Upfront Roundup: CBS

Before beginning, let’s review what I said in my previous post:

  • The No. 1 network can’t be resting on their laurels, but they have so many laurels it’s a problem. There are so many quality/popular series there’s virtually nothing to cancel. “Jericho” and “Ghost Whisperer” are probably the two weakest dramas; “How I Met Your Mother” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine” are probably the weakest shows overall but they have to put up with “DonD” and “DwtS”.
  • “Old Christine” did well when it was at 9:30 and not 8:30. “Mother” and “The Class”, however, struggled with ratings in the 5’s and low 6’s, without “DwtS” to worry about and with NBC seeing only a minor drop-off from “DonD” to “Heroes”. What is causing a significant number of viewers of CBS’ comedy lineup to forgo the first hour?
  • The History of the Tuesday at 10 Time Slot This Season: They try “Smith” for three weeks. It gets cancelled. They try “3 Lbs.” for three weeks. It gets cancelled. Now they’re just throwing up whatever will stick. Time to put up a show you have confidence in.
  • Strong nights: Just about every night. Weak nights: Um… does Saturday count even though they win it when football isn’t on? … Friday was weak for a while… a little help here?
  • Quick tip: One word: Midseason. Tell it to all but your very best new shows.

Now, how did CBS carry that out? (All recaps come from CBS’ Flash-animated schedule page.)

Sun

7pm

7:30 pm

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CBS
60 Minutes
Viva Laughlin
Cold Case
Shark


“The Amazing Race” goes absent to allow “60 Minutes” to back up a new show getting strong buzz:

“Hugh Jackman comes to prime time as executive producer (with a recurring guest role) in VIVA LAUGHLIN. This riveting series is based on the British smash “Viva Blackpool.” Part drama, part thriller, part musical, VIVA LAUGHLIN chronicles the story of Ripley Holden, a man who wrestles personally and professionally to open a casino in the desert city of Laughlin, Nevada. Against all odds, Ripley strives to support his family while pursuing his ultimate goal: the American dream.”

It doesn’t tell me a lot about how it’s executed, but it’s probably not going to be much different than “Las Vegas”, though I don’t mean to say anything about the quality there by any means. Certainly you could do a lot worse than “60 Minutes” for a lead-in, especially with “Cold Case” as a lead-out. Sundays, however, are pretty competitive, and “Viva Laughlin” will have to compete for eyeballs with “Extreme Makeover Home Edition”, football, and “The Simpsons”. But it’s not on an hour later, at least, when “Desperate Housewives” is on. The chances for success are decent.

Mon

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CBS
Met/Mother
Big Bng Thry
2 1/2 Men
Rules/Engmt.

CSI Miami


CBS’ comedy lineup keeps chugging along, and “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (held for midseason, like “Race”) is the casualty of the new show CBS seeks to groom – in a time slot that has been a problem for the Eye this year:

“Meet two brainiacs with a lot to learn. Leonard and Sheldon know their quarks from their quantum physics, but have no clue how women add up. Leave it to their pretty new neighbor, just off a messy breakup, to teach them a thing or two in THE BIG BANG THEORY.”

Doesn’t tell me a whole lot about the show itself, and it’s going up against “DwtS” and leading out of a show that has struggled this year. It’s a rather quirky premise and has the danger of losing audiences with obscure jokes, but it has some potential. I’ve got a feeling that in the likely scenario this show gets cancelled, it’ll be a big loss. (But then, I’m kind of a nerd myself.)

Tue

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CBS
NCIS
The Unit
Cane


The newest show attempting to challenge “SVU” and “Boston Legal” certainly sounds intriguing:

“Emmy winner Jimmy Smits returns to series television as the newly proclaimed heir to the Duque family sugar cane and rum empire. It’s a steamy and seductive drama about bitter rivals and their dangerous battles for love, lust and wealth. Mix with a twist and you have a potent blend for the season’s most sizzling saga.”

Sounds like “Dallas” or “Dynasty”. For that matter, it’s a hop, skip, and jump away from “Dirty Sexy Money” on ABC the next night. If you predicted that the success of “Ugly Betty” would accelerate the already-starting-with-My-Network trend towards “telenovela-style” shows in prime time, take a gold star. Now, the next question: Is CBS condemning the show by putting it in such a troublesome time slot, or trying to save it? Or both?

Wed

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CBS
Kid Nation
Criminal Minds
CSI: NY


CBS seems to be leaving “Kid Nation” out to dry by having it lead off a night:

“Forty children, 40 days, no adults. They’re eager to prove they can build a better world for tomorrow in the new reality series KID NATION. Settling in Bonanza City, New Mexico, once a thriving mining town but now deserted, these kids, ages 8 to 15 and from all walks of life, will build their own new world, pioneer-style. They will confront grown-up issues while coping with the classic childhood emotions of homesickness, peer pressure and the urge to break every rule. Episodes end with a town meeting in which the kids award one child a gold star worth $20,000, all leading to the grand finale, with an unimaginable test, the biggest awards and a special surprise for every child.”

“It’s ‘Survivor’… FOR KIDS!” Actually, this could be a very thought-provoking premise, but thought-provoking isn’t what’s popular, sensational exploitation is. “DonD” and whatever Fox puts on will probably be its biggest competition but it’s something of a gamble for the Eye. Certainly it’s the show I’m probably most tempted to watch, but in terms of its overall popularity…

Thu

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CBS
Survivor
CSI
W/o a Trace


“Without a Trace” returns to its rightful time slot at 10 pm on Thursdays.

Fri

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CBS
Ghost Whisperer
Moonlight
NUMB3RS


Here’s the rundown on “Moonlight”:

“Mick St. John is a private investigator who has truly seen it all after being bitten by his vampire bride on their wedding night 60 years ago. He now lives between two realities, fighting his adversaries among the undead while being in love with a mortal woman. St. John must cautiously balance these two lives before thet clash, proving that life’s gravest dangers are found in the moonlight.”

Groan. Even if it’s good it has the stench of “cult following, unceremoniously cancelled”. It doesn’t help that it’s consigned to Friday either.

Sat

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

CBS
Crimetime Saturday
Crimetime Saturday
48 Hrs Myst.


CBS maintains its “Crimetime Saturday” lineup. Their page has no separate midseason section so I have to rely on other articles for that info. So, how did CBS do on the points I laid out?

  • The first hour conundrum. Grade: C. CBS shows it has faith in both shows (even though “Christine” is getting an abbreviated order) but putting “Big Bang Theory” in that problematic hour seems to be killing it. But I don’t know what else CBS could do.
  • Tuesday at 10. Grade: B. “Cane”‘s success in a troublesome time slot all depends on the promotion and the quality.
  • Overall grade: B-. “Jericho”, “Close to Home”, and “The Class” are all canned, but they’re really the only canned shows; “Close to Home” is a bit of a surprise. All things considered, I rather like this lineup, but only one show is truly being supported for greatness, and two other shows could be seen as either trying to save moribund time slots or falling victim to them. That nearly caused me to drop CBS all the way to a C+.
  • Nights that improved: Thursday (“Trace” > “Shark”), Tuesday (hopefully). Nights that went down but probably won’t derail: Sunday (not just “Shark” but “Viva Laughlin”, which could save it after all). Nights that look like a train wreck: Friday, if anything, with one of CBS’ weakest shows staying on the schedule and paired with a show that seems destined to be shortlived no matter how good it is. (And trust me, while it’s certainly capable of earning a cult following, it certainly is no “Buffy”.)

Upfront Roundup: ABC

Before beginning, let’s review what I said in my previous post:

  • “Wife Swap” and “What About Brian” didn’t seem to work on Mondays, but it was the first time ABC actually had to program the night in fall in a quarter century. Now “Dancing with the Stars” seems to be working on the night; will it stay there in fall? Where would that leave Tuesdays?
  • ABC has announced that it will hold three more abbreviated seasons of “Lost” and end the show in 2010. That leaves Wednesdays an absolute mess until “Lost” returns.
  • Does ABC have any plan for Fridays?
  • Would ABC move “Ugly Betty” again to shore up another night, or does it not want to break up the “Betty”-“Grey’s” combo that blew away expectations this season?
  • Strong nights: Monday (with “DwtS”), Tuesday (with “DwtS”), Thursday, Saturday (during football season), Sunday. Weak nights: Monday (w/out “DwtS”), Wednesday (with or without “Lost”), Friday, Saturday (after football season). Personally, I think “Saturday Night (College) Football” proved that you can make Saturdays as strong as any other night of the week if you actually try. But it also confirmed a long-lingering suspicion of mine, that sports is the way to go on Saturdays. Wednesday was a winning night when it had the one-two punch of the “Dancing with the Stars” results and “Lost” but it did poorly when “DwtS” ended and “Lost” went on vacation.
  • Quick tip: Monday or Wednesday is going to be without “DwtS”. Move one of your other hits there to bide time until “Lost” returns (in the likely scenario the night in question is Wednesday).

Now, how did ABC carry that out? (All recaps come from ABC’s schedule page itself.)

Sun

7pm

7:30 pm

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Am. Funniest Home Vids
Extreme Makeover Home
Desperate Housewives
Bro’s & Sis’s


Can’t argue with this. “DH” has lost a lot of buzz but the night clearly works for ABC.

Mon

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Dancing with the Stars
Sam I Am

The Bachelor


It’s a tremendous vote of confidence to “Sam I Am” to give it “DwtS” as a lead-in. But I suspect some groups might be put off by its premise:

“It’s a common fantasy: rewind your life, erase all the mistakes and cringe-worthy moments and start over with a clean slate. But for Samantha Newly, the fantasy is far too real. After a hit-and-run car accident puts her into an eight-day coma, she wakes up with retrograde amnesia — meaning that she can function in the world but she can’t remember a single fact about her own life. That’s when our heroine begins the long, comic process of starting over and digging for clues about her former not-so-nice self.”

This sounds like one of those shows whose description seems to describe a drama, not a comedy. It will get more eyeballs than it otherwise would, but it doesn’t sound particularly appetising.

Here’s the midseason schedule, for when “DwtS” and “Bachelor” aren’t on:

Mon

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Wife Swap
Sam I Am
Ntes/Un’bly

October Road


Plans can change, but this looks like they’re going to move “Sam I Am” to 9 pm, and then return it to 9:30 later. What’s wrong with just keeping it at 9:30?

Tue

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Cavemen
Carpoolers
Dancing w/Stars Results

Boston Legal


Hmm. “DwtS” isn’t being used to lead in to the two new comedies. That means ABC thinks they can carry the night on their own – a rather risky proposition. Yes, “Cavemen” is the show based on the GEICO commercials:

“Over the last hundred thousand years, mankind has evolved from primitive creatures to sophisticated beings, except for a small minority who unfortunately didn’t evolve physically at all. Now three sophisticated cavemen (who already have a fan base from their popular GEICO commercials) are living in modern-day Atlanta, where they are at odds with contemporary society as they struggle to overcome their physical appearance and the accompanying stereotypes.”

ABC makes it sound like they were going for a thought-provoking premise but blew the execution. If the show was taken on its own merits, it sounds like you could replace “cavemen” with “black people” and it would be right at home on the old UPN. But it already has a reputation for being little more than a 30-second commercial, and the fact that it’ll probably be rather shameless doesn’t help either. Oh, and it also probably won’t help that it’s getting no help whatsoever. It probably [i]will[/i] help, though, that there rarely is much competition at the start of Tuesday… unless “American Idol” is on.

“Carpoolers” is reliant on the success of “Cavemen”:

“There are men who actively try and figure out the world — together. These men are more complicated than we might think — they have hopes, ambitions, families, careers, and insecurities. These men are the Carpoolers; four guys, living different versions of the modern suburban family life who obsess, dream, and strategize as they rocket their way up and down the carpool lane every day.”

Now this actually sounds like a decent premise; there’s a “Friends” or “Seinfeld” element in it. If there was a comedy on ABC’s lineup that would save the ABC comedy from going extinct, it might be this one. (“Cavemen” really suffers by comparison.) Too bad it’s on [i]before[/i] “DwtS”.

“Cashmere Mafia” takes over the “DwtS” time slot when “DwtS” isn’t on:

“From the creator and executive producer of Sex and the City and the writer of Working Girl comes a comedic drama focusing on four dynamic women, friends since their days at Business school together, who support each other through rocky marriages, ridiculous dates, parenting challenges, professional rivalries and the hunt for the perfect apartment. Mixing the sass and wit of the film The Devil Wears Prada with insight of the novel I Don’t Know How She Does It , this nuanced dramedy taps into the thoroughly modern, but eminently relatable dilemmas of today’s working women who valiantly struggle to “have it all.””

Hmm. Sounds like ABC and NBC (“Lipstick Jungle”) are stepping on each other’s toes.

Wed

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Pushing Daisies
Private Practice

Dirty Sexy $


Well, so much for moving an established hit here to bide time until “Lost” returns. These three shows will all have to support each other. It’s a shame, because “Pushing Daisies” actually has received rave reviews:

“Pushing Daisies is a love story about a pie-baking young man with a very special gift… the ability to return dead people briefly back to life with just a simple touch — enabling him to help a P.I. crack murder cases by asking victims to name their killers. Director Barry Sonnenfeld, writer-producer Bryan Fuller, and the producers of Fish blend romance, crime procedural and high-concept fantasy to create a fairytale in the spirit of Amelie, Stranger than Fiction, and Chocolat. Features a stellar cast.”

Uh… yeah. I think this is either one of those “too-good-to-last” shows or just too quirky for network television. Read the full report: apparently he’s brought back his childhood sweetheart back to life for good, and if he ever touches her again, she’s dead for good. Wonderful, Holmes. (Sounds like each episode should be a lot quicker, too.)

Which is probably bad news for “Private Practice,” the recently-previewed spinoff of “Grey’s Anatomy” that is the closest thing to moving a hit to the night:

“Grey’s Anatomy executive producer Shonda Rhimes combines the heart and soul of television’s top-rated drama with exciting new faces in a sun-drenched new city to create a show with a whole new vibe. This intimate portrait of the choices and changes we make in our search for happy lives, centers around neonatal surgeon Dr. Addison Forbes Montgomery of Grey’s Anatomy. After a failed attempt at reconciliation and two disastrous affairs, a move to Southern California to join her friends’ health cooperative could be just the right prescription to jump-start Addison’s own life.”

One wonders why this show doesn’t premiere after “GA”, especially since that time slot is being used to debut a new show. Spinoffs aren’t guaranteed success and need to be nurtured like any other show. “Private Practice” will probably get the best ratings for ABC on the night, and will probably beat its only known current competition (“Bionic Woman”), but it could net only mediocre ratings without support.

“Dirty Sexy Money” has also been acclaimed:

“Power, privilege and family money are a volatile cocktail thrust on an idealistic lawyer when he inherits the job of tending to the legal (and sometimes illegal) needs of the absurdly wealthy Darlings of New York City. Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh and William Baldwin star in this younger, sexier, redheaded stepchild of Dallas and Dynasty.”

It’s a rather unique premise and it also sounds like it’s a potential recreation of the “Ugly Betty” formula. It’s what Fox’s “MyNetworkTV” shows were getting at but failed to accomplish. It’s going up against “CSI:NY” but again, that’s the weakest of the “CSI”‘s. It also has a modestly strong lead-in, though it’s a bit of a crapshoot, not as good as if it were a show that were already established. It certainly has the chance to become the established hit “Lost” was this past season for the Alphabet on Wednesday night.

Thu

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Ugly Betty
Grey’s Anatomy

Big Shots


No real objections; “October Road” is continuing this season, moving to Mondays in midseason, so you might wonder why move it from this winning night, but it’s really only a modest success, drawing at roughly the same level as the moribund “ER”. It’s certainly a vote of confidence to “Big Shots” that it’s getting the cushy post-“Anatomy” time slot:

“The line gets blurred between the boardroom and the bedroom in a new outrageous drama about four dysfunctional CEOs who will do anything to stay on top. This foursome takes refuge at their country club where they can discuss business, confide secrets, seek advice. It’s lonely at the top and they have to trust someone to cover their back. Michael Vartan (Alias, One Hour Photo), Golden Globe® winner Dylan McDermott (The Practice), Christopher Titus (Titus) and Josh Malina (The West Wing, Sports Night) star as our greedy, horny and competitive — yet sexy and likeable — CEOs.”

It sounds much the same as “Dirty Sexy Money” but with a tamer approach. But unlike that show, it sounds almost boring. Why not put the bigger jewel behind the guaranteed hit on Thursdays? Because that also means getting it killed against “Without a Trace”; putting “DSM” on Wednesdays in some ways is a move to protect it.

Fri

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Men in Trees
Women’s Murder Club

20/20


The moaning about “Men in Trees” being renewed and almost immediately removed for the rest of the season has played out now. If being consigned to Fridays wasn’t bad enough, being put behind a show that’s already been abused can’t be good for “Women’s Murder Club”:

“When you are a woman working in a man’s field, you get a lot further by teaming up… so to circumvent the Justice Department boy’s club, San Francisco Detective Lindsay Boxer (Angie Harmon, Law & Order) assembles a secret all-female team of experts — the Women’s Murder Club. Two-time Emmy Award®-winning Director/Producer Scott Winant (Huff, thirtysomething) adapts the bestselling novels by James Patterson into a thrilling new crime series that redefines women’s work. Because sometimes, the best way to get your man is with a woman.”

“It’s a ‘CSI/Law and Order’ ripoff… BUT IT’S ALL GIRLS!” The lukewarm premise and terrible time slot probably spells doom for “Women’s Murder Club”.

Sat

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
Saturday Night College Football


Various “movies and specials” will take over when college football season ends, but it won’t be the same, as “SNCF” did so well last year you wonder why they didn’t do it all along.

“Lost” doesn’t have a timeslot reserved for it at midseason, which could be trouble. “Supernanny” will also be hoping for a timeslot. Only two scriped shows will debut at midseason, including “Eli Stone”:

“Following the success of their work on the current hit Brothers and Sisters , Ken Olin (Alias ), Marc Guggenheim, and Greg Berlanti (Everwood ) create a unique, character-driven drama that explores the very different worlds of law and spirituality in a humorous and heartfelt way. Joining fantasy and spirituality from The Ghost Whisperer , sincerity and passion from The Practice and quirky humor from Monk , the show asks if we can change the course of our life midstream. Eli Stone is the cutthroat lawyer who risks everything he’s worked for in order to explore a higher calling.”

Sounds like another show, like “Pushing Up Daisies”, that attracts a cult following and gets uncereminiously cancelled. That’s if it’s done well, which is no guarantee. “Miss Guided” sounds like “Ugly Betty” in a school, but the clips show influences of “The Office” as well:

“You can run and you can hide but you can never escape… who you were in high school. Becky Freeley thought she had left her teenage self behind when she returned to her old school to work as the guidance counselor. But when her gorgeous former nemesis joins the faculty, Becky’s cover is blown. From producer Ashton Kutcher and Emmy Award-winning director Todd Holland (Malcolm in the Middle, The Larry Sanders Show) comes a show about second chances.”

Everything depends on where it falls on the schedule. So, how did ABC do on the points I laid out?

  • Would Tuesdays suffer from getting a shorter version of “DwtS”? Grade: C-. Well, they hurt their own chances by not using the results show to build a new show.
  • Wednesdays without “Lost”. Grade: D. They didn’t follow the Quick Tip at all, but their schedule makes some semblance of sense, since Wednesdays have become very weak at the Big Four (until “American Idol” returns, that is).
  • ABC’s Friday plan. Grade: B-. It’s certainly better than what they’re putting on now, and Fridays are the second Saturdays, but “Women’s Murder Club” seems destined for the scrap heap.
  • Overall grade: C. ABC is in good shape and has strong nights that can be used to build the rest of the schedule. However, they didn’t really shore up their weak nights, and only two or three new shows have real support. When you have nine new shows, that’s a problem.
  • Nights that improved: Wednesday, but not by much. Nights I approve of: Monday (w/”DwtS”), Thursday. Both nights will give their new shows big opportunities. It’s only a shame that the new shows don’t look that great. Nights that look like a train wreck: Tuesday (w/out “DwtS”). Two of the new shows will have time to build an audience but won’t have a show to feed off of, except local syndication. “Carpoolers” sounds like a good show but its fate is dependent on ABC promotion and how well “Cavemen” does. And “Cashmere Mafia” is dependent on “Carpoolers”. It has a chance to fall like a house of cards if ABC isn’t careful. If those two comedies falter, ABC better have a plan B for “Mafia” and put it into place after “DwtS” ends.

Upfront Roundup: NBC

Before beginning, let’s review what I said in my previous post.

  • NBC is coming off an embarrasing season. It’s the only Big Four network whose season-to-date rating (as of 4/29) is under 6. That’s despite the fact it’s the only Big Four network to have non-postseason football in prime time. NBC did have “Sunday Night Football” but couldn’t use it to propel hits elsewhere in the week. “Deal or No Deal” is the only other really bright spot on NBC’s schedule, and ABC (“Dancing with the Stars”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Desperate Housewives”), CBS (“CSI” and “CSI Miami”, plus “Without a Trace” was bigger than “DonD”), and Fox (“American Idol” and “House”) all had multiple shows that were bigger than football, and football only gets you through a third of the season. You read that and you probably think I’m describing a network somewhere between the other three major networks and the CW, not one that’s only .5 behind the tie for second place. (At least it’s not the CW’s 2.1.)
  • NBC originally pinned its hopes for a resurgence this season on the hopes of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”. By hammocking it between the surging comedies “My Name is Earl” and “The Office” on one end, and “ER” on the other, NBC hoped to mold “Studio 60” into its franchise show of the future, and perhaps gain better ground against “CSI” than “The Apprentice” had gotten. Then ABC announced it was boldly pitting “Grey’s Anatomy” against “CSI”. Within a week after unveiling their plans, they lay in tatters, and “Studio 60” would have to be thrown into Mondays at 10 with another new show, “Heroes,” as a leadin. The presence of a show similar to “Lost” in its complexity wasn’t exactly compatible to something that was more of a comfort show, and “Heroes”‘ popularity only made “Studio 60” worse for the comparison. Then there’s the fact that critics soured on the show itself as it wore on and drew unfavorable comparisons to Aaron Sorkin’s previous show, “The West Wing”. Add it all together, and “Studio 60” seems DOA at the upfronts. NBC needs more buzz shows, as the closest thing it really has is “Heroes”, especially with “Law and Order” losing its luster and “L&O: Criminal Intent” suffering since moving to 9 PM. It also has a hole to fill on Monday nights. Properly promoted and nurtured, “Friday Night Lights,” assuming the critically-acclaimed show is renewed, could be the ticket.
  • Right now NBC’s only half-hour shows are “MNiE”, “Office”, “Scrubs”, and “30 Rock”, all currently on Thursday. Comedies are in a bit of a slump right now, but this is an embarrasment for a network that once prided itself in its comedies.
  • Strong nights: Sunday (during football season), Monday (double whammy of “Heroes” and “DonD”). Weak nights: Everything else.
  • Quick tip: Don’t be afraid to make radical moves. You don’t have much to lose.

Now, how did NBC carry that out?

Sun

7pm

7:30 pm

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

NBC
Football Night in America
Sunday Night Football


Well, it’s not as though we didn’t know this ahead of time.

Mon

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

NBC
Deal or No Deal
Heroes

Journeyman


Predictably, NBC tries to use “Heroes” to support a new show. They may have found a show to do it with that actually fits, which ABC has failed to do with “Lost”, but “Journeyman” will probably suffer in comparison to “Heroes”. NBC describes the show as follows:

“Dan Vassar thought he had it all: a loving wife, a great son and a steady job. But life suddenly throws him a curve ball. Dan finds himself traveling into the past with a purpose – impacting people’s lives for the better – and sometimes the worse. While doing so, Dan reconnects with Livia Beale, his ex-fiancée whom he lost in a mysterious plane crash. Now armed with the knowledge of the present, will he be able to save her? What would that mean to his own future? And how would it change a man who thought he had it all?”

I’m skeptical of its chances – “Tru Calling” flopped, after all – but if you like “Lost”-style complexity, it’s the show for you. But why do I have a feeling audiences aren’t looking for “Lost”-style complexity after “Heroes”?

Tue

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

NBC
The Biggest Loser
Chuck

L&O: SVU


Well, “The Biggest Loser” at 8 is better than nothing, and it probably looked inevitable that 9 would be the place to debut a new show after “Criminal Intent” sank. (That show will now spend its first run on USA and return at midseason. “Chuck”‘s tagline is “Computer geek by day. Government operative by night.” Sound intriguing? Wait until you read the full description:

“Chuck Bartowski is just your average computer-whiz-next-door. He spends his days working for Buy-More with his band of nerdy cohorts, longing to find a woman who can appreciate him. But when an old friend, who happens to be a CIA agent, sends Chuck a mysterious encoded email, the world’s greatest spy secrets are embedded into his brain. He never asked to become the government’s most powerful weapon, but the fate of the country suddenly lies in his unlikely hands. Hopefully, this won’t take away from his video game time! International terrorist plots, sexy spies and cold pizza – it’s all in a day’s work for our trusty hero…Chuck.”

Am I the only one who thinks this reads like a sitcom? Seriously, it sounds corny beyond belief. I’m thinking some focus group told NBC they wanted to see “computer nerds foiling crimes” and NBC heard “nerd fantasy: nerd becomes Sydney Bristow instead of “computer nerds foiling crimes with their computer skills. Then again, I think somebody already tried that and it flopped. And that’s exactly what this show will do. Not looking good so far, NBC.

Wed

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

NBC
Deal or No Deal
Bionic Woman

Life


Evidently NBC feels the need to junk Wednesdays and start over. Wednesdays rarely produce appointment nights but doing two new shows and a reality show is very risky. And yes, one of them is a remake of a 70’s show. Want a description?

“Struggling as a bartender and surrogate mom to her teen-aged sister, Jaime Sommers didn’t think life could get much harder. But when a devastating car accident leaves her at death’s door, Jaime’s only hope of survival is through a cutting-edge, top-secret technology that comes at a hefty price. With a whole new existence and a debt to repay, Jaime must figure out how to use her extraordinary abilities for good, while weighing the personal sacrifices she will have to make. Ultimately, it’s Jaime’s journey of self-discovery and inner strength that will help her embrace her new life as…The Bionic Woman.”

Do remakes ever work? Seriously, I’m asking. This one is guaranteed not to work if it has to tussle with “Lost”. But ABC is holding “Lost” to midseason and that leaves very little competition early on. That, plus a “DonD” lead-in, shows some promise for decent ratings. But I’ve got a gut feeling it won’t work. Especially if one of the other Big Four networks produces appointment viewing in the timeslot.

“Life” will be very dependent on “Bionic Woman”‘s success. Its description is very cryptic:

“Meet Detective Charlie Crews. Behind him sit tough years of hard prison time for a crime he didn’t commit. Ahead of him lie the challenges of a world that’s moved on without him. Now it’s time to walk through the painful cobwebs of his past and re-enter the scorn-filled halls of a job he loves. It’s no easy task, especially when his reluctant new partner is as jaded as Dani Reese. Charlie’s appreciation for life’s details not only offers up unique insights into each crime, it reminds us of all the little things we take for granted.”

That just sounds like your standard detective show… which means it’s probably groomed for success more than “Bionic Woman”. It has to go up against “CSI:NY” but that’s the “Criminal Intent” of the CSI franchise. Really, how different is it from “Kojak”, “Columbo”, or all manner of 70’s detective shows? Are Wednesdays “That 70’s Night”? So far, it looks like the strongest night for new shows.

Thu

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

NBC
Name/Earl
30 Rock
The Office
Scrubs

ER


NBC seems to think it’s found a golden nugget in Thursdays and does nothing more than shuffle the shows around a little. “ER” is a few years past its prime, though.

Fri

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

NBC
1 v. 100
Las Vegas

Fri. Nght Lghts


“1 V. 100” will later be replaced by “The Singing Bee” after six weeks, which says:

“The Singing Bee challenges contestants to accurately sing the lyrics to popular songs — when the band stops playing! Scored like a spelling bee, there is no middle ground for partially correct answers. Contestants must be perfect, or they’re out. Family-friendly, broad in appeal and conducive to playing (and singing) along at home, the show features popular, recognizable music that inspires hilarious wrong answers — and startling wonder from those pitch-perfect competitors who get every word right.”

Wonderful, Holmes. Another reality show for us to either watch swiftly fade away or lament its popularity. Not sure if “FNL” fans should like its move to Fridays, after “Las Vegas” which isn’t all that compatible or really popular, and Fridays are often used as a dumping ground for laggards, but at least it’s returning and its name makes a little more sense.

Sat

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

NBC
Dateline NBC
Drama Encore

SVU Repeats


Saturdays are the weakest night of the week; can’t really disagree with this. Of course a lot of you are probably wondering, “Where’s Law and Order?” Moved to midseason, my friend. As is “Criminal Intent”, “Baby Borrowers”, “The It Crowd”, “Lipstick Jungle”, “Medium”, and “World Moves”. (There will also be a short spin-off season of “Heroes” called “Heroes: Origins.”) “Borrowers” belongs in midseason:

“Baby Borrowers is a unique social experiment that takes five teenage couples on a rollercoaster ride of adult responsibility, allowing them to experience parenting firsthand. Desperate to have their own life and family, our lovebirds are thrown in at the deep end. They’re given real houses and real responsibilities — the most important of which is to look after children from a range of age groups. They’ll begin with an infant, followed by a toddler, pre-teen, young teenager, and lastly a senior citizen. In the end, will these couples be able to cope with the pressure of parenthood or will they break?”

The IT Crowd” finally adds a new comedy, but it’s basically a riff of “The Office”:

“You know those cool guys who charm the ladies, have tons of friends and get invited to the hottest parties? Roy and Moss are not those guys. A night of fun for these I.T. nerds means getting dressed to the nines for the latest iPhone webcast. But Jen, their new office manager, is going to change all that. Tech-savvy, she’s not, but she knows how to win people over and get ahead. After living for years in oblivion, Roy and Moss hope Jen can help them get the recognition they so desperately long for.”

Lipstick Jungle,” which will take over Sundays at 10 after football season, is basically a riff of “Sex and the City” (or “Desperate Housewives”), and is based on a book by someone from that show – and it has a legit shot at success:

“Based on the best-selling book by Candace Bushnell(Sex and the City), this enticing new dramedy follows three high-powered friends as they weather the ups and downs of lives lived at the top of their game. Nico, editor-in-chief of a hot fashion magazine, has her eye on becoming CEO. Movie exec Wendy does everything she can to balance career and family. And free-spirited designer Victory longs to make her dreams come true, and maybe find Mr. Right along the way. Armed with humor and strength, these three modern New York women support one another through the triumphs and tears that are all part of making it big in The Big Apple.”

World Moves” aims to replicate the success of “American Idol”:

“From executive producer Randy Jackson and the creators of the World Hip Hop Championship comes the most captivating performance competition to hit TV. From around the world, thousands of dance teams will audition for their shot to come to Los Angeles and compete for an international touring contract. Each dance team will consist of five to seven members who will perform their own inventive routines set to today’s hottest pop music. They will also be challenged to create routines choreographed to musical themes assigned by guest stars and our panel of experts. Viewers from around the globe will eliminate one team each week by texting, emailing or calling into the show. Ultimately,World Moves is not just about winning a competition, but changing lives and bringing the world together.”

So, how did NBC do on the points I laid out?

  • NBC is coming off an embarrasing season. Grade: D+. NBC couldn’t really do a whole lot here, but there are precious few shows with a strong chance at success. Wednesdays look hot now but will be at the mercy of other networks. The other two new shows that I think could succeed (“IT Crowd” and “Jungle”) are held for midseason. That’s wasting precious time to build momentum – and precious time to promote using football.
  • NBC needs more buzz shows, and has a hole to fill on Monday nights. Grade: D-. “Journeyman” just looks like another show trying to be the next “Lost”, most of which don’t succeed. The “Heroes” lead-in will inflate its ratings but also give it unreasonable expectations. And the show that might generate the most buzz after that, “Lipstick Jungle”, is being held for midseason. I can’t stress this enough.
  • NBC has only four comedies. Grade: C-. The Thursday comedy block just got a vote of confidence, but there’s only one new comedy in the pipeline and it’s being held for midseason.
  • Overall grade: D+. NBC doesn’t make radical moves and doesn’t provide any reasons for people to come back to the network. Maybe it was a weak development season, but it better improve soon, or NBC could pull dangerously close to CW territory.
  • Nights that improved: Wednesday, Sunday after football season. Nights that look better: Thursday. Nights that look like a train wreck: None, but only because just about the entire NBC lineup is already a train wreck. They are keeping “SNF” and aren’t messing with Mondays that much. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday look the worst, but there are no expectations for the latter two, and with “SVU” on Tuesdays it can’t be all bad. That’s the thing about NBC’s lineup: it doesn’t improve anything, but nothing actually trashes anything either. It’s kinda okay. But “kinda okay” isn’t good enough for the fourth-place network that’s losing more respect than that. Hence, why it gets a “D” and not a “C”.

Introduction to Upfront Week 2007

This week, the television industry will beg and plead with advertisers to commit to advertising on their fall schedules before knowing a thing about how the shows will do. Those who just want to watch television will have their collective ear to the door.

That’s because, as part of their pitch, the networks will let advertisers in on a little secret: the fall schedules themselves. Four months before any of it becomes reality, people will be able to dissect the slates the networks will expect us to swallow for fall. If you’re really into it, it can feel like Election Day, or the NFL Draft. I’ve dissected the schedules on my own since – has it really been since 2002? – with a break in 2005, and this week, I’m letting you in.

Here’s my analysis of what the networks need, in the order that they will present.

NBC

  • NBC is coming off an embarrasing season. It’s the only Big Four network whose season-to-date rating (as of 4/29) is under 6. That’s despite the fact it’s the only Big Four network to have non-postseason football in prime time. NBC did have “Sunday Night Football” but couldn’t use it to propel hits elsewhere in the week. “Deal or No Deal” is the only other really bright spot on NBC’s schedule, and ABC (“Dancing with the Stars”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Desperate Housewives”), CBS (“CSI” and “CSI Miami”, plus “Without a Trace” was bigger than “DonD”), and Fox (“American Idol” and “House”) all had multiple shows that were bigger than football, and football only gets you through a third of the season. You read that and you probably think I’m describing a network somewhere between the other three major networks and the CW, not one that’s only .5 behind the tie for second place. (At least it’s not the CW’s 2.1.)
  • NBC originally pinned its hopes for a resurgence this season on the hopes of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”. By hammocking it between the surging comedies “My Name is Earl” and “The Office” on one end, and “ER” on the other, NBC hoped to mold “Studio 60” into its franchise show of the future, and perhaps gain better ground against “CSI” than “The Apprentice” had gotten. Then ABC announced it was boldly pitting “Grey’s Anatomy” against “CSI”. Within a week after unveiling their plans, they lay in tatters, and “Studio 60” would have to be thrown into Mondays at 10 with another new show, “Heroes,” as a leadin. The presence of a show similar to “Lost” in its complexity wasn’t exactly compatible to something that was more of a comfort show, and “Heroes”‘ popularity only made “Studio 60” worse for the comparison. Then there’s the fact that critics soured on the show itself as it wore on and drew unfavorable comparisons to Aaron Sorkin’s previous show, “The West Wing”. Add it all together, and “Studio 60” seems DOA at the upfronts. NBC needs more buzz shows, as the closest thing it really has is “Heroes”, especially with “Law and Order” losing its luster and “L&O: Criminal Intent” suffering since moving to 9 PM. It also has a hole to fill on Monday nights. Properly promoted and nurtured, “Friday Night Lights,” assuming the critically-acclaimed show is renewed, could be the ticket.
  • Right now NBC’s only half-hour shows are “MNiE”, “Office”, “Scrubs”, and “30 Rock”, all currently on Thursday. Comedies are in a bit of a slump right now, but this is an embarrasment for a network that once prided itself in its comedies.
  • Strong nights: Sunday (during football season), Monday (double whammy of “Heroes” and “DonD”). Weak nights: Everything else.
  • Quick tip: Don’t be afraid to make radical moves. You don’t have much to lose.

ABC

  • “Wife Swap” and “What About Brian” didn’t seem to work on Mondays, but it was the first time ABC actually had to program the night in fall in a quarter century. Now “Dancing with the Stars” seems to be working on the night; will it stay there in fall? Where would that leave Tuesdays?
  • ABC has announced that it will hold three more abbreviated seasons of “Lost” and end the show in 2010. That leaves Wednesdays an absolute mess until “Lost” returns.
  • Does ABC have any plan for Fridays?
  • Would ABC move “Ugly Betty” again to shore up another night, or does it not want to break up the “Betty”-“Grey’s” combo that blew away expectations this season?
  • Strong nights: Monday (with “DwtS”), Tuesday (with “DwtS”), Thursday, Saturday (during football season), Sunday. Weak nights: Monday (w/out “DwtS”), Wednesday (with or without “Lost”), Friday, Saturday (after football season). Personally, I think “Saturday Night (College) Football” proved that you can make Saturdays as strong as any other night of the week if you actually try. But it also confirmed a long-lingering suspicion of mine, that sports is the way to go on Saturdays. Wednesday was a winning night when it had the one-two punch of the “Dancing with the Stars” results and “Lost” but it did poorly when “DwtS” ended and “Lost” went on vacation.
  • Quick tip: Monday or Wednesday is going to be without “DwtS”. Move one of your other hits there to bide time until “Lost” returns (in the likely scenario the night in question is Wednesday).

CBS

  • The No. 1 network can’t be resting on their laurels, but they have so many laurels it’s a problem. There are so many quality/popular series there’s virtually nothing to cancel. “Jericho” and “Ghost Whisperer” are probably the two weakest dramas; “How I Met Your Mother” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine” are probably the weakest shows overall but they have to put up with “DonD” and “DwtS”.
  • “Old Christine” did well when it was at 9:30 and not 8:30. “Mother” and “The Class”, however, struggled with ratings in the 5’s and low 6’s, without “DwtS” to worry about and with NBC seeing only a minor drop-off from “DonD” to “Heroes”. What is causing a significant number of viewers of CBS’ comedy lineup to forgo the first hour?
  • The History of the Tuesday at 10 Time Slot This Season: They try “Smith” for three weeks. It gets cancelled. They try “3 Lbs.” for three weeks. It gets cancelled. Now they’re just throwing up whatever will stick. Time to put up a show you have confidence in.
  • Strong nights: Just about every night. Weak nights: Um… does Saturday count even though they win it when football isn’t on? … Friday was weak for a while… a little help here?
  • Quick tip: One word: Midseason. Tell it to all but your very best new shows.

FOX

  • Fox has more spots for new shows than its standing suggests.
  • Is “The War at Home” dead? I haven’t seen anything in my cursory check, but given the ratings since leaving the cushy spot hammocked by “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” I wouldn’t be surprised.
  • On Mondays, Fox will have “Prison Break” and “24” at various points of the season, but neither show it’s introduced to accompany them seems to have worked, with “Standoff” being DOA when it premiered in the fall on Tuesdays.
  • “Justice” was also DOA and Fox will have to find a new show to pair with “Bones”. “The Loop” is interesting as it hasn’t aired yet at all this season. Does Fox want to renew it for Season 3 with zero numbers for Season 2? Do they want to cancel it under the same circumstances? It won’t have “American Idol” backing it up as originally planned.
  • The two comedies Fox introduced on Thursday have had very different fates. “Happy Hour” was DOA, while “Til Death” is clear for a second season. How confident is Fox in its new comedy slate? If it’s not that confident, and “War At Home” is canned, “Til Death” could be Sunday-bound. Either way Fox has a big hole to fill on Thursdays, and “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” could be the ticket.
  • Friday is definitely FOX’s weakest spot. It’s the second Saturday, true, but it’s been beat by “Friday Night SmackDown!” on the CW multiple times. Any time you get beat by the CW, that’s a problem.
  • Strong nights: Any night “American Idol” is on, Saturday (when NASCAR racing is on). Strong nights compared to the rest of FOX but not to other networks on the same nights: Monday, non-“Idol” Tuesday. Weak nights: Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
  • Quick tip: Don’t be fooled by your tie for second – this is a one-show network in many ways. Having such short nights means there’s no room for error on any show.

The CW

  • This will be the first time the CW truly has a chance to present new shows.
  • The CW is not a network that averages a 2.1. It deserves to be treated more like a 2.3. That is not to say there aren’t problems, but any show that does worse than 2.0 is probably on the hot seat.
  • That would include pretty much all of the CW’s comedies, even “Everybody Hates Chris”, which gave UPN so much publicity in that network’s final season. Ratings have been degraded by going up against “Dancing with the Stars”, but “Chris” and “Girlfriends” were only doing around a 2.0 even before that. It’ll be interesting to see what the CW does with “All of Us” which bore the brunt of the “DwtS” onslaught, as well as “The Game”, which was the CW’s lowest-rated comedy when “DwtS” wasn’t on but became its highest-rated once it became the only comedy that didn’t have to battle the ABC juggernaut. Why the CW ended “Reba”, one of its strongest shows, is a little unclear.
  • The CW will need to fill the departures of “7th Heaven” and “Gilmore Girls”. “Girls” was still succeeding in the ratings and will probably hurt the worst. The highest rated traditonal scripted show that leaves is “Smallville”, also one of only four hour-long scripted shows left, along with “Supernatural”, “One Tree Hill”, and “Veronica Mars”, which is on the bubble. If the CW renews “VM” (which, according to reports, is looking more like a possibility than it used to) then “OTH” is the most natural fit to nurture it, though “America’s Next Top Model” would probably be better both in the ratings and thematically (though that would repeat a strategy UPN tried without success), and “Supernatural” should probably break out of “Smallville”‘s shadow to allow both shows to nurture new shows. That “OTH” and “Supernatural” are being considered as potential linchpins speaks volumes about how deep the CW’s lineup really is. (“Supernatural” would be a better pick than “OTH” but doesn’t fit thematically with “VM” all that much, much like “OTH” doesn’t fit with “Smallville”.)
  • Strong nights: Wednesday. Weak nights: Sunday, Monday.
  • Quick tip: You better have a strong pilot slate, and promote the hell out of it.

Feel free to print and fill out the grids below as we go along. Also feel free to leave a comment if you would like me to do year-round analysis of TV. I’ve been thinking of doing daily or weekly ratings roundups of the broadcast networks. On Friday, after everyone’s done, I’ll have a roundup of all the action and look at the schedule as a whole.

Sun

7pm

7:30pm

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
NBC
CBS
FOX
CW

Mon

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
NBC
CBS
FOX
CW

Tue

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
NBC
CBS
FOX
CW

Wed

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
NBC
CBS
FOX
CW

Thu

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
NBC
CBS
FOX
CW

Fri

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
NBC
CBS
FOX
CW

Sat

8pm

8:30 pm

9 pm

9:30 pm

10 pm

ABC
NBC
CBS
FOX