I've been under the weather since last Wednesday -- and it's been a particularly nasty storm -- so instead of my regularly-scheduled rambling about one thing, my column this week is a veritable stew of bullet points and random thoughts. Here's hoping that it's cooked all the way through...
* It's been a busy 2012 for the programming departments at ABC and NBC. While all the networks have introduced (and said goodbye to) a number of different series this season, the two networks slugging it out to avoid being at the bottom of the English-language broadcast pile have brought the most new shows into the marketplace, especially in the last few months. (By my count, the number of shows both networks have subbed into their schedules has hit double digits.)
Unfortunately, between the undiluted awfulness that was ABC's "Work It" (hopefully never coming soon to DVD) and the twenty-years-too-late TV spinoff of the Tom Cruise movie "The Firm" on NBC (likely coming to DVD whether anyone cares or not; thanks loads, international producing partners), most of these shows have laid sizable eggs, critically and with audiences.
* NBC's latest disaster-piece is a sitcom called "Bent." Haven't heard of it? Neither has anyone else; it's first episode drew the lowest rating for an in-season comedy premiere in the network's history, a 1.0 among adults age 18 to 49. (The second episode, which aired immediately after, actually managed to do worse.)
Considering that the network is airing it on Wednesday nights directly against such gentle competition as FOX's "American Idol," "Criminal Minds" on CBS and ABC's "Modern Family," it's actually a little surprising that the show isn't doing worse.
Anyway, just in case you're a fan, a warning: Don't get attached. NBC only ordered six episodes, and since they are choosing to run two episodes a week, it'll be gone before anyone has a chance to forget that it was on.
* It's not all bad news at NBC, however -- "Smash" is a decently successful series, successful enough to earn a second season, albeit without the show's creator on-board. That's somewhat of a bummer to hear; Teresa Rebeck is a very fine writer with a unique voice. I'm looking forward to her next project.
As for "Smash" itself, I have to admit that I like the show much, much less than I did after the pilot. The show seems to be fighting against itself, developing a kind of divergent personality that makes it tougher and tougher to like. And I can't say that this surprises me; even the pilot didn't quite seem to know what it wanted to be.
* ABC's "The River," a midseason show I actually liked, may be done at that network, but might have a second season anyway, thanks to Netflix. The streaming video-slash-home video-by-mail service is considering picking up the show if (or perhaps I should say when) the network cancels it. Reportedly, Netflix thinks that the serialized horror-drama would play well for them, and it makes sense that ABC (which produces the show as well) would be okay with a continued revenue stream.
* ABC still has two series yet to premiere this spring, the D.C.-set drama "Scandal" and the adult sitcom "Don't Trust the B-- in Apartment 23." I saw the pilots for both this past fall, and here's what I thought, then and now.
"Scandal" has a decent cast, ably led by Kerry Washington, and everyone seems to be trying to make it work, but the plot machinery tends to groan rather loudly (or maybe that was just my reaction to a few of the story twists). It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't terribly noteworthy, either.
"Apartment 23" is the second of the bleeped-out B-worded titles that ABC picked up to series last fall (the other being the Sunday night hourlong dramedy "GCB"). The pilot was funny, at times even laugh-out-loud funny. But there's also quite a bit of raunchy humor; this might be the raciest sitcom ABC has carried in years. To be fair, the network is advertising it as such, even going so far as to point out that the show is "for mature audiences only," and warning parents to "put their kids to bed after 'Modern Family.'"
But I wonder if such promotion might have a chilling effect on the ratings. "Modern Family" is the best possible lead-in a sitcom on ABC could hope for; it has even supported more mature fare such as "Cougar Town" and "Happy Endings," after all. However, neither of those shows has come close to generating or even maintaining "Modern Family"-size ratings. If "Apartment 23" is a success, I wonder if season two will mean a new night, while ABC tries to find a better timeslot partner for their most valuable program.