Look at NBC this way: It really has no place to go these days but up.
In theory, at least.
Tonight, the network kicks off its new season with "Outlaw," (NBC, 10 p.m.), the new Jimmy Smits drama about a conservative Supreme Court justice who steps down in order to become a lawyer that defends the little guy. The description sounded a little preposterous to me.
Then I saw the pilot.
And you know what? It is preposterous. Everything from the motivation of the characters to the coincidences that Smits uses during his case simply don't ring true. We're made to believe that Smits steps down because of guilt over the death of his labor-leader father.
Frankly, the premise is silly, though some of the acting is good.
Unfortunately, none of the other NBC offerings -- all pilot presentations, not the real pilots -- are much better. NBC's "The Event," the most hyped new show of the season that's sort of a mix between "Lost" and "24," hasn't been made available for review, so I can't tell you if it's good or not.
I had high hopes for JJ Abrams' light-hearted spy show "Undercovers," which is supposed to be a sort of cross between "The Avengers," "Alias" and "Hart To Hart," but doesn't come close to any of them. While the unknown leads, Boris Kodjoe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, are very nice to look at, they both come off as bland. They are retired spies trying to make a go of things as caterers before getting recalled to active service. But the show lacks any real tension or humor. Considering this is the network that gives us "Chuck," "Undercovers" could be a lot better. Still, I'll stick around for a couple of episodes to see if it does.
"Chase," airing Mondays at 10 p.m., gives us US Marshals chasing down fugitives, led by Kelli Giddish. Unfortunately for this series, there are already better shows built around the Marshals Service, including "In Plain Sight" and "Justified," both of which are better than this boilerplate adventure series.
Finally, the network offers "Outsourced" as part of its Thursday night sitcom lineup. While pitched as "The Office" in India, it lacks that series' sheer laughs and cleverness.
Maybe NBC tweaked the pilots so that maybe what will air this week and next will be better than what I saw, but I'm not optimistic that the Peacock will be breaking out of its funk any time soon.
WEDNESDAY'S BEST BETS: Right now, the best new show I've seen for this fall is "Terriers," (FX, 10 p.m.) the new light-hearted detective drama. The series is very much in the vein of "Justified" without the twang. My parents and I saw the first five episodes last weekend, and all I can say is that it continued to get better each week with both offbeat charm and clever writing.
I was remiss in not mentioning that "Hellcats" (CW, 9 p.m.) debuted last week. It's about a girl who loses her law scholarship and must join the cheerleading squad to stay in college. I probably did you a favor.
"Kitchen Nightmares" (Fox, 8 p.m.) wraps up its season with a two-hour finale, while "Survivor" (CBS, 8 p.m.) kicks off its new season with former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson as one of the castaways.
Also new tonight is my dad's favorite series on TV, "The Choir" (BBC America, 10 p.m.) It's hard not to be uplifted by this remarkable series, what reality TV should be.