Updated: NBC unveils new programs for fall
NBC continues to revel in rebelling.
On Monday, the fourth-ranked broadcast network announced to reporters and advertisers most of the programs that will be in its lineup next season. By doing so, for the second year in a row, NBC tried to get a head start on its competitors before their upfront presentations, which take place in Manhattan during the week of May 18.
But NBC will wait to unveil its actual schedule until that week, when the industry gathers to hype new shows and land billions of dollars worth of advertising commitments in advance. Because the network will abandon dramas in the 10 p.m. hour in order to air a nightly Jay Leno comedy show, leaving five fewer hours to program, elements of the schedule — as well as the fate of some of its bubble shows, such as “Chuck” — are still a mystery.
NBC has had another rough season. All of the new shows it launched in the fall failed, and three top executives were ousted as a result. The future of Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, who was hired two years ago, has been in question as well: Neither Silverman nor NBC has said whether they have extended his contract beyond its expiration in mid-June.(Sources close to the situation, however, believe that Silverman plans to stay on for one more year).
But on Monday, as he laid out NBC’s plans for the next TV season, Silverman was exuberant, as he touted “The Jay Leno Show,” the Winter Olympics and what he described as “intimate gatherings” NBC will have with advertisers over the next two weeks.
As competitors screen pilots and conduct focus groups, putting the finishing touches on their fall schedules, NBC executives will meet privately with advertisers in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles to show them the network’s six new series [see the bottom of the post for descriptions and video] and get feedback on possible schedule placement. NBC will then announce its lineup May 19 in an invitation-only comedy showcase event in Manhattan that will feature some of NBC’s top comedic talent: Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Tina Fey.
“We’re not interested in just screaming out to 5,000 people and then walking off to some VIP corridor. We’re here to talk to you and speak to you and connect with our client base and allow them to ask questions in small settings,” Silverman said in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s going to give us, obviously, maximum flexibility.”
In addition to four new dramas and two new comedies, NBC renewed “Heroes,” “Southland” and “Parks and Recreation.” The network also will decide soon whether it will bring back “Chuck,” “Law & Order,” “Medium” and “My Name Is Earl.”
Which brings up the question of the day: Where will all these shows fit?
For one thing, Silverman said a maximum of three new shows will premiere in the fall. But more important, by ordering so many scripted shows, NBC is hedging against the unknown: If Leno’s new comedy hour doesn’t work, the network will have plenty of series to air in its place. If the Leno show succeeds, and Silverman seems very confident it will, some of the new programs could air in 13-episode installments throughout the broadcast season so that they can share time slots, or over the summer.
NBC executives did speak in some broad strokes about the nightly lineups. “Heroes” will remain on Mondays and will be paired with a yet-to-be-determined new show. “The Biggest Loser” will anchor Tuesdays, though executives have not decided if the weight-loss competition will remain a two-hour show or be used to launch new programming in the 9 p.m. hour. “Law & Order: SVU,” which has been renewed, will probably be scheduled on Wednesday nights with another drama. Thursdays will remain a comedy night. And two hours of scripted series will precede Leno on Fridays.
“Hopefully we will have to make tough choices between high-quality shows,” Silverman said.
Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, said NBC will meet with the producers of the four undecided series to discuss renewal options that could include nontraditional episode orders. As series age, they become more costly — a key factor in decisions made across the prime-time dial as the industry continues to struggle with the aftermath of the writers strike and the overall economic downturn.
“Once we get past the decision, [that] yes, we would pick up a show under certain circumstances, it’s case by case,” he said. “Some of our studio partners are eager to work with us to lower our costs for the show. Others are less eager.”
Although “SVU” is a sure thing, its lead actors, Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni, who have been holding out for more money, are not. “Our offer is on the table and we hope they accept it,” Graboff said. “The show’s coming back with or without them.”
In addition to “SVU,” NBC had already renewed “30 Rock,” “The Office,” “The Biggest Loser,” “Friday Night Lights” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” And “Saturday Night Live: Weekend Update Thursday” will return for six episodes covering the news of the day.
On Monday, Silverman said “Life,” starring Damian Lewis, has been canceled. Also gone forever are “Lipstick Jungle,” “Kath & Kim,” “Knight Rider,” “Kings,” “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Crusoe.”
The new series are:
The pilot for "Parenthood," based on the 1989 Steve Martin film, is not complete, but NBC executives said they are confident in the footage they've already seen and tested. The pilot has received a lot of buzz because of its producing, acting and directing pedigree. Written by Jason Katims, the executive producer of "Friday Night Lights," produced by Imagine Television and directed by Thomas Schlamme, the series stars Peter Krause ("Six Feet Under, "Dirty Sexy Money"), Craig T. Nelson, Maura Tierney ("ER"), Bonnie Bedelia ("Die Hard"), Erika Christensen ("Traffic," "Six Degrees"), Sam Jaeger ("Eli Stone"), Monica Potter ("Boston Legal" and "Trust Me"), Sarah Ramos ("American Dreams"), Dax Shepard ("Baby Mama") and Mae Whitman ("In Treatment"). Like the movie, the TV series will focus on the large, bickering Buckman family.
Although the "ER" era is over, NBC is not out of the medical-drama business. Its second drama, "Trauma," follows a team of San Francisco trauma doctors who juggle their personal problems while treating patients in dire need of medical attention. It is writer Dario Scardapane's first TV show and is executive produced by "Friday Night Lights" creator and executive producer Peter Berg and his colleagues Jeffrey Reiner and Sarah Aubrey. Among its cast members are Cliff Curtis ("Live Free or Die Hard"), Jamey Sheridan ("Law & Order: Criminal Intent"), Kevin Rankin ("Friday Night Lights" and "Hulk"), Aimee Garcia ("The George Lopez Show"), Billy Lush ("The Black Donnellys") and Derek Luke ("Antwone Fisher").
"Mercy," another medical drama, portrays the lives of the staff at Mercy Hospital through the eyes of its nurses. Nurse Veronica Callahan (Taylor Schilling, "Dark Matter") returns to Mercy from a military tour in Iraq -- and she knows more about medicine than all of the residents combined. She and two other nurses, Sonia Jimenez (Jamie Lee Kirchner, "Rescue Me") and Chloe Payne (Michelle Trachtenberg, "Gossip Girl"), navigate their personal and professional lives. The cast also includes: James Tupper ("Men in Trees") as Chris Sands, a new doctor at the hospital who complicates Veronica's life; Diego Klattenhoff ("Supernatural") as Mike Callahan, Veronica’s husband; and Guillermo Díaz ("Weeds") as nurse Angel Lopez. It was created by Liz Heldens (NBC’s "Friday Night Lights") and is executive produced by Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts ("Pushing Daisies," "Pepper Dennis") .
"Day One," which will launch in an epic-style two-hour pilot in midseason, tells the story of a group of residents in a San Fernando Valley apartment complex who are frightened and confused when a global catastrophe hits, devastating the world's infrastructure. They must try to figure out what's happened. From executive producer and writer Jesse Alexander ("Heroes," "Lost," "Alias") and director Alex Graves ("Fringe," "Journeyman"), the cast includes: Adam Campbell ("Date Movie"), Catherine Dent ("The Shield"), Julie Gonzalo ("Eli Stone"), David Lyons ("ER"), Derek Mio ("Greek"), Carly Pope ("24"), Thekla Reuten ("Sleeper Cell") and Addison Timlin ("Cashmere Mafia").
Among the comedies ordered are one multi-camera sitcom and one single-camera show.
"Community," starring Joel McHale ("The Soup") and Chevy Chase, is set at a small-town community college where the student body is made up of high school losers, newly divorced housewives and old people who want to keep their minds active. McHale plays a lawyer whose degree has been revoked. Written by Dan Harmon ("The Sarah Silverman Program"), it also stars: Alison Brie ("Mad Men") and Yvette Nicole Brown, who has been in a lot of episodic television, including "Privileged" and "Boston Legal."
"100 Questions for Charlotte Payne" stars Sophie Winkleman ("The Chronicles of Narnia") in a show about a young woman who lives in New York and joins a dating service for which she is required to take a 100-question compatibility test. The questions aren’t easy for Charlotte to answer, and each one requires her to recount a poignant and humorous time in her life with friends Leslie (Elizabeth Ho, "Women’s Murder Club"), Jill (Joy Suprano, NBC’s "Law & Order"), Mike (Christopher Moynihan "For Your Consideration") and Wayne (David Walton "Quarterlife"). The series was created by Moynihan and is executive produced by Ron West ("Psych"), Kelly Kulchak ("Psych") and Michelle Nader ("King of Queens").
-- Maria Elena Fernandez