Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good news about 'Chuck,' 'Scrubs' and 'Better Off Ted'

Courtesy of my friend Joe, two bits of very good news (one surprising, one not) about shows of interest here on the blog:

NBC is going to order six extra episodes of "Chuck," on top of the 13 already ordered (thanks in part to the passion of all the Subway-eating fans).

"Scrubs" will be back on Dec. 1 at 9 with back-to-back episodes, and "Better Off Ted" will follow at 9:30 on Dec. 8. (I talked about the revamped version of "Scrubs" with Bill Lawrence a couple of months ago.)

We knew that ABC was going to bring those two comedies back in that hour, in between seasons of "Dancing with the Stars," so it was just a question of specifics.

The "Chuck" news, on the other hand, is as unexpected as it is cool, and I'll have some more thoughts on that after the jump...

None of this is official as yet, but coupled with the news that NBC won't give "Trauma" a back-nine order, it sure sounds like the plan is to pair "Chuck" with "Heroes" again ("Chuck" at 8, "Heroes" at 9), and probably to bring "Chuck" back in January so a bunch of episodes can air before the Olympics, as opposed to keeping the show off the air until March. (The alternative, which Joe suggests, would be to stick with the March launch and then run the show into the summer, but that seems less likely, given the network business model.)

While the Monday at 8 pile-up is still not ideal for the show, at least "Big Bang Theory" (which has by far the biggest audience overlap of any show in that timeslot last year) has moved. And between the failure of "Trauma," the delays on "Parenthood" (which at least has Lauren Graham to replace Maura Tierney) and the network's decision not to air "Southland" at all, there are holes to fill, even with Leno taking up five hours a week. "Chuck" is a known quantity for NBC, albeit a relatively low-rated one, so it can help fill those holes. And getting it on the air in January, if that's the plan, seems a good compromise between March (Olympic promotion, but way too long off the air) and rushing it on the air to replace either "Trauma" or "Southland" with no promotion. Now they can plug it for a while, at least during football and the Thursday comedies.

My one question is how the writers are going to handle the shift from 13 to 19 episodes. "Chuck" writer Ali Adler tweeted yesterday that they had just finished filming episode 8, and writing tends to be several episodes ahead of production, so they're not far from the end. So Fedak, Schwartz and company have two options:

1)Do the first 13 as planned, then continue the story with six more episodes after that.

2)End the season as planned, only in the 19th episode, and try to wedge in a bunch of additional stories (some self-contained, some not) in episodes 13-18.

Each option has its potential downside. "Felicity" tried Option 1 when the WB unexpectedly ordered some extra episodes at the end of their final season, which led to a weird time-travel storyline. "The Sopranos" went with Option 2 when its final season was split into two parts, which led to Gay Vito's trip to New Hampshire.

But one of my concerns about the 13-episode order (after I got over the joy and relief that the show would come back at all) was that the tight schedule meant we wouldn't get a chance to have some self-contained episodes that had nothing to do with the main arc, like "Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer" or "Chuck vs. the Best Friend". The extension may give the writers an opportunity to do a few more of those, though the timing may be awkward if they all come in a clump right after, say, The Ring has kidnapped Ellie and burned down the Buy More.

But it's six more hours of "Chuck" than I thought we'd be getting this year, on top of the 13 hours of "Chuck" I wasn't so sure we'd be getting, so I ain't complaining.


OldDarth said...

In the latest ChuckTV podcast - - writer Phil Klemmer stated they were breaking episode 12. He felt that any additional episodes would be a separate mini-season.

Phil believed the current 13 episode arc would not be changed. He also called the current arc 'really tight.'

Of course that interview was done before the announcement so things may still change.

If additional episodes were ordered Phil was riffing on maybe doing a mini-season with Team Bartowski abroad - which would be way cool.

In any event more Chuck is on the way. Chucksters, time to rally the troops and getting ready for a big push to make the uninitiated aware.

offcolortv said...

I seriously couldn't be happier about this news, and I've got a lot of faith in the writers to pull it off. And I'm totally with you on the one-offs--the ones you mentioned were some of my favorites of season two. Any thoughts on the DVD release date happening in January, and if they might bump that up so it'll hit before Christmas and people can get caught up before a new season starts?

Miffed said...

44 weeks is "way too long off the air," but 36 or 37 weeks is somehow materially different? The only upside of the long wait was Olympic promotion, and now it won't even get that. 8-and-a-half months off the air plus December promotion on a fourth-place network? Officially the worst of both worlds.

Jesse said...

...[P]robably to bring "Chuck" back in January so a bunch of episodes can air before the Olympics, as opposed to keeping the show off the air until March. (The alternative, which Joe suggests, would be to stick with the March launch and then run the show into the summer

Warner just confirmed the S2 DVDs and Blu-rays are coming January 5, which seems to point to a return in mid-January:

Good to see they're including the 3D episode w/glasses.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Olympic promotion is overrated. It's a borrowed audience that doesn't tend to stick around for the shows that premiere when the Games are over.

Look: based on the ratings for season two, season three is a gift. NBC wanted to try some new shows in the fall. Those shows have struggled, and that in turn led to "Chuck" getting a longer order than it otherwise might have if it had debuted in the fall and also struggled.

Don't worry. Be happy.

Lisa said...

I'm absolutely delighted about "Chuck." I don't pretend to be a network handicapper, so I'll just say that any airtime is good airtime and a chance to build the audience for the show.

And given the uniqueness of the "Chuck" audience, I do hope there will be more grassroots promotional activities leading up to the probable January launch so more non-viewers will give the show a try. Thinking caps on, people.

Ernst2k said...

Yes. We need to take that same enery that we put into getting Chuck a season 3 and use it to try and build awareness and excitement for the show. I will be lending out my season 1 DVD's to as many people as possible. Still wish season 2 DVD's would come out before Christmas - it seems the smarter move than waiting until January. Who buys DVD's in January??

Anonymous said...

If it does come back in the same timeslot I can't wait to hear the whining and ill wishes from the House fans who seem to hate Chuck just because critics like it better than the past two seasons of House. They hate a show that is absolutely no threat to House just because you guys love it.

I'm thrilled that we're getting a gift on top of a gift. This is wonderful news.

Alyson said...

Who buys DVD's in January??

People who get money and/or gift cards for Christmas? Though I do see your point - most of the folks who would be buying the DVDs in January would be buying them for themselves, not as gifts to try to indoctrinate friends/family/unsupecting co-workers or whatever.

My biggest concern with the show coming back in January is that they have, at most, time to squeeze in six episodes before the Olympics begins on the 12th, and that's only if the show comes back on MOnday the 4th. More than likely, it will only be five. Is that good enough?

Ed Howard said...

That's great news about Chuck. I started watching that show just because it was on the same night as Heroes and it was, initially at least, just a lot of goofy fun. Now I've long since given up on Heroes and Chuck has turned out to be a fairly smart, substantial show as well as a consistently entertaining one. So more Chuck next year can only be a good thing, and the sooner it comes back the better as far as I'm concerned.

ernst2k said...

That's true about gift cards. I still think having them available during the Christmas shopping season would be better. I think most TV show DVD's come out too close to the premiere of the next season. They barely leave enough time to actually WATCH them! If the DVD comes out Jan 5, how much time will that leave to burn through 22 episodes before the new season starts?

ernst2k said...

Who sets the DVD release date? Is it NBC or is it the production company Warner Brothers?

renton said...

Totally agree on the short time lag between DVD releases and the start of new seasons of shows.

(How I Met Your Mother made me wait until the new season had already started).

Not having time to catch up on a show before it starts often means I wind up not watching the new season at all.

Not only would a December Chuck launch mean a potential Christmas gift, it's also a good time with days off of work and not many other new shows on TV to catch up on something like Chuck.

Still, knowing NBC's decision-making process, I guess this is par for the course.

belinda said...

Six more is six more to what would be the last season (or has that sentiment changed yet? Would this be the last season?), so I'll take what what I can get.

Xenaclone said...

Excellent news. The Region 2 DVD set of Season 2 is already out - in the UK - I have a set on my shelves. SHINY! So, by the same logic others have used, Chuck should return NOW!!!

Henry said...

So happy about Chuck and Better Off Ted.

And you don't give yourself enough credit for saving Chuck, Alan. You're just as responsible for the "back six" of Chuck season three as every one of us Subway munchers.

Alyson said...

Who sets the DVD release date? Is it NBC or is it the production company Warner Brothers?

If I had to guess, it's probably Warner Brothers, as the same thing happened with The Mentalist - Season 1 DVDs came out on 9/22; season 2 premiered a whopping two days later. Stupid.

Eric said...

Here's my unsolicited advice for Chuck's producers and writers - treat the 6 episode bonus like a miniseries, or a BBC series. In particular, look at Torchwood: Children of Earth as a model. While there's no way the episodes would run daily, you can still ratchet up the tension and threat, take the whole thing a little more seriously than ever before. (Or go the other direction completely and take it further over the top into Chuck Bartowski: Agent of S.H.E.I.L.D. territory.)

Don't expect to get a Season 4, so don't worry about maintaining any kind of status quo or contriving a reason to keep Chuck and Sarah apart. And don't worry about picking up new viewers or getting them caught up. It's NBC - you're not getting any new viewers in the middle of the season.

Just try not to take it too far. I don't think anyone wants to see Chuck killing his own grandson.

Unknown said...

Do you guys really think there's that much continuity in "Chuck"?

I think they most likely will be able to wedge 6 more episodes in right at the beginning of the Season if they just shuffle a couple of scenes around from episode two or three to let's say 13 and 14 which set up the "arc" in episodes four to thirteen and simply add a whole mini-arc as new episodes two to six. There's at least ten weeks until the show could air so I don't see the problem if there's one episode a week.

starscream said...

I'm guessing that Chuck and Sarah get together in episode 13, 12 at the earliest.

Either way, YES!!!

Anonymous said...

Funny coincidence - Zach Levi is in the season 4 finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm playing a bus boy named... Charles.

Farm Girl Pink... said...

"Chuck" could gain the viewers it needs if NBC got aggressive about re-airing it before the new season starts.

My wish would be that "Chuck" would get a complete airing on either SyFy, Bravo or even USA. Show both seasons right up to the start of the 3 season. And promote the hell out of it.

Just look at NCIS. That show got an incredible dump in viewers because of the repeats on USA.

If you give a quality show a good time slot on cable, it has done wonders for bringing in viewers to the new episodes airing on the network.

I never even watched NCIS till I got hooked watching the repeats on USA.

ernst2k said...

The first time I ever saw "Chuck" it was a couple months into the first season and they were airing some eposides on USA on a Saturday afternoon. I got hooked and I've been a huge fan ever since. No reason they couldn't build upon that idea prior to the new season. I think showing them somewhere on cable would be a great idea!

Billiam said...

I've always figured that the reason shows often don't come out on DVD until right before the next season premieres is that reruns aren't worth as much if the DVDs exist. But since networks hardly ever air reruns of their shows in the summer anymore, this no longer works as a reason.

I love how fast the DVDs of 24 came out.

MM said...

With Chuck back in January, it won't be off the air any longer than Lost. Of course, comparing Chuck to the juggernaut of Lost is a bit silly on my part. But, I'm hoping others then the die hard Subway eating fans do remember it and tune in.

LA said...

Alan - Have you seen a screener of the new Scrubs yet?

Pamela Jaye said...

So, is there any chance Warner Brothers could be convinced to push the release up?
It's in their own best interests.

also as noted last night Yay!
Scrubs is only doubling up once? Yay!

TNT is plugging Men of a Certain Age during sports and at the halfway point of FIVE different marathons before December 7. I love TNT! (and ABC too)

Anonymous said...

I totally agree about airing Chuck reruns on USA.

I seem to remember seeing some reruns of the 1st season on SciFi once. USA reruns Burn Notice (and now White Collar, even though its only had 1 episode so far) to death. Every time I turn on the channel I see one of those shows.

NBC still owns the rights to some of season 2 so theres no reason why they cant throw them on USA.

I think it would give the show a major boost.

Gail said...

I started watching this show on dvd after I finished with "Firefly." I love it, and am bummed that season two isn't available yet.