After listening to NBC entertainment head Ben Silverman outline his 65-week plan for bringing new shows to TV's fourth-place network Wednesday, I knew one thing:
There is no way this schedule is airing the way Silverman has planned it.
That's the nature of television. Viewers are unpredictable, shows rarely perform as expected and advertisers demand performance; it's hard to believe schedules for January and summer 2009 will actually unfold the way anyone expects now.
Still Silverman, who made his reputation as executive producer of shows such as The Office and Ugly Betty before joining NBC last year, seems set on challenging TV's traditional cycle of debuting and developing new shows. Among the surprises:
The network's Knight Rider revival, aired as a two-hour TV movie in February, will return as a series in the fall, with film star Val Kilmer providing the voice of the smart car KITT.
NBC will also feature a spinoff of its Steve Carell series The Office in midseason.
Saturday Night Live will create three half-hour pre-election specials airing in October.
Christian Slater will star in My Own Worst Enemy, a Bourne Identity-style spy series featuring a suburbanite who is also an unwitting spy, while SNL veteran Molly Shannon will lead an Americanized version of the Australian comedy hit Kath & Kim.
The Robinson Crusoe legend is retold in Crusoe, complete with Lost-style flashbacks to Crusoe's pre-castaway life in 1600-era London.
And some of the network's biggest new shows were purchased without a pilot episode, which typically gives a sense of what the finished show might look like.
"It's a perfect storm for NBC," said Silverman, noting the 2008 Olympics and the 2009 World Series offer great platforms for advertising new shows. "We're doing more new, original series than we have ever done before."
Critically acclaimed but low-rated football drama Friday Night Lights returns in 2009 for 13 episodes, thanks to a deal allowing satellite TV service DirectTV to air episodes early.
Also returning: Brooke Shields' comedy Lipstick Jungle, medical drama ER for its 15th and final season, and Law & Order for a 19th season. Not returning: Scrubs (which may land at ABC), Bionic Woman, Las Vegas and Journeyman.
NBC also has developed a pattern for prime time, in which family shows will appear at 8 p.m., blockbuster hits at 9 p.m. and adult-focused series at 10 p.m.
Which means occasionally edgy shows such as 30 Rock and My Name Is Earl (tonight's one-hour Earl shows a woman placing a man's hands on her chest to wake him from a coma) are considered family oriented by NBC.
"Earl & is a show young people love as much as their parents," insisted Silverman.