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TV Wasteland: Try Harder, NBC

More flailing from the Peacock.

By Rob Vaux     July 11, 2010

TV Wasteland
© Bob Trate


I hate to keep picking on NBC, but they make it so easy sometimes. Case in point: The Jensen Project, a “family sci-fi” film which debuts this Friday. It concerns the Thompsons: two former scientists and their whiz-kid son, who re-enter a community of geniuses dedicated to solving the world’s problems. They have to race the clock against the group’s “rogue element,” bent on stealing a devastating piece of high technology.
It reads like something scribbled on a note pad by desperate, sweaty hands. Judging by the Peacock’s fortunes of late, it probably was. But beyond the shopworn premise—which, I admit, it may yet be able to transcend—it demonstrates a particularly nauseating brand of “family” entertainment which needs to be stamped out like a cockroach. The premise never changes: toss a nuclear family into a outlandish situation and see how they react, focusing on their interaction as they bond as a unit to solve the problem at hand.
This ignores several basic elements of human nature, namely 1) kids don’t want to have magical fantastic adventures with their parents in tow; 2) dads are never the tough, resourceful bad-asses they think they are; 3) family bonding permanently sucks the cool factor out of everything it touches. There are exceptions, of course—namely The Incredibles—but it ain’t easy, and I don’t smell Brad Bird’s Midas touch anywhere near this one. (On the other hand, LeVar Burton’s in it, and he’s looking pretty good these days.)
It also infers that families somehow won’t watch a movie or a TV show unless it depicts another family doing things together as a family… and by extension, that films which don’t involve families doing family things somehow aren’t family friendly. That’s asinine, of course. The Wizard of Oz is family friendly. Star Wars is family friendly. Jason and the Argonauts is family friendly. Many of these films fully explore family dynamics (the relationship of parents to their children, the lengths loved ones will go to for each other, etc.) without cramming the 2.5 kids and the minivan into the equation. By jamming ostensibly good material into that shallow definition, efforts like The Jensen Project do a disservice to the exact type of filmmaking they presume to champion. Tune in to NBC this Friday, July 16, at 8:00 PM EDT if you have any doubts.
Neighbors From Hell (TBS, 10:00 PM EDT)
The wee, perky Isla Fisher guests this week as Balthazor inadvertently ignores his son and a new scientist shows up to work on the drill.
Suspiria (FMC, 9:00 PM EDT)
An American ballerina arrives at a prestigious European dance academy, only to find that the whole thing is a front for a coven of witches. Drop acid before watching this; I dare you.
Final Destination 2 (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Syfy basically raises the white flag on the evening by rerunning this derivative bit of silliness in which Death finds numerous vaguely interesting ways to kill people who have cheated him.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (IFC, 7:30 PM EDT)
Because someone out there might not be able to quote the whole thing on command yet.
Warehouse 13 (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
A Detroit vigilante apparently can’t be killed, sending Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Bering (Joanne Kelly) to Michigan to steal back his mojo.
Unnatural History (Cartoon, 8:00 PM EDT)
Cartoon Network moves its live-action show to Tuesdays, which certainly doesn’t mean anything ominous at all. Also, Henry (Kevin G. Schmidt) investigates the theft of rare Japanese artifacts.
Hitman (FX, 8:00 PM EDT)
It’s pretty bad, but I am assured by reputable sources that Timothy Olyphant looks damn fine with a shaved head.
Spider-Man (HBO, 6:30 PM EDT)
We, as a nation, need to get past the lameness of the Green Goblin’s costume, because the rest of the movie is pretty cool.
The Fly (FMC, 9:00 PM EDT)
Living proof that remakes can sometimes be even better than the originals.
Also, the All-Star Game is on tonight, hosted by my beloved Angels. Yay!
Ghost Hunters International (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
GHI returns for a three-week run, starting with an investigation into haunted areas near Nottingham, England.
Executive Decision (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
This is probably the best Steven Segal movie for Steven Segal haters ever.
Burn Notice (USA, 9:00 PM EDT)
Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) and Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) pose as security consultants while searching for a notorious thief.
Futurama (Comedy, 10:00 PM EDT)
The Da Vinci Code takes it in the shorts this week as the team heads to 31st century Rome to unravel an ancient secret. And drink.
Moonlighting (The CW, 9:00 PM EDT)
Mick (Alex O’Loughlin) investigates a fire which ravages a renowned Tinseltown hotel, and uncovers ghosts from his past in the bargain.
Mary Knows Best (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
This new reality series focuses on the life of renowned psychic Mary Occhino and her family. I will now direct your attention to Burn Notice, conveniently playing at the exact same time.
Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
Yet another Syfy reality series, this one following a former FBI agent as he tries to verify claims of supernatural activity. I will now direct your attention to Futurama, conveniently playing at the exact same time.
Coraline (HBO, 7:30 PM EDT)
Henry Selick kind of rocks. Neil Gaiman too.
Eureka (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Something called “Tiny” runs amok as the town celebrates Father’s Day, and the gang comes to grips with the changes caused by their trip through time.
Haven (Syfy, 10:00 PM EDT)
The town bar is destroyed, prompting Audrey (Emily Rose) and Nathan (Lucas Bryant) to have a look.
The Jensen Project (NBC, 8:00 PM EDT)
Keep shooting for that rainbow NBC. See the top of the article for more.
Beowulf (FX, 6:30 PM EDT)
Okay, Angelina Jolie is basically naked here, but the rest of the movie… well, let’s just say we’ve seen better from everyone involved.
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (FX, 9:00 PM EDT)
Just forget I mentioned this and go see the new one again. We’ll all be a lot happier.
Doctor Who (BBC America, 9:00 PM EDT)
The scariest monster in the whole wide world is about to be unleashed and only the Doctor (Matt Smith) can stop it.
The Invention of Lying (HBO, 8:00 PM EDT)
Audiences missed this funny, insightful and curiously sad movie about a world where no one ever lies. Who else but Ricky Gervais would play the guy who finally starts?
The Ferryman (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
John Rhys-Davies is in it. I guess that’s something…
Goblin (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
A teenage girl battles a Halloween goblins trying to eat her baby brother. Did I mention that Syfy was out of ideas?
Jennifer’s Body (Cinemax, 10:00 PM EDT)
No, Megan Fox does not get naked here, but the film is actually better than its maligned reputation suggests. Amanda Seyfried rocks as the smart-but-dumpy heroine.
True Blood (HBO, 9:00 PM EDT)
That Latino guy looking after Lafayette’s (Nelsan Ellis) mother figures into the proceedings again this week, while Sookie (Anna Paquin) looks for some way to overcome the Mississippi werewolves.
The Gates (ABC, 10:00 PM EDT)
Suspicion falls on Brett (Colton Haynes) and his buddy when a hunter goes missing in the area.
Hydra (Syfy, 7:00 PM EDT)
Treasure hunters square off against the mythic monster in a repeat run of the 2009 Syfy original movie.
Infestation (Syfy, 9:00 PM EDT)
Giant insects take over the world and only a few survivors are left to fight back. Out. Of. Ideas.
The Mummy (AMC, 8:00 PM EDT)
The 1999 Brendan Fraser vehicle has aged well, and remains gloriously goofy fun, even with AMC’s copious commercial breaks
Manhunter (IFC, 9:00 PM EDT)
Michael Mann’s 1986 thriller is definitely a product of the 80s, but the director knows how to deliver this material exceedingly well. He also introduced the world to a character by the name of Hannibal Lector (played here by Brian Cox).
King Kong (TCM, 7:00 PM EDT)
The 1933 masterpiece returns to Turner Classic Movies, reminding us that some originals just can’t be topped.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (TCM, 9:00 PM EDT)
After the Phantom, this may be Lon Chaney’s greatest performance, playing the legendary deformed bellringer undone by the beauty of a gypsy woman.


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Mayhem101878 7/11/2010 7:28:26 PM

I could have sworn that the show being rerun on CW on thursday nights was Moonlight and not Moonlighting. I saw Moonlighting and thought they remade the old Bruce Willis show.

doublec 7/12/2010 1:07:45 AM

Dude, that's Steven Seagal. Sigh...

Haven't seen The Jensen Project but since I work in the electronics department at Walmart I've been subjected to countless trailers for it as Walmart actually produced this slop, along with the first "Family Fun Night" movie, Secrets of the Lost Mountain. It's at least as bad as Rob describes it. And given the almost non-existent amount of support Wally World gives its stores nowadays, I really think they have better things to spend thier money on. We already have ABC Family and Hallmark for this kind of stuff.

mike10 7/12/2010 6:09:34 AM

 I don't understand SyFy at all. If they really want to save money, instead of creating these stupid reality shows just run 8pm to 11 pm blocks of old sci-fi shows like The Six Million Dollar Man, Time Trax, Andromeda, Babylon 5, Wild, Wild, West, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants, etc. The ratings will probably be just as good as this new crap.

 And if SyFY really wants to be cheap just run blocks of old Sci-Fi channel shows like Farscape, G vs. E, Lexx, etc. Once again possibly better ratings than these crazy reality shows.

Hobbs 7/12/2010 6:29:31 AM

mike, I haven't noticed all the reality shows on syfy you have but I 100% agree with you if its true.  I normally just notice the wrestling...again, doesn't belong there either.  However, all those shows you mention I think you need rights to those series in order to air them.  I think they even lost the rights to Farscape, thus you were able to get the complete series on DVD for a cheap price. 

phantomx69 7/12/2010 6:45:47 AM

the jensen project is a throwback movie like the ones nbc used to show back in the 70s and 80s.... abc used to do this to back in the day as well as cbs....

Wiseguy 7/12/2010 6:48:21 AM

NBC is just trying to beat ABC to the punch with the Jensen Project since ABC has No Ordinary Family slated for september and that looks like the same type of shit


mike10 7/12/2010 6:52:24 AM

Hobbs, even with getting the rights to old shows it might be cheaper than creating a new reality show. They have to pay camera crews and the people that appear on these shows.  Besides the two new reality shows mentioned above that are coming on SyFy this Thursday there is Ghost Hunters Academy, Scare Tactics, Wrestling and one or two others I might be missing.

 I guess I miss the old days of Sci-Fi channel when you could turn it on and some great sci-fi show from the past was almost always playing. Hell, SyFy is a cousin of NBC, they could probably rerun shows like Journeyman and Heroes without too much trouble.

jdiggitty 7/12/2010 8:17:54 AM

Ugh. It's getting bare out there. Thank God for netflix.

btw, did mania quit covering books? When did that happen?

karas1 7/12/2010 9:39:55 AM

Hobbs, the Wrestling pays the bills.  It costs them very little to produce and gets good ratings.  I think we can put up with 1 hour of wrestling a week if it subsidizes good shows we will enjoy.

Mary Knows Best and Paranormal Files I'm not too sure about.  For sure I'm not going to watch them.  And I will continue to not watch Ghost Hunters or it's various spin offs.

Syfy has done a few "reality" shows that were fun.  I liked Cha$e and Who Wants To Be A Superhero (with Stan Lee).  They also did a Big Brother style show (don't remember the name) where contestants were judged on their ability to accept people with "alternate" lifestyles (a Witch, a Nudist, some guy who thought he was a Vampire, etc) which was entertaining.  These things are dead cheap to produce and if they get any ratings at all they make money for the network.

Mike, you can see the reruns of old scifi TV shows on Syfy on weekdays from 08:00am to 03:00pm.

Hobbs 7/12/2010 11:34:40 AM

I'm in the minority, can't stand reality TV and think its one of the problems with our country.  I really thought 9/11 was going to kill it but it grew instead.  Oh well, that's my opinion.

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