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.Feature
SMRT-TV Goes to the Upfronts!
Prior to announcement...
Rachel: FOX is known for pulling things that need some time to grow and change. And yet, they keep some ideas going even after they start to turn stale. Ah, FOX. The network that brings us as many dichotomies as one cable fiber can carry — there is conservative news butting up against "When Barnyard Animals Revolt IV", fast-paced crime serials facing off with teen soaps on Quaaludes, satirical cartoons one day and rakish nannies the next, Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell, product placement and ironic self-mocking. It's all almost too much. So when I think about the upcoming season, what I hope for most of all is some consistency, and not one that comes with an advertisement. FOX seems to be getting more and more commercial, to the point where shows are vehicles for things as much as people or ideas. The OC mentions "ofoto.com" and "netflix" like common slang, American Idol pushes a still-kicking Clive Davis on stage to sell the BMG empire, 24's aggressive seriality keeps consumers coming back for episodes and ads. FOX has been acting like a picky consignment shop owner — if it won't sell, they don't seem to want it (I'm looking at you, AD). So here's the question, what will FOX pick, and is it viable, commercially? You bet it will be. They are going to to go for surefire money makers. Because it's all about big business over at 20th century.
Jenni: Wow. So the executives at Fox were either reading my mind and want to assuage my fears or they've completely lost their minds. They are calling this "the network's most stable and balanced slate in years"... so much for taking chances I guess.
Rachel: You think that Liguori and his posse played it safe this year?
Jenni: For the most part, yeah, I'd say so. I mean, they barely picked up anything and most of their choices are pretty safe: For example, On the Lot is bullet proof. Especially since they've placed it opposite American Idol.
Rachel: On the Lot is surefire, but it isn't anywhere near original. It's FOX's attempt to become Bravo; that is, to engage with the "skilled reality" genre. Yes, Idol requires some skill, some killer pipes, and a little bit of that McPheever charm and Taylor-made cramping dance moves, but it is an everyman commercial effort. Shows like Project Runway and Top Chef, while marketing schemes in their own right, showcase the talents of people who are already in a profession and working within those guidelines. On the Lot will be more like that — it's a copycat sort of effort. That being said, with cute names for each night like "Box Office" and "Film Premiere", and with the guiding touch of Spielberg's golden hand, I think I'll be wanting some of that popcorn. Who doesn't want Spielberg to become a TV personality? The only person I would want more would be Ron Howard, but he's been there.
Rachel: I agree with you that Standoff has potential. Ron Livingston has been needing to return to TV since his Berger days, where he was in his element. He looks the best in 20'' form — there is something about his acting style that is better suited for the small screen. His partner in crime (and apparently in sweet clandestine romping), Rosemarie DeWitt, is primarily a stage actress, so it will be interesting to see how that plays. I'm curious as to the idea of sexual tension between a man and a woman who work together fighting bad guys and reading minds. I mean, it's so new. So groundbreaking. So X-files 1997.
But can we take a minute to discuss the one word dramas in general? Vanished, Standoff, Justice. Taken together they sort of sound like a criminal on the lam lost and found, which is how I think they want their line-up to sound, like one big two-syllable serial crime drama. It's a little boring to me, but then again, I haven't been able to get into the original CSI let alone the following thirty incarnations.
And speaking of criminals...I don't know about Prison Break. They broke out right? So...what is the point of another season?
Rachel: Yeah, they broke out. And Marissa died. And Seth didn't really get into college. So The O.C. kind of has nowhere to go either.
Jenni: But Bones and Beau haven't made-out yet, so there's still that...
Rachel: I'm seeing a little potential in 'Til Death. If only because Eddie Kaye Thomas seems like an untapped resource no matter how many people tap him. I'm into Eddie Kaye, but I think they might just skip a step and call the show death. Because it doesn't look like it's going to last. Who wants to hear a season-long rumination on the institution of marriage?
Rachel: We heard about 10 years of it.
Jenni: Talk about "playing it safe"...Fox is simply counting on the fact that the Everybody Loves Raymond crowd is going to stick around for this one.
Rachel: ... and the That 70's show crowd will flock to Happy Hour given the lure of the same creative team.
Jenni: Fox...what are you becoming!?
Rachel: They are just sly, FOX, slipping similar shows into the vacant slots. Sly.
The only really chancy thing on the lineup is the talk show — or at least they make it sound like something original. "...a guest does the monologue in lieu of the host". Oooooh!
Rachel: As long as FOX is still the network that brings America's Most Wanted into millions of homes, it will just never have the cred of the other majors.
Jenni: But at least we have Jack Bauer killing dudes.
Rachel: Yeah, we have Jack Bauer. Sutherland is key. And nothing really beats House on a good night. Except Grey's Anatomy on a bad night.
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