Upfronts are the equivalent of Hell Week in college. If you weren't a member of a sorority or fraternity, or if you were lucky enough to have friends who didn't haze you in order to prove you wanted to be best friends forever, the gist is basically that it's terrible—which should really be clear by the name. The Upfronts are when networks unveil their new fall schedules (which is why they're preceded by so many renewals and cancellations). They give us the first glimpse of what's to come in the fall, and in some cases, they validate our opinions of whatever pilots we've been enthusiastically anticipating or mocking/dreading for months. But mostly, Upfronts are when we gather together as a TV family and yell, "Oh my God, they canceled Community for THAT?" NBC, which actually finished first in the ratings this year (no, you're not drunk, it's true), is up first, so let's break down the good, the bad, and the ugly from the network's new schedule.
First thing first: Here's NBC's full 2014-2015 schedule.
And here are the first trailers for NBC's six new fall shows: Marry Me, A to Z, State of Affairs, The Mysteries of Laura, Constantine, and Bad Judge. (Editor's Note: NBC did not release trailers for its midseason shows, so we're only discussing things in terms of the fall TV schedule.)
Now let's get to the good stuff... as well as the bad stuff and the ugly stuff, 'cause that's the whole point of this story!
NBC is finally making moves to blow up its long-standing Thursday-night comedy block, which has proven in recent years to BE a punchline instead of delivering them. Both The Michael J. Fox Show and Sean Saves the World failed spectacularly this past season, which means it's time to shake things up. In the fall, NBC's Thursdays will be home to The Biggest Loser at 8pm, then a pair of new comedies from 9pm to 10pm, and then the final season of Parenthood at 10pm. And starting in February, the James Spader-starring The Blacklist will leave its post-Voice spot on Mondays to anchor NBC's Thursdays, which puts it up against some juicy competition (unless the rest of the networks pull a 180 on us). Considering it's the network's first real hit in years, this is a pretty smart move. Plus, it'll offer a strong lead-in for the new Russian spy drama Allegiance (which will replace Parenthood in the Thursday-at-10pm spot), which should prove to be a decent combination.
NBC's veteran comedy Parks and Recreation currently doesn't have a spot on the network's schedule. There's still no word on an episode count for Season 7, but after months of speculation, NBC has confirmed that it'll be the show's last. While this is sad news for those of us who are still jamming to that awesome performance of "5,000 Candles In the Wind" from the Season 6 finale, that just means the network is either holding it until midseason or—the more likely option—until something else fails. I guess we'll all just have to play a bunch of Cones of Dunshire while we wait.
NBC's new dramas seem to have miscast their female leads. Katherine Heigl's State of Affairs is already laughable because Heigl's not exactly believable in the lead role, not to mention the show feels like a poor man's version of Homeland. Alfre Woodard is perfectly cast as the president, but Heigl looks out of her element here.
And while Debra Messing isn't quite as bad in The Mysteries of Laura, she's also not the greatest choice for the role of a homicide detective. Her saving grace (heh) is that the series looks more like a dramedy than a straight-up serious drama, and we all know she can handle the comedic aspects better anyway.
THE "THIS ALMOST MAKES UP FOR CANCELING COMMUNITY (WHICH IN ALL HONESTY HAD A GOOD RUN)"
The emotionally taxing but (generally) beautifully written Parenthood was renewed for a sixth and final season, and the disturbing but artistically brilliant Hannibal will be back for Season 3. You'll notice the latter isn't on NBC's fall schedule, but that's normal. It'll most likely premiere in the spring, just like it has for the past two years.
Best-looking New NBC Series: Marry Me
Disclaimer: I'm in a one-sided love affair with Ken Marino, but Marry Me, which comes from the creator of Happy Endings and also stars Casey Wilson, is already shaping up to be one of the most promising new comedies of the season.
Worst-looking New NBC Series: State of Affairs
Former Grey's Anatomy and rom-com star Katherine Heigl as a no-nonsense CIA attaché would be a really funny joke if State of Affairs wasn't a Very Serious Drama. We always had a feeling that it would be terrible, the trailer only proves that Heigl cannot pull of a role of this kind. She ain't Claire Danes, y'all.
The New NBC Series That Should Look Better Than It Does: Constantine
I can't exactly place my finger on what's missing from the Constantine trailer, but there's definitely something keeping it from reaching its highest potential. I do know one thing, though: It sucks that Lucy Griffiths doesn't get to keep her natural accent. Also, was that Dickie Bennett?
The New NBC Series That's Most Likely to Remind You of How Much You Hated the End of How I Met Your Mother: A to Z
To be fair, A to Z looks very cute and I hope it does well. The reason How I Met Your Mother was so successful throughout its run was its unapologetic take on romance in a world that's populated mostly by cynics like myself. A to Z feels like a HIMYM descendent not only because Cristin Milioti—who starred as the Mother in the show's final season—plays the female lead, but because Ben Feldman's character is a true romantic in the essence of Ted Mosby. And when paired with talk about destiny and true love, A to Z feels right out of HIMYM's playbook (no, not that Playbook). The show could very well fill the comedy void left by the Gang's departure in March, but let's all be on alert for the Robin, okay?
How do your first impressions of NBC's new schedule and shows match up to mine?
Upfronts 2014 HQ:
New Shows, Network Schedules, Video Previews, and More