You, friendly reader and television viewer, are not an idiot. You are smart, sophisticated, nuanced, and appreciate art unfolding on the small screen. Unfortunately, television executives continue to believe (possibly correctly) that the majority of television viewers are mindless sheep who’ll watch anything thrown up on screen. Film sequels? Cross-dressers? Thin mysteries? Spin-offs? From what I’ve seen from the previews, Midseason 2012 has it all. It doesn’t take much more than a trailer and some fairly subjective speculation to realize these new shows are duds. Here are five upcoming new series that already have me wondering: What were they thinking when they decided to move forward with these shows?
The Firm - NBC
Let’s ignore for a second the lazy “We’ll turn a famous book and movie (that differed rather starkly from the book), into a television show”-angle and instead focus on the premise in which Mitch McDeere and his family emerge from the Witness Protection Program ten years after the events of the book/movie to do what any dude who’s looking to keep a low profile and not be around too many criminals would do: return to the the courtroom as a defense attorney. And then he’s surprised when people are trying to kill him.
This is a classic example of executives playing on public stupidity by attaching a famous Grisham title to something and throwing out an epic piece of ridiculous trash. Think I’m wrong? Here is a verbatim line from the trailer, “If Mitch McDeere finds the truth in this case everyone in this room is going to prison.” Someone actually wrote that, it made it through a rewrite, the actors didn’t all quit immediately because of artistic principle, and then made it into the trailer which is supposed to highlight the program’s high notes. That should tell us all we need to know about this show. If you know anyone who watches this please be sure to never hang out with them again.
Work It - ABC
I’m not really sure which social movement this show sets back the furthest? The working professional movement? The male-as-compassionate movement? The women’s-lib movement? The comedic movement? The humans as intelligent beings movement? Of all the trash coming out this spring, this show might be the bottom of the already very deep barrel. Conceptually, (men dress as women to get jobs) it is about as trifling as “entertainment” gets. Comedically, and I hesitate to even use that word, it’s grabbing for the lowest hanging fruit from the branch that already snapped off and hit the ground.
The best part about this show, based on what we’ve been shown in advertising, and where the writers really show a penchant for stupid, is that it comes off as humorlessly offensive to both working men and women. And not that I spend a lot time worrying about taking offense, or fighting for any causes, but Work It seems to posit that men can’t get jobs because women are “taking over the working world” (even though the show’s jobless men probably can’t get jobs because they’re morons) while also presenting these professional women as good-looking floozies who only care about attracting men. Quite amazing really.
¡Rob! - CBS
These were the predominantly featured males on Saturday Night Live from 1990-1994: Chris Farley, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Dennis Miller, Mike Myers, Kevin Nealon, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, David Spade, Tim Meadows, Norm MacDonald, Jay Mohr and Rob Schneider. If you were to rank them in order of funny would Schneider finish dead last? Second to last? Would you refuse to rank him because he’s not funny?
Then Schneider parlayed one bit of making up nicknames for his office mates like “Dan. Dan-e-Roni.” into cinematic elegance with flicks like Duece Bigalow, The Hot Chick, The Animal, and the sequel no one asked for, Duece Bigalow: European Gigalow. Do I really need to keep going on about why his new show is going to be terrible?
But Scheider’s nothing if not an opportunist and studio execs think you will sit down and watch because he’s a familiar face sometimes loosely associated with funny. So they greenlit Schneider’s (he’s a writer and developer) lame premise: white guy marries into a cliche’d Mexican-American family, and it’s awkward because he’s, umm, white. Hilarity doesn’t really ensue.
The Finder - Fox
I have a theory on how this show got its title. It started with some “creative types” sitting around “pitching”. One said, “Okay we have this show about a guy who finds things. Don’t worry about what things, we’ll figure that out later. And don’t worry about ‘how’ he finds them, we’ll just have him come out of a coma with powers or something. Anyway, he finds things that people are looking for, like criminals and stuff. Anyone have any cool title suggestions for this billion dollar idea?” (looks around the room). Little fourth grader who’s there because it’s Bring Your Daughter to Work Day raises her hand. “You could call it The Finder because he finds things.” Creative types look around amazed. Girl is hired as executive producer in charge of show-running.
If you have a better theory I’d love to hear it because this is a title that screams “We are pandering to the lowest intellectual television watcher around!” The show is a spin-off of the amazingly popular Bones series. (sidenote: they should have taken a tip from their predecessor and just named it Finder) The main character was introduced in a Bones episode with the sole intention of spinning him off. I actually watched the trailer and thought it was a joke or a commercial for a car or something. Again, studio executives think you are dumb.
Alcatraz - Fox
It’s JJ Abrams! It involves a mysterious event! It sort of takes place on another island! No, not that island, another island! Hurley is in it! So you better watch! Effectively, that’s Fox’s marketing plan for Alcatraz, and really who can blame them? They think you’ll watch for all of the reasons exclaimed above. But this new show doesn’t quite pass the sniff test as it appears a little more Flash Forward than Lost (admittedly, there will never be another Lost), in that it presents its hyper-specific problem fairly early on (old criminals from The Rock are coming back to kill people) and will probably never get out of its own way in “solving” that issue.
To be fair, this show looks mildly intriguing. But history can teach us a thing or two. Studio execs bank on mysterious shows to keep viewers around just long enough to make the studio’s money back with early plot twists, red herrings and a few secret doors to placate the masses. But mystery shows with a singular focus typically have a shelf-life because they become too frustrating when the mystery payoff is the only intriguing aspect.
Lost avoided that problem to some degree by investing in a bunch of layered characters to carry the plot around the mystery of the island. JJ Abrams’ new vehicle seems to do the exact opposite, by having two-three people just solving what happened on Alcatraz. Studio folks will give you a decent pilot and hope you are mindless enough to stick around a little longer. Here’s my prediction: after five episodes you’ll either be mind-boggingly frustrated or just won’t care anymore.
For the dates and times of new and returning TV shows, check out the full 2012 Midseason TV Premiere Schedule here.