EXCLUSIVE: CBS has cut the order to veteran comedy Rules Of Engagement from 18 to 13 episodes. Rules was originally picked up for 18 episodes, with two leftover episodes from last season bringing the total order to 20 half-hours. (Rules, which wraps production December 6, will now air 15 episodes.) The long-running comedy was slated to air on Saturdays, but after freshman How To Be A Gentleman‘s underwhelming launch in the Thursday 8:30 PM slot, Rules was summoned in and took over the post-Big Bang Theory berth. It currently tops the 8:30-9 PM time period in total viewers with 11.6 million and averages a healthy 3.7 rating in 18-49, after setting highs in several categories this fall. With rookie 2 Broke Girls performing as well as it does along with all CBS returning comedies, the network needs an opening to launch its midseason comedy starring Rob Schneider, so a shorter, 15-episode run of Rules will provide a slot for the newbie. As for next season, given Rules‘ solid performance, the veteran has a good shot to return, especially if the Schneider series underperforms and/or CBS expands its comedy offerings to eight in two-hour comedy blocks on Mondays and Thursdays.
After 2 low-rated airings in its high-profile Thursday 8:30 PM slot, rookie comedy How To be A Gentleman was relegated to Saturdays last week. But after one outing in its new Saturday berth, the comedy …
BREAKING: Media Rights Capital partners Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu have closed a five-year, $350 million revolving credit facility with funding provided by a group of banks led by JPMorgan Chase, Comerica, Bank of America, SunTrust and Union Bank. The syndicate includes East West Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank Leumi and City National Bank. The funds will be used to finance MRC’s feature and television productions. MRC’s last credit facility was also $350 million over three years, secured in 2008 in the midst of the economic downturn, from a consortium of banks that included JPMorgan Chase and Comerica.
MRC, which has enjoyed strong relationships with talents and the agencies, changed its feature structure from constructing pictures it licensed for distribution to studio, (it famously made a $42.5 million deal for Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat follow-up Bruno with Universal for U.S. and English-speaking territories) to actually financing a lot of them through a five-year distribution deal with Universal Pictures. That studio has become a prime outlet for MRC fare, though it was District 9 distributor Sony Pictures that licensed the Neill Blomkamp-directed futuristic film Elysium, which stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley. It was the second MRC film for Damon, who starred with Emily Blunt in the Universal-distributed The Adjustment Bureau, which grossed $128 million worldwide. MRC is also in production on Ted, the feature directing debut of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane that stars Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis and will also be released by Universal. MRC has two more projects with Blomkamp and two with Fincher, among others. MRC makes the case-by-case decision whether the productions are licensed to studios or fall under its new distribution deal at Universal.
MRC, after a failed foray that involved programming the Sunday night lineup for the CW, is active on the small-screen front. MRC has The Ricky Gervais Show on HBO and is developing series that include the CBS sitcom How to Be a Gentleman with Entourage’s Kevin Dillon, and a serialized political drama for Netflix that is being produced by David Fincher and stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. In all cases, MRC makes deals that grant talent at the ground floor an ownership stake in the film or TV project.
The broadcast season unofficially kicks off tonight. And just like in a kids board game, the youngest of the networks, the CW, got to start first, unspooling its new series Ringer starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Also launching tonight are the new seasons of the CW’s 90210 and NBC’s Parenthood, marking the unofficial start of the new season, which kicks in on Monday. Here are the networks’ standings going into the fall season:
With Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies on tap for baseball’s postseason this year, along with the heavily promoted The X Factor and new big-budget dinosaur drama Terra Nova, Fox is in a position to significantly outperform last fall when the network carried the National League Championship Series and had two DOA shows, drama Lone Star and comedy Running Wilde. The question marks at the network this fall are the new comedies, New Girl and I Hate My Teenage Daughter, though both are propped up by solid lead-ins, Glee and X Factor, respectively, and whether Glee and House can rebound after a disappointing 2010-11 season. If the stars align and X Factor lives up to its ratings expectations, Fox may win the fourth quarter as it did two years ago when it also had the American League Championship Series and the highly rated freshman season of Glee.
Fox’s main rival for the top spot in the fall will be the epitome of stability, CBS, which will get a ratings boost from the re-launch of Two and a Half Men. The consensus is that CBS has potential breakout hits on its hands with new Monday comedy Two Broke Girls, which is launching behind the much-hyped return of Two and a Half Men, and possibly Thursday drama Person of Interest. The network is getting high marks for taking its aging series such as the CSI franchise and Survivor and relocating them to troubled spots on the schedule that they shore up. The network is expected to accomplish that again this season with the mothership CSI series, which is moving to Wednesday 10 PM, with its replacement on Thursday, Person of Interest, looking to do at least as well as CSI if not better. The only question marks at CBS are new Thursday 8:30 comedy How To Be a Gentleman and where Men will settle after the initial ratings spike.
Exactly 20 years ago, German rock band Scorpions released Wind of Change, which became an anthem for our generation of young Eastern Europeans going through a dramatic political change: the fall of communism. Coming back from the broadcast upfront presentations in New York last week, I’ve been having a hard time getting the catchy tune out of my head. While less far-reaching and profound, there is a clear sense of changing of the guard and a new direction for the broadcast networks this year. I can’t remember a time where the majority of the networks had new heads at their upfront presentations. Paul Lee took over for Steve McPherson at ABC, Bob Greenblatt for Jeff Gaspin and Angela Bromstad at NBC, and Mark Pedowitz is succeeding Dawn Ostroff at the CW. There is a similar changing of the guard among the top TV producers this year. Upstart Chernin Entertainment and DreamWorks TV, which is re-entering the broadcast arena, topped the pods with the most new series, three each, with another recently launched company, Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, scoring two new shows. And in its first season, Marty Adelstein and Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps/Adelstein Prods.got one pilot, Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, picked up to pilot, with another, Fox’s Family Album, in serious contention. Meanwhile, such longtime upfront fixtures as Jerry Bruckheimer TV, Mark Gordon Co. and Wonderland didn’t land any new series for next season.
We already told you what several advertisers thought of NBC’s and Fox’s upfront presentations. As for the last two major networks, the people with whom we spoke were much more impressed by CBS than ABC and identified four shows that seem to have a better-than-even shot at succeeding: CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, How To Be A Gentleman and A Gifted Man, and ABC’s Man Up. Some dinged ABC for providing little insight into the eight shows the network will introduce this fall. “I guess you throw something against the wall and hope,” says Brad Adgate of Horizon Media. By contrast, he says that CBS demonstrated that “the shows they’re really high on are protected” in time slots where they either face anemic competition or where they are flanked by hits. Targetcast’s Gary Carr says that CBS “did a great job” of explaining the strategies behind its five new shows. ABC, he added, ”was down and dirty — one hour with no entertainment and no celebrities.”
CBS Unveils 2011-12 Schedule
After branding last year’s schedule overhaul as “aggressive stability” last May, CBS scheduling guru Kelly Kahl described the changes this year as “dynamic stability.” They include launching a new series in the Thursday 9 PM slot, the J.J. Abrams/Jonah Nolan drama Person of Interest; moving The Good Wife to Sunday and Rules of Engagement to Saturday; and trying again to launch a new show, medical drama A Gifted Man, in the Friday 8 PM slot. (I’m sure the producers of Chaos are calling their colleagues on the A Gifted Man this morning saying, “Good luck with that!”)
Addressing the network’s biggest move, putting the Jim Caviezel/Michael Emerson-starring Person of Interest in the Thursday 9 PM slot, Kahl said, “To do that you have to have the big guns, and we do. Now we have stability at 8 and 10 PM and a great upside in the middle.” CSI will move to the Wednesday 10 PM slot, longtime home of spinoff CSI: NY until it was shifted to Friday in the shakeup last May. “We hope to get some stability at 10 PM,” Kahl said. I felt that removing the darker CSI: NY from the slot following the gruesome Criminal Minds in favor of the lightweight The Defenders was a mistake, so this in a way to correct that. I’m also happy to see The Good Wife taken away from the Tuesday 10 PM slot where its audience was cannibalized by ABC’s Body of Proof and especially Parenthood. The problem is that The Good Wife is moving to the Sunday 9 PM slot for a “battle of the wives”: The Good Wife vs. Desperate Housewives. CBS scheduled a pure procedural, new series Unforgettable, to follow NCIS and NCIS: LA (“We through we could do better,” CBS brass say). And, with The Good Wife joining the Sunday lineup of 60 Minutes and The Amazing Race, CBS now calls Sunday “our prestige night.” (There probably should be an asterisk next to that as CSI: Miami still airs on the night at 10 PM.)
The marathon pilot screenings at the broadcast networks are in full force. While they are rarely the deciding factor in the networks’ final series pickup decisions, they help solidify early standouts’ frontrunner positions and sometimes breathe life into pilots that might have been written off too soon. Here are some …
EXCLUSIVE: Spec scripts continue to be red-hot this January. CBS just snatched one from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia writer/co-executive producer/recurring guest star David Hornsby, which has been greenlighted to pilot. Hornsby wrote the project, How To Be a Gentleman, and is attached to star. Loosely based on John Bridges’ book How To Be a Gentleman: A Contemporary Guide to Common Courtesy, the show is described as a buddy comedy about an uptight guy learning to live his life with the help of his old high school classmate. Hornsby will play one of the two leads in the project, whose format (multi- vs. single-camera) is yet to be determined.