The 2008 Upfronts

Time for the TV Network Upfronts, the listings of what’s new, what’s returning and what’s been given the old heave ho.

On Monday, NBC went first and confirmed the death of Bionic Woman, Journeyman and Las Vegas. While losing Las Vegas didn’t really phase me as I thought the show was going down hill, I really enjoyed Bionic Woman and Journeyman, with the latter really shining toward the end of its run. Things from my watch list that survived the cut: Chuck, Heroes, My Name Is Earl, 30 Rock, Life and Medium, with the last two getting new time slots (Lipstick Jungle also survived, but the wife watches that one, not me, I swear). Of their new shows… My Own Worst Enemy looks interesting and I’ll give it a shot; Kath & Kim will warrant a watching; Crusoe has piqued my interest; as has The Philanthropist; Kings might survive a single viewing; I’m going to pass on Blue Blood; Zip and Man of Your Dreams are going to have to win me over; while The Listener, Merlin and Knight Rider are three shows I might watch just so I can make fun of them. Overall with NBC, its looking like I lost 3 hours a week, but after early cancellations and failed starts I may pick up about 3 hours a week… at least until fall 2009.

NBC Extra… way back when it premiered, I was a big fan of ER. I stayed a big fan for about 8 seasons. When Dr. Mark Green (played by Anthony Edwards) died, my interest in the show sort of petered out. I’ve caught episodes now and again when they did something special, like when Dr. Carter returned, but I’ve also missed entire seasons. However, I might be checking out the show again for the 2008-2009 season since it will be the final season. I love when shows end with an actual planned ending instead of an abrupt cancellation. I think it will be worth watching.

On Tuesday, ABC went early, and they officially axed Men In Trees, Miss/Guided, Notes From the Underbelly, October Road and Women’s Murder Club (and the Cashmere Mafia, which the wife watched and I sometimes paid attention to). Returning shows from my schedule: Samantha Who?, Eli Stone, Pushing Daisies, Private Practice, Dirty Sexy Money, Ugly Betty, Grey’s Anatomy, Brothers & Sisters, Scrubs (moving from NBC), and Lost. Of their new shows: Opportunity Knocks, crappy reality/game show, pass; some Ashton Kutcher/Tyra Banks show, crap, pass; The Goode Family, its Mike Judge so I’ll give it a whirl; Life on Mars, the only new item ABC has that I’m excited for. ABC didn’t announce many new shows, instead they listed a large number of projects “in development” some of which are bound to air, and a couple might even be worth watching. The round up for ABC sees me losing 4 (5) hours and gaining 1, maybe 1 1/2, hours (maybe more if some of those “in development” shows don’t suck).

Later on Tuesday, it was the CWs turn. They didn’t cancel anything I watch. A rare event, though not surprising when you consider they canceled most of their shows that I watched last season (I and my 3 wonderful seasons of Veronica Mars hate you and every single one of your programming executives). Meanwhile, it means I’ll still be watching: Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, Supernatural, and Reaper. The CW is short on new shows like ABC with only 3 announced: Stylista is more reality TV garbage; Surviving the Filthy Rich looks to be another guilty pleasure that will suck me in like Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill; and while the thought of a 90210 relaunch has my inner child whimpering in terror, I’ll probably end up watching it too. So, making up for ABC, it looks like I lost nothing from the CW but I’m going to gain 2 hours a week.

CW Extra… I used to watch Smallville. For the first few seasons I really enjoyed it. In my opinion, however, they wasted a perfect opportunity to rewrite the rules of television shows. Smallville should have been strictly about Clark Kent in High School and coming to term with his powers. After three or four seasons, we should have seen Clark graduate and head off to college, bringing the Smallville story arc to a close. The following season could then have seen the launch of Metropolis, where we would meet a world weary Clark Kent returning home from travel abroad (college and work as a budding journalist, who also occasionally saved some lives). Clark knows that he needs to use his powers for good, and we follow him as he explores how best to do that. Run that show for a couple or three seasons until Clark is solidly Superman and then wrap up Metropolis. From there you could do a new Superman TV show or even move into some sort of Justice League show, or do a series of TV movies, or even launch into movies (well, if not for that Brandon Routh thing). Instead, we have seen Clark languish in Smallville, retreading stories and trying to find new ways in which huge things are hidden in this tiny Kansas town. Frankly, 8 years of Clark saving lives in Smallville, everyone should know he has superpowers by now. “Oh, look, honey, its Clark come to stop yet another meteor infected townsperson!” Last season I gave up on Smallville and until someone tells me the show is ending I don’t think I’ll be going back.

Wednesday gave us CBS… and they axed Jericho, Moonlight, Shark, and Welcome to the Captain. I’d also mention they canceled Viva Laughlin, but even though I enjoyed the show it has been off the air so long at this point that I forgot it was part of the last season. Surviving the cut: The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Two And A Half Men, Rules of Engagement, CSI, Ghost Whisperer, Numb3rs, and The Unit. Surprisingly, all of their new shows look like they will rate at least a few viewings: Harper’s Island, The Mentalist (this show sounds like a dramatic version of USA Network’s Psych), Eleventh Hour, The Ex List, Project Gary, and Worst Week (CBS doesn’t provide direct links to their shows, only the grid). So I’m losing 3 1/2 hours and gaining 5 hours.

CBS Extra… Look, I’m not saying that stunt casting guest stars is a bad idea, but at least be smart about it. This past week on HIMYM they have the second Britney Spears appearance, and it was really stupid. The rest of the episode about Lily and Marshal was great, but the Barney/Britney bit was just awful. She might earn you ratings, but she’s a horrible actress and using her makes the bunch of you look like a bunch of ratings pandering whores. Cut it out.

Thursday saw FOX lay out their lineup… gone from the schedule are Back To You, Canterbury’s Law, New Amsterdam, The Return of Jezebel James, and Unhitched. Stay for my viewing pleasure: 24, American Idol, Bones, Family Guy, Prison Break, Til Death, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. New for the fall: Fringe looks good, and being a J.J. Abrams product means I’ll watch it; Do Not Disturb will get watched if only because it is being paired with Til Death (although Til Death made a major change for the worse this season concerning their new character addition to the show); Outnumbered might get a viewing; Dollhouse is Joss Whedon so I’ll watch it, but the premise doesn’t excite me; Lie to Me, it seems powers of observation are all the rage this year; Courtroom K stars Alfred Molina, so I’ll watch it; Sit Down, Shut Up and The Cleaveland Show are two animated additions that I might watch; Secret Millionaire is yet another stupid reality show. So on FOX I appear to be losing 3 1/2 hours, but I might be picking up 6.

FOX Extra… I’ve been watching Til Death from the beginning, but they are about to lose me. The introduction of the new character, Kenny, well, he might make the show better for some people but I find myself wanting to turn the show off whenever he gets involved too much in the story.

So there you have my annual review of the TV Upfronts. Some good stuff, some bad stuff…

But mostly, as I plead every year… people, please, I am begging you, stop watching all those awful reality shows.

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