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Must see and must flee TV

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There may be no better metaphor for spring than network TV's upfront season. Starting today, the big broadcast TV networks roll out their new fall schedule for advertisers over a weeklong extravaganza in New York, carrying promises of better ratings and sharper shows like a pocketful of fresh flowers after a bitter winter. But NBC's new schedule, announced Sunday, shows a lot of wishful thinking. They have six new shows this fall, one fewer than last year, after The Jay Leno Show nearly imploded their schedule. Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt told reporters Sunday that Celebrity Apprentice would continue without star Donald Trump if he runs for president and the network is "circling" Jennifer Love Hewitt to join aging drama Law & Order: SVU as star Mariska Hargitay lightens her workload. None of which sounds bold enough to reboot a network TV industry losing viewers every season. NBC faces advertisers this morning, followed by Fox this afternoon, ABC on Tuesday and CBS on Wednesday. Here's an analysis of the rumors and confirmed changes.

Focused on building a new comedy hit and protecting its only new hit The Voice, the network moved 30 Rock to midseason and approved new comedies from Chelsea Handler, Whitney Cummings and Saturday Night Live's Emily Spivey. But many of these new shows, like the Mad Men-style, '60s-set The Playboy Club, feel like reruns.

Gone

The Event, America's Next Great Restaurant, Outsourced, Law & Order: Los Angeles.

Saved

Harry's Law, Parenthood, Chuck, Community.

What's new

The Playboy Club; Maria Bello redoes British series Prime Suspect; Christina Applegate as a new parent in Up All Night; U.S. version of U.K. comedy Free Agents; Cummings' Whitney; a new take on fairy tales called Grimm; Handler's Are You There Vodka? It's me, Chelsea at midseason.

Aside from American Idol, Glee, Bones, The Simpsons and Family Guy, Fox series struggle to draw a crowd. The network needs more diverse hits to prepare for the inevitable day when Idol fades. With no announcement from Fox as of press time, here's the scuttlebutt.

Gone

Traffic Light, Lie to Me, Human Target, The Chicago Code.

Saved

House, Fringe, Breaking In (maybe). Fox dumped many cultish shows that may never have broken out to make room for new efforts. But they may grow too dependent on music shows.

New stuff

Simon Cowell's U.S. version of British singing hit The X Factor, and Steven Spielberg's sci-fi drama Terra Nova.

The biggest trouble the alphabet network had this season came whenever it strayed from the female and family-centered focus of hits such as Grey's Anatomy and Modern Family. Mr. Sunshine's Matthew Perry discovered even a former Friend can't fight a network's core audience; with no official announcement, here are the rumors.

Gone

Brothers and Sisters, Mr. Sunshine, No Ordinary Family, V, Off the Map, Better With You, Detroit 1-8-7.

Saved

Happy Endings, Body of Proof, Shark Tank.

New stuff

Rumors are the network will pick up seven new dramas, including a Charlie's Angels remake with Robert Wagner as unseen boss Charlie and a new show from Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes. Home Improvement star Tim Allen has a new comedy, along with a cross-dressing show, Work It.

It has a successful balance of mediocre comedies and formulaic crime dramas that draw a broad audience. But CSI and NCIS spinoffs can't survive forever; time to find new stories worth telling. With no official schedule announced, here are the rumors.

Gone

$#*! My Dad Says, The Defenders, Mad Love.

Saved

Blue Bloods, The Good Wife, Mike & Molly, Two and a Half Men. Now that Ashton Kutcher is confirmed as the new guy on TV's highest-rated comedy, how will producers shoehorn him in the show (and explain the departure of Charlie Sheen's Charlie Harper?) Tom Selleck's cop drama Blue Bloods needs more creative, unexpected stories like the ones that made The Good Wife such a creative success this season.

New stuff

Person of Interest, from Lost co-creator J.J. Abrams and Two Broke Girls, a comedy co-produced by comic Whitney Cummings, whom you may remember, will also be starring in a sitcom for rival NBC. Talk about serious recycling.

Must see and must flee TV 05/15/11 [Last modified: Sunday, May 15, 2011 9:28pm]

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