* NBC adds 5 dramas, 2 comedies, 1 reality show for fall
* Banks on known hitmakers J.J. Abrams, Jerry Bruckheimer
* To unveil full 2010-11 lineup to advertisers on Monday
By Paul Thomasch
NEW YORK, May 16 NBC will make a big return to
drama next season, adding a political thriller, two police
procedurals, a legal drama and a romantic spy adventure to a
fall TV schedule left with gaping holes when Jay Leno's show
was jettisoned from prime time.
The dramas, including ones from hitmaking producers Jerry
Bruckheimer and J.J. Abrams, are among eight new shows NBC
announced for its fall TV lineup on Sunday. It will premiere
six more shows in the back half of the 2010-11 season.
NBC, the flagship TV network of NBC Universal, is badly in
need of fresh hits to rebound from a management shake-up,
another season of low prime-time ratings, and the failed
experiment of putting "The Jay Leno Show" on TV at 10 p.m
Monday through Friday last season.
Among the shows that NBC will use to fill the hole left by
Leno is "Chase," a police procedural from Bruckheimer, the
executive behind TV's "CSI" and "Cold Case" as well as movies
"Top Gun," "Black Hawk Down," and "Pearl Harbor." His newest
offering, "Chase," centers on a group of U.S. marshalls hunting
down criminals, and is scheduled for 10 p.m. on Mondays.
Also on Monday is "The Event," a thriller that revolves
around a regular guy caught up in a series of conspiracies,
which ultimately pose a threat to the U.S. president.
NBC will also look to Abrams, another brand-name executive
whose hits include "Lost" and "Alias," for the drama
"Undercovers," about a husband and wife who get back into the
spy game after years of retirement.
As a replacement for "Law & Order," the 20-year-old crime
drama that was canceled, NBC said on Sunday it would try to
refresh the franchise by launching a spin-off, "Law & Order:
WHEN ONLY THE BEST WILL DO
Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Entertainment, said
in a conference call that the schedule "builds on the progress
we've made since the Olympics," when it transitioned from Leno
to new shows like the popular "Parenthood."
"One thing we learned this year is if you're going to
compete at 10 o'clock, you're going to have to put on your very
He also said NBC would try on Thursdays to build on the
success of comedies like "The Office" and "30 Rock." It plans
to introduce two new comedies to fill out the night,
"Outsourced," about a customer service manager whose department
is outsourced to India, and "Love Bites," an hour-long romantic
comedy told through a series of stand-alone vignettes.
"The message to the viewer is, 'You want to watch comedy?
We have it on Thursday all night long,'" Gaspin said.
Friday night will see the addition of "Outlaw," a legal
drama starring Jimmy Smits, star of "NYPD Blue" and "The West
Wing." A reality show about making over schools, "School
Pride," will also be introduced on Fridays.
NBC could use some breakout shows, given it is once again
in jeopardy of finishing last among the broadcast networks in
ratings for the season. In addition, NBC is facing an ownership
change. Comcast Corp. (CMCSA.O) in the process of buying out a
majority stake from General Electric Co (GE.N), and a strong
prime-time schedule for 2010-11 would go a ways toward calming
any jitters in either the NBC or Comcast camps, analysts said.
A RETURN TO RAZZLE DAZZLE
NBC will officially introduce its new prime-time lineup to
advertisers and affiliates during a presentation in New York on
Monday. After that, network executives and advertisers will
start negotiating over roughly 75 percent of the season's ad
time. Ad dollars could be up 20 percent to over $8 billion in
total for the big four broadcast networks, analysts said.
For NBC, this year's so-called "upfront" will mark
something of a return to tradition -- or viewed another way --
a retreat from its unsuccessful attempt to change the way new
shows are selected and presented to advertisers.
Indeed, NBC this year ordered about twice as many pilots as
it did a year ago, when it tried to cut costs.
Last year, it also eschewed much of the extravagance that
often accompanies the upfront presentations -- excesses like
bringing in popular bands to entertain advertisers, or hosting
sprawling parties. Signaling a different mindset, NBC has
rented space this year in the Hilton New York.
"They were greenlighting series based on just scripts,"
said Brad Adgate, a senior vice president and researcher at
Horizon Media. "They've gone back to the old model. And they
are going about it the right way, and they are showing the
advertising community that they are committed to quality."
(Reporting by Paul Thomasch; Editing by Jan Paschal)