Et tu NBC?

Hulkhogan4_americangladiators_240 I believe that TV viewers are discerning. And that they won't watch whatever is on. But lately TV has been proving me wrong.

Take for instance, exhibit A -- the return of American Gladiators, which has turned out to be a huge hit for NBC. So much so that NBC has already picked up the show for a second season this summer. It's the biggest success the peacock network has had since Heroes debuted in the fall of 2006.

So I guess from one perspective NBC is doing pretty great during the writer's strike. But not from my point of view. This once grand network -- which brought us Cheers and The Cosby Show, changed the way TV stories were told with ER, and stuck with The Office to bring us one of TV's smartest comedies -- now seems to be seeing how low they can go. And I fear, they can go much, much lower.

In addition to American Gladiators, NBC will soon be bringing us Baby Borrowers, which takes teenage couples and has them raise children from infancy to adulthood. The network just announced last week that this summer it will air Celebrity Circus, where celebrities perform with circus performers. Even with the entertaining Celebrity Apprentice, I think it's time to call a moratorium of the fusion of celebrities (which degrees of fame ranging from questionable to slightly famous) and reality programming. Haven't we hit rock bottom with VH-1's Celebrity Rehab? I prefer my reality TV sunny side up and goal oriented -- Amazing Race, American Idol (once they hit Hollywood), and Dancing with the Stars. Jen and Nate's bickering on Amazing Race is about as uncomfortable as I want to get while watching real people on TV.

All is not lost on NBC which will premiere Lipstick Jungle on February 7. The book wasn't as good as Candace Busnell's Sex and the City and neither is the series. The first two episodes I received for review were fraught with audio and color problems, but Lipstick Jungle features both Andrew McCarthy and Lorraine Bracco (who has a great inside joke in the second episode). It's not worse than Cashmere Mafia but the verdict is still out on whether it's any better.

NBC also has quarterlife premiering on February 18. Executive producers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick will turn 36 eight-minute webisodes into hour long episodes (you can check it out on www.quarterlife.com).

Perhaps I'm unfairly picking on NBC (I know I'm still highly annoyed by the disastrous way they chose to announce the Golden Globes. Whose brilliant decision was it to allow Billy Bush to comment on the winners?). Certainly other networks have seemingly awful reality shows coming to your TV. FOX keeps threatening When Women Rule the World. And this Wednesday FOX debuts The Moment of Truth (Wednesday at 9 p.m.). In this game show, people answer increasingly personal questions in front of spouses, relatives and friends, all in the name of winning $500,000. CW will premiere Farmer Takes a Wife (yup that is the title) in February.

But, perhaps naively, I still expected more from NBC. To me, NBC has become to my symbolic of what could happen if the writer's strike doesn't end soon. With almost all of its scripted series in repeats, NBC is lacking anything to off set their current programming bent.

How do you think NBC is doing with the strike? Are you watching American Gladiators? Talk about it below. And thanks for listening to my rant.

Highlights of the Week Ahead

All times listed are EST for January 21-27

Patriciaarquette_medium_240_2 Does anyone else find it highly annoying that with so few new scripted episodes on the air these days, two of them air at the same time? I know I probably shouldn't be watching October Road (Monday, ABC, 10 p.m.) but, as been previously entered into evidence I can't stop myself. The TiVo wants what the TiVo wants. Plus I so have to tune in to find out if Eddie is Sam's father. However, I also need to watch Medium (Monday, NBC, 10 p.m.) to see Michael Gross guest star as Joe's potential employer. With TiVo and DVRs, all is possible, but I still wish they weren't on opposite each other.

The Academy Award nominations are announced live on E! Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. Who will be nominated? And if they're nominated, will they show up?

Tom Everett Scott returns to Cashmere Mafia this Wednesday at 10 p.m. on ABC. Are you liking this show any better or have you completely given up?

NBC airs the last two remaining episodes of Chuck Thursday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. This show was picked up for the full season so we should be seeing more new episodes once the writer's strike ends.

Two men with bad hair entered the boardroom and only one survived. Are you sad Gene Simmons was fired from The Celebrity Apprentice (Thursday, NBC, 9 p.m.)? I kind of am -- he made for very good TV and I liked that he stood by his decisions and practically begged the Donald to let him go. Many people I talked to were only watching because he was on it. I'm wondering if the ratings will drop now that he's gone. Will you still watch a Gene Simmons-less Apprentice?

Genesimmons_theapprentice7_240 And, fret not, there's still a way to get your Gene Simmons fix the week. He'll guest star as himself on Ugly Betty (Thursday, ABC, 8 p.m.) as one of Amanda's potential dads. The real bummer is that this is the last new episode of Ugly Betty until the strike ends (and the longer it goes on, the less likely it is we will be seeing any new episodes any time this season). The show has really been building momentum and I'm loving Freddy Rodriguez as Gio. I've also started wondering what will all the shows do if they don't return until next fall (or, heaven forbid, even later than that). Will they pick up where they last left off or will they fast forward? For example, will Ugly Betty pick up with Charlie still pregnant or will they pick up with Henry already back in Arizona because Charlie had the baby?

This week also marks the final episode of Big Shots (Thursday, ABC, 10 p.m.). Many of you have told me the show has vastly improved since its premiere. TV Gal readers Ann Marie thinks Rob Thomas (executive producer of Veronica Mars) is finally making an impact on the show (Thomas wrote some of the episodes this season) and TV Gal reader Janet thinks Michael Vartan and Nia Long have such great on-screen chemistry they could star in their own romantic comedy. I'll admit I haven't really given the show a chance. But I'll be tuning in this week to see guest star Charisma Carpenter and to see what the heck happens when Wendy finds out about Karl and Marla's affair. There are so many unknowns this season and the networks may be left with no new shows to debut in the fall, so who knows, this actually may not be the last we see of Big Shots.

The 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will take place this Sunday at 8 p.m. on TNT and TBS. Unlike the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards received a waiver from the WGA so expect everyone to show up. I would be thrilled to see Mad Men and 30 Rock repeat their Golden Globes victories. For a complete list of the nominees, check out www.sag.org.

That's all for today. I'll be back on Wednesday with this week's familiar faces and answers to your questions. Have a question, seen a familiar face or want to nominate a quote of the week? Write me at amytvgal@zap2it.com. Talk to you on Wednesday.

Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal