The season may be over, but next fall's already in the news. This was the week in TV Land:
• It's been quite the week in TV Land, thanks to the network upfronts, the annual parade of sizzle reels and hype in which TV executives present their new fall series to advertisers to drum up cash. I'll have a whole other post devoted to promising new shows, but for now, here's the highlight: NBC finally canceled Outsourced, as we all knew they would. The garish, boring sitcom was the reason Parks and Recreation was bumped back to midseason this year, and Outsourced was eventually bumped to a later time slot and allowed to peter out into meaninglessness. Thankfully, quality survived: Parks, which had another fantastic season, is returning in the fall for its fourth year Thursday nights at 7:30 p.m. CT, following Community at 7. That will continue to be the funniest hour on TV.
• Speaking of jokes on NBC, Donald Trump finally called an end to his sad hoax of a
career presidential campaign, though he said that were he to run, he has a "strong conviction" that he "would be able to win the primary and, ultimately, the general election." Trump, as we all know, was happily cashing checks and mediating fights between Gary Busey and Meat Loaf when he decided to ignore mountains of evidence and basic common sense by questioning the nationality of the president, but his non-campaign lost a good deal of momentum when Obama released yet another version of his birth certificate and then announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. Sorry, Don. Not your time.
• Seth MacFarlane has enough clout to do just about anything he wants at Fox, a network that clings to its animation line-up and American Idol for dear life. It was announced recently that the Family Guy creator is going to reboot The Flintstones in time for a 2013 launch. This is the price we are paying for living in the mash-up culture. Rather than come up with his own new idea or just go home and live happily off royalties, MacFarlane's going to re-produce an iconic series that can by definition never be as good. What's the point?
• With Steve Carell finally gone from The Office, the series is shopping for new managers. The current frontrunner for the job looks like Catherine Tate, a British actress who's probably best known to viewers stateside as Donna Noble from Doctor Who. It's understandable that NBC doesn't want to let go of what is currently its most successful comedy franchise, so if they have to go forward, this is probably the best way in terms of creativity. Replacing a major character on a series is almost impossible to do, and the only way to really make it work is to go a totally different direction, which NBC pulled off 24 years ago when Kirstie Alley stepped in for Shelley Long on Cheers. The Office doesn't have to throw out the rule book, but the more distance the new boss puts between herself and Michael Scott, the better.
• There's a proverb that reads, "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." That's all I could think of as I muscled through the season finale of How I Met Your Mother. This has been such an erratic year for the show, ricocheting between good episodes and bad, good stories and bad, good acting and bad. The speed and wit that defined the show in earlier seasons are almost entirely absent, replaced by a sense of fatigue. Ted's abortive relationship with Zoey -- who was married when he met her --was the latest example. It's OK that she's not the mother; it's not OK that she can become such a divisive, destructive force on the gang and no one has the stones to tell Ted that he's dating a nightmare. The finale was needlessly repetitive, too, going back to the Zoey well after Ted had already dumped her (plus, they criminally wasted Chi McBride, and the Lost-level CGI on the detonating Arcadian was rough). So Barney's gonna get hitched, and Ted's the best man. That's good, sure. But even if the show doesn't introduce the mother soon, these characters need to get back to having a good time together.
• Speaking of finales: Parks and Recreation went out in predictably strong fashion. The two-part episode -- "The Bubble" and "Li'l Sebastian" -- brought a number of great plots to a head while also introducing the requisite high-stakes changes that will, somehow, be righted next season. Amy Poehler and the rest of the actors are always on, and this last string of episodes have underscored just how good they are in little moments together (their calamitous trip to the Snake Hole Lounge was a case in point). Co-creator Michael Schur is working with a dream team of performers and writers, and I'm already anxious for the show's return.
• Summer's here, and it brings with it new seasons of multiple series as well as a variety of debuts. The lists are far too involved to begin detailing here; for a thorough rundown, check out the summer grid and new-series list at The Futon Critic.
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