NBC unveils primetime plans
'Trauma,' 'Parenthood' among six pickups
The Peacock officially unveiled a portion of its primetime plans on Monday -- but left several bubble shows twisting in the wind until later this month, when net execs will unveil NBC's fall sked.
Holding its "infront" meeting with advertisers Monday in New York at NBC's Studio 8H -- the home of "Saturday Night Live" -- the Peacock announced that it had picked up new dramas "Trauma," "Parenthood," "Mercy" and "Day One" (which will air as a limited-run event) and frosh comedies "Community" and "100 Questions."
"These are all shows that demanded to be put on the air," said NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chair Ben Silverman. "Both our East and West Coast offices uniformly loved them. Everyone's questioning NBC's commitment to programming, but we're quadrupling down."
Beyond the six new shows, NBC also gave a go-ahead to returning skeins "Southland," "Heroes," "Parks and Recreation" and another round of Thursday night "Saturday Night Live Weekend Update" episodes.
"Unlike our competition, two of our midseason shows that define our brand were able to break through," Silverman said of "Southland" and "Parks."
But missing from the pickup list so far: "Chuck" (much to the chagrin of its passionate, Subway sandwich-eating fans), "Law & Order," "Medium" and "My Name Is Earl." "Life," on the other hand, has officially been snuffed out, the net confirmed.
The original "Law & Order" is still expected to get a reduced order for midseason, while insiders have already said that "Medium" is on its way back -- but an episodic number remains to be hammered out. (NBC said the show is still in play, but not a lock to return.) "Earl," on the other hand, saw its fortunes decline greatly when the Peacock opted to again pick up the Thursday night "SNL Weekend Update" episodes. As for "Chuck," the signs are still positive -- but it's become nearly impossible to get a good read on what NBC execs actually plan to do with the show.
Silverman, joined onstage by primetime entertainment prexy Angela Bromstad and alternative topper Paul Telegdy, said those bubble shows are still circling and "are still a part of our conversation."
NBC said it will announce its additional pickups and renewals on May 19, when it holds a comedy event for advertisers -- which some have dubbed the Peacock's "Chucklefront." Net also plans to announce its fall schedule that night. NBC is expected to split its year into two halves, using the Winter Olympics as a natural midpoint.
NBC Entertainment/Universal Media Studios co-chair Marc Graboff added that the ongoing renewal discussions with studios are "not contentious."
"Over the next two weeks as we're able to put the pieces of the schedule into place, the shows on the bubble will come in or out of the schedule depending on where they fit," said Graboff. "There are a lot of moving pieces, and we also have to see what our competitors are doing. We're not going to make any hard and fast scheduling decisions today."
Previously announced pickups include Thursday night comedies "The Office" and "30 Rock," as well as drama staple "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" and reality franchises "The Biggest Loser" and "Celebrity Apprentice." Net also has the second run of "Friday Night Lights," which it will air in midseason after DirecTV completes the show's initial run.
Then there's the still unofficially titled "The Jay Leno Show," which airs across the week at 10 p.m. starting in the fall.
"You look at what everyone's ratings are at 10 p.m. over the course of 52 weeks a year, and I have even more confidence in what Jay will do," Silverman said. "It will be always topical comedy, always original, live to tape. ... With the other networks' overall ratings at 10 p.m. in the low 2s, I like our chances."
In its pitch to advertisers, NBC noted the sheer number of crime procedurals in the 10 p.m. slot -- and promised that Leno, by comparison, would offer "100% more comedy and 98% less murder." Leno fans have said they would watch the primetime series between two and three times a week, Silverman said, citing internal NBC studies.
Also, new alternative series that had previously been announced include "Breakthrough With Tony Robbins," "The Marriage Ref" and "Who Do You Think You Are?"
NBC plans to run six episodes of "Saturday Night Live Weekend Update Thursday" in the fall, hoping to recapture some of the success the net had this season with the show. But "SNL Weekend Update Thursday" originally ran during the heat of the presidential campaign; there will be less of a hook to hang the show on this season, barring major news events.
Silverman said he's confident there will be plenty of material for the speshes.
"I can't imagine anything more interesting than the world of Barack Obama," Silverman said. "Can you imagine what the show could do with the swine flu? I'd love to see Joe Biden on the show that night."
Also, Peacock said it would hold "Day One" back until the end of February, premiering the show out of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Net hasn't yet worked out how many episodes it will pick up on the show, which is still finishing production on its pilot.
Among the other new shows, NBC clearly is on the hunt for a medical franchise to fill the void left by the retirement of "ER," having picked up both "Trauma" and "Mercy."
"They're such different shows," said NBC entertainment topper Angela Bromstad. "'Trauma' doesn't take place in a hospital, it's all exterior and an adrenaline rush. 'Mercy' is a much more intimate character piece."
Despite the penny-pinching environment at the nets, Bromstad said "Trauma" comes with a higher budget, given its use of special effects and location shooting in San Francisco.
"Trauma," from exec producer Peter Berg ("Friday Night Lights"), revolves around a San Francisco trauma unit. Sarah Aubrey, Dario Scardapane and Jeffrey Reiner (who helmed the pilot) exec produce; Universal Media Studios produces.
"Mercy" centers on a group of nurses; Liz Heldens exec produces with Gretchen Berg, Aaron Harberts, Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun. Universal produces with BermanBraun.
"Parenthood," based on the 1989 movie, was adapted by writer/exec producer Jason Katims. Thomas Schlamme directed the pilot. They exec produce with Imagine's Brian Grazer and Ron Howard. Universal and Imagine TV are behind the show.
"It speaks to a broad audience and is one of the only family shows on broadcast TV this fall," Bromstad said.
Universal is also behind "Day One," a post-apocalyptic tale from exec producer/scribe Jesse Alexander, a "Heroes" alum.
New comedies include "100 Questions," about a young woman looking for love. James Burrows directed the pilot, which was written by Christopher Moynihan. Moynihan exec produces the multicamera comedy with Ron West, Kelly Kulchak and Michelle Nader. Universal and Tagline are behind the laffer.
"Community," from helmers Joe and Anthony Russo, centers on a quirkly band of mostly older students at a community college. The Russos exec produce the single-cam comedy with Russ Krasnoff, Dan Harmon (who wrote the pilot) and Gary Foster. Sony Pictures TV is behind the show, along with Universal and Krasnoff Foster.
Although the Peacock stepped short of announcing its fall sked, Silverman confirmed that the net is looking at thematic nights of programming -- starting with Monday nights, which will utilize the Sunday night NFL showcase to promote a night of adrenaline-fueled shows, with "Heroes" pairing into a new drama (perhaps "Trauma"?) On Tuesdays, "The Biggest Loser" may be utilized to launch a new series -- perhaps one of the net's new half-hours (such as "100 Questions," which would probably pair the best with that broad-based reality show).
"SVU" will be part of a two-hour block of dramas on Wednesday (perhaps paired with "Southland"), while Thursday night will stick with comedies "The Office," "Parks and Recreation," "30 Rock" and "SNL Weekend Update Thursday" (a spot that could easily be replaced by "Community" once "SNL" finishes its brief Thursday run).
Fridays will be more drama, and if the Peacock's past success on the night with femme-driven shows like "Providence" is any guide, NBC may want to put newcomers "Parenthood" and/or "Mercy" there.
NBC's May 19 "Night of Comedy," will include performances by Leno, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Rainn Wilson and Tracy Morgan.