4:10pm

Mon May 16, 2011
Monkey See

NBC's Fall Schedule: The Dramas

We've already covered NBC's five new comedies, so let's get to its five new dramas.

Awake

Hey, remember Lone Star? A lot of critics told you it was good, and then it lasted two episodes? Remember that?

The creator of Lone Star, Kyle Killen, is back with the similarly tricky Awake, featuring a cop who got into a car accident with his wife and son and finds that he now lives one life where his wife lived and one life where his son lived, and he has no idea which is real and which is dreaming. A lot of things about this preview look promising, from the supporting cast (Cherry Jones! Steve Harris! B.D. Wong!) to the moody music (from, among others, the Cinematic Orchestra), and it manages in a short time to set up a pretty heartbreaking scenario.

With that said ... hey, remember Lone Star? I'm just trying to keep from getting my heart broken, is all.

Grimm

So the idea of this one (stay with me here) is that the baddies from fairy tales are actually real, supernatural beings, but only certain people, known as "Grimms," can see and fight them. This is the story of the Grimm Nick Burkhardt who works as a homicide detective and gradually realizes that he has this very special mission.

There's a long history of reimagining fairy tales in truly terrifying forms — remember, there's a whole Leprechaun horror franchise — and creators Jim Kouf and David Greenwalt have the requisite Buffy/Angel experience to give the project some heft as TV horror-drama. But right now, it's not actually clear what the show is about — why we're going to follow this guy, why we're going to invest in this universe, and so forth. It could certainly happen when we see more than, you know, five minutes of the show.

The Playboy Club

If you think that what Mad Men needs is more exposition and a murder/accidental death plot, this is the show for you!

Okay, that's an exaggeration. But it is true that this seems to be an effort on NBC's part to capitalize on the lust for rich period detail that AMC discovered when it walked into the world of Don Draper. Of course, it never hurts to throw in some Playboy bunnies, so that's the organizing principle of this particular show. So far, it's just a lot of atmosphere and a lot of telling instead of showing (too much of characters explaining themselves and each other in explicit terms), but it looks pretty, and as we've mentioned several times today, it's smart to reserve judgment.

Prime Suspect

This may be NBC's toughest sell, simply because the British series on which its based — starring Helen Mirren in the role taken here by Maria Bello — is so beloved. Even talk of a U.S. version of Prime Suspect was greeted with massive hostility, so this one will have to earn its bones. The bigger question will be whether, if you just look at this as a cop drama with Maria Bello without the baggage of the original, is it any good?

Bello has been terrific in a number of things going back at least as far as her work on ER in the late '90s, and she is no joke. She's perfectly capable of handling a show like this; the question will be whether the writing can support her.

Smash

You've seen NBC's efforts to get in on some of what other networks or other countries have found with Mad Men and Prime Suspect — this is their effort to get a piece of the melodious Glee business in radio-pop musicals.

Katherine McPhee (who famously came in second to Taylor Hicks on American Idol) stars as an actress who auditions for a Marilyn Monroe musical (!) being planned by a couple of producers, including one played by Debra Messing (Will & Grace). Before you know it, everybody's got McPheever (oddly, they think they have to write "introducing Katherine McPhee," as if nobody's ever heard of her before), and we've got big Broadway-style singing. This one will have original songs by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (of "Hairspray," among other things), so there's some muscle here on the producer side, and they're promoting the fact that it "stemmed from an idea" by Steven Spielberg (who's also a producer). I have no idea what "stemmed from an idea" means exactly in this context, but at least he lent it his name. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.