NBC rolls out the big guns
Their comedy lineup is struggling, leading to the demise of the smartest show on the network, and my erstwhile favorite, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip“.
“Studio 60” has had a long, tortured ride this year, dodging cancellation half a dozen times before it finally got the axe. Created by West Wing guru Aaron Sorkin, “Studio 60” was despised by everyone who should have liked it. The same left-leaning alpha consumers who loved the “West Wing” turned on Studio 60 with a vengence.
I don't know why the cool kids turned on Sorkin. “Studio 60” was still smart, still funny, and still insufferably left wing, but Sorkin's audience wanted to see elaborate power fantasies about Democrats in the White House. Democrats already run Hollywood, so there's no fantasy here — no fighter jets dispatched from the war room, no heroic speeches about socialized medicine, and no sniggering Republican enemy to sink your teeth into.
The West Wing was a soothing counterpoint to the Bush administration. Sorkin killed their favorite show and substituted a lesser one. It was like watching your dad bring home a new girlfriend.
So what comedy has survived the Spring Purge? NBC has chosen to preserve “30 Rock“, a desperately unfunny show that makes banter look like weight lifting. Alec Baldwin is the only watchable actor on the program, and half his lines are devoted to the promotion of GE products.
So what has NBC got ready for the new season? What will save us from an endless sea of procedural cop shows?
We can look forward to a “Heroes” spinoff — a new Hero every week, followed by an American Idol vote-off at the end. Forget super powers, I plan to vote for the one with the best hair.
NBC is remaking the “Bionic Woman”. Lee Majors and Lindsay Wagner were like a second family to me in the 70s, so I will cautiously withhold judgment on this one.
Then we have “Journeyman,” a story about a San Franciso newspaper reporter who travels through time to alter people's lives. Somebody's been reading my Livejournal! Or maybe they're just ripping off CBS. The truth is, all newspaper employees can travel in time. Why just last week, I saved the life of Larry the Cable Guy and built a campfire in the middle of some dinosaur footprints. Keep it under your hat.
Next on the lineup is “Chuck”, a thriller about a computer geek who becomes a government agent after…zzzzz…oh sorry, I nodded off there for a minute. Please, no more shows about heroic computer geeks. I've been a geek my whole life — I don't need to watch thinly-veiled parodies of myself having wacky adventures.
Candace Bushnell is making a show that sounds like “Sex in the City Lite”, this time with Brooke Shields in the lead. Better get used to it, guys. This is the show your wife will be making you watch next season.
And then we have a new sitcom, “The IT Crowd” about a group of people who work in technical services at a large corporation. This could be really funny, or it could be terribly trite and embarrassing. Geek as outcast, geek as superhero. I think I prefer “Geek as maniacal supervillain” but nobody listens to me.