Like a puppy smacked with a rolled-up newspaper, NBC has responded to a disastrous current season with some serious risk avoidance for the next.
That's my conclusion after perusing the list of shows the network confirmed Monday as new and returning series for the 2009-10 season, which starts this fall.
The new stuff includes a star-stocked version of the 20-year-old Ron Howard film Parenthood (with ER's Maura Tierney and The Incredibles' Craig T. Nelson); Community, co-starring a guy who left Saturday Night Live 30 years ago, Chevy Chase; a medical drama about nurses, Mercy (didn't NBC's just end a long-running medical drama?) and a post-apocalyptic drama called Day One, which sounds like CBS post-apocalyptic drama, Jericho.
Definitely coming this fall: Heroes, new cop drama Southland, Amy Poehler's comedy Parks and Recreation and the Thursday editions of Weekend Update which proved so popular in the fall's election season, now dubbed Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday.
NBC executives also told reporters Monday that cop drama Life was canceled and supernatural drama Medium hasn't been renewed. And, despite being barred by a judge from competing, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich remains in promotional photos for the reality show I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here, somehow.
What they didn't reveal: The fate of Chuck, the Monday adventure comedy which has mobilized a serious cult following among TV nerds and critics (okay, often the same people). Also left hanging: the fate of NBC senior citizen, Law & Order. Spinoff Special Victims Unit is expected to return — with or without its two stars, now seeking more money — along with The Biggest Loser.
This writing has been on this wall since NBC gave its 10 p.m. hour to Jay Leno for the fall and benched ambitious drama Kings, curbing a stream of expensive productions mostly designed to show that entertainment head Ben Silverman could play with the big boys.
It's back to basics for NBC, which will announce May 19 which of its current series survives to fall and where all this new stuff will land.
That's when we'll get a better look at the future of network TV — which is starting to look a lot like the past.