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Network Television Rundown: Upfronts II: Electric Boogaloo, Plus, Tim Allen - Just What We Wanted

Part II of our Upfronts Week examination finds one network that has been on top of the ratings charts for years and two others that are, in some way, struggling. And, one in particular (ABC), seems most interested in throwing a whole lotta stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks. It's an intriguing idea, but whether any of the stuff they throw at the wall manages to become a zeitgeist ala a Lost or a Desperate Housewives or, even a Dancing With the Stars remains to be seen. Then there's CBS being CBS, which somehow leads to the most promising slate of new shows of all the networks. And then there's CW. Sigh.

Again, I add percentages based on the likelihood that the show will actually be good. All percentages are total gut-level instincts, and when I read this again in January 2012, I am sure I will be wrong on most of them.

Check out TheFutonCritic.com for full video previews of all of the shows listed here, and from the shows listed in Part I.

Apartment 23 (57%)
takes a slightly wacky premise of having James Van Der Beek play a "heightened reality" version of himself and turns its execution (at least in the clips presented by ABC) into a more intriguing than not sitcom. Starring Krysten Ritter as the "bitch" in Apt. 23 (working title was, of course, Don't Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23), this single cam sitcom looks like it'll be, at the very least, interesting.

Charlie's Angels (22%), on the other hand, is not as interesting as it is Charlie's Angels. And as hot of a premise three babes runnin' around and solvin' crimes (headlined by Friday Night Lights hottie/Derek Jeter's plaything Minka Kelly), its proposed 8/7c Thursday night timeslot guarantees that the nerds who might otherwise be watching are already watching Community on NBC right there, thank you very much. Also, why? WHY?

Good Christian Belles (44%) is headed by Robert Harling, who also wrote movies about southern ladies who be fightin' with each other like Steel Magnolias. ABC has obviously had success in the smarmy-ladies-conniving-against-each-other genre in Desperate Housewives, but this one looks a little too much like the parts of Six Feet Under with the no-nonsense funeral corporation ladies that make me wanna vomit a little bit. Plus, since we have Real Houswives in our lives, what are the odds that scripted ladies fighting will be more dramatic than, say, fights at nephews' Christenings?

Last Man Standing (1%) is Tim Allen's triumphant return to the small screen! Cuz, men, aren't you tired of being a man living in a woman's world? I know I am! You know what I hate? Minivans! You know what I love? Trucks! And manly stuff! And what's Glee? (Okay, I admit, I chuckled at that line in the trailer.) Needless to say...I'm not sure we needed more Tim Allen. Especially in multi-cam format (although, what other format does Tim Allen exist in?)

Man Up (0.5%), then, tests the theory of "Okay, We Don't Need More Tim Allen, But We Need More Shows That Are Generally About Men Living In A Woman's World!" Cuz, obviously, the world we live in is a woman's world, where men have no power or no things geared toward them. Riiiight. Anyway, this is the same as Last Man Standing but with Dan Fogler (yeesh) and some other guys and a 100% more annoying theme song.

Missing (51%) is apparently ABC's annual attempt to fill in the void left by Lost, this time going for a two-syllable word about something being not where one expects it to be. Actually in this case, what is missing is Ashley Judd's son in "worldwide espionage drama." Pitch: Taken with Ashley Judd kickin' butt instead of Liam Neeson. Except that she's ex-CIA and her past comes back to haunt her in some way. I gotta say, Ashely Judd is a pretty good coup, and I'm a sucker for an action show with a singular premise. Surely ABC's budget will not allow for the show to be filmed on location in Italy, but it'll be interesting to see how it goes, even if one of head writer Gregory Poirier's most notable other credit is The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride.

Once Upon a Time (50%) has at least one great thing going for it: casting Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White. (Yeah, WHAT?) And a couple other great things going for it: showrunners Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (Lost writers responsible for episodes like "Greatest Hits"). The trailer looks ridiculously goofy and the premise (a woman who lives in a town in Maine where fairy tales may be real) does not fill me with great promise. But then again, Lost is a dumb premise, and Ginnifer Goodwin's most notable pre-Big Love role was in Mona Lisa Smile, so I'm putting this firmly at 50%.

Pan Am (62%) is like the NBC pilot about Playboys or whatever in that it takes the general "sexy 60s" vibe of Mad Men and applies it somewhere else. Except, this one actually has a decent pedigree, with director Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) (why doesn't he go by Tommy so he could be Tommy Schlamme?) and writer Jack Orman (Men of a Certain Age, ER). And its fairly flexible premise of a young woman who travels all over the world because she works as a stewardess on Pan Am airlines means it probably has a lot of storylines it could tackle. And it stars Christina Ricci! Another nice casting coup! Well done, ABC!

Revenge (27%) is "not a story about forgiveness", says the voiceover narration in the trailer. Wait, so, a show called Revenge is not about forgiveness? Snark aside, speaking of shows with taffy-like premises, here's a show that does not seem to have any type of flexible premise: a woman tries to get revenge on people. Okay, so she lives in "the most expensive ZIP code in America" (which isn't, apparently, 90210, but is the Hamptons) but the hammy dialogue and paper-thin premise, alongside showrunner Mike Kelley's questionable resume (The Beautiful Life, the very shortly-lived supermodeling drama starring Mischa Barton is among his credits) doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence

The River (49%), likewise, also does not fill me with a lot of confidence, even if it's created by Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli, mainly because its premise (an investigation into a nature guy's disappearance based on creepy Paranormal Activity-like found footage leads to more creepy stuff happening) doesn't necessarily lend itself to a long-running series. And when has a pure horror serialized drama ever worked? Never, that's when. Here's to hoping this bucks the trend, because I so want a show like this to be awesome.

Scandal (57%) is Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhymes newest show on ABC, and this one looks a lot more in the successful wheelhouse than her last flop Off the Map. It's a very flexible premise, in which star Kerry Washington leads a pseudo-law firm that helps manage scandals in Washington DC. Along the way, I'm guessing there will be a cast of smarmy characters. Looks like a fun time.

Suburgatory (61%) is a single-cam sitcom in the vein of The Middle that is about how lame it is to live in the suburbs but, unlike American Beauty, will be played for laughs instead of tragedy or whatever. Anyway, Jeremy Sisto plays a dad instead of a crazy dude like in Six Feet Under, and Cheryl Hines is in it, who we all love thanks to Curb Your Enthusiasm. And hey, head writer Emily Kapnek is fresh off of the staff of Parks and Recreation and wrote this season's masterful "Ron and Tammy Part II", so that's nice.

Work It (-9999999999999999999999999999999999999999%) IS THIS GENERATION'S ANSWER TO BOSOM BUDDIES BUT, Y'KNOW, A LOT MORE HOMOPHOBIC! Yes, two dudes who dress as women to get a job, or something. Hilarity ensues. And no, this is not a made-up premise by DoktorPeace. Wow...just...wow.

A Gifted Man (41%)
is one of those milquetoast premises that only CBS can do to perfection, about a surgeon who mysteriously can see the spirit of his dead wife. Sure to be heartwarming and full of songs in the style of Enya that will no doubt make mothers across the world cry. Jonathan Demme directed the pilot, and Patrick Wilson is a pretty good actor, and any step away from the crime procedural direction from CBS should be seen as a positive step.

How to Be A Gentleman (62%) stars Kevin Dillon and David Hornsby as an odd couple of dudes who manage to be friends, one being a dude's dude and the other being a nerd in this multi-cam sitcom. "Qualler!" they're saying. "You're off your rocker if you think this is gonna be good!" Okay, maybe, but it also stars Dave Foley, one of our greatest sitcom stars of all time (NewsRadio anybody?) and Mary Lynn Rasjkub (before she was Chloe on 24, she was on Mr. Show and The Larry Sanders Show). And when Kevin Dillon is cast as a douche we can laugh at instead of a douche we should be impressed by like in Entourage, well, that is what makes Kevin Dillon acceptable.

Person of Interest (79%) is one of my most anticipated shows. The basic premise, a crazy billionaire (obviously played by Michael Emerson) offers a castoff guy (Jim Caviezel) who used to work for the government to stop those people. Oh yeah, Michael Emerson is great, and is basically just playing Ben Linus here, plus espionage, plus run by Jonathan Nolan (brother of Christopher and screenwriter of The Dark Knight) and produced by JJ Abrams, this looks pretty frackin' awesome. And, it's on Thursdays at 10/9c, which looks to be a timeslot available for my eyes. I'll be seeing you this Fall a lot, Person of Interest.

2 Broke Girls (67%) is another show with a super-flexible premise, with two broke girls as the stars, only one of them has always been broke and the other one used to be rich but is now just straight-up broke. Whatever you think of Sex and the City (personally, I think it was a solid show until it got too soapy), it's produced by Michael Patrick King and, also, by Whitney Cummings, who is bizarrely also starring on a show on NBC called Whitney! Turns out, Kat Dennings looks to be a much better Whitney Cummings than Whitney Cummings, and her co-star Beth Behrs looks to have good chemistry with her. Plus, using the word "vagina" in a joke on CBS not delivered by Charlie Sheen is surely a shocker. Also a shocker: hipsters like Kat Dennings on CBS! If anything, it looks to be a less hip lady-led version of How to Make It In America.

Unforgettable (31%) is the inevitable CBS crime procedural, except that instead of taking place in Manhattan, in a twist, it takes place in Queens (yes, that is truly one of CBS's selling points!) The main character, played by Poppy Montgomory, has some condition where she remembers everything ever (get it? "Unforgettable?") and she's helped by our favorite boring plastic surgeon Dylan Walsh (Dr. Sean McNamara of Nip/Tuck). Well, CBS is batting .600 this Fall in my predictions, so that's not so bad.

(0% or 100%) need not be anything more than a premise: Mario Lopez brings regular people to the doorstep of the celebs they "H8" the most, and those celebs, such as Kim Kardashian, or Snooki, need to tell those people why they should not be "H8ted." Shaking. My. Head. This could either be the worst thing on the planet or the best thing ever, and there's absolutely no in between.

Hart of Dixie (21%) FINALLY uses the title as a pun/name of the main character, which stars Rachel Bilson (Summer Roberts on The OC) as Dr. Zoe Hart, who goes back home to the "hart" of dixie to practice as a doctor. Wondering about whether Rachel Bilson could be taken seriously as a doctor aside, showrunner Josh Schwartz has obviously given Bilson plenty of good dialogue in the past on The OC, but, yeah, with the clip's judicious use of quirky-music-to-indicate-comedy, I'm not feeling good about this. Especially since I already have a dixieland-based show in Justified, which is justifiably awesome (see what I did there?)

Ringer (27%) looks like it could fare slightly better, as it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar as a woman who is on the run from the mob who poses as her wealthy twin sister. Yes, Sarah Michelle Geller posing as her twin sister to get away from the mafia being a better premise than anything indicates some pretty slim pickings for the CW network. But hey, Nestor Carbonell, so that's good, right?

Finally, Secret Circle (41%) is the CW's companion piece to their hit series The Vampire Diaries, which I have yet to check out but hear from my Twitter friend/AV Club recapper Carrie Raisler has developed into a juicy guilty pleasure. This is about high school witches instead of high school vampires and is also written by Kevin Williamson, which means now 40% of CW's timeslots are owned by Kevin Williamson or Josh Schwartz. You know, I'm all for letting them work since they delivered Dawson's Creek and The OC, but couldn't one of them develop an honest-to-goodness gimmick-free high school drama? I miss those.

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  1. Blogger chris | 4:09 PM |  

    Wow apparently I am going to watch a lot of bad TV this fall. No regrets!

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