(This is an extended preview of the PopRox column in Sunday’s paper. Not that you shouldn’t still read that one. You should. It will have prettier pictures.)
Starting Monday and through the rest of the week, you’ll know whether your favorite network television show is coming back, as Upfront Week is upon us. the news is already bad for some Fox shows like The Finder, Breaking In and Alcatraz. But Touch is going to live to fight again next year.
Around here, Upfront Week is a little like Christmas Week. Or Vacation Week. Or any comparable week without work.
Why wait? Here are some things to be looking for from the networks this week:
A new NBC lineup
You know that old “throw it all at the wall and see what sticks” saying? In the TV business, that’s usually done in meeting rooms and the behind-the-scenes development process. On NBC, it’s apparently done on the air, on the fly. The network has already ordered six (!) new comedies for the 2012-13 season and a J.J. Abrams-produced adventure show, so it could be house-cleaning time at the Peacock. Again. (You can check out how the network might/should go about their scheduling conundrum in yesterday’s blog.) You can only keep low-rated critical darlings (eh hem, Community) on the air for so long, and NBC could be realizing that now. Then again, these new comedies could be doomed spring-time burn-offs NBC has been infamous for over the last two years. Right, Paul Reiser Show?
Less reality. Pretty please?
Maybe, just maybe, we’ve finally reached the apex of the reality TV craze. Oh, there is still going to be plenty of it. There just doesn’t seem like there will be too much new reality programming on network TV taking up valuable real estate in the fall schedule. The entrenched veterans — Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, Biggest Loser, etc. — aren’t going anywhere. But X Factor wasn’t the huge hit Fox planned it to be and the other reality show that debuted last fall, the CW’s H8R was an unmitigated failure. Maybe we’ll see networks get back to programming original, scripted series. Then maybe we can all sleep a little better at night knowing the reality TV apocalypse has been thwarted, at least for another year.
Unless you’re under the mistaken impression that House and Desperate Housewives are still major hits, then there won’t be any big losses from the network schedule after this season. Or at least nothing that can’t be filled in. Everything from the top 20 highest-rated shows of the year and of the last week in April is expected to come back next year, so the networks have their stalwarts ready. Maybe that gives them a little latitude to take a chance or two when it comes to the rest of the schedule, some high-risk, high-reward shows. The kinds of ambitious shows we normally only get on cable (think Breaking Bad or American Horror Story) that are more than just a primetime soap opera or laugh-track comedy. I almost wrote all that with a straight face. Almost.
Even if there is some risk-taking, most of the schedules will feel almost exactly the same as you see them now. The new shows that are going to be brought in are going to fit around already established shows — which won’t be moving from their prescribed nights. Modern Family isn’t going to be yanked from Wednesday and shifted to Tuesday to take down New Girl and Fox’s Animation Domination thing isn’t randomly moving from Sunday to Thursday. More than ever, it seems like networks are sufficiently happy with the types of programming they have on each night and are willing to set their schedules around those themes. One suggested change: ABC should turn Tuesday into an all-comedy lineup in between Dancing with the Stars cycles. Keep Last Man Standing at 8 p.m., develop a new family comedy for 8:30, then go back-to-back with Cougar Town and Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23 for a four-month, no-repeat run from late November to early March. Oops, never mind, since Cougar Town won’t be on ABC anymore. Maybe Happy Endings then?
Any surprise cancellations?
The last thing any network wants these days is to off a hit show over money issues. Yet, here we are talking about two of them — The Office and Two and a Half Men, both of which are still trying to finalize contracts of their major stars. By the time this runs Sunday, the financial details may be ironed out and we’ll be getting both shows back safe and sound. But right now, we don’t know what these shows will look like when they come back. Oops, sorry about that. If they come back.