Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Friday, January 15, 2010


-- television -- the defenestration of leno and nbc's new schedule

Um ... wow. Just ... wow.

What the hell was Leno thinking? There's being a good sport, and then there's being a total idiot, and this pretty clearly crossed the line. By the end, Leno was clearly not a happy camper. And he set it up! After it became obvious where this was headed, wouldn't you change a question or two on the fly, do something so that you didn't turn yourself into the comedic equivalent of a volleyball? (Serve, lob, set, SPIKE!) I mean, jeez, guy, do something.

And yet another shoe drops as NBC announces its forthcoming post-Olympics schedule, also known as Life After The Great Failed Experiment.

The new post-Olympics program schedule grid follows (all times ET); new series are in upper case.

8-9 p.m. - "Chuck"
9-10 p.m. - "Trauma" (beginning March 8)
10-11 p.m. -"Law & Order" (returns March 1 with two-hour episode, 9-11 p.m. (ET); resumes in regular time slot March 8)

8-10 p.m. - "The Biggest Loser"
10-11 p.m. - "PARENTHOOD" (premieres March 2)

8-9 p.m. - "Mercy"
9-10 p.m. - "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (encores beginning March 3)
10-11 p.m. - "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (originals beginning March 3)

8-8:30 p.m. - "Community"
8:30-9 p.m. - "Parks and Recreation"
9-9:30 p.m. - "The Office"
9:30-10 p.m. - "30 Rock"
10-11 p.m. - "THE MARRIAGE REF" (premieres March 4; sneak preview February 28)

8-9 p.m. - "WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?" (premieres March 5; "Friday Night Lights" returns on April 30)
9-11 p.m. - "Dateline NBC" (begins March 5)

SATURDAYS (all beginning March 6)
8-9 p.m. - "The Biggest Loser" (encore episode)
9-10 p.m. - "Law & Order" (encore episode)
10-11 p.m. - "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (encore episode)

SUNDAYS (all beginning March 14)
7-8 p.m. - "Dateline NBC"
8-9 p.m. - "MINUTE TO WIN IT" (premieres March 14)
9-11 p.m. - "The Celebrity Apprentice" (season premiere March 14)

Mondays kind of make sense. Kind of. On the one hand, "Trauma" -- which has been yanked from the jaws of cancellation but not necessarily back into production, as NBC still had six episodes of the series to burn off -- would seem a terrible fit for "Chuck", albeit a better fit with "Law and Order". You'd think that maybe they'd want something more transitional between Chuck and L&O, like, say, "Parenthood". But then, that's the one so-far-unaired series that's been getting a certain amount of critical respect, even with the last minute recasting of a central role forced by Maura Tierney's breast cancer. So putting it after "Biggest Loser" on Tuesdays makes sense, as BL has been their consistently highest-rated non-football primetime series. So, perforce, Tuesday's schedule is perfectly understandable.

Wednesday's schedule, on the other hand ... that one has a certain head-scratching quality. "Mercy" is profoundly unsuited for the early evening timeslot. And if you're going to do that, why wouldn't you have the one new drama you managed to save lead into new episodes of SVU, rather than into an encore SVU episode that then leads to a new episode of the same show? The only thing I can think is that they decided to simply suicide the second hour against of "American Idol" and "24" ... but then, why would you suicide "Mercy" as well?

Thursdays are pretty much the same schedule NBC's had all year, with the exception of "The Marriage Ref" -- which sounds like an utter abomination before the programming gods.

Jerry Seinfeld's wife made the call on 'The Marriage Ref'

January 10, 2010 | 8:56 pm

Jerry Seinfeld is giving the credit for his return to network television to his wife, Jessica. The comedian said his wife came up with the idea for "The Marriage Ref," a comedic look at the battles between married couples. The show will premiere on NBC Feb. 28 after the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

[...] Each show will feature three to five couples who will air their disagreement during a filmed segment at their home. A panel of celebrities in a studio will then debate the issues before handing the matter over to comedian Tom Papa -- the Marriage Ref -- who will make the final judgment. Panelists already signed to appear include Tina Fey, Charles Barkley, Alec Baldwin and Larry David. Seinfeld is expected to appear during the premiere and a few other episodes.

When asked why his show did not have a panel of experts to guide the couples, Seinfeld quipped, "Experts are helpful. That's not our thing."

-- Greg Braxton

...Yeah. So there's that. Because watching real life couples fight and get comedic zings launched at them is going to be so entertaining! In any event, "The Marriage Ref" as an end to the evening doesn't seem exactly calculated to improve NBC's fortunes on that night; wasn't the one thing that came out of the Leno experiment a fairly clear indication that people don't quite want that sort of comedy heading into their evening newscasts? But then, it's not as though NBC has a lot of product on their shelves to stick into that slot.

Fridays are very meh, with "Who do you think you are?", a celebrities' origin story reality series which sounds like a less sensationalistic take on "E! True Hollywood Story", only it's possible that some of the celebrities won't have died tragically or stupidly or have done something lunatic to warrant being profiled. (Which ... honestly, sounds like it could be a bit dull.) Saturdays, along with every other network, are a very traditional "lay down and die" schedule. (Once upon a time, Saturdays were the second most watched night on television. True story. CBS had the killer lineup of Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart and the Carol Burnett Show. Oh, for the good old days. But one digresses.)

Sundays are kind of eyecrossing, featuring NBC taking direct aim at CBS ... by counterprogramming with more or less exactly the same type of shows that CBS is airing for the early part of the evening. Sending "Dateline" up against "60 Minutes" again? I mean, Dateline sometimes does ... OK on those nights, but by and large, it never seems to win that sort of thing. And they're sending "Minute to Win It", a game show formerly called "Perfect 10" hosted by Guy Fieri, up against "The Amazing Race", ABC's "Extreme Home Makeover", and Fox's animation block. (Interestingly enough, Fox has ordered a US version of Britain's "The Cube", which uses a similar concept, giving people a very limited amount of time to complete otherwise very simple tasks for a startlingly large amount of money. The Cube adds in the concept of a sort of physical restraint -- contestants are contained inside a plexiglass cube Fox apparently sent the order straight to series, but it's not clear when the series will air -- my own guess would be as a summer replacement series, depending on cost, given the relative success of ABC's "Wipeout!" as a summer series. But i digress.) Guy Fieri, the second winner of the Food Network's "Next Food Network Star", can be a very ... acquired taste, let's say. Though, honestly, game show host seems like the sort of thing that would suit his expansive personality to a T. "Celebrity Apprentice" goes up against ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers and Sisters" and CBS' procedurals, offering a genuine alternative and a proven show that should do OK in that time slot. (Though, seriously, two hours a night of that every week? Well ... OK.)

Really, the best thing you can say of NBC's winter/spring schedule is, given the utter lack of notice and time they had to construct it is that they're clearly making the best effort they can. It'll be interesting to see how it all works out.

Posted by iain at 10:58 AM in category television