Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This week is when the TV networks announce their Fall TV line-ups and we learn whether some shows are cancelled or not. First up is NBC. ABC is on Tuesday, CBS on Wednesday, with CW and Fox on Thursday.

The NBC Line-up

NBC is pushing "Quality over Quantity", taking chances on critically acclaimed but low viewership shows. This would be a very different schedule if NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly hadn't had his contract renewed, as he seems more willing to take the gamble on investing in shows that aren't breakout hits, a strategy that worked for "The Office". You can see some changes already in the conventional TV landscape (22 episodes, Sept - May season) with increased episode counts for several shows, and an effort to run Heroes uninterrupted.

NBC highlights:

More Heroes to come

Heroes got an early renewal order this year, but this week had some interesting details. We’ll get a full season with 24 episodes, plus a sort of spin-off “Heroes: Origins”. “Origins” will be 6 episodes, introducing new characters not seen yet, and at the end of the run the viewers will vote on which character they’d like to see join “Heroes”. This is an interesting move, allowing the producers to test out characters without adding onto the somewhat already crowded storylines of “Heroes”. “Origins” will air continuously for 6 weeks, either during the mid-season break or after the second season of “Heroes” ends. The plan is that we get 30 episodes of Heroes-related material uninterrupted.

Law & Order returns: Chung-Chung.

In a surprise move, all 3 “Law & Order” shows will continue. “Law & Order Special Victims Unit” was coming back for sure, but the other two were on the bubble with poor ratings this season. NBC is bringing back the original "Law & Order" for an 18th season, with "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" shipped off to the USA Network for its first-run episodes with encore airings on NBC. In order to bring back "L&O" for an 18th season, and save "Criminal Intent" from cancellation, Producer Dick Wolf was forced to cut production costs.

No word on the likely cast changes, but expectations are that Criminal Intent would like only focus on either Detective Goren (Vincent D'Onofrio) or Detective Logan (Chris Noth) rather than the current alternating teams. Fred Thompson, who plays District Attorney Branch, will likely leave "Law & Order", as speculation is that he will seek the Republican Presidential nomination.

Law & Order: Classic won’t return until mid-season (January 2008). This means that Law and Order: Classic will be two seasons away from tying and three seasons away from breaking the Gunsmoke record for longest-running prime-time program

Additional notes:

  • The Thursday night comedies remain, with NBC ordering 30 half-hours of the hit series “The Office,” including five hour-long episodes, and also have increased the season order for "My Name Is Earl" to 25 episodes.
  • "E.R." will return, but producers will look at the numbers in October to determine whether it’s the last year or not. There was an initial ratings surge this season, but then a drop off in the past few months.
  • "Scrubs" returns with a final season, shortened to 18 episodes. This shortened season was likely the only way the show was coming back on NBC, as Zach Braff’s new contract is prohibitively expensive (some put it at about $300,000 per episode, making him the highest paid actor currently on air). I'm glad to see one of my favourite shows getting to close up shop properly, rather than getting the rug yanked out from under them.
  • "Friday Night Lights" was renewed with a full 22 episode order. The bad news is it is moving to Fridays at 10, when most football fans are at the very games the show depicts.
  • "Studio 60" is dead dead dead. Ditto for "Crossing Jordan".
  • Jerry Seinfeld, returns to the network to create and star in 20 unique live-action comedy “minisodes” inspired by his experiences creating the upcoming DreamWorks animated feature film "Bee Movie".
  • Five new dramas. I won't make any predictions, as I never would have guessed "Studio 60" would bomb and "Heroes" would take off:
    • "Lipstick Jungle", about three high-powered professional women "making it big in the Big Apple". Based on the novel by Candace Bushnell.
    • "Bionic Woman" a remake of the 70s series from some of the creative types behind "Battlestar Galactica".
    • "Journeyman" sort of Quantum Leap meets The Time Traveller's Wife.
    • "Chuck", a "comedic spy thriller" about a computer geek thrust into the spy world, from Josh Schwartz ("The O.C.) It's sort of like if they spun-off Marshall from "Alias" into his own show. Bonus: Adam Baldwin (Jane from Serenity/Firefly) as Chuck's protector. I'll give this one a shot.
    • "Life" where a detective returns to the police force after serving a prison sentence for a crime he didn't commit.
  • Only one new comedy: "The I.T. Crowd" about two I.T. workers in a large corporation. You won't see any new comedies launched in September at this point, as this is only a 6 episode mid-season replacement. Quite a change from the "Give Any Stand-Up Comic A Show" era of the 1990's.

    What’s Alan Watching notes on the NBC upfronts.

With notes from What’s Alan Watching, TV_Tattle.com and ALOTT5MA

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