Our comprehensive coverage of the TV network upfront presentations this week in New York kicks off with a look at NBC's plans for the 2011-12 season. We'll have additional reports for the other networks each day this week.
|New / Returning|
As befitting a network that will finish behind CBS, Fox, and ABC in the ratings this season, there will be plenty of changes in NBC's primetime schedule next season, with only Sundays and Tuesdays looking the same as last fall. The network officially announced its 2011-12 lineup on Sunday, a day ahead of its presentation to advertisers. Some highlights:
- As widely reported last week, Chuck has once again managed to avoid cancellation and will return for a fifth season. There's some bad news, though: it will be a short run (13 episodes) that will conclude the series once and for all. And those episodes will air on Friday nights this fall.
- Fellow bubble shows Parenthood and Harry's Law were also picked up for 2011-12.
- Officially canceled are freshmen series Law & Order: Los Angeles, Outsourced, America's Next Great Restaurant, School Pride, Chase, Perfect Couples, and The Event, joining the previously announced The Cape, Outlaw, and Undercovers.
- While LOLA is canceled, Law & Order: SVU will return, though the series is expected to add a major new character (possibly Jennifer Love Hewitt, though negotiations are still ongoing) midway through the season.
- As it did last season, NBC will hold back one of its acclaimed Thursday night comedies until midseason. Last year, it was Parks & Recreation fans who had to wait; this year, it is 30 Rock that will sit out the fall season. Parks & Rec, meanwhile, is moving back to 8:30.
- The Celebrity Apprentice will return at midseason, but if Donald Trump runs for president, he will be replaced as host of the show. And speaking of contingency plans, NBC will air "high-quality, live-event, reality-type shows" on Sundays in the fall if the NFL season is delayed due to continuing labor unrest.
- Singing competitions seem to be the key to NBC's Monday nights next season, with occasional show The Sing-Off elevated to a Monday night regular in the fall, and this year's hit newcomer The Voice kicking off once again in midseason. And Wednesday nights will see NBC experimenting with a new comedy block from 8-9pm.
- NBC will introduce a total of 12 new series in 2011-12. That is down from last year's upfronts, when the network announced 14 shows, although two of those programs have yet to air. Harry's Law and The Voice are NBC's only new shows from the 2010-11 season that will move on to a second season.
- Only half of those new programs, however, will debut in the fall; the remaining six won't arrive until midseason. In addition, the network is expected to add a primetime newsmagazine hosted by Brian Williams, though details have yet to be announced.
- The network's most prominent new shows include a sitcom based on Chelsea Handler's comedic memoir, an adaptation of UK series Prime Suspect, the Christina Applegate-Will Arnett sitcom Up All Night, 1960s-era drama The Playboy Club, and the Steven Spielberg-produced musical drama Smash. And, in a big surprise (given that no pilot was made and the series hasn't even been cast), NBC also picked up 22 episodes of a legal drama based on John Grisham's novel The Firm.
- NBC opted to pass on several big-name pilots, including the Harry Potter-meets-police-procedural fantasy series 17th Precinct from Battlestar Galactica creator Ronald Moore (and which was to feature many actors from that show), and a Wonder Woman remake from David E. Kelley, which would have starred Adrianne Palicki. Both shows had been the recipients of negative buzz (especially Wonder Woman) during the development process. Also missing the cut was Peter Tolan's pilgrim village workplace comedy Brave New World, which sounded like a good fit for NBC's Thursday lineup.
Below, we take a closer look at NBC's projected schedule, followed by descriptions for each of the network's new programs.
NBC's primetime schedule
In addition to the shows listed below, the following new shows do not yet have a firm timeslot but have been picked up for the 2011-12 season and will arrive later in the year: 30 Rock, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, Awake, Bent, and BFF.
New programs are indicated in bold in the schedule below. All times are ET/PT unless otherwise indicated.
|SUN||Football Night in America*||Sunday Night Football * (8:15)|
|MON||The Sing-Off [2hr]||The Playboy Club|
|TUE||The Biggest Loser [2hr]||Parenthood|
|WED||Up All Night||Free Agents||Harry's Law||Law & Order: SVU|
|THU||Community||Parks & Recreation||The Office||Whitney||Prime Suspect|
|SUN||Dateline NBC||The Celebrity Apprentice [2hr]||The Firm|
|MON||The Voice [2hr]||Smash|
NBC's new programs
First-year series on NBC's schedule during the 2011-12 season include:
Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea Watch Trailers
Loosely based on the best-selling comedic memoir of the same name by Chelsea Handler, this midseason comedy about the adventures of a group of quirky twentysomethings who live and work together stars Laura Prepon (That '70s Show) as hard-partying Chelsea, and -- confusingly -- Handler herself as Sloane, a character based on her own older sister.
Awake (formerly REM) Watch Trailers
Already being compared to Inception by the entertainment press, Awake is the second TV drama from Lone Star creator Kyle Killen (also screenwriter of The Beaver, now in theaters). The series, which will arrive in midseason, follows a police detective (Brotherhood's Jason Isaacs) whose life is split into two alternate realities after a terrible car accident: one in which his teenage son lives, the other in which his wife survives. The split reality will, understandably, present challenges for his personal life as well as his crime investigations; fortunately, he has a therapist in each world. Cherry Jones (24), Laura Allen (Terriers), B.D. Wong, and Wilmer Valderrama (That '70s Show) co-star, and the pilot has good buzz.
Bent Watch Trailers
Amanda Peet (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) stars as a type-A divorced mom who finds herself attracted to the "surfer-dude" contractor (David Walton) who is remodeling her kitchen. Jeffrey Tambor co-stars as the contractor's womanizing father in this single-camera comedy created by former Scrubs producer Tad Quill and arriving in midseason.
BFF (formerly Best Friends Forever) Watch Trailers
Upright Citizens Brigade alumni Lennon Parham and Jessica St. Clair write and star in this single-camera comedy about a recently divorced woman who re-starts her life by moving in with her best friend in New York, much to the consternation of her friend's live-in boyfriend. This show was a bit of a surprise pickup after NBC executives reportedly weren't fond of the original pilot; it is expected to debut at midseason.
Free Agents Watch Trailers
Adapted by Party Down co-creator John Enbom from the British series of the same name, this single-camera workplace comedy follows the reluctant romance between two PR executives (Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn) who are each coming off of a long-term relationship. Joe Lo Truglio and Anthony Head (reprising his role as the sleazy boss from the UK version) also star. NBC has had mixed success adapting British comedies in the past, but this one has pretty good buzz.
Certainly the biggest surprise on NBC's fall schedule, The Firm secured a 22-episode order without shooting a pilot or signing a single actor. The reason? It's based on John Grisham's best-selling novel of the same name (which was previously adapted as a Tom Cruise movie). The legal drama will be set a decade after the events depicted in the novel and film, as attorney Mitchell McDeere and his family attempt to re-establish their lives after spending time in the Federal Witness Protection program after bringing down a mob-affiliated law firm. Grisham and Lukas Reiter (The Forgotten, The Practice) are among the producers.
Grimm Watch Trailers
A police detective discovers that fairy tale creatures are living among us -- at least, in Portland, Oregon -- in this crime drama from David Greenwalt (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Jim Kouf (Angel). David Giuntoli plays the cop charged with protecting humans from these not-so-friendly characters; Silas Weir Mitchell (Prison Break) and Sasha Roiz (Caprica) also star. Oddly enough, it's not the only fairy tale-themed drama debuting next season; ABC has the similar Once Upon a Time.
The Playboy Club Watch Trailers
Bunnies, gangsters, entertainers (think Tina Turner and Sammy Davis, Jr.), politicians, and the city's elite collide in this period drama about the employees and customers of the very first Playboy Club in 1963 Chicago. Amber Heard, Jenna Dewan, David Krumholtz, and Eddie Cibrian are among the stars. In case you were wondering whether NBC was inspired by another period drama, the pilot's director is Alan Taylor, who also helmed the first episode of Mad Men.
Prime Suspect Watch Trailers
Based on the acclaimed UK series (which aired here on PBS), this police procedural finds Maria Bello taking over the role originated by Helen Mirren. Bello will play a detective in a tough, male-dominated New York City precinct; Aidan Quinn, Brian O'Byrne, and Peter Gerety also star. The adaptation comes from producers Alexandra Cunningham (a frequent writer on Desperate Housewives) and Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights); the latter also directed the pilot.
Smash Watch Trailers
Think of it as a less funny Glee with adults. Produced by Steven Spielberg (who came up with the idea), the midseason musical drama Smash follows the cast and crew of a Broadway musical about the life of Marilyn Monroe in the months leading up to opening night. The cast includes Debra Messing, Anjelica Huston, and former American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee, and the show within the show will feature original songs by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, the Tony-winning composers of Hairspray.
Up All Night Watch Trailers
Christina Applegate is a working mother with a newborn baby and Will Arnett is her stay-at-home husband in this single-camera comedy from former SNL writer Emily Spivey (who has also written for Parks and Recreation) and producer Lorne Michaels. Maya Rudolph co-stars.
Stand-up comedian Whitney Cummings (Chelsea Lately) may not be a household name like J.J. Abrams or Steven Spielberg, but like those veteran producers, she has two series debuting this fall. In addition to the CBS comedy Two Broke Girls, which she's producing, Cummings wrote the pilot for and will star (opposite Chris D'Elia) in this eponymous NBC multi-camera sitcom about a young couple looking for ways to keep their long-term committed relationship going. The network is giving the show the plum post-Office slot on Thursday nights.