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Apr 20th
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NBC consolidates its TV presence on many platforms

Media consolidation of the major television networks results in ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, the major players, having developed in recent years their own media empires that go beyond the traditional network paradigm.

For example, FOX has its cable outlet FX, and now another cable spinoff called FXX. I don’t know what’s next for FOX, but if it’s an F followed by triple Xs, I’d wonder if they are venturing into the soft-core porn late night world that was once, if not still, the realm of Showtime.

Just like its competitors, NBC, or I should say NBC Universal, as a corporate entity with multiple cable platforms, has found a way to reach TV critics outside the conventional winter and summer press tours.

Held during the month of April, NBC promotes upcoming programs in what they call the NBC Universal Summer Press day, even though the calendar tells everyone it is spring. Just like baseball, though, hope is in the air this early in the season.

Arguably, the best part of the press day, apart from the cocktail hour and the celebrity appearances, is the near absence of network executives grinding through the usual give-and-take with journalists, where information given may be only slightly more revealing than a press conference conducted by state-run media in a banana republic.

To be fair, as well as more precise, Jennifer Salke, President of NBC Entertainment, appeared on the NBC Comedy Playground panel, but not in the usual press tour format, and to be honest, I missed the session.

You can’t accuse NBC of not having a sense of fun, or of failing to cash in on a surprise hit. Brace yourself, but “Sharknado 2: The Second One” is coming to the Syfy Channel, the sequel to the beloved disaster horror B movie.

For the uninitiated, the original “Sharknado” was about a freak hurricane that flooded Los Angeles with man-eating sharks that terrorized the populace. The TV movie has achieved the iconic status of “cult film.”

This time around, a freak weather system wreaks havoc on New York City. While sharks are taking a bite of the Big Apple, original film stars Ian Ziering and Tara Reid head to the East Coast to battle the blood-thirsty predators. “Sharknado 2” will be unleashed on July 30th.

While the press day offers a peak at new programs coming within the next couple of months, the first new show to hit TV screens will be the comedy “Playing House” on the USA Network, starting April 29.

Conceived by writing partners and co-stars Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair, “Playing House” is a female buddy show in which Parham’s Maggie Caruso is an expectant mother determined to create a happy home for her baby, despite her marriage crumbling.

Maggie finds help and support from best friend Emma (Jessica St. Clair), an energetic businesswoman willing to forgo her overseas career, after the discovery that Maggie’s husband is having an online affair with a muscular German woman.

Early episodes of “Playing House” look too much like a show trying to play safe, not nearly edgy enough when Emma has awkward moments with her high school flame, the local cop. What’s more, attempts to drive unseen raccoons out of the back yard are just not that exciting.

Coming to NBC’s primetime schedule on May 27th is the promising drama “The Night Shift,” set in the emergency ward of San Antonio Memorial Hospital, where the toughest and craziest medical cases always seem to come through the door.

Every shift is a fight between the heroic efforts of saving lives and the hard truths of running an underfunded hospital. The men and women working the night shift are an irreverent and special breed, particularly adrenaline junkie TC Callahan (Eoin Macken), a former Army medic.

Even though the doctors mean business, the casual pranks and wild antics of the staff turn “The Night Shift” into something more like a medical “Animal House” than “ER” and “House, M.D.”

Another comedy about single guys in various states of arrested development, as they hang mostly at a Detroit tavern, arrives on the NBC schedule with “Undateable,” premiering on May 29th.

Comedian Chris D’Elia’s Danny Burton fancies himself a real ladies man who must mentor his buddies who live up to the show’s title. Bar owner Justin (Brent Morin) lacks finesse, while the others in the group are just a bunch of oddballs unlikely to find romance.

Amy Poehler (NBC’s “Parks and Recreation) has teamed up with her brother Greg Poehler to form a production company that aims to produce international TV programs. Their first series, “Welcome to Sweden,” comes to NBC on July 10th and will debut on Sweden’s TV4 network as its first English-language comedy.

Poehler’s Bruce Evans is a successful money manager for celebrities, living in New York with the beautiful Emma Wiik (Josephine Bornebusch), who decides to move back to Stockholm to accept a prestigious banking job.

Emma is surprised and thrilled that Greg decides to chuck his career and move to Sweden so they can begin a new life together. With no job, friends or real clue about what’s in store, Bruce is challenged by the culture clash.

“Welcome to Sweden” is a fish-out-of-water story for Bruce, who wants to win over Emma’s strange family. Lena Olin, as Emma’s mother Viveka, takes an immediate dislike to Bruce, so the tension is palpable.

The pilot episode that I watched may be a challenge for American audiences. A good part of the dialogue is in Swedish with English sub-titles. Subsequent programs seemed to have less Swedish talk, but still I wonder if the sub-titles may prove off-putting.

“Defiance” returns for a second season on the Syfy Channel in June, and the good news is that Linda Hamilton brings her trademark full-on badness to the happenings at the Earth Republic.

I still don’t know anything about the Sprout channel, but they are promoting “Astroblast,” which is probably children’s programming.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.


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