Every year -- around the time that jockeys trot out their majestic thoroughbreds through a picturesque gauntlet of Black Eyed Susans separated by a corrugated steel fence from the non-so-picturesque Pimlico inflield teeming with college kids, drunken Baltimorons, and shirtless derelicts from all corners of the Eastern Seaboard -- another (dog and) pony show, the Upfronts, is taking place 200 miles north in New York City.
The television networks' Upfronts week is a chance for ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX to trot out their new pilot pick-ups -- who are the luckily few to survive the grueling winnowing down process -- in hopes of impressing advertisers, and, increasingly importantly, critics and bloggers. A good showing at Upfronts can not only garner a network a windfall in advertising dollars, but kick start the online hype machine months before the shows premiere.
Let's take a quick peak at a few of the shows that made some noise at Upfronts this year:
The Mindy Project
I love Mindy Kaling. I find her funny and charming, and I've enjoyed virtually everything she's been a part of -- with the exception of that Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? book, which I didn't find particularly funny. I'm thrilled to see her get a chance to be the real star of a show and the trailer for The Mindy Project is very promising. Just one gripe: The Mindy Project is an awful title. They were originally considering calling the show It's Messy, which I find hilarious considering Kaling's character is a gynecologist.
The Mob Doctor
Speaking of awful titles for show... Jeez Louise. Could this show name get any less creative? I'm assuming from the title that the show will be about a doctor that treats members of the mafia. If I check this show out -- and that's a big IF -- it will only be because is co-stars my dog Matty Saracen (Zach Gilford).
I reported on Vegas on February when Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis signed on to star in the Cops versus Gangsters period drama set in Las Vegas. This series sounds extremely promising, as the pilot is written by the highly-respected Greg Walker and Nicholas Pileggi and directed by veteran feature film director James Mangold.
Elementary is a modern reimagining of Sherlock Holmes. Lucy Liu plays Watson, I will not be watching this.
Like The Mob Doctor, the only reason why I might check out Nashville is because of the presence of another Friday Night Lights alumni: Tami Taylor. For my money, Connie Britton is the finest female actress on television right now and was the only reason to watch a second of American Horror Story. According to Andy Greenwald, Nashville is about "two generations of sassy country divas face off in Music City against a backdrop of jowly politicos and good old bad boys with tasteful scruff and $200 boots." Not exactly my cup of tea, but for Mrs. Coach, I'll give it a shot.
I love Shawn Ryan, creator of The Shield and Terriers, so I want Last Resort to be good so badly. The thing that worries me about this kind of high-concept show -- a rogue nuclear submarine lays seige on a tropical island in an attempt to avert a worldwide nuclear war -- is that I feel like it would work better as movie rather than a TV show. Like ABC's The River, Last Resort has a very cool conceit, but seems more suited for a mini-series format. It's not clear to me how the show's idea can be translated into a traditional TV season. That said, Ryan has earned my trust, so I'll be giving this bad-boy a chance. Plus, Andre Braugher is in it, and who doesn't like that guy?
Throughout the development season, NBC boasted incessantly about its great new crop of comedies: Downwardly Mobile, which would have reunited John Goodman and Rosanne Bar; Friday Night Dinner with Allison Janney and Tony Shaloub; and Next Caller starring Dane Cook as a talk-radio host. But when the rubber hit the road, the network decided (thank god!) to renew fan favorites like Parks and Rec and Community, which means NBC will have a tough time finding time slots for all of the allegedly new awesome comedies. In fact, NBC has decided not to pick up Downwardly Mobile and Friday Night Dinner. Inexplicably, they seem to be moving forward with the Dan Cook project. God help us all.
The most intriguing new show on the Peacock, and possibly on network TV in general, is the J.J. Abrams produced Revolution. By no means is the show's set-up breaking any new sci-fi ground -- the entire earth loses electricity and is instantaneously transported back to the bronze-age -- but I trust that Abrams will throw in enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. Not to mention, the show stars Giancarlo Esposito, so that's enough to get me to tune in for a week or two.