Now that NBC has performed an incredible feat and not lost $200 million on the Olympics, let's focus on the future. What comes after these games have come to their glorious end? Well, as NBC has been eager to remind us over and over and over again during every night's broadcast, some new shows are debuting! Yeah, have you noticed their oh-so-subtle peddling of their crop of new series? It's been pretty intense. So, how do the shows look? Let's talk about each one.
Matthew Perry's third attempt at a series post-Friends, this show is about a sports radio host whose wife dies and the wacky people he meets in a support group for people coping with loss. Har har? Yeah, it's a strange setup for a comedy, kind of a grief-based Community. (Which is sort of grief-based itself, but a different kind of grief.) NBC has been trying to trot around this dark premise by focusing on Matthew Perry's trademark caustic, oniony humor and the wacky folks surrounding him. For the show's Olympics promos, they've filmed scenes with Beijing gymnastics star Shawn Johnson, placing in the support group for some reason. Well, the joke is that because she won three silver medals and only one gold in Beijing, she knows about loss. It's kinda cute and Johnson actually proves up to the task. But still that word "loss" keeps fumbling out there. Perry dances over it pretty quickly, but still, we hear it. This is a show about really sad people dealing with very hard things. That's interesting and all, but is it really network sitcom stuff? Who knows.
Yikes. Can't you just hear someone in a meeting at NBC saying, "It's like The Office, with animals!" Look, everyone loves a monkey, who doesn't love a monkey, and Justin Kirk is a fine, funny actor, but good grief does this show look unfortunate. And the Olympics promos aren't doing it any favors. What even happens in them? They're watching the Olympics or something? The monkey shows up? Who can remember. The important thing is that the ads haven't really elucidated what the show is actually about, beyond a cute monkey and some sarcastic guy who isn't Matthew Perry. That's sort of the peculiar thing about all of the ads made specially for the Olympics; we're not seeing something that will actually be on the show when we tune in, it's just... something else. In Animal Practice's case, something else that doesn't make us want to watch the other something else.
The New Normal
This show, from Ryan "Two Season" Murphy, looks somewhat promising, perhaps only for its interesting cast — among them The Book of Mormon's charming Andrew Rannells, wild and wonderful Ellen Barkin, and Atlanta Housewife NeNe Leakes. So it's good that the Olympics tie-in ad showcases each character individually, while also reminding us of what the show is about. In the ad they're all imagining the unborn baby that's at the center of the series if he or she went to the Olympics. Nice and tidy, simple premise. That's not to say that this show is a guaranteed win by any measure. We are talking about Ryan Murphy here, after all. But the show's promos are at least the best of the Olympics-based bunch. Well done, everyone!
Obviously NBC wasn't going to do a goofy Olympics-themed ad for this serious adventure drama — oh just kidding, there's a big crumbling Olympics stadium in one of the most-run spots. But they are still promoting it pretty damn hard. The premise of the show is kinda cool — all electricity disappears from the world, so everyone has to reset and revert to old war lording ways or something — and the ads are appropriately serious, as long as you take all the post-apocalyptic swordfighting seriously. I suppose there's a little bit of an Olympic spirit to them — we see lots of people running in slow motion, just like in the 'lympics. It doesn't exactly track that the Olympics are going to inspire people to watch something about a ravaged nightmare world, but it's possible! If you're one of the weirdos who wasn't totally burned by Lost, maybe this will be the next big mystery serial. Or it will be The Event. Or FlashForward. Or Invasion. Or One Day. Or Surface. Or... Well, you get the idea.
What do these Olympic Games have everyone (well, like half of everyone) freaking out about? Hot dudes with hot muscles. So, NBC wisely gives the people more of they want with the promos for this drama about
Mrs. O'Leary's cow firefighters in the Windy Apple. It's all dudes looking tough and giving eyes to the camera and, hey there's a lady, but now back to the dudes, etc. etc. All the smolder and seriousness lends itself well to the games, especially when something like men's gymnastics or swimming is on and everyone's all hot and bothered already. The show will likely be silly and soapy — plus didn't Rescue Me and Third Watch cover this? — but we'd bet that at least some people will tune in based on the ads. It would have been more fun to see the cast bouncing around in unitards while putting out various fires, but this isn't that kind of show.
NBC is sneak-peeking Go On and Animal Practice the week after the Olympics and putting the first episode online, but everything else premieres in the normal September/October window. The network clearly hopes this big Olympics push will get people to return to their crumbling ghost town of a network, but we're not convinced. The Olympics are one thing, comedies about monkeys and dopey dramas about firemen are quite another.