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Culture » True TV

The New NBC

The first week of the post-Leno reconstruction.


Parenthood - NBC
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Now that NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage has finally concluded … What? It’s still on? Jesus Christ on a curling stone. OK, starting over …

On Monday, March 1, NBC begins its looong climb out of the gaping chasm of “experimental programming” (i.e.) handing over five primetime hours a week to an unmotivated hack who didn’t even want ’em in lieu of actually creating what would hold its worth two minutes after broadcast) back to the surface world of Real Television. After all, this is the network that gave us Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, L.A. Law, Cheers and Seinfeld in the ’80s, and Friends, Frasier, Will & Grace and ER in the ’90s.

(Since you weren’t even born yet, the ’70s don’t matter—but, for the record, the only NBC show of note from that decade was CPO Sharkey. Look it up).

NBC has produced a handful of quality series in the 2000s, but in recent years the Peacock has just given up and relied on cheapo reality shows and, for that stunningly effdup period of Sept. 14, 2009, to Feb. 9, 2010, Jay Leno literally killing time and counting his money on the air every weeknight at 9. Naturally, he’s being rewarded with his old Tonight Show gig and NBC prez Jeff Zucker gets to keep his job, while Conan O’Brien—once “the future of NBC late night”—will be on a competing network September-ish. If that network is smarter than NBC, they’ll lead into the new O’Brien show with a remake of CPO Sharkey. Just sayin’.

Can the New NBC regain its former glory? Or at least put some slightly more comfortable ratings distance between itself and The CW? Or even Ion (it’s a network, trust me) at this point? Here’s what Week 1 of the reconstruction looks like:

Monday, March 1: Chuck leads off Monday night and, if SpyNerd retains the viewership he wooed back in the weeks prior to the Winter Olympics, this is a solid start—especially with no Heroes deadweight as a lead-out. It’s a strange fit, but Law & Order: Original Recipe will round out tonight with two new episodes. The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (sigh …) returns at 10:35 with usual cavalcade of hack bits and guests. Enjoy, America!

Tuesday, March 2: NBC is sticking with two hours of The Biggest Loser on Tuesdays because they fear the wrath of she-dude Jillian Michaels (who doesn’t?), but at least it’ll provide a decent lead-in for Parenthood, the net’s most promising new series. Note that I didn’t say “comedy”—despite the wacky promos currently running, Parenthood is about as funny as, well, parenthood. I blame Peter Krause, who’s always going to be familial gloom-magnet Nate Fisher from Six Feet Under to me. At least Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) brings some needed levity, even though her character is a beat-down 40-something mom, an alternate-universe Lorelei Gilmore who made every possible wrong life choice and prefers alcohol to caffeine. Parenthood is heavy on life-crisis angst and minor-key musical backdrops, but every actor here (look at the photo; that’s like a dozen and Krause) brings the kind of A-game performance that made NBC great back in the day. Bonus, it obliterates any memory of those gawdawful Steve Martin movies.

Wednesday, March 3: Sexy-doctor show Mercy returns at 7—no, I don’t know why, either. After that, it’s a Law & Order: Special Victims Unit rerun followed by a new one back in its rightful 9 p.m. timeslot.

Thursday, March 4: Community, Parks & Recreation, The Office and 30 Rock remain intact, now followed by Jerry Seinfeld’s The Marriage Ref. The Only TV Column That Matters™ thought it was the worst idea yet from NBC’s Reality Filler Deptartment, until …

Friday, March 5: Who Do You Think You Are?, a celebrity-geneology (?!) series execproduced by Lisa Kudrow. Seriously. What kind of world-gone-mad are we living in where Courteney Cox (Cougar Town) is suddenly my favorite ex-Friend? NBC closes the week with a new Dateline, one I’m hoping chronicles the mysterious disappearances of Jay Leno and Jeff Zucker in the California desert while on a road trip with Steve Martin …

Bill Frost: