First off, congratulations to all writers, producers, actors and agents who landed new series this week. I know it wasn’t easy. Here is Deadline’s annual list of those who excelled at the upfronts. I tried to be inclusive, but if I’ve missed anyone who’s had a banner week, let me know. I’ve also compiled a list of pods and independent producers with multiple broadcast series.
Cougar Town co-creator Bill Lawrence and his Doozer banner had three new series unveiled at the upfronts this week: comedies Undateable on NBC, Surviving Jack on Fox and Ground Floor on TBS. Also, TBS recently renewed Cougar Town for a fifth season.
J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot claimed one of the top new drama series last season with NBC’s Revolution and one of the hottest sophomore shows with CBS’ Person Of Interest. The company is keeping the momentum with two new series orders for next season: Almost Human at Fox and Believe at NBC.
Independent producer Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment received two new series orders from the broadcast networks: Back In The Game at ABC and Friends With Better Lives at CBS. Additionally, his freshman ABC comedy The Neighbors was renewed and his ABC pilot Bad Management is in serious contention for a series pickup. Kaplan also received two cable series orders in the past month, for Chasing Life on ABC Family and Instant Mom on NickMom, and also has comedy series Wendell & Vinnie on Nick at Nite and pilot HR at Lifetime.
Writer-producer Julie Plec also landed two new series this week, both at the CW: She wrote/executive produces the planted Vampire Diaries spinoff The Originals and executive produces The Tomorrow People. Additionally, she executive produces TVD, giving her three series on the air next season. (Fellow Tomorrow People executive producer Greg Berlanti has two, including returning CW hit Arrow.)
Another drama writer-producer, former ER showrunner David Zabel, saw both of his pilots picked up. He is the writer/exec producer on ABC’s Betrayal and co-writer/exec producer on ABC’s Lucky 7. Read More »
Turner Entertainment seems to try hardest to make advertisers laugh at its upfront presentation — and generally succeeded this time with help from Will Ferrell, Conan O’Brien, and TBS newcomer Pete Holmes. In a recorded routine, Ferrell said that he had bought the company and with his background in comedy “I couldn’t care less” about networks including CNN, TNT, and TruTv. Since “I like to mess around with my new toys,” he introduced the new boss: Charles Barkley. The former NBA star said that since “I’m in charge now” viewers would be “seeing a lot more Charles Barkley” — cutting to clips from Turner shows that insert him into the action. “This is the kind of bold thinking I was hoping for,” Ferrell said. “With me as CEO of Turner, and Charles, can you really go wrong?”
“The demo didn’t evolve, it’s just endured” since the 1960s when ABC promoted the measurement to sell ads on American Bandstand, Turner Entertainment Networks President Steve Koonin told ad buyers this morning at his company’s upfront presentation. That’s a problem he says because “demos just measure eyeballs. Today it’s about engagement.” For example he noted how Conan O’Brien uses social media to rally fans and how TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles inspires viewers to write stories based on the characters, “There’s so much more we can do with analytics,” Koonin says. He says that his company is working with Facebook “in an unprecedented way” to generate “the type of deep research that hasn’t been done before.…The more we know, the faster we move from delivering demos to delivering engagement.”
Koonin said is a good time to change the measurement paradigm, he says, now that cable networks have reached a “tipping point” in their relationship vs broadcast. “Over the past decade the term ‘basic cable’ has become an oxymoron. There’s nothing basic about it.” Continuing the industry’s embrace of technology, Koonin also touted the streaming initiative his company announced this morning. It will “make our brands even stronger,” he says.
Back In The Game– Comedy
Produced by from 20th Century Fox Television and Kapital Entertainment. From writers/executive producers Mark and Robb Cullen, director/executive producers John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, and executive producer Aaron Kaplan:
Betrayal — Drama
Produced by ABC Studios. From writer/executive producer David Zabel and executive producers Rob Golenberg and Alon Aranya:
The real winner here is Lorne Michaels, who now controls all three NBC late night shows. NBC completed its late-night revamp by naming Seth Meyers host of Late Night. He will succeed Jimmy Fallon who is taking over The Tonight Show next spring, replacing Jay Leno. Michaels will executive produce Late Night with Seth Meyers, and Michael Shoemaker will remain with the franchise as producer. Late Night with Seth Meyers will originate from 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York which also houses Saturday Night Live and where The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon also will be based. “We think Seth is one of the brightest, most insightful comedy writers and performers of his generation,” NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt said. “His years at SNL‘s Weekend Update desk, not to mention being head writer of the show for many seasons, helped him hone a topical brand of comedy that is perfect for the Late Night franchise”. Meyers had been the frontrunner to succeed Fallon since NBC announced last month Fallon’s ascendance to The Tonight Show. His appointment means that both The Tonight Show and Late Night will be hosted by former SNL Weekend Update anchors. Additionally, it solidifies Michaels’ status as NBC’s late-night king as he will executive produce The Tonight Show, Late Night and SNL. “I only have to work for Lorne … Read More »
NBC faces the task of scheduling six new comedies for next season with only two returning half-hour series: Community, which received an eleventh-hour 13-episode renewal, and Parks & Recreation. The network may just have the right man for the job. This is head of scheduling Jeff Bader‘s first turn at bat after moving to NBC last summer. As a long-time scheduling topper at ABC, he was presented with a similar challenge four years ago when the network picked up five new comedy series and returned two. Like Parks & Rec and Community, those two returning comedies, Scrubs and Better Off Ted, were quirky cult shows and not anchors that could launch new series. What Bader and ABC brass did back then was let Scrubs and Ted be, pairing them together for what became both series’ final season. Then they took four new comedies and launched a new two-hour comedy block on Wednesday. It worked – three of the four comedies are still on the air:Modern Family and The Middle on ABC and Cougar Town on TBS. (The fourth, Hank, was quickly cancelled.)
Bader may take a similar approach at NBC. Like at ABC in 2009, the two returning NBC comedies are workplace, while most of the new series are family or family-esque (Michael J. Fox, Welcome To The Family, The Family Guide, Sean Saves The World, About A Boy). Coincidentally, the last new comedy series this year, Undateable, is a multi-camera show about dating, which was also the case at ABC in 2009 with Romantically Challenged, which was scheduled behind Dancing With The Stars. Read More »
3RD UPDATE – FINAL: (See Conan and Obama videos here and here.) We warned you not to expect much from tonight’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. And true to form it failed to deliver. Bland to a fault Conan O’Brien didn’t lay a glove on celebrity-in-chief Barack Obama. (Bring back Seth Meyers…) But the President got an easy laugh with a showbiz joke that couldn’t have made Comcast too happy. (He noted that, of 22 recent basketball shots, he had 2 hits and 20 misses. “The executives at NBC asked, ‘What’s your secret?’” POTUS said.) O’Brien’s best line of the night was comparing the relationship between Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner to a blind date between Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow. (“In theory they understand each other’s positions. But deep down you know nothing’s ever going to happen.”) Obama got in the nastiest media dig. Noting that CNN has “taken some knocks” – because of errors during reporting on the Boston Marathon bombings - he said, “Fact is I admire their commitment to cover all sides of a story – just in case one of them happens to be accurate.” Obama even stabbed his liberal media cronies. He said saying seeing David Axelrod going to work for MSNBC was “a nice change of pace since MSNBC used to work for David Axelrod”.
Steven Spielberg – whom Obama called “my wonderful friend” - played a pivotal role in a video claiming the … Read More »
Now this is a White House press briefing we might tune in for. Conan O’Brien paid a visit to the West Wing today ahead of his hosting gig tomorrow at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Politico reports the TBS late-night host met with press secretary Jay Carney, and he also test-drove the press room podium, saying “I’ve got to get one of these”. (Maybe he’ll swap it out with his Conan desk soon?) He called the reporters’ press area “the nicest college dorm I’ve ever seen”.
DC is starting to fill up with invitees to the annual dinner, and today the MPAA hosted a Creativity Conference with Time magazine and Microsoft featuring several media biggies. The idea was to reboot Hollywood’s mojo in the wake of losing the political fight over the anti-piracy SOPA bill last year, widening the gulf between content creators and Silicon Valley. Among the participants: Harvey Weinstein, Chris Dodd, HBO CEO Richard Plepler, PBS boss Paula Kerger, Beasts Of The Southern Wild helmer Benh Zeitlin and keynote speaker Bill Clinton. The panelists didn’t break any new ground, but the ever-outspoken Weinstein had some choice words for Google — though he didn’t call it out by name. “They are all stealing (content) under the guise of, ‘We’re all hippies.’ ” he said during a session with Time managing editor Richard Stengel. “Well, hippies don’t have $22 billion … Read More »
Looks like Team Coco is in the house. Well, actually just near the house, but it is the White House we’re talking about. In the nation’s capital to host this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, Conan O’Brien today tweeted a pic of himself in front of the Executive Mansion. “In D.C. to perform at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Practicing my opening “Goofy Sunglasses” bit,” the TBS late-night host wrote Thursday. Saturday’s dinner is the Boston native’s second stint as headliner. He also hosted in 1995, a couple of years after joining Late Night.
Scandal’s Kerry Washington will be there and so will Steven Spielberg and House of Cards’ Kevin Spacey but this year’s White House Correspondents’ dinner will not be attracting the Hollywood players of previous years says The Hill.President Obama is attending the Conan O’Brien-hosted dinner but George Clooney isn’t coming this year. The daily Congressional newspaper cites the big Tinseltown turnout for the recent second Inauguration, the lack of a good juicy scandal and the more frequent presence of Hollywood types in the nation’s capitol nowadays as the primary reasons for “more subdued” event this year. Charlize Theron spoke at a congressional breakfast on AIDS awareness today in D.C. today and was a guest at last year’s White House Correspondents dinner but she won’t be attending the April 27 event this year. WME boss Ari Emanuel won’t be attending this year either. Neither will Fox News’ Greta Van Susteran who has become infamous over the past few years for bringing guests like Lindsay Lohan and Kim Kardashian to the dinner.
After last year’s WHCD, Tom Brokaw was highly critical of the love-in between Hollywood and the beltway. “It is time to rethink it. I think George Clooney is a great guy. I would like to meet Charlize Theron. I don’t think the big press event in Washington should be that kind of glittering event where … Read More »
2ND UPDATE: Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Jimmy Fallon are in repeats tonight. But Conan O’Brien‘s show is original and Boston is his hometown so he comments on today’s bombings (below). So does Jimmy Kimmel (below). Also Craig Ferguson (video below) who notes during his cold open that, when he became an American citizen in 2008, he spoke at Faneuil Hall on July 4th at the invitation of Boston Mayor Tommy Menino:
CONAN O’BRIEN: We have a great show for you tonight. But first, I have to mention what an upsetting and sad day it’s been. Boston is my hometown – it’s where I grew up, and it’s where my family lives. So I just wanted to take a moment to say that – like everyone here – my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston and everyone who has been affected by this senseless act. That said — it is our job to do a show. We’re going to try and entertain you the best we can. Which, given our track record, gives you people a 20% chance of having a good time tonight.
JIMMY KIMMEL: Well – it was a terrible day. Very bad things happened today for no good reason – and our thoughts are with the people of Boston and everyone who is suffering as a result of the bombings at the marathon. It’s a disgusting thing. I don’t understand it. But my job is to make you laugh and so I will try to do that. And – I will probably fail. I’m failing already.
Jim Carrey, Louis C.K., Conan O’Brien and Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Bill Westenhofer were among nine people honored last night by the Producers Guild of America for their contributions to the advancement of digital entertainment and storytelling in the past year. John Lasseter, Morgan Freeman, and PGA President Mark Gordon were among those who attended the inaugural Digital V.I.P. Awards (Visionaries, Innovators and Producers) at the Bel Air home of entrepreneur Elon Musk. Click over for a complete list: Read More »
Two decades after the Jay Leno-David Letterman battle for The Tonight Show, the Tonight Show curse has struck again with yet another messy host transition. In 1992, NBC had two hot young comedians eager to replace longtime Tonight host Johnny Carson, Leno and Letterman. The network chose Leno and created a formidable late-night rival in Letterman, who defected to CBS to launch The Late Show. Leno and Letterman had been going at each other ever since, looking to outrate and outlast each other. Letterman had the upper hand in the ratings early on before Leno took the lead, holding onto it for the most of the past 17 years. The two even have been timing their contracts to end at the same time. They did it again this time, with Leno’s deal up in September 2014 and Letterman’s contract also going through late 2014.
NBC‘s announcement today that Leno will retire in spring (likely February) of 2014, assures that Letterman will be the last man standing in the duo’s 20-year rivalry. Having outlasted his archrival, 65-year-old Letterman too may decide to retire at the end of his deal instead of going toe-to-toe with younger new competitors, Jimmy Fallon (38) on NBC and Jimmy Kimmel (45) on ABC. The key thing is that it will likely be his decision to make. Letterman has largely been given carte blanche to do the show for as long as he wants to. (Though in his recent interview with Oprah, Letterman claimed he has an agreement with CBS topper Les Moonves that Moonves has to tell him when it is time to go.) Read More »
UPDATED WRITETHRU: After months of speculation, a slew of news stories, a ton of late-night jokes and a Jay Leno-Jimmy Fallon duet, NBC has set a date for Leno’s departure from The Tonight Show and officially anointed Fallon as the new host of the venerable late-night franchise. Leno will depart in spring 2014 after 22 years. The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon will be based in New York, where the show originated, and be set at the 30 Rock studio that now houses Fallon’s Late Night; the studio is undergoing renovation that is slated to be completed in 2014 in time for the Tonight Show relaunch.The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon will be executive produced by Lorne Michaels, marking the first time the Saturday Night Live and Late Night executive producer has been in charge of NBC’s flagship late-night show.
The timing of the Leno-Fallon changeover mirrors the events of 2009, when Leno handed The Tonight Show to Conan O’Brien in late May. This time around, the transition will be earlier (likely in February), taking advantage of NBC’s broadcast of the Sochi Winter Olympics, something NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke alluded to in today’s announcement (see it below). Ironically, NBC used the previous Winter Olympics in 2010 as a launching pad for Leno’s return to The Tonight Show after a nine-month hiatus. “Congratulations Jimmy,” Leno said today, keeping with the friendly relationship he and Fallon had been projecting. “I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy. If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.” Said Fallon: “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”
Like the first time he was pushed out of The Tonight Show, Leno will likely leave while on top, as Tonight Show has consistently been ranking as the No. 1 late-night program despite NBC’s woeful primetime ratings in the first quarter. As for Late Night, Saturday Night Live’s Seth Meyers has been in discussions to replace Fallon when he moves to 11:30 PM and appears on track to succeed him. Both Fallon and Meyers honed their skills behind the anchor desk of SNL‘s Weekend Update. Michaels will remain as executive producer of SNL in addition to his exec producer duties on Tonight and will likely also stay on as exec producer of Late Night, especially if Meyers closes a deal as host.
TBS has renewed Conan O’Brien‘s late-night talk show for another two years.Conan has been picked up through November 2015, when it will mark its fifth-year anniversary on TBS. “When we invited Conan O’Brien to come to TBS, we knew he would bring with him a passionately loyal following of young adults,” said TBS’ head of programming Michael Wright. “We are proud to extend our relationship with Conan as he continues to forge the future of late night. I just wish we didn’t decide to tell him on April Fools’ Day.” While Conan has not been a top ratings performer, TBS touts its median age, which is younger than any other late-night talk show, and the show’s leading online activity and engagement. Conan is produced by O’Brien’s Conaco, which is also behind a new late-night talk show hosted by Pete Holmes that will launch behind Conan this fall.
For decades, the host of The Tonight Show has been crowned NBC’s late-night king. But through the years, one figure has been looming larger than any host or executive in NBC’s late night, producer Lorne Michaels, and the current turmoil over the Tonight Show transition is poised to further cement his enormous clout. Known as a fixer, Michaels launched and runs NBC’s Saturday Night Live, whose recent episode hosted by Justin Timberlake stands as NBC’s highest-rated entertainment series telecast of 2013 in adults 18-49. Lorne was removed in the early 1980s only to be brought back several years later after SNL‘s fortunes had begun to fade, and he quickly brought the sketch show back to top form. In 1993, Michaels was brought to rescue the Late Night franchise, in shambles after David Letterman’s abrupt departure. He reached to his SNL bench and plucked out a writer, Conan O’Brien, as new host of Late Night. And in 2008, he orchestrated the anointment of another of his SNL pupils, Jimmy Fallon, as O’Brien’s successor when he moved to The Tonight Show. While Michaels was reportedly not involved in O’Brien’s brief stint at The Tonight Show, he appears very hands-on in the pending changeover between Jay Leno and Fallon and will likely continue to have a presence when Fallon becomes Tonight Show host, especially with the plan to keep Fallon in New York and move The Tonight Show franchise there. … Read More »
Somehow, another NBC late-night transition has turned into a public drama. And this time, the two hosts involved are not even feuding. The network has found itself in a groundswell of speculation surrounding The Tonight Show host Jay Leno and Late Night‘s Jimmy Fallon. The network is staying mum on its plans, but a few things appear settled: Fallon is poised to replace Leno on The Tonight Show. When he does, he is not expected to copy his predecessor Conan O’Brien’s cross-country move from New York to Los Angeles. I hear Fallon and his producers had been lobbying for staying put in New York. Fallon’s current studio is being renovated, which sources say was part of a planned refurbishing of 30 Rock, and it will likely house the future Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, marking the show’s return to the East Coast after more than four decades in Burbank. Leno’s current contract, which is up in September 2014, will likely be late-night host’s last one. In an interview with GQ, Late Night executive producer Lorne Michaels also hinted at the inevitability of Fallon’s anointment as new Tonight host. “I’m not allowed to say it — yet,” he said. “But I think there’s an inevitability to it,” He added: “He’s the closest to Carson that I’ve seen of this generation.”
With the players and the framework set, the biggest uncertainty in the transition appears to be the exact timing. There is speculation that NBC brass may have settled on an end date for Leno and that Leno and Fallon, who regularly chat on the phone, have discussed the issue in a call initiated by Fallon — though all sides are denying that there is a plan in place. For now, sources at NBC indicate that the network has no plans to announce Leno’s Tonight exit at NBC’s upfront presentation in May, though the rampant speculation may force their hand in the decision-making. An announcement of Leno’s retirement is tied with the introduction of Fallon as new Tonight host, something he has not been contracted for yet. I hear NBC has not started or is in very early stages of making Fallon’s deal for The Tonight Show. Read More »
The newly revamped Esquire Network (formerly G4) has reached within NBCUniversal for its next acquired property, picking up exclusive cable television rights to NBC’s late-night talk show Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Starting Wednesday, April 24, episodes will air on Esquire Network Monday through Friday at 7 PM, one week after they first premiere on NBC. Late Night marks the first talk show addition to Esquire’s programming slate, joining recent off-network acquisitions Parks And Recreation and Party Down, which launch April 22. The cable network, targeting upscale male viewers, also has originals Knife Fight and The Getaway on tap. “Jimmy’s sharp wit, relaxed style and natural charm make him exactly the kind of guy Esquire Network viewers want to spend time with, and his show the perfect choice to lead in to our primetime,” said Adam Stotsky, general manager, Esquire Network.
This is the first time Late Night With Jimmy Fallon will air on cable. The show’s previous incarnation, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, was once a staple on Comedy Central, also airing at 7 PM.