Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
It’s time for a new direction. Okay, I’m out. I not only write about TV and for TV, I’m a would-be TV programmer. It’s not only that I think developing TV concepts and lineups would be a lot of fun. I also think it can be a noble profession, even a calling — one which enables a broad range of storytellers to tell a broad range of positive stories that can entertain, inform and inspire individuals and, by extension, an entire culture.
Even in this day and age, broadcast television (which, at its best, is aimed at bringing people together rather than driving them apart) the potential for television to good is enormous. That’s why I find the trend (that has really kicked up and intensified over the past decade or so) toward dark, unkind and violent programming to be so disheartening. The world is dark, unkind and violent enough. What would really help people, after a hard day in the world, is to be able sit back and receive positive examples of light where kindness, a world where those who inflict violence are overcome by those who oppose it. We really don’t need another show about brilliant serial killer outwitting everyone around him. We don’t need more shows built around self-obsessed characters whose chief attribute is the ability to spout snarky one liners (usually relating, in a degrading way, to sex). We don’t need any more shows that put people down because of their difference — be they of opinion, faith, lifestyle or whatever. What we could use more of are shows that depict people of divergent viewpoints getting along and even loving each other in spite of their differences — which is something far different than suggesting there is only one correct way to look at the world.
Imagine, if broadcast network executives used their awesome opportunity to support timeless human values such as faith in God, kindness, forgiveness, gratitude, tolerance, wisdom, personal responsibility and the all-important ability to laugh at one’s own foibles (as opposed to spitefully mocking those with whom we differ). These values are neither conservative nor liberal, Democrat nor Republican. They are not religiously sectarian. They are simply matters of Supreme Truth – the basic building block of all great drama and comedy.
With that said, with the networks announcing their fall schedules this week, I’ve researched the ratings and programming possibilities (i.e. pilots) of each of the five major broadcasters and created my own 2013-2014 schedules for each of them (along with some notes). Of course, my choices are base strictly on impressions of concepts and who is involved creatively. In the end, it’s always the execution that really counts. NEW SHOWS ARE IN CAPS. (In some cases, I’ve taken the liberty of changing the titles.)
First up: NBC (you can view what the network is really doing here)
7:00 – EARLY TONIGHT STARRING JAY LENO (Monday-Friday)
8:00 – The Voice/(Winter: 8:00 – RESCUE 911/9:00 – COMEBACK)
10:00 – THE NIGHT SHIFT (An Afghan war vet works the night shift at San Antonio Memorial Hospital)
NOTE: First off, why a notoriously struggling network would remove the only guy (Jay Leno) who was delivering them time-slot winning five nights a week is beyond insane — but it’s too late to reverse that decision. Instead, as I wrote for The Wrap in 2010 (during the Conan O’Brien debacle), moving Jay Leno to 7:00 PM (making a technically a syndicated but which nearly all NBC affiliates would run) would provide strong, promotional lead-in into NBC’s prime time schedule — while helping to reverse that sense NBC’s powers that be have actual disdain for mainstream, mid-American tastes.
Also, between the two editions of The Voice, I’d hammock in a couple of positive reality revivals that would signal the network’s shift away from the dark and edgy.
Rescue 911, of course, focused on people helping people in life-and-death situations. Comeback is a virtually forgotten show (though not by me) which was produced by Larry Jacobson in 1979. It focused on people who suffered major setbacks but, through faith and perseverance, hung on until things turned around. It is, in short, exactly the kind of shows America needs to see right now.
8:00 – The Voice/Winter: THE GUILDED AGE (An American version of Downton Abbey set in 1880’s New York)
9:00 – LIFE HAPPENS (aka The Michael J. Fox Show, it stars Fox as a family man/TV news guy who happens to have Parkinson’s Disease)
9:30 – THE MULANEY CHRONICLES (a multi-camera Seinfeld-esque sitcom starring comedian John Mulaney)
10:00 – SNL MAGAZINE (Norm McDonald anchors a spoof of TV magazine shows)
NOTE: That last one is my own idea to extend the SNL brand into prime time. Also, regarding that planned Seth Myers talk show, I’d cut it to a half hour Daily Show-style new wrap-up, following a 90-minute Tonight Show. I’d call it SNL Late Night Update. Though extending the SNL brand strikes me as an overall good idea, it should be noted that the brand also is in dire need of transformation and fresh writing (i.e. writers capable of finding humor in the Obama Administration and not just its critics and writers who know the difference between legitimate humor involving religion and the actual mocking and insulting of faith (i.e. the show’s Django Unchained spoof involving Jesus which was not even close to be being funny.
Also, I would hope The Mulaney Chronicles would recapture the comedy style of Seinfeld‘s early season — and not the latter years in which the show became increasingly mean in tone.
8:00 – Revolution/Spring: THE GUARDIAN (aka Believe, a fugitive is called on to protect a 10-year-old with mystical powers from sinister forces)
9:00 – THE SIXTH GUN (A mystical western about a gunfighter, a woman he protects and the mysterious gun bad guys who were thought dead will to kill for)
10:00 – Grimm
NOTE: Both Revolution and The Guardian are produced by J.J. Abrams. The Sixth Gun is produced by Carlton Cuse. Together they worked on Lost. So, I would expect good things from them — particularly on a night given over to sci-fi and fantasy.
8:00 – Chicago Fire
9:00 – IRONSIDE (remake of the Raymond Burr classic)
10:00 – DATELINE: HOLLYWOOD (news magazine focusing on movie releases and star profiles)
NOTE: Chicago Fire should stop seeming like Law & Order with firefighters and adopt a lighter, M*A*S*H-like tone. The Ironside revival should resist the temptation to be super edgy and just tell intelligent mysteries. Dateline: Hollywood could be a cash cow for the network. By airing the night before the weekend begins, movie advertisers would flock to it. Put Ann Curry at the helm and the network could even help heal the Today P.R. disaster.
8:00 – Mr. Rice (Craig Robinson as kind-hearted music teacher in an urban middle school)
8:30 – About a Boy (Americanized version of the movie)
9:00 – Brenda Forever (dramedy following the life of Brenda, both at 13 and 31)
10:00 – Parenthood
Note: Execution is key, but, if executed well, the shows could add up to a funny, heartwarming family-friendly lineup for a Friday night.
8:00 – Royal Pains/Warehouse 13/Psyche
9:00 – Burn Notice/Defiance/White Collar
10:00 – Covert Affairs/Haven/Suits
NOTE: Ideally, the networks should resume programming Saturday nights with original shows. Not doing so is another not-so-subtle reminder that they think that people over a certain age (who are supposedly the only people ever home on a Saturday night) aren’t worth their developmental energy. NBC, however, is a basket case in the ratings and would be wise, at this time, to just put programming from its USA and Syfy sister channels. NBC shows, BTW, should be rerun on those channels in the daylight hours during week as a way both boosting interest and generating more ad revenue from them.
7:00 – Football Night in America
7:45– NFL Sunday Night Football
7:00 – AMERICAN GLADIATORS/Spring: The NBC FAMILY MOVIE
9:00 – THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTS/Spring: NBC SUNDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES
Note: Football is actually working for the network — so given the way it’s treated Jay Leno, it’s a wonder it’s still on the prime-time schedule. In January, I’d bring back American Gladiators which, in my view, was mishandled by the suits back during its 2008 run.
NBC should also get back in the family movie business — after squandering the Walmart and P&G Family Movie Night franchise. The companies have since gone on to partner with Walden Media and, as a result, Walden Family Theater now airs on Hallmark Channel. The network should also get back into making inspiration film dramas for adults under the Sunday Night at the Movies banner.
Regarding The American Presidents, that idea comes about because the network has been considering a new George Washington series. So, why just tell the story — over several years — of all the U.S. presidents. Start with Washington, Adams and Jefferson and go on from there. It could be a great franchise that could help Americans reconnect with the values that made this country great.
So, there you have it — a blueprint for a more optimistic, less edgy NBC that I truly believe would be a more successful NBC.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11