Monday, May 22, 2006

Fall Lineup Frenzy 2006 Part I: NBC

Theyre back! The Fall Lineup Frenzy posts return with the announcement of the primetime television lineups for 2006-2007. Just like last year, each post will consist of me giving my thoughts on each networks lineup day-by-day. Each post will also include my very early impressions of the networks new shows. I will cover the lineups of NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX, and new network The CW. I encourage you to share your thoughts about these posts by commenting.

First up is NBC. This is a network that has struggled over the past couple of years as some of its popular, high-rated shows have ended. Last season saw the end of the groundbreaking comedy Will And Grace and the critically-acclaimed political drama The West Wing. However, last season also saw a successful new comedy in My Name Is Earl and NBC's first successful game show since The Weakest Link in Deal Or No Deal. With NFL football coming this fall, NBC may be poised for a "comeback".

(All times shown are Eastern. New shows are in bold.)


8-9 p.m.: Deal or No Deal
9-10 p.m.: Heroes
10-11 p.m.: Medium

From NBC's Press Release:

"HEROES" -- The epic drama "Heroes" chronicles the lives of ordinary people who discover they possess extraordinary abilities. As a total eclipse casts it shadow across the globe, viewers follow a genetics professor (Sendhil Ramamurthy, "Blind Guy Driving") in India whose father's disappearance leads him to uncover a secret theory -- there are people with super powers living among us. A young dreamer (Milo Ventimiglia, "The Bedford Diaries") tries to convince his politician brother (Adrian Pasdar, "Judging Amy") that he can fly. A high school cheerleader (Hayden Panettiere, "Ice Princess") learns that she is totally indestructible. A Las Vegas stripper (Ali Larter, "Final Destination"), struggling to make ends meet to support her young son (Noah Gray-Cabey, "My Wife & Kids"), uncovers that her mirror image has a secret. A prison inmate (Leonard Roberts, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") mysteriously finds himself waking up outside of his cell. A gifted artist (Santiago Cabrera, "Empire"), whose drug addiction is destroying his life and the relationship with his girlfriend (Tawny Cypress, "Third Watch"), can paint the future. A down-on-his-luck beat cop (Greg Grunberg, "Alias") can hear people's thoughts, including the secrets of a captured terrorist. In Japan, a young man (Masi Oka, "Scrubs") develops a way to stop time through sheer will power. Their ultimate destiny is nothing less than saving the world. "Heroes" is executive produced by creator/writer Tim Kring ("Crossing Jordan), Dennis Hammer ("Crossing Jordan") and David Semel ("House"), who also directed the pilot. The drama is from NBC Universal Television Studio.

My Thoughts: This night seems to be pretty solid. NBC has learned from the mistakes ABC made with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and is only scheduling Deal Or No Deal twice a week. Medium seems to do pretty well in its timeslot so it makes sense to keep it there. However, I'm very intrigued by the new show on this night, Heroes. It reminds me a lot of the comic book Rising Stars by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski. It looks great on paper and it could draw a younger audience to NBC. However, execution is going to be key especially since it's more of an ensemble show than something like Smallville.


8-9 p.m.: Friday Night Lights
9-10 p.m.: Kidnapped
10-11 p.m.: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

From NBC's Press Release:

"FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS" - Expanding on the themes from the hit feature film "Friday Night Lights," this series centers on the small rural town of Dillon, Texas, where the vaunted 2006 state football championship rings are held in the highest regard. The town's promising high school team, its star quarterback, and newly appointed head coach Eric Taylor (Kyle Chandler, "Grey's Anatomy," "King Kong") feel the mounting pressure of the town's pride and honor riding on their shoulders as a new season kicks off. The fresh cast also includes: Scott Porter ("All My Children") as team captain and first-string quarterback Jason Street; Gaius Charles ("The Book of Daniel") as feared running back Brian "Smash" Williams; Taylor Kitsch ("Kyle XY") as running back Tim Riggins; Connie Britton ("The Brothers McMullen," "24") as Taylor's long-suffering wife, Tami; Zach Gilford ("The Last Winter") as third-string quarterback Matt Saracen, and Minka Kelly ("What I Like About You") as Lyla Garrity, Panther cheerleader and Street's girlfriend. Also starring are Aimee Teegarden ("Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide") as Julie Taylor and Adrienne Palicki ("South Beach") as Tyra Collette. The pilot is executive-produced by Brian Grazer ("Fun with Dick and Jane," "Cinderella Man," "A Beautiful Mind"), David Nevins ("Arrested Development"), Peter Berg (the film "Friday Night Lights," "The Run Down") -- who also wrote and the directed the pilot -- and Jason Katims ("Roswell"). "Friday Night Lights" is produced in association with Imagine Entertainment, NBC Universal Television Studio, and Film 44.

"KIDNAPPED" -- "Kidnapped" is a high-stakes, serialized thriller in which the teenaged son of a wealthy Upper East Side family is kidnapped and everyone is a suspect. The series focuses on the elaborate, triangulated game between the kidnappers, law enforcement, FBI, and the private negotiating team of the "perhaps" less-than-picture-perfect family. The ensemble cast includes Jeremy Sisto ("Six Feet Under"), Delroy Lindo ("The Core"), Emmy winner Dana Delany ("China Beach"), Timothy Hutton ("Kinsey"), Mykelti Williamson ("Boomtown"), Linus Roache ("Batman Begins"), Carmen Ejogo ("Lackawanna Blues"), Will Denton ("Palindromes") and Boris McGiver ("The Pink Panther"). "Kidnapped" is produced by Sony Pictures Television and 25C Productions. David Greenwalt ("Angel"), Jason Smilovic ("Karen Sisco"), Michael Dinner ("Invasion"), Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly are executive producers; Dinner is the director and Smilovic is the writer.

My Thoughts: Apart from the steady Law & Order: SVU, Tuesday seems a little iffy. While there are some quality people behind Friday Night Lights (and I enjoyed the original film), I am a bit wary if only because of the bad track record of turning movies into TV dramas (Dangerous Minds, Karen Sisco). However, there are pretty few scripted sports dramas out there and some cross promotion during NBC's NFL telecasts may draw in viewers. Not to take anything away from Kidnapped, but it looks like an example of this season's bandwagon syndrome. Apparently, the show to emulate this year is Prison Break. The success of FOX's high-concept, serialized drama (which itself was likely greenlighted as a result of ABC's Lost) has resulted in more of these types of shows being made. Hopefully, Kidnapped will be good enough to stand out.


8-9 p.m.: The Biggest Loser
9-9:30 p.m.: 20 Good Years
9:30-10 p.m.: 30 Rock
10-11 p.m.: Law & Order

From NBC's Press Release:

"20 GOOD YEARS" -- This high-energy comedy follows two New Yorkers who have finally realized that life doesn't last forever. Mismatched buddies John Mason (Emmy Award winner John Lithgow, "3rd Rock from the Sun"), an impulsive, thrice-divorced surgeon who has been forced into retirement -- and Jeffrey Pyne (Jeffrey Tambor, "Arrested Development"), a widower judge who agonizes over every situation -- are polar opposites in every way. The one thing the duo can agree on is that they only have about 20 good years left and both men vow to live each day as if it were their last -- with no regrets. "20 Good Years" also stars Heather Burns ("Bewitched") as John's pregnant daughter Stella, and Jake Sandvig ("The Story of Us") as Hugh, Jeffrey's un-motivated son. The executive producers are Tom Werner ("Roseanne"), Eric Gold (the upcoming "Outsourced") Jimmy Miller ("Kicking & Screaming") and Marsh McCall ("Modern Men"). Marsh McCall and Michael Leeson ("The Cosby Show") are the writers; Terry Hughes ("Friends") directed the pilot. "20 Good Years" is produced by Warner Bros.Television.

"30 ROCK" -- Emmy Award winner Tina Fey (NBC's "Saturday Night Live," "Mean Girls") writes, executive-produces and stars in this workplace comedy that takes viewers behind the scenes of a frenetic television variety show. Single Liz Lemon (Fey) is living every comedy writer's dream. She's head writer on a demanding, live TV program in New York City whose life is jolted when a brash new network president (Alec Baldwin, "The Aviator," "The Cooler") interferes with her show and bullies Liz into convincing Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan, "Saturday Night Live," "The Longest Yard"), a wild and unpredictable movie star, to join the cast. Now Liz must manage the unmanageable so that the show -- and her dream -- can go on. Also starring are Rachel Dratch ("Saturday Night Live") as Jenne DeCarlo, Scott Adsit ("Kicking and Screaming") as Pete Hornberger and Jack MacBrayer ("Arrested Development") as Kenneth. "30 Rock" is executive-produced by Lorne Michaels, Fey, JoAnn Alfano, Marci Klein and David Miner, and is produced by Broadway Video Television and NBC Universal Television Studio.

My Thoughts: Talk about counter-programming. NBC decides to put both of its new fall comedies up against ABC's Lost. It seems like a pretty big gamble, even if both shows are airing before Law & Order. I'm actually kind of surprised that NBC didn't put these two shows on Thursdays to complement My Name Is Earl and The Office. Nonetheless, these new shows have some promise. The combination of Jeffrey Tambor and John Lithgow sounds like comedy gold. Both of these men are capable of being very funny. I sincerely hope that 20 Good Years will at least be half as good as it could be. Tina Fey proved that she could do non-SNL stuff by writing Mean Girls. However, 30 Rock will be a real test of her talent. It's good that she's surrounded by people like Alec Baldwin and SNL alums Tracy Morgan and Rachel Dratch but at the same time, this show seems a lot like the comedic twin of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. On a side note, am I the only one who thinks it's a little strange that both comedies have a number in their name?


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

From NBC's Press Release:

"STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP" -- Emmy Award-winning executive producer-writer Aaron Sorkin ("The West Wing") and Emmy Award-winning executive producer-director Thomas Schlamme ("The West Wing") return to television with this crackling take on the drama behind the humor of producing a popular, late-night comedy sketch show, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." Sorkin lays bare the backstage politics, romances and delicate balance between creative talent, on-air personalities and network executives in an instant text-messaging world. Prominent are Jordan McDeere (Amanda Peet, "Syriana"), a savvy new network entertainment chief who inherits a massive public relations disaster on the series -- even before she starts her first day -- and Matt Albie (Matthew Perry, "Friends") and Danny Tripp (Bradley Whitford, "The West Wing"), a brilliant creative team that she wants to resurrect the program. Also playing crucial roles are the sketch comedy series stars Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson, "Down with Love"), Simon Stiles (D.L. Hughley, "The Hughleys") and Tom Jeter (Nathan Corddry, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"), their normally cool-headed director, Cal Shanley (Timothy Busfield, "thirtysomething") as well as supreme network honcho Jack Rudolph (Steven Weber, "Wings"). Evan Handler ("Sex and the City") and Carlos Jacott ("Being John Malkovich") also star. The series is a production of Warner Bros. Television.

My Thoughts: It was a no-brainer that My Name Is Earl and The Office would stay on Thursdays but the biggest change on this night is that NBC is abandoning the idea of two hours of comedy. Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip, the highly anticipated return of The West Wing's Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme, looks to be more drama than comedy. Everything about this show screams "critically acclaimed hit." However, this show is also airing in the most competitive timeslot in all of network TV. CSI, Grey's Anatomy, The OC, and Supernatural are all airing at the same time. Will Aaron Sorkin and a great cast be enough to draw people to a show that shares a very similar premise with a new comedy that airs on the same network the night before?


8-9 p.m.: Deal or No Deal
9-10 p.m.: Las Vegas
10-11 p.m.: Law & Order: Criminal Intent

My Thoughts: Fridays aren't looking so bad for NBC. I was worried about Las Vegas when it moved to Fridays last season (especially since I just about stopped watching it) but apparently, it must be doing pretty well to keep its timeslot. However, I wonder how long Law & Order: Criminal Intent will last in its new timeslot. The Dick Wolf-produced Conviction didn't do well enough to get renewed. Maybe an actual Law & Order show might be able to do better there.


8-9 p.m.: Dateline Saturday
9-11 p.m.: Drama Series Encores

My Thoughts: If there is a lost cause on network television, it is Saturday night. They don't even try anymore. However, I will say that it might be wise for NBC to put encores of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip and either Heroes or Kidnapped in the encore slots.


7-8 p.m.: Football Night In America
8-11 p.m.: Sunday Night Football

From NBC's Press Release:

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL -- The National Football League returns to NBC in this spectacular primetime showcase as Al Michaels will call "NBC Sunday Night Football" games with John Madden, the most honored analyst in television history with 15 Emmy Awards. Coverage also includes sideline and feature reporter Andrea Kremer. NBC's 2006 NFL schedule kicks off on Thursday, September 7, with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Miami Dolphins. NBC's inaugural Sunday "Football Night in America" game on September 10 features the first meeting of sibling quarterbacks as Eli Manning's New York Giants host Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. This season, the league will also implement for the first time in history primetime "flexible scheduling" for NBC's primetime Sunday games in Weeks 10-15 and in Week 17.

"FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA" -- Bob Costas, an 18-time Emmy Award winner, hosts NBC's studio show alongside co-host Cris Collinsworth, a six-time Emmy winner. They are joined by analyst Jerome Bettis, one of the most popular players in recent NFL history, and Sterling Sharpe, considered one of the most opinionated analysts with the NFL Network and ESPN. Peter King, who covers the NFL for Sports Illustrated and is considered one of the country's foremost NFL reporters, serves as a reporter for the studio show.

My Thoughts: This is going to make things interesting on Sunday. ABC pretty much had Sunday on lock. With football, NBC could give ABC some real competition. However, the biggest loser in this will most certainly be FOX. Football Night In America airs at the perfect time since many of FOX's and CBS's afternoon games will either be ending or already over with. Many of the same viewers who might have stuck around to catch The Simpsons or Family Guy will tune into NBC for more football.

Overall: Apart from the fact that Scrubs isn't coming back until midseason again, things are actually looking pretty good at NBC. I'm surprised at how many of NBC's new shows interested me. Combine that with the return of NFL football and you have quite a lot of promise. I'm not sure if it will be enough to topple the juggernaut that is CBS (or American Idol-heavy FOX), but they will certainly make a run for it.

Coming Up Next: ABC

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