The Upfronts are taking place this week across the US. These are the presentations the TV networks give to journalists and media buyers to build enthusiasm for the upcoming TV season.

Thumbs-Up-Thumbs-Down

For TV nerds, this is far more exciting than it should be as it will reveal which shows will be dominating their lives over the next year, as well as reveal which shows have been cancelled. This was as good an opportunity as any to revel in discussion of new telly programs, and so White Noise presents its guide to the Upfronts.

NBC
All eyes in the industry this week are on NBC. After a disasterous experiment in 2009/10 with The Jay Leno Show, NBC has been forced to regroup and approach the 2010/11 season in a more traditional manner. Stripping Leno five nights a week at 10pm meant that they saved money on five scripted series. With the unfunny chin gone, NBC this year have a greater quantity of new series on their schedule.

Will this years schedule lead to a reversal of fortune for NBC? It’s unlikely. The new shows greenlit by the network appear to be repeats of the same mistakes made in recent years. New additions all feel tired, bloated, and simply don’t reflect the current zeitgeist. For example, are viewers really expected to connect with the protagonists of their new comedy Outsourced, considering that overseas call centres are seen as a major frustration in the lives of so many?

In many ways NBC are reminiscent of Channel Nine – former television powerhouses that are struggling to find an identity.

New: The Event, Chase, Undercovers, Law & order: Los Angeles, Outsourced, Love Bites, Outlaw, and School pride.
Cancelled: Mercy, Trauma, Heroes, and Law & Order.

Undercovers

What is it?
An action/adventure spy show created by JJ Abrahms and Josh Reims.

To put the spark back in their marriage, some couples take a tropical vacation. Not Steven and Samantha. They rejoin the CIA. Now they’re discovering things about each other they never knew. Like which lock-picking technique each prefers, and who killed who, and how well they work together in a hostile environment.

Will it be any good?
With Abrahms a superstar in Hollywood these days, it’s unlikely he’ll be involved in the day to day running of the show. As evidenced with Lost and Fringe, Abrahms staffs his productions with quality producers, so it should be safe to assume that this will in the very least be rather entertaining. I’m hoping to be happily entertained.

Who’s in it?
In these days of the GFC, one doesn’t need star power. Undercovers has opted for a largely unknown cast, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On-screen are Jessica Parker Kennedy, Boris Kodjoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Spooks, Doctor Who), Carter MacIntyre, and Major Dad himself Gerald McRaney.

And a preview?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jneh5WqlU4[/youtube]

The Event

What is it?
What if there was a cover-up so big that even the President was on a need-to-know basis? And what if some average guy stumbled upon the truth – a secret so powerful it could literally change the course of humanity? You think that guy would stand a chance of survival?

Will it be any good?
The Event is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, meaning that the show will be big in budget and in scope as it explores this conspiracy that seemingly leads all the way to the White House. While the show has potential, it has a Flash Forward vibe surrounding it (re: big budget, big premise, little pay-off).

Who’s in it?
Jason Ritter (Joan of Arcadia, W.), Blair Underwood (In Treatment, LA Law), and Scott Patterson (Gilmore Girls, Aliens In America).

And a preview?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eOdY-SvKiI[/youtube]

The Paul Reiser Show

What is it?
Paul plays himself, an ex-TV star who’s searching for his next big gig. As Paul waits for that day to come, he spends time with his family and a group of guys who still think they’re 25. It’s all fine, as long as he doesn’t get caught doing something embarrassing that ends up on TMZ.

Will it be any good?
It’s Paul Reiser doing a network television version of Curb Your Enthusiasm. A sanitised version of Curb makes one want to shudder, but Reiser has a great TV presence and he’s a fairly charming guy.

Who’s In It?
Paul Reiser, for one. Also on screen are Ben Shenkman (Angels in America, Damages), Andrew Daly (Ben Franklin from ‘The Office’), and Amy Landecker.

And a preview?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWHEVOcn7tg[/youtube]

Outsourced

What is it?
Todd Donovan is sent to India to run his company’s call center. While Todd has to teach them how to make the up-sell to the Deluxe Twin Beer Helmet, he’s going to have to adapt as well. The show is based on the independent film ‘Outsourced’.

Will it be any good?
The trailer for the film made it look a little under-written, and lacking in any real entertainment value, but it certainly looked very charming. The TV adaptation appears to look very similar, only without the charm. Sometimes it takes a couple of episodes for a show to warm up, so with its fairly strong premise, this may be worth keeping an eye on.

Who’s in it?
Ben Rappaport, Rebecca Hazlewood, and Sacha Dawan are all relative unknowns to the TV.

And a preview?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-e7DndFck-k[/youtube]

CBS
The CBS schedule has the most stability of the three major networks. Traditionally they target an older audience and have been careful in recent years to mature their schedule to ensure that they have a small turnover of shows, meaning they can be more picky about what they greenlight and cancel.

New: Blue Bloods, The Defenders, Hawaii Five-O, Mike & Molly, and # $#*! My Dad Says
Cancelled: Accidently on Purpose, Cold Case, Gary Unmarried, Ghost Whisperer, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Miami Medical, Numb3rs,
Limbo: The New Adventures of Old Christine and Ghost Whisperer have been cancelled, but either may be revived by ABC. ABC own Ghost Whisperer, so it is the more likely of the two to receive a reprieve.

Hawaii Five-O

What’s it about?
A re-make of the classic beach ‘n cops classic Hawaii Five-O. Beyond that, it really needs no explanation.

Will it be any good?
This is hard to tell. It looks uber cheesy and the cast is a mixed bag. That said, audiences might be looking for this brand of eye candy cop drama at the moment, getting away from the increasingly-tired procedural format. And isn’t it time for Hawaii to find a place on television once more in a way that doesn’t involve giant smoke monsters?

Who’s in it?
The show stars Alex O’Loughlin – a modern day show killer. His previous two shows that he starred in tanked (Moonlight and Three Rivers) and this may be a third. O’Loughlin fills the shoes of Det Steve McGarrett. The excellent Daniel Dae Kim (24, Lost) is Det. Chin Ho Kelly, Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica) plays the less than burly Kona Kalakaua, and Scott Caan (Oceans Eleven) will be booking them as Danno.

And a preview?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0i0ik3WO68[/youtube]

$#*! My Dad Says

What’s it about?
$#*! My Dad Says is a multi-camera comedy centered on Ed, a retired military doctor whose cranky one-liners have left him with three ex-wives and a lot of time alone in his garden. One of his two sons, Henry, moves back home with him, allowing Ed the opportunity to be the father he never was to Henry.

Who’s in it?
William Shatner (TJ Hooker, Tek War) stars as the protagonist Ed. Ryan Devlin (Cougar Town) is on board as Henry, and Nicole Sullivan (Mad TV) plays a tokenistic female part.

Will it be any good?
This is the first sitcom based on a Twitter feed, which should be enough to throw up all manner of red flags. The producers constantly refer to it as a series with heart. And then there’s that awful title. Despite this, the presence of Bill Shatner is enough to generate a fair amount of goodwill toward the show.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf8FzftO9SU[/youtube]

Blue Bloods

What’s it about?
A multigenerational drama set in New York, Blue Bloods is a gritty relationship drama about a family of NYC Police.

Will it be any good?

Exec Produced by Robin Green & Mitch Burgess (The Sopranos), it’s a show with some potential. The cast are great and it’s got some astoundingly good production values. As long as the show has some substance to it, this may have more promise than most new arrivals.

Who’s in it?
Any show that brings me Tom Selleck immediately has my attention. The show also stars Tom Sellecks moustache, Donnie Wahlburg and Bridget Moynahan.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_ZKJuMLPHc[/youtube]

The Defenders

What’s it about?
This is a light-hearted drama series/”bromance” about Las Vegas lawyers.

Will it be any good?
It stars Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell.

Who’s in it?
It stars Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell. This is the sort of show that can serve as a test of faith for millions of Christians across the globe. If this series is still running three episodes in, there truly is not a God.

And a preview?
Enjoy a bit of BDSM, do you?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ykXZv8lSik[/youtube]

ABC
ABC’s lineup always feel like a strange mix of hughly successful programs (creatively and financially) and a strange bunch of one season wonders. Based on their new schedule, this certainly isn’t going to change. Detroit 187 is one of the more exciting shows announced by any of the networks this week. Whether it will gain any traction with viewers is yet to be determined.

New: No Ordinary Family, Detroit 187, Better Together, the Whole Truth, My Generation, Secret Millionaire, and Happy Endings.
Cancelled: Better off Ted, Flash Forward, Hank, the Forgotten, Romantically Challenged, and Scrubs.
Limbo: The New Adventures of Old Christine and Ghost Whisperer have been cancelled, but either may be revived by ABC. ABC own Ghost Whisperer, so it is the more likely of the two to receive a reprieve.

Mr Sunshine

What’s it about?
Ben is turning 40 and works as the Manager for a low-level sporting arena in San Diego. He has an unpredictable boss and a life filled with ‘zany’ co-workers.

Will it be any good?
The trailer looks hammy as all heck, yet I’m drawn to this on the basis of casting alone. It might be good. Maybe.

Who’s in it?
Matthew Perry (Studio 60, The Ron Clark Story), Allison Janney (Private Parts, Primary Colors), and Andrea Anders (Better Off Ted) are all well positioned to shamelessly appeal to my love for each of them. Also, did I mention this was directed by Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing, Sports Night)?

And a preview?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCmPPEs6wN4[/youtube]

Detroit 187

What’s it about?
A fictional documentary crew follows a top homicide division. It has a realistic yet sometimes humorous tone.

Will it be any good?
My word, this does seem promising. The cast is great. Going by the tone of the trailer, it feels very reminiscent of Homicide: Life On The Street. And that’s more than welcome.

Who’s in it?
Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos), Natalie Martinez (Fashion House), and Joshua Biton (The Pacific)

And a preview?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgONgogXNN0[/youtube]

Better Together

What’s it about?
Maddie and Ben have been dating for nine years, seeing their commitment to one another as a “valid life choice,”. And then Maddie’s younger sister, Mia, announces she’s to marry her boyfriend of 7 weeks.

Will it be any good?
With the success of 2 & A Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, there is a renewed interest in multi-camera sitcoms. This past year has seen several new sitcoms hit the air, most completely awful. This is one of them.

Who’s in it?
Joanna Garcia (Freaks & Geeks, Gossip Girl), Jennifer Finnigan (The Bold & The Beautiful), and Josh Cooke (Four Kings, Committed) make up just part of this ensemble.

And a preview?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWAHhIlTu5M[/youtube]

FOX
The lineup for Fox feels very strong. It’s starting to evolve into a younger, male skewing CBS in that it has a steady supply of veteran shows that continue to perform well. Cancelled series this year have been about ridding itself of the deadweight (and the expensive 24).

One to keep an eye on will be how the US version of Masterchef will fare.

New: Bobs Burgers, Running Wilde, The Good Guys, Lonestar, Masterchef, Mixed Signals, Raising Hope, Ride Along, and Terra Nova.
Cancelled: 24, Brothers, Past Life, and ’til Death.

The Good Guys

What’s it about?
A new buddy comedy with an old school cop and a modern day detective as they engage in big investigations of small-time crimes. Created by Matt Nix (Burn Notice).

Will it be any good?
If you’re looking for the show that will garner a small audience that leads to its inevitable cancellation and a loyal viewership moaning that it was cancelled too soon, this will be the show. With a quality cast and quirky storylines, The Good Guys should at least remain as diverting entertainment.

Who’s in it?
Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, Adventures in Babysitting), Bradley Whitfords moustache, and Colin Hanks (Roswell, King Kong).

And a preview?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoSgJi3sXPA&feature=related[/youtube]

Running Wilde

What’s it about?
The very selfish and wealthy Steve Wilde has it all, but has never gotten the one thing he has always wanted: Emmy Kadubic. The Selfless Emmy Kadubic is volunteering in the jungles of the Amazon when her daughter decides they should move home to the US so she can lead a normal life. Emmy and Steve are destined to be together. There’s just one obstacle in the way: Steve.

Will it be any good?
Do you remember the olden days in which you’d rent out a video and find trailers for forgotten comedies from 1987 that you instinctively feel compelled to watch, despite how poor they’re likely to be? Watching the trailer for Running Wilde evokes that same sensation. Created by Mitch Hurwitz (Arrested Development), this could potentially turn out to be very good. But, can a show centered on a variation of the Gob character be a compelling lead for a series?

Who’s in it?
Will Arnett plays a variation of his Arrested Development character Gob, but with no magic tricks. Keri Russell (Felicity, Mission Impossible 3), is the love interest, Emmy.

And a preview?
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C83JwpW-yF8[/youtube]

Summary
With reality and game shows dominating US TV schedules in recent years, it feels as though 2010 is a true return for scripted fare in a way that we haven’t seen since the late 1990’s. Viewers seem desperate for the television equivalent of comfort food (quite literally with Masterchef) and networks are providing with action adventure shows, sitcoms, and romance. While it is great to see so much scripted programming back on schedules, viewers seeking substantial, nourishing television will be forced to continue their exodus to cable.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.