overthinking the idiot box

May 22, 2006

For the television afficionado, the Upfronts are more than just a sneak peek at the fall schedules for every network — they offer the observant a chance to better understand what the network thinks America wants to watch. What exactly that is? Leave it to SMRT-TV to tell you.

SMRT-TV Goes to the Upfronts!


And lo, they rose from the grave, just like... um, that guy... What was his name?
Adam: The big surprise to me is the return of 7th Heaven. I'd truly assumed that the treacly Camden clan had finally left the airwaves, but the CW must've felt they could still milk another year or two of decent ratings out of the show.

Roberts: Yeah, what the &%$@?! They yoinked Everwood, renewed One Tree Hill and put this creaky old thing back on the schedule? 7th Heaven had run its course by the end of the third season.

Adam: Personally, I consider Everwood and One Tree Hill to be interchangeable, so keeping only one makes sense. As far as renewals go, I'm ecstatic over the renewal of Veronica Mars. It wasn't a ratings hit for UPN (although it was up against Lost for most of this season), and I know there were folks at the new network who wanted it canned. But it is, hands down, the best show on the air right now, and some of the CW folks clearly recognized that canceling it would be a crime. Pairing it with Gilmore Girls, of course, is a natural move (although letting House beat up on it in the ratings isn't going to help it much).

Roberts: I'm pleased to see Everybody Hates Chris moving to Sunday nights, where I think it will do well. That's the night that gave us The Simpsons and Malcolm in the Middle (and King of the Hill, and Family Guy), after all, so that seems like a good spot for more clever dysfunctional family goodness. I'm kind of apprehensive about the quality of the CW's touted "two-hour urban comedy" block for that evening — does anyone actually watch the uninspired Girlfriends? — but it's nice to see the CW isn't ignoring its urban market totally.

Adam: Everybody Hates Chris was the only creative bright spot aside from Veronica Mars in the UPN lineup this year. With Malcolm gone, this could pick up some of those viewers. That said, I agree that the rest of that block — which not only includes the dreadful and derivative Girlfriends, but features a Girlfriends spin-off called The Game — doesn't have the same creative oomph.

I can see the network's reasoning — why risk high-profile flops when you're just starting out when you can stick with what works? — but it still kinda sucks for guys like us.
Roberts: What I don't see is anything resembling ambition. Where are the high-concept shows (hits like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Sentinel, or even cult-but-canceled fare like Nowhere Man or Jack & Bobby) that might have really flourished on this new enterprise? I can see the network's reasoning — why risk high-profile flops when you're just starting out when you can stick with what works? — but it still kinda sucks for guys like us.

Adam: Neither UPN nor the WB had really gone high-concept this past season, either (Supernatural certainly didn't break any new ground). I'm OK with that to an extent, as we've got some good shows returning, but I'd like to see another attempt at a show like the great Nowhere Man. Darren Star's new show, Runaway, sounds fun, but it's not attempting anything new or different, from what I can see. Then again, when Veronica Mars was announced two years ago, I figured it might be a cute detective show, and nothing more. I'd love to be surprised again.

Roberts: I'm excited about Runaway. I thought Miss Match and Kitchen Confidential got canceled way too early, and maybe the lower-pressure playing field of the CW will give the guy behind Melrose Place and Sex and the City a chance to shine. This isn't his normal "awesome women acting hilariously" schtick, though, so I don't want to predict anything too soon.

Adam: Star is hit-or-miss for me, but Kitchen Confidential never got a proper chance. I'm trying to figure out if pairing it with 7th Heaven makes any sense whatsoever.

Roberts: Very little makes sense about the CW's schedule, except for the pairings of Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars and Smallville and Supernatural.

"Look, see, there's this guy, and he's just, you know, wet. Like, all the time..."
Adam: The other big surprise for me was that the much-ballyhooed Aquaman series Mercy Reef didn't make the cut. Granted, it sounded like crap (and I'm writing this as one of the five people on the planet who's actually a fan of Aquaman), but with all the hype, I figured it would have made the cut.

Roberts: Yeah, I think I'm the other four, but I wasn't really looking forward to the new show. And scuttlebutt had it that the pilot was, well, not terrific.

Adam: You know what I'd really like to see? CW recognizing that it's aiming too low, and expanding, if not to the 21-hour schedule of the Big Three, to at least the 15-hour schedule of Fox. I know, it likely means that crap like Mercy Reef would make it onto the schedule, but it also means that they could take a great show like Veronica Mars, and give it a slot that's ready for a contender, instead of buying it against shows like House and Lost. The 10 p.m. time slot (which Fox doesn't even touch) is just ripe for a few new quality programs.

Roberts: With two networks merging, you'd think they could manage to fill at least 15 hours during the week without running Sunday night repeats or leaving Saturdays dark altogether. A last-minute reprieve apparently puts Reba back on the schedule with a limited order of 13 episodes, but where is that going to squeeze in? Are we talking midseason replacement?

Adam: Personally, I consider saving Reba to be the sitcom version of giving 7th Heaven another chance. Except that 7th Heaven was occasionally (if unintentionally) funny.

Roberts: It must be said: thank Flying Spaghetti Monster Charmed is dead, dead, dead.

Adam: I'll definitely second that. Talk about a concept that managed to live a good six years longer than it had any right to.

Roberts: Ding, dong, the witches are dead.

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