The Week In TV: NBC Comedies Are Finally Back
• Ah, the joys and frustrations of the endless news cycle: Not a couple hours after last week's round-up column went live -- in which I ruminated on Conan O'Brien's talks with Fox -- news broke that Conan would be returning to late-night TV on TBS, of all places. Part of it was because of the trouble lining up clearances with Fox affiliates, but there's another issue at play: At TBS, Conan can own his show instead of just star in it for a network, plus make extra cash by selling it overseas. Although reports say that Conan initially expressed reluctance at taking the 11 p.m. ET slot from George Lopez's Lopez Tonight, Lopez himself apparently called and urged Conan to come on board. (The extent to which Lopez acted out of good faith or did as he was ordered by TBS is left up to your own level of cynicism; I'm leaning heavily toward the latter.) Sure, the back-to-back lineup of Conan and Lopez is not one anybody would have dreamed to make, but that's kinda what makes it brilliant. Conan is smart enough to know now what he learned the hard way at NBC: He's a brand unto himself, and will only succeed by being Conan, period. It doesn't matter what channel he does that on, as long as he does it and stays true to his own style. I've got a hunch he will.
• Saturday Night Live had another sketch last week parodying the Insane Clown Posse, the horrorcore hip-hop duo appealing to absolutely the dumbest products of our public school system. The song is a spoof of ICP's "Miracles," the video for which has been bouncing around the intertubes the past week or so and is the reason you are now hearing people say, "Fucking magnets, how do they work?" At first blush, this seems like an extremely narrow niche for SNL to mine for parody, since juggalos aren't exactly their target demo. But it's actually a clever way for them to do something weird and kind of funny that will seem to many people to be somewhat original. If you're not plugged into a certain slice of Web culture, you probably don't know much about the ICP video, so the sketch's chances of hitting or missing with you depend entirely on whether you think it's funny to see Ryan Phillippe and Bobby Moynihan in evil clown makeup spouting inaccurate facts about the world. But the bigger truth is that the original video is so wolfshit that it exists beyond parody, and any spoof comes off hopelessly second-rate, but that SNL doesn't care because they're using as fuel something that not many people know about in the first place. You can't top the ICP for pure outrageous lunacy, fellas. Just run the video and let us bask in its crazed glory.
• One of things I love doing in this space is reminding people about great shows they might be missing. Case in point: FX's Justified. The most recent episode earned 2.4 million viewers, up a bit from an earlier low point and still decent for cable, but overall a smaller number than it deserves. (Especially when you consider that it airs Tuesday nights at 9 Central, when its competition is NBC's Parenthood and scattered reality shows.) That's a shame, because Justified is really hitting a groove at this point in its season. It's a solid neo-Western with good action, good jokes, and good stories full of murder and double-crosses. Casting Timothy Olyphant as a lawman who plays by his own rules is obviously a smart choice thanks to his years on Deadwood, but the rotating cast of weekly guest stars -- Alan Ruck, Eddie Jemison -- boost the quality as well. It's legitimately entertaining in an era when too many dramas or procedurals have forgotten how to have fun and tell a good story. If you haven't given it a shot yet, check it out.
• I tried to watch Glee when it returned Tuesday after a months-long hiatus, but I couldn't. I stopped about 10 minutes in and just went to bed, leaving better men to sit through the already annoying episode. Granted, it's tough to make too many judgments having only seen a quarter of the episode, and there were probably bugs to work out after such a long break. And I also know I was as big a defender of the show as anyone last fall. But within seconds, the episode seemed to undo everything the characters had earned in the first arc of the season: The glee club program was still in danger of being cut by the principal for budgetary reasons, Sue still hates them all, and everyone feels like an even more amped-up and parodic version of themselves. Like it or not, these new episodes are part of the show's first season, and shouldn't feel to the viewer as if they're dispatches from another universe made months after the original ones. The show's starting to feel stagnant, and there's only so many times an awesome mash-up of Beyonce and Katrina and the Waves can save you. If the show doesn't start growing soon, it might as well call it quits.
• I wrote last week about how much I enjoyed Treme, David Simon's new HBO series about post-Katrina New Orleans. Apparently, suits at the network felt the same way, issuing a second-season pick-up for the show after the pilot aired. It's good to see the network building its dramatic slate again, and I'm happy to know I've got a couple more years of new Simon material to tide me over. Production is expected to resume this fall, with the show's second season bowing in spring 2011.
• Patton Oswalt, one of the funniest stand-up comics working today, was set to co-star in a new NBC sitcom for all of two days. The pilot, Beach Lane, is about a slacker (Oswalt) who inherits a small newspaper in the Hamptons and hires a famous journalist (Matthew Broderick) to run it. However, after a table read, there's apparently been a shake-up, with Oswalt out of the leading role and possibly being offered a smaller supporting role instead. Here's hoping the guy gets some good work, no matter where he winds up. Enjoy this clip in the meantime:
• Looking ahead, after three weeks off, almost all of NBC's Thursday comedies are back this week, with new eps of Community and The Office and a double-shot of 30 Rock. I've missed me some Troy and Abed: