NBC is doubling down on the dads in the fall. In addition to the renewed "Up All Night," with stay-at-home dad Will Arnett, there are new comedies "The New Normal" and "Guys With Kids."
"Glee" and "American Horror Story" creator Ryan Murphy is behind "The New Normal," one of NBC's most anticipated new comedies. The director-screenwriter co-created the series with "Glee" co-executive producer Ali Adler.
The series stars Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells as a gay couple looking to start a family; Georgia Kind plays the surrogate mother they recruit to help them.
Ellen Barkin also stars. The series is scheduled to air Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.
Charlie Grandy, former writer for "The Office," "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" is behind "Guys With Kids." A traditional multi-camera sitcom starring Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford and Zach Cregger, it looks at three thirtysomething guys who have babies but aren't quite adults themselves.
Sara Rue, Tempestt Bledsoe and Jamie-Lynn Sigler play the (presumably) more mature women.
Jimmy Fallon is an executive producer on this series, which is to air Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m.
"Friends" alum Matthew Perry is looking for another hit on NBC with "Go On," his latest series attempt after the early deaths of his previous series "Mr. Sunshine" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip."
This time, Perry is playing a sportscaster who joins a support group after suffering a grave personal loss and quickly becomes involved with all the colorful personalities there.
The series was created by writer Scott Silveri, who previously wrote for "Friends." TV comedy director Todd Holland ("Malcolm in the Middle") directed the pilot. It also stars Julie White, Laura Benanti, Suzy Nakamura, Allison Miller, Khary Payton and Tyler James Williams.
NBC presented its new shows on Monday at its upfront presentation, and perhaps the largest scaled project is "Revolution," written by "Supernatural's" Eric Kripke with Jon Favreau directing the pilot. But based on the trailer, this project has producer J.J. Abrams' fingerprints all over it.
Set in a world 15 years after all forms of power have ceased to work, survivors battle each other over all the things survivors in post-apocalyptic worlds usually battle each other over. Adding to the anxiety factor is the casting of "Breaking Bad" baddie Giancarlo Esposito (formerly known as "Gus" Fring) as the series villain.
But back to the Abrams influence. It's all right there in the trailer: the crashing airplane, the early '80s computer interface (remember the numbers in "Lost?") and the unexplained events occurring in the background (just why exactly did power go out? First season finale, perhaps?)
Billy Burke (from the "Twilight" series) gets to show off his prowess with a katana blade and Australian actresss Anna Lise Phillips looks very "Hunger Games" with her crossbow action. Archery enthusiasts should have a lot to cheer about with this one.
"Revolution" will air Mondays at 10 p.m.
"Law & Order" chief Dick Wolf is conjuring the spirit of Ron Howard's firefighter drama "Backdraft" with his new series, "Chicago Fire," which promises all the fires, feuds and fornicating of the best evening soaps.
The men and women of a Chicago firehouse are picking up the pieces following the death of one of their own and it seems two of the firehouse's members are now nearly at each other's throats. Meanwhile, there's the new guy in the house trying to figure things out. Of course, there are lots of shirtless firefighter guys (at least one of whom will no doubt make it on People magazine's most sexy list next year, just you wait).
Amazingly, even Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to have a cameo in the show.
Charlie Barnett, Merle Dandridge, David Eigenberg, Lauren German, Teri Kinney, Jesse Spencer and Eamonn Walker star. The show will air Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
One of the most anticipated shows of the season is NBC's "Smash," from Steven Spielberg and veteran playwright/TV writer Theresa Rebeck, chronicling the backstage drama behind a fictional Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe. "In a lot of ways, it doesn't matter that this is the theater world," Rebeck said. "The way I think of the show is as "The West Wing" — an adult workplace drama, only they're not in the White House."
What if a bunch of supposedly dead Alcatraz prisoners returned to wreak havoc in modern-day San Francisco? The premise was immensely tempting to "Lost" co-creator J.J. Abrams. He says of his new Fox series "Alcatraz": "As soon as I was pitched the idea, I was desperate to make it happen. How could there have never been a show called 'Alcatraz'?"
As the 2011 TV season tips into 2012, cable shows such as “Homeland” and “American Horror Story” have aired their explosive climaxes, while network newbies that survived the fall are just about halfway through their premiere seasons. Here’s a look at six series that showed early promise and how they’re living up to expectations.
“New Girl” | Fox
The premise: Jess (Zooey Deschanel), an attractive but socially awkward woman in her mid-20s, moves in with three single guys after she splits with a philandering tool of a boyfriend.
The vibe: Hipster comedy that avoids coming off as hipper-than-thou.
References: “That Girl,” “Three’s Company,” “Friends,” “(500) Days of Summer”
Sample line: “Pink wine makes me slutty.” — Jess, having a night out with the guys to lift her spirits
Casting call-out: Cece (Hannah Simone), Jess’ best friend, exudes Grrrrl Power in the man cave Jess now calls home.
Performance/prospects: Averaging 8.2 million viewers per episode, “New Girl” will be back for a second season. The big question is will “New Girl” start feeling old?
“Up All Night” | NBC
The premise: Yuppie power couple Chris (Will Arnett) and Reagan Brinkley (Christina Applegate) trade Jell-O shots and last calls for baby formula and middle-of-the-night feedings when newborn Amy comes along.
The vibe: Modern love and marriage. And baby makes comic relief.
Referencing: “Mad About You,” “Mr. Mom,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show”
Sample line: “He just doesn’t understand. I just had a baby. I mean underneath this, I have a girdle and two pairs of Spanx on.” — Reagan to Ava, after accepting her well-meaning friend’s gift of a red thong
Casting call-out: Maya Rudolph in Oprah mode as Reagan’s friend/boss Ava, who seems to spend as much time at the Brinkleys’ house as she does at the television studio.
Performance/prospects: With what might be described as “tweener” ratings (averaging 5.75 million viewers per episode), the series was picked up for a full season in October. Whether this baby makes it to Season 2 … stay tuned.
“Homeland” | Showtime
The premise: Having gone missing for eight years in Iraq, Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis) is rescued and returned to the U.S., where CIA agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) suspects he has been “turned” by the enemy and tracks his every move. An overwhelming sense of paranoia and claustrophobia ensues.
The vibe: “Big Brother” meets “Nurse Jackie,” only Nurse Jackie is a pill-popping CIA agent with bipolar disorder.
References: “24,” life in these United States since 9/11
Sample line: “He’s lying!” — Agent Carrie, after Sgt. Brody aces a polygraph test in which he was asked if he had ever cheated on his wife. And she would know.
Casting call-out: Brody’s best friend and fellow Marine, Mike Faber (Diego Klattenhoff), who stood in as the man of the house while his buddy was in captivity — in more ways than one.
Performance/prospects: With its growing audience and critical acclaim, get ready for another season of white-knuckled viewing in 2012.
“Once Upon a Time” | ABC
The premise: Fairy tale characters, including Snow White (Ginnifer Godwin) and the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), are cast out of their idyll to the fictitious small town of Storybrooke, Maine, where they lose their memories and their supernatural mojo.
The vibe: Complicated storytelling and nostalgia for simpler times.
References: “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” “Twin Peaks”
Sample line: “Where are we going?” “Somewhere horrible, absolutely horrible.” — an exchange between Snow White and the Evil Queen, just before the denizens of the world of make-believe are transported to contemporary America
Casting call-out: Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), long-lost biological daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White, who leaves home and moves to Storybrooke at the urging of a mysterious, precocious boy named Henry Mills (Jared Gilmore).
Performance/prospects: With viewers numbering in the 10 million range, it looks like lightning should strike twice for “Once” and fans can expect a second season.
“American Horror Story” | FX
The premise: Cheating husband Ben Harmon (Dylan McDermott) uproots his wife, Vivien (Connie Britton), and daughter, Violet (Taissa Farmiga), from Boston to live in L.A., where they move into a haunted house that they bought for a song. Suspended disbelief (especially on the great real estate deal part) ensues.
The vibe: Tennessee Williams throws a shower for “Rosemary’s Baby.”
Sample line: "Is everybody crazy?” — Ben to Vivien, after a drop-in from a poisonous cupcake-bearing neighbor (see below)
Casting call-out: Neighbor Constance, played to the hilt by Jessica Lange channeling Blanche DuBois.
Performance/prospects: Nearly 3 million viewers per week have bought in to the ghosts and goblins that populate the series, and its fans are rabid. FX is hoping it scares up more of them come fall.
“2 Broke Girls” | CBS
The premise: Working girl Max (Kat Dennings) and newly destitute heiress Caroline (Beth Behrs) forge a friendship and dream of starting a cupcake business while working in a Brooklyn diner. Oh, and they share a tiny apartment with Caroline’s horse, Chestnut.
The vibe: “Two and a Half Broke Girls.” Bawdy and naughty.
References: “Alice,” “The Simple Life”
Sample line: “I forgot you’re Equestrian Barbie. You came with a horse.” — Max to Caroline, after Chestnut pokes his head through the back door of Max’s apartment
Casting call-out: ”Saturday Night Live” original cast member Garrett Morris dispenses free advice as the diner’s cashier, Earl.
Performance/prospects: A huge hit for CBS in terms of viewers and the ages 18-to-49 target demographic. The girls will be back for another season of sass while they scrimp and save for that cupcake start-up.
ABC is on a pick-up spree Thursday, extending full seasons to new shows "Revenge" and "Suburgatory." A thriller set in the Hamptons, "Revenge" stars Emily Van Camp as a young woman looking to destroy the rich and powerful people who shattered her family. "Suburgatory," meanwhile, is a sharp-edged sitcom about suburban life featuring Jeremy Sisto, Cheryl Hines and Jane Levy.
The network also gave hope to fans of "Happy Endings," now in its second season, by offering the comedy six more episodes. The fate of "Charlie's Angels" and "Pan Am" have not yet been announced.
"I don't want it to be zero-sum game where there’s one girl show on TV so there can’t be another one," says Lena Dunham, the indie filmmaker who created and stars in the HBO series “Girls,” scheduled for early next year.
It’s one of a number of provocative new series about young women's lives driven by female creators. Next week comedian Whitney Cummings hits the airwaves with two separate sitcoms: She is the co-creator (with "Sex and the City's" Michael Patrick King) of CBS’ buzzy girl-buddy sitcom “Two Broke Girls” starring Kat Dennings, and creator and star of NBC’s relationship comedy "Whitney." Also premiering is Liz Meriwether’s “The New Girl,” starring Zooey Deschanel as a single woman. Coming in midseason is “Best Friends Forever,” Chelsea Handler’s "Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea" and “Apartment 23,” starring the fabulous Krysten Ritter, with many others in development. (Will Mindy Kaling be up next?)
Many of these series aim to capture young women’s lives complete with the raunchiness (and awkwardness) that sometimes entails. The word "vagina" pops up in the first episodes of both “2 Broke Girls" and "Whitney.” (OK, points deducted for the reference to a "vajazzler.") The heroine of MTV’s teen-girl comedy “Awkward” references a tampon.
Says "Awkward" creator Lauren Iungerich, “I wasn’t ever looking to shock. As the ‘Jersey Shore’ would say, 'Do you.' I do me, to be true to the audience and bring into the world the real conversation we have.”
Most of the writers say the material came pouring out of their own lives. Dunham says she and her writers found themselves saying, "This happened to me. Oh, my God, this happened to you?" and wondered, "Why have we never seen this on television, these common female experiences?"
For more on these female-created comedies and TV's ambivalent affair with women's voices, read this Calendar feature.
A barrage of new fall shows hits the TV screen over the next few weeks, and to help you digest it all, we've put together a fall TV sneak preview page with advance coverage of the fall season.
Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd runs through a selection of new offerings for the fall season, from "Allen Gregory" to "Whitney." (Clips of many new shows are also available on the sneak preview page.)
In her critic's notebook, Mary McNamara notes the curious thread of nostalgia running through fall programming -- "as if writers and network execs were sharing a collective Facebookian desire to resurrect old relationships, to reconnect viewers with the people we once knew and the people we once were." She notes the remakes of "Charlie's Angels" and "Prime Suspect" as well as the retro chic of "Pan Am" and "Playboy Club." "Terra Nova" goes so far back, it's prehistoric.
At a recent taping of Tim Allen’s new sitcom, “Last Man Standing” -- which debuts on ABC Oct. 11 -- the mood backstage was especially jovial, the familial camaraderie palpable. There was much hugging, exchanging of kid photos on iPhones, ribbing of one another.
That’s because many of the crew members also worked on Allen’s previous hit, “Home Improvement.”
“I said, anybody who's still alive, call 'em up!” Allen says.
Twelve years after “Home Improvement” went off the air and with a decade-plus of studio films behind him, Allen is reuniting with ABC to “reboot” the small-screen magic.
“Last Man” is directed by John Pasquin, who was the original director on “Home Improvement” and who also directed the first “Santa Clause” movie Allen starred in. Director of photography Donald A. Morgan, who won “Home Improvement” seven Emmys, is also back.
Allen calls the show “comfort food” in that it’s a return to the old-fashioned, if a bit cheesy (pun intended), multi-camera sitcoms shot in front of a live audience. “It’s revisiting hamburgers,” he says.
“Last Man Standing” follows Mike Baxter, a Denver dad who wields hunting and fishing gear at work but must navigate the nuanced world of women at home, where he lives with a strong-willed wife (Nancy Travis) and three daughters. Allen describes the show as “Home Improvement, inside out.” Instead of three boys, it’s three girls; instead of power tools, it’s guns, knives and canoes.
The show's producers seem confident it will appeal "between the coasts." "It's a functional family sitcom, a husband and wife and family that loves each other," says Rick Messina, an executive producer on the show and also one of Allen's managers. "That, alone, separates it from the pack."
“Sarah used to say, 'Who would want to be called Buffy for her whole life?'” says Joss Whedon. "'What kind of a name is that?'”
Nowadays, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s chair on the set of her new CW series, “Ringer,” says “Shivette.” That name is shorthand for the characters Gellar plays in the thriller, which premieres next Tuesday: Bridget, an ex-stripper on the run, and Siobahn, Bridget's socialite twin sister, who’s in so much trouble she's prepared to let Siobahn step into her own shoes.
"The joke is that I'm playing five characters," Gellar explains. "I play Siobahn and Bridget present day, both women in flashback, and then 'Shivette,' which is when Bridget is pretending to be Siobahn."
Taking on two (or five?) starring roles and executive-producing a prime-time show doesn’t exactly square with the new mom's professed desire to make her work life more manageable than it was back in those all-consuming “Buffy the Vampire Slayer" days. “It’s a lot when you’re 18 years old, and the hours were so brutal on that show.”
Producing “Ringer” was crucial to her returning to series TV. "The good thing about this show is ... we're not shooting at night. No graveyards. I'm telling you, you learn these things. Playing rich characters? Better clothing! ... Although Buffy had some great costumes and Cynthia Bergstrom from ‘Buffy’ is doing my costumes here, and David and Todd who did my makeup on ‘Buffy’ are doing it here,” she says. “It’s an extended support system.”
Whedon, speaking by phone while shooting the "Avengers" movie, said that even as a teenager, Gellar was “enormously ambitious and focused. She always had her circle of people around her and the rest was the work.”