Knight Rider's KITT by Paul Drinkwater/NBC Photo
After sitting through NBC's frustrating and un-illuminating final day of official press tour Monday- there are a few set visits scheduled on Tuesday before whoever's left heads for home (or in some cases Comic-Con over the weekend)- I'm tempted to say that TCA saved the worst for last. More like saving the least for last.
It's unprecedented in my memory of press tour for so many networks to screen so little of their new fall programming, but NBC really took the booby prize in giving us an entire day of hype with nothing but their word to back up the fact that they're "incredibly happy" with the way the new sitcom
Kath & Kim
is coming along- despite the fact the show (based on an edgy Australian format) dumped its original director and is reshooting much of the pilot, which we only saw a few ghastly-looking moments of right before one of many awkward panels. We also heard the new season of
is going to be "awesome," but I guess they're saving any visual evidence of that for Comic-Con.
Jay Leno showed up in disguise to needle his bosses about next year's inexplicably unnecessary and premature changing of the late-night guard, but that stunt only served two sad purposes. One, to remind the room that Jimmy Kimmel (who did much the same thing at ABC's executive session a week earlier) is funnier and more original these days, and two, to focus us on the reality that the only thing we have to talk to NBC about these days is their lost, faded glory.
The network is pinning all of its hopes, it would seem, on Amy Poehler, who's leaving
Saturday Night Live
to star (after a career pause to give birth) in a vague new sitcom from the producers of
, who we're told are still under orders to develop a separate
spin-off, though that's on hold until the Poehler show is ready this spring. (And here's where we speculate about spreading your producing talent too thin, which is only a concern when you consider the spotty quality of so many of those supersized
episodes that NBC treasures.)
But what about the fall stuff? Over breakfast, NBC screened a clip-reel loop of the new adventure series
- looked kinda hokey, like middle-drawer Halmi, but who can really say- which premieres on Fridays in mid-October, but NBC declined to present a panel with cast and producers via satellite from Africa, where this international co-production (saves money that way) is underway. Satellite sessions are relatively common during press tour, and NBC did arrange a hook-up with Olympics anchors and execs from Beijing.
, the day ended with the critics grilling (to little effect) the cast and crew of a puzzling mid-season drama called
, which isn't even scheduled yet. A modern-day David and Goliath parable that imagines a fictional kingdom that looks an awful lot like New York, set against a wartime backdrop that looks an awful lot like Iraq,
actually looks promising. But that didn't stop the session from getting uncomfortably contentious when a reporter declared the producers weren't "making any sense," prompting an outburst from the show's outspoken star Ian McShane (
Piece of advice: Want us not to be confused? Show us something.
It was even worse if less testy at a session for the incomprehensible (on paper, anyway) new Monday night action-drama
My Own Worst Enemy
, starring Christian Slater in a Jekyll-Hyde meets Jason Bourne style role as a mild-mannered family man who's somehow also a cold-blooded secret agent, and what happens when his separate identities (which he's not aware of) collide. In the words of Alfre Woodard, who plays his handler: "What we actually do is we manifest a divergent identity dormant in a sealed-off portion of the medial temporal lobe." To which exec producer Jason Smilovic (who gave us last year's winner
) quipped: "Now who doesn't understand that?"
My Own Worst Enemy
is one of many new NBC series this season that was picked up without benefit of a pilot and went straight (though obviously late) into production, which is why we haven't seen anything. And which is why it's unfair to judge, though how can we not when entertainment chief Ben Silverman gushes about
less as a kickass drama than as a "marketing platform" for General Motors, which was brought into the development process for this show from the get-go. In fact, according to Silverman, "the first things we actually shot were for General Motors with Christian Slater that are going to air at the Olympics." Yeah, why not: Promo first, show second. The show's mid-October premiere date is also timed to coincide with a new GM line being launched around the same time.
Anyone else getting
vibes? (In a panel on the new Wednesday night series being spun from last season's wretched car commercial of a movie,
's new show-runner admitted, "Even Ford said it was way too much [product promotion] in the two-hour.")
While NBC proudly sells out, I'll end my press-tour musings for now by listing all of the new fall shows we have yet to see an actual episode of. Could make for a busy August as we prepare for a fall season that right now feels like one of the best-kept secrets of the year.
My Own Worst Enemy
(just wrapped production);
(we saw the movie; we can wait);
Kath & Kim
America's Toughest Jobs
(try watching NBC shows for a living);
(currently shooting in South Africa).
Life on Mars
(reshoots, major recasting, relocating from LA to NY);
(revising some of the game rules, so I hear).
(new episode being shot to air in front of the original pilot, whose cloning theme was considered a bit grim).
(just finished shooting),
(Anne Archer joining the cast, forcing reshoots),
(still being edited); the Sunday-night lineup leased out to Media Rights Capital of
In Harm's Way, Surviving Suburbia, Valentine, Inc.
(all still in development, and not even presented in panel form, so a complete mystery to one and all for now).