Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Guest Column: How NBC has managed to not just fall down, but tripped down a big-ass staircase: Part 1

This was originally posted several months ago with the intent of having the second part (of 2) posted shortly there after, but, well, it never happened. As has become a theme with both contributors (of the same blood), life happened, and I never got around to posting the second entry. Tomorrow, part 2 will be posted, and for context, I've taken the liberty of re-posting the first part...

Is it just me or does TV as whole leave quite a bit to be desired? Without doing research of any kind, it seems like for every good/decent/tolerable show on TV right now, there are at least 3-5 hardly watchable shows. Obviously, there are holdovers from previous seasons that are still pumping out episodes of quality like Dexter, Parks & Recreation, and Psych, but to me…those are few and far between.

I’ve noticed this phenomenon ever since the writer’s strike a few years ago because almost every show had a huge drop off in overall quality. Shows that were stalwarts for quality episodes week in and week out totally sucked following the strike. The Office almost lost me entirely because each episode was totally unfunny. Some of you may not care for 30 Rock, but I used to enjoy it quite a bit. After the strike…not so much. About the only shows that come to mind that didn’t blow after the strike (that I watched anyway) were Dexter and Friday Night Lights.

The writer’s strike shouldn’t be completely to blame because the other part needs to go to the individual networks. Can you remember a network that’s fallen further out of the graces of viewers than NBC? I sure can’t.

Have you looked at NBC’s weekly lineup lately? Here it is…

Sunday: Who Do You Think You Are?; Dateline

Monday: Chuck; The Cape; Harry’s Law

Tuesday: Biggest Loser; Parenthood

Wednesday: 2 Hours of Minute to Win It; Law & Order: SVU

Thursday: Community; Perfect Couples; The Office; Parks & Rec; 30 Rock; Outsourced

Friday: Who Do You Think You Are?; Dateline

Saturday: Chuck; Law & Order: Los Angeles; Law & Order: SVU

Let’s start with Sunday’s lineup and work our way through the week…

I hate to be the bearer of bad news to NBC, but a show about genealogy isn’t going to get people watching your network. Vanessa Williams’ family history is of ZERO INTEREST to me. Even someone like [insert either one of my parents] who actively participates in the hobby of genealogy will have no interest in this show*. And apparently NBC wants to make sure you get a chance to see Who Do You Think You Are? badly enough that they re-air it on Fridays.

*Listening to someone else talk about his/her family history (with the exception of a passing comment) is like listening to someone talk about their fantasy sport team. No one outside of the owner of said team/family cares, so we just sit there acting as if we care until the appropriate time comes where we can insert a comment the includes ourselves.**

To be fair, I am a sucker for a good Dateline (see: “To Catch a Predator” highlight reel below), but I don’t think it serves any purpose aside from providing additional shows to validate the salaries of news anchors. NBC should be given some props for realizing that no one watches on Saturdays and Sundays, so as far as the bottom-line is concerned, they actually made a wise decision, but they aren't good.
Moving on to Monday… I used to watch Chuck, but there wasn’t anything about that show that made me come back after the first season.

Honestly, I have been watching The Cape, and those of you have seen an episode know how horrendously bad that show is. To me, it seems like NBC thinks they can “cash in” on the success of Heroes* but that show was actually good**. I keep watching The Cape only because it’s got to be better, and I'm kind of a sucker for superhero crap.

*Five years later...

**There was such a huge drop off following the first season, and it got progressively more terrible with each successive episode, too.

Harry’s Law looks to be even worse than The Cape. It’s my contention that NBC heard some good things about Kathy Bates as "Jo Bennet" in The Office, so they decided to create a show with the main character being basically Jo Bennet. There isn’t an ounce of me that has any interest in watching that garbage (opinion is solely based on the ads).

Their Tuesday lineup is hardly worth mentioning. I’ve never bothered to sit through an episode of The Biggest Loser. From what I’ve heard, it’s actually okay, but the main networks have copped out by having so many reality shows, but that will mentioned later.

I’m not really sure where to start with Parenthood. I guess I’ll start by mentioning how much I hate Dax Sheppard. Jesus, he’s terrible. He’s 100% unfunny, and only making matters worse is his relationship Kristen Bell. Adding to my distaste is how the show was advertised in a manner leading fans of Modern Family* to believe that show was going to be like that. Well…it’s not. Plus, I read an article recently that said who the creators of Modern Family initially wanted for its cast and none other than Craig Tiberius** Nelson was at the top of their wish list to play role of family patriarch.

*And "Parenthood" was a mid-season addition to their lineup. Did they have this show just ready for development if "Modern Family" was a success?
**It's true...look it up

And yes, that's Tom Arnold...

Guy Fieri is another person who is on my hate list. I don’t want to eat at TGI Fridays because of him. That being said, Minute to Win It isn’t on my watch list. My issue with many reality shows is that they really only have a few minutes of action surrounded by terribly annoying hosts (like Guy Fieri).

But LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT!?!?!?! How we at IP feel about this show is probably understated. For all of NBC’s shortcomings, SVU does aide to bring its image back up.

This post was initially even longer, so I’m going to take the liberty of making this a two-part [what I hope to be] conversation because my comments about their Thursday lineup and other NBC related subjects is also long, so stay-tuned…


Josh "Old Man" Duggan said...

Is it weird that despite the fact that I've seen about 100 episodes of Coach whenever I think of Craig Theodore Nelson, I think of his fight scenes with Carl Weathers in Action Jackson? An interesting debate that we should shoot a short documentary about complete with ramp-up to the big climax would be whether Parenthood sullies his reputation more or less than The Family Stone.

I can't wait to see what you have to say about Outsourced.

qualler said...

You know I love discussion of television of any kind, Younger Duggan. Well done.

That said, I disagree with your contention that television is lousier today than it was before the writers' strike. In general, all the networks are pumping out less good material, partially because it is a lot cheaper to produce reality-type stuff, and the track record for quality scripted programming that is also enjoyed by critics is so spotty. Mad Men on AMC is, by all regards, the "best show on TV", yet gets not great ratings, even by AMC standards. If anything, the quality of scripted TV is better now than it was ten years ago, but the competition has spread to other networks thanks to the prevalent use of cable.

I also really like Parenthood and, shockingly, Dax Shephard is probably the best part of the show. It was only a midseason replacement because Maura Tierney, who was originally cast in the role as Sarah, had to drop out for health reasons (who was replaced by Lauren Graham, who is a mega-upgrade.) It's low-stakes family drama with some fine performances (yes, even by Dax Shephard, who shouldn't be begrudged just because of his relationship with Kristen Bell (vastly overrated in the Hottie Count in my opinion)). Not everything about it works, but you could do a lot worse on NBC. (Like Harry's Law, for example.)

If anything, NBC should be applauded for sticking with shows like Parks & Recreation and Community despite both coming in low in ratings, and scheduling P&R in a new place where it could do better (i.e. after The Office.) If anything, NBC fucked themselves up and set themselves back five years due to the

Guy Fieri and his french fry hair should go away, though. And Tiberius is an amazing middle name.

qualler said...

One more thing on Parenthood: the Jason Katims-Friday Night Lights connection should not be ignored. Now that FNL has said goodbye, Parenthood will probably continue to pillage stars of that show, like it has with Minka Kelly and Michael B. Jordan. I think we can all agree that more Minka on the airwaves is better for America. If we see Tim Riggins brooding next to Lauren Graham soon, I might cry tears of happiness.

Speaking of FNL, I've yet to start or finish its final season, but seeing a still of the episode online today and just seeing the episode title ("Always") already has me tearing up. Damn you, Dillon, TX, for making me such a weepy baby.

Young Man Duggan said...

@qualler - Some of your points will be addressed in Part 2. My whole post was getting pretty long, so I opted to split it up. I'll amend it to throw out my opinions on some of the stuff that wasn't mentioned.

Parenthood could very well be a good show. As I disclosed, I've never actually bothered to watch it, and that's almost entirely because of how it was advertised prior it airing.

Young Man Duggan said...

I guess I didn't say anything about whether or not I watched Parenthood, but I don't...

qualler said...

I look forward to Part 2. Excellent work as always, Drewski.

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