Greetings to the New Season: NBC

When the season finales begin to air, then you know that it’s only a matter of time before the network upfront presentations begin. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the upfront, it’s when the networks formally roll out their fall schedules, providing advance warning about the slate of new programming for the next season, thereby allowing for several months of snarky comments about series which no one has even seen yet. Give credit to NBC, though: they’ve actually offered up clips for virtually every one of their new shows in order to get the buzz going as quickly as possible…be it positive or negative. Check out what they’ve got to offer, then let us know what you think!

MONDAY

8 – 9 PM: Chuck

9 – 10 PM: The Event: an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller that follows Sean Walker (Jason Ritter, “The Class”), an Everyman who investigates the mysterious disappearance of his fiancée, Leila (Sarah Roemer, “Disturbia”), and unwittingly begins to expose the biggest cover-up in U.S. history. Sean’s quest will send ripples through the lives of an eclectic band of strangers, including: newly elected U.S. President Martinez (Golden Globe nominee Blair Underwood, “In Treatment”); Sophia (Emmy Award nominee Laura Innes, “ER”), who is the leader of a mysterious group of detainees; and Sean’s shadowy father-in-law (Scott Patterson, “Gilmore Girls”). Their futures are on a collision course in a global conspiracy that could ultimately change the fate of mankind. Ian Anthony Dale (“Daybreak”) and Emmy winner Željko Ivanek (“Damages”) also star in the ensemble drama. Stark (“Medium,” “Facing Kate”) serves as executive producer, Evan Katz (“24”) serves as executive producer/showrunner, Nick Wauters (“The 4400,” “Eureka”) is creator/co-executive producer and Jeffrey Reiner (“Friday Night Lights,” “Trauma”) is the director/executive producer.

10 – 11 PM: Chase: a fast-paced drama that drops viewers smack into the middle of a game of cat-and-mouse as a team of U.S. marshals hunts down America’s most dangerous fugitives. Kelli Giddish (“Past Life”) stars as U.S. Marshal Annie Frost, a cowboy boot-wearing deputy whose sharp mind and unique Texas upbringing help her track down the violent criminals on the run. Cole Hauser (“K-Ville”), Amaury Nolasco (“Prison Break”), Rose Rollins (“The L Word”) and Jesse Metcalfe (“Desperate Housewives”) also star as members of Frost’s elite team. Jerry Bruckheimer (“CSI” franchise, “The Amazing Race,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” films), Jonathan Littman (“CSI” franchise, “The Amazing Race,” “Cold Case”) and Jennifer Johnson (“Cold Case”) serve as executive producers, while KristieAnne Reed is co-executive producer. David Nutter (“The Mentalist,” “Without a Trace” “The X-Files”) directed and is executive producer of the pilot, which was written by Johnson.

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TCA Tour: Parks and Recreation

NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” suffered through a first season which impressed only a handful of viewers and critics, only to return for its second season with everyone suddenly trumpeting it as one of the funniest shows on television. Now, this is certainly not unprecedented for shows from executive producer Greg Daniels, who endured the same fate with “The Office,” and when you think about it, every series has to endure a certain amount of growing pains. But what’s required of a show’s creative team to take a confused show and straighten it out?

“Well, I think it’s fair to say that we make some kind of change to the overall idea of the show for every episode,” said co-creator / executive producer Michael Schur. “It’s a constant process of learning what is good and what is not so good, and there is a little bit of an arbitrary pause, in that our first season is only six episodes, so that was the time that we had the most amount of time to sit around and think about what we liked and what we didn’t like. But there wasn’t, like, a ‘Eureka! Oh, here’s what we do’ moment. It’s just a constant kind of process of shooting episodes and writing episodes and cutting them together, seeing which way the characters seem to be developing and talking to the actors and getting their input. I think that…again, we had this sort of weird mini season of six episodes like ‘The Office’ did, and then we took, whatever, four months off, so when it came back, I think there was a temptation to say, ‘Oh, what has changed now?’ I would like to think that, if we had just been airing continuously, the episodes would have turned out the same way and that it would have seemed like a more gradual evolution, because I think that’s what character comedies are all about: evolution.”

I don’t know about the rest of the cast, but at the very least, Nick Offerman remembers precisely when he firmly grasped his character, Ron Swanson. “When I was originally auditioning for the role, Mike said, ‘I think this guy has a really big mustache,'” he recalled. “I think that was probably the moment. I was, like, ‘Ah, yes, I see…'”

Nonetheless, Ron has evolved a bit since then, something which Greg Daniels spoke to. “I guess it was the ethics episode in the first season where he kind of stepped up and defended Leslie,” he said. “Originally, he was more of an antagonist, I think, because he was a person who didn’t believe in the mission of the department that he was in, she was so optimistic, and they were so at odds. But then they developed a nice kind of grudging friendship, and when we saw how well that worked, we wrote towards it.”

Amy Poehler chimed into the discussion as well, adding, “What was discovered, too, was (that) Ron liked Leslie because she made his job easier.”

“It’s a very symbiotic relationship at this point,” said Schur.

“Co-dependent,” corrected Poehler. With a wink and a nudge, she added, “But we all know what those relationships are like, right?”

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The Return of Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings

Ever since the writers’ strike, the television industry has been in a state of flux. Most networks still can’t figure out what works from what doesn’t, while the current economic climate has forced others to simply give up. Whether or not “The Jay Leno Show” is a success for NBC is debatable, but by surrendering the 10 p.m. time slot, they’ve greatly decreased their chances of bringing in new viewers. We would be exaggerating if we said the decision affected Bullz-Eye’s latest edition of the TV Power Rankings, but our Winter 2009 list does seem suspiciously familiar. Still, it isn’t without its surprises, as a longtime favorite returned from an extended hiatus to claim the top spot, while buzzworthy rookies like “Glee” and “FlashForward” also made impressive Top 10 debuts. At the end of the day, however, the real winner is HBO, who walked away with three of the four top spots, thus reestablishing themselves as the best network around.

A few examples from the piece:


5. Glee (Fox): There isn’t a show on this list that we love and hate with the same enthusiasm that we have for “Glee.” It contains some of the best-drawn characters in Fox’s history (aspiring diva Rachel Berry, adorable germaphobe Emma Pillsbury, cantankerous alpha female Sue Sylvester), and the iTunes chart-burning musical numbers, lip synching aside, are deliriously fun. Imagine, then, if they didn’t make these characters jump through such ridiculous hoops. Will’s wife is actually going to take her fake pregnancy to term? Emma agrees to marry Ken, but only as long as they never tell a soul? (Those plot threads brought to you by Bad Idea Jeans.) Yet for each blunder the show makes, they come up with something as brilliantly funny as Finn’s technique for not climaxing (he thinks about the time when he hit the mailman with his car), or the drama queen freak show that is Sandy Ryerson (a pitch-perfect Stephen Tobolowsky). Getting Josh Groban to do a cameo as a horndog version of himself, meanwhile – and hit on Will’s drunk mother – was a moment of “Arrested Development”-style genius. Yes, it’s made mistakes, but “Glee” gets a spot in our Top Five because no other show on TV sports dialogue like “mentally ill ginger pygmy with eyes like a bush baby.” But man, it would be a wonderful world if they did.David Medsker

15. Dexter (Showtime): Like “The Sopranos,” Dexter always has a theme that is explored within a season as a backdrop to the episodic progression of the show. Last season, it examined friendship within the context of Dexter’s secret world, and Jimmy Smits was brilliant as his first and only pal. This year explores the facets of intimate relationships, and balancing work and the rest of your life as it relates to it. Dexter (played with brilliant sincerity and conviction by Michael C. Hall) is struggling to find balance between his work as a blood splatter analyst, a new dad of an infant, stepfather to his wife’s kids, and his hobby of killing and dismembering other bad guys, while his entertainingly foul-mouthed sister Deb implodes the most stable relationship of her life when she sleeps with returning lover and retired FBI agent Frank Lundy. John Lithgow is also scary good as the Trinity Killer, the latest object of Dexter’s attention. When Trinity kills Lundy and wounds Deb while making it look like another killer’s signature, Dex is commanded by the ghost of Harry to seek revenge, making this season as entertaining as any in the past – no easy feat considering how consistently good this show has been.R. David Smola

Honorable MentionCougar Town (ABC): Yeah, yeah, we know: the title’s a bit dodgy. But Bill Lawrence, who co-created the show with Kevin Biegel, has said, “The roll of the dice I’ve made is that the title is noisy and that people will be aware of this show.” True enough, though the fact that the series stars Courtney Cox would’ve probably done a pretty decent job of putting it on people’s radar, anyway. The pilot alone was strong enough to suggest that “Cougar Town” could prove to be the perfect series for female viewers who’ve outgrown “Sex and the City,” but with enough of a dysfunctional family element to fit perfectly into the closing slot in ABC’s new Wednesday night comedy line-up. Although the show continues to hone its comedic formula, the trio of Cox, Christa Miller and Busy Philipps clicked immediately (particularly the latter two, with their characters’ diametrically opposed personalities), and the relationship between the teenaged Travis and his man-child of a father rings true with its blend of unconditional love and complete embarrassment. Now that Jules’s fling with Josh is over, however, we’re curious to see who’ll be next on her slate to date — and how long this one will last.Will Harris

Returning in 2010Lost (ABC): Here we are, folks. After five seasons of confusing viewers with one of the most elaborate mythologies on television, “Lost” is finally in the home stretch. Want to know what the heck that smoke monster really is? How about the weird statue? Heck, what about the Dharma Initiative itself? All will supposedly be revealed in the sixth and final season of one of the smartest, most fearless shows network television has ever bothered to offer. Of course, this being “Lost,” we still have something to bitch about – namely, that the goddamn Olympics will interrupt the show’s final 18 episodes – but if we’ve waited this long to determine the ultimate fate of our favorite island castaways, what’s a few weeks of curling and cross-country skiing? We’ve all had our issues with the way “Lost” has unfolded over the years, and the show isn’t the phenomenon it was in its first couple of seasons. To cop one of the fall’s most popular phrases, though, this is it – and if there’s ever been a serialized drama with the guts to stick the landing and make its finale truly count, we’re betting it’s “Lost.”Jeff Giles

Check out Bullz-Eye’s TV Power Rankings in their entirety by clicking here or on the big-arse graphic you see before you. Also, be sure to check out the accompanying interviews with folks associated with the various shows, including David Goyer (“FlashForward”), Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”), Jonathan Ames (“Bored to Death”), and Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”).

Did any of your favorite shows miss the cut? Let us know by replying below!

  

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NBC takes us behind the scenes for the new season of “Parks and Recreation”

It’s still undeniably in the shadow of “The Office,” but Amy Poehler’s “Parks and Recreation” really started coming into its own during its first-season run this year — and if we’ve learned one thing from creators Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, it’s that even if their shows take a little time getting up to speed, they make for appointment viewing once they hit their stride. In other words, the best is yet to come — and with season two set to premiere September 17 at 8:30, we don’t have to wait long to see it.

And actually, you don’t even have to wait until September 17, thanks to NBC’s behind-the-scenes peek at the upcoming season, which we’ve helpfully embedded below. Have you missed Leslie Knope, Tom Haverford, and Ann Perkins? Hit “play” on this clip and whet your appetite for more uncomfortable situations, awkward pauses, and laughs!


  

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NBC: The Fall Schedule

It’s 2-for-1 day with the upfronts, with NBC following ABC in announcing their fall schedule. The National Broadcasting Company was already in a crap ratings position even before they decided to try the radical maneuver of giving Jay Leno the 10 PM timeslot, so they really can’t lose very much by trying such an experiment. It still sucks for fans of scripted television, though. Fortunately, the people at the Peacock have still found it in their heart to offer up a few new series, and they’re also trying the shared-timeslot concept in earnest, as you’ll see below.

Monday

8:00 PM – Heroes

9:00 PM – Trauma

From executive producer Peter Berg comes the first high-octane medical drama series to live exclusively in the field where the real action is. Like an adrenaline shot to the heart, the show is an intense, action-packed look at one of the most dangerous medical professions in the world: first responder paramedics. When emergencies occur, the trauma team from San Francisco General is first on the scene, traveling by land, by sea or by air to reach their victims in time. From the heights of the city’s Transamerica Pyramid to the depths of the San Francisco Bay, these heroes must face the most extreme conditions to save lives — and give meaning to their own existence in the process. Starring are Derek Luke, Cliff Curtis, Anastasia Griffith, Aimee Garcia, Kevin Rankin, and Jamey Sheridan.

10:00 PM – The Jay Leno Show

Tuesday

8:00 PM – The Biggest Loser
10:00 PM – The Jay Leno Show

Wednesday

8:00 PM – Parenthood

From the executive producers of the box-office hit “Parenthood,” Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, and writer/executive producer Jason Katims, this contemporary re-imagining of the blockbuster film depicts the colorful and imperfect Braverman family – four grown siblings sharing the headaches, heartaches, and joy of being parents. The star-studded cast includes Peter Krause, Maura Tierney, Craig T. Nelson, Dax Shepard, Bonnie Bedelia, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen and Mae Whitman. When Sarah Braverman (Tierney), a financially strapped single mother, returns home to her parents and siblings in Berkeley, Calif., after packing up her Fresno apartment and uprooting her two inconvenienced kids, Amber (Whitman) and Drew (Miles Heizer), she is greeted by her opinionated father, Zeek (Nelson), and strong mother, Camille (Bedelia), who are privately dealing with their own marital issues. As Sarah is reunited with her siblings — sister, Julia (Christensen), and brothers Crosby (Shepard) and Adam (Krause) — all struggling with issues of their own, it’s clear that the Braverman reunion is just what they need to face the everyday challenges of modern family life.

9:00 PM – Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

10:00 PM – The Jay Leno Show

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