The brass at CBS were certainly some pretty smug motherf--kers at Wednesday's upfront presentation, taking their sweet time with gags and musical bits and other silliness at Carnegie Hall, because y'know what? They can. The network is way ahead of the other broadcast networks in basically all measures, clobbering all the silly Smashes and New Girls of the world with all its extremely popular, largely terrible programming. There was a lot of braggadocio going on at the presentation, especially when CEO Les Moonves averred that broadcast wasn't in trouble at all, taking digs at cable and the Internet. But, as Time TV writer James Poniewozik points out, CBS's success doesn't mean that broadcast isn't in trouble. (Someone tell Fox.) And anyway, business aside? Because, um, money isn't everything I guess? CBS is awful! And today was a hearty reminder of that.
Because the network was only introducing six new shows — a whopping twenty were renewed from this season — they had lots of time to fill. So there were cast appearances and the aforementioned jokes and songs, and it also gave the network ample time to crow on about their current stable of programming. We had long intro reels for news, sports, comedy, and drama, highlighting some of the network's most dismal successes. I'm not really a sports or news guy, and Survivor and The Amazing Race are great, so I'm mostly talking about the scripted shows. Boy, what stinkers. And they are so proud of the stinkers! I know that I've confessed to watching NCIS, but that doesn't mean it's good! Because it is not; it is a blunt and unintelligent show rife with jingoism, sexism, and good old fashioned anti-intellectualism. I mean, that could be said for almost all CBS shows, minus the jingoism in the case of something like Big Bang Theory. (The other two isms apply.) And NCIS: LA is even worse! Yes, these shows are the nation's highest rated dramas and comedy, but beyond the numbers game, these guys have nothing to be smug about.
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There is The Good Wife, a sharp and engaging and terrifically cast show, and I will grudgingly admit that How I Met Your Mother could have its moments in the early days (not so any longer, of course), but by and large CBS makes junk. Dumb, pandering, extremely popular junk. And they're adding some more! The glimpse we got of the six new shows was consistently dreary, everything looking like some bad new version of some bad old thing. The two new dramas are both crime shows. One is called Hostages and stars Dylan McDermott and, inexplicably, Toni Collette. (Guess houses in Point Piper don't buy themselves.) It's another serialized thing that would probably work much better as a movie. And then there's Intelligence, starring Josh Holloway as a special ops guy with a computer chip in his head that makes him smarter. Yeah. That's the whole thing. I'd say Holloway was crazy to do this, but have you ever seen a dumptruck full of money backing up to your house? Quite an effective sight.
On the comedy side there's the new Chuck Lorre show Mom, with Anna Faris. It's maybe the most promising of the four, though that's not saying much. I feel bad for Faris and her costar Allison Janney; they both deserve better than this. In terms of deserving better, no one fared worse in this upfront than poor Margo Martindale, the great and crafty actress reduced to yelling masturbation and fart jokes at Will Arnett in the seemingly abysmal The Millers. And poor Sarah Michelle Gellar just can't get a post Buffy break — her new comedy with Robin Williams (!), The Crazy Ones, is clearly trying very hard to go for the smart/silly vibe of 30 Rock and The Office, but what we've seen so far doesn't come close. (Sorry, Gellar. Why did HBO have to pass on The Wonderful Maladys?) I'm not even going to dignify We Are Men with a description, as the plot and tone should be obvious from the title.
So what I'm saying is that while CBS may be strutting around all proud and cocky because their shows are wildly popular, their shows, both old and new, are also wildly awful. So there. That'll fix 'em. Hmm? What's that? Les Moonves and the gang just said "Pfft" and went strutting off to the bank? Fine. I tried.
(Click here for complete upfront coverage from The Atlantic Wire. Up on Thursday: The CW....)