News

NBC Spells Out 65 Weeks of Prime Time

NBC today unveiled a 65-week schedule for prime time going into 2009, moving early to give advertisers more time to attach themselves to the network’s programming.

Four new shows are being added for the fall, including an hourlong “Knight Rider” series, Christian Slater’s “My Own Worst Enemy,” Australian import “Kath & Kim” and a new version of the Robinson Crusoe saga. Also due this fall are four special half-hours of “Saturday Night Live” on Thursdays, leading up to the presidential election.

Freshmen series returning in the fall are “Lipstick Jungle,” “Life” and “Chuck.”

Last year’s most highly touted new show, “Bionic Woman,” has been canceled.

“Friday Night Lights” lights up 9 p.m. on Friday on the winter 2009 lineup, much to the relief of its cult audience. A spinoff of “The Office” takes “Scrubs’“ 9:30 p.m. slot in the winter. NBC’s release on the spinoff was incredibly light on details, not even divulging a title for the show.

Summer 2009 has “American Gladiators” back in rotation, along with new shows including a reality hour about marine biologists called “Shark Taggers” and a “Hell’s Kitchen”-esque cooking show called “Chopping Block.”

Ben Silverman, who joined NBC as co-chairman of its entertainment and studio division last year, said the network’s development strategy was designed to produce shows that are inspirational, heroic and entertaining, making television a safe place for viewers looking to escape tough times in the real world.

In scheduling, Mr. Silverman said the network would return to airing family-oriented programming during the 8 p.m. hour, its blockbusters at 9 p.m. and adult dramas at 10 p.m.

Starting this summer with the Olympics, NBC is counting on its schedule getting a boost from a series of special events, including the Super Bowl in February, which will serve as a launchpad for the “Office” spinoff.

NBC has changed its development process, reducing its reliance on pilots. Mr. Silverman said that in many cases networks “spent $10 million on pilots and $1” on the other episodes, resulting in series that failed.

That happened with “Bionic Woman,” he said, which had a strong pilot but wasn’t ready to become a series. Even though the February movie that revived “Knight Rider” was a ratings success, the network didn’t take it to series until it was ready, he said.

NBC decided to scratch the spinoff series planned last season called “Heroes: Origins.”

“We decided it was better to focus on keeping the mother ship as strong as possible,” Mr. Silverman said.

“Heroes,” which has been resting since the Writers Guild of America strike, returns Sept. 15 with three hours in prime time, starting with a one-hour clip show to remind viewers where the series left off.

On the other hand, the producers of “The Office” will be producing 28 new hours of the show, in addition to the spinoff. Mr. Silverman didn’t provide any details about the spinoff, but said some characters from the original show may show up in the new series.

While advertisers won’t be able to judge shows based on pilots, they will have scripts to read so they’ll know upcoming storylines and will be able to tell if their product message is a good fit, he said.

Even with pilots, picking hits is a very difficult task, said longtime media executive Bill Cella, who now has his own company.

Mr. Cella said he liked NBC's presentation and its timing.

"I think it's a step in the right direction," he said. "It was a small group and they were really collaborative. It was good to see the salespeople and the creatives speaking the same language."

Mr. Silverman said NBC’s development process is based on getting the right stars and directors and not beginning production until many scripts are ready.

For example, NBC pursued Mr. Slater to star in “My Own Worst Enemy.” “He was the guy we wanted to do this,” Mr. Silverman said. After four writers did five drafts of the script, the star signed on.

Similarly the network went through several drafts of scripts for a U.S. version of “Kath & Kim” before landing star Molly Shannon, formerly part of the “SNL” cast. Her co-star, Selma Blair, wanted to be included in the project because she was a fan of the Australian version.

NBC also wanted Ian McShane for its series “Kings.”

“These are not the fourth people who heard these ideas,” Mr. Silverman said.

NBC’s schedule is designed to keep the number of repeats down, particularly on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday nights.

It’s doing that with stunts such as airing the four prime-time “Saturday Night Live” election-themed specials.

NBC also is bringing back the miniseries, scheduling “The Last Templar,” a four-hour miniseries starring Mira Sorvino, Scott Foley, Victor Garber and Omar Sharif.

But the network also will be relying heavily on reality shows.

When asked if NBC’s focus on upbeat, inspirational programming was designed to cover for the volume of cheap reality shows, Mr. Silverman said, “We spend a shitload on that cheap reality.”

But, he added, “It’s no accident we won’t be doing ‘Moment of Truth,’” referring to the Fox series that uses a lie detector to reveal contestants’ secrets.

Mr. Silverman said NBC would be presenting its schedule early now even if it were the top-rated network rather than the bottom-rated one. He also said the network wanted to change its development process even before the writers strike made other networks rethink how to get shows ready for next season.

“This is a schedule we believe in,” he said.

Last year, NBC announced a schedule on Monday of the traditional May upfront week, then changed it by the end of the week.

Mr. Silverman admitted that this schedule was subject to change as well.

“If something happens that requires us to make an adjustment, we will make an adjustment,” he said.

Mike Pilot, president of NBC Universal Sales, said the network was open for business if any advertisers wanted to begin making upfront buys, although that wasn’t the intention of announcing the schedule early.

"I don’t know if we’ll do any incremental business” before other networks have their upfront presentations in May, he said.

NBC 2008 Fall Schedule
Day of the Week Time Period Show
Monday 8-9 p.m.

Chuck

9-10 p.m. Heroes
10-11 p.m. My Own Worst Enemy*
Tuesday 8-9:30 p.m. The Biggest Loser: Families
9:30-10 p.m. Kath & Kim*
10-11 p.m. Law & Order: SVU
Wednesday 8-9 p.m. Knight Rider*
9-10 p.m. Deal or No Deal
10-11 p.m. Lipstick Jungle
Thursday 8-8:30 p.m. My Name Is Earl
8:30-9 p.m. 30 Rock
9-9:30 p.m. The Office
9:30-10 p.m. The Office/SNL Thursday Night Live*
10-11 p.m. ER
Friday 8-9 p.m. Crusoe*
9-10 p.m. Deal or No Deal
10-11 p.m. Life
Saturday 8-9 p.m. Dateline NBC
9-10 p.m. Knight Rider (encores)
10-11 p.m. Law & Order: SVU
Sunday 7-8:20 p.m. Football Night in America
8:20-11 p.m. NBC Sunday Night Football
NBC 2009 Winter Schedule
Day of the Week Time Period Show
Monday 8-9 p.m.

Chuck

9-10 p.m. Heroes
10-11 p.m. The Philanthropist*
Tuesday 8-9:30 p.m. The Biggest Loser: Families
9:30-10 p.m. Kath & Kim*
10-11 p.m. Law & Order: SVU
Wednesday 8-9 p.m. Knight Rider*
9-10 p.m. Deal or No Deal
10-11 p.m. Law & Order
Thursday 8-8:30 p.m. My Name Is Earl
8:30-9 p.m. 30 Rock
9-9:30 p.m. The Office
9:30-10 p.m. The Office Spinoff*
10-11 p.m. ER/The Celebrity Apprentice
Friday 8-9 p.m. Deal or No Deal
9-10 p.m. Law & Order: SVU
10-11 p.m. Law & Order
Saturday 8-9 p.m. Dateline NBC
9-10 p.m. Law & Order: SVU
10-11 p.m. Law & Order
Sunday 7-8 p.m. Specials/"Dateline NBC"
8-9 p.m. Merlin*
  9-10 p.m. Medium
  10-11 p.m. Kings*
NBC 2009 Summer Schedule
Day of the Week Time Period Show
Monday 8-9 p.m.

American Gladiators

9-10 p.m. America's Toughest Jobs*
10-11 p.m. Dateline NBC
Tuesday 8-9 p.m. Most Outrageous Moments
9-10 p.m. America's Got Talent
10-11 p.m. Law & Order: SVU
Wednesday 8-9 p.m. Shark Taggers*
9-10 p.m. America's Got Talent
10-11 p.m. Law & Order
Thursday 8-8:30 p.m. The Office
8:30-9 p.m. The Office Spinoff*
9-10 p.m. Last Comic Standing
10-11 p.m. The Listener*
Friday 8-9 p.m. Chopping Block*
9-11 p.m. Dateline NBC
Saturday 8-9 p.m. Drama Encores
8-9 p.m. Drama Encores
10-11 p.m. Drama Encores
Sunday 7-8 p.m. Dateline NBC
8-9 p.m. Monk
  9-10 p.m. Nashville Star
  10-11 p.m. Kings*

*Denotes new series
2:50 p.m.: Updated story throughout

Comments (12)

Michael:

What happen to Las Vegas?

Phil K:

Hi Michael-
Las Vegas was already previously canceled due to the strike, just like Bionic Woman. They should have repeated that information here.

kb:

NBC is the most lame network on TV. Their shows are 90% crap. This extended schedule is no different. May they enjoy last place for the next decade.
With this kind of junk, they may as well just run law and order reruns three hours a night, seven days a week. Oh Wait. They already do...

James:

So is Knight Rider going to be on Monday (as said on top) or on Wednesdays as shown in the listings?

DAVID L:

I THINK N B C HAS TOTALY LOST IT THEY KEEP THE JUNK LIKE FRIDAY NITE LIGHTS!!! WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN THEY NEED TO CLEAN HOUSE AND START AT THE TOP!! THEY WILL JUST FALL INTO THE CELLERS OF HELL!!! ALL I HAVE TO SAY I WON'T BE WATCHING NOT EVEN 1 SHOW!!! SO LONG N B C !!!!! WAKE UP

Bill:

Why did they cancel Las Vegas? Thought the show was doing fine in its Friday night slot and with Tom Selleck in its cast. How about 1 Versus 100? Again a game show that can't be much to produce. Even as a filler.

Elvyn:

NBC should bring back Bionic Woman and stop messing up with the Sci Fi Channel.

The schedule at bottom is clearly messed up; it doesn't show Friday Night Lights as discussed in the article (and shows L&O SUV airing in three time slots in the winter.)

J2:

So Friday Night Lights returns to Friday's in the Winter 2009 .... then why is L&O listed in that slot and Friday Night Lights is not listed anywhere in this schedule?!?!?

DAVE L:

NBC IS THE NETWORK FOR LOOSERS!!! STAY AWAY!!

Brian P.:

Then I guess that makes me a loser...because...I use to be a P.A. there...before the writer's strike (meaning I lost my job)...yet, I still watch NBC. ...calm down, David AND Dave L. ...it's only TV...

Peg Hart:

What has happened to Friday Nite Lights????? I've been loooking for weeks for it?????

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