An Early Start on Upfronts

Don’t forget to enter for tickets to see the Cole Bros. circus next week! I’ve got three sets of four tickets to give away.

We’re in finale season and heading into D-Day for bubble TV shows, so we’re all TV all the time today:

back for more

back for more

We’re less than a week from Upfront Week, where we find out exactly what network TV shows will be back next year and which ones won’t. But we already got a quick sneak preview from Fox, which renewed House for next season on Tuesday. It didn’t stop there, getting a jump on 2012-13 by renewing Family Guy for its 10th season andThe Cleveland Show for its fourth. I think it bears mentioning that The Cleveland Show is about to finish its second season and ranked 72nd in the ratings last year. It’s gained viewers this year, but not that much. So that show is making money for Fox somehow, but the network isn’t fessing up how.

But wait, there’s more! Fox wasn’t done, not by a long shot. The network — and in a roundabout way, for disclosure, I work for the same company — dropped some of its schedule’s dead weight, none of which should be drastically missed and all of which can be classified in the same way: Good, but not great. Lie to Me, Traffic Light, Human Target, Breaking In (and that’s how I’d rank them) and Chicago Code (which I never watched) were all watchable shows, but none of them should be on the top of your TV list. If you’re watching Mad Men and you can’t help but think something like, “You know what this show needs? Cal effing Lightman, that’s what!” then two things are definitely true: 1. This blog probably isn’t for you. 2. You don’t know good TV when you see it. You may think you do, but you don’t. All five of those shows are kinda like hamburgers. They’re fantastically satisfying when you’re watching them, but you’d rather a giant steak (Friday Night Lights) if given the chance. That’s not to slight any of those shows, I’ve seen every episode of Lie to Me. It’s just neither surprising nor life-shattering that I won’t ever see a new episode again.

welcome back, jaime pressley

welcome back, jaime pressley

Oh yes, my friend, Fox has more for you. Upfront Week is for suckas! The word is out that the network has also picked up the JJ Abrams show Alcatraz (let the Fringe pick-up conspiracy theories begin, especially if it gets scheduled on Fridays), the Bones spinoff The Finder and the comedies The New Girl and I Hate My Teenage Daughter. Terra Nova also already has been picked up. Fox is quickly runningout of real estate in its schedule if anything else is going to be picked up. X Factor is going to take up at least two hours a week (Wednesday and Thursday, I’d guess), and then … geez, everything else is spoken for. Maybe Alzatraz gets pushed to midseason or something. The network will need a post-Raising Hope sitcom Tuesdays at 9:30, which is likely where The New Girl or I Hate My Teenage Daughter fit in. IHMTD has the Jaime Pressley tie-in with Raising Hope creator Greg Garcia, so maybe it gets the first tryout.

NBC is getting in on the action today too. With a last place schedule and a development team that hasn’t created a scripted hit since The Office, it’s decided to pick up a bunch of shows for next year’s schedule, including one from the early contender for Person You Will Be Sick of By Christmas, Whitney Cummings. She also has pilots in development at E! and CBS, and since NBC and E! are both owned by Comcast, it’s a good bet her E! show will get picked up in some kind of package deal. The bigger news is that it looks like NBC has decided to pick up Chuck for a fifth season, despite it getting the lowest ratings of its run this year and that creatively its unrecognizable from its original format.

There are bound to be a few bad ideas that come out of Upfront Week, a couple of shows that will fail before Oct. 1 and look like they were written by a 2-year-old monkey. But there are some decisions that will be made that could prove even costlier — like Hugh Grant taking over for Charlie Sheen. I actually thought that was the funniest joke ever written by the Two and a Half Men staff, but apparently it wasn’t a joke — it was true. I’m somewhat of a Hugh Grant apologist because his performance in About a Boy is one of the most underrated acting jobs of the 2000s, but he has no business picking up someone’s sloppy seconds. It’s a complete no-win situation for whomever takes over the job, but for Grant it’s even less of a win. Although those who saw Did You Hear About the Morgans would probably disagree that this would be the low spot of his career.

One decision I don’t think that’s so crazy is for The Office to continue without Steve Carell. I randomly caught the Phyllis wedding episode Monday night and was reminded of just how much I hated Michael Scott sometimes. There was that season 3 and 4 period where the writers just turned him into such an incompetent dolt that I wanted to punch him in the nuts instead of feel bad for him. They toned it down over the last two years, but there was a long period of time where Michael Scott was the worst part of that show — and it was still funny. So shouldn’t it standto reason that taking Michael out of the equation could actually help the show? The Office is no longer the funniest show on TV, but it’s still in the top 5 or 6. It constantly makes me laugh. For anyone to say it’s not funny anymore … I just don’t think they’re watching the same show I am. When a show goes south, I’m the first one to jump all over it. The Office still has life left — but hopefully it won’t be with Deangelo Vickers. Great effort by Will Ferrell, but it just isn’t working. Oh, I’m sorry, you want proof? Let’s just say this isn’t going on Will Ferrell’s demo reel:

A couple finales I’m late talking about:

FRINGE: I don’t tweet on the PopRox account as much as I should. I can tell you that’s gonna change, but I’ve promised that before and haven’t followed through, so let’s just leave it at I’m going to try. But on Friday night I was watching the Fringe finale after DVR-ing it, and my wife had fallen asleep (bad sign). So after Peter disappeared and my jaw was dropping and I couldn’t quite comprehend what was going on, I took to Twitter to try and find out 1. What happened and 2. Some other opinions. Because my initial opinion wasn’t very good. I buzzed around for a couple minutes andrealized that no matter how many quick opinions I read, one thing wasn’t changing — I didn’t like the finale. My official three-word review went out — “disappointing and confusing.” That’s all you needed to know. Fringe is one of the five best shows on TV, andcame up withwhat I consider one of the best season-ending twists of my TV lifetime, the season 1 finale that led into the alternate universe thing. For as good as Fringe was this year — and it was AWESOME — it’s reached a point where it might even start to alienate its biggest fans that aren’t sc-fi dorks (me). I have no idea where the next season is going to go. We do know that Josh Jackson is under contract for next season, so he’s not completely disappearing. But I think I’m back to where I started with Fringe in the beginning of season 1 — I’m questioning the science and logic of it all, and you just can’t do that when you’re watching Fringe. FINALE GRADE: C-. SEASON GRADE: B (it was an A- until the finale).

lots of work to do this summer

lots of work to do this summer

30 ROCK: Sitcoms are, by design, wacky. The wackier the better. And when you start out wacky, there’s only one place to go — wackier. But there comes a point in every sitcom’s life where the writers and producers need to pull back and collectively ask themselves, “Are we getting too wacky? Like, turn-off-the-audience wacky?” And that’s where 30 Rock is right now. The Office was there about two years ago, and thankfully pulled back the Wacky Factor. Michael and Dwight stopped driving into lakes and no more dementia-stricken uncles were thrown out of weddings in the name of comedy. 30 Rock is different though. It only works because it’s set in a completely wacky, unrealistic world where wacky is the norm. Whereas The Office has about a dozen other reliably un-wacky characters the show can focus on to reign in the unbelievability, 30 Rock only has one — Liz. So when she goes wacky, where do we turn for something that resembles anything we can relate to? If Tracy and Jenna and Jack and Kenneth and Frank aren’t wacky, then why are we watching? It’s a strangely delicate balance that lies somewhere between Tracy winning his EGOT (borderline acceptable) and Jack spooning with Kenneth (110 percent unacceptable). 30 Rock just spent the last year turning up the wacky to 11 — and it was decidedly too much. Now everyone involved with the show has to sit down and figure out whether they want to stay on that course (please don’t) or whether they want to get back to the season 2 and 3 comedic practices that made it one of the funniest shows on TV. FINALE GRADE: By 30 Rock standards, C. By today’s TV comedy standards, B. SEASON GRADE: C+.

In case you needed it, here’s the example of wacky acceptable, the funniest, most inventive, and thoroughly wacky thing 30 Rock has ever done:

Dueling PopRox-approved finales tonight, with the second part of the hysterical two-part paintball Community finale and the “Shouldn’t last week have been the finale?” season ender for Vampire Diaries. Both are at 8, and hopefully I’ll be reviewing them tomorrow.

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