Thursday, September 13, 2012

I miss NBC WEEK

The networks are rolling out their new fall shows.

I think.

The premieres are scattered; some not even airing in their regular time slots. Or they premiere and are re-run later that same week. Or re-run on a sister cable network.

Some shows premiered in August. Others will debut after the World Series (which is now what, Christmas?).

And many shows now have two premieres. This is primarily a cable convention. A series is on for six weeks in the summer and then returns in January.

A few network series don’t even premiere on television. They get sneak previewed online. I once got a DVD of some new show in my ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.

And the notion of the Fall Season itself is becoming antiquated. Shows are premiering all year long. What’s a TV nerd to do?

This is understandable, of course. With the current dizzying number of channels and series, anything conventional or unconventional a network can do to scare up an audience is good programming.

But what’s lost in all of this is the “event” status that the Fall Season used to have. Back in the Pleistocene Era when there were just three networks (there’s a real good book about life in the ‘60s written by… oh wait – that’s my book). Shows premiered only twice a year – the Fall and Mid-Season (January). New programming in the summer was either “Failure Theater” (airing the pilots they didn’t pick up) and variety shows hosted by guys hoping to snare a regular slot (some like Johnny Cash made it, others like John Gary didn’t).

There was great anticipation for the Fall Season. Promos ran all summer. And by promos I mean fifteen seconds, not the movie trailers we see today.

By September we were whipped into an utter frenzy. Only two weeks left before the world premiere of CAMP RUNAMUCK! How will I last that long?  After a summer of interminable reruns, suddenly there was NEW STUFF again! Oh, the joy!
Of the three networks, no one did premieres better than NBC. First off, you have to really use your imagination to picture NBC as a major influential network but it once was. And they billed their rollout as NBC WEEK. All of their shows – new or returning – premiered over one seven-day period in mid-September. You knew the date as well as your birthday.

They also offered a written program – like a yearbook – that you could send away for. Uber geek that I was (am) I used to send away for that sucker every year. There were big color pictures of all their new shows. Wow! PLEASE DON’T EAT THE DAISIES! I would pour through those pages with awe and wonder. 90 BRISTOL COURT – three sitcoms set in the same complex. What a concept!! (Forget that two were canceled by January.)
In a way, I think the anticipation made the shows seem better than they actually were. I call this the “Dark Knight Rises Syndrome.” But there were usually enough cool new shows that NBC WEEK was never a disappointment. It’s not like the Oscars.

Today I don’t even bother to watch premieres. Most are so dreadful anyway. Jami Gertz moves into a neighborhood of space aliens. No thanks. If a show is good and gets decent buzz I will catch up with ON DEMAND or find it online. But I miss the days when the Fall Season was important to me. On the other hand, spending an afternoon studying a glossy multi-page brochure for NBC WEEK is the true definition of “Get a Life.”

46 comments:

Brad said...

A resource for the readers: for a consolidated listing of premieres try this link http://goo.gl/G4TyZ. They have a calendar setup for each network as well as an overall Combined calendar.

willieb said...

I remember those brochures! One year I fell in love with the picture of a red-haired actress named Deborah, and kept the brochure on my nightstand, opened to her picture. Ah, to be a pre-teen in love! Of course, I don't remember her last name, or her show, or if I ever watched the show. But that picture....

LouOCNY said...

willieb: Deborah Walley?

Eric said...

And the networks used to have specials hosted by their current stars introducing all of the new shows. I loved those! There was also a separate special to introduce the new Saturday Morning shows- another highlight.

I've read that the reason the new season started in September was because that was when the auto companies would introduce the new model year. That changed decades before the networks did!

Scott H said...

I remember getting a DVD of a new show in EW, too--it was "House", I watched it, and it was a great pilot. I always wondered why they never repeated that concept. I guess online sources took over. The problem with those is I like watching TV on my TELEVISION, not on my computer. I have a nice 24" screen on my iMac, but it doesn't compare to my 55" flatscreen.

I loved those network fall season promotions when I was a kid, in the late 70s and 80s. Nell Carter and the whole NBC family singing "NBC There, Be There!" ABC's "Still the One" ads in the late 70s. And whatever CBS did--I really don't remember those.

Jill Pinnella Corso said...

Well said. I LOVE the fact that I get to watch new shows in the summer now (the summer of reruns seemed forever long when I was a kid) but it is so confusing that I end up missing shows I would like to watch.

I caught 3 pilots on Hulu last month but I have no idea when the shows are actually on.

Rock Golf said...

CBS had a fall preview show earlier this week. I didn't see that one but a few years back I watched one.
It included about 5-10 mins from a new sitcom that I'd heard of and based on the premise decided to avoid like Sam Bacile film festival.
But the clip they showed was way above my expectations, and I decided to watch The Big Bang Theory only because of that preview.

Festus said...

The best promo by far didn't involve the just new shows, it was the annual Chevrolet new model episode of Bonanza. The episode would run commercial free, and then at the end, the Cartwright family would introduce the new 1967 Chevrolets.

Where it got truly weird was that they would do it in character, and on the Bonanza sets. Hoss drove the pickup, Little Joe would tear-ass up and down main street in Virginia City in the new Corvette, and at the end, all the new Chevrolets were parked in front of the saloon.

1965 was the high water mark, because they added the cast of Bewitched and The Man From UNCLE--again, all on the Bonanza sets!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3HvkrYIIwo

Mike said...

The "best" thing about NBC's premieres this week was them showing the pilots of new sitcoms like Go On and The New Normal during the Olympics (and again after The Voice, I think) so that when they debuted in their regular timeslot the promo said something like: "Go On premiers with a brand new episode tonight after The Voice." As my aunt said : "I am SO glad they aren't premiering with a rerun."


Anonymous said...

Bring back "The ABC Monday Night Movie"!!! And Tuesday as well.

-bee said...

You could send away for a Brochure???? Could someone get in their time machine and inform my 10 year old self about this please?

One of the high points of my year was when the TV Guide Fall Preview issue came in the mail.

Chris said...

Sadness. What was once a great network...

Much as the success of "The Sound of Music" plunged Fox into the toilet with suicidal attempts to replicate its box office ("Star!" anyone?), I feel that the success of "Friends" was the beginning of the end of NBC. Remember all those horrible shows they put right after it at 8:30 on Thursday night? As Ernie Kovacs said "Imitation is the sincerest form of television," and NBC kept trying and trying to clone that show. Love it or hate it, you can't deny the success of "Friends," but what they put in that 8:30 time slot demonstrated the law of diminishing returns and, I think, eroded the audience bit by bit. I know I grew tired of the attempts, and eventually came to associate NBC with a stunning lack of originality--and one single entendre after another. And yes, I know that all the networks have lost audience, but none more than NBC.

I'm as nostalgic as the next guy (and thanks for including that great newspaper spread), but I like where a lot of television is today and think some of it is better than TV ever was. Except for 90% of what's on NBC. Especially "The New Normal." Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha you're too talented for this (Ms. Barkin, however, you can stay). And would somebody please find something better for Laura Benanti than what NBC has given her?

BigTed said...

I used to get excited about "premiere week" until I realized the shows getting the most promotion often turned out to be the worst ones. (Then the shows that turned out to be great often were ones you'd barely heard of.)

This year, not only are the premieres starting late, but all the new shows sound mediocre at best. I'm actually considering what all the kids are doing these days, and saving a grand a year by getting rid of my satellite TV service.

Rampant Yeti said...

For a kid, even better than the build-up to the season was each network's annual prime-time special previewing their Saturday morning cartoon line-up. Nothing beat the cast of "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" getting you hyped up for the premieres of "Manta & Moray" and "Far Out Space Nuts"!

Brent said...

Ken, since your topic today is premiere week, it leads in to a Friday Question I have.

Is there someone who is supposed to be in charge of continuity on a show? I've seen scene's where they show an actor with his tie done up, then loosened, the back up all in the span of 20 seconds as they cut from actor to actor doing their lines. Doesn't anyone notice stuff like that?

Last year (two years ago?) on NBC's Chase a main plot point was the kind of car the bad guy drove - a vintage 1967 GTO. Except when they showed the car, it was a 1968. Pontiac totally redesigned the GTO in 1968. The cars look nothing alike! On ABC's Pan Am, (yeah, I watched a few of episodes) which was set in 1963, they had a 1967 Lincoln parked in front of the brownstone where the girls lived. In multiple episodes. It wasn't a one-time "oops!"; someone parked a mid-sixties Lincoln in the shot to get the right look, and screwed it up.

Is this just me being too picky, or no one cares, or is someone not doing their job?

Sorry for the length. Not all of us can come to the point as well as you do.

Craig M said...

With great anticipation I would wait for the phonebook-sized TV Guide new-season issue and the primetime Saturday morning preview shows. Of the latter, I have memories/nightmares of the Brady Kids singing Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World"...

mfearing said...

I'm just old enough to remember what a big deal that was. I also remember the Thanksgiving (?) showing of The Wizard of Oz which was also a very big deal in mu house. Wow. I hadn't thought about that in a while. When a movie wasn't available to watch anytime you wanted on your phone...When movies aired on TV is was a VERY big deal

Rachel said...

I miss premiere week too. It was dependable. You knew when all the shows were premiering. It was back to school and back to all my favorite shows. Now it's a big scattering of crap over a few weeks. I hate it. And yes, the whole 'sneak preview' thing ('Go On', 'The New Normal') is ridiculous.

willieb said...

LouOCNY: Yes!! Deborah Walley! Now I'll have to Google her and find out what the show was....

Janice said...

I, too, waited impatiently for the TV Guide Fall Preview edition. Full color pages with a synopsis of each show made it easy to choose which shows I would be watching.

XJill said...

I still love my TV Guide and EW Fall Preview editions, the problem is I literally have a higlighted calendar next to my tv so I can set my DVR since everything starts on different days and weeks. I'd imagine a normal person doesn't do this. In short - I'm too young to have seen preview week but I really like the idea.

DBenson said...

willieb: Deborah Walley was on "The Mothers-In-Law", an "I Love Lucy" clone produced by Desi Arnez and most of the original off-camera crowd. Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard were neighbors whose children married, Walley being Arden's daughter. It was old-fashioned but pretty good, focusing on Arden and Ballard as slightly mismatched partners in mayhem.

Walley had previously turned up in various beach movies.

Jill Pinnella Corso said...

Ken, I've watched 3 sitcom pilots this year: The New Normal, The Mindy Project, and Go On. I've noticed that they're all rather premisey.

The New Normal pilot involves her living in Ohio, catching her husband cheating, driving to Cali, etc... before we get into the show.

The Mindy Project picks up in the middle of her life but starts with a lot of voiceover exposition where she turns out to be talking to a cop.

Go On (the series) is about Matthew Perry in a therapy group but he doesn't join that group till about half way into the episode.

Anyway, my point: Do you think premise pilots are a trend right now or are they always the default? It strikes me that it's easier to tell a story from the beginning, but if the pilot is too different from what the series will be, the audience could be confused or stop watching after the second episode. Do you have a preference for premise pilot vs. regular episode pilot?

Would love to hear your thoughts.

DBenson said...

Those annual TV Guides were almost as important as the Sears Wish Books. I remember a blurb about "T.H.E. Cat" ("His base of operations is a nightclub called Casa de Gato. No, Herbie, it's not what it sounds like" . . . ). Also intriguing little paragraphs about upcoming specials (a new Peanuts! Hallmark Hall of Fame!).

And the Saturday Morning Preview specials! On all networks! Plus the two-page comic book ads full of great off-model art! I was actually worked up about the animated Smokey the Bear series . . .

Pamela Jaye said...

I never heard of these brochures - and I'm a 53 year old TV geek with some old TV Guides left but only the Fall Premiere ones.
Darn!

Paul Duca said...

Festus...that film for the 1965 Chevrolets wasn't meant for broadcast. It was for the dealers to inform them about the new models and the TV series for the 1964-65 season they would sponsor. In this case the freshman BEWITCHED would have a multi-year connection with the car maker, following the lead of BONANZA. However, for the second season THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. traded up from Chevy to Dodge as a main advertiser.

WillieB...you can get THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW on DVD--they also aired over the summer on MeTV.

Ken...can you figure out a way to blow up those pictures so we can see them.

cadavra said...

God, I loved those annual NBC booklets, and the Jack Davis caricatures, too. Sure wish I still had 'em.

Baylink said...

While we're talking about network promo material, here's something I bet you've never seen before:

From the end of a stopset in the July 4th, 1986 Liberty Weekend fireworks telecast, what is -- I'm relatively certain -- the only *three-minute* advertisement ever to air on US broadcast network television. This was the last 3 minutes of a commercial break that was well over 15 minutes long.

(The Hallmark Channel has had a number of 2:00s, and I think at least 1 3:00, but they're not broadcast. And those were Hallmark Ads. It makes a difference. :-)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly3RrN2YV-w

(PS: I'm almost positive that that broadcast also contained the delightful incident where Hugh Downs had to slap Sam Donaldson down *on the air* because he simply would not -- as is Donaldson's wont -- shut his damn mouth so we could enjoy the show; can anyone confirm or deny?)

benson said...

Deborah Walley. Loved her in Gidget Goes Hawaiian with Carl Reiner. Also her costar in Mothers in Law was Jerry Fogel, who is a KC television legend. And his son does morning radio in Chicago. None of them though wrote a book about growing up in the 60's. Just sayin'.

Festus said...

>Festus...that film for the 1965 Chevrolets wasn't meant for broadcast. It was for the dealers to inform them about the new models and the TV series for the 1964-65 season they would sponsor.<

I can't speak for that exact commercial, but I clearly remember the annual episode where Loren Greene would come on at the beginning (right before the Chevrolet branding iron burned the map) and announce that "Tonight's Bonanza will be shown without commercial interruption, so we can show a special program . . ."

Then, after the episode they would take the leftover time to show the new models as I described.

I'm almost sure the link I posted was one of the commercials that aired. My Father was a Chevy man, so this was a big deal at my house. The merits of the new Chevrolets were also discussed on the playground at grade school the following morning. We were a tough crowd to please.

Somersby said...

Friday question.

When you watch a MASH episode, you can't help but question why the actors' hair was so un-army like. No crew cuts or buzz cuts, nothing typical of a unit serving in the Korean War. All the guys look very 1970s.

Was this a decision made by the producers to allow the show to be "current"? Or did Alan Alda and others simply refuse to have their locks shorn? ...Or was there another reason?

Madame Duchery said...

I remember getting all excited about the new fall TV shows and eagerly reading the TV Guide cover to cover.

I also remember Matt Roush of TV Guide mocking people who marked their TV Guides with the shows they wanted to watch (this was in the 90s)—because we were all supposed to switch to TIVO. Well, I cancelled my TV Guide subscription. I don't miss Matt or his smarmy partner Ausiello at all. (I get my TV news from Ken Levine and Alan Sepinwall nowadays....)

Paul Duca said...

Festus...I don't deny there would be a special extended commercial at the end of BONANZA--but why would they plug BEWITCHED, which was, as they used to say, "on another network"?

Phillip B said...

The NBC 1965-66 promo show with Don Adams introducing the character of Maxwell Smart ran 5 or 6 times on our local affiliate that year --

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJwGB-eitpw

and the family watched it each time. It was better than the shows themselves. (Sorry the video quality is subpar..)

John said...

I'm still waiting for NBC to go back to billing themselves as "The full-color network".

Great Big Radio Guy said...

[Paul Duca said: Ken...can you figure out a way to blow up those pictures so we can see them.]

Paul...click on 'em. You should see a bigger version.

Alan Hinton said...

Ken,
Not only did I get the brochures(at that age, I sent off for anything free and considered pop-culturis0 but 1 year they gave out full size color poster drawings. IIRC, they were posters of Bonanza. I Spy. Man from Uncle and a Jack Davis rendering of Get Smart. Sure wish I still had those (along with a bunch of other stuff, including those TV Guides)

Lorimartian said...

I sent away for an NBC brochure one year, too! I must have been around twelve years old, a transplanted Los Angeleno living in Smyrna, GA at the time, and I remember being so excited when it arrived.

Thank you for mentioning John Gary ("Catch A Rising Star")...an unforgettable voice. Thirty-some years later, working my way up at Lorimar Prods., I won a trip to Phoenix at the company picnic and stayed at the Arizona Biltmore. Imagine my surprise and joy to learn that John Gary was performing. He was past his prime, and I think he was ill then, but, regardless, there were echoes of that glorious voice, creating such a wonderful memory for a forever fan.

One other amazing experience not many people can claim. It was 1961 in Atlanta, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War and a little more than 20 years after the initial release of "Gone With The Wind", and the film was being re-released at the same theater where it had its world premiere in 1939. I attended the "premiere" with my school class or Girl Scout troupe, I can't remember which. I was twelve years old. The historic theater was huge with a balcony (where I was seated), and the screen was stories high. The venue and the movie made quite an impression on this youngster.

Soon after, my family returned to SoCal, and I saw my first color television at a motel on our way back across country.

Breadbaker said...

I must admit to watching the premieres of both Camp Runamuck and Please Don't Eat the Daisies and having a sense of "is that all there is?" Indubitably, those ads creating all that anticipation were significantly better than the shows. And I probably watched each episode til they were cancelled; what we did was outline a schedule for what we'd watch and stick with it as long as we could.

Gary Pratt said...

Futoncritic.com is a great site to keep track of new shows and season premieres. They list them chronologically by date and time. They have descriptions of each of the shows.

I check the site every 10 days, so I can add the new shows to my DVR (we never watch live tv)

Brian Doan said...

I used to love the TV Guide previews, too-- for a young TV geek like me, they created a great sense of anticipation for both new and returning shows. And while I also like having new programs to watch in the summer, the flip side is that you can't really catch up with programs via re-runs anymore. I discovered many shows I'd missed in the regular TV season that way, and I think a lot of other people did, too (I'm pretty sure FRIENDS reached its super-hit status that way-- Warren Littlefield's book talks about how it was certainly a success during the season, but became a top ten show via reruns in the summer, and pretty much stayed there for ten years. And I'm sure there are other examples I'm not thinking of right now).

Deborah Walley also starred with Eve Arden in a mediocre Frankie Avalon comedy called SERGEANT DEADHEAD (1965), one of several AIP films she was in during the sixties. It's not great, but she and Arden are both charming in it.

Madame, I can't believe Matt Roush would snark on people marking up a TV Guide. Why the hell did he think people BOUGHT TV Guides?? He did realize that without those kinds of folks, he wouldn't have had that job, right? And I share your hatred of Ausiello, who stunk up ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY for several years before disappearing into the oblivion of his own website.

Paul Duca said...

Great Big Radio Guy (trying to his true identity of Howard Hoffman)--I did that but they don't get big enough to see or read any detail.

Mike said...

Here's a mini-launch of a couple of UK programmes that may be of interest:

The Thick Of It (on Hulu here) Season 4.
From Armando Iannucci of Veep, this is political satire, red in tooth and claw.
Ken discussed Veep a while back. I still think he's wrong and this may help to explain why.
Excellent writing IMO.

Doctor Who (on BBC America here) Season 7.
Caitlin B mentioned this in the recent post on over-complex stories, though didn't say why.
This is how to tell complex stories. Every detail serves a purpose and it all fits together in the end like a jigsaw.
Excellent writing, IMO. (Though I felt Episode 3 was weak.)

Enjoy or ignore.

Storm said...

"N B Seeeeeeeee Us-- THIS FALL!"

chuckcd said...

I'm still watching baseball, so I will have to wait for the dvd's!

Dennis R said...

Do you know who the artist is on this???

DennisR