Tuned In: Comedy rules networks in fall season lineups
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With Thursday's announcement of The CW's fall schedule, the week of broadcast network upfronts came to a close. What did prime-time observers learn? Well, aside from The CW, which airs only one-hour dramas, comedy is king once again.
ABC, NBC and Fox all added more comedy to their prime-time lineups for fall with 9 p.m. Tuesday a particularly competitive time period as all three networks air edgy comedies that are likely to appeal to the same viewers.
ABC has "Happy Endings" and "Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23" opposite Fox's "New Girl" and "The Mindy Project" (Mindy Kaling from "The Office") and NBC newcomers "Go On" (starring Matthew Perry) and "The New Normal" (a gay couple hires a surrogate). Because ABC and Fox will air established shows at 9, they're more likely to have an upper hand in the ratings.
A lesser comedy competition will play out Fridays in November when NBC's "Whitney" and "Community" go up against ABC's "Last Man Standing" and Reba McEntire-starrer "Malibu Country." But in this showdown, the two networks are going after two different audience profiles.
At 9 p.m. Sunday, dueling dramas are on tap as ABC's "Revenge" takes on CBS's "The Good Wife." They'll both be overshadowed in the fall by football on NBC but it will bear watching to see which show manages to come in second.
"We did just fine against 'Desperate Housewives' [this year] and 'Housewives' was doing better numbers than 'Revenge,' " said CBS Primetime senior executive vice president Kelly Kahl. "We feel very good about 'The Good Wife' there."
Two returning series will have new captains at the helm and a third may also be in for upheaval. "Community" creator Dan Harmon has not signed on for the show's upcoming fourth season.
"Those conversations are happening as we speak, and I guess what I would say is that I expect Dan's voice to be part of this show. I'm just not sure if that means show running it day-to-day or consulting," NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said. He added that Mr. Harmon returning to the show is not related to the producer's recent behind-the-scenes spats with series star Chevy Chase but tied it to "larger issues that have to do with a lot of things," most likely Mr. Harmon's contract with Sony, which produces "Community" for NBC.
"Smash" debuted to strong reviews in February but drew more tepid critical reactions as the season wore on. Mr. Greenblatt said incoming "Smash" executive producer Joshua Safran ("Gossip Girl") will concentrate on the show's plots.
"He's a really great storyteller, especially in areas of arced story lines for characters and I think that's where 'Smash' will improve," Mr. Greenblatt said. The show is expected to produce between 16 and 18 episodes for its second season that will run without interruption when it begins at midseason.
"Cougar Town" moves from ABC to TBS but series creators Bill Lawrence and Kevin Biegel will step down as day-to-day showrunners. The Hollywood Reporter suggests this is because Mr. Lawrence's company landed a long-term deal with Warner Bros. TV in 2011 and "Cougar Town" is produced by ABC Studios where Mr. Lawrence had his previous deal. Mr. Lawrence offered a series of tweets to reassure "CT" fans: "A.) chill. B.) neither Kev nor I currently have shows, so we will both work on CT, C.) if we do get shizz going, we need great guy in place. My wife is on the show -- you think she'll let me disappear? Please. Not like SCRUBS 9 (when had other show to run). Kev and I are in ... "
Mr. Lawrence's wife is actress Christa Miller, who stars on "Cougar Town" as Ellie, the best friend of Courteney Cox's character. Mr Lawrence, who created "Scrubs," was less involved in that show's ninth season because he was getting "Cougar Town" on its feet.
The upfronts are a week of dog and pony shows the networks put on in New York primarily for advertisers to get them to commit to buying ads for the 2012-13 TV season in advance -- or "up front."
"It's an upfront, so I'll be up front. We don't know what we are doing," joked Jimmy Kimmel at ABC's presentation, poking fun at the process since every year 80 percent of the shows networks debut fail.
Of CBS, Mr. Kimmel joked:
• "They have their finger on the pulse of Americans with almost no pulse."
• "CBS is going to stay in their lane -- they'll have their turn blinkers on the whole time, but they'll stay in their lane."
• "CBS viewers love watching cop shows because the chases remind them of the time when they could drive."
But as CBS Corp. president Leslie Moonves observed, Mr. Kimmel's jokes are no longer accurate.
"I'm a big fan of Jimmy Kimmel, I legitimately am, but somebody should tell him that ABC is so far behind us in 18-49 that that joke went away 10 years ago," Mr. Moonves said at a press conference Wednesday morning. "He should freshen up his material a little bit."
CBS will end the 2011-12 TV season next week No. 1 in total viewers with Fox second, ABC third and NBC fourth. Season-to-date in the advertiser-coveted age 18-49 demo, CBS is 2/10ths of a ratings point behind No. 1 Fox with NBC in third and ABC in fourth place.
The CW shakes up its fall schedule with changes to its prime-time schedule on all five nights it broadcasts. The network also announced plans to delay its fall season launch until October, getting out of the way of the crush of new series on the major broadcast networks and allowing its shows to air with fewer reruns.
"Gossip Girl" will end its run after a 13-episode final season to be replaced in January by "The Carrie Diaries," a prequel to "Sex and the City" about Carrie Bradshaw as a teenager. It's not the only familiar show on the schedule. A reboot of "Beauty and the Beast" is on tap along with a superhero drama featuring a character from "Smallville."
In addition to its new TV programs, The CW announced the creation of the CW Digital Studio, a destination for online content that will launch in the fall. Former Pittsburgher Justine Ezarik (AKA "lifecaster" iJustine) will have a still-in-development show online at CWD.
"Supernatural," which has survived on low-rated Friday night for a few years, escapes what seemed to be a terminal time slot for Wednesday. "America's Next Top Model" heads to one-foot-in-the-grave Friday.
"Ringer," "The Secret Circle" and "One Tree Hill" will not be back.
Here's The CW's fall schedule with new programs in bold:
8 p.m.: "90210."
9 p.m.: "Gossip Girl."
8 p.m.: "Hart of Dixie."
9 p.m.: "Emily Owens, M.D.": Turns out a hospital is just like high school for first-year intern Emily Owens (Mamie Gummer, daughter of Meryl Streep) who discovers her med school crush (Justin Hartley, "Smallville") is a new co-worker.
8 p.m.: "Arrow": The story of DC Comics character Green Arrow, who previously appeared on "Smallville," begins as billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell, "Private Practice") is found alive on a remote Pacific island after disappearing five years earlier.
9 p.m.: "Supernatural."
8 p.m.: "The Vampire Diaries."
9 p.m.: "Beauty and the Beast": Based on the 1987-1990 CBS series of the same name, this is the story of detective Catherine Chandler (Kristin Kreuk, "Smallville") whose life was saved years earlier by a beastly creature that turns out to be Dr. Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan, "Terra Nova"). He turns into a beast when enraged.
8 p.m.: "America's Next Top Model."
9 p.m.: "Nikita."
"The Carrie Diaries" (9 p.m. Monday, January): The producers of "Gossip Girl" turn their attention to this "Sex and the City" prequel about 16-year-old Carrie Bradshaw (AnnaSophia Robb, "Bridge to Terabithia") and her earliest explorations of Manhattan in 1984.
"Cult": "Farscape" creator Rockne S. O'Bannon returns to prime time with this story of Jeff (Matt Davis, "The Vampire Diaries"), whose brother disappears after suggesting obsessed fans of the TV show "Cult" were out to get him. Jeff and Skye (Jessica Lucas, "Melrose Place"), who works on "Cult," investigate.
MTV has canceled scripted series "I Just Want My Pants Back." ... Oxygen renewed "Best Ink" for a second season. ... Monday at 10 p.m. WQED will air the new PBS documentary "Different Is the New Normal," narrated by Michael J. Fox, about children with Tourette Syndrome, including "American Idol" finalist James Durbin.
Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "The Killing," "Dancing With the Stars" and Universal Sports. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on all the network upfronts and the mysterious case of "Partners" vs. "Partners." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv. Tuned In podcast took the week off.
First Published May 18, 2012 12:00 am