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Culture, Television

Pilot Predictions 2012: NBC Comedies

Animal Practice
Starring: Justin Kirk (“Weeds”), Tyler Labine, Matt Walsh
Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Writers/Creators: Alessandro Tanaka and Brian Gatewood
Wednesdays at 8:00 pm, opposite “Survivor” on CBS, “The X Factor” on Fox

Kirk plays a womanizing vet who hates the owners of his patients. For me, there was a bit too much emphasis on the monkey in the lab coat (I know what you’re thinking, no such thing. But there is). But I have to admit, I laughed pretty hard at the turtle racing at the end of the clip. I was inclined to write it off at first, but the Russo brothers are executive producing this and they have “Arrested Development,” “Community,” and “Happy Endings” on their CV’s. Crystal the Monkey and “Veep’s” Matt Walsh also have something in common. They’ve both worked with “Hangover” director Todd Phillips. And with the recent addition of Joanna Garcia (“Reba” and the dearly departed “Privileged”) as the female lead, I just got one more good reason to tune in.

Go On
Starring: Matthew Perry, Laura Benanti, Julie White, Khary Payton, Suzy Nakamura, Allison Miller
Created by: Scott Silveri (executive producer on “Friends)
Tuesdays at 9:00 pm, against “NCIS: Los Angeles” on CBS, “New Girl” on Fox, “Happy Endings” on ABC

Perry stars Ryan King, a sportscaster who is grieving after the death of his wife. The uber-talented Laura Benanti (“Gypsy” on Broadway) plays the leader of his mandatory group therapy sessions. Obviously, the chemistry between Perry and Benanti could make or break the show, but it seems like it’s there. The comedy is playing to Perry’s strengths and his particular brand of fast talking, dry witted charm. I just hope that Benanti is given more to do than corral Perry’s character. But it looks an interesting premise that has the potential to be a really enjoyable half hour that will keep an audience interested despite the competitive time slot.

The New Normal
Starring: Andrew Rannells, Justin Bartha, Georgia King, Nene Leakes, Bebe Wood and Ellen Barkin
Created by: Ryan Murphy
Tuesdays at 9:30 pm, opposite “The Mindy Project” on Fox

Andrew Rannells (who recently put in a searingly funny turn on HBO’s “Girls’) and Justin Bartha play a gay couple who want to have a child and Georgia King (“Little Dorrit”) plays their single mom/aspiring lawyer surrogate and the inimitable Ellen Barkin plays her outrageous grandmother. It seemed quite sweet at first, so I was a little surprised to find that it was a Murphy production but then Nene Leakes and Ellen Barkin went head to head in a fertility clinic and the phrase “black and gay stew” was uttered, and I was firmly convinced of where the show came from. The cast seems to have a good rapport with one another and I’m definitely in for the season, if only to see if/how and when the show hops on the crazy train. I’ve often described the viewing experience of “Glee” as tonal whiplash. This Vulture interview with Murphy by Denise Martin speaks to a lot of the reasons why Murphy’s work can be zeigeisty but also wearying.

Guys With Kids
Starring: Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Sara Rue and Jesse Bradford
Directed by: Scott Ellis
Written by: Charlie Grandy, Jimmy Fallon, Amy Ozols
Wednesdays at 8:30 pm, opposite “Survivor” on CBS, “The X Factor” on Fox

So, the tag line for this show is “Totally Dadass,” and if IMDB is correct, and the name has been changed to “DILFs,” that’s seriously pushing it. That said, it could have it’s charms. Jimmy Fallon is a producer and co-wrote the pilot, and it’s good to see Bradford (“Bring it On”) and Tempestt Bledsoe again. But it may not long for this world, given the fact that it’s opposite “Survivor” and a little show called “The X Factor” that’s now paying Britney Spears a lot of money to judge and give advice on live television.

Next Caller
Starring: Dane Cook, Jeffrey Tambor, Collette Wolfe
Written by: Stephen Falk
Directed by: Marc Buckland
Not on the schedule yet

Cook plays a boorish satellite radio host who reluctantly gets a new co-host/foil in the form of Wolfe’s cheery feminist/public radio enthusiast Stella. Jeffrey Tambor is their boss and is always a welcome presence, but I can see Cook’s schtick getting old quickly. That is, unless they plan on finding the humor from his growth as a person over the course of the season or if the battle of the sexes thing really works between the two leads.

Save Me
Starring: Anne Heche, Michael Landes, Heather Burns
Director: Scott Winant
Writer: John Scott Shepherd
Not on the schedule yet

Anne Heche has a near-death experience by choking on a sandwich that makes her believe that she is hearing the voice of God. I’m inclined to say no. But Winant was a producer on “My So-Called Life” and helped develop the pilot of “Dead Like Me” (which ran for two seasons and is an excellent summer TV project if you haven’t seen it. It’s wonderful and epitome of “brilliant but cancelled.”) so it could be better than I think.

1600 Penn
Starring: Josh Gad, Bill Pullman and Jenna Elfman
Created by: Jon Lovett and Josh Gad
Directed by: Jason Winer
Not on the schedule yet

With this being Pullman’s second time playing the President of the United States, it would be a missed opportunity to not work in an “Independence Day” joke or two. Josh Gad is joining his “Book of Mormon” co-star on the Peacock network’s payroll as the screw-up son of the leader of the free world, and it seems that wacky White House shenanigans ensue. This looks a bit broad for my taste, but Winer has helmed episodes of “Modern Family,” “Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23” and “New Girl” all of which have comedy that can get very weird and specific. Gad will no doubt bring in viewers who are fans of his work on the Great White Way, and Jon Lovett was a speechwriter in the Obama administration.

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