2010 Year End TV Review: Scott Malchus

2010 was another great year of television, despite the fact that most of the new fall network shows were forgettable. While the big four seem to have a handle on coming up with new comedies, they still can’t develop innovative dramas to compete with the cable channels. Fox made an attempt with their excellent “Lone Star,” but viewers stayed away and the series was quickly cancelled (despite support from the network president). With Lost leaving the airwaves, it seems that if you want to watch something other than a procedural, you’ll have to tune to AMC, FX or HBO. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great cop, lawyer or medical shows (“The Good Wife” immediately jumps to mind), but the TV landscape is wide open enough that stories about all walks of life should be able to survive.

Best Drama: Friday Night Lights (Direct TV/NBC)

There was a lot of great drama on television this year (“Southland” was exceptional, “Lost” went out in glorious fashion, “Men of a Certain Age” was moving and effective), but I would be remiss if I didn’t place “FNL” at the top of my list, just where it has been since the show premiered in 2006. It’s hard to believe that this will be its last season. No other show has me cheering and laughing and crying week in and week out. Even during the cringe worthy moments (Julie’s affair with the TA) I can’t bring myself to raise the remote and fast forward through them. I’ve stated time and again on Popdose that this show is the most realistic portrayal of small town life I’ve ever seen on television, with beautifully written and acted characters, smart direction, and perfect music selections to create the mood of each scene (not to mention W.G. Snuffy’s poignant score). I love the Taylors; I love the community of Dillon, Texas; and I love Friday Night Lights.

Best Comedy: Modern Family (ABC)

A tough category. There are so many strong comedies on television right now, including NBC’s Thursday night lineup and ABC’s Wednesday shows. Of all of them, “Modern Family” makes me laugh the hardest; so hard that my wife and I have to rewind to hear the second and third jokes of each scene. With a great cast and insightful writing, “Modern Family” is a modern classic.

Best Reality: The Biggest Loser (NBC)

I generally hate reality shows on network television, however there is something truly inspiring about “The Biggest Loser” that grabs me every week. Here is a series about people seriously having to take back their lives otherwise they could die. The money at the end never seems to be as important as the health benefits they receive. Unlike most of the reality competitions shows, the inspiration that comes from watching “The Biggest Loser” occurs from watching every contestant, not just a select few. Obesity has overtaken our country and the men and women of “The Biggest Loser” prove that you can take back your life and that you are in control of it.

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“Southland” has been saved

In a delightful screw-you to the programming powers that be at NBC, TNT has saved the day and picked up “Southland.” Although I must, as ever, remind you that I have never claimed to be Nostradamus, I am pleased to say that I did predict that this would be the case when I originally posted about the show’s cancellation by NBC, so it’s nice to see that I can get something right once in awhile. (I’m still smarting over the fact that, in Bullz-Eye’s Fall TV Preview that “Trauma” has been canceled, but I stand by my position: based on their pilots, I can’t imagine anyone would’ve expected “Mercy” to last longer.)

Here’s the official word from TNT on the latest addition to their line-up:

TNT has picked up the critically acclaimed series “Southland,” closing a deal with Warner Bros. Television that will bring the drama from Emmy-winning producer John Wells (“ER,” “The West Wing”) to the network in January. TNT has obtained exclusive rights to air all six episodes that have been shot for the second season, as well as the seven episodes from the series’ first season. “Southland” will air on TNT Tuesdays at 10 p.m. (ET/PT), beginning with the first episode of the series on Jan. 12.

“This is a great win for fans of ‘Southland’ and a perfect opportunity to introduce the series to new viewers,” said Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks. “It’s also another outstanding example of how TNT has established itself as the go-to place for the best dramas on television.”

“We are extremely pleased that TNT has acquired all 13 episodes of ‘Southland,’ giving devoted fans the opportunity to watch a show that they passionately support,” said Peter Roth, president of Warner Bros. Television.

“We’re delighted that TNT has stepped forward to pick up ‘Southland.’ We are all extremely proud of the show,” Wells said.

Of course, if you’ve been following the Twitter feed of “Southland” star Michael Cudlitz since he started making with the obscenities over NBC’s treatment of the series, then this is old news to you, anyway. He reacted to the news minutes after the story broke, thanking everyone in Twitterland and saying, “The reason this happened was because of you. They never would have picked this show up if they didn’t think it had an audience.”

But will the audience make it over to TNT come January…?

  

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NBC kills “Southland” in a manner which will annoy even those who DIDN’T watch it

It’s one thing to kill a show when it’s been struggling in the ratings but hasn’t managed to gain a sufficient foothold with viewers. It’s quite another to pull the plug after the show has been renewed for a second season, several episodes have been completed for said season, and it hasn’t even made it back to the airwaves yet.

Sadly, you’ve probably deduced that it’s the latter which has happened to NBC’s “Southland.”

The news broke yesterday via The Hollywood Reporter, who revealed that production on the John Wells-produced cop series is being shut down before any episodes of its second season even make it to air. “Southland” was originally slated to make its return to NBC on at the same time the rest of NBC’s new shows emerged, but instead of having Season 2 kick off on September 18th, the 9 PM timeslot was filled on that Friday by “Dateline NBC.” So it has remained ever since. Plans had been afoot for the series to come back on October 23rd, but…well, obviously, those plans changed.

You barely need to read between the lines of Wells’ statement on the matter in the Reporter’s article to see that it was uttered through gritted teeth:

“I’m disappointed that NBC no longer has the time periods available to support the kind of critically-acclaimed series that was for so many years, a hallmark of their success,” Wells said. “We remain extremely proud of ‘Southland’ and are actively looking for another home for the series.”

Wells may have managed to maintain his politeness in the midst of being profoundly pissed off, but the same can’t be said of Michael Cudlitz, one of the stars of the show.

PopEater.com offered up a piece about the show getting its walking papers from the Peacock and cited Cudlitz’s comments on his Twitter account, which – as of this writing, anyway – remain out there for the world to see:

* Don’t go quietly…….. People need to know when they fuck up this big. Saw ep 2.1 …….. Dumb fucking people.

* season was so fucking good this year…….. I mean good.

* we are still in production. The shows are very, very good………… They have broken their word. I should know better.

* Honestly, not bitter. Kinda pissed. I still believe the show would have done well on Fri.

I reckon we’ll never know if “Southland” would’ve succeeded on Friday nights or not, but here’s hoping that someone…maybe TNT?…will be agreeable to saving the series and giving it a chance to play out for at least a little bit longer. Wells and his cast sat for a panel during the TCA tour in August, and the plans for the upcoming season sounded promising. This actually was a surprise to me…not because I didn’t like what I’d seen during Season 1, but because when NBC’s President of Primetime Entertainment, Angela Bromstad, talked about it, it sounded like it was going to be turning into a show that would feel more at home on CBS.

“I think we’ve made some creative adjustments. I think they tried to do too much in those six episodes, and instead of re-piloting the pilot and letting the audience get more familiar with these characters, they sort of…you know, it became very serialized, and they were a large, large ensemble. So it’s really going to focus on Regina King and Ben McKenzie and the two sets of officers and detectives and sort of focus on, you know, crimes and how they come together.”

To me, that sounded like they were basically going to be getting rid of the type of stuff that Wells brought to shows like “E.R.” and “The West Wing.” But when we talked to Wells later in the tour and Bromstad’s comments – which he hadn’t heard – were brought up, he first smirked and said, “Well, I think we are all interested in reading what Angela had to say to you the other day,” then tried to calm us down:

The show we are making is the show that we wanted to make. I think that, for people who have been watching the show, they will recognize it as the same show, and I think some of the more serialized elements that began to take over a couple of the final episodes will be less serialized, so that someone who shows up and just watches that episode will fully understand what’s happening in the episode. But we are very proud of the show we were making last year, and I think for most casual viewers of the series, they will not see a significant difference in what the show is bringing to them when they watch it. What they had asked us to do when we were coming back was to make certain that the characters of the patrol officers and the detectives were appearing in every episode. When we originally began planning the series, we had talked about doing episodes that would be solely about one group or one character, and they’ve asked us not to do that in the future or move towards that. They would like it to be an ensemble show, which has all of the characters in it on a weekly basis.

In the end, I think you have to trust Wells’ track record as a producer and presume that he and fellow producer Christopher Chulack would’ve still made Season 2 of “Southland” more than worth checking out.

In closing, I feel like I should offer up this comment from Wells during the “Southland” panel about NBC’s decision to wipe out five hours of programming in favor of “The Jay Leno Show.” I don’t think I’m wrong in suggesting that he might well have offered a more succinct response if the panel had taken place on NBC’s TCA day rather than on the Warner Brothers lot, but whatever the case, it strikes me as ample proof that, although he might not be happy that NBC has kicked “Southland” to the curb, he’s probably thrilled at the possibility that he has a chance to peddle his wares elsewhere:

“Well, you know, it would be disingenuous for me to say anything other than this is what I do for a living, and we lost five hours’ worth of time periods that had been known throughout the history of the network for putting some really terrific shows on. So I wish NBC and Jay Leno well, personally. He’s a very nice guy. But I hope he falls flat on his face and we get five dramas back. I mean, you know, that’s what I do for a living. That’s what I think should be on network television at 10:00. It should be an opportunity for narrative programs to be on the air. So it’s only one more thing that’s going to force more and more dramas into the basic cable and pay cable world. And they made the decision that they felt was necessary to make for financial purposes and whatever other decisions they had, but I hate it.”

  

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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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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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