This post is part of a series of reports from this month's Television Critics Association winter press tour, where the networks introduce their midseason offerings. Check back over the next week for more info on what's coming soon to primetime TV.
After a "really bad fall" (those are NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt's words, not ours), the Peacock Network has a lot of holes to fill on its winter schedule. But it's bouncing back with a slew of high-profile offerings, and we're actually excited to see how some of them turn out. (Which is more than we could say about "The Playboy Club.") Here are all the shows NBC is rolling out over the next few months, along with a key quote from the panel and our early impressions.
"Smash" (February 6)
This glossy new drama goes behind the scenes of a major Broadway production about the life of Marilyn Monroe. Debra Messing stars as the musical's producer, and "American Idol" alum Katharine McPhee flashes serious star power as a struggling actress who's a dark-horse candidate to play Marilyn. Lots of singing, dancing, and backstage drama… if you're into that sort of thing.
Choice Quote: "I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been backstage looking around, going, 'Where’s the camera? There needs to be a camera here.' Because the drama that happens behind the curtain is way more interesting than what’s happening on the stage." —Co-star and Broadway veteran Megan Hilty
Will We Watch? Sure. The production quality is top-notch, McPhee gives a breakout performance, and it's nice to see adults singing on primetime for a change.
"The Voice" (February 5)
The hit singing competition is back for an encore as mentors Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, and Blake Shelton return to pick the next musical sensation, sight unseen. And it gets a nice boost this season, debuting right after the Super Bowl.
Choice Quote: "People who really want to make it, who never would have stood in line for any other show, came out and sought us out for Season 2. So the level of talent for Season 2, whatever you thought of Season 1, this is way, way, way higher than that." —Host Carson Daly
Will We Watch? Yeah, we'll turn our chairs around for this one -- at least to see how the blind auditions play out.
"Are You There, Chelsea?" (January 11)
E! host Chelsea Handler's drunken 20s come to life on this new sitcom, with "That '70s Show's" Laura Prepon starring as a young Chelsea -- and Handler herself playing Chelsea's older sister, Sloane. The TV Chelsea tends bar at her dad's watering hole, cracks wise about her sexual exploits, and drinks. A lot.
Choice Quote: "We wanted to have a broader appeal and make people feel like they could be interested in watching the show, whether or not they have as big of a drinking problem as I do." —Handler, on why the show dropped "Vodka" from its title.
Will We Watch? Ugh, no. We're glad NBC is pairing this with "Whitney" on Wednesdays, so we can ignore them both together.
"The Firm" (January 8)
John Grisham's bestselling legal thriller has already inspired a 1993 Tom Cruise film; now it gets the TV treatment, with Josh Lucas starring as attorney Mitch McDeere. The series picks up ten years after the events of the novel, with Mitch and his family finally emerging from witness protection. Juliette Lewis takes over the Holly Hunter role as Mitch's quirky legal aide, Tammy.
Choice Quote: "One of the things I’m most fascinated by about [Mitch McDeere] is the idea of a guy with so much potential who had this incredibly bright future denied him. And all of these years later, what’s left?" —Executive producer Lukas Reiter
Will We Watch? Nah. It looks a little bland for our tastes, and we're not sure it's distinctive enough to win a loyal audience.
"Fashion Star" (March 6)
NBC gets into the fashion competition game with this new reality series, but it's no "Project Runway" clone. "Star" asks aspiring designers to show off their creations on a fashion-show runway in front of a live audience, with buyers from Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and H&M bidding to sell their clothing. Supermodel Elle Macpherson hosts, with an all-star mentoring panel that includes Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie, and designer John Varvatos.
Choice Quote: "You’re not waiting until the end of the season to see who wins this show. Every episode, these designers are getting the chance of a lifetime. In any given episode, any of the designers could sell and see their clothes in stores the day after the episode airs. So it’s a unique opportunity." —Executive producer Rick Ringbakk
Will We Watch? Surprisingly, yes. We like the live-runway twist, and Simpson has the ditz potential to spout some Paula Abdul-esque gems.
"Awake" (premiere date TBD)
This early critics' favorite stars Jason Isaacs as a police detective who finds himself living two lives after a horrible car crash: one in which his wife survived the crash and his son died, and another where his son lived but his wife didn't. The detective goes to sleep in one reality and wakes up in the other, with details from his cases overlapping in both realities.
Choice Quote: "The reason I wanted to do the show, and hopefully you will enjoy it as much as we enjoy making it, is it’s a fantastic 'What if.' And that’s what I’ve been doing professionally for twenty-something years. What if?" —Isaacs
Will We Watch? Sure, the show's core idea has lots of potential. We're not sure audiences will be patient enough to make sense of it, though.
"Bent" (premiere date TBD)
Amanda Peet and David Walton headline this thoroughly charming comedy about a single mom (Peet) battling an attraction to her surfer-dude contractor (Walton). It's nothing groundbreaking, but we dig the show's laid-back vibe and its strong supporting cast, which includes Jeffrey Tambor, "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" J.B. Smoove, and "Friday Night Lights" favorite Jesse Plemons.
Choice Quote: "Probably one of the hardest things to do is make a romantic comedy that doesn’t feel stock and doesn’t feel sort of overly soft. We’re not a cable show, but we wanted to create something that was… a little bit sexy and a little bit unpredictable." —Peet
Will We Watch? Absolutely. "Bent" was one of our favorite pilots of the broadcast season; we just hope NBC gives it a decent chance to thrive.
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- Chelsea Handler