JJ Abrams, Bruckheimer and Conan on board NBC sked
(Update: Check out clips of NBC's new fall shows)
In one of the most ambitious primetime overhauls in recent history, NBC announced Sunday it will gut its Monday and Wednesday lineups, and add a total of six new one-hour series, one new half-hour comedy, and one new reality series in the fall.
It's all part of a strategy to get the ratings-depleted network to rise like the phoenix from the ashes of this season's Let's Program Primetime To Margins with Jay Leno Debacle, with a new primetime slate that screams "scripted" and "big name auspices" - like JJ Abrams, Jerry Bruckheimer -- and Conan O'Brien.
And, yes, "Law & Order" is really most sincerely dead after 20 seasons, NBC programming chief Angela Bromstad told The TV Column on the phone Sunday morning:
"We started talking about the Los Angeles "Law & Order" [spinoff] several months ago and that was the priority, and Dick [Wolf] knew that - how to get it on in fall and how to wind up the mothership," Bromstad said.
" It came down to the wire - we had to lock in the schedule. These decisions were made," she said, adding that the network will sit down with Wolf after this week's upfront presentation to determine whether to wrap up "Law & Order" on "another platform or wrap it up in a two-hour event."
NBC is getting the first crack at pitching its new shows to advertisers at what's called Broadcast TV Upfront Week, at the end of which ad execs start haggling with network sales suits about buying ad time in the new show - up front.
Monday will become a guy-targeting high-octane action night on NBC, because that genre can best be promoted on the network's Sunday night football lineup. "Chuck" has survived at 8 to struggle in the ratings another year, to the delight of its small but rabid fanboy base who, to their credit, do tend to rush out and buys things advertised on the show to demonstrate their love - and a network can't ask for more than that.
Besides, NBC programming chief Angela Bromstad noted in a late Sunday afternoon phone call with reporters, the network "can't change every hour of the schedule at once."
"Heroes" is toast, and a new serialized paranormal-ish drama called "The Event" is moving in to "Heroes's" 9 o'clock hour. It will be followed by Jerry Buckheimer's latest procedural, "The Chase" which, yes, will try to take down Bruckheimer's procedural "CSI: Miami" Mondays at 10.
"The Event" stars Jason Ritter plays an average guy who understandably wants to know what happened to his fiancee, and stumbles upon "the biggest cover-up in U.S. history." Blair Underwood plays the president of the United States.
"Chase," at 10, is a fast-paced cat-and-mouse drama in which a team of U.S. marshals hunts down the nation's most dangerous fugitives, led by a cowboy-boot-wearing U.S. Marshal who, with the best of intentions, was given the name Annie Frost, and given "a unique Texas upbringing" which, given that this is a Bruckheimer show, we've put money on meaning "kinky."
NBC's not touching the brightest spot on its schedule - Tuesday. That means two hours of its fat-farm reality series "The Biggest Loser" followed by scripted movie remake "Parenthood" at 10. While not a blockbuster in overall audience, "Parenthood has been winning its timeslot among the 18-49 year olds NBC targets since it's debut after heavy promotions during the Winter Olympics.
NBC is making a major push on Wednesday nights, kicking things off with its new J.J. Abrams's drama "Undercovers" at 8 - which, not coincidentally, is the same timeslot where Abrams's "Lost" premiered in fall of 2004 to gimongous crowds. "Undercovers" will be followed by NBC's sole surviving "Law & Order" series, "L&O:SVU" which will lead in to the new "Law & Order: Los Angeles - "LOLA" to its friends.
"There's no incumbent that's strong" on Wednesdays at 8, NBC Universal Television Entertainment Gaspin observed. "We think there's real opportunity if you have a distinctive show that has strong auspices, and "Undercovers" clearly does.
With regard to launching "LOLA," Gaspin noted the best leadin for a new show is the show itself - or something from the same franchise. That's a time-honored cable model that was finally embraced by broadcasters the past few season (See CBS's "NCIS" into "NCIS: Los Angeles," NBC expanding its one-hour reality series "The Biggest Loser" to two hours, etc.).
"Law & Order: The Mothership" will bid adieu to NBC on Monday, May 24, though there's talk creator Dick Wolf is still lobbying to keep it alive in some fashion, in hopes of beating "Gunsmoke's" 20-season record. NBC does not yet have a pilot on "LOLA" - doesn't even have a cast locked -- but, Bromstad noted, all the "L&O" spinoffs were ordered directly from script to series.
Abrams's ("Star Trek," "Mission Impossible," "Lost," "Alias," "Fringe") new "Undercovers" is about a married couple who own a small catering company in Los Angeles and who were two of the CIA's best spies until they retired. Only, to keep this from being a show about a catering business, they're being sucked back into the spy world, because a spy buddy has gone missing while on the trail of a Russian arms dealer ( Russian villains: making a comeback). And Abrams himself has promised to direct the pilot episode, which, NBC boasts, is his first TV series pilot directing gig since "Lost" (see "gimongous crowds" above).
"30 Rock" has had all the time it's going to get for now in the half hour following "The Office" on Thursdays. The Tina Fey comedy is being bounced around - again - back to 8:30 p.m. following "Community." This makes room, following "The Office," which is the network's strongest Thursday sitcom, for new comedy "Outsourced" at 9:30 p.m.
"We had to make some tough decisions and 'The Office' is our strongest comedy and 9:30 is the best timeslot to get a new show launched," Gaspin told The TV Column Sunday morning, adding that "30 Rock" has had plenty of time - two years - to grow an audience in the post-"Office" timeslot.
The cast and crew of NBC's struggling Thursday sitcom "Parks and Rec" did not find out until Saturday afternoon that they were being held for midseason which, Gaspin assured the press on the phone late Sunday afternoon, would not stall the show's "momentum." What momentum?
On the bright side, "The Marriage Ref" is not returning at 10 in the fall, but will instead become a back-up player, so NBC can go all-scripted on Thursday nights, adding and a new one-hour anthology rom-com called "Love Bites" where "ER" once reigned supreme.
Fridays, a night the broadcast networks have largely forsaken when it comes to scripted programming, NBC has scheduled a new drama series at 10, about a Supreme Court justice gone rogue, called "Outlaw," which stars Jimmy Smits and is executive produced by, among others, Conan O'Brien. Read into that what you will.
Starting out primetime Fridays at 8, Lisa Kudrow's "Who Do You Think You Are?" reality series, in which we watch celebrities trace their roots, will return to the schedule, but only after sharing the 8 o'clock hour with a new, aspirational reality series from Cheryl Hines called "School Pride." It's a kind of "Extreme Makeover: School Edition," and is about rebuilding a community's schools.
"In "Outlaw," Smits plays a handsome Supreme Court justice who is also a playboy and gambler which, sadly, never happens in real life. But he quits when he suddenly realizes the system he believed in is flawed, and returns to private practice, determined to represent "the little guy" and make life a perfect hell for plenty of powerful people, using his inside knowledge of the justice system.
Speaking of people who quit when they suddenly realize the system they believed in is flawed - O'Brien is among the show's executive producers. In case you've been dozing since January, he's the guy who quit the network in a huff when NBC decided to bump him, and "The Tonight Show," past midnight to make room to return Jay Leno to late night, after Leno bombed in primetime.
"Often times what happens is you put one of your weaker shows on Friday night because the time period seems to be waning," Gaspin said. " We're taking a slightly different tack."
"Outlaw," he said, is "appropriate for the audience that watches television on Friday nights."
The audience that watches broadcast television on Friday nights "likes procedurals and is a slightly older audience...and tends to gravitate toward crime stories" he elaborated.
Saturday will continue to be NBC Rerun Theatre and Sunday is all-NFL football programming in the fall.
The new schedule unveiled Sunday leaves several high-profile new drama series on the bench, including a new David E. Kelley's law drama, "Harry's Law" starring Kathy Bates and a new series called "The Cape" about a good cop who is framed for a series of murders and presumed dead and is forced into hiding, leaving behind wife and son. In order to clear his good name and rteurn to the bosom of his family, Good Cop Guy decides to become his sons favorite fictious comic book superhero, The Cape. We said Good Cop -- not Smart Cop.
And we're sorrier than you can know to learn we'll have to wait until midseason to see how NBC has interpreted "Friends with Benefits," one of its new comedies. We wish we could say the same of the new midseason sistcom "The Paul Reiser Show," in which Paul Reiser stars as Paul Reiser who has been trying to figure out what his next move will be since the demise of his hit NBC sitcom "Mad About You." That is a very long time to sit around navel gaze -- "Mad About You" went off the air in 1999. Heck, Conan O'Brien quit NBC in January and announced his new TBS show less three months later.
"We saw this year with 'Parenthood' we have opportunity in the second half of the year. David Kelley's show and "Cape" are two strong pilots. We felt they would really provide us with strength midseason.
Here's the Fall 2010 schedule (new shows are in bold):
8 p.m. Chuck
9 p.m. The Event
10 p.m. Chase
8 p.m. The Biggest Loser (two hours)
10 p.m. Parenthood
8 p.m. Undercovers
9 p.m. Law & Order: SVU
10 p.m. Law & Order: Los Angeles
8 p.m. Community
8:30 p.m. 30 Rock*
9 p.m. The Office
9:30 p.m. Outsourced
10 p.m. Love Bites
8 p.m. Who Do You Think You Are?/School Pride
9 p.m. Dateline
10 p.m. Outlaw
8 p.m. NBC Rerun Theatre
7 p.m. Football Night in America
8:15 p.m. NBC Sunday Night Football
*moved to a new timeslot
Lisa de Moraes
May 16, 2010; 1:27 PM ET
Categories: TV News
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