NBC Ready for Some Regis
Regis Philbin got another first-string job. Joey got sacked. Crossing Jordan got benched.
Football analogies were in order Monday as NBC announced a fall schedule that will rely on prime-time pigskin and six new series to turn around the fourth-place network.
The ubiquitous Philbin, Matthew Perry and Alec Baldwin will be among the familiar faces in freshman shows. Matt LeBlanc, Benjamin Bratt and the Fear Factor bugs are among the stars losing their network parking spaces.
Overall, NBC announced plans for four new dramas, two new comedies, four midseason replacements and one new Philbin-hosted, Simon Cowell-produced talent show.
Canceled were: Joey, the LeBlanc-led Friends spinoff put out of its misery after two seasons; Fear Factor, the bug-eating reality show exterminated after six seasons; save for My Name Is Earl, every single new NBC show from last fall, including the Bratt-staffed E-Ring and the cult fave Surface; and, except for Deal or No Deal, every single new NBC show from midseason, including Teachers and Conviction.
In addition to the previously announced Sunday Night Football, or as it was known for 35 years on ABC, Monday Night Football, NBC will go long with Friday Night Lights, an hourlong drama inspired by the 2004 football film of the same name (itself based on the 1990 football book of the same name).
Less the network alienate non-football fans, NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly noted in a telephone press conference that Friday Night Lights has been described as “The O.C. that’s got authenticity.”
NBC, however, will risk alienating Crossing Jordan fans by renewing the crime drama for a sixth season, but leaving it off the fall schedule.
The show, which had higher ratings than The Office, The Biggest Loser and Las Vegas (three NBC series rewarded with fall slots), got squeezed out of its 10 p.m. Sunday home by Sunday Night Football and a new Jeff Goldblum series. Sunday Night Football will dominate NBC’s Sunday nights through December; Raines, a House-ian police detective drama starring Goldblum, will assume the 10 p.m. slot in the winter.
In lieu of a fall slot, Crossing Jordan, “a great utility player,” per Reilly, will be plugged in somewhere, sometime during the new season.
Scrubs, a bubble show renewed for a sixth season, will be deployed on a similar as-needed basis.
Elsewhere, NBC resolved a few cliffhangers: No, ER won’t be moved off Thursday (although, yes, it will have to learn to share); no, The Apprentice won’t be fired; and, yes, Andy Richter won’t rest until he stars in a hit series of his own.
NBC handled the ER matter–the aging, but still semi-popular series dedicated to the advancement of new regular John Stamos–by announcing that the medical drama would air in its traditional 10 p.m., Thursday slot through December, straight, no repeats, and then step aside for The Black Donnellys, an Irish Mob drama from Crash director Paul Haggis. Once the Haggis show concludes its run, ER will get back its turf. Or, at least that’s the plan for now.
The Apprentice, meanwhile, currently struggling through its least watched season ever, will be allowed to see if a change of scenery (Los Angeles instead of New York) can improve Donald Trump’s TV fortunes. The series will be back for a sixth cycle in January.
As for Richter, the former Conan O’Brien sidekick, late of the short-lived sitcoms Andy Richter Controls the Universe and Quintuplets, will see if the third time is the charm with Andy Barker, P.I., a midseason replacement comedy about an accountant who turns gumshoe.
A brief look at the other new series:
Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (fall): The previously announced star of the schedule that isn’t football. In this hourlong drama, Friends alum Perry and West Wing alum Bradley Whitford play producers of Saturday Night Live, sorry, “a popular, late-night comedy show comedy sketch show.”
Heroes (fall): “A high school cheerleader learns that she is totally indestructible.” No one-trick pony, this hourlong drama about ordinary people discovering their inner Superman and Wonder Woman, also promises a stripper (Final Destination’s Ali Larter) who “uncovers that her mirror has a secret.”
Kidnapped (fall): Prison Break meets Dynasty in this hourlong thriller about the abduction of a teenage boy that focuses on his well-to-do Manhattan family, his kidnappers and his would-be saviors in law enforcement. Best-case scenario for NBC: The show’s a hit, and the kid doesn’t go home for a very long time. Timothy Hutton and Dana Delany head the ensemble cast.
20 Good Years (fall): In this “high-energy romp” of a sitcom, John Lithgow, 60, and Jeffrey Tambor, 61, play friends who optimistically estimate they have two solid decades left to change their lives.
30 Rock (fall): SNL head writer Tina Fey plays the head writer of SNL, sorry, “a frenetic television variety show.” Frequent SNL guest host Alec Baldwin costars, as do SNL regulars current, Rachel Dratch, and past, Tracy Morgan. NBC said it was not known yet if Fey and Dratch will continue to work on the show that actually is called SNL.
America’s Got Talent (January): Regis Philbin looks for new talent that presumably producer Simon Cowell isn’t looking for on American Idol.
The Singles Table (midseason): Because no NBC schedule would be complete without at least one attempt to redo Friends, this half-hour comedy sees five “witty and single strangers” bond while consigned to the “singles table” at a wedding. John Cho (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) stars.
And here’s a night-by-night look at NBC’s fall lineup:
SUNDAY: Football Night in America; Sunday Night Football (January 2007 lineup: America’s Got Talent; The Apprentice; Raines)
MONDAY: Deal or No Deal; Heroes; Medium
TUESDAY: Friday Night Lights; Kidnapped; Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
WEDNESDAY: The Biggest Loser; 20 Good Years; 30 Rock; Law & Order
THURSDAY: My Name Is Earl; The Office; Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; ER (fall)/The Black Donnellys (January)
FRIDAY: Deal or No Deal; Las Vegas; Law & Order: Criminal Intent
SATURDAY: Dateline Saturday; reruns
NBC Ready for Some Regis