2019-20 TV season pilot watch, the rankings: NBC

Illustration of characters from NBC shows
Alexander Hong/Senior Staff

Related Posts

If ABC is fueled by Shonda Rhimes and CBS is fueled by Chuck Lorre, Lorne Michaels and Dick Wolf run NBC. A network famous for its iconic comedies, NBC hasn’t quite made its comeback after ending its trifecta of “The Office,” “30 Rock” and “Parks and Recreation.” With this upcoming season’s varied mix of classic sitcoms, musical comedies, standard procedurals and heartfelt dramas, it looks like NBC is testing out a little bit of everything and seeing what sticks. Although considering NBC’s track record for cancelling shows, it doesn’t seem that much will. The network does have an interesting strategy this year of saving most of its new shows for midseason, so maybe that will help save the shows. So here’s a look, from best to worst, of NBC’s upcoming shows.

1.“Sunnyside”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Kal Penn, Matt Murray, Joel Kim Booster

Premiere date: Sept. 26

NBC/Courtesy

Tagline: “Garrett Modi was living the American Dream. As the youngest New York City Councilman ever, he was rubbing elbows with the political elite, attending star-studded parties and was the pride of Queens. But instead of spending his time in office helping the people that got him elected, he lost his way amidst the power and glamour of politics.… Now, Garrett’s crashing with his sister, Mallory, and wondering where it all went wrong. That is, until he’s hired by a diverse group of hopefuls who dream of becoming American citizens and believe he can help — giving him a new sense of purpose and a chance for redemption, as long as he remembers where he came from.”

First impressions: Does this premise sound suspiciously like “Community” but about immigration? Yes. Although “Sunnyside” could be a smartly written comedy with socio-political commentary, we would never know from its trailer. With flat jokes and seemingly unmemorable characters, the trailer doesn’t do anything to make the show enticing — only a pair of rich twin immigrants shown in the trailer, led by stand-up comedian Kim Booster, elicit any chuckles. But, as “Sunnyside” was created by Penn and executive produced by Michael Schur, a creative force behind “The Office,” “The Good Place,” “Parks & Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” there is hope yet.

Prediction: Renewed

2. “Council of Dads”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Sarah Wayne Callies, Clive Standen, Tom Everett Scott

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

NBC/Courtesy

Tagline: “When Scott, a loving father of four, has his entire life’s plan thrown into upheaval by a cancer diagnosis, he calls on a few of his closest allies to step in as back-up dads for every stage of his growing family’s life. Scott assembles a trusted group of role models that includes Anthony, his oldest friend; Larry, his AA sponsor; and Oliver, his surgeon and best friend to his wife, Robin. These men agree to devote themselves to supporting and guiding Scott’s amazing family through all the triumphs and challenges life has to offer- just in case he ever can’t be there to do so himself.”

First impressions: Does this premise sound suspiciously like “Full House” but without Bob Saget? Yes. Does it also sound like NBC’s attempt at finding its next heartwarming drama à la “This Is Us?” Also yes. Without a trailer, it is difficult to get an impression of the show but, based on its premise alone, it could be a well-written heartfelt drama or a poorly executed case of a bunch of men constantly saying emotional monologues shoved down the viewers’ throats. However, after “This Is Us,” NBC is on a hot streak of framily dramas and, aside from being a “Full House” reincarnate, this show’s premise is unique enough to potentially stand out.

Prediction: Renewed

3. “The Kenan Show”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Kenan Thompson, Punam Patel, Andy Garcia

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

NBC/Courtesy

Tagline: “In this family comedy Kenan Thompson strives to be a super dad to his two adorable girls while simultaneously balancing his job and a father-in-law who ‘helps’ in the most inappropriate ways.”

First impressions: “The Kenan Show” will mark “Saturday Night Live” staple Thompson’s third show on NBC, although it’s still jarring to imagine him doing anything outside of 30 Rockefeller Plaza. “SNL” alum have more visibility for their new shows than unknown actors hoping their pilots will be their big breaks, so at least “The Kenan Show” has name recognition going for it. But will this show go the way of “Parks & Recreation” or meet the fate of “Mulaney”? Unclear. Though Thompson’s comedic talents will hopefully make the show shine, its premise doesn’t promise anything new for the family sitcom trope. Also, the title of the show alone sounds like they are banking solely on Thompson’s reputation to make the show popular, which doesn’t bode well.

Prediction: Canceled

4. “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Jane Levy, Skylar Astin, Peter Gallagher

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

NBC/Courtesy

Tagline: “In this joyous and celebratory drama, Zoey Clarke is a whip-smart computer coder forging her way in San Francisco. After an unusual event she starts to hear the innermost wants and desires of the people around her through songs. At first, she questions her own sanity but soon realizes this unwanted curse may just be an incredibly wonderful gift”

First impressions: Musical television shows are a guaranteed risk because, for every “Glee,” there is a “Cop Rock,” a “Smash” and a “Galavant.” While there has been a recent surge in live-on-television musicals (such as “Rent: Live” and “Hairspray Live!”), television shows with recurring musical numbers don’t seem to appeal to a wide enough audience to garner a successful show. “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” may appeal to viewers who miss the CW’s “Crazy Ex Girlfriend,” but even the CW’s devoted viewers wouldn’t be able to keep an NBC show afloat. The show sounds very charming and original, but it unfortunately may be too original for an audience that would rather watch five more spin-offs of “Law and Order.”

Prediction: Canceled

5. “Bluff City Law”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Jimmy Smits, Caitlin McGee, Jayne Atkinson

Premiere date: Sept. 23

NBC/Courtesy

Tagline: “Coming from a famous Memphis family known for taking on injustice, brilliant lawyer Sydney Strait used to work at her father Elijah’s celebrated law firm until their tumultuous relationship got in the way. After barely speaking to him for years, Sydney is suddenly thrust back into the family fold when her philanthropist mother passes away unexpectedly. In the wake of her loss, hoping to reconnect with the daughter he loves, Elijah asks Sydney to rejoin his firm. She agrees because despite her lingering resentment and distrust, she knows that working alongside her father is her best hope at changing the world… if they can ever get along.

First impressions: Television’s deep-seated affair with legal dramas continues with “Bluff City Law,” which appears to be a very intense but standard-issue take on the courtroom drama. In the trailer, there are already countless dramatic-monologues-in-the-courtroom from the show’s lead actors hoping to nab that Emmy nomination. The big (and perhaps only) draw of the show is television veteran Smits, who will play the classic tough love dad. Legal dramas don’t have the most successful precedence on a network famous for its comedies — NBC’s last legal drama hopeful, “Chicago Justice,” was canceled after one season. But maybe the father-daughter dynamic of “Bluff City Law” will bring a je ne sais quoi to the genre that “Chicago Justice” never could.

Prediction: Renewed

6. “Perfect Harmony”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Bradley Whitford, Anna Camp, Tymberlee Hill

Premiere date: Sept. 26

NBC/Courtesy

Tagline: “When former Princeton music professor Arthur Cochran unexpectedly stumbles into choir practice at a small-town church, he finds a group of singers that are out of tune in more ways than one. Despite the ultimate clash of sensibilities, Arthur and his newfound cohorts may just be the perfect mix of individuals who help each other reinvent and rediscover a little happiness, just when they all need it most.”

First impressions: Does this premise sound suspiciously like “Glee” but with church? Yes. Small town? Check. Group of racially diverse misfits? Check. A mainstream white guy to help them with singing and their personal lives? Yup. An oddly competitive competition for a niche singing category? You got it. With this and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist,” NBC is really hedging its bets with musical comedies this season even though, statistically, they will both be canceled. But there is beauty in the network’s blindly hopeful optimism.

Prediction: Canceled.

7. “Indebted”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Adam Pally, Abby Elliott, Steven Weber

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

NBC/Courtesy

Tagline: “Young parents Dave and Rebecca are ready to reclaim their life after years of diapers and sleepless nights. However, things take an unexpected turn when Dave’s parents show up unannounced and broke, leaving Dave with no choice but to open the door to the people who gave him everything. But these boomerang parents aren’t great with boundaries and the question of who’s parenting who quickly becomes blurred.”

First impressions: Does this premise sound suspiciously like CBS’s upcoming “Broke” but with parents instead of a sister? Yes. Does this premise also sound like CBS’s short-lived “9JKL” but in reverse? Also yes. Family members crashing with other family members must be a popular trope in Hollywood but the show’s premise does little to differentiate itself from the other iterations of this trope. So far, the best thing about this show is its leads, Pally and Elliott, who are always comedic delights. NBC did cancel most of its new shows last season, though, so the odds are not in this one’s favor.

Prediction: Canceled

8. “Lincoln”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Russell Hornsby, Arielle Kebbel, Brían F. O’Byrne

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

NBC/Courtesy

Tagline: “Inspired by the novel ‘The Bone Collector,’ former NYPD detective and forensic genius Lincoln Rhyme was at the top of his game until a serious accident at the hands of a notorious serial killer forces him out of the field. When Amelia Sachs, an intuitive young officer who’s got her own gift for profiling finds herself hot on the killer’s trail, Rhyme in turn finds a partner for this new game of cat and mouse. As the unlikely detective duo join forces to crack the city’s most confounding cases, they must also race to take down the enigmatic ‘Bone Collector’ who brought them together. ”

First impressions: Name a more iconic cliché than hardened veteran and earnest rookie. Throw in the fact that they are male and female and that this is network television, and you already know this is going to be a “will-they-won’t-they” couple. The show is based off of Jeffery Deaver’s decade-old Lincoln Rhyme book series, so it may attract dedicated readers — though they may blaspheme the show for not adhering to source material. There was also a Rhyme movie adaptation starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in the ‘90s. But other than its pre-built audience, there is little else going for the show in a television world where police procedurals rule the small screen.

Prediction: Canceled

Julie Lim covers television. Contact her at [email protected].