It looks like television critics — including this TV Addict — might just have to search for a new whipping boy.
After all, it’s kinda hard not to feel at least a little love for NBC co-chair Ben Silverman, seeing as many of the announcements he made during Tuesday afternoon’s upfronts might well have been lifted directly from the Wish Lists of every viewer who has lamented the death of quality television over the past few years.
Yes, there will be more reality. No, Howie Mandel and his bevy of case-carrying beauties haven’t been sent to Exile Island. (Whoops, wrong network.)
But there will also be more FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.
And that right there’s gotta buy the guy a little good will, right?
Don’t worry. It’s not like Silverman didn’t make some major mistakes. (SHARK TAGGERS? Seriously? What was the pitch on this? “Now, every week can be Shark Week!”) But we’re going to focus on the positive. (At least for a few minutes… then we’ll dish the negatives.)
What were the highlights for me? So glad you asked! Here’s the top four:
1. FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS is back!
Even as rumors circulated over the past few weeks, this TV Addict will admit to having been skeptical. Perhaps even cynical. But danged if Silverman didn’t score big points — a touchdown, one might even say — with every critic in the room by announcing that the Panthers will kick off their third season this October thanks to a landmark deal which will see the episodes airing on DirecTV several months before they actually appear on the network. And no, they won’t be streamed on Hulu or NBC.com before making their network debut. (Which means it’s time to either sign-up for DirecTV or become best buds with someone who will tape those suckers for ya.)
2. THE OFFICE scores… big time!
Finally, a network that has the cajones not to waste the post-Super Bowl spot on established hits like SURVIVOR and (Lord help us) CRIMINAL MINDS and instead puts that time slot to the use God and the NFL intended by launching a new show! And not just any new show, but the much-anticipated (and, to be honest, in some corners dreaded) spin-off of THE OFFICE. Somewhere, Jim Halpert — who, along with his Scranton-based co-workers will offer up an episode leading into the show they’ve spawned — is giving the camera a sly, knowing grin.
3. Low-rated newbies get new LIFE
Unlike some of those other networks (FOX) whom we won’t embarrass here (FOX), NBC has learned a thing or two about nurturing shows that haven’t proven quite as successful as they may have liked right out of the gate. So unlike, say, FOX, who cut REUNION short and put the brakes on DRIVE, NBC has not only stood by FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, but also given second seasons to CHUCK, LIFE and LIPSTICK JUNGLE. Apparently, someone over at NBC has been reading the history books and remembers that people weren’t exactly bellying up to the bar in droves when CHEERS first hit the airwaves.
4. Fan favorites land new gigs
We like what we like. And we love who we love. So yeah, you bet we’re going to tune in to see BUFFY’s watcher, Anthony Head, work his magic in what could be a major family-friendly hit, MERLIN. Heck, even putting people we love behind the scenes — like re-teaming HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREET execs Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson for the off-beat sounding rich-guy-vigilante THE PHILANTHROPIST — will get our attention and give you a fighting shot of earning our affections. But giving Molly Shannon another shot at sitcom stardom with KATH & KIM? Yeah, that might even get me to give you a pass on having renewed CELEBRITY APPRENTICE.
Then again, maybe not.
But you know what, NBC? You made me so happy that in return, I am going to put off focusing attention on the fumbles which came out of the upfronts… at least until later this afternoon.