May 30, 2012
2012 National League Upfronts
If you follow the entertainment industry, you’ve no doubt heard of upfronts—the annual meeting at which broadcasters preview their fall slate for advertisers. Upfronts are a lavish affair, held at grand venues in New York City. TV networks delivered their upfront pitches two weeks ago.
What you may not know is that Major League Baseball also holds upfronts for their prospective sponsors. This year’s event was on Friday, May 18 at the Office Suites of Bayonne in the Gateway Region of New Jersey. Baseball Prospectus’ entertainment correspondent, Ian Miller, attended this year’s event, and has these highlights of fall baseball programming. Part 1, the American League, appeared last week.
Los Angeles Dodgers (Musical drama). “Dodgers” is what “Smash” could have been. It’s got tons of pure star power in Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Clayton Kershaw, and they wrapped up the evil Frank McCourt storyline with a twist that could only have been conceived in Hollywood. Even bit players like Scott Van Slyke, Chris Capuano and A.J. Ellis are contributing, making “Dodgers” appointment TV. Tuesday, 8 p.m.
San Diego Padres (Educational/civic). Remember when you >were a kid and woke up early on a Sunday morning and switched on the channel looking for cartoons and the only thing on that wasn’t an evangelist was “Davey and Goliath”? Well, “Padres” is the baseball version of that. Dick Enberg extols the virtues of good citizenship, military service, and responsible pet ownership. Sunday, 8 a.m.
San Francisco Giants (Telenovela). “Giants” continues to deliver classic soap tropes: from the glory of a championship in 2010 to the faked death (and shocking return) of handsome young doctor Gerald Posey in 2011. The 2012 season continues apace, with bad-boy Tim Lincecum having a massive breakdown in plain sight while journeyman Melky Cabrera steps in to steal the spotlight. Will The Panda return to reign over McCovey Cove? Will Matt Cain continue to spit in the face of xFIP? Has there ever been a more soap-opera name than Madison Bumgarner?? Weekdays, 1 p.m.
Arizona Diamondbacks (Paranormal). Like many of the shows on the NLW slate, it’s hard to figure out exactly what’s going on with “Dbacks.” After dominating its time slot at the end of last season, it seems to be in freefall to begin 2012. It’s almost schizophrenic: Handsome, charismatic, and talented ghost-hunters Upton, Young, and Parra and continually undercut by bumbling paranormal “analysts” on the mound. The writing is already on the wall—“Dbacks” will have to retool this cast in a major way if they want to remain competitive this season. Wednesday, 10 p.m.
Colorado Rockies (Family sitcom). “Rockies” is being billed as Jim Henson’s final creation, but the reality is that he had virtually nothing to do with the show beyond devising the original concept. And what a concept it is! “Rockies” is a typical sitcom in the tried-and-true “Honeymooners” mold—except all the characters are anthropomorphic dinosaurs. The family patriarch, Earl (Todd Helton), pushes down trees to provide for his family, which includes his wife Fran (Jamie Moyer) and kids Robbie, Charlene, and Baby (Dexter Fowler). Their neighbor, Dinger, is notable for being one of the most detestable characters in television history. One of the most interesting—and confounding—programs in the National League. Friday, 7 p.m.
St. Louis Cardinals (Animated comedy). “Cardinals” was the breakout hit of 2011, and 2012 looks like another strong season despite the departure of writer/director Tony LaRussa. He handed the reins over to a competent Mike Matheny, who added Selfish Sea Bass to an already strong cast of Big Puma, Rally Squirrel, and Holliday’s Ear Moth. This quirky comedy should pull well among males 18-34 and midwesterners in general. Saturday, 9 a.m.
Houston Astros (Situation comedy). It’s a tried-and-true TV strategy: when ratings start to dip, add a new kid! “I Love Lucy” added Little Ricky, “Diff’rent Strokes” found Sam, and “The Brady Bunch” dug up Cousin Oliver. That’s exactly what Jeff Luhnow did when “Astros” started to flag: he called up Jose Altuve, a diminutive scamp from Venezuela you just can’t help but love. He, his double-play partner, Jed Lowrie (“Red Sox,” 2008-2011) and Wandy Rodriguez have undeniable chemistry, especially when their pranks run afoul of the head of the orphanage (Carlos Lee). Will be interesting to see how “Astros” performs when it moves to the ALW network next season. Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Cincinnati Reds (Superhero/action). After a disappointing 2011 campaign, “Reds” showrunners knew they had to do something to bolster their sagging share. They added Zack Cozart as a sidekick to superstar Joey Votto, and so far the pairing is paying serious dividends. One thing that keeps “Reds” from being your typical men-in-tights show is the curious case of Aroldis Chapman. Will he close? Will he start? Will he be able to harness his prodigious powers, and will he use them for good—or for evil? You’ll just have to tune in to find out. Monday, 9 p.m.
Pittsburgh Pirates (Historical drama). Remember the “Hornblower” series on A&E a few years back? A young, talented, charismatic young star (Ioan Gruffudd) surrounded by a pedestrian cast? Substitute Andrew McCutchen for Gruffudd and you’ve got “Pirates.” It’s eminently watchable when McCutchen is on the screen, but not so much otherwise. With its rich history and pedigree, we’re still hopeful for “Pirates’” long-term success, but it’s a tough slog right now. Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Milwaukee Brewers (How-to/documentary). It looks great on paper: Take equal parts “New Yankee Workshop” with Zack Greinke in the Norm Abram role and “Dirty Jobs” with Ryan Braun as Mike Roe. So why is “Brewers” mired in the middle of the pack? Even the unexpectedly great performance of Jonathan Lucroy hasn’t given the Crew the bump it needs to get going this season. It’s too early to talk cancellation, but “Brewers” needs to find some serious production—and soon. Tuesday, 6 p.m.
Chicago Cubs (Improvisational comedy). Canceled.
Washington Nationals (Action/adventure). Launched as a midseason replacement last summer, “Nats” has become a surprise mega-hit. It’s the only program that could challenge “Dodgers” for pure star power, boasting the megawattage of both Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper and strong performances from a talented supporting cast. Execs have been hinting about a plotline that involves the return of both Jayson Werth and Michael Morse—if that comes to pass, then hold on to your hat! Saturday, 9 p.m.
Miami Marlins (Reality). This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite ... and start getting real. Take good guy Giancarlo Stanton, twitter celeb Logan Morrison, malcontent Hanley Ramirez, oft-injured All-Star Jose Reyes, firebrand Carlos Zambrano, fat white guy Heath Bell, loose cannon Ozzie Guillen, and put them all in a house that looks like it was designed by Gaudi as a tribute to his pet macaw. One rival exec who saw the presentation told me she thought “Marlins” was the forerunner of an entirely new genre: the shitshow. “This makes ‘Bad Girls Club’ look like ‘Dancing with the Stars,” she remarked. That kind of attention might lead to big ratings, but advertisers are hesitant to affiliate themselves with a ticking time-bomb like “Marlins.” True story. Thursday, 10 p.m.
Philadelphia Phillies (Game show). “Phillies” is an high-concept endurance game show in the classic Japanese tradition. It recalls both “Za Gaman,” in which participants compete for cash and prizes by injuring themselves, and “Sweet Genius,” with Ruben Amaro, Jr. playing the Ron Ben-Israel role. Amaro taunts his contestants by making them debase themselves with such activities as “Being Optioned to Lehigh Valley,” “Sitting on the Bench While Juan Pierre Starts,” and “Being Ty Wigginton.” Audiences in the preview I attended didn’t seem to “get it,” and frankly, neither did I. Expect this lukewarm reception to be borne out in the ratings. Weekdays, 5 p.m.
New York Mets (Hidden camera). The Germans have a word for it: schadenfreude. In the grand tradition of “Candid Camera” and “Punk’d,” “Mets” delivers laughs at the expense of others. Watch the long-suffering David Wright smash his head against the dugout rail while Andres Torres gets injured, Ike Davis forgets how to hit a baseball, Scott Hairston continues to be Scott Hairston, and the Mets rotation adds more offensive value than Jason Bay. The Inept Ownership sketch was funny there for a while, but that one is now way past its sell-by date. Let’s get some new material, shall we? Sunday, 9 p.m.
Atlanta Braves (Wuxia). Did you have to look up “Wuxia”? I did! Apparently it’s a Chinese martial arts drama, and this one pits old-guard martial arts masters Chipper and McCann against young upstarts Bourn, Heyward, and Kimbrel. Will tradition prevail, or will the Young Turks change the course of history in Atlanta? Will evil emperor Fredi Gonzalez defeat our noble warriors? Viewers in my screening of “Braves” were left wondering if Martin Prado’s stunts were real or wire-fu. Friday, 10 p.m.
Ian Miller is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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