Fall TV 2013: 'About a Boy,' Michael J. Fox, Sean Hayes and more NBC comedy snap judgments
But NBC isn't cutting back on its commitment to comedy, they've simply ordered a slew of new shows including high-profile half-hours headlined by Emmy winners Michael J. Fox and Sean Hayes.
Here's a rundown of the six new comedies NBC presented to advertisers today (May 13) at its 2013 upfront at Radio City Music Hall in New York City:
"The Michael J. Fox Show" (Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. ET)
One of the most anticipated fall comedies on any network, "The Michael J. Fox Show" brings Emmy-winning TV comedy legend Fox back to television as a stay-at-home dad who returns to work as an anchorman at a New York newscast. Fox's real-life Parkinson's disease -- which led to his retirement from TV comedy and "Spin City" -- is firmly a part of the story here, with many attempts to find the humor in living with the disease and poking fun at the temptation to milk it for sentimentality.
It's easy to root for Fox to headline another hit and it's a bonus to have "Breaking Bad" scene-stealer Betsy Brandt on board as his wife. But there's something worrying about NBC slotting this into 9:30 on Thursdays and letting Sean Hayes' new show anchor the schedule instead. The trailer above released by NBC is the same one shown to advertisers. It has a few chuckles (and awkward Matt Lauer/Savannah Guthrie cameos), but it's no knockout.
"Sean Saves the World" (Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET)
"Will & Grace's" Sean Hayes steps up to leading man status in this comedy about a gay single dad trying to bond with his teenage daughter while keeping his bossy mother (comedy vet Linda Lavin of "Alice") in check. As the only multi-camera comedy on NBC's Thursday night (and the only multi-camera comedy at the network besides the yet-to-be-scheduled "Undateable"), "Sean" could stick out like a sore thumb.
But it also looks like a throwback to the days of "Frasier" and "Will & Grace," and if the writing is sharp enough could be a great showcase for Hayes and Lavin especially. The biggest laughs the above trailer received at the upfront came from Hayes' physical comedy as his character tries to escape out of a bathroom window.
"Welcome to the Family" (Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET)
A tired-sounding culture clash comedy -- a pregnant teenage couple decided to get married over the objections of her white parents and his Latino parents -- actually plays a little less lame than you might think and seems to have a perfect fit in star Mike O'Malley. There's nothing groundbreaking here, but the trailer drew more laughs at the upfront than any other NBC comedy previewed. Maybe it's the element of surprise?
NBC hasn't released trailers for their midseason shows yet, but here's how they played at the upfronts:
"About a Boy" (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET, starting midseason)
The 2002 Hugh Grant/Nicholas Hoult movie (based on Nick Hornby's 1998 novel) becomes a weekly TV series set in San Francisco and starring David Walton ("Bent," "New Girl") as the slacker songwriter who bonds with the oddball kid ( Benjamin Stockham of "1600 Penn") who moves in next door. Minnie Driver plays the kid's hippie mom and Leslie Bibb guest stars as Walton's love interest. If you've seen the movie, you already know the story beats. They play out with just a few tweaks (One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful" substitutes for Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly") and it'll be up to future episodes to differentiate the show. The trailer played to noticeably muted reaction at the upfront.
"The Family Guide" (Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET, starting midseason)
A comedy based on the real life of TV writer DJ Nash ("Traffic Light," "'Til Death"), who grew up with a blind father (played by J.K. Simmons of ABC's just-canceled "Family Tools"). Jason Bateman narrates the coming of age story centered on pre-teen Henry ( Eli Baker). Parker Posey plays his mom in the pilot but has left the show and will be recast. In the best-case scenario the show could have a "Wonder Years"-like vibe but as it is it's mostly so-so jokes intercut with sentiments like, "You could say my dad's inability to see helped us see things more clearly." Eh.
NBC's least promising new comedy is also the only one without a scheduled premiere -- the network referred to "Undateable" as a "backup" comedy along with "Community" -- but it looks just terrible. Chris D'Elia ("Whitney") stars as a slacker guy who tries to inspire a group of "undateable" losers to find romance. He calls them a "non-superhero version of 'The Avengers.'"
Here's one sample of the multi-camera show's broad comedic stylings: "[You're] like Gary Busey creepy. And creepy sticks. It's like herpes, it's for life." That's delivered by co-star Bianca Kajlich ("Rules of Engagement") to her brother (D'Elia). If that's not enough for you, there's also a bar called "Black Eyes" that people keep thinking is named "Black Guys." The trailer was DOA at the upfront, but Bill Lawrence ("Scrubs," "Cougar Town") is an executive producer, so maybe it can find a following.