Friday, June 10, 2011

2010-2011 TV SEASON WRAP UP: NBC, Now By Comcast

Well, if you made it this far, this is the last of my 2010-2011 TV season wrap ups.  I'm sure, if you've read them, that you are relieved this is the last one.  I hope my next post, after this, is a winner, and will get this blog back on to more of a fun track.  Since this is the blog post about the NBC TV season, I am going to give you a nice little set of captions for the blog post, "The Event: If Pictures Told the 'Fan' Reactions and TV Ratings History".  You'll have to click on the other blog post, again, to match it up, but hopefully it will make you understand what all those pictures meant.

NBC has had a rough year in scripted television.  It was bought by Comcast, and evidently NBC was eager to please their future bosses, by featuring a star of another property of Comcast, Khloe Kardashian.  No, it wasn't on a reality show, it was on LOLa (Law & Order: Los Angeles).  Somehow, the execs at NBC thought a "crossover" episode (which did not target the demo of anyone actually watching either show) was a good idea.  It wasn't, and I think that piece of gimmick casting sums up what NBC went through, this past TV season.  Just because NBC put bad TV on their network, on a regular basis, didn't mean that it didn't have bright spots.  Those bright spots still helped make it the network I watched the most, this season, even though I watched one show completely out of spite, due to being so heavily invested in it.  After I go through the wrap ups, I'll also talk briefly about what I'll possibly be watching, next season.

Shows I watched in the 2010-2011 season, on NBC:

The Event
Law & Order: Los Angeles
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Parks and Recreation
The Office
Harry's Law

The Event (canceled):

When describing The Event, the best possible allegory is the career of M. Night Shyamalan.  He got off to a great start, but it was mostly all downhill from there.  We kept hoping for him to get back to his old self, but he still hasn't, yet.  Like Shyamalan's career, the end of the series left some people with a hopeful note, but we all know how the story will end.  It will end badly.

NBC spent a ridiculous amount of time pumping this show up.  It looked somewhat interesting, and I decided to check it out.  The first show was pretty decent, with a lot of decent cliffhangers and mysteries.  I think the second show continued in this vein.  I can't remember the exact episode, for sure, but I think it was revealed in the third episode that these mysterious people were aliens.  That was when the viewing audience collectively rolled its eyes, and said "no thanks".  I'm not going to go heavily into the plot of this show, as it was so traumatic, watching it, that I don't want to re-live it.

It had Blair Underwood as the President.  He was pretty good casting, but, I think he realized, pretty early on, that this show was not good.  My collages about the show feature his various facial expressions, some of which were hilarious throughout the run.  The only thing this show is actually good for is Mystery Science Theater type heckling.  When you do that, it makes the show infinitely more watchable.  You'll have to take my word for it that my wife was laughing at many of the things I said, during the course of the show.  I'm talking laughing until you cry type stuff.  Tears, that's the only place this show could reliably take us.

Okay, I changed my mind, I'm going to give a rough break down of the plot.  If this leads me to a mental break down, I blame all of you.  All of this is from memory, so I hope it's all incorrect, but I fear it is not.

1. There are a bunch of people who are being held prisoner in some place in Alaska.
2. As a sign of good will, the new President wants to release them.  He is told this is a bad idea, but not why it is a bad idea.
3. A plane is seen heading toward (planning on crashing into) the President's press conference about the release of the prisoners.  At the last moment, a cheap visual effect time warp thingy makes the plane disappear.
4. The plane crashes, in the desert, thousands of miles from the press conference, and I think everyone survived, but I'm not sure.
5. We find out that the pilot of the plane has a family, and that he was forced into doing this flight.  We meet the protagonist of the story, who tries to stop this plot (he was in a relationship with the daughter of the pilot).
6. We then find out the people in Alaska are aliens, and that the person the President was doing the press conference with is the head of the aliens.
7. We find out the aliens have many moles inside government, and elsewhere, and their reach goes as high as the Secret Service detail.  We also find out that these aliens do not age.
8. It turns out the plot to kill Blair Underwood's character, via the plane, was orchestrated by his bi-partisan Vice President.
9. The alien leader has a son.  This alien leader's son is not benevolent.  He hates earth people, and wants to kill them.  He uses his power to kill the plane crash survivors, then resurrect them, then kill them, again, in horribly painful ways, after resurrecting them.  He is clearly a bad guy.  His mom is not happy with him.  She is the "good" alien.
10. At some point, the alien leader (possibly after the government's murder of a bunch of her people and son's sacrifice) changes her mind.  She becomes bad.  There are some aliens who believe what she is doing is wrong, yet most get on board.
11. We later find out that the home planet of the aliens is dying, due to their sun becoming a super nova or something.  They want to move here, yet there are 2.5 billion of them.  To make room, they have to get rid of 2.5 billion of the earth people.
12. We get the inkling that the President's wife may also be an alien, but she plays it off well enough for him to lose his suspicion.  This all came about due to the President wanting DNA testing of everyone in the government, out of fear of the aliens.  Suspiciously, his wife refused to submit to this DNA testing.  She confirms to him, at the end of the episode, that she is an illegal alien.  He actually buys her explanation, though the audience is able to clearly tell that she is likely pulling a fast one.
13. The VP, in a quest for power, and "love" for his country (he was promised if he gets rid of the President, that the good ol' U S of A will not have its citizens killed), gets in bed with the aliens, and is played for a fool, once again, when he is used as a puppet for the leader of the aliens, after he puts Skinny Sweet in the coffee of Blair Underwood's character. 
14. The President's not stupid (other than his choice of running mate), and knows that his Veep did this.  He tries to convey this before slipping into a coma, but it is really hard getting the proof that the Veep did it, even though there is enough circumstantial evidence to bury him.
15. Upon accusing the VP of the crime, while as acting President, the President's National Security Adviser is fired.
16. While all of this is going on, we uncover the plot for how the aliens plan to get rid of 2.5 billion people.  If you guessed by them barfing all over themselves until they die, then you win.  These aliens really are inhumane!
17. So, of course our protagonist has to try to stop this plot, while being separated from his half-alien girlfriend, while now working with a stone cold killer, who seems to be in love with the protagonist.  In his defense, he finds the way she acts very off putting, which was truly the best piece of acting this show saw.  If we are to believe the facial expressions of the protagonist's girlfriend, the alien side is sociopathic, with mismatched facial expressions for whatever situation she is dealing with.
18. The aliens decide to use this half-alien for the distribution of the virus, as it kills too quickly.
19. At some point, during all of this, the Secret Service mole breaks from the alien leader, and gets his hands on an antidote, just in time.
20. He teams up with the fired NSA guy, and tries to get in to see the President, so they can give him the antidote, while the President is in a coma.  The antidote is successful, and the President recovers, and tries to take his job back.
21. The VP heavily resists all of this, and is trapped into admitting what he did, because, well, he's an idiot.  In this modern day of technology, of course he was recorded using the recording app on an iPhone or something.
22. In the final episode, the plot to infect everyone is foiled, but there's one problem.  The aliens from the home planet are still coming.  The President gets his job back, and we are left with one whammo.  The aliens aren't traveling to our planet on a vehicle.  They're traveling to our planet on their planet!  The show ends with the other planet warping into our orbit, between the earth and the moon.  Since this show doesn't seem to care much about believability, I won't even speculate what kind of gravitational disaster would be caused by this new planet arriving.  The moon does some pretty crazy stuff to begin with, so I can only imagine what a whole planet between us and the moon would do.  The show ends with the President's son asking the President's wife "What's that?"  She says, "Home", which lets us officially know that she's an alien, as if we didn't know already.

I gave 22 plot points to match the number of episodes in the show.  Each one wasn't a particular episode, but you get the idea.  It was truly painful writing that, and I hope you appreciate it.  I will be sending you the bill for my therapy.

I literally don't know anyone who actually liked this show, though I do know several who watched it.  It was quite fun going back and forth with Scott D. about the numerous problems of each episode.  The show was bad, and it took us down with it, because we had just invested way too much time into it.  We watched until the bitter end, and bitter it was.  There are so many things that were wrong with the show that it really deserves its own blog post.  We, as the audience, deserved better, as well, but we didn't get it.  So, other than the captions explaining my other blog post about The Event, these are the last words I'll write about the show (unless I am comparing another show extremely unfavorably to it).

The Event Ratings Examples (ratings pulled from TV by the Numbers):

Series Premiere:

-11.1 million viewers
-3.7 (18-49) rating

Series Finale:

-4.89 million viewers
-1.6 (18-49) rating

Law & Order: Los Angeles (canceled):

I already wrote at length about this show, so I won't go over it, again.  I will say that the series was likely re-tooled too soon, and that it should have had a full season, before going to re-tooling.  This show, to me, felt like sabotage, from either Dick Wolf or NBC.  I have no way of knowing, for sure, but this show could have done service to the franchise, as opposed to being the failure that it was.  There are many people on the LOLa message boards, who believe this was a good show, and bash L&O: Criminal Intent.  They're wrong on both counts, LOLa was a bad cop show (as cop shows go), and Criminal Intent, before all its crazy re-tooling, was a great show.  It stood out because it was different than the rest of the L&O franchise.  LOLa stands out because it should have been an extension of the franchise, yet turned out to be something no one wanted to own.  L&O had a successful formula for nearly 20 years, yet this one came out of the box with no clue what it wanted to be.  That is a travesty, and even though it wasn't a great show, or even a good show, I'll still miss watching it.  I always love seeing location shooting in L.A. on TV.

Law & Order: Los Angeles Ratings Examples:

Series Premiere:

-10.929 million viewers
-3.2 (18-49) rating

Most recent episode:

-6.038 million viewers
-1.2 (18-49) rating

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (renewed):

This is the mainstay of the L&O franchise, but this show has a lot of problems.  The cases are getting crazier and crazier, on the show, and sometimes it's just too over the top for its own good.  There is a major casting shake up for next season, with the loss of Christopher Meloni.  The Producers of the show fired a warning shot across his bow in the season finale.  He was perfectly in the line of fire of a gunshot that instead killed Sister Peg.  The message was, hey, you're just inches away from being out of here, buddy.  As someone who has been laid off from jobs before, I can relate to his wanting to get them before they get him.  So, he left, and now we are left to wonder how long it will be before Mariska Hargitay decides to leave, as well.  Maybe next season will be SVU's last season.  Only time will tell.  For now, my only advice to them is to stop trying to do everything over the top.  Get back to the basics, or this show will be canceled, take it to the bank.  I think the vast majority of the problems with the series are just age related.  It just may be getting close to the time it should be shut down.  The same may also happen with Criminal Intent, this year.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Ratings Example (from Inside TV Ratings):

-9.0 million viewers
-2.9 (18-49) rating

Parks and Recreation (renewed):

Parks and Recreation is probably my favorite current TV show.  I started watching this show because I edited and mixed some DVD Commentaries for Season 1, and just found myself liking it (did not know why, I just did).  I think it has the best ensemble comedy cast on television, and it is guaranteed, no matter who you are, that you will find someone to identify with.  The show is about the Pawnee, Indiana Parks and Recreation Department.  It's shot in the style of The Office, with the basis of the show being a "documentary" of a Parks and Recreation Department.  The show isn't about much, think Seinfeld for a Parks Department, but it's the characters' stories that make the show fun.  If you don't watch this show, this is all I have to say.  START WATCHING THIS SHOW, NOW!  There are 7 episodes you can watch online for free, and that might be enough to get you interested.  A good one to start with is "The Fight", which is available on Hulu, Parks and Recreation: "The Fight".  Shows like this are always more fun if you watch them from the beginning of the series, but it's not that necessary, for this one.

Parks and Recreation Ratings Example (from Inside TV Ratings):

-4.25 million viewers
-2.4 (18-49) rating

The Office (renewed):

I'll start this off by saying that I am not a regular viewer of The Office.  I also edited and mixed a bunch of DVD Commentaries for several seasons of this show, and I was not a fan.  For Season 1, I thought it was so offensive that it made me extremely uncomfortable watching it.  Due to that, I never could get into the show.  A few seasons passed and I ended up working on Season 5, again.  I noticed the show was way toned down, and it had almost become endearing.  It probably wasn't what the audience wanted, but that's the way it came off, to me.  My favorite story line in one of the episodes I worked on was where Dwight was torturing Andy, by threatening to enroll at Cornell.  There was so much high comedy in that story line that I had to see it more than the five times I watched it, when I worked on it.

I obviously started watching it again, this year, when Will Ferrell joined the cast as Steve Carrell was on his way out.  I wanted to see whether Will Ferrell would be worth watching.  He wasn't.  His performance was really strange, in the show, and I think he would have been much better off playing his character as the obtuse buffoon he played in the movie The Other Guys.  I watched the rest of the season from the point that he started on the show, and I will probably watch at least a few of the episodes, next season.  It was entertaining watching all the people interview for the job, but wasn't show stopping for me, in any way.  The ensemble cast is uniformly solid, if unspectacular, and I, personally, much prefer Parks and Recreation to this show.  I still found the latest episodes of The Office enjoyable, and I am glad they toned down the offensive nature of the show, even though that may have robbed it of some of its spirit.  I'll leave that for the true fans of The Office to decide.

The Office Ratings Example (from Inside TV Ratings):

Season Finale:

-7.3 million viewers
-3.9 (18-49) rating

Harry's Law (renewed):

Harry's Law is a very interesting case study for NBC.  I'm not aware of any David E. Kelley created show ever being on NBC.  I'm guessing ABC passed on it, because here it was on NBC.  The show stars the great Kathy Bates, as a burned out attorney, who needed to nearly die to realize that she may have a higher calling.  So, she opens up a Law Office/Shoe Store in the inner city of Cincinnati, where she takes on clients who have almost no hope of winning.  However, winning is what she does, often when the clients are 100 percent guilty.  She plays well to the emotion of the defendant's state of mind, and that plays well for a jury.  It also doesn't hurt that the A.D.A. is a total hard ass, who wants to throw the book at nearly every petty criminal in Cincinnati.  In shows like this, winning the jury is the key, and this guy is only an expert at losing the jury.  By the end of the first season, the A.D.A. has a full scale melt down, and Harry helps him.  There are many intertwining stories going on in Harry's Law, and like nearly every other David E. Kelley show, the story lines (in the soap opera vein) help to weave a very watchable show.  The Christopher McDonald character is one for the ages, though they have tempered him down quite a bit, into an, almost, fragile, and likable character (for the worse, I think).  I hope he gets an EMMY nomination for his part.

This show is decidedly a black sheep on NBC.  It doesn't fit the mold of any of their other dramas.  The writing is too hip, the look is outside the house "style", and it actually gets ratings (not the kind of ratings networks crave).  It had high overall viewership in its initial mid-season run, but it was in terrible shape in the 18-49 demo.  The people at TV by the Numbers had this show squarely on the bubble, when it was averaging over 10 million viewers.  That's a pretty amazing stat, when you know that no other scripted show on NBC averaged overall viewers in that range, if I'm not mistaken.  Like the high overall rated, yet low 18-49 demo, shows on CBS, Harry's Law was given another season.  I would say that Harry's Law got its ratings based on its lead in, but it didn't.  It got its ratings all on its own.  I am guessing there is a dedicated, built-in audience, that David E. Kelley brings to every show he creates.  Time will only tell if the show continues to do well next season.  It's not that tight, technically, and I think that will be a major area of improvement, in the coming season.  I can't really see any major casting re-tooling that is necessary, either.  The show is the show, and you'll either like it, or you won't.  Unbelievable cases aside, I still find the show relatively enjoyable.

Harry's Law Ratings Examples (from TV by the Numbers):

Series Premiere:

-11.145 million viewers
-2.1 (18-49) rating

Season Finale:

-7.747 million viewers
-1.4 (18-49) rating

Outsourced (canceled):

I won't spend much time talking about this one, because I don't feel it deserves it.  The show had a pretty offensive story premise, and it was rolled out at a time that most people wouldn't want to see it.  Yes, NBC, roll out a show about the exact thing that's causing major problems in the U.S. economy.  That's sure to get tons of viewers.

Originally, the Indian characters in the show were almost completely played in stereotypical caricatures.  Many jokes were made at the characters' expense.  I watched two episodes of the show, before saying no thanks, and I could see what the writers were trying to do.  They were eventually going to flip the stereotypes on their heads, and it would be like an Al Bundyesque adventure.  We also would fall in love with the Indian characters.  Sadly, due to how poorly the show was put together (not to mention how offensive it was), I wasn't interested in following the story arc.  That's all I'm willing to write about the show, as that's all I saw.

Outsourced Ratings Example (from TV by the Numbers):

-2.990 million viewers
-1.5 (18-49) rating

NBC was all about the year that wasn't.  I think I must like NBC, because the network is kind of a throwback to the past.  Many of the shows they make follow traditional story lines, and are usually well developed.  I think with the Comcast situation and the threatened actors' strike, that never happened, their development slate was rushed, and they just picked ideas they liked, not ideas that worked.  Sadly, this is going to happen frequently with all of the networks, as the traditional Pilot season no longer happens (at least it wasn't happening normally the last I heard).  This will lead to the producing of shows that aren't "ready for Primetime", and many more season one debacles like The Event, The Cape, Chase, Outlaw, Law & Order: Los Angeles, Perfect Couples, The Paul Reiser Show, and Undercovers.  We, as viewers, are just going to have to hope there is a good idea out there that sticks.  Harry's Law is the only scripted series that got off to a good start, this past season, and is the only show that was renewed for a second.

Now that I've wrapped up the 2010-2011 TV season, I can look at next year on NBC.  There will be a lot of new shows, next season, since so many were canceled this year.  I'll let you know which shows I'll be giving at least one shot to, and then I'll move on to the task of deciphering the photo collages from my The Event blog post. 

On what may be the best night of NBC television, I will give shots to the new shows Up All Night (Christina Applegate, Will Arnett) and Free Agents (Hank Azaria).  I'm very lukewarm about Up All Night, as Will Arnett seems to drag every sitcom he's in into cancellation.  The preview also didn't look that funny, but I'm willing to give it one shot, to see if it's any good.  I am very enthused about Free AgentsHarry's Law and SVU round out the rest of the night. 

On Thursday nights, I'll literally give Whitney one shot to make me like it, and I'll watch Prime Suspect (Maria Bello).  I like the idea of Prime Suspect, but I don't really like Maria Bello, so the show will probably have to grow on me.  I will see if it does.  The Whitney show looks fairly funny, but many of the scenes from the preview had less than stellar comedic timing.  So, I think I might not like it, though I will give it one shot to impress me enough to stick around for a second viewing.  I'll also be watching Parks and Recreation and The Office (for at least a few more episodes).

On Friday nights, I'm going to check out Grimm.  When I read the premise for Grimm, I wasn't impressed.  When I saw the preview, I was impressed.  I can't believe NBC put this on Friday nights, especially since it looks quite expensive, and the story line, from the preview, actually makes the show look like it could be really good.  There's also a strong possibility it's bad, because it was put on Friday night.  Networks don't put shows they think will be winners on Friday night.  That's where you send shows to die.  Chuck's final season will air in the slot right before Grimm, if you are looking for a practical example.

Throughout these wrap ups, I have mentioned various TV shows I will give shots to next season.  You can find all of the fall previews for the shows on the various network websites.  CBS will make you log in to see previews of the shows, and the previews aren't going to get you jazzed about any of them.  If you think my advice is any good, just check out the shows I mentioned, and maybe in those shows you'll see promos for any other ones you might want to check out, that I didn't mention.  I didn't mention them, because I have no interest in checking them out.  If you made it through all of these TV season wrap ups, I applaud you.  They were really difficult for me to write, and I hope they weren't too unbearable to read.  My hope for my next blog post is to get you to watch a show you probably haven't seen, even though it's been canceled, already.  I think it will one day go down as some sort of a cult classic, and I am putting together a presentation that should make you want to at least check one episode out.  I'll have to finish the project before posting it, so this blog could go dark for about a week, unless I find something else to write about in the meantime.

Here's your reward, if you made it this far.  Below, I will supply the captions for the collages I made for my blog post on The Event.  Thanks for reading.

Collage 1 (The progression of The Event typical "fan's" reactions as the show went on):

From Left to Right:

1. A new cool looking show, I am happy and pumped!
2. Hmm, maybe this show isn't as good as I hoped it would be.
3. This show is starting to aggravate me.
4. Aliens? WTF!
5. This alien crap is starting to make me mad.
6. Now, I'm genuinely angry at how this show is going.
7. Are you kidding me?  Why am I still watching this show?
8. I'm now scared that I may have wasted a huge chunk of my life on this show.
9. I'm now angry that I have wasted a huge chunk of my life on this show.
10. You better fix this sh*t, I have wasted too much damn time!
11. That's it! I can't take it anymore, I'm just going to kill myself!

Collage 2 (The progression of The Event TV ratings as the show went on):

From Left to Right (each picture correlates to an episode in the series, in order):

1. The ratings are good, we are happy, and pumped!
2. The ratings are good, they're slipping, but we're still happy, maybe not quite as pumped.
3. The ratings are still good, but slipping even more, we're still happy, but definitely not pumped.
4. The ratings keep falling, we are concerned.
5. The ratings keep falling, we are concerned.
6. Okay, the ratings keep falling, and we are definitely not happy. 
7. Uh oh, the ratings have really fallen into a bad area, we are really scared this show isn't going to make it.
8. The ratings are failing, this show may soon be on life support.  I think we need to put it on hiatus for a bit.
9. Coming out of the hiatus, the ratings went up, but they're still not good enough.  We hope this show keeps these viewers who are giving it another shot.
10. Oh crap, the viewers are leaving again, it looks like we will soon have this show on life support.
11. Somebody call a doctor!  If these ratings stay down like this, this show will die! The show has now been placed on life support.  It's no longer breathing on its own.
12. Any improvement of the patient? No, there is no improvement.
13. Any improvement of the patient? No, there is no improvement.
14. Any improvement of the patient? No, there is no improvement.
15. Any improvement of the patient? No, there is no improvement.
16. Any improvement of the patient? No, there is no improvement.
17. Any improvement of the patient? No, there is no improvement.
18. Any improvement of the patient? No, there is no improvement.
19. Any improvement of the patient? No, there is no improvement.
20. Any improvement of the patient? No, there is no improvement.
21. Any improvement of the patient? No, there is no improvement.
22. It's time to pull the plug.  The experiment lasted long enough, and it was a resounding failure.  We have decided to cancel the show.

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