21 posts

Community, Benched; Prime Suspect, Pulled; And NBC is Going With What?!

There are just a bunch of crazed dingleberries over at that network. Seriously. You really want to believe that their decision making ability is in tact, but what it seems we’re actually getting is drunk uncle Marvin, singing show tunes to an oven mitt, declaring war on a lobster pot, and flirting shamelessly with your mother’s cousin Shirley.

NBC needs an intervention.

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American Horror Story Draws Biggest Premiere Ratings in FX’s History

Is horror now the safest bet in television? By all accounts, American Horror Story is a hot mess: it’s glaringly derivative; the writing and editing seems to have been done by someone in desperate need of Adderall. The performances tend to fall on the hammy side, yet taken as a whole, the show is irresistibly entertaining. Continue reading

Review: Perhaps Whitney Cummings Should Learn What Abominable Means

You know that opening scene in that not great movie The Way of The Gun where Ryan Phillippe, doosh, has this crazy, foul-mouthed banter with this dark-haired, lady-cretin who rages and rants in a way that is incredibly awful, yet shamefully funny in its offensiveness, but then a few years later lots of people love her for it, and yes, well, many of us said, “Hey, Sarah Silverman was that sick, twisted chick from the opening scene of that movie all my stoner friends told me about. Yeah, that’s her. Wow. She’s come a long way.” Well none of that happened with this Whitney Cummings person.

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NBC Unveils The Fall Schedule You’ve All Been Waiting For

Oh, hello. What’s that? You were wondering what that fantastic network NBC has in store for you this fall? Well, I’m sure we’ve discussed what old, tired, whatever new shows they’ve got planned for our viewing pleasure. However, in news that’s just been released, we now know when exactly all these new shows will be shown on your ratty old floor model color television.

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What NBC Can Learn From The USA Network

Unfortunately NBC has brewed a mixed bag of bad. While there’s still entertainment to be found in the network’s bread and butter Thursday night comedy lineup, the gangrenous toe seems to be the network’s choice of dramas — and the problems lie exactly where they don’t want them to — in concept and execution. As ratings show, nearly every one of this season’s dramas has either been canceled, see: Outlaw, Undercovers, and Chase, or are getting ever closer to the chopping block, see: The Cape, Law & Order: LA, and The Event.

What are they doing? What’s going wrong?

Despite its best efforts, The Event suffers from an erratic timeline, mediocre acting, lack of central focus, and way too much hype without enough delivery. All combined this is like visual napalm for the viewer. Similarly, NBC’s lauded hero action thriller The Cape is a confused mess of ideas. Is it an action-show or a moving comic? Is it about urban street crime, or nefarious corporations with overseas ties to terrorism? If the show itself is this neurotic imagine what viewers feel watching it.

The USA Network, sister network to NBC interestingly enough, has hit its stride in recent years with such acclaimed shows as Psych, Burn Notice, In Plain Sight, and Royal Pains, which is leaps and bounds ahead of where the once fledgling network started when it was largely known for B-movies and wrestling. So how has the burgeoning giant climbed in ratings while NBC has suffered such a decline?

What USA Does That’s Different

Develops A Fresh Face Approach: USA programs are all about the people at the forefront. Lost is over and done with, and so is answering questions while just creating new ones. This idea is so overworked that it should look stale on paper and never be filmed again. USA programs pride themselves on character development and fresh faces. Psych is about Shawn and Gus’ friendship and banter. Burn Notice is about Mike, Fiona, and Sam’s intersecting loyalty, friendship, and ability to kick-ass as a team. Royal Pains is about Hank and Evan’s sibling rivalry/brotherly love. The people make the shows work.

Truth Nugget: Don’t build up an elaborate house of cards with forgettable characters and hope no one blows the house down.

Looks at the Man in the Mirror: No one has the right answers all the time. Just plopping a perfect pretty face on screen will not endear a character to an audience. There is such a thing as hero-fatigue if our caped crusader isn’t rounded out with enough nuance and sincerity. One-dimensional is, well, what NBC is now. Depth, pains, humanity, fears, flaws and struggle — this is what USA offers. Basically viewers need to care about the characters by identifying with each one’s eccentricities, foibles, and endearments.

Truth Nugget: Patrick Swayze would tell NBC to, “Ga-gung, Ga-gung” and feel their character’s hearts beating in their chest.

Likes a Fish Out of Water: USA characters experience new things for the first time. This means that the audience is experiencing something new for the first time. Aha! Right? The hook and catch to ER’s first episode was young Dr. Carter embarking on his first day. Similarly, many of USA’s character’s are doing something they’ve never encountered before, like concierge doctoring, legal mediating, or being a burned spy. We’re all learning together, see?! NBC may have forgotten this tried and true method, but USA hasn’t.

Truth Nugget: If you’re throwing your character in the deep end — the choice better be to have him or her swim.

Doesn’t Reinvent the Wheel: In each of USA’s programs you’ll see a little bit of what made shows from the 70’s and 80’s great. There’s a little MacGyver and Marcus Welby, Moonlighting, and Three’s Company. The network is also not afraid to pair new stars with some familiar faces, and every now and again you’ll find homage to a successful show of the past, and even appearances from long forgotten actors. Psych‘s recent Twin Peaks episode, which featured stars from the original show, was a great success. Pulling in the likes of veteran actors Sharon Gless (an ex-cop), Corbin Bernsen (an ex-lawyer), Henry Winkler (an ex-Fonz), and Ally Sheedy (an ex-basket case) has assisted in the ratings boon for the network.

Truth Nugget: Going back doesn’t mean you can’t push forward.

Laughs Through the Pain: You know what makes a show that could easily get mired down with heavy drama — light and likable — a joke or two. Yes, USA prides itself on dramas with comedic elements. They don’t take themselves too seriously and are experts at being able to pull an unexpected guffaw from the viewer. The pendulum can swing from high intensity action, or hard-hitting drama, right into a funny gag that lightens and livens the moment.

Truth Nugget: Great banter with a wink and a nod adds depth and makes those moments that could be so serious that they’re almost laughable — palatable.

Packs its Bags: USA gets out of the police station, the hospital, the courtroom, or the busy metropolitan streets, and finds a new place to set up shop. USA’s theory is blue skies, good weather, and fun in the sun. We know NBC can work with a set really well. The NBC comedy lineup is a testament to great set work, but what can it do on location?

Truth Nugget: Hitting the open road is better than closing the door for good.

What is NBC’s Challenge:

Not to mirror themselves after the USA network completely, that would be silly and counterproductive,  it is its own network after all, but to perhaps take some notes from a network that succeeds — and well, is actually part of their Comcast-owned family. Thinking outside the box about how to add some quirk, fun, and simplicity to their dramas could make all the difference. The viewers will appreciate it. But more importantly they’ll watch.