Matthew Perry's return and Ryan Murphy's 'New Normal': First impressions of NBC's 2012-13 comedies

nbc-comedies-2012-2013-matthew-perry-anne-heche.jpgWhen NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke described NBC's new series for the 2012-2013 season as "broad, accessible, smart, attention-getting shows" during the network's upfront presentation at Radio City Music Hall on May 14, it wasn't immediately clear whether that was just a typical boast or not. But after watching clips of the Ryan Murphy-created "The New Normal," about a gay couple and the surrogate carrying their child, and the Matthew Perry-starring "Go On," about a widower and the crazy characters from his grief support group, we think she might be right.

Even though those are NBC's cornerstone comedies for the new year, they're emotional, progressive and heartwarming. Salke and NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt and could've harped on the progressiveness and acceptance of their new shows, but they didn't -- they just focused on the fact that they think they're well-written and funny. While that remains to be seen, here are our first impressions of the trailers from each new show:

"Go On"
Tuesdays, 9 p.m.
NBC brings back former Friend Perry as a sportscaster who meets some truly bizarre characters at his grief support group. (He's recently widowed after his wife died in a texting-while-driving accident.) Perry manages to seem incredibly likable even though his character is a very career-driven, sarcastic guy (not quite a jerk...but kinda), and like Salke says, "This show has the rare ability to make you laugh one minute and feel something deeply the next." The trailer did pack an emotional punch at the end (the show is about a widower, after all), but if this show succeeds it'll be for two reasons: one, Perry's star power, and two, the writers are able to strike the right balance between the tragic and comedic elements while giving it a distinctive, original voice.

"The New Normal"
Tuesdays, 9:30 p.m.
Murphy's hand means this show, about a gay couple ( Justin Bartha and Andrew Rannells) who hire a surrogate ( Georgia King) to have their child, has plenty of promise. The full-length trailer didn't disappoint, feeling progressive and young for NBC -- just what the network needs. (In fact, this show could be right at home on FOX.) Yes, it's got that trademark Murphy wit -- surrogacy is explained as "she's just like an Easy Bake Oven, but with no rights to the cupcake." Much like in "Glee," Nene Leakes is a surprisingly awesome peripheral character who, if used the right amount (i.e. they don't Sue Sylvester her into unfunniness), could steal every scene she's in. Being a Murphy show, it does get a little preachy, but we were in tears at the end of the trailer nonetheless. (Yes, it's a comedy.)

"Animal Practice"
Wednesdays, 8 p.m.
Justin Kirk is a "House"-like veterinarian with a terrible bedside manner to the human owners of his patients, but he really does have a true love of animals. Listen, Kirk is the only reason to watch "Weeds" anymore so we'll follow him anywhere, and frankly his character could be incredibly obnoxious in other hands. Kirk's got the right ratio of smarm to charm to pull it off -- this could be a surprise hit. But then again, the scene-stealer of the trailer is Kirk's monkey sidekick, Dr. Zaius (played by Crystal the Monkey from "The Hangover Part 2"), so you can't get your hopes up too high.

"Guys With Kids," Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m.
Three thirtysomething guys discuss stay-at-home parenting tropes, but it's funny 'cause they're dudes. Get it?! As much as we love the cast (and producer Jimmy Fallon), this is our pick for the "first show canceled" pool. Guys, the tagline is "totally dadass." Really. On the upside, the babies are cute!

MIDSEASON

"Next Caller"
2006's favorite comedian, Dane Cook, plays an alpha male satellite radio host with a mismatched Type A female co-host ( Collette Wolfe). More comedy cred comes in the form of Jeffrey Tambor, who plays their soul patch-having boss -- but is it enough to keep the gender comedy from feeling tired? We laughed far more at the trailer than we anticipated, so we're not counting this one out. Wolfe has an Emma Stone vibe about her, and she and Cook have great chemistry together. Let's all try to cut Cook some slack between now and January and remember that he is a funny dude, and this show actually could work.

"Save Me"
Desperate housewife/major drunk Anne Heche finds god after a near-death experience (she chokes on a sandwich after a drinking binge). Actually, she thinks God is speaking to her directly. Her husband ( Michael Landes) isn't sold on the idea. Um...the cast seems pretty good, so there's that. Otherwise...yeesh. We're gonna have to wait to see a full episode, but it doesn't look too promising.

"1600 Penn"
Co-created by "Book of Mormon" star Josh Gad, this sitcom follows the wacky misadventures of the dysfunctional First Family. Bill Pullman plays a familiar role -- the president -- with Jenna Elfman as his First Lady/stepmom to his kids and Gad as his hapless son. Gad's schtick is funny to a point, so as long as they keep that in check, this could be hilarious. Then again, they could also do the complete opposite and run it into the ground until we want to gouge our eyes out from promos alone. (Please don't do this, NBC, it looks cute! We want to like it!)
Photo/Video credit: NBC
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