Film and TV

The Week In TV: Small Victories

Some great comedies get to stick around for next year, and I totally get the fascination with Li'l Sebastian. This was the week in TV Land:

• Victory is mine, victory is mine, great day in the morning, victory is mine: NBC, its back against the wall, has renewed Community, Parks and Recreation, and (eh) The Office. The press release was full of the standard puffery -- NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt said all three shows are "at the top of their game creatively," which is not the case with The Office at all -- but it's still wonderful news. NBC's a fourth-place network struggling to bring in viewers, and the renewals signal that they're willing to recognize that small, dedicated audiences for critically adored series are the best way to start the rebuilding process. They could've canceled them and rolled the dice on entirely new shows, but that would be stupid even by TV executive standards. Office has a shot at rejuvenation in the wake of Steve Carell's departure, and Parks and Community are still going strong. Those two are the best comedies on TV right now, and it's excellent news that we'll get another year of them.

• Speaking of NBC comedies: 30 Rock (which secured a pick-up a while ago) was so on-point last week with its parody of Bravo reality series that it was almost hard to watch. Bravo's Real Housewives franchise celebrates the worst people in the world, and 30 Rock skewered the trend with Queen of Jordan, a reality series starring Tracy's wife, Angie. The jokes were brilliant, riffing on the idiocy, the parties, and the utter emptiness of the lives of the people who are actually on these shows, but ironically, the episode was slightly off-putting for being so powerful a reminder of the execrable quality of most reality series, especially the ones on sister network Bravo that Tina Fey set her sights on. 30 Rock is creative, self-aware, and entertaining, everything the Real Housewives aren't, and it was impressive to watch the show so mercilessly destroy the reality series.

• I mentioned a couple weeks ago that Kevin Spacey had signed on to star in the drama House of Cards, with David Fincher attached to direct the pilot. There's been an interesting twist to the story: Netflix landed the rights. Not HBO, FX, AMC. Netflix did. The DVD supplier paid $100 million for the show, committing to two seasons and 26 total episodes to start. This is, potentially, a huge deal. As more people transition their viewing habits to streaming video and on-demand programming, Netflix is looking to capture the market by producing content instead of just waiting for it to air and then become available for them to distribute. I'm not sure what metric Netflix needs to hit to dub this a success -- a subscriber bump tied to the series? A certain number of streams per episode? -- but it's going to be fascinating to watch.

• MTV, in a move that signals that someone, somewhere in the building, has not forgotten that the M used to stand for "music," is bringing back 120 Minutes. The series started out as a haven for alternative rock, premiering in 1986 and running on the network until 2000, at which point it was shuttled to MTV2 and saddled with Staind videos to make more room on the flagship station for shows like The Real World. The series was axed in 2003. Now, though, it's being given new life, and will once again by hosted by Matt Pinfield, who emceed the show from 1995-1999. Just in case you think this means you get to watch music videos, though, think again: the series will air on MTV2, since the original channel is too filled with Jersey Shore reruns to allow any non-ironic programming. Small victories, though.

• Rebecca Black was on Good Morning America the other day. That's a thing I learned by skimming Google News, though honestly, I was out of town when this kid broke on the scene (five days is like seven years in Internet time), so I'm not totally sure why we all give a shit. From what I gather, she's a teenager whose parents paid for her to record a bad pop song in a local studio, and the song subsequently went viral when listeners, tired of searching for original content or parsing meaning in artwork, decided to hate-fuck her into a trending topic and mercilessly ridicule the whole enterprise. Which is fine, I guess? But didn't we all learn our lesson re: the pointlessness with the whole Charlie Sheen thing? What's the point? To quote Paul Anka and Indiana Jones: "Just don't look." Life's too short to spend it devoting brain cells to some kid you'll forget in a week.

• Fox's upcoming Terra Nova, a sci-fi series produced by Steven Spielberg, was set to have a two-hour preview in May ahead of a fall launch. However, that's now been nixed, with Fox saying that the special effects "require more time to be realized." That's the nicest way possible to say, "There's no way we could have this ready for May without making it look like a SyFy reject, so cross your fingers we can pull this one out for fall." The series is about a group of human colonists from 2149 who travel back in time to the dinosaur era when our planet runs out of room or resources or something. Anyway, no idea how the story will even hold together, what with the butterfly effect and life always finding a way and whatnot. So, maybe they can work on that before September, too?

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Daniel Carlson
Contact: Daniel Carlson