Monday, May 14, 2007

Upfront Watch: NBC

NBC's first in the rotation to announce their schedule during Upfront Week. You can read the full release here, but I'll post the basic schedule and some quick thoughts after the jump, before I have to hop on a conference call with Reilly and Zucker...


*New programs in CAPS (with the exception of "ER")

8-9 p.m. "Deal or No Deal"
9-10 p.m. "Heroes"
10-11 p.m. "JOURNEYMAN"

8-9 p.m. "The Biggest Loser"
9-10 p.m. "CHUCK"
10-11 p.m. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"

8-9 p.m. "Deal or No Deal"
9-10 p.m. "BIONIC WOMAN"
10-11 p.m. "LIFE"

8-8:30 p.m. "My Name Is Earl"
8:30-9 p.m. "30 Rock"
9-9:30 p.m. "The Office"
9:30-10 p.m. "Scrubs"
10-11 p.m. "ER"

8-9 p.m. "1 vs 100"/"THE SINGING BEE"
9-10 p.m. "Las Vegas"
10-11 p.m. "Friday Night Lights"

8-9 p.m. "Dateline NBC"
9-11 p.m. Drama Series Encores

SUNDAY (Fall 2007)
7-8 p.m. "Football Night in America"
8-11 p.m. "NBC Sunday Night Football"

SUNDAY (January 2008)
7-8 p.m. "Dateline NBC"
8-9 p.m. "Law & Order"
9-10 p.m. "Medium"
10-11 p.m. "LIPSTICK JUNGLE"
Some initial thoughts:
  • While I'm glad they renewed "Friday Night Lights" (I think; see my concerns in the season finale post), a Friday timeslot is a guarantee the show won't ever expand its audience. A lot of teenagers are out in general, and fans of high school football in particular are out at actual high school football games. So dumping the show here -- and at a fairly late hour for what's, for the most part, a family show -- is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Maybe this was the only way Reilly could get permission to bring it back, by putting it in a timeslot where nothing's expected of it.
  • I love the Thursday comedy bloc, but it's been in the tank for months, and the only real change is the swap of "30 Rock" and "The Office." Les Moonves is gonna have a field day with this at the CBS upfront.
  • Also, they're doing 30 total half-hours of "The Office" (including five one-hour episodes), 25 "My Name Is Earl"s and a combined 30 episodes of "Heroes" and a quasi spin-off called "Heroes: Origins" designed to introduce new characters outside the flow of the regular storylines. An interesting way to combat reruns, but I worry that the creative teams on these shows are going to burn themselves out doing so many. ("The Office" has shown that there's close to an hour of material in a regular episode anyway, so it's the additional half-hour episodes I'm concerned about, I guess.)
  • "Law & Order" gets saved for mid-season, even though they ordered 22 episodes, and there's no word on where "Criminal Intent" will air after its initial runs on USA -- or what the casts of both the mothership and "CI" will look like.
  • I've heard good things about "Chuck" (plus it's Josh Schwartz, so I'm kind of obligated to watch), and I'll watch anything with Damian Lewis in it, so "Life" will go to the top of the Pilot Watch pile when it arrives. "Bionic Woman" could be interesting, though how much of the genius of "Battlestar Galactica" is Ron Moore (not involved here) and how much is David Eick?

What does everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

I just heard on the radio that they're doing a spin-off of "Heroes." Not sure if I'm more excited about more heroes or worried that it would dilute the franchise a la "CSI: Wherever," etc.

Anonymous said...

I guess Criminal Intent will be used to cover schedule holes. And the lack od a nnouncement on Law & Order makes sense. I doubt even Wolf knows how it will look in January, but I guess he better do a good job to rebuild the show if he really wants that Gunsmoke record, because cancelation must had been pretty close.

Bionic Woman in the Lost timeslot is a great move if ABC really builds it's wednesday around Grey's spin-off and put Lost somewherelse. Journeyman looks compatible with Heroes and might get some of the Fox audience as well.

Every Friday Night Lights fan should be really happy that they choose it, instead of renewing Crossing Jordan again and stop complaining about the awful timeslot.

Kristen said...

While I'm glad they renewed "Friday Night Lights" (I think; see my concerns in the season finale post), a Friday timeslot is a guarantee the show won't ever expand its audience.

I disagree, mainly because I disagree with the premise that this is a family show which should be marketed to teenagers. It's quality drama with a small yet devoted fanbase, and historically NBC has given that Friday night slot to those types of shows: Homicide, Third Watch, I think even Hill Street Blues back in its day. They never got super-high ratings, but they gilded the Peacock's feathers with awards and acclaim. I expect FNL will do the same, which is why NBC put it there. I also suspect they put original-flavor L&O there this year for the same reason, but it didn't go as anticipated.

That's my .02 on it, at least.

Anonymous said...

Also, it looks like The Apprentice is cancelled, but NBC is trying not to make as little noise as possible about it.

Matt said...

The biggest surprise to me is that Bionic Woman didn't get the 10 PM Monday slot, since it seems like a natural leadout of Heroes.

The other thing is that a network with so many problems has really only retooled one night (Wednesday), and is making some odd decisions (running a procedural on Wednesday at 10 against CSI:NY?, trying "Lipstick Jungle" against "Brothers and Sisters?").

Also, except Thursday and Sunday, NBC has stuck with its "no scripted programs at 8" credo.

dark tyler said...

Alan, I didn't get what you said about "The Office." This season it'll clock in at 24 episodes, next will be at 25. If the one-hour episodes aren't a concern, then it's the one extra episode that worries you? Unless I'm missing something.

Anonymous said...

Alan's concern was over an increase in the total amount of material being written. This season was 25 half-hours, 21 regular lenght shows with 2 hour-longs. This new order makes for thirty total half-hours, 20 regular with 5 hour-longs, which may spread the writers a little thin, but I doubt it.

David J. Loehr said...

"Bionic Woman" could be interesting, though how much of the genius of "Battlestar Galactica" is Ron Moore (not involved here) and how much is David Eick?

It might not be a problem, because apparently Jason Smilovic, late of Kidnapped and Karen Sisco came in to rewrite the pilot before filming and will be running the show itself.

That said, it sure would be nice if there were some original ideas out there. What with new barely-different-variations on Sex and the City and Quantum Leap, I know I'm pretty much going to stick with 30 Rock and The Office for my NBC viewing pleasure.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Dez, "Origins" is the "Heroes" spin-off, six self-contained episodes about new heroes that Reilly says will likely air when the regular run of 24 "Heroes" episodes ends.

Matt, Reilly said they strongly considered "Bionic Woman" for Mondays at 10, but decided it was strong enough to stand on its own (and even support "Life"), while "Journeyman" has enough skiffy elements to appeal to the "Heroes" fanboys.

Filipe, Reilly refused to call "Apprentice" dead, though there's no current order for it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

David, I had forgotten about Smilovic's involvement. That makes me feel much better.

Matt said...

Wait--so will "Origins" air at the end of the season, with Heroes wrapping up early? I know the plan is to do two "big arcs" next year, and it would seem to make sense to run them substantially uninterrupted in the fall and spring, using "Origins" as a "bridge."

Mac said...

But everything Smilovic touches is very good and very short-lived, which makes me feel sad.

I was pretty sure "Journeyman" would get the post-"Heroes" slot. It just seemed the better fit to me. It remains to be seen if anything can thrive there or if "Heroes" has the same problems "Lost" does with the lead-out.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Wait--so will "Origins" air at the end of the season, with Heroes wrapping up early?

Reilly said he'd prefer to do it that way, though there's a chance they might have "Origins" fill in in the spring. He said they definitely won't intersperse "Origins" throughout the season; it'll air as a six-week chunk.

Adam said...

A few questions:

1. Is The Apprentice -- the Most Successful Show In The History Of Television, No Matter What Rosie Tells You -- dead?

2. Is this the final year for ER, and, if so, what's being groomed to replace it in that prized slot?

Benaiah said...

"The Office" is going to have 35 half hours, 30 episodes plus 5 hour longs. According to Variety anyway:

Anonymous said...

If NBC is worried about FNL losing its audience to actual high school football, maybe they should give it the Lost/24 treatment and air the show non-stop starting in January. In the meantime they can show "World Series of Shuffleboard" or whatever low-cost, generic game show that is on deck now that Bingo is taken.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know about Smilovic, but Bionic's new Co-EP is Glen Morgan, of X-Files fame. That makes me feel somewhat better about a show premise that otherwise leaves me very nervous.

I'm also nervous about all those Office eps. I'm not as confident that the mine of storylines is truly unlimited, and the super-sized episodes this season tended to stretch things too thin.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Adam, as mentioned above, "Apprentice" is currently not in NBC's plans, but Reilly refused to pronounce it dead.

And it's 30 "Office" half-hours total: 25 regular episodes, 5 one-hours. And I don't know how to add, which is why it didn't occur to me in making the initial post that this is technically only one more episode than usual for them.

Anonymous said...

I just want to point out that in addition to the Josh Schwartz connection, "Chuck" has Adam Baldwin in the Bill Maxwell role, so there's no way I'm missing that. Nothing else really leaps out at me.

Eric Fingerhut said...

For a network that is in fourth place and would seemingly need to shake things up, this schedule seems pretty unexciting. But I guess it takes a while to get out of the hole dug by their overreliance on Law and Order and its spinoffs, not being able to develop a comedy in the time slot after Friends for so many years, using "supersizing" as a programming strategy and running The Apprentice into the ground by airing it twice a year.

It seems like NBC is putting a ton of pressure on The Office by moving it to 9:00--where its ratings may go down having to battle CSI and Grey's. But if that is now the flagship comedy on the night, why wouldn't they put a new, or at least younger, show after it? Scrubs is certainly in its last year--why waste your top comedy time slot on it? (And I'm a Scrubs fan.) And that Thursday comedy lineup isn't even doing that well ratings-wise in the first place.

Chuck sounds entertaining, but doesn't exactly scream mainstream hit. And it seems like NBC is putting a lot of eggs in the Bionic Woman basket, having it anchor Wednesday and lead in to another new show. Are there that many people who are eager to see a remake of a 30 year old program? I just don't see the potential of NBC improving their ratings much at all with this schedule.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Eric, Reilly made it sound like they wanted to minimize the number of new shows they introduced in the fall, especially on such a competitive night. My impression is "Scrubs" is there as cannon fodder, and that when they feel the time is right, they'll plug in something else (they picked up a midseason comedy called "The IT Crowd").

Getting back to Friday Night Lights, back when the finale aired we all speculated about whether the second season would pick up with spring semester or jump ahead to the next year. Per USA Today, looks like Katims and Berg are going to split the difference.

Jim Monaghan said...

Alan -

As per the USA Today article - "The fall story line will advance several months to late summer, with Coach Taylor coaching at that university, while his wife, Tami, and their daughter, Julie, remain in their small town. Tami (Connie Britton), who learned she was pregnant at season's end, will be close to giving birth." - has it actually been confirmed that Coach Taylor will take the college job?

And count me among those who are less than enamoured with the new time slot for the show. I think it will be tough for FNL to draw an audience at that time.

Anonymous said...

L&O Criminal Intent will be moving to the USA Network.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't agree with your comment that "The Office has shown that there's close to an hour of material in a regular episode anyway..."

I think all of the super-sized episodes would have been better if they had trimmed the fat.

vjl said...

Scrubs is back? Does this mean Zack is back too? I thought at the beginning of the season he announced he wasn't coming back. I can't see the show without JD....


Alan Sepinwall said...

Zach signed a lucrative contract extension (something like $300,000 per episode), which was being cited as the biggest stumbling block towards renewal, as it made the show prohibitively expensive. I guess NBC figured a way to make the math work.

Toby O'B said...

Thanks for the link to the press release, as well as for the chance for everybody to weigh in on the line-up. Some interesting thoughts as always in this forum....

I hope we'll get the press release link with each network's day in the upfront spotlight.

Anonymous said...

So L&O Criminal Intent is going to USA... Interesting. I'm glad they didn't kill it completely, but I'd rather watch CI than SVU. I enjoyed SVU at first, but when it became the Benson and Stabler Show I got tired of it.... I just don't find their personal lives that interesting.

Unknown said...

So will Friday Night Lights resume at the start of the new football season, with seniors Tim Riggins, Smash and Jason Street graduated and gone? Or will they continue with the current cast in the off-season?

Anonymous said...

The British version of the IT Crowd is totally weird and funny. Hopefully the US version will be more the Office than Couplings, but I fear it's gonna be pretty easy to mess up.

dark tyler said...

"Excuse me, are you from the past?"

The IT Crowd is totally brilliant! I hope something good comes of this one. By the way, am I crazy or is ABC not going to pick up The Thick of It? I'm seriously going to cry.

("Maybe a movie")

Matt said...

Well, Street is now coaching, Smash was finishing his junior year last year (remember the offer from Voodoo--"Come play with me senior year to make you look better"), and I think the same was true for Riggins. Tyra's an underclasswoman (witness Tami's "intervene so you can get into Junior College"), leaving Lyla as the only real question mark.

Grimoald said...

I will watch Journeyman and Life because both Kevin McKidd and Damian Lewis are fantastic actors (Robin Weighert is in Life too, which is a plus).

I also agree with dark tyler that the news regarding ABC's decision to dump The Thick of It is heartbreaking. The talent involved was so damn good, not to mention the stunning BBC original (which if any of you haven't seen I implore you to get any which way you can, though it isn't on DVD yet unfortunately). Have you uncovered anything on this Alan, in particular, given the tone of the BBC show, ie very, very sweary, is there a chance that Showtime or HBO could come in for it. HBO in particular is in need of another comedy.

Anonymous said...

I believe the FNL characters were the following grades last season, but I could be off by a grade with the girls: Street, Riggins, Tyra, and Lyla were seniors. Smash was a junior and Saracen, Landry and Julie were sophomores. Although to boost ratings they could go the 90210 route and only have Saracen advance a grade...just kidding (hopefully).

Anonymous said...

For those who have seen the British version of The IT Crowd, note that the guy who plays Moss is in the US version. On the other hand, no casting is given for Jen, nor evidence of her existence in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Zack is returning, and if I remember, he is now the highest paid comedy actor on television.

I'm happy to see Damien Lewis back, as it was impossible not to love the guy in Band of Brothers. Plus Life seems like a decent, albeit generic plot.

I noticed Alex O'Loughlin has got himself a pilot (Moonlight / CBS). Guess someone did like his work on The Shield.

Studio 60 I'm kind of disappointed about, but it's no surprise, and I'm more sad just for the sake of being sad rather than really lamenting the loss. Hopefully this means Sorkin can concentrate on a show that is more suited to his strengths.

But I have to say it looks like NBC is perfectly set to have another mediocre year.

Anonymous said...

One more thing...

Biggest Disappointment (NBC): Even though it was a flimsy premise, NBC passing on MONY, especially after the showrunners from Oz had been brought it.

Unknown said...

Actually, I recently re watched FNL and this is how I believe it breaks down:

Senior: Street

Juniors: Smash (from line in Finale about having another year, etc.), Lyla (from dialog that Street would go to Notre Dame and then she would join him after a year), Trya (above stated dialog about Junior College)

Not sure about Riggins but it seems he's a junior.

Soph: Matt, Landry and Julie

It makes sense that most of the cast would at least be Juniors because anyone who was a Senior would be gone if the show got picked up.

Grimoald said...

The Oz guy's last shows have been terrible anyway, so I'm not sure if it would have made a difference.

There are 4-5 minute trailers for all the dramas at the NBC website and I have to say that they all look quite good. Chuck especially looks pretty great, and Damian Lewis is charismatic as hell in Life.

Jim Monaghan said...

Regarding the grade levels of the characters on FNL, I remember reading an article a couple of weeks ago in which either a writer or one of the producers was quoted as saying that none of the cast members should be assumed to have been a senior in this first season (although Street, Riggins, Lyla and Tyra certainly seemed to be seniors in some of the story lines).

Eric Fingerhut said...


I guess Reilly's explanation makes sense, but it would make much more sense if NBC actually had a midseason hit over the last two years (other than Deal or No Deal).

There's been a lot of talk that with the dozens of shows that premiere in the fall, it's too hard to make a show stand out--and yet Lost, Desperate Housewives, Heroes, My Name is Earl, etc. have all managed to do it the last three years. With all the shows that the broadcast networks and the cable networks are premiering in January these days--along with the returns of big shows like Idol, 24 and (next year) 24, it seems like January is getting a lot tougher to introduce a show. At least when you start a show in the fall, you have the whole summer to build awareness

Kenrick said...

I LOVE The I.T. Crowd. It feels like I've been waiting forever for the UK season 2 to come out. While Moss is a hilarious character and the actor who plays him is genius, I'm not a fan of having one original cast member reprising his role while everyone else is new. I read that Jen will be played by Jessica St. Clair, who is both hot and funny on VH1's Best Week Ever.

Although I would love me some more Office and Heroes, I'm also afraid about the writers stretching too thin. I think BSG suffered a lot from trying to fill up so many episodes.

Anonymous said...

Alan, where's the HIMYM season (series?) finale post?

Unknown said...

I just read the release, and I have this to say: NBC, Let's All Be There!
Bionic Woman? Genius! My demo is the one with all the purchasing power, and reimagining my childhood favorites, but without '70s lameness and effects, is HAWESOME! Didn't you always wish that the A-Team would do more than just shoot the ground in front of the villains, or flip their cars? You knew these characters were edgy at heart, but handcuffed by the narrative mores of the time. If the unfettered "Galactica" is any indication, this is a very welcome trend.
Journeyman, I'm not too sure about. I could never get into "Quantum Leap" because of the weekly reset button.
"Life" sounds like it could be really interesting. Most cop shows are very pro-prosecution, anti-suspect. I think this series could balance that a little, a la "Injustice".
Ordering extra eps? Duh! Why doesn't everybody do this? Why create a slate of loser midseason shows to run when your hits are in reruns? Why drive a yugo when your Bentley is in the shop? Get an extra Bentley.
The "Heroes" spinoff is a good idea if it's done well. The characters who don't get chosen still need to be addressed in the show proper.
Moving "Friday Night Lights" to Friday night? Once again, duh! "Saturday Night Live" floundered for years until NBC moved it from Tuesday mornings, so this is a proven winner.
But my favorite idea for a new show has got to be "Singing Bee". I laughed just from the (extremely dry) description.