EXCLUSIVE: NBC’s Hot New Existential Lineup

Question the Nature of Reality: Tuesdays After This Is Us!

Spring has sprung and if you’re like any red-blooded American that means one thing and one thing only: PILOT SEASON. It’s always a must-see time of year (see what I did there?) but this year is especially interesting for NBC, which is fresh off the success of The Good Place and A.P. Bio — — two sitcoms that rely on TV’s oldest gimmick: Philosophical Ethics. See if you can see the influence in this list of scripts headed on a one-way trip to Pilot Town!


Chicago Philosophy

This spinoff of the wildly-popular Dick Wolf franchise follows the lives of a family of hard-working, blue-collar University of Chicago philosophy professors and grad students who seem to constantly find themselves involved in medical-, police-, and fire-related crises that call for emergency crossovers.

Law & Order: Moral Equivalence Unit

This self-aware crime procedural questions its own motives while faithfully following the Law & Order tradition of ripping stories from the headlines and then adding just enough twists to provide a sense of moral equivalency between Harvey Weinstein and every registered sex offender. Sam Waterston reprises his role of District Attorney Jack McCoy, but only to deliver exasperated and/or cynical one-liners at the end of every episode.

Moral Blindspot

When Philosophical Ethics student Natalia wakes up in the middle of Times Square with no recollection fo how she got there — — or what the subject of her thesis was — — she must follow the obscure philosophical clues laid out in the a series of tattoos found her body in order to uncover what happened to her, and also whether shame is an innate part of humanity or merely a social construct meant to be overcome. James Spader guest stars in the pilot.

Game Shows

Deal or Is No Human Actually Capable of Making a Deal?

This Howie Mandel game show features everything you know and love about the original, plus a nagging sense that none of your choices matter! The new “Schrödinger Uncertainty Round” promises to liven up the show by making contestants must decide if the cat inside a scantily-clad model’s briefcase is alive or dead!


Salt of the Earth

Marlon, a sad sack Arizona State philosophy professor, is forced to leave his shallow life of cheap cocktail bars, empty sex, and the occasional lecture when his father dies and bequeaths him the family business. Now Marlon’s back in Omaha and his only friends are the misfit staff of his old man’s salt water taffy shop — — here in the heart of freshwater, land-locked Nebraska (to which Marlon would say “I’ve heard of Kafkaesque, but this is ridiculous!”).

The Good People

A diverse group of hardscrabble but highly relatable This-Is-Us-types (played exclusively by actors you vaguely recognize but would never be able to name) all agree to rob a bank so long as no one gets hurt in this show that is clearly adapted from a screenplay.

Friends (Reboot)

When UCLA loses its funding for the Department of Cartesian Dualism, Philosophy Professor Ross Geller is forced to move back to his old New York City apartment (which he has been AirBnb’ing this whole time). There he discovers a city that’s changed but friends who have stayed the same…. to an almost alarming degree. Jennifer Anniston’s Rachel appears only via CGI but no one explains this to Ross, who begins to question the very nature of his existence when all of his friends start talking to an empty chair in a memorable new Thanksgiving episode.

Chris Barlow is a writer, podcaster, and bedroom newscaster in New York.

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