesdays at 9:30PM ET)
Premise of screener: Liz Lemon is the head writer of the hit sketch program The Girly Show. A new network president has taken over (he just came from GE's microwave division) and he has definite ideas about the direction of the show, including hiring controversial comic Tracy Jordan. How does Liz keep the network brass happy while continuing to put out the show she and her buddy, show star Jenna DeCarlo, envisoned?
Joel says: I wondered how this show and the similarly-premised Studio 60 were going to co-exist. Now I see how: while Studio 60 focuses its ire straight at the tired sketch show genre, 30 Rock -- produced by Lorne Michaels and star Tina Fey -- makes no comment on the quality of SNL-like shows and focuses in on clueless network interference. The show has potential; both Alec Baldwin (as the network president) and Tracy Morgan (as Tracy Jordan) were funny in their roles, and Rachel Dratch (as Jenna) can just stare into a camera and be funny. The problem here is Tina Fey -- not her writing, mind you; it's sharper than anything she displayed at SNL. It's her acting; she plays every line like she's the most cynical person in the room, which just comes out flat. If they tighten some of these aspects up, the show might actually turn out to be a winner in the Earl/Office vein.
Friday Night Lights
(Tuesdays at 8PM ET)
Premise of screener: This series presents the same themes as the 2004 movie; it examines the lives of the players and coaches of the Dillon High School Panthers. In Texas, high school football is not just something to do; it's almost as important to a town as the fire and police departments. Eric Taylor has just been promoted to head coach, and people aren't sure he's got the chops for such an important job. The show details the lives of the team members as they prepare for and play each all-important Friday night game.
Joel says: I will say this about the show; it looks nice and is well-acted (Kyle Chandler is especially good as Coach Taylor, and it's always good to see Connie Britton of Spin City back on TV), and the football scenes are well done. But the first half of the show largely deals with how the teenagers deal with the unusual pressure on them to win but remain kids, and this is where the show breaks down. It shows the kids -- and it's hard to remember they're kids -- drinking, having sex, fighting, having sex, drinking, and having more sex. I'm not a prude, but to me this just seems like a One Tree Hill episode with a football game at the end.
(Wednesdays at 10PM ET)
Premise of screener: Leo Crain, the son of wealthy businessman Conrad Cain, has been kidnapped, and for various reasons Cain -- who's made some enemies in his business -- doesn't want to involve the authorities. So he hires the mysterious "retriever," Knapp, whose business is just getting the vicitim back no matter what. However, the feds do get involved, as retiring FBI agent Latimer King gets dragged into the case because of different reasons. There's lots of misdirection and rivalry. Who's involved? What's the reason why the Crains were targeted? All will unfold during the season.
Joel says: First of all, I was surprised at the quality of the cast: Delroy Lindo, Jeremy Sisto, Timothy Hutton, and Dana Delany are the principals (I like Dana Delany as much as I like Connie Britton). And the show is slickly-made and has all the tension of a feature film. I'm just wondering where they're going to go: are they going to focus on Knapp as the season goes on, or Agent King? Maybe the focus will shift as the season goes on. And how does this carry on to a second season? While I like the show, these season-long story arc shows are very iffy propositions; you could get a massive hit or you could get a show that no one watches and gets cancelled before the story arc concludes. So is this show 24 or Reunion? Only time will tell.
Twenty Good Years
(Wednesdays at 8PM ET)
Premise of screener: Here we meet John Mason and Jeffrey Pyne. One is a hotshot surgeon who's being asked to finally retire, the other is a stuffy courtroom judge who plays life safe. When Lithgow's character finally accepts his retirement, he decides it's now time to live the next twenty years to their absolute fullest, and he's dragging Tambor's character along with him, whether he likes it or not.
Keith says: Twenty Good Years? I could barely last twenty good minutes on this show. Out of all these pilots, I think Bob, Joel and I agree that this one just had nothing new to bring to the plate. It was sad to see these two talents not used to their full potential, though of course that could change in future episodes when these guys finally start doing the crazy stunts that they hope will make them feel alive again. There's only one scene in this screener that had me burst out laughing, and you'll know what it is when you see it, but it just wasn't enough to get me excited about the show.
The Black Donnellys
(Midseason show - TBD)
Premise of screener: We first meet Joey "Ice Cream" as he's being interrogated by the police regarding the whereabouts of some "bodies." As we follow Ice Cream's narration through the episode, we're introduced to the Donnelly brothers and their Irish friends. We learn what they mean to each other and what place they have amongst the Irish and Italian gangs in the area of New York known as Hell's Kitchen.
Keith says: This episode reminded me somewhat of A Bronx Tale. We see how the Donnellys and their friends grow up in the streets of New York, all through narration, though it's not yet clear if that narration will continue throughout the season. There were some clever scenes when Ice Cream wasn't being so honest in his tale to the police, which makes me hope the narration aspect sticks. It's a little tough to read where this series is going just from the premiere, though it seems we've just seen the beginning of what will eventually make this Irish gang the leaders on the streets. Oh, and for some reason one of the Donnelly brothers reminds me a lot of Tobey Maguire.
(Photo credits: NBC)