NBC's year of genre plots and pilots

Posted by CB Droege

The noble peacock turns to the genres to save its television ratings.

NBC has picked up its sable of genre television shows this year with the holdfast Grimm and the upcoming Awake.

The network seems to be continuing a definite strategy, as the network has already announced four pilots for this coming fall (out of five announced so far) that will at least touch on the genres.

Perhaps NBC finally realizes today’s  television viewing generation wants to see more interesting stories. Then again, maybe it’s just become cheap to produce genre television, and so the network is willing to take a gamble.

In any case, NBC released a number of synopses for its upcoming shows this past weeked.

While none can be classified as "hard" sci-fi or fantasy, they at least take some interesting directions. It starts with The Munsters, which we already knew about, but which we’ve only just received an official synopsis for:

From writer-executive producer Bryan Fuller ("Pushing Daisies," "Heroes"), THE MUNSTERS is an imaginative reinvention of "The Munsters" as a visually spectacular one-hour drama from Universal Television. Bryan Singer ("X-Men: First Class," "House") is the director of the pilot and an executive producer; John Wirth ("Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles") is also an executive producer.

While the idea of a Munsters remake doesn’t strike me as particularly compelling, these well-dropped names make me want to see anything that they could put together. Especially with Singer at the helm, it will surely turn out nothing like the Munsters we know from the old reruns.

Then we get a robot story in Beautiful People. We likely won’t see many actual robotics at work, other than a few shots of some peeled-away-arm type access panels, but the series plot is very Asmovian, looking at the nature of humanoid robot servants and their place in society. Sure, the names involved aren’t as impressive as those in The Munsters, but it will at least be worth a peek.

The synopsis is thus:

BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE is an imaginative and thematically rich ensemble "what if" drama set 10 minutes in the future where families of mechanical human beings exist to service the human population - that is until some of the mechanicals begin to "awaken." Michael McDonald ("Cougar Town," "MADtv") is the writer and executive producer, Robert M. Sertner ("Revenge," "No Ordinary Family") is the executive producer and Stephen Hopkins ("Californication," "Shameless") directs the pilot. "Beautiful People" is from Universal Television and ABC Studios.

The third of the group, Isabel, had a teen-drama feel. The description doesn’t tell us anything much about it to distinguish the show from any other ‘secret teenaged witch’ story, but hopefully there will be something unique or drawing about it, or audiences will just yawn and turn away, having seen enough secret witches lately.

ISABEL is a comedy centering on an otherwise normal middle-class family that wrestles with the challenges of everyday life while raising a daughter (Sophia Mitri Schloss, "Grimm") who has magical abilities. Abigail Mavity and Skyler Gisondo also star. Howard Busgang ("The Closer," "Boy Meets World") and Tom Nursall ("Single White Spenny") are the executive producers and writers. Todd Holland ("Malcolm in the Middle") directs the pilot and is an executive producer. Karey Burke ("Free Agents"), Aaron Kaplan ("Terra Nova") and Jocelyn Deschenes also are executive producers. "Isabel" is produced by Universal Television, Kapital Entertainment and Sphere Media.

The last is a semi-spiritual fantasy about which little is yet known. Save Me is about a woman who has a spiritual awakening, and becomes a sort of modern-day saint. I’m thinking we might see something like Eli Stone, with more religion and less funny, but that’s just a guess on my part.

SAVE ME (cast contingent) -- A woman who lets herself go while in a broken marriage goes through a transformation where she becomes the best version of herself and creates miracles along the way. The single-camera project is from Sony Television and Original Film & Television. John Scott Shepherd ("The Days") is the writer-executive producer and Scott Winant ("Breaking Bad," "True Blood," "Californication") is the director and executive producer. Neal Moritz ("The Big C," "Prison Break") and Vivian Cannon ("The Big C") also are executive producers.

To some extent it’s great that NBC is at least giving more genre shows a chance in the upcoming pilot season, showing audiences and the other networks that it’s okay to love the genres, but I can’t help but think that if these shows tank, and NBC takes a huge viewership hit in the fall, it could set back genre television by several years, and none of these shows gives me a real good feeling that they might succeed.