Happy 2011: Five moments to watch for in TV's New Year
Days into the New Year, and 2011 already feels like a skyscraper-steep roller coaster drop stretching before us.
First, there's a dizzying array of new shows coming; from the bare-knuckle drama of FX's boxing drama Lights Out, to Showtime Americanized redux of the working class dramedy Shameless, Matt LeBlanc's new comedy Episodes, NBC's wobbly superhero drama The Cape, USA's new legal drama Fairly Legal and much, much more.
And there's the new twists on old stuff; including CBS' Early Show drafting a new crew, NBC's Biggest Loser teeing up two new trainers and Fox's American Idol trying to reinvent itself on the fly after losing two of its biggest star judges.
For those of us tracking the twists of the TV industry, 2011 promises to be a year of excess -- in which everything gets turned on its heads and drowned in a flood of more, more more.
Teetering on the precipice, here's my quick list of the big turning points coming soon in the New Year; looks like I got my souped-up remote control from Santa just in time.
1. 'American Idol' lives or dies: One year past its most disappointing season in years, TV's highest-rated series returns without its biggest star and with untested new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. As ripoffs and challengers salivate in the wings,
faces a do-or-die season starting Jan. 17. It will either soar to new heights or go down in a pile of lackluster singers and awkward judging moments. Either way, we'll be watching. Closely.
2. The 'Friends' return to TV: More alums from NBC's blockbuster sitcom Friends will return to the small screen this winter than ever before: Matt LeBlanc will appear in Showtime's Episodes; Matthew Perry will star in a comedy he co-created for ABC dubbed Mr. Sunshine; Lisa Kudrow is behind the camera producing NBC's unscripted celebrity genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?; and Courteney Cox lights up ABC's Cougar Town. Makes you wonder why Ross and Rachel don't at least have a development deal at Fox or something.
3. Comcast seals the NBC-Universal deal: With support from civil rights groups they, um, encouraged with key diversity initiatives, cable giant Comcast seems a lock to win approval for buying a controlling interest in NBC-Universal. But after deposing the man who almost singlehandedly destroyed the network's prime time, Jeff Zucker, what can they do for an encore? Turn NBC into a cable-only network? Merge sports outlets Versus and NBC Sports into a rival to ESPN? Make every Peacock Network series an on-demand title for Comcast subscribers? The only sure bet: They probably didn't buy the network to do nothing.
4. CNN enlists Piers Morgan to find success beyond partisan cable news: Tabloid-news-king-turned-reality-TV-judge Piers Morgan tries proving there's life beyond red state/blue state political squabbles Jan. 17, when his interview show debuts where Larry King held court for 25 years. CNN bet heavily that he and disgraced New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer could turn around their channel in prime time. But the guy who made that bet, CNN U.S. president Jon Klein, has already been ousted, and Spitzer's ratings are sinking faster than the Gosselin kids' chances of avoiding extensive therapy. Who knew the future of objective TV news would depend on the guy best known for snarking off Sharon Osbourne on America's Got Talent?
5. 'Modern Family' clones finally arrive: Since TV is the sincerest form of imitation, you knew it wouldn't be long before the knockoffs of television's most lauded new comedy began filling schedules. So when you watch the three sets of couples bouncing off each other in ABC's Happy Endings, NBC's Perfect Couples and Fox's Traffic Light (once called Mixed Signals), bear in mind that nothing says "I love your work" in Hollywood like a baldfaced attempt to rip it off.