Mr. TV: Risks and Tsks

Now that I have had a chance to digest the recent fall 2009 schedule announcements, let’s talk about the new shows.

Since I approach any series expecting some degree of logic, let’s start with The CW’s remake of Melrose Place, which elicited some chuckles at the network’s presentation after that supposedly gruesome scene featuring a dead body lying in the pool (Heinz Ketchup must’ve made a bundle on that pilot!). If the initial version of Melrose Place on Fox ended in 1999, how can then-fatherless bad boy Michael (Thomas Calabro) suddenly be the pop of a young adult? And, come now, how did Laura Leighton as wacky Sydney survive being mowed down by that speeding car on the initial series? More importantly, where is “series saver” Heather Locklear as evil Amanda?

If Melrose Place works and ABC’s Desperate Housewives goes down the drain (unlikely, of course), maybe Marcia Cross can resurrect her role as nut-job Kimberly Shaw. Remember that scene in Melrose Place when Kimberly revealed she was wearing a wig? Nothing on Wisteria Lane can top that.

Also on The CW is The Beautiful Life, the dramatic tale of a bevy of young models, male and female, trying to make it in New York. While the compatibility out of America’s Next Top Model certainly sounds good, Models, Inc, a spinoff from the original Melrose Place, came and quickly went in 1994-95. Going back even further, there was Paper Dolls with a young Nicollette Sheridan in 1984 and the comedic Who’s the Boss? spinoff Living Dolls in ’89.
Yeah, I didn’t think you’d remember those. Scripted series about models generally don’t work.

NBC has high hopes for new family drama Parenthood, which is based on the 1989 Ron Howard theatrical about four adult siblings dealing with their own families. While I am all for dramas of a family nature (yes, I will watch, at least initially), what the network doesn’t want anyone to know is that it was once so gung ho about this movie, it had planned to air its 1990 half-hour edition of Parenthood two times per week. That never did happen, and the show, with Ed Begley Jr. in the Steve Martin role, lasted 13 weeks.

Speaking of NBC, I support the network’s decision to air Jay Leno weeknights at 10 p.m. But I heard nothing but bad things about Leno’s performance at NBC’s May 19 comedy event for buyers. Will five nights be overkill?


Fox hopes to ignite some interest on Fridays with a new sitcom called Brothers, the tale of a retired NFL star who moves back in with his family in Houston. Truth be told, it looked boring. You might not recall there was already a sports-themed comedy on Showtime in the 1980s called Brothers (and one called The Brothers with Gale Gordon pre-Lucy in the late 1950s).
And anyway, Fox has never had a successful comedy in the Friday 8 p.m. half hour. Let’s face it, the odds are stacked against Brothers.

While Fox is unusually bullish about Glee, can anyone remember that last time a drama with musical interludes worked? The answer is never, because the show of this nature that everyone thinks was a big hit—Fame—never really was. Less than two years into its initial run, NBC canceled Fame (but it chugged along in first-run syndication for four more uneventful seasons). Other musical dramas like Cop Rock (ABC, 1990), Rags to Riches (NBC, 1987-88) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (CBS, 1982) did not “live forever” either. And who can forget Viva Laughlin, CBS’ two-episode flop in 2006?

Also at Fox is animated The Cleveland Show, which has already been renewed for a second season. To my knowledge, the last time a prime-time series kicked-off with a two-season order was CBS sitcom Cosby in fall 1996, which began four years after the end of the comedian’s breakthrough The Cosby Show on NBC. But the lead-in support out of compatible The Simpsons into parent show Family Guy means the early vote of confidence for The Cleveland Show might be justified.

Elsewhere, I can’t remember a time when four back-to-back new comedies ever launched at the same time. So, ABC’s Wednesday 8-10 p.m. combination of Hank, The Middle, Modern Family and Cougar Town is a big risk. But sometimes you need to roll the dice to win. Also, NCIS: Los Angeles seems like a sure thing on CBS. But so did NBC’s Law & Order: Trial By Jury in ’05. You just never know.   

Do you agree or disagree with Mr. TV? Please e-mail mberman@mediaweek.com and let him know if you would like your response published in an upcoming issue.