For those of you who do not recognize the names. Angela Bromstad is the President, Primetime Entertainment and Paul Telegdy is the Executive Vice President, Alternative Programming and Production, NBC and Universal Media Studios. Given the recent departure of Ben Silverman, one of the first questions, of course, focused on his absence and what that will mean (or won’t mean) for the network. “I think it has always been Ben’s plan to transition back to his entrepreneurial roots, so I don’t think he was looking to be at NBC for a long-term thing,” said Angela Bromstad. “He brought Paul and I back. And I think that was part of putting everything in place and him transitioning out.”
Keep in mind that Silverman’s short-lived stint at NBC included flops like dramas Bionic Woman, My Own Worst Enemy, Crusoe, Kings and Merlin. So, NBC obviously had a strategy of its own given the results.
The press, of course, was hungry to find out what the expectations are on The Jay Leno Show, but the response from Bromstad was frustratingly empty.
“I don’t think that we are going to declare a specific rating,” said Bromstad. “It’s going to be on 52-weeks-a-year, 46 weeks of which are original.”
“There will be benchmarks applied to it,” added Telegdy. “This is an area that specifically is going to be addressed at a later session today.”
A better response might have been to explain that the ratings for The Jay Leno Show will fluctuate by night and based on the caliber of guests. If the overall strategy does not work, what the network cannot do it trim the telecasts from five nights per week. It’s either a strip, or nothing, and chances are Leno will range between 6 and 11 million viewers, with an adult 18-49 rating from the mid-to-high 1-range to a low-3. The network will also likely skew older with Leno inheriting 23 percent of the line-up. In the event Leno is a total bust:
“We are always looking at contingency plans for everything,” noted Bromstad. “We’re constantly looking at things. Based on our information, based on the research and based on the numbers that we see this is going to be a long-term commitment for us. We feel really good because for the viewers, it really does give them an alternative at 10 o’clock.”
The two executives also had very little to say about the early performance of Conan O’Brien as new host of veteran The Tonight Show. “I really think having Conan start during the summer was to get his rhythm for the show,” said Bromstad. “I think the true test is going to come this fall.”
What Conan has done (which was what I would have predicted), is improve the adult 18-34 rating for The Tonight Show. But the overall audience size and other demos have deteriorated significantly, so no one at NBC should be thinking the true test will come this fall.
In other news from NBC at this very vague session, sophomore Southland will narrow the focus to the characters played by Benjamin McKenzie and Regina King; there are discussions to provide original episodes of Chuck for next season (depending, of course, how it does when it returns on Monday in midseason); and there are no immediate plans to offer Paula Abdul employment now that she is exiting American Idol.
If NBC does not benefit by Jay Leno, there will be trouble aplenty next season.
Thursday 9:30 p.m. (for six weeks); then Thursday 8 p.m.
A band of misfits is the focus of life at fictional Greendale Community College. Chevy Chase and Joel McHale (The Soup) star.
-Competition (in the regularly scheduled 8 p.m. half hour): FlashForward (ABC), Survivor: Samoa (CBS), Bones (Fox), Vampire Dairies (CW)
-Who Was on the Panel:
Chevy Chase, Joel McHale, Alison Brie, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Ken Jeong, Yvette Nicole Brown, Donald Glover; creator/executive producer Dan Harmon; and executive producers Joe Russo and Anthony Russo.
The concept of community college, according to Dan Harmon: “This show does not intend to make fun of community college. I grew up in Wisconsin. I grew up broke. I went to a community college when I was 32. That’s what this is based on. I can’t think of anything more heroic and noble than an open-admission system in the educational sector. And I believe Mr. Obama agrees. So the campus in the show, Greendale, is a character in and of itself. It is a humble character. I continually compare it to Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Its ambition exceeds its grasp. And therefore, it is heroic. And I’ve never taken pleasure, nor have I ever been good at pointing at things and saying, “That is underprivileged.”
Chevy Chase on doing a sitcom:
“I honestly think that the films lately aren’t as good as most of the stuff on TV. I never thought that I would be involved in a situation comedy until I read the script, and I was delighted to go in and say, “Please hire me.” -The Reality: Given NBC’s limited niche audience on Thursday, there is no reason to believe Community will break out of the box. But what I personally like about this sitcom is a) the familiar feel of the characters; b) a relatable setting; and c) the show itself. The pilot had some very funny moments and there is every reason to believe NBC will be patient to let viewers find Community. Too bad, though, that the network has all but given up on filming its comedies in front of a live studio audience. Community would have seemed perfect for that.
-Chance of Survival for Community (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):
-Did You Know?:
Not known for making the best career choices, Chevy Chase, to-date, has turned down roles in theatricals American Beauty, Toy Story and Ghost Busters.
Monday 9 p.m.
First responder paramedics are the focus of this medical drama set in San Francisco. Derek Luke (Notorious), Cliff Curtis (10,000 B.C.), Anastasia Griffith (Damages) and Jamey Sheridan (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) star.
-Competition: Dancing With the Stars (ABC), Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory (CBS), Lie to Me (Fox), Gossip Girl (CW)
-Who Was on the Panel:
Jamey Sheridan, Taylor Kinney, Kevin Rankin, Anastasia Griffith, Derek Luke, Cliff Curtis, Aimee Garcia; and executive producers Peter Berg, Jeffrey Reiner and Dario Scardapane.
Former Chicago Hope star Peter Berg on medical dramas today versus the past:
“Chicago Hope was a great experience. I was talking to Jamey. Jamey and I acted together on Chicago Hope, and I think that, you know, medical dramas will always be relevant and always provide you with the opportunity to do something that really connects with an audience. In the case of Chicago Hope, we were fortunate to have a real maverick in David Kelley. And in the case of Trauma, to have Dario on board, who is, I think, a real visionary, is more important than anything else. Upping the ante, I think, is only as relevant as creating compelling characters. And I think the ante is upped here. It is more visceral. But at the end of the day, we’ve got a great cast and a great show runner, and that’s what is most important.”
The lack of lead-in support (the axe should be officially swinging on Heroes next season) and the severity of the competition (one of the most difficult hours in primetime) are the two obvious obstacles Trauma has to face. But now that NBC is launching another fall medical drama, Mercy, in place of the benched Parenthood on Wednesday, this is yet another nail in Trauma’s coffin. Don’t get too used to Trauma.
-Chance of Survival for Trauma (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):
-Did You Know?:
Peter Berg’s sole Emmy Award nomination to-date was for directing the pilot episode of NBC’s Friday Night Lights.
Wednesday 8 p.m.
The daily events inside a hospital are seen through the eyes of three nurses. Taylor Schilling (Dark Matter), Jamie Lee Kirchner (Rescue Me) and Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer) star.
-Competition: Hank and The Middle (ABC), The New Adventures of Old Christine and Gary Unmarried (CBS), So You Think You Can Dance (Fox), America’s Next Top Model (CW)
-Who Was on the Panel:
Michelle Trachtenberg, Jamie Lee Kirchner, Taylor Schilling, James Tupper; creator/executive producer Liz Heldens; and executive producers Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun.
Lloyd Braun (the former head of ABC) on Mercy not being the first new medical drama out of the gate:
“First of all, at any point in time in any given year, you can have a million arguments among everybody about are you better off being fall, you’re better off being mid-season, are you better off being first, second, or third. And at the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter. There are shows that work because they’re the first out. There are shows that work because they are the last out. I mean, we’ve been doing this long enough so that we have seen it happen or really seen it not happen in every possible circumstance you can imagine.
Family dramedy Parenthood, based on the Ron Howard theatrical, was initially planned to lead-off Wednesday for NBC. But the series was pushed back to midseason due Maura Tierney’s unfortunate illness, and benchwarmer Mercy was moved into fall battle ground. The good news, of course, is the lack of competition in the time period. Wednesday at 8 p.m. is one of the softest hours in television. But that does not unfortunately mean viewers will tune into yet another drama about nurses in this too early time period. That said, Mercy has little to no chance of succeeding.
-Chance of Survival for Mercy (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):
The Jay Leno Show
Monday-Friday 10 p.m. ET
The soon-to-be former host of The Tonight Show heads to prime-time in a nightly hour featuring comedy skits, big stunts, well-known segments like “Headlines,” “Jaywalking” and “99-Cent Store,” and music (the latter two times per week).
-Competition: Castle (ABC), CSI: Miami (CBS)
-Lead-in: The Biggest Loser
-Competition: The Forgotten (ABC), The Good Wife (CBS)
-Lead-in: Law & Order: SVU
-Competition: Eastwick (ABC), CSI: NY (CBS)
-Lead-in: Community (for six weeks), then 30 Rock
-Competition: Private Practice (ABC), The Mentalist (CBS)
-Competition: 20/20 (ABC), Numbers (CBS)
After the truly horrific opening session, NBC redeemed itself with some real answers about what lies ahead on The Jay Leno Show. According to Rick Ludwin, Executive Vice President, Late Night and Primetime Series, NBC Entertainment:
“We have done three separate studies as to what the audience expects from The Jay Leno Show at 10 o’clock. We did our own. And the affiliates did their independent research study on it. And all three of these studies show that the audience is really looking forward to this comedy alternative at 10 o’clock and that they like Jay Leno, they want to laugh, and they feel that a Jay Leno show in this hour is compatible with the late local news. And I think it’s going to help our late night too.
We had meetings with the affiliates on an ongoing basis to determine how the hour should be formatted. And one of the key ingredients that they liked the most about this format is the last segment being comedy. Jay will say good night. He will thank his guests. He will stay “Stay tuned for Conan.” And then he will say, “Your late local news starts now,” and we fade to black and the news starts.
Music will be part of the 10 o’clock show, probably twice a week. And what you are going to see in these musical performances is a combination of stars you might not get to see performing together, along the lines of what you might be seeing at The Grammy Awards. Those are the kinds of musical acts you’re going to see on the Jay Leno 10 o’clock show, but not in that last segment and not every night of the week.”
The show, according to Jay Leno:
“The set is interesting. It’s a lot bigger than our old set. There’s no desk. We might use a desk in the last 15 minutes because I’m trying to think of some better way to do headlines. But it won’t be a talk show, and it won’t be a variety show with wigs and hats on and things of that nature. We have a number of correspondents. And we have some featured people. I spoke to Brian Williams from The Nightly News and I said, “Would you be willing to do something on a regular basis, contributing perhaps things like stories that weren’t good enough for The Nightly News, this type of stuff?” And he said yes, he would love to do it. So he is going to, hopefully, hone his comedy chops on our show. He’ll be a featured guest. Then we’re going to introduce a lot of new correspondents. The idea of having comedians coming on, doing their little five-minute stand-up, and sitting down, there’s nothing wrong with that. But to give it a bit more punch, I’m hoping we can make some stars here. We’ve found a number of people, like D.L. Hughley, who will report on politics in Washington. D.C.”
Five hours of Jay Leno in primetime? Yes, it is unprecedented. Yes, it is very dangerous. This is five hours per week (or 23 percent of the schedule, after all). And, yes, it could be a major catastrophe. But since NBC is in a desperate situation and the viewers already now Jay’s shtick, this could be a risk worth taking. While the success of the talk show will, of course, fall heavily on the caliber of guests (President Obama…are you available again?), airing out of The Biggest Loser makes Tuesday the best bet. And because The Tonight Show with Jay Leno always skewed older than CBS’ competing The Late Show with David Letterman, chances are there will be a lot of grey in the mix on NBC next season. That said, since when does NBC care about viewers over 50?
-Chance of Survival for The Jay Leno Show (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1):
-Did You Know?:
During my five year (1990-95) tenure at NBC, I handled the ratings for The Tonight Show and spoke to Jay Leno a few times per day (Thanksgiving included). Word of advice to the publicist of The Jay Leno Show: better have a spare cell phone number handy. He’s is very nice and very attuned to the ratings! Although Leno claimed he was not all that concerned about how this new show will do, nah…people don’t change all that much.
To refresh your memory, what follows are the roll-out dates for the new and returning NBC series:
Sunday Night Football (Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers): Sunday, Sept. 13, 8:15 p.m. ET The Jay Leno Show: Monday, Sept. 14, 10 p.m. ET (series premiere, every weeknight) The Biggest Loser: Tuesday, Sept. 15, 8 p.m. ET (two hours) Saturday Night Live Weekend Thursday Update: Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET Parks and Recreations: Thursday, Sept. 17, 8:30 p.m. ET The Office: Thursday, Sept. 17, 9 p.m. ET Community: Thursday, Sept. 17, 9:30 p.m. ET (series premiere); moves to Thursday 8 p.m. six weeks later Heroes: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET (new time, two hours) Mercy: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET (series premiere) Law & Order: SVU: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 9 p.m. ET (new day and time) Law & Order: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET (new day and time) Southland: Friday, Sept. 25, 9 p.m. ET (new time) Dateline: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET Trauma: Monday, Sept. 28, 9 p.m. ET (series premiere) Community: Thursday, Oct. 8, 8 p.m. ET (new time period) 30 Rock: Thursday, Oct. 15, 9:30 p.m. ET
Re-branded Syfy, the “house of imagination, has ordered a 90-minute pilot called Alpha, which follows a team of ordinary citizens who possess extraordinary and unusual mental skills. The plot: Using physical strength and mental trickery, this unlikely force of heroes takes the law into their own hands. Production begins this fall. Syfy, in addition, will develop a six-hour limited series from executive producers Bryan Singer (X-Men) and Andrew Deane (Masters of Horrors).
-In Development at USA:
USA Network, the growing home of hit scripted series, has announced an aggressive development slate for 2009-10. Included is legal-themed Facing Kate; Crash Dummies, the story of a Hollywood stuntman, his son and a team of magic specialists; Good Cop, Bad Cop, the tale of an estranged bother and sister who are paired up as cops; legal-themed Louise Candell; Busy Bodies, the story of a soccer Mom who teams up with a gay stay-at-home dad to solve mysteries in the suburbs; and Roc Dad, about a famous rock star who leaves the music business to go to medical school. Other potential projects includes Hotel Dix (an old school detective is brought back to work at a modern hotel); Gourmet Detective (a food detective travels the world); and an untitled project from Stephen J. Cannell and Scott Kaufer.