Men have it tough and 6 other things we learned at the upfronts
Here are seven things we discovered as the networks presented their lineups for the 2011-12 season.
Previously unknown societal trend reflected in TV: Apparently the men of America are in crisis. This is news to us, but if you accept the premise of at least four sitcoms airing next season, dudes everywhere are being emasculated, humiliated and rendered obsolete. ABC is especially concerned with this problem, as three of its five new comedies ( "Last Man Standing," "Man Up" and "Work It," pictured above) deal with the subject. CBS' "How to Be a Gentleman" also tackles this very important issue.*
(*Yes, we're kidding.)
Most welcome trend: The number of shows created by women. Fourteen new series, ranging from "2 Broke Girls" to "Prime Suspect," were written or co-written by women, and in many of those cases the creators will also be showrunners. NBC's midseason series "Smash" won't have a female showrunner, but the pilot script came from playwright Theresa Rebeck.
Least welcome continuing trend: The lack of diversity in network casts. Only two shows, "Work It" and ABC's midseason drama "Scandal," have a person of color in a lead role ( Amaury Nolasco in "Work It" and Kerry Washington in "Scandal"). Even supporting casts, where networks usually bump up their diversity numbers, are whiter than usual. We're sure we'll hear lots of, "Oh, we just hired the best actor for the part" from networks and showrunners. Frankly, that's not a good enough excuse.
Most surprising pickup (in a good way): "Ringer" by The CW. We've documented how it moved from CBS to The CW -- but that kind of thing is such a rarity that it still surprises us a little. Also? The cutdown The CW showed at its upfront looks pretty strong, so we're happy it found a place on the air somewhere.
Most surprising pickup (in not such a good way): For the life of us, we can't figure out what ABC sees in the cross-dressing comedy "Work It." ABC Entertainment president Paul Lee called it "delightfully silly," but we're having a pretty tough time with the "delightfully" part.
Why it's still good to be J.J. Abrams: "Undercovers" died a quick death last season, then "Fringe" got shipped to Fridays, and people started wondering if Abrams and his company, Bad Robot, had lost its mojo. But "Fringe" held up fine on Fridays, and Bad Robot is behind two new series for 2011-12: CBS' "Person of Interest," which got the prime 9 p.m. Thursday timeslot, and FOX's midseason drama "Alcatraz." And while it has nothing to do with television, we're really psyched to see "Super 8" in June.
Possible sleeper shows: We weren't high on the first glimpses of "Unforgettable," but given its time period (after the "NCIS" block on Tuesdays), it's the kind of crime show that could enjoy a long run on CBS. We like ABC's comedy "Suburgatory" a lot, and while it has a tough timeslot opposite "The X Factor," we hope it finds a niche. We wonder about the sustainability of ABC's "Revenge," but if the execution is there, it might have a chance against a pair of aging cop shows ("CSI" and "Law & Order: SVU") on Wednesdays.