Every year around this time, the networks go crazy announcing new shows and new faces as the hope of their impending fall seasons, but no major network has more hope or more riding on these announcements that the fourth place NBC. Just yesterday, they released video previews of their slew of new comedies and dramas that aim to take them in a new direction and we've got them all line up here with a little bit of context and few opinions.
We're looking for potential here, and while a few have some real promise, there are just as many that aren't so lucky.
Starring: Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn
Basics: Two recently single Hollywood agents commit the ultimate co-worker sin (yep, we're talking about sex) and have to deal with it in this workplace comedy. Of course, one sexual encounter undoubtedly leads to another and with that comes a big ol' mess.
Why: Despite the annoying presence of Natasha Leggero, this show rides on Hank Azaria, which is a pretty good person to weigh your hopes and dreams upon. The biggest hurdle I see at the outset is the chemistry between Helen (Hahn) and Alex (Azaria). Even accidental friend with benefits have some sort of sexual tension and since this is what the show is about, let's hope that chemistry is just undergoing a few growing pains. Also on the positive side is that the writer for the show, John Enbom, also wrote for Party Down, which didn't last but was an excellent short-lived workplace comedy.
Starring: Whitney Cummings, Chris D'Elia, Zoe-Lister Jones
Basics: Comedienne Whitney Cummings brings her perspective on love to the small screen in a sitcom that finds her character Whitney and her boyfriend Alex doing anything it takes to keep from becoming a typical boring couple, including refusing to get married and keeping it fresh with botched attempts to spice things up.
Why: Take a look at this clip and you'll see that while some folks may love Cummings as a standup comedian, she doesn't really hold her own when it comes to scripted television. That's a problem when the show is all about her. D'Elia and Jones try to offset Cummings' awkward delivery, but if the writing doesn't tighten up, it won't be enough.
Starring: David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby
Basics: Detective Nick Burkhardt finds that he can see things others can't, like a man turning into a violent troll or a pretty woman becoming a hag in an instant. It turns out he's one of a group of hunters called Grimms who must keep the real world safe from these fairy tale villains.
Potential: Not Bad
Why: If you watch these previews, you might note a sense of familiarity. That's because this series comes from the guys behind Buffy and Angel. While it won't be winning any Emmys, it looks to have the potential to capture those Buffy fans who've been dealing with the hole the long-running series left when it ended. Whether or not it succeeds in this endeavor lies on the show's brand new star, but let's hope there's more to him than what we see in these clips.
The Playboy Club
Starring: Eddie Cibrian, Amber Heard, David Krumholtz
Basics: Hoping to nab a piece of the 60s fad started by Mad Men, NBC introduces this salacious soap set in the original Playboy Club in Chicago, complete with sex, mob action, secret pasts and those classic bunny suits.
Why: Cibrian's Nick Dalton is no Don Draper and the intrigues are certainly low brow compared to the ups and downs on the leading 60s drama, Mad Men, but this show has enough sex appeal and intrigue (like when Heard's character kills a guy with her stiletto; yikes) to potentially ensnare a few viewers. Plus, Cibrian's own tabloid exploits coupled with the show's famed nudity clause are enough to draw at least a little curiosity.
Starring: Maria Bello
Basics: Maria Bello takes on a role originally held by Helen Mirren in the British version. She's a "tough-as-nails" detective determined to best the rest of the members of the department's boys club.
Potential: Not great
Why: Bello's not lacking the leading lady ability, but the show does rely heavily on a few tired stereotypes -- the hard-working woman who doesn't take shit from anyone, isn't appreciated by the men around her, but has that special, all-knowing womanly touch. The show as a whole looks like it wasn't just thrown together, but I just wish it didn't feel like Law and Order meshed with The Closer. Then again, with Kira Sedgwick finishing her last season, folks may be looking for another lady to fill that void.
Up All Night
Starring: Christina Applegate, Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph
Basics: Reagan and Chris (Applegate and Arnett) find themselves with an unexpected bundle of joy and a whole bunch of responsibilities they aren't ready for. Flipping the stereotypes, Reagan goes back to the office while Chris plays stay-at-home dad.
Why: Not only does the show have a killer trio at its center, but we get Will Arnett as a stay-at-home dad. How can that not be great? Plus, it looks like it might have a little more bite than Arnett's last sitcom attempt, Running Wilde, which was just a little too sweet.
Starring: Jason Isaacs, Wilmer Valderrama
Basics: After a terrible car accident, Detective Michael Britten wakes up in two separate realities: one in which his son survived the accident and he lost his wife, and the other the reverse. When he goes to sleep in one reality the other starts and vice versa, but eventually the cases he works on start to overlap in each reality and it begins to weigh on him.
Why: It's not exactly the Inception-style drama they've been promising, but it's certainly something the promises to be intriguing, enthralling and even eye-opening. Yes, Valderrama is a part of it, which may seem like a drawback, but Isaacs looks to carry this very original story well. It's only too bad we'll have to wait until midseason to see it.
Are You There Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea
Starring: Laura Prepon, Chelsea Handler
Basics: Based on Chelsea Handler's life and best-selling novel, the show follows Laura Prepon's Chelsea Handler reincarnate, Chelsea Newman, as she attempts to get her life back together after getting a DUI. Chelsea works at the local bar with a few other fiery folks and spews the same jokes you'll find on Chelsea Lately.
Potential: Not Great
Why: Well, I say "not great" because from the looks of these previews, the show ain't great. It's just the same typical Handler jokes we've heard time and again, just delivered with a little less oomph from Prepon, who I want desperately to like. Sure, it's a nice shock to see Handler playing the super straight-laced sister to herself (yeah, that's who she plays), but that could get old really quick. Then again, the woman's fans are pretty rabid, so we may see this sitcom stick around.
Starring: Katherine McPhee, Debra Messing, Anjelica Houston, Jack Davenport
Basics: The show follows a young woman as she chases her dream of becoming a Broadway star and a songwriting duo as they put on a new production about Marilyn Monroe. Singing, dancing and a whole lotta real life problems ensue.
Why: It looks to be exactly what we've been promised: grown up Glee. Take out most of the camp, add a little more reality and two thumbs up from Steven Spielberg (who produces the show) and we just may have a hit...that is if Glee doesn't ruin the idea of musical theater for audiences with this awful second season.
Starring: Laura Parham, Jessica St. Clair
Basics:Two best friends ended up different sides of the country, but when one ends up getting divorced, she moves back to New York and in with her old friend. Their friendship gets back on track as the newly single Jessica tries to regain her singlehood. It's just not great news for Lennon's live-in boyfriend who starts to feel the pressure of this house guest's constant presence.
Potential: Not bad
Why: Unlike the other lady-friendly comedies NBC has on deck -- Are You There Vodka? and Whitney -- this show actually feels genuine and modern in a way that other two are attempting and failing. The only worry I have here is that it won't catch on with viewers, but I think it certainly has potential to be a cute show.
Despite some seriously dismal ratings, word has it NBC is giving a 13 episode order to its spy spoof Chuck, to the show's rabid fan base's delight. As a former Chuck fan, even I can admit that it might be time for Agent Bartowski to pack up his things and say goodbye -- the show's hit some serious snags this season -- yet, with a fan base that would probably sit you down in an interrogation room and convince you until you crack and buy every season on DVD, it makes sense that NBC would aim to please if they can afford it. (Thanks, Chuck's rampant Subway sandwich product placement.)
Also getting a shot at the big time on the fourth place network are Smash and Prime Suspect. Smash, oft described as "Glee for adults" stars Debra Messing, is backed by Steven Spielberg, and could actually be kind of fun. Prime Suspect finds Maria Bello in the lead as a female detective trying to hold her own in a profession dominated by men, which sounds oddly like The Closer with someone less charming that Keira Sedgwick, but I'll reserve my judgement until I see the final product. Vulture also reports that two yet-to-be-titled comedies from Whitney Cummings and Emily Spivey (with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett) are on their way to series as well.
Even though I'm sure not all of these shows will stick, it's nice to see that NBC is really getting outside of their normal fare (15 different spinoffs of Biggest Loser! ... and The Apprentice! ...and Law and Order!) and trying something a little different and if we're lucky, we'll find something worth watching.
Alan Ball (American Beauty Six Feet Under) adapts and directs this film version of the Alicia Erian novel that could have had the urgency of some of his earlier work but fizzles as a sexually coming-of-age tale in the non-descript suburbs of Houston Texas. Jasira (Summer Bishil) is a 13 year-old Arab-American girl who craves attention and normality but can’t seem to find it in her cloistered world. When her mother (Maria Bello) sends her to Houston to live with her temperamental Lebanese father Rifat (Peter Macdissi) she soon discovers her emerging womanhood in encounters with her Army reservist neighbor Mr. Vuoso (Aaron Eckhart)--whose perverse flirting and attraction grows increasingly intense--and Thomas (Eugene Jones) an older black schoolmate whose friendship turns into a physical relationship as well. These episodes and her run-ins with her ultra-strict old world father complicate matters until another neighbor the pregnant Melina (Toni Collette) manages to bring everything to a head. Summer Bishil with her coy combination of innocence and budding sexuality is the embodiment of a modern-day Lolita teasing the men and boys around her with a sweet maturity beyond her 13 years. She is almost like a blank canvas the male characters use to express their own feelings and prejudices. As the creepy neighbor Eckhart crosses the line uncomfortably into pedophilia even though he is clearly given the green light by Jasira. Their scenes together are cringe-inducing and help march the dicey film into exploitation territory. Eckhart is fine in the role but in the scheme of things you have to wonder why Ball put him there in the first place. These sequences sleaze up the proceedings but really don’t contribute much to whatever point the film is trying to make. Jones is appealing and understated as the shy Thomas who thinks he is the first to deflower Jasira. Macdissi could have played the narrow-minded father role on one note but actually elicits a little sympathy making Rifat more empathetic than he appears. Bello. on the other hand. can’t do much in her thankless ill-defined role as his estranged narcissistic wife while Collette is at least warm and believable as a neighbor who takes matters into her own hands. Unfortunately these fine performers deserve better trying to bring the best out of a script that never makes a human connection. Ball who won an Oscar for his brilliant American Beauty screenplay and shepherded Six Feet Under on HBO makes his feature directorial debut here and fails to come up with anything resembling a coherent story. Is it trying to be a sensitive coming-of-age movie? An updated version of Lolita in the Texas suburbs? A polemic on racism and Middle Eastern politics in the post Gulf War world? The point of Towelhead seems buried somewhere in the murky middle and Ball’s claustrophobic direction doesn’t help matters. With American Beauty he had equally challenging material but director Sam Mendes managed to make poetry from it all. Ball falls prey to his own inadequacies and makes a movie audiences are going to feel awfully uncomfortable watching. Towelhead is neither sexy enlightening or touching failing where it desperately hoped to succeed.
Here's your complete list of the 63rd Annual Golden Globes nominations and winners.
Best Motion Picture--Drama
Brokeback Mountain Winner!
The Constant Gardener
Good Night, and Good Luck
A History of Violence
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture--Drama
Maria Bello, A History of Violence
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica Winner!
Gwyneth Paltrow, Proof
Charlize Theron, North Country
Ziyi Zhang, Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture--Drama
Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote Winner!
Terrence Howard, Hustle & Flow
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck
Best Motion Picture--Musical or Comedy
Mrs. Henderson Presents
Pride & Prejudice
The Squid and the Whale
Walk The Line Winner!
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture--Musical or Comedy
Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
Keira Knightley, Pride & Prejudice
Laura Linney, The Squid and the Whale
Sarah Jessica Parker, The Family Stone
Reese Witherspoon, Walk The Line Winner!
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture--Musical or Comedy
Pierce Brosnan, The Matador
Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale
Johnny Depp, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Nathan Lane, The Producers
Cillian Murphy, Breakfast on Pluto
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk The Line Winner!
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Scarlett Johansson, Match Point
Shirley MacLaine, In Her Shoes
Frances McDormand, North Country
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener Winner!
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
George Clooney, Syriana Winner!
Matt Dillon, Crash
Will Ferrell, The Producers
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Bob Hoskins, Mrs. Henderson Presents
Best Director--Motion Picture
Woody Allen, Match Point
George Clooney, Good Night, and Good Luck
Peter Jackson, King Kong
Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain Winner!
Fernando Meirelles, The Constant Gardener
Steven Spielberg, Munich
Best Foreign Language Film
Kung Fu Hustle (China)
Master of the Crimson Armor aka The Promise (China)
Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel) (France)
Paradise Now (Palestine) Winner!
Tsotsi (South Africa)
Best Screenplay--Motion Picture
Woody Allen, Match Point
George Clooney & Grant Heslov, Good Night, and Good Luck
Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, Crash
Tony Kushner & Eric Roth, Munich
Larry McMurty & Diana Ossana, Brokeback Mountain Winner!
Best Original Score--Motion Picture
Alexandre Desplat, Syriana
James Newton Howard, King Kong
Gustavo Santaolalla, Brokeback Mountain
Harry Gregson-Williams, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
John Williams, Memoirs of a Geisha Winner!
Best Original Song--Motion Picture
“A Love That Will Never Grow Old,” Brokeback Mountain Winner!
“Christmas in Love,” Christmas in Love
“There’s Nothing Like a Show on Broadway,” The Producers
“Travelin’ Thru,” Transamerica
“Wunderkind,” The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Best Television Series--Drama
Commander in Chief (ABC)
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)
Lost (ABC) Winner!
Prison Break (Fox)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series--Drama
Patricia Arquette, Medium
Glenn Close, The Shield
Geena Davis, Commander in Chief Winner!
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Polly Walker, Rome
Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series--Drama
Patrick Dempsey, Grey’s Anatomy
Matthew Fox, Lost
Hugh Laurie, House Winner!
Wentworth Miller, Prison Break
Kiefer Sutherland, 24
Best Television Series--Musical or Comedy
Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)
Desperate Housewives (ABC) Winner!
Everybody Hates Chris (UPN)
My Name is Earl (NBC)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series--Musical or Comedy
Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives
Teri Hatcher, Desperate Housewives
Felicity Huffman, Desperate Housewives
Eva Longoria, Desperate Housewives
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds Winner!
Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series--Musical or Comedy
Zach Braff, Scrubs
Steve Carell, The Office Winner!
Larry David, Curb Your Enthusiasm
Jason Lee, My Name is Earl
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men
Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Empire Falls (HBO) Winner!
Into the West (TNT)
Lackawanna Blues (HBO)
Sleeper Cell (Showtime)
Viva Blackpool (BBC America)
Warm Springs (HBO)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Halle Berry, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Kelly MacDonald, The Girl in the Café
S. Epatha Merkerson, Lackawanna Blues Winner!
Cynthia Nixon, Warm Springs
Mira Sorvino, Human Trafficking
Best Performance by an Actor In a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television
Kenneth Branagh, Warm Springs
Ed Harris, Empire Falls
Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Elvis Winner!
Bill Nighy, The Girl in the Café
Donald Sutherland, Human Trafficking
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Candice Bergen, Boston Legal
Camryn Manheim, Elvis
Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy Winner!
Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds
Joanne Woodward, Empire Falls
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Naveen Andrews, Lost
Paul Newman, Empire Falls Winner!
Jeremy Piven, Entourage
Randy Quaid, Elvis
Donald Sutherland, Commander in Chief