TV

Network Report Cards: NBC

Last, and certainly least, NBC.



WHAT WAS GOOD: Well, with the existence of the CW, it's impossible for NBC to finish last in the ratings. With NBC, everything is relative. It still has the power comedy duo of "The Office" and "30 Rock," and drama-wise, "Chuck" and "Friday Night Lights" turned in quality seasons. So far, Conan O'Brien has kept "The Tonight Show" No. 1 among late night talk shows. Midseason replacement "Southland" has proven to be a keeper. "Saturday Night Live" proved itself relevant once more, especially during election season.



WHAT WASN'T GOOD: Most of NBC's new shows last season were D.O.A. "Heroes" continues to bleed viewers thanks to inconsistent writing, and the "Law & Order" franchise continues to show cracks, particularly if the stars walk on "SVU." "Medium" left for CBS, though that's addition by subtraction. Oh, and NBC wiped out five hours worth of programming with Jay Leno's new talk show. Right now, the network's top show ratings wise is "The Biggest Loser." This, from the network that gave us "Hill Street Blues" and "The Cosby Show." Even worse, NBC's clueless leadership seems to have completely surrendered.



OUTLOOK: Fans of shows like "Chuck," "FNL" and "Parks & Recreation" might be happy that those shows will return for another season, but let's face it, they only are returning because NBC doesn't have any better options. That's not to say there isn't quality there, but none of those shows would have even aired all their episodes on any of the other networks. And really, there's nothing on the drawing board for next season that's generating much buzz. GRADE: D- (NBC passes only because it kept "Chuck.")



WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: ABC burns off sitcom flops "Surviving Suburbia" and "The Goode Family" tonight beginning at 8 p.m.



On Saturday, catch a new "Primeval" (BBC America, 9 p.m.), while ABC burns off the remaining "Eli Stone" episodes at 10 p.m. NBC burns off the last few episodes of "Kings" at 8 p.m.



On Sunday, NBC debuts the original BBC series "Merlin" with two episodes from 8-10 p.m. Listen, I know more about the King Arthur legend than anyone you will meet, and other than the names of the characters, there's nothing even remotely correct about this series, from showing Merlin (Colin Morgan) as a teenager forced to be Prince Arthur's (Bradley James) manservant because King Uther (Anthony Stewart Head) has banned magic in the kingdom. What this series actually seems to be is a sort of medieval "Smallville" in that Merlin must use his powers to rescue his friends without anyone noticing. Though the series proved popular when shown in the UK -- it's been renewed over there -- I doubt it will have any success here, and probably have no more impact than NBC's "Crusoe" did.



Also on Sunday, David Suchet reprises his role as Hercule Poirot in "Cat Among the Pigeons" as part of "Masterpiece: Mystery" (PBS, 9 p.m.)



ABC goes old school by bringing back both the miniseries and the disaster movie with "Impact" at 9 p.m., starring David James Elliott and Natasha Henstridge as impossibly good looking scientists who have to save the Earth from the moon crashing into it. I tend to think that if that were to happen, we'd be in big trouble.



On cable, "In Plain Sight" (USA, 10 p.m.) continues following a new "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," as does "True Blood" (HBO, 9 p.m.), which had a great debut to Season 2.



Finally, I don't like musicals and I don't like reality programing in general, but I found myself oddly hooked into "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" (BBC America, 9 p.m.), in which a group of unknowns vie for the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's revival of "The Sound of Music" for the London West End.

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