NBC Aims to Spin Out Success with New TV Lineup
NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – With mega-hit “Friends” in retirement, NBC on Monday unveiled a new lineup building on some of its biggest names, including a fourth “Law & Order” series, “Friends” spin-off “Joey,” and the return of TV’s latest star, Donald Trump.
NBC said it will launch a total of six fresh dramas and five new comedies, including the animated series “Father of the Pride” — about lions in Siegfried & Roy’s Las Vegas act — for the 2004-05 season, as it seeks to maintain ratings dominance over its target audience of viewers aged 18 to 49.
Altering its programing schedule for every night but Saturday and Sunday, NBC’s new prime-time slate, which will roll out in late August following the Summer Olympics, amounts to one of its biggest shake-ups in years.
But just five new shows — three dramas and two sitcoms, including “Joey” — will get a traditional September launch and six new scripted shows will debut later in the season under the network’s new year-round programing strategy.
As part of that strategy, NBC, newly merged with Vivendi Universal Entertainment, is deciding in advance how its mid-season offerings will fit into the schedule so that it can get a jump on selling advertising time for those shows.
“We are now committed to 52 weeks a year of original programing … and we are going to introduce what normally would have been some of the strongest components of a fall schedule all year long,” said Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Universal Television Group.
NBC, owned by General Electric Co., is the first of the major networks to unveil its new lineup as broadcasters kick off their “upfront” sales of commercial time to advertisers. The upfront market typically accounts for 70 percent to 80 percent of all ad sales by the networks, reaping roughly $9 billion for prime-time shows last year.
HEAVY DOSE OF REALITY
Reality shows figure prominently on NBC’s schedule as well, with the launch of boxing spectacle “The Contender,” the return of gross-out stunt show “Fear Factor” and new editions of hit tycoon contest “The Apprentice,” starring real estate magnate Donald Trump. The network also will air a fourth edition of last summer’s unscripted summer sensation “For Love or Money” and a new installment of “Average Joe.”
The heavy dose of reality marks a turnaround of sorts at NBC, which had long seen comedy as its bread and butter and was viewed as a relative latecomer to the burgeoning genre of unscripted shows compared to rival networks CBS and Fox.
“Today, comedy is in a challenged state,” Kevin Reilly, the new NBC entertainment president, said in a conference call with reporters, adding that launching a flurry of new sitcoms each fall has largely failed in recent years.
“Ironically, the best way to get comedy on the schedule right now is to keep it off in the short term,” he said.
“Joey,” starring Matt LeBlanc reprising his “Friends” role as the big-hearted aspiring actor, will get the plum time slot formerly occupied by its sitcom predecessor, leading off NBC’s potent Thursday night lineup of “Must-See TV.” “Friends” ended its 10-year run this month as television’s top-rated comedy.
‘JOEY’ PILOT PLAYS WELL
An advance screening of the entire “Joey” pilot, rare for upfront presentations, seemed to play well among advertisers and media buyers in attendance, drawing plenty of laughs.
The second new comedy set for an August launch is “Father of the Pride,” NBC’s first animated show on prime time since the short-lived 2000 series “God, the Devil and Bob.”
“Pride” will fill the Tuesday night slot held by “Frasier,” which ended its 11-year run last week. NBC also has locked in its Tuesday night comedy “Scrubs” for more two more seasons.
Two freshman Tuesday comedies failed to be renewed — the Whoopi Goldberg comedy “Whoopi” and “Happy Family.”
NBC’s mid-season offerings include the fourth installment in the long-running cop and courtroom franchise, “Law & Order: Trial by Jury,” from producer Dick Wolf, who just renewed his NBC contract for the first three “Law & Order” series.
In one big change for the franchise, Jerry Orbach, who has played detective Lennie Briscoe for 12 years on the original series, is moving to the cast of “Trial by Jury.”
On the drama front this fall, NBC plans to launch the airport ensemble series “LAX,” starring Heather Locklear, the cop show “Hawaii” and “Medical Investigation.” The new limited-run thriller “Revelations” will join “Law & Order: Trial by Jury” on the midseason schedule, along with “Medium,” starring Patricia Arquette as a woman who sees dead people.
Two years!!! “Scrubs” has been renewed for two more years! Woo hoooooo!!
NBC Aims to Spin Out Success with New TV Lineup