TROUBLE CITY

THUD: UPFRONT SPECIAL (ABC)

THUDBrendan M. LeonardComment

THUDSports fans have Draft Day. I have the upfronts, the yearly event held in New York where the five major broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and the CW – announce their fall schedules in hopes of attracting some of those killer advertising dollars. That event is this week, and while I’m not currently in New York, THUD will be bringing you news, analysis, as well as a few lame musical theatre references all this week. 

In case you missed our pre-season pilot coverage, you can read part one here and part two here.  

Yesterday, NBC announced their schedule, as well as making previews for their new programs available on their website. Just gonna say this: While the new Bionic Woman's totally hot (if she were a college major, she would be Babeology), Deaf Egg has the potential to have nine different kinds of unintentional hilarity.

Today, the current demographic champion, ABC, announced their schedule. The network is coming off of a banner year, where Grey’s Anatomy toppled current Thursday night champion CSI and Lost bounced back from a less-than-stellar season two. Even though most of their new programming failed – save Ugly Betty and the comeback kid, Brothers and Sisters – they also managed to steal the one last shred of NBC’s dignity by becoming the network with the wealthiest viewers. However, any network knows that you’re only as good as the programming in the pipeline. What’s on deck for ABC?

New programs are in bold.

MONDAY

8:00 p.m. “Dancing with the Stars”
9:30 p.m. “Sam I Am” (new comedy series)
10:00 p.m. “The Bachelor”

TUESDAY

8:00 p.m. “Cavemen” (new comedy series)
8:30 p.m. “Carpoolers” (new comedy series)

9:00 p.m. “Dancing with the Stars the Results Show”
10:00 p.m. “Boston Legal”

WEDNESDAY

8:00 p.m. “Pushing Daisies” (new drama series)
9:00 p.m. “Private Practice” (new drama series)
10:00 p.m. “Dirty Sexy Money” (new drama series)

THURSDAY

8:00 p.m. “Ugly Betty”
9:00 p.m. “Grey’s Anatomy”
10:00 p.m. “Big Shots” (new drama series)

FRIDAY

8:00 p.m. “Men in Trees”
9:00 p.m. “Women’s Murder Club” (new drama series)
10:00 p.m. “20/20”

SATURDAY

8:00 p.m. “Saturday Night College Football”

SUNDAY

7:00 p.m. “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
8:00 p.m. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition”
9:00 p.m. “Desperate Housewives”
10:00 p.m. “Brothers & Sisters”

With CBS’s King of Queens gone at last and the one-two cancellation of According to Jim and George Lopez, it appears the trend of “schlub and hot wife” sitcoms is on its way out…for now. Unfortunately, ABC’s big comedy is Cavemen, based on the Geico commercial – and the buzz around Cavemen is already monumentally bad.

Other comedies on the fall schedule include Carpoolers, which is set in the carpool lane of a freeway, has a neat concept that could have a terrible execution, and Sam I Am is a show that dares to make amnesia funny…just like Grey’s Anatomy! 

Speaking of Grey’s Anatomy, Another much-buzzed about show is Private Practice, the Grey’s Anatomy spin-off formerly known as Addison, Kellerman, and Benny. The backdoor pilot had about 20 million viewers, and I am pretty sure I am one of the only people on the internet who liked it. Given the sturm and drang that’s going on around Seattle Grace these days, the fun California locale and cast of actors who I’ll watch in pretty much anything (Taye Diggs, Tim Daly, Paul Adelstein) made it a very enjoyable time. I also appreciated that the show went out of its way to make the male relationships as friendly as the women’s – something that Grey’s was missing from the beginning.

The post-Grey’s slot has become a very desirable one for ABC shows – the less-than-great October Road gained a sizable bump and a second season as a result of it – so I guess that means that ABC has two tons of faith in Big Shots, a drama about corporate CEOs who attend the same country club. The cast here is what’s going to make this show work, with Dylan McDermott, Christopher Titus, Joshua Malina, and Michael Vartan as headliners – and of those four, I really only like Titus. Malina’s a good actor, but I want to smack him most of the time he’s on screen, and neither McDermott nor Vartan have done anything to wow me. Yet.  

Pushing Daises is a big up for all you Dead Like Me fans –- the show comes from creator Bryan Fuller, and is very Dead Like Me. It’s about a young man who can bring things back to life…and fight crime. Yet when he resurrects his childhood love, he learns that touching her again will result in her death – this time, for good! ABC described it as a “romance, police procedural, and comedy,” which is a blend of genres if I ever heard one. Daises also stars beloved Broadway thespian Kristin Chenoweth and is narrated by Jim Dale, famous for doing the Harry Potter books-on-tape. I thought Dead Like Me was freaking fantastic, so I’ll definitely be checking this one out and hoping that Fuller’s stint on Heroes hasn’t totally killed his brain.

Women’s Murder Club is a show based on a series of novels by James Patterson. Don’t care. It stars Angie Harmon. I care a little bit more than when I wrote that first sentence, but still not enough. 

Which brings us to Dirty Sexy Money. I was really rooting for this show to get picked up, as it’s a concept – idealistic lawyer becomes attorney for wealthy and shady family – that I love with a fantastic cast. Peter Krause, one of the best actors working today (yeah, I said it), plays the lawyer, and if that weren’t enough, the matriarch and patriarch of said shady family are played by Academy Award nominees Donald Sutherland (whose last TV effort was Commander in Chief, but I won’t hold that against him if you won’t) and Jill Clayburgh. Also among the cast are William Baldwin, as a Senator who ends every filibuster with “I heard that, brother” and Samaire Armstrong, late of The O.C., playing Fake Paris Hilton. While this could easily become The Lyons Den Revisited, it could also be very great in ways beyond your traditional soap.

The most surprising absence from the fall schedule is Football Wives, the primetime soap headlined by Gabrielle Union, James Van Der Beek, and Lucy Lawless. Many critics, myself included, were predicting that it’d occupy a prominent place in the schedule. Despite the Cavemen buzz, this must have been pretty terrible – or maybe it was shoved aside for Private Practice 

If you’re wondering where Lost is, fear not – the recent announcement that the series will end in 2010 also revealed the series will run uninterrupted beginning in January of 2008 with a season of sixteen episodes.

In addition to these series for fall, October Road, Notes from the Underbelly, as well as new series Eli Stone (aka Greg Berlani does Angels in America), Miss/Guided (with Judy Greer!) and Cashmere Mafia (a girl show so girly, even I won’t watch it), will premiere in the midseason.

Fall Prognosis: Not content to rest on the laurels of their current hits, ABC has put together a pretty unbeatable Wednesday night. The other dramas all sound “okay” to “yeah, I’ll watch that” (but again, I am a girl) and while the comedies don’t pop, at least they’re not According to Jim. I, personally, can’t wait for Dirty Sexy Money and I think Pushing Daises, Private Practice and Big Shots have a lot of potential, so I’m going to go with a very good fall for ABC.

Tomorrow: The Godfather of Television, uber-bully Les Moonves, announces CBS’s schedule. What kind of numbers will he spin to make it seem that CBS is still king? (Note to CBS: If you know what’s good for you, you’ll pick up Viva Laughlin and Babylon Fields. I need my zombie, musical, Hugh Jackman, and Amber Tamblyn (and her huge ass) fixes.)