A very early look at NBC's pilots
All this week, the networks have been inviting advertisers to take a peek at their development for the coming season. Most of those sessions have been private, but NBC opens up its presentation to the press, hoping to give us (and, in turn, you) a look at what might be coming down the pike come fall.
Alas, though, most of the network's pilots are pretty early into their production -- if they've even started shooting at all. So what we did see was pretty brief, and included clips of producers talking about their shows as well as stuff from the shows themselves.
Which isn't to say there was nothing worthwhile to see at the presentation, which took place on the very chilly Deal or No Deal set in Culver City. Some of the clips hinted at potential, and for those interested in reading between the lines -- like me -- NBC boss Kevin Reilly offered what sounded like encouraging words about two current shows on the bubble for renewal, Friday Night Lights and 30 Rock.
Once again, Reilly trotted out the old Grant Tinker aphorism "First be best, then be first," and referred to NBC's four-year climb in the early '80s, which began with low-rated but high-quality shows like Hill Street Blues and Cheers and exploded with the addition of The Cosby Show in 1984.
"Nothing's guaranteed," Reilly said, "but I can't help believing that Friday Night Lights or 30 Rock can be a St. Elsewhere or a Cheers, and that rising ratings next year will lift all boats."
That's positive, right? You gotta believe, right?
Onto the pilots, then: The dramas as a whole don't look to be groundbreaking on the order of, say, Heroes, but given the talent involved in some of them, there could be potential there to bring some real depth the schedule.
The New York-set cop show Fort Pit, about a precinct where academy newbies mix with discipline-case veterans, has promise. It comes from the folks behind Rescue Me and looks to have much the same sensibility as that show, mixing drama with gallows humor.
Another Big Apple-based show, Mayor of New York, at least has a great pedigree: Tom Fontana (Homicide, Oz) wrote the pilot, and Spike Lee is directing it. It stars Bobby Cannavale as the city's public advocate, who becomes mayor when the current officeholder dies. One of the clips also featured Richard Belzer as his Law & Order: SVU character, John Munch, so if it's picked up, Belzer would extend his all-time record for playing the same character on different shows to eight (No. 7 being a one-off on Arrested Development in 2006).
Chuck, a Josh Schwartz-McG collaboration about a guy who has the NSA database downloaded into his brain, could be fun, or it could be a retread of Jake 2.0. With a cast that includes Damian Lewis and Robin Weigert, Life might be worth a peek too. The Bionic Woman hasn't started filming yet, and Journeyman and Lipstick Jungle didn't do a lot for me, though I reserve the right to change that opinion once I see more than 30 seconds of them.
Among the comedies, several of which are in the Office/Earl/30 Rock vein, I'd like to see more of I'm With Stupid, though I wonder how much chance a story about a wheelchair-bound guy who lets a homeless man crash at his group home has of being picked up. The little bit that was on film looked deadpan-good, though.
I'm also on board for Area 57, because Paul Reubens as an alien is just a brilliant idea. The rest of the cast -- Matthew Lillard, Jane Lynch and Bruce McGill among them -- is kind of interesting too.
The IT Crowd looks big and broad, and Zip -- well, I hadn't really even heard of Zip before, but its premise, con-artist dad scamming folks with the help of his three kids, isn't a bad one. The Mastersons of Manhattan, with Natasha Richardson and Molly Shannon, hasn't begun shooting.
At this point in the development process, there's really not much more to say than "Hmm." But I'd like to hear from you too: Anyone out there been looking at pilot scripts, seeing dailies, or at least reading about stuff? What looks good to you?