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Network TV Crap Shoot Begins Again

In a world filled with video iPods, digital video recorders, on demand cable TV, Internet video downloads and even cellphone TV, the old school cycle of fall TV premieres feels about as dated as a Nipsy Russell joke.

Still, network TV -- a fear-based industry often shackled to bad habits because new habits might lose even more money -- is jumping into the same old waters this week, as the Big Five TV networks announce their new schedules this week for advertisers and press in New York City. (this is one of NBC's Great new Hopes, Studio 60; see below).

Among the bad signs: big name advertiser Johnson & Johnson says it will not buy network TV ads this month during the traditional "upfront" selling of commercial space. They say it's to better synchronize ad buying and other business actvities -- I'm betting they're betting all the media fragmentation will bring better rates across the networks and online later this year.

As I write this, NBC is spinning during a press conference for its new schedule, with entertainment head Kevin Reilly insisting "this has been a banner year for development at NBC." I sure hope so, because only one new NBC show has survived from last fall -- the hilarious blue collar comedy My Name Is Earl.

This time, their hopes are pinned to TWO SNL satires. One, Studio 60, was officially announced through an ad aired during the West Wing's anticlimatic series finale Sunday, created by West Wing creators Aaron sorkin and Thomas Schlamme, starring former Friend Matthew Perry, ex-West Wing-er Bradley Whitford, D.L. hughley and Daily Show correspodent Nate Corrdry (who is also in a pilot for CBS; talk about buzz!). The other, 30 Rock, is a more conventional sitcom created by Tina Fey and starring perennial SNL host Alec Baldwin. Considering that even SNL can't be funny for more than 20 minutes a week, is it wise to bet NBC's primetime future on this stuff?

One note: Reilly also hinted Dateline's To Catch a Predator series of reports may have saved the newsmagazine, which was facing cancellation rumors going into May. As it is, it's stuck on Saturdays, where they've been doing true crime stories.

What did get knocked down a peg: The Donald's Apprentice, cut to once a year and pushed off the fall schedule; Fear Factor, Conviction, Teachers, Three Wishes, E-Ring, Surface, Joey, and Apprentice: Martha Stewart all gone; Crossing Jordan and Scrubs pushed off fall; ER will share its timeslot with a new show from Crash writer/director Paul Haggis, The Black Donnellys (actually about an Irish mob family).

NBC also announced a TV 360 digital initiative which includes First Look channels for each of its network and cable properties --,, etc. -- which will feature up to four episodes of shows on the Internet before they appear on conventional broadcast or cable.

There's also a broadband comedy channel dubbed (who comes up with these names?) and the company's completed acquisition of iVillage.

And with Deal or No Deal appearing twice on the schedule, Howie Mandel has officially completed his transformation as the new Regis Philbin (!?)

Here's what's going to roll out in fall on NBC (New series in caps):

8-9 p.m. "Deal or No Deal"
9-10 p.m. "HEROES" -- Scientist discovers superpowered people live among us; Unbreakable-meets-X-Files.
10-11 p.m. "Medium"

8-9 p.m. "FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS" - Kyle Chandler (Early Edition) in a TV version of the football-centered movie.
9-10 p.m. "KIDNAPPED" -- Jeremy Sisto ("Six Feet Under"), Delroy Lindo ("The Core"), Emmy winner Dana Delany ("China Beach"), Timothy Hutton ("Kinsey") in a serial drama about a single kidnapping; Ransom-meets-24.
10-11 p.m. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"

8-9 p.m. "The Biggest Loser"
9-9:30 p.m. "20 GOOD YEARS" - John Lithgow and Jeffrey Tambor are middle-aged dudes going for it.
9:30-10 p.m. "30 ROCK" --Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin and ex-SNL-er Tracey Morgan doing what they know.
10-11 p.m. "Law & Order"

8-8:30 p.m. "My Name Is Earl" (new time)
8:30-9 p.m. "The Office" (new time)
10-11 p.m. "ER"/("THE BLACK DONNELLYS" in January 2007)

8-9 p.m. "Deal or No Deal"
9-10 p.m. "Las Vegas"
10-11 p.m. "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (new day and time)

8-9 p.m. "Dateline Saturday"
9-11 p.m. Drama Series Encores


Up tomorrow: ABC, which has reportedly canceled Sons & Daughters, picked up What About Brian and scheduled the oddball comedy Let's Rob Mick Jagger. Really.

Talk About Golden Parachutes...

When's the last time you got paid $9.3 million for the worst mistake of your career?

As my pal Richard Prince reminds us all, the San Jose Mercury News had a great story on how much loot Knight Ridder executives will earn for running their company so badly, leading shareholders forced them to sell it.

Top on the list is chairman and chief executive Tony Ridder, with $9.4-million in compensation, followed quickly by several vice presidents receiving more than $4-million each, for a total $57-million for top executives.

The phrase "failing upward" repeatedly comes to mind....

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:36pm]


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