TCA Tour: NBC Executive Session

We just had NBC-Universal Executive Session, with Angela Bromstad (President, Primetime Entertainment) and Paul Telegdy (Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming and Production) taking the stage to answer our questions, and…you know, I’ve got to be honest: it was pretty underwhelming. No surprise: the first two words of the very first question were “Ben Silverman,” and his name remained a recurring theme for the remainder of the session. It also wasn’t a surprise that the topic of Conan’s ratings and the expectation for Jay’s ratings were brought up, but it was absolutely ridiculous that neither Bromstad nor Telegdy seemed prepared to handle the queries, instead either feigning uncertainty about the numbers, offering vague responses which signified nothing, or attempting to pawn the questions off to Jay’s panel this afternoon. This immediately came back to bite Bromstad on the arse when she was asked outright if she’d be on that panel (she won’t be), and it led to one critic offering a sarcastic apology for asking questions of the wrong people.

Here’s the extent of information that I was able to glean from the panel:

* Bryan Fuller’s latest departure from “Heroes” was dismissed as being due to the fact that he’s at a point in his career where he’s really wanting to create his own shows, so NBC is focusing on their development deal with him. As for “Heroes,” Bromdstad said that Fuller helped Tim (Kring) get back on track, helped everybody decide where they were going, and that the show is doing exceptionally well creatively.

* The start of “30 Rock” has been delayed due to Alec Baldwin’s movie schedule, which is why the network is kicking off “Community” in its timeslot. The 8 PM timeslot will therefore be filled with six Thursday night “Weekend Update” specials, three of which are currently on the schedule.

* We are assured that, despite the fact that some shows which were previously airing in the 10 PM timeslot are now being moved to 9 PM out of necessity, there should be no issue with their content in their new time periods.

* The network’s new zombie series, “Day One,” is being embraced due to the sci-fi success of “Heroes.” “It’s a genre we cannot ignore,” said Bromstad, though she admitted that it does tend to be a little more of a narrow genre. Her most notable comment on the matter, however, was the acknowledgment that the network is viewing “Day One” as a “big event” for the network…but not necessarily one which would return for a second season.

* There is always talk of doing another regular “Apprentice,” but according to Telegdy, the most recent “Celebrity Apprentice” had a ratings jump from the previous, so we probably shouldn’t look for it to happen any time soon.

* “Friday Night Lights” will not be back until summer 2010. “We just think that ‘Friday Night Lights’ is a sensational show,” said Bromstad, “but it doesn’t have the ratings to justify it on the fall schedule.”

* Regarding “Southland,” the network has “incredible passion” for the future, but its future depends on how it does in the fall. “We’ve made some creative adjustments,” said Bromstad. “I feel like they tried to do too much in the first six episodes – instead of letting the audience become more familiar with characters, they became too serialized – so the show will focus on Regina King and Ben McKenzie, the crimes, and how they come together.”

* RE: “Medium,” “It was definitely a show we were considering picking up ’til the very end, but we had to make choices creatively and financially.”

* RE: “Chuck,” “The great thing is that they’re on a great track collectively. We’ve got 3 or 4 scripts in already, and it is something we can move around, but right now it’s not scheduled to come on until March.” The series has a 13 episode pick-up, and it’s possible that it could be bumped up, but “these are just discussions we’re continuing to have.”

  

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Oh, come on! Bryan Fuller leaves “Heroes” AGAIN?

True story, according to Herc at Ain’t It Cool News.

Says Fuller in the story…

“Development was really starting to heat up, And it appears like I may be writing multiple pilots for NBC so that wasn’t leaving a ton of room for ‘Heroes,’ unfortunately. We crafted some really great arcs for the season that I’m excited to see come to fruition. I love that cast dearly and am sad to go, but the plate — she was over-flowing.”

Ugh. I mean, not that there aren’t plenty of other writers who are just as capable as Fuller, but there’s just no question how much the guy brought to the “Heroes” plate, as the tail end of Season 3 handily demonstrated. As such, I am hereby bummed. Of course, I’ll feel a lot better if we get an announcement in the near future that says Fuller is officially attached to a new “Star Trek” series, but I don’t think there’s any reason to expect such a thing anytime soon.

  

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Heroes 3.25 – Lives Come Together, They Fade Apart

Here are now, at the finale of another season of “Heroes.” Entertain us…or, at the very least, leave us happy ’til the beginning of the next season, right? With the return of Bryan Fuller to the fold, the show has been working its way slowly but surely out of the creative doledrums in which it had found itself, but does anyone even care anymore?

It’s a fair question, particularly when you look back at how few people are commenting on this blog nowadays. Once upon a time, we actually used to get a discussion going about the episode of the week, but if you look back over the course of the past several weeks, we’ve been averaging no more than 2 or 3 comments per ep, with one week receiving absolutely no comments! I figured Fuller’s return would kickstart the blog, but has it really reached a point where even the return of one of the show’s seminal writers (if, indeed, a show only in its third season can be said to have such a thing) can’t stir much in the way of conversation? I’m not even taking it personally anymore. I’m really just surprised.

Frankly, I feel like the show’s been relatively strong in recent weeks. Are there really so few people who feel the same way?

Last week ended with Zeljko looking darned surprised about Sylar surviving a knife blade to the back of the skull, but given the amount of shapeshifting Sylar had been doing, I wasn’t terribly shocked. Since he’s now able to move his size and shape around in a rather dramatic fashion, I figured his Achilles’ heel might not be where we last left it. I was, however, wondering whether we’d see Sylar slaughter Zeljko immediately or if he’d toy with him for awhile first. Nice touch, taking on his form to discredit him, ruin his reputation, and get him thrown into prison with…HRG?

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Heroes 3.23 – It’s Like 1961 All Over Again

Now this felt like a comic book.

I know I’ve said that before about episodes of “Heroes,” but those who frequent this blog on a regular basis are hopefully aware that I don’t say it very often. Unfortunately, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not really a good thing, since, y’know, this is a show about people with superhuman abilities. As such, you’d like to think that just about every episode would feel more or less like a comic book…but they don’t.

Shall we once again chalk this up to the return of Bryan Fuller?

Oh, what the hell. We might as well, right? I mean, after all, it might’ve been written by Aron Eli Coleite, but Fuller’s influence is all over this episode, from the flashback structure to the use of one of his regular players: Diana Scarwid, who was a regular on “Wonderfalls” (Karen Tyler) and popped up on “Pushing Daisies” on more than a few occasions as well (as Mother Mary Mary Superior).

Last week ended with the Petrelli family literally digging up skeletons from Mama’s past as they scoured the now-desolate area known as Coyote Flats. Why? To find Mama’s long lost sister, Alice. So let’s cue up the flashbacks and drop into black and white mode, shall we?

It was cool to see some well-established characters in their younger years: Charles Deveaux, Daniel Linderman, Bob(by) Bishop, and, of course, Mohinder’s pops. The references to the Nazis – specifically, Mengele – and the Jews were almost inevitable. It’s focusing on a camp filled with people who have been deemed different in some way, and it’s filmed in black and white. Even people who’ve never seen “Schindler’s List” were thinking of that movie from the moment the color faded away…and, somehow, I can’t imagine the comparison wasn’t completely and totally intentional. There were several nice uses of music in this episode, with Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” definitely being among the highlights, but my personal favorite moment was the transition between the last 1961 flashback sequence and the present, with Roy Orbison’s original version of “Crying” segueing seamlessly into k.d. lang’s cover. That was some sweet, sweet stuff right there, my friends.

The only problem with the flashback sequences being so good, however, was that the present-day bits needed to be exciting enough that you didn’t keep thinking, “Geez, I wish they’d flip back to 1961 already!” The storm surges served that purpose nicely, since we weren’t entirely sure if indeed Alice was still alive or not. I certainly didn’t think she was controlling the winds from beyond the grave or anything, but I wasn’t sure how they were going to handle it.

As it turned out, she ended up looking suspiciously like the Cat Lady from “The Simpsons,” but I didn’t think about the point of comparison until afterwards. While I was actually watching the episode, I was far more focused on the interaction between Scarwid and Cristine Rose, which was a lot of fun to watch. Wow, so Mama Petrelli lied to her sister outright. Yeah, that’s a pretty big secret to carry with you for that many years, though it had to at least be a little bit of a load off to learn that Alice was actually still alive, what with having believed her dead for 48 years. I dare say we haven’t seen the last of her in the “Heroes” saga.

All told, a very, very solid episode for those who enjoy a well-told bit of back story…and since I count myself among that number, you may color me pleased. The last few moments, however, definitely left me chomping at the bit for next week. Clearly, the future isn’t going to turn out exactly as it was foretold in previous episodes, but with Sylar doing his best Nathan impression, there are definitely some seriously dark clouds on the horizon.

In closing, don’t forget to check out my interview with Greg Grunberg over at Bullz-Eye, part of our latest TV Power Rankings festivities.

  

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Heroes 3.20 – Welcome Back, Bryan

Cue up the John Sebastian, people, ’cause it’s time to formally offer a hearty “welcome back” to Bryan Fuller. Tonight’s episode is the first time we’ve seen the man’s name in the writing credits since the glory days of “Heroes,” i.e. Season 1, and although his return comes at the expense of “Pushing Daisies,” you have to respect the guy for trying to do his part of save the series that he helped to make. And, yeah, I know, it’s not like he created the show, but given how many times Fuller’s “Company Man” has been held up as the series’ definitive episode, you can’t deny that his contributions helped make “Heroes” appointment television during the 2007 – 2008 TV season.

It was clear from the opening sequence, with Zeljko literally being handed a gift-wrapped Puppet Master, that we were finally going to get something we hadn’t seen in forever: a “Heroes” episode that actually felt like it was taken from a comic book. You wouldn’t think it’d be so hard to accomplish that in a show about people with superhuman abilities…and, apparently, it isn’t hard for Fuller, since he’s proven time and time again that he can manage it. Watching Zeljko turn the tables on Mohinder was awesome (“Why did you bring me here?” “I thought it’d be a whole lot easier than carrying you.”), and his typically tense conversations with HRG were typically solid, as was the HRG / Mama Petrelli chat at the beginning.

I don’t think there was anything that came out of Hiro’s mouth tonight that wasn’t genius, whether it was his addressing of Matt Parkman, Jr. (“Baby Matt Parkman, we will save you; if you understand, shake rattle once for ‘yes’ and twice for ‘no'”), his using a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episode to rationalize how a de-aging process might’ve occurred and offering up a “Wrath of Khan” reference (“Life from lifelessness!”), or his asking Ando, “What are we saving the baby from? Lead-based toys?” I thought it was a great touch that, despite the TV being turned on and off repeatedly, Hiro and Ando still never once noticed that it was actually the baby’s daddy on the screen. The sequence where Hiro finally addressed having witnessed his mother’s death in the past and had an emotional bonding moment with Ando was unexpectedly effective (sometimes you forget that those guys can work together in drama as well as comedy), but then it was back to the comedy with the “E.T.” homage. And once the men in black busted in to take Li’l Parkman and Matt’s ex into custody…words fail me. Hiro’s powers are back! Thank you, Toddler Touch and Go! Except they’re not entirely, which means he can stop time again but still can’t teleport. Oh, well, so the kid’s not perfect. Anyone else do a spit take when Hiro rolled Ando out in a wheelbarrow?

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