"Class and mass," and a little Jerry Seinfeld -- that's what NBC programming chief Kevin Reilly is promising to deliver next season.The peacock has lots of bells and whistles with its 2007-08 sked announcement this morning, perhaps most intriguingly a project with Seinfeld billed as 20 "minisodes" inspired by his work on the upcoming DreamWorks animated pic "Bee Movie," due out in November. The shorts, which promise a live-action glimpse into Seinfeld's antics during the production of the movie in which he voices a disillusioned bee, will air on the net this fall and on NBC.com, natch.
As for the goods that mean the most to this biz -- old-fashioned scripted comedy and drama series, the NBC slate is eclectic and leaning towards the characters-meet-technology vibe that clicked for "Heroes" this season. To wit:
"Bionic Woman" (NBC U TV Studio/Wednesday 9 p.m.): This was a guilty-pleasure show for many of us way back in the Carter administration days, but I can honestly say that I found it laughable even as a third-grader. My older sister and I used to watch it just to bag on it, but then again we were watching, weren't we? NBC is promising a "re-imagining" of Jaime Sommers (played by Michelle Ryan) and that mechanical sound effect that used to follow her everywhere (in fairness I'm unclear on whether that sound file is part of the re-imagining) so sis and I should reserve judgment on the new-model Sommers until we screen the pilot. It has solid producing auspices in David Eick, who's done a good job for Sci Fi Channel in the redo of "Battlestar Galactica," plus "X-Files" vet Glen Morgan, Michael Dinner and Jason Smilovic and Laeta Kalogridis.
"Chuck" (Warner Bros. TV/Tuesday 9 p.m.): I gulped on my coffee at first in reading the character name as Chuck Bukowski, but it's actually "Bartowski." (Now if the character worked in a post office and liked ham on rye, we'd know what creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak have been reading lately, but no, he works for a retail establishment dubbed Buy More.) "Chuck" stars Zachary Levi in what NBC calls a comedic spy thriller about a guy who opens an email subliminally encoded with government secrets, and of course now the Fate of the World lies in his hands. Maybe chuck can figure out how this show fits in to the 9 p.m. Tuesday slot, bookended by "The Biggest Loser" at 8 and "Law & Order: SVU" at 10 p.m. But let's be charitable and give NBC's newly anointed skedding guru Vince Manze the benefit of the doubt...until the first overnights come in.
"Life" (NBC U TV Studio/Wednesday 10 p.m.): It's always good to see Adam Arkin back in primetime. Damian Lewis of "Band of Brothers" fame stars as a police detective Charlie Crews who gets a second chance on the force after being wrongly imprisoned. Sounds like a mid-1970s Universal TV drama, doesn't it? Arkin plays his former cell mate (perhaps channeling Stuart Margolin's Angel character from "The Rockford Files"?). These folks don't have much to smile about, based on the variations of scowls and intensely-pursed lips featured in the promo photos posted on the NBC press site.
"Lipstick Jungle" (NBC U TV Studio/Sunday 10 p.m.,post-football in January): Based on the scheduling, let alone the Candace Bushnell novel source material, "Lipstick" seems a bid to grab some of the "Desperate Housewives" femme soap-loving audience on Sunday (assuming that show stays put at 9 p.m. on the night). The cast of this New York-based ensembler is strong, that's for sure. Kim Raver plays a editor of a fashion mag who has designs on her boss' CEO job; Brooke Shields plays a "movie executive" who's struggling with the work/life balance thing in a big way; and Lindsay Price is the inevitable "free spirited" designer who's looking for Mr. Right. We can't immediately call it a "Sex and the City" clone because there are three main characters, not four. Let's give scribes DeAnn Heline and Eileen Heisler the benefit of the doubt that they've put their own fresh spin on chronicling the threesome's "triumphs and tears," as NBC's promo blurb puts it.
"The IT Crowd" (NBC U TV Studio/time slot TBD): Part of the wave of Brit-com adaptations this year, the show seems to be taking an "Office" tack with a cast of little-known actors toiling as the misunderstood slaves to other people's computer problems at the office. Rocky Carrol is a recognizable face to U.S. auds, playing the head of the company who's determined to keep the IT department "forever banished to the basement." The show has solid comedy auspices in scribes Moses Port, David Guarascio, Joe Port and Joe Wiseman, and a pilot directed by Gail Mancuso, known for her deft touch with offbeat material a la "Scrubs" and "30 Rock."